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A tale of two cities: The Fludgate family of London and Dublin

Fludgate? What kind of name is Fludgate? Every member of this family, now found in at least five English-speaking countries, knows that question well. For some, the easy answer is that it is an Irish name. Others, who know of no Irish ancestry in their branch of the family, find it more difficult. They search for some clue to its origins.

At least two branches of the Fludgate family -- one settled in England, the other American -- believed it was an Irish name because their forefathers had come from Dublin. Their Fludgate cousins in Dublin knew it was not Irish. They thought it was perhaps Dutch. But it is not Dutch. To find the origins of the name Fludgate we must look to alternate spellings. Fludgate is a variant of Fladgate and Floodgate, names rooted in the county of Surrey in southern England. But before putting down its roots in Surrey, the name appears to have been carried there by settlers from Oxfordshire and Berkshire, to the west of London.

The earliest member of the linear Fludgate family traced so far, and the apparent progenitor of all modern members of that family so far connected is William Fludgate, who lived in London in the first half of the 19th century. William Fludgate was born William Fladgate in Byfleet, Surrey around 1779. His parentage is uncertain. At various times in his life William's surname also was spelled Floodgate. Some of his modern descendants have documents showing members of their families also spelled the name that way.

The different ways of writing the name are illustrative of the truism that spelling was very much a moveable feast in earlier days. Because of that, the legal doctrine of idem sonans arose. Simply put, this is the idea that in order to establish legal proof of relationship from documentary evidence it is not necessary for the name to be spelled absolutely accurately if it conveys an identical sound when pronounced. It is clear, then, that the Fludgate-Fladgate-Floodgate families all appear to be related and likely stem from the same root.

The names Floodgate and Fladgate are thick on the ground in Surrey, where the spelling Fludgate also occurs, but less often. In the 19th century, the lord of the manor of Stannards and Fords near Chertsey, Surrey was James Fladgate, a prosperous corn merchant. The distinction does not indicate noble ancestry; Fladgate bought the title and the property, which his grandson later sold. Chertsey is right next door to Byfleet, where William Fladgate/Fludgate was born. John Alexander Fladgate, born in London in 1809, was one of the Britons connected with the Portuguese wine firm known today as Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman. John Alexander Fladgate became Baron da Roeda of Portugal. Descendants still run Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman. Interestingly, the city of Birmingham, a long way from Surrey, has a Floodgate Street.

Several Fludgates are noted in records in and around Surrey. The oldest record yet found appears to be the 1528 marriage in Surrey of Edward Fludgate to a woman named only as Baynam. Eighteen years later on Sept. 19, 1546, Clement Fludgate wed Elizabeth Cowme in Twickenham, Middlesex, which borders Surrey. But knowing as we do that the spellings of Fludgate, Fladgate and Floodgate were interchangeable, the name Fludgate signifies nothing except the free-and-easy clerical manner of earlier days.

Byfleet-born William Fladgate (or Fludgate, or even Floodgate) married Jane Cox on Dec. 25, 1802 at St. John's Church in Hackney, London. Jane is described as having been born in Watford. This is the small Hertfordshire town that has since grown to become a  London suburb. In any event, neither was a born Londoner. The picture of the church, right, was taken by Mike Clark, a descendant of the couple and a third cousin to the writer of this piece.

William and Jane became the parents of 10. Among them was William Fludgate II, christened Oct. 30, 1811 in the Anglican church of St. Giles, Cripplegate, London. The younger William and at least some of his siblings had descendants. He and his wife Eliza Hockaday had nine children.

But it is William's brother, George, born Dec. 9, 1817 and christened on March 4, 1818 in St. Luke's parish, London, who is the ancestor of modern Fludgates. St. Luke's parish is in central London, near what is now Old Street Tube station, in a district that until recently was called Finsbury. On Nov. 26, 1837, George, then living on Milton Street in London, married Sarah Blake of Lower Whitecross Street at St. John the Baptist Church, Hoxton, Shoreditch, London.

George and Sarah became parents of five. Sons George and John Thomas and daughter Mary Ann survived into adulthood and had descendants. The elder George and his wife appear to have died by the 1881 British census. Mary Ann, whose surname was given on her marriage documents as Floodgate, married George Clark on July 14, 1867 at St. Andrew's Church, Holborn, London. She was the great-grandmother of Mike Clark.

