Wreck(Rack) Hall Farm and the Morley family

The Canvey-Stoke Newington-Canvey connections

What or who is the connection between Canvey Island and Stoke Newington, North London?

As an ‘incomer’ to Canvey I knew little about the Island’s history or the many varied ancestry of it’s residents, both passed and present. So I set about reading and learning finding many surprises. After three decades and with four generations of my family having lived here, I think I can be forgiven for thinking I am no longer an ‘incomer’. Using skills learnt from family history, I plotted the family histories of many of the old Canvey families and was surprised when one such family had connections to my birthplace, Stoke Newington, London. This is the story of the Morley family and the connections I found with my own family although many years apart.

The Canvey Connection

A ship wreck

Wreck Hall was situated on the eastern side of Canvey in the Southchurch Parish of Canvey, close to Odessa Road, where the dyke runs down the eastern boundary of King George’s playing fields. The farm was ‘third acre’ land, part of the third of Canvey originally given to the dutch. The building was unsual as it had been built of timbers salvaged from the wreck of the ‘Ajax’ that was driven ashore at South Shoebury, hence the name.

According to D W Dowd’s ‘Canvey Cyclopaedia’ in 1815 Wreck Hall was sold for £1,300, having been bought in 1770 for £110.   It was originally intended to let it go for about £800 but too much drink had been imbibed at the Lion Inn, Rayleigh, and a competition between bidders sprang up.

In the 1841 census Edward Morley, who was born on Foulness in 1795, lived at Wreck Hall with his family. (His wife Sophia and five children) Edward had lived on Canvey Island at least since his eldest child, Edward, was born in 1826. The 1851 census shows Edward senior still in residence, the 1861 census just says Southchurch, Canvey but is likely still Wreck Hall. Edward Morley died in 1863 and the tenancy was taken over by William Edwards as is noted in the 1871 census. By 1881 Wreck Hall is uninhabited and is no where to be found by 1891.

Canvey Island 1895

Edward senior had six sons and one daughter. Edward (1826) and Henry (1827) were the first to leave and both can be found in Islington, Middlesex by 1851 their occupation Saddlers and Harness Makers. Followed by William (1834) and David (1838) who are in Hackney, Middlesex by 1861 also working as Saddlers and Harness Makers. I cannot find Stephen (1845) in the 1861 census but he is not with his father but by 1871 he is in Hackney, his occupation noted as greengrocer. The youngest son Frederick (1848) stayed with his father until his death then joined his brothers in Hackney working as a Stone Mason. Edward’s daughter married James Brewer in 1857 and stayed in Essex in the Horndon on the Hill, Bulphan areas.

Edward Morley (1826) married Sophia Bull in Marylebone in 1847. Edward and Sophia with their seven children moved to Stoke Newington where they can be found at 7 Church Street, in the 1861 census. The family together with three more children can be found in Church Street, Stoke Newington right up to the 1891 census. Edward died in 1892 and is buried in Tottenham where two of his brothers William and Frederick hd settled. Edward’s son Samuel continued the family business at 13 Church Street at least until the census in 1901.

Note. No’s 7 and 13 Church Street were at the High Street end near the Three Crowns Pub. See map c1848.

The Stoke Newington Connection

Church Street, Stoke Newington c1895

To Edward Morley born on a farm on an island in the Thames, Stoke Newington could not have been more different. Edward must have seen many changes in the years he ran his Saddlery and Harness business from his premises in Church Street. Stoke Newington, about the time Edward and his family arrived, was no longer a separate village on the outskirts of London. Church Street with its large Victorian houses was already the home of many writers and dissenters some of whom will be known to you. Daniel Defoe (1661-1731), who wrote of ‘candy’ island, the ‘damp part of the world’ and the ‘decay’ of the women, in one of his Travel books, lived and wrote some of his books in his home in Church Street. Stoke Newington had the largest concentration of Quakers in London. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army is buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Church Street. Edgar Allan Poe, writer, attended Manor School, Church Street c1820.

In the late 1800’s housing developments sprung up, some of the large old houses were demolished and many terraced houses and tenements were built. Charles Booth (1840-1914) a distinguished Victorian gentleman carried out a survey (1886-1903) of London establishing the differing levels of poverty. Many of Booth’s notebooks containing descriptions of individual roads remain today along with his poverty maps. Part of the map for Stoke Newington dated 1898-99, shown below, where you can clearly see the large amount of housing that had been built since the map of 1848. According to his map, Stoke Newington, at that time was still quite ‘well to do’. Houses marked yellow are Upper-middle and Upper classes. Houses marked red were Middle class with the pink and purple poor to fairly comfortable. There are very few blacks and blues, which were the lower class and poor families.

Nevill Road, Stoke Newington

My mother (a country lass from Dorset) moved to one of the terrace properties in Stoke Newington as a new bride in 1938. My brother and I were born there some years later. The house where we lived was only a short walk from Church Street and even closer to the place where Daniel Defoe lived. (see c1848 map)  I would walk up my road cross to Defoe Road then turn right into Church Street to go to school at William Patten Primary, (named after another author, who owned the lease of the Manor of Stoke Newington from 1550-1568) which is located at the High Street end of Church Street on the south side near the Three Crowns pub (Not sure what it was called in my day). I do remember there were quite a lot of pubs. Two in my road alone, it was a long road!

Back to Canvey

My mother’s house Juliers Road

In the 70’s I moved with my family to Canvey, my mother who by then was widowed followed a year later. My mother bought an old timber roughcast bungalow in the east of the island in Juliers Road not far from the very place that the Morley’s had left about a hundred years earlier.

