Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


London Lives Revealed: Jane Vobe

Robert Shoemaker

Workhouse. Photo: steve p2008 via Creative Commons.

Jane Vobe, b. 1775

The fifth of six children of a pauper family, Jane Vobe was cared for by her parish for six years, until she ran away from her apprenticeship.

Family and Early Life

Jane Vobe, the daughter of Jane and Thomas Vobe, was born in the parish of St Martin in the Fields on 13 August 1775, but was not baptised until 10 June 1779.1 Jane was the fifth of six children; her siblings were Thomas born in 1767; Elizabeth, born in 1768; Ann, born in 1770; James, born in 1775; and Peter, born in 1777. Her father, Thomas, kept an alehouse, the Indian Queen, in Holywell Street, Westminster.

Parish Care

When she was a young child, the family appear to have been removed from St Martin’s in the Fields to the parish of St Clement Danes. Jane first appears in London Lives in the 1781 volume of St Clement’s Register of Poor Children (RC), where she is recorded as having been “received under the care of the parish” on 10 April 1781 (at the age of five) and is listed as under the care of Nurse Graves in Low Leyton (Essex), at a cost of 2s 6d per week. The register indicates that Jane could read and say her prayers. Her brother Peter and sister Ann appear on the same page of the register.

Jane appears again in the Parish Register of Poor Children for 1782 and 1783. In 1783, Jane, now seven, is listed as living in the workhouse, where she was put to work spinning mop yarn. She appears again in the workhouse in 1784 and 1785.

In 1785 Jane also appears in the parish Clothing Book, where she is listed as receiving a gown on 5 June and also an under coat, shift, hose, checked apron and cap on 8 July.


Jane next appears in the 1786 St Clement Danes’ Apprenticeship Records. At the age of ten, three years before the age of mandatory apprenticeship, Jane was put out to an apprenticeship. On 23 May 1786 she was bound to Ann Bowerbank of Buxton Place, Lambeth, Surrey as a tambour worker.

For this apprenticeship Jane left the parish to live and work in Surrey, on the southern side of the Thames. For unknown reasons the apprenticeship did not work out and less than a year later she ran away, reappearing in the St Clement Danes’ Examinations Books on 1 March 1787. In the examination it appears that Jane left her apprenticeship on 28 February 1787. The parish officials clearly did not take kindly to this, for she was immediately removed from the parish back to the parish of St Mary Newington where Ann Bowerbank lived.

Having had her connection with St Clement Danes firmly severed, Jane disappears from the records in ”’London Lives”.

This biography is written by Edward Duncan with Robert Shoemaker and is taken from www.londonlives.org

About The Author

Robert Shoemaker

Robert Shoemaker is the co-author of London Lives (2016). He is Professor of Eighteenth-Century British History at the University of Sheffield. Holder of a PhD from Stanford Univer...

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