Her brother George Fludgate II, born in 1839, had at least two sons with his wife Marion, also named as Mary Anne in some documents. He was to live only until 1891 and probably spent all his life in London. The 1881 census shows him living at 66 Bemerton St., Islington, with his wife Marion, 32, and his children John Thomas, 16, an errand boy, and schoolboy George Richard Fludgate, 14. Bemerton Street is in the district of Islington known as the Angel, from the name of an ancient pub.

John Thomas was born in St. Luke's, the same parish as his father, grandfather, and uncle of the same name.The census gives Marion's birthplace as nearby Holborn, London. But George Richard's birthplace is shown as Kingston, Middlesex, on the far west of the Greater London area. That would indicate that the family moved about the city a bit. It could also mean that the family's sometime residence in Kingston was because they were drawn there by the proximity of relatives in nearby Surrey. It could also, of course, have been a misreading of scrawled information.

George Fludgate II and his wife also appear to have had two daughters. One, Frances Louisa, died young. The other, Alice Mary Fludgate, who was christened on Sept. 7, 1862. She does not appear with the family at the Bemerton Street address on the 1881 census. If alive, she would have been 19 at the time, so she could have been married and listed elsewhere with her husband. (Interestingly, if ages of birth are right, Marion Fludgate would have been 13 when she gave birth to Alice Mary.)

The Islington connection was to play a large role in the history of the extended Fludgate family. Descendants of the second George Fludgate lived in and around the Angel area until the late 20th century. And when later generations began returning to their ancestral London from Ireland to which the family had spread, it was to the Angel that they came.

The Irish complexion was added to the family tree by the first John Thomas Fludgate. He was the second son of the first George Fludgate. He picked up an Irish wife when posted to Dublin as a soldier in the British Army. John was born in 1845 in St. Luke's parish. He died circa 1925 in a place uncertain. But there is reason to believe he spent his later life in Dublin, worked there as a lamplighter, and may have died in the city.

Because of John's residence in Dublin, a contingent of Fludgates exists in Ireland to this day. One of the three American Fludgate branches is descended from John and its members believed themselves of Irish ancestry. But the Irish connection has bedeviled attempts to trace Fludgate genealogy. Many Fludgate descendants thought of themselves as ancestrally Irish. In Dublin itself, though, members of the family, pictured left, always knew it was not an Irish surname. Noel and Connie Fludgate of the Dublin branch of the family remember discrimination against them as children because they did not have an Irish name.

Their brother Tim, right, remembers being asked: "What the hell kind of a name is Fludgate?" In the 1940s and '50s, Irish President Eamonn de Valera mandated an attempt to gaelicize all Irish names back to their ancestral spellings. The Dublin Fludgates remember that their name posed a major problem. Some members thought the name sounded Dutch.

John established the Irish connection because he became a soldier. At some time in the 1860s, London-born John joined the Royal Artillery. He was posted to Dublin and there he met and married Mary Ann Queale, whose family is said to have come to Dublin from rural Ireland in the aftermath of the great famine. Mary Ann was born in 1850 and she was to live until 1932. In 1869, their first child, Charles Fludgate, was delivered by his midwife aunt, Margaret Queale. He was born in the family home on Whitefriar Lane in the area of Dublin known as the Liberties. It was barely a hop, skip and a jump from Dublin Castle, where John Fludgate may well have served as one of the gunners manning the cannons that symbolized British paramountcy in the Irish capital.

The Queales brought to this branch of the Fludgate family an enduring Roman Catholicism. The family's home on Whitefriar Lane was immediately opposite the church of the Carmelites at the intersection with Aungier Street. The church was built in 1829 and remains a place of pilgrimage to this day. It contains, among other wonders, the remains of St. Valentine -- yes, that one. The relics were given to Father John Spratt of the church by Pope Gregory XVII in 1836 to mark the emancipation of Irish Catholics a few years before from religious restrictions imposed by the Anglo-Irish Protestant ascendancy. Valentine was a Christian priest in Rome in the pagan days of the third century, who is said to have encouraged young lovers to give each other tokens of affection. He was martyred for the faith in the year 296. His remains, identified in 498 AD, stayed in Rome until Gregory gave them to Spratt.

How long John Fludgate remained on duty in Dublin is not yet known. But by 1881, he and his family were living in England. The census of that year lists him as a private in the Royal Artillery and shows the family living at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Shorncliffe, in Cheriton, Kent, near Folkestone. John and Mary Ann were to have a total of seven children. But by the time of the census only Charles, 10, Maggie 7, and William, 5, were listed. Daughter Laura was born later that year, joined later by Emily, May, and Patrick John.

