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John Donovan II

1833/7 - 1898
Whitechapel, London
and later High Street
United Kingdom

Born in Cork, Ireland in 1837, at the age of about 13 John appears to have emigrated with his parents to England. Described as a "Marine Store and General Dealer" he ran a stall in Petticoat Lane, London for several years. John Donovan II appears to have lived in several addresses over the ensuing years in London's East End. He is recorded in the 1855 Kelly's Directory at 84 Cromer St, Brunswick Square, London, which is just to the south of St Pancras Station. The neighbours were at 82 Charles Filed's chandlers shop and 88 Thomas Goldsmith, a plumber. There was no 86.

One practice that emerged as a result of the Crimean War in the mid 1850s involved wooden cannon balls. When loading ships for the Crimea, iron cannon balls were surreptitiously replaced with wooden ones. The Marine Store Dealer in conjunction with certain individuals in authority were allegedly believed responsible for this clandestine activity.

John married Mary Ann Hayes of Ticehurst in 1855 at Wadhurst in Sussex. They had five children while in London between 1857 and 1867. Other addresses include 131 High Street, Shadwell in 1859. The 1861 census finds the family at 89 Pundersons Gardens, Bