In-depth blog about former slave and boxing legend Bill Richmond (1763-1829); subject of Luke G. Williams' biography, published by Amberley in August 2015.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Richmond family history update - Bill's granddaughter found?

Artist Trevor Von Eeden's imagining of Bill and Mary Richmond's wedding

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't read Richmond Unchained, this article gives away some of the details of the Richmond family as outlined in the book's final chapters ... 

Those of you who have read the final chapters of Richmond Unchained will know that Bill's wife Mary tragically ended up living a poverty-stricken existence in and out of the St Martin's workhouse, before dying there in 1858.

The fate of Bill's children and grandchildren is something of a mystery though. We know that his son Henry attempted, unsuccessfully, to launch a boxing career of his own, losing two contests and getting in trouble with the law, before disappearing from the public record in the early 1840s.

However, very little indeed is known about Bill's other children. Baptism records located by my researcher Kristina Bedford during the long process of working on Richmond Unchained suggested five possible Richmond children. The shakiest candidate was one Charles Richmond, baptised on 2 January 1792 in Wakefield, who was possibly buried in  St Andrew's in Holborn on 12 April 1807.

More conclusively, Bill and Mary had a daughter, Hannah, who was baptised on 28 September 1795; a son, William, who was baptised on 6 August 1797 and the aforementioned son, Henry, and a daughter, Betsy, who were both baptised on 24 May 1813. All these baptisms took place at St Andrew's.

Apart from what we know of Henry, brief references to Bill's children and grandchildren in reports of his funeral in 1830 and a mention in the St Martin's workhouse documents of Mary leaving the workhouse to "nurse her daughter", extensive research has turned up no further information about Bill's children and grandchildren.

Until now!

While searching through a set of newly scanned periodicals in the British Newspaper Archive at the weekend, an item caught my eye from the Evening Mail, a London-based newspaper, dated Wednesday 22 October 1828.

The article featured an account of a court case in which two men were accused of having robbed a Chelsea pensioner. According to the report, one Ann Humphreys, a "woman of colour" and "the daughter of Richmond, the pugilist",  was called to the stand as a witness.

The Evening Mail reference to Richmond's daughter
Does this reference allude to the existence of a possible fifth (or sixth?) offspring of Bill Richmond? Or could 'Ann' have been used as a diminutive version of Hannah? 

Further investigation, thanks again to Kristina Bedford, has revealed that the latter is the more likely interpretation, for Kristina has succeeded in discovering details of a marriage between one Hannah Richmond and Robert Humphryes on 8 October 1821, again at St Andrew's.
The marriage record of Robert Humphryes and Hannah Richmond
If this marriage record does refer to Bill's daughter then it represents an important step in the long journey of trying to eventually trace any living ancestors of Bill Richmond.

Devoted followers of pugilism will, of course, find their ears pricking up at the mention of the surname Humphryes (also spelt, with little consistency it seems, as Humphries or Humphreys), for it was the surname of one of the sport's brightest stars of the late 18th century, namely Richard Humphryes, who thrice fought the great Jewish pugilist Daniel Mendoza.

Little is known about the pugilist Humphryes, who died in either 1799 or 1800, but one of the witnesses on the marriage record of Hannah and Robert is, tantalisingly, also listed as being named Richard Humphryes. Could this Richard perhaps be the pugilist's son? And Robert his brother? It is pure speculation, of course, but considering the pugilistic circles in which Bill Richmond mixed, it is not inconceivable that his daughter might have married a member of another great boxing family. 

The trail doesn't quite end there either.

As well as the above marriage record, Kristina Bedford has also discovered a possible baptism record that might very well be describing one of Bill Richmond 's grandchildren.

A girl named Rose Humphryes, whose parents are listed as Robert and Hannah Humphryes, was baptised at St Andrew's on 20th July 1823. We discover a little more about the family on this record, for Robert's occupation is listed as a glass cutter, while the family residence is listed as 20 St Martin's Street - bang in the heart of London's pugilistic community - it being the same street on which the Fives Court and Bill's old pub, the Horse and Dolphin (no. 25), were located.

Rose Humphryes' baptism record
Much of the above is speculative at the moment, of course, and needs further investigation and reinforcement. But it may well prove an important step in finding out more about the family of the world's first ever black sporting superstar!

It's a big IF, but if any modern-day relatives of Bill Richmond could eventually be traced then maybe I would be in a position to test my theory, via DNA testing, that Bill's father was the Reverend Richard Charlton and that he is therefore related to the iconic Elizabeth Bayley Seton, Richard's granddaughter and the first ever American-born citizen to be canonised by the Catholic church. 

If you have any information about Bill Richmond's ancestors or family, no matter how small or anecdotal, please email me at

No comments:

Post a Comment