At some point after his military service, John appears to have returned to Dublin with his wife and family, though one persistent story says Mary Ann returned alone with the children. In any event, John's children remained attached to the Irish homeland of their mother.

In time, four of them, Patrick, William, May and Maggie left Ireland to establish homes elsewhere. Patrick went to America. William, Maggie and May all moved to London, to the same Islington streets where the Fludgate family had established itself earlier in the 19th century. By the time the Irish Fludgates began appearing in London, their cousin, John Thomas Fludgate, the son of George Fludgate II, had become a coal merchant, operating a shop on Cloudesley Road and/or Berners Street.

It is abundantly clear that Maggie went to Islington first, drawn, clearly, by knowledge of her relatives living nearby. The sojurn in Ireland had not sundered the family ties. The children of the Irish arrivals knew John Thomas Fludgate as "Uncle Jack," although he was, in fact, a first cousin of their parents. Maggie married a man named Hobbs and spawned a large family who lived on Liverpool Road near the Angel. What happened to the family is unknown.

Sister May also came to Islington, married Albert Llewellyn and produced a daughter, Beattie. Beattie Llewellyn lived on into the late 20th century and is believed to have moved to the south coast of England.

William John Fludgate came to Islington from Ireland at the turn of the 19th-20th century with his bride Ellen Harman. She had been born in Inchicore in Dublin, hard by the old Kilmainham Jail, which played such a poignant role in Irish history. One family story says the young William John spent a few months as a prisoner in Kilmainham for stealing apples. There is no way to test the truth of the story. He was a great spinner of legends about himself and was proud of being an Irishman even though his Irish ties --other than those of his mother -- didn't stand up to much scrutiny. William John also claimed to have been born in Dover Castle in England. But that story doesn't pass inspection. He may have been born in Shorncliffe Barracks, near Folkestone. Then again, the 1881 census gives his birthplace as Ireland.

Family legend says William and Ellen fled Dublin for London because they were refused permission to wed by old Mary Ann, who took a dim view of her son's choice of a bride and treated her badly. After her death she is said to have appeared to her daughter-in-law at a seance, acknowledged that Ellen was a good wife to William, and begged forgiveness for her behavior.

William John and Ellen spent their lives in England and eventually had eight children, six girls and two boys. A son, Charles, died as an infant. But the others all grew to adulthood, married, and formed their own families. All the Fludgate children were married at the Catholic parish church of St. John the Evangelist on nearby Duncan Terrace, pictured left. Most of the grandchildren were baptised in the church, which is one of the oldest Roman churches in London. It was built in 1829, shortly after Catholic emancipation.

William John and Ellen are buried in the Catholic section of St. Pancras and Islington Cemetery in North London. Their daughters sparked non-Fludgate family lines that spread to Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The grandchildren of their one son form a Fludgate family that exists today in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Coincidentally, across town in Aylesbury lives a third cousin who is a descendant of the Dublin Fludgates.

Brother Patrick John Fludgate was the member of the family who wandered the farthest. On Oct. 15, 1915, he and his wife Mary Ellen Kavanaugh arrived in New York aboard the ship Lapland. He was 24 and a merchant seaman. Patrick and Mary Ellen's immigration to the United States began the first of the American Fludgate families. Their son, Peter John Fludgate, was born in Virginia in 1919. He lives today with his daughter and family in Las Vegas, Nevada. Peter John's other children live in New York State, where he spent much of his life.

Sisters Emily and Laura Fludgate remained in Dublin, where at least part of the family lived for years at 10 Bow Bridge Rd., pictured left. Emily is said to have married and become the mother of 13. Laura's marital ties were more complicated. She eventually married Simon Brothers and produced offspring who became the Brothers family, which has members in both Dublin and London. But before that she was the mother of a woman known as Norah Moore. Norah in turn gave birth to a son who adopted the name of Joseph Fludgate, the maiden name of his grandmother. In the 1950s he moved to London, drawn, once again, by the pull of ancestry.

Joseph Fludgate, who had nine children, eight of them sons, became the progenitor of another large English Fludgate family, this one centered in Bedfordshire. Phil Fludgate, a son of this family, right, has proved an indefatigable detective and a brave unindicted co-conspirator in ferreting out the story of the family.

