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1st Generation John Sexton & Sarah

A long time ago in a tiny village called Coltishall in Norfolk there lived a couple called John and Sarah Sexton.

John was born in 1765 and was buried 10 Mar 1833 in Brinton, Norfolk in 1833. He married Sarah Bugg, his future wife and their banns were read on May 20, 27 and June 3rd  and on the 3rd June 1789 they married. Sarah, the daughter of John and Mary Bugg was baptised 4 Nov 1765 in Catfield, Norfolk – that’s 11 miles from Coltishall.  She died in Aug 1816 and was buried at St Martin at Oak, Norwich, although I also have a Sarah Sexton b 1766 bd 6 Aug 1816 at Michael at Coslany, Norfolk. Both John and Sarah were illiterate.






















map of the Catfield area

Coltishall is a pretty village on the River Bure, in the Norfolk Broads, near Horstead. It stands at the highest navigable point of the river and thus is known as the Gateway to the Broads. Coltishall has a long history in brewing, and old malt. There are two riverside pubs on the banks of Coltishall Staithe; the King's Head and the Rising Sun. The Kings Head was built in the 17th century and stands beside the large common. The Rising Sun began as a granary, where river wherries would unload sacks of grain for storage and transfer.







John and Sarah had:

  • Sarah Sexton



2nd generation George c1797-1848


George Sexton was baptised 20 Sep 1794 at the parish church of St John the Baptist  in Coltshall, Norfolk.

We don’t know very much about this man but we do know that he married a girl called Elizabeth Ann Nobbs (who used the Ann name more often) on 30 May 1814 St Helens Norwich. This is a very old church and quite beautiful.

Elizabeth was baptized 3 June 1792 in Norwich. She was the daughter of Peter Nobbs and Mary Brown.

George and Sarah had the following children:

  • Christmas Sexton b 25 Dec, bap 31Dec 1815 St John Sepulchre Norwich

  • James William Sexton b 10 Jul. bap 16 Jul 1820 St John Sepulchre Norwich. Shoemaker and moved to Southwark married at St James to Ann Goodfellow, dt of William Goodfellow, deceased. He was literate, she was not.

  • Susanna Maria Sexton b19 Sep.bap 22 Sep 1822 St John Sepulchre Norwich.

  • William Sexton b 10 Nov. bap 12 Nov 1826 St Bartholomews, Heigham, Norwich.

  • Samuel Sexton b 28 Feb. bap 1 Mar 1829 St Giles Norwich.

  • Charles Frederick Sexton b 24 Sep.bap 25 Sep 1831St Bartholomews, Heigham, Norwich.

Although within the city walls, St John Sepulchre Norwich was the medieval church which was furthest from the castle and the cathedral, the heart of a fiercely independent parish, South Conesford, near to the Berestrete gate. Even in the Middle Ages, it was the first Norwich church that visitors from London saw. St John today is home to the Norwich branch of that curious denomination, the English Orthodox church. Hardly a denomination at all really, since its churches are, appropriately in this case, fiercely independent of each other. The church is now rededicated to St John the Theologian, the Orthodox name for the Saint we in the west call St John the Divine.

It’s hard work giving birth to 8 children in the conditions that existed in those days and women had a tough time surviving. Ann died aged just 39 after giving birth to Charles and she was buried 9 Oct 1831 St Margaret’s. George desperately needed another wife to look after all the kids and on 2 Feb 1834 at St Bartholomew’s church, Heigham he married Mary Ann Goodman. Mary Ann was a widow – her maiden name was Fortune. Mary Ann had been born in Ireland and had married Stephan Goodman on 25 Dec 1818 and had four children – Steve Goodman, Mary Ann Goodman and George Goodman and Elizabeth Goodman. Elizabeth Goodman was with George Sexton at Bells Yard on the 1841 census and Mary and George were with their mother now Mary Sexton a few houses away on Wellington St. Sophia, Charles and Albert from Georges first marriage were also there.


George and Mary Ann set to with a will and brought five more children into the world:

  • Catherine Sexton b 23 Aug. bap September 1834 St Giles Norwich

  • Charles Sexton b 23 Aug. bap September 1834 St Giles Norwich

  • Sophia Sexton b 16 May. bap 3Jun 1836 St Giles Norwich.

