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John William Bliss & Matilda Mary Dixon

John W was the son of James Bliss and Ann Foster was baptized 27 Jun 1830 St Mary’s Harrow. John is the link into the DIXON family.


John grew up in his parent's home at 18 Grove Place.


He had a good education as he attended Harrow school. In 1851 he is a pupil aged 15 and living  in the home of Benjamin H Drury 1817 – 1902), a clergyman and schoolmaster, at Harrow school. In the house was Emily Drury (aged 37 b Harrow), his sister and another sister Louisa aged 34. There are 17 pupils including our John W.  After leaving school he moved down to Marylebone but his occupation is listed as out of business. Unemployed then.

He appears in an amusing story  in the Brighton Gazette in 1858.  He had too much drink, passed out and all his clothes were stolen and he appeared naked in public. Luckily some locals took pity on him and lent him some clothes. The court had a rollicking good laugh at his expense!!!.  


Matilda Mary Dixon was born 18 December 1840 in Harrow on the Hill the daughter of Alfred John Dixon and Elizabeth Sturgeon.  With her dad being a local farmer and retired publican, and living just down the road from the Crown public house, it seems only natural that the family would marry into a publican’s family, and so it turned out.   Matilda and John were married at St Pancras church 15 Oct 1864. I wonder why there were married here and not in their family parish of Harrow? Their address was Warren Street. Witnesses were her father and sister Elizabeth Broad (nee Dixon).   We don't know what happened to John and Matilda in theor first 6 years, other than John worked as a licenced victualler somewhere and Matilda produced three children.

However John does get work, and in one of the roughest, toughest areas of the east end of London. He is the publican of the  pub called the White Horse at 297 Rotherhithe Street North Side (built 1788). He, together with Matilda and their children, operated the pub for  about 10 years from 1875 to 1885. John died and Matilda moved back home to a more sophisticated area -  her home town of Harrow where she ran the Kings Head Tap in the High Street with Matilda E and Helen M.

In 1898 she was the publican at the Britannia public house in Waltham Cross near Cheshunt, Essex

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A fine looking East End pub  c 1929

Rebuilt in 1939. The architect should die

The White Horse pub has long gone. It closed in April 1958.   Wikimedia Commons has this description of the site: “White Horse pub (site of) Rotherhithe Street, London, SE16 This was on the riverside of the street practically opposite Cow Lane and at the north end of Durands Wharf. Commenced trading in 1743 and demolished in 1962 although I do not know when it ceased trading. Cow Lane was on the land-side and about 120 yards south of today's 'Clipper' pub. Site shown is a riverside walk named Durands Wharf'. I do not know what the concrete structure is but from the noise coming from it, it could be some type of ventilation shaft."

Rotherhithe Street ran around the edge of the River Thames and had links to two major docks. The street was filled with mean houses and would have teemed with life, albeit of a very squalid and slum like existence for the people eking out a living,

Rotherhithe Street with the ship 'Argo' visible in the distance. By the mid-18th century Rotherhithe was a district of east London with a strong maritime and shipbuilding tradition. The development of the Surrey Docks during the 19th century further added to the maritime flavour of the area. By 1900, inland Rotherhithe had been transformed into 136 acres of interlinked waterways.

This drawing by F. L. Blanchard about 1860, Repro no H1894 in the National Maritime Museum

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These houses, which date from the early 18th century, stood on the site of Rotherhithe Street, on the site of the modern Acorn Estate.They were demolished in the early 1930s.

Rotherhithe Street with the ship 'Argo' visible in the distance

The Surrey Commercial Docks were the only cut wet docks south of the river. They have their origin in the Greenland Dock (originally the Howland Great Wet Dock) of the 17th century. Most expansion took place in the mid and late 19th century.

At their greatest extent the docks had 176 acres of water and 193 acres of quayside. Their greatest volume of imports were in the interwar years, at about the time of this photograph.

