The Kenefeck Family Website
Calcutta 4th March 1853. William Stokeld appears to have been a successful tailor in the city, residing on the most significant square in Calcutta then and even today. This is of course during Queen Victoriaís reign and the Empire was at itís height, Calcutta being the second city of the Empire.
On this date he writes to his friend John Yates of Jermyn Street, London asking him to find him a young man capable of being a good tailor & cutter now and a potential partner in the future.
Robert Kenefeck appears to be the selected candidate. Born in Marylebone in 1829, he was now 24 years of age and had been a tailor foreman in his fathers' business for some years. In 1850 we know that he had married Sarah Browne from Cork and had lived with his parents for at least the following year. At the moment we don't know what his situation was in 1853.
A contract is signed referring to this letter on 23rd June 1853.
It looks as if things go wrong for Robert after this point. William Stokeld dies age 44 in September of that year and Robert is issued a short term contract of nine months from 1st November 1853, but still at the same salary (£10 per month or 120 rupees).
By June 1854 he is purchasing a ticket to return to London at a cost of 350 rupees (£30).
We have recently found evidence of a son being born in 1854, as we have the marriage certificate of John Kenefeck from 1884 showing him as 30 when he married.
Further children follow, Richard (1861), Margaret (1868), William (1870), Robert (1872), Frederick (1878) and twins Patrick and Samuel (1881). There may be more children that we have yet to discover. At this stage we don't know what happened to Sarah, Robert's first wife, but we know that he has "married" again by 1868 as Margaret's certificate shows her mother to be Margaret (nee O'Brien), of Irish origin. Margaret is the mother of all the following children and was much younger than Robert as the 1881 census shows.
The 1881 census shows them all living at 23 Steward Street, Old Artillery Ground, Spitalfields. One of three families in the house but in total 24 people! We also know they spent many years in the next street, Gun Street, as this is the address listed on the birth certificates for Margaret and Frederick.
The census also shows him as being 57 at this time (so born in 1824) but his death certificate later on shows him as 81 in 1910, which would give a birth date of 1829. However evidence from the earlier 1851 census and confirmation of his first marriage show that the correct date of his birth is 1829.
Even more unusual is our recent discovery that Robert & Margaret were only married in 1888, after several children had been born! Margaret died in 1889, having suffered for twelve months with what appears to be TB. So when they married, she would already have been seriously ill and this may have been an opportunity to let her die an "honest" woman. No trace of Sarah (his first wife) has been found since their marriage - it is possible she was alive for some years after John's birth but not part of the family.
The addresses found for Robert are right in the heart of Londonís poorest area. 1888 saw the famous Jack the Ripper murders take place in the streets not far away, indeed one of his victims lived in Gun Street where Robert and his family used to live but by this period they had moved to near While Lion Street, north of Spitalfields market. This is the London of mysterious alleyways, drunks and prostitutes and Dickensí workhouses (although Dickens was more mid 1800ís). At the same time John Meyrick (the Elephant Man) was being exhibited among the freak shows in the area. This area seems to have been closely associated with silk weaving but today Steward Street has disappeared as part of an excavation near the entrance to Spitalfields Market but Gun Street survives, retaining some of its old character and Church Passage is now known as St James's Passage.