  • Charles Sexton b 4Jan.bap 7Jan 1838 St Giles Norwich.

  • Albert Sexton b 10 Feb St Giles Norwich.


After such a herculean life, George, aged only 53, was worn out an\d died in 1848 and buried 22 Mar 1848 St Margarets Norwich.  Mary Ann his widow continued to look after the family with help from some of the other siblings. She died on the 8 Apr 1861 and was buried in Earlham Cemetery Norwich 2 Apr 1861.She also aged 53.


3rd generation George 1818-1886 & and Sarah Sexton 1812

There is some hanky-panky going on here because other family researchers state that our George was actually baptised as John on 8 Feb 1818 at St John Sepulchre Norwich. Or perhaps the priest was a bit under the influence of the hard stuff. So our John, called George grew up surrounded by many relatives and working in the shoe trade.

Sadly there came a time when nobody bought George’s shoes anymore and the family had become poor. One day, before 1834 with little material left to make any more shoes and sadly, no elves in the area, he and his wife Sarah decided that the time had come to follow their dreams.

The  1841 census is interesting. George was living in Southwark at Castle Street. Sarah, his wife, gave her occupation as a binder. There were two small kids – James aged 2 months and George 3 months! And I believe that George’s  brother and cousin were there as well - James Sexton aged 20 and John Perfect aged 20, a gardener

The picture below was drawn in 1810 by Hogn Chessell Bucklerand shows Castle Street – now Thrale Street.\




















Like all children, George loved fairy tales and so as a teenager and with no prospects left in his hometown he spread his wings. He took his meagre possessions and shoe making tools and set off for London where the streets were “paved with gold” according to popular belief. Just like Dick and his cat he found the streets were in fact were even more grimy and poverty stricken than the home he had left. But there was opportunity.   The picture below shows Thrale Street in 2020.





George liked London and he fell in love with a sprightly girl called Sarah Dye Kettle. Sarah was also from Norwich (she was born 29 Aug 1812 baptised 30 Aug at All Saints, Norwich – the church was decommissioned in 1993) and I believe they probably knew each other before George moved to London. Interesting that Sarah was 6 years older than George.  At the time of their marriage, George was a shoemaker and Sarah was a bender. What’s a bender you may ask? A bender is someone who cuts leather.  Sarah’s dad was James Kettle a sawyer. At the time of their marriage they lived in Henry Street.



On a warm sunny day (26 August 1845) in the teeming metropolis of Shoreditch at the ancient parish church of St Leonards he married Sarah, and as the happy young couple emerged from between the pilloried portico, they little knew or could have believed of the tumultuous life that awaited them, or where their descendants would end up.

Note that George was literate and signed his name on the marriage certificate, but Sarah signed with her mark – a cross.  There were two witnesses – George Yarrow and Elizabeth Wrigglesworth.  Wikipedia: St Leonard's, Shoreditch, is the ancient parish church of Shoreditch, often known simply as Shoreditch Church. It is located at the intersection of Shoreditch High Street with Hackney Road, within the London Borough of Hackney. The current building dates from about 1740. The church is mentioned in the line "When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch" from the nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons[1] and is noted as being the resting place of many actors from the Tudor period.”

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In the 1851 census we see that George and Sarah were living at 8 Park Place in the parish of St Peter Walworth. The area has been completely demolished and rebuilt. George was a cordwainer and Sarah a shoe binder. They had a growing family:

  • George Sexton – bc 1838

  • James Sexton

  • Elizabeth Ann Sexton bc 1842

  • Sarah Sexton bc 1844

  • Mary Sexton bc 1846

  • Harriett Sexton bc 1848

  • Susan Sexton bc 1840

  • Rebecca Sexton b 24 Feb 1852 bap 28 Aug 1867 St Swithins, Norfolk

  • Alfred b 8 Jan 1854 bap 28 Aug 1867 St Swithins, Norfolk

  • Alfred bc 1857 Norwich check this


It’s interesting and a mystery why there are two names in the St Mary Magdalene register for the baptism of Elizabeth Ann and James both bap 45 Dec 1847 and then both crossed out. George & Sarah were living at 15 John Street, East Ham.  In 1881 we see that George and Sarah were living in Haslips Buildings in Norwich with their son Alfred now aged 24.He was a currier – a leather cutter.  George and Sarah are buried in the same grave in Earlham cemetery (not marked but it is plot 37-328).  George died in Norwich aged 68 in the winter of 1886 (vol 4b p129).

4th generation George Sexton 1838 & Harriet Perfect

George Sexton b 2 Apr 1838 grew up in both London and Norwich. He married Harriet Perfect in 1860. Harriet was the daughter of Jabez Perfect a basket maker of Norwich and his wife Elizabeth. Witnesses at the ceremony were Eliza Grief and Daniel Read (vol4b p246). Harriet was born in Newington in St Mary’s parish.

A year later in the 1861 census he and his young wife were lodging at 27 Pilgrim Street Walworth. Interesting that in the same house there is the Hill family – 8 members and dad Thomas Hill is a cordwainer. And there are three other people. So 12 people living in this house.  Look at Montford Street on this map and you can see that it butts up against the gas works. These are located right next to the Oval cricket ground.  In George’s day this would have been a hive of industry. George would recognise very little, but the pictures below show that there are a couple of structures that would have been there in his day.

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Right: 27 Pilgrim Street, Walworth. Twelve people could easily fit in here.

George is listed as a shoemaker. The term "cordwainer" is an Anglicization of the French word cordonnier, which means shoemaker, introduced into the English language after the Norman invasion in 1066. The English term cordwainer first appears in 1100. Since this date the term cordouan, or cordovan leather, has been applied to several varieties of leather. Today cordovan leather is a vegetable tanned horse "shell," and like the Medieval cordwain is used only for the highest quality shoes. A distinction preserved by cordwainers since the earliest times is, that a cordwainer works only with new leather, whereas a cobbler works with old. Cobblers have always been repairers, frequently prohibited by law from making shoes.

Interesting that in 1871 in the census we find that Harriet has moved back to Norwich. Leather working was very important to Norwich at this time - .See also the book called The History of Shoemaking in Norwich introduction by H J Sexton  by

 We think of Norwich as a pleasant, clean town but at this time,  like all 19th century towns Norwich was dirty, overcrowded and unsanitary. There were epidemics of smallpox, typhoid, cholera and diphtheria during the century. In 1819 there were 530 deaths from smallpox.

The leather trade must have picked up because by the 1871 census they have moved back to Norwich. They are living in Nelson Street – sadly no numbers are given. Nelson Street. And they have been very busy in the bedroom because there are seven children. They must have moved there between 1861 and 1863.

In the house we find George now aged 32 and with the title cordwainer, Harriet his wife aged 30. The children are:

  1. George Jabez Sexton bc 1862 St Mary’s Newington – see Fourth generation

  2. Mary Sexton bc 1864 b Norwich

  3. Adelaide Sexton bc 1865 b Norwich

  4. Harriet Sexton bc 1865 b Norwich

  5. Phebe Sexton bc 1865 b Norwich

  6. Octavious Sexton b 1867  3rd qtr b Norwich. He married Ellen (Ayling) aged 24 - banns were called on May 13, 20 and 27 and the couple were married 4 Jun 1888 at St John the Evangelist, Walworth. On the marriage certificate his occupation is labourer. They were living at 19 Aylesbury Street Ellen’s father was William Ayling, a coachman. 


Octavius and Ellen had issue:

  • Ellen Sexton b 1879

  • Kate Sexton b 1880

  • Ada Sexton ch 18 Nov 1898 Camberwell

  • George Sexton ch 19 Nov 1902 Camberwell


In the 1881 census we find that he has a wife called ????? and is living at 2 Crawford Street, Lambeth together with two daughters – b 1879 and b 1880.He is working as a stone mason. The area has changed substantially but George would recognize the two pubs, that he no doubt relaxed in after a hard week cutting stone.The 1891 census shows that his mother in law Wliza Ayling aged 58 b Sussex is there as well as his brother in law aged 17 – Fred Ayling.

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