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Their principal goods were Canadian grain and Scandanavian softwood. The latter can be seen floating in the Lavender Dock.

The Surrey Commercial Docks employed thousands, but mainly on a casual basis; the dockers' cal- on shelter still stands on Redriff Road.

Rotherhithe Street ran in a great arc in the strip of land between the docks and the River Thames. Much of the land between the river and the street was used for ship repair, building and breaking. The Nelson (dry) Dock can be seen in the foreground.

In 1898 Matilda moved back to her home town of harrowon-the -Hill and took over the management of  the Kings Head Tap, Harrow. Matilda and he husband John Bliss had been publicans at the White Horse Inn in Rotherhithe Road 10 years earlier. John’s family had been publicans in harrow for 100 years before this. And distant members of the family made a fortune selling wines and spirits before off licenses became the norm.
However John died, and so Matilda moved back to Harrow and with her daughters Matilda and Edith, were at the pub in 1891. **

John and Matilda had the following children:

Matilda Elizabeth Biss born in the first quarter of 1866 in Harrow. At the age of 25 she was helping her mum run the Kings Head Tap public house in Harrow.

In 1901 she is visiting the family of her aunt Elizabeth Wilkinson (nee Dixon) at 12 Totnes Terrace, Wembley. Lizzy was a widow, having list her husband who was an engineer ad she needed help looking after the house. So in the house we find her children Samuel (22) plasterer; Walter (20) bricklayer; Albert (10) and Dora (10). Matilda Bliss also has her sisters staying there - Adeline (32) a barmaid and Edith (27) also a barmaid.


In 1911 at the age of 45 she is listed as a "colonist suffering form an infirmity for the last 2 years" and living in an epileptics colony in Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire. At the end of the 19th century, epilepsy was largely misunderstood and stigmatised. Employment prospects for people with the condition were virtually non-existent. Many ended up in the workhouses or asylums of Victorian England.

The colony is still operational... "our site in Chalfont St Peter has been home to Epilepsy Society since the charity was founded in 1892. The site is home to our 92 residents who live in the residential care and supported living services across the site. Our medical and world-leading research centres are also onsite, as well as our coffee shop and pharmacy." [1]    In the nineteenth century, the "Centre only took in people considered to be of 'reasonable behaviour and mental ability.' They worked six days a week on the land or did domestic work in the home. Later on the men undertook other work such as carpentry, plumbing, painting and bricklaying. It was believed that the fresh air and hard work was beneficial to the patients' health and well-being - perhaps more so than drugs and doctors. However the men were visited regularly by medical staff from the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic in London, some of whom had been responsible for the founding of the NSEE. At this time, the headquarters of the Society were in London and the colony was planned and run from there." [2] An excellent article can be found here.  "By the early 20th century the Colony consisted of eight red brick villas, resembling a little village.  The villas were separated from each other by a considerable distance and were surrounded by fields.  There were 135 colonists, mainly men.  The cost of the buildings had, for the greater part, been borne by Mr Passmore Edwards, who had donated £83,000 of the £84,800 required.  In recognition of his generosity, he was made a Vice-President of the Society." [3]

Matilda didn't get married and died in Harrow inn April 1934. She is buried in Hendon cemetery.

James Alfred Bliss born 21 Jan 1868 in harrow on the Hill. James was an adventurer. Not for him the smoky pubs and bottle shops of the family businesses.  I imagine that growing up in the docks area of West Lindon, the clientele if the pub that his parents ran would have had many sailors.He joined the Royal Navy on hos 21 Jan 1886 at the age of 18.  The best thing about family members in the defence forces are the wonderful records that are kept.  So we discover that James is five feet one and half inches tall, with light brown hair, brown hazel eyes, and a fresh complexion.  He trained   Distinguishing marks were a "sailor and bracelet on the right arm and true love  on the left arm with an anchor and triangle on the left hand. He served in

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