The oldest son of old John Fludgate's family, Charles, was the shortest lived. He died at 34 in his Dublin home, barely a year after he was described in a report as being a pensioner in ill health. Charles had married Theresa Donohoe and his death left her with four young children to raise. It is from these children that the present Fludgate family of Dublin descends. Some descendants have moved to England to create yet more Fludgate lines, including one of the two Aylesbury families.

It was John Thomas Fludgate, the coal dealer and son of George Fludgate II, whose family grew and spread to become the largest group of Fludgates in England, as well as spawning two American branches. John Thomas had only one son, yet another John Thomas. But this John Thomas fathered seven children, five of them sons. Most produced descendants. One of John Thomas II's sons and one of his grandsons each founded American branches of the family.

John Thomas Fludgate II married Rosamond Redrupp. She came from a family of fruit and vegetable traders in Chapel Market, near the Angel, Islington. One Redrupp family legend was that they were of Danish origin, but the family appears to have been English since at least the 1600s. The Redrupps, by various spellings, appear to be descended from a vicar of the village of Penn, Buckinghamshire, in that century.

Grandson John Leonard Fludgate said his grandfather Redrupp was a stage performer with Fred Karno's shows who was unable to travel to America with the rest of the troupe because he had a large family. One of the Karno troupe members who did go was Charlie Chaplin. Other members of the extended Fludgate family remember recent Redrupps who operated a street barrow in Chapel Market, Islington.

Old William John Fludgate raised his family of eight children on Ritchie Street, near the Angel, Islington. He worked for 40 years as a laborer and general factotum at the Royal Agricultural Hall, barely half a mile from his home. John Leonard Fludgate, known in later life as Jack Fludgate, worked there as a young man fresh out of school. Was that just an odd coincidence? Or did extended family ties help the younger man get a job there? John Leonard remembers knowing the older man and being struck by the similarity of surnames. But the generation gap was responsible for his lack of knowledge of how they were related. William John could have told him that they were first cousins, twice removed. From his start at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Jack Fludgate worked in the exhibition and show industry his whole life. Late in life he lived in Worthing, Sussex and was known for his performances on the seafront.

John Leonard, who died in early 2002, said his father had a poor relationship with his own father, the coal merchant. At one point the boy was turfed out of his home at the age of 14 and had to sleep in a stable owned by the family in Sermon Lane, Islington. Sermon Lane is no longer extant.

Peggy Fludgate Roberts, pictured right, is the last surviving child of William John and Ellen Fludgate. She lives still in North London, just a few miles from the Ritchie Street house where she and her brother and sisters grew up. Rosamund Fludgate Hinds, who is her second cousin, once removed, remembers attending school with one of Peggy's sisters and being intrigued that they had the same unusual surname. They had no idea of their relationship.

It appears that all modern people carrying the surname Fludgate descend from the William Fladgate/Fludgate/Floodgate who was born in Byfleet, Surrey in 1779. Attempts continue to trace the earlier origins of the family and to find the derivation of the name. One interesting thought on that subject says the name may betray its London origins because it is a reference to the ancient Fleet River, now lost under the metropolitan morass of the bustling city. The name, say some researchers, could be a bastardization of: The gate on the Fleet. If that is the case then the family is anciently connected with London, long before it spread to the nearby county of Surrey.

Giddy family tree climbers always are eager to find some noble or royal connection. Mathematics tells us that we must all be related to some degree to big wheels of the past. But proving it is another matter. Some members of the wider Fludgate/Fladgate/Floodgate family perceive connection to London's Ludgate area; they rope in the happy delusion of royal ancestry. Ludgate, after all, draws its name from the legendary Old King Lud, who became Shakespeare's King Lear. Some historians argue that London itself, as well as such continental cities as Lyons and Liege, may have been named for the Celtic chieftain. The truth about Lud is lost in the mists of time.

But thanks to the researches of Arthur Floodgate of Toronto, Canada, the truth about the origins of the Fludgate family may be emerging from the mists. In a self-published book about his study of his family, Arthur posits the intriguing idea, with some degree of proof, that the name Fludgate/Fladgate/Floodgate is the modern descendant of a 12th century name Atte Fludgate born by a peasant who manned, yes, a floodgate, on the Thames River on the borders of Berkshire and Oxfordshire in the very heart of England.

Arthur, who has spent many years researching the family, traces the movements of a few people bearing the surname, or variants of it, from Berkshire/Oxfordshire into nearby Buckinghamshire and finally into Surrey. There, he says, the family became more fecund and became the ancestors of all modern people carrying the surname, however it is spelled.

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