St Antholin Budge Row

6. The Family of Sotherton Backler, Apothecary, and his wife Ann Ashley

In which we look at the births (and too many deaths) of the children of Sotherton Backler and his wife Ann Ashley, later to become, respectively, Beadle and Butler of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries

This family illustrates the perils of infancy and childhood in 18th century London, and introduces us to some unusual (and unexplained) names.

Sotherton Backler, Citizen and Apothecary

      c. 5 Feb 1703/4, Ashwell, Herts.,  d. 28 April 1763

      m. Ann ASHLEY 5 July 1732 1732 at St Antholin, Budge Row, City of London.  ‘Sotherton Barker [or Backer sic] of St Giles’ Cripplegate London Batch and Ann Ashley of St Olive [sic] Jewry London Spinster married by Licence by Mr Lande.’   Ann Backler died December 1768

Ozell 1733-1733. Little Ozell died of ‘rising lights’, according to the parish register of St Giles Cripplegate in London. ‘Rising lights’ were any obstructive condition of the larynx or trachea (windpipe), characterised by a hoarse, barking cough and difficult breathing, occurring chiefly in infants and children. 

What’s in a name?  Who can explain where the names ‘Ozell’ and ‘Annozella’ came from? There is no sign of these names in Backler families in East Anglia.  Could the names have come down from the Ashley family?

Annozella 1734/5-1736.  Annozella died of smallpox, but perhaps she need not have done so.  By this date, medics had begun ‘variolation’ (inoculation with smallpox virus), a practice which was more widespread on the European continent than in England.  Jenner’s vaccine remained some way off (1795), but although there were hazards in the variolation process (some of those who were inoculated died of the disease, or of infections acquired through the inoculation process), the case fatality rate was 10 times lower than in naturally occurring smallpox .  The practice was slow to catch on in England, and even at the end of the 18th century, the death rate from smallpox in infants was 80%.  There was probably little the Backlers could do to save their small child. 

(source downloaded 19 April 2014:

Sotherton 1737-1737.  It is possible he died of ‘teeth’. There is an entry in the St Giles Cripplegate register for the burial of ‘James Sotherton’, of ‘teeth.  In the absence of any other record for this Sotherton before the christening of ‘our’ Sotherton some years later, one could speculate that this entry refers to this Sotherton – speculation only!

Jane Ozella 1738/9-1741/2  Jane died of consumption.

Ann 1741 – 

      m. John Freeman 12 July 1770 at St Andrew by the Wardrobe/St Ann Blackfriars, witnessed by S Backler and Sarah Rowley. Nothing more is known about Ann and John.

Ozella 1743/4-1745 – died of ‘tooth’

Sotherton  b.  28 July 1746, died 1819 Apothecary

      m. (1) Frances Harris

      m. (2) Hannah Osborne 3 Oct 1782. She died 23 April 1803

Elizabeth 1748/9 –  her fate is not known. It is possible she married.

Samuel 1753-1755 died of measles

In my next blog I will look at Sotherton senior’s rise to the post of Beadle of the Society of Apothecaries.  It is possible that young Sotherton, Ann, and possibly Elizabeth, lived with their parents at the Society, although they may have resided elsewhere with their parents having just an office or apartment from which they carried out their duties in the Society.