5. Norwich (4 of 12)

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Francis Christian and his descendants (1 of 4)

Francis Christian is first known to be in Norwich in 1726 with his son, also called Francis, working with him, and his grandson, yet another Francis, soon to be born into the profession. For the sake of clarity I will call them Francis I, II and III.

The family’s origin is not known. Norfolk since 1550 (Rawcliff and Wilson, 2004) refers to one Francis Christian only, c1676–1754. This is Francis I who was buried at St Michael at Plea in 1754. His life up to 1726 is a mystery. It is possible that he was Boseley’s fellow subscriber ‘Mr Christian of Blandford’ in 1706/1711, and that Boseley was instrumental in his coming to Norwich. Blandford parish registers before 1731 have not survived; niether those after 1731 nor any other source in Dorset Record Office has any reference to a Francis Christian. This may prove that he left Blandford but it doesn’t prove that he moved to Norwich. The family may have been Norfolk born; the surname is not uncommon. Boseley was unusually helpful to the Christians for one of his normally competitive profession and I think there was a previous connection between them.

On 9 April 1726 ‘Mr Christian’ – Francis I – advertised that he had hired Justice Thacker’s house in Norwich market place to open a girls’ boarding school. French, music and dancing would be taught; needlework would be taught by Mrs Christian. The school was in competition with many others where girls were boarded and taught a few accomplishments. The proprietors were often dancing masters and their wives; dancing and music would therefore feature strongly.

On 24 March 1730 Francis I advertised: ‘Mr Christian will move his Boarding School to the late house of Mr Jenney in St John Maddermarket’: the school moved to Strangers’ Hall, recently vacated by the twice-bereaved Thomas Jenney; and the Christians became Boseley’s tenants. Evidently Boseley, half a mile away in Redwell Street, did not see them as in competition with his own practice, and the school was likely to be a lucrative tenancy. Strangers’ Hall would have accommodated the school well, at the risk of losing the young ladies in that warren of rooms.

It is common sense to assume that Mr and Mrs Christian lived with their boarders, but the St Michael at Plea parish register lists the birth on 20 August 1729 of Mary, daughter of Francis Christian and Ann his wife. Mr Christian did not live in two parishes at once. Mary’s father was Francis II, born in 1697, married to Ann Cooper and presumably assisting his parents who run the boarding school. Francis II’s home can be located only by parish, St Michael at Plea, where the births of Mary’s siblings were registered: Francis III on 17 October 1731, Humfrey in 1732, Ann in 1733 and Esther in 1736.

Shortly after his parents moved to Strangers’ Hall Francis II and Ann mortgaged to Boseley a property inherited by Ann at Gissing Kemps cum Dalling, near Diss. Boseley gave them a loan of £330, the interest to be paid annually. They may have needed a loan merely to stay afloat, but the loan may have been a way of raising enough money to buy the Redwell Street practice – not the premises – when Boseley retired. On 29 July 1732 it was advertised that ‘Mr Christian will move his Dancing School to the Great Room in Mr Boseley’s Yard.’ The Christians now had a second tenancy with Boseley and they succeeded to his practice.

I doubt whether Boseley would have treated encroaching local competitors in this fashion. I suspect there was old acquaintance or indebtedness between Boseley and Francis I. Having lost his own children Boseley might have fostered a succession to his practice by way of an old friend.

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