A 'foundling' Blackett

Submitted by alkirtley on Fri, 11/22/2019 - 11:39
The Foundling Hospital
The Foundling Hospital

On 13 February 1777 Susanna Blackett was baptized at the Foundling Hospital in Guildford Street, London. The hospital had been established in 1745 in accordance with a 1739 charter, and originally a basket hung on a rope attached to a bell outside the door. Mothers of poor, and/or illegitimate, children would place their baby in the basket and the gatekeeper would come and collect it. No attempt was made to trace the parents. By 1777, however, indiscriminate admissions had ceased.

It is not clear whether Susanna Blackett was the real name of the child, or whether the name had merely been assigned to her by the hospital authorities. If the former, then Susanna could have been an illegitimate child of one of the London Blacketts. But whatever her biological ancestry, Susanna did well for herself, marrying William Gill, a whip maker of Smithfield, London, and one of their sons, John Gill (1806-1860) became the Secretary to the London Gas Company. John’s son was christened John Blacket Gill and he became a Master of Merchant Taylors Company and was later Chairman of the European Gas Company. John Blacket Gill’s son, Blacket Gill (1879-1957), became a solicitor and his daughter, Frances ‘Fay’ Blacket Gill, Susanna Blackett’s great-great-granddaughter, became one of the first female solicitors in England. She is said to have been romantically linked with the actress Patricia Laffan (see Wikipedia entry).

Blacket Gill's 1928 Bentley, which he owned from 1933 until his death, is featured in Series 6 of the BBC programme Peaky Blinders (see Blacketts of stage and screen).

For a descendancy chart of Susanna Blackett please click here.

(NB. We are grateful to Allan C. Smith for supplying us with a copy of ‘John Blacket Gill: His Wife and their Relatives Vol. 2’, published in 1934 with accompanying family tree, which has provided the basis for this research.)