One of life’s coincidences, but I think it makes a good story.

Note: D W Dowd’s ‘Canvey Cyclopaedia’ can be accessed and search at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canvey/

Comments about this page

  • Thanks, Janet. There I was, thinking I had researched Wreck Hall for all I could find and here we have a whole new angle to it and flesh on its ageing timbers. So it decayed because none of the sons fancied farming? Fascinating.

    By Robert Hallmann (29/04/2008)
  • Dear Janet,
    My grandmother was a Morley. She was born at 46, Sandringham Road, Hackney (I have photo of house). She was the daughter of William and Caroline Morley. William was the son of Edward and Sophia Morley (nee Collins). William and his brothers had the Saddlers and Harness makers, which was at 449 Kingsland Rd. (building still there, I have photo). I think that must have been after they moved from Church Street. They also had a premises at one time, at 503, Kingsland Road (also there, photo). William, Caroline and their 4-week old twin son are buried in Abney Park cemetery. I found (with great difficulty, as it was covered with ivy.) their grave and photographed it and its inscriptions, grave no. 43030, section E03. I have addresses of several other Morleys who lived in Hackney, but their houses are no longer standing. My grandmother, Maud, married E.A. Barnett, who was a printer in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. They lived opposite the Deans, who were pottery manufacturers, with a ‘potbank’ in Tunstall. My father and mother, naturally, married. I was a painter, Penwith Soc., St. Ives, 1950-60s, then specialist in Japanese art. Now retired and writing autobiog. for son and daughter. Thanks for yours – more of mine, if interested. I’ll send you the photos, if you send me your e-mail address. Best wishes, Mike.
    PS. It looks to me as though all the Morleys at Wrack Hall farm were labourers, except for a bailiff. It also seems that they may have left when their tenancy expired.

    By Mike Dean (25/08/2009)
  • I am emailing you right now Mike

    By Janet Penn (25/08/2009)
  • Hello Janet I’m also related to this family, as my Gr-great Grandfather was David Morley(b. 1838). He married catherine Winter, and they and their eight sons lived at 90 Seven Sisters Road, Holloway. My great-grandfather was the youngest son. Regards Chris Morley

    By Chris Morley (07/04/2011)
  • Hello Janet, Another Morley descendant my 2x great grandfather was Edward Collins Morley born 1826. I would be grateful if you could pass my e-mail address toMike & Chris. Best wishes Colin

    By Colin Ward (22/08/2011)
  • Done Colin

    By Janet Penn (22/08/2011)
  • Isn’t amazing what you find out….I am the gt. gt. grand-daughter of Samuel Morley (saddler), my mother can remember going to the shop in stoke newington. I had traced the Morleys back to Canvey Island. We have an old family tree saying that the Morleys came over from Holland, but maybe the link to Holland is the one you speak about…what do you think?

    By Sandra Burt (07/02/2012)
  • I am the gt granddaughter of Samuel Edward Morley b 1848,(saddler). My father (b 1914) and his brother and sister lived in the shop in Church St with their grandfather and their mother for some of their childhood. Samuel was therefore still running the shop for at least some of the 1920’s. My father remembered taking turns with his siblings to answer the shop bell at lunchtimes. There was a slaughterhouse close by. I also think it very likely that the farm at Wreck Hall was rented and they left when the tenancy expired.

    By Pip Golding (14/02/2012)
  • I don’t know if we’re related but have heard of a link to a collins family with our Morleys.I haven’t researched this side of my family, but my g grandmother was an Emma Morley(born abt 1851 in Southwark london)the daughter of a Thomas Morley.No other details except that his wife may have been Eliza and that a W Morley was a witness at Emma’s marriage.Emma married John Prestney (at Trinity church St Mary Newington,Surrey in1873.)she died in 1903 and is buried in a private grave in Manor park cemetery.John Prestney was a carman and they lived in East Rd Shoreditch.My grandmother Minnie Prestney emigrated to NZ.Unfortunately have no other details of my Morley Family but perhaps someone mayrecognise which Morley family they belong to. Regards Bev.

    By B Hooper. (03/04/2012)
  • I am related to the Morleys through Edward’s brother Thomas (1792 – 1848) who is my 4th gt grandfather. The line follows through his son Edward Thomas (1817 – 1863) to his daughter Elizabeth Jane (1845 – 1924) who married William Baker, a dairyman. The Bakers lived in Southend.

    By Elaine Wilson (14/12/2012)
  • May not be any connection but as an interest, one of my fathers sister married Eric Mackney who owned a farm near Sevenoaks, Kent called “Morley’s Farm”

    By Ian Hawks, (14/12/2012)
  • Hello, I am also a Morley and descended from Edward Collins Morley and his son John Alfred. I know it is several years ago but if you still have the email for Colin Ward please could you pass on my details as I think I might know which branch of the family he is from. Thank you very much

    By Ms Chris Morley (06/07/2020)
  • I’m not a Morley so forgive me for butting in on your conversation.
    My maiden name was Bristow my mum Joan and my dad James me and my sister lived above a brewery in church street early 50’s…I was born in Hackney hospital and I went to the school just along the road in church street..The landlady of the few upstairs rooms we lived in was called Mrs.stock ..(in the 90’s we went back to visit but the house had been demolished )we moved to Hertfordshire in 1956 the year I turned 6.
    My mums parents Mary and Richard Homes came from stoke newington..
    Sorry just saw your article and it rang a bell…..

    By Kathleen Nye (Bristow) (28/10/2022)

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