James Bonnin the printer is the person who started me off in the search for Bonnin Ancestry. He was the father of James Bonnin the builder. Successive generations of the family have tried and failed to discover where he came from. I have managed to accrue a little more information recently and I offer it here, in the hope that if another researcher manages to break through the “brick wall” that they will be so good as to let me know.

James makes his first appearance in the currently available records in 1770, when he married Susanna Brown, a widow. Susanna died in on Feb 1802 and was said to be aged 56 then, so would have been born around 1746. However, we don’t know her maiden name.

James and Susanna's marriage register 1770

What happened to them after the marriage is somewhat obscure. It is clear that at least one of the couple (maybe both) was of French Huguenot stock, as many of their children were baptised in Huguenot churches. The records of some of these churches have not survived, so birth/baptism records of some of the children have disappeared. The ones that we have found records of go like this:-

  • Catherine Ann Magdalen Bap. Wandsworth 1771
  • James b. sometime between 1776 and 1782, birth record not found
  • Caroline b. about 1777
  • Daniel 1778-1782 died Bermondsey
  • Samuel 1779 – 1844 died Salem, Eastern Cape, South Africa
  • Sarah Allan 1780-1784 died Bermondsey
  • Hannah Jane 1781-1784 died Bermondsey
  • Susannah 1784-1846
  • Ebenezer b. about 1785
  • Mary (or Maria) 1786-1787 died Bermondsey

James and Susannah’s daughter Sarah Allen (sic) was recorded as buried in Bermondsey in 1784 aged 21 months. However, the age seems to be a muddle – she was baptised in April 1780, so she must have been older than that. In fact the age quoted is that of her sister Hannah Jane. One of them was buried there. Since neither of them seems to be recorded again, perhaps it was both.

However, this provides evidence that James and Susannah were living in Pages Walk, Bermondsey in 1782-1784. Pages Walk is just round the corner from Printers Place. This image of the old printers house, Printers Place in Bermondsey, is very possibly where James was working as a printer at the time.

Also in Bermondsey, a child named Susanna Bonnin Rawlings was buried at around the same time. Her mother was one Sarah Allen, by then Mrs Phillip Rawlings. Phillip Rawlings was a clergyman and the Rawlings were living in the same street as the Bonnins. That got me thinking: if women name children after each other then they may just be close friends, but it’s quite possible that they were sisters. That view gains added weight because James and Susanna were the witnesses at the wedding of Sarah and Phillip in 1781. We’re still no nearer to James’ ancestry, but was Susanna’s maiden name Allan (or Allen?)