Eleanor Miller (d. 1777?): a poor Scottish migrant in 18th-century London

Eleanor Miller, a poor widow living in St Botolph Aldgate, was examined concerning her settlement rights in December 1765 by two Middlesex Justices of the Peace. Her examination is considerably longer than average and recounts an eventful life: from Edinburgh to work in London, a Fleet marriage to a sailor subsequently killed in Cuba during the Seven Years’ War, to cohabitation with another man in her husband’s absence and the birth of (at least) two children. (It’s worth noting that she began the extra-marital relationship just a few months after her husband’s departure, well before his death.)

Beyond the details contained in the pauper examination itself – a type of narrative narrowly focused on what the law wanted to know of a pauper’s settlement entitlement – Eleanor’s life is as shadowy and difficult to trace as that of most poor eighteenth-century migrants to London (especially married women). I can’t trace her back to Scotland; there is a possible Fleet marriage record (which would provide her maiden name), but the dates don’t match. It’s possible that Eleanor was allowed to stay in the parish (on the basis of settlement by service before her marriage, and the birth of one of her illegitimate children there): there is a St Botolph burial record of 1777 for an Eleanor Miller.

Eleanor Miller the widow of James Miller deced Maketh oath that She was born in the Parish of Griffiers in the City of Edinburgh in North Britain And this Depont Saith That in the year one thousand Seven hundred & fifty one She was hired as a yearly servt. to Valentine Harris of Flushing Yard in the Parish of Saint Botolph without Aldgate in the County of Middx at Certain Yearly Wages and Continued in such service for about Nineteen Months

That afterwards in the year one thousand seven hundred & Fifty three she was Married at the Fleet to her late deceased husband James Miller who (as he hath informed her) was born in the Parish of Dunkare in the County of Fife in North Britain And this Depont. farther Saith That to her knowledge information or belief her said late husband never did any Act to gain a Settlement in England And this Depont. farther Saith that her Said late husband was a Seafaring Man & departed from & took his leave of her at Portsmouth sometime in the Month of September in the year one thousand seven hundred & sixty one & (as this Depont. has been Credibly informed & believes) went from thence on Board the Dragon Man of War then at Portsmouth to plymouth & in the beging. of the Month of october following: Sailed as a Mariner in the said ship from Plymouth aforesd. bound for Martinico,

And this Depont. Saith That since such her Said husband leaving her at Portsmouth as aforesd. she has [neither s]een nor heard from him Save that she this Depont. has been [informed] by Letter & otherwise that her Said late husband James Miller was [ki]lled at the Siege of Havanna in the Month of July One thousand Seven hundred & sixty two

And this Deponent farther Saith That on her said husbands leaving her at Portsmouth as aforesaid she Came from thence to London And afterwards about the begining of January one thousand seven hundred and sixty two took a lodging in the house of one John Gunn a Labourer who then lived in Quaker Street in the Parish of Christ Church Spittle fields in the Said County of Middx And that about the Middle of the Same January she this Deponent Suffered the said John Gunn to lye with her & have Carnal knowledge of her Body at his house in Quaker Street aforesaid whereby she Conceived with Child of a Male Bastard Child of which she was delivered in the Month of September in the said Year One thousand seven hundred and sixty two at Quaker Street-in the said Parish of Christ Church Spittle fields and since Baptised by the name of Richard Miller at the Church belonging to the said Parish of Christ Church Spittle Fields and is Now become Chargeable to the Parish of Saint Botolph without Aldgate in the County of Middlesex

And this Depont. farther Saith That about eight Months ago She this Deponent was delivered of a Female Basterd Child at the house of one William Agis in the Minories in the Parish of Saint Botolph without Aldgate London since Baptised by the name of Elizabeth at the Parish Church of Saint Mary Whitechappel in the said County of Middx & Called Elizabeth Gunn And that the Said Female Bastard Child is become Chargeable to the said Parish of Saint Botolph without Aldgate Middx And that the said John Gunn who now lives in the said Parish of St. Botolph witht. Aldgate Middlesex did get her with Child of the said Female Bastard Child

Elenor Miller
Sworn this 7th. day of December 1765 before
Chris Scott R Pell

London Lives: GLBAEP103090014

Possible genealogical records (Ancestry/Findmypast/FamilySearch):

  • Fleet marriage record for a James Miller and Eleanor Plumly but dated 5 June 1750 (RG7/249). (If this is Eleanor’s marriage it must also cast doubt on the dates she gives for her period of domestic service.)
  • St Botolph Aldgate burial record for Eleanor Miller, dated September 1777.
  • There are more certain baptism records for both the illegitimate children.
  • I also haven’t found any sign of a marriage record for Eleanor and John Gunn (though I have found a John Gunn marrying another woman in 1765…).
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This entry was posted in Early Modern, Plebeian Lives, WHM, Women/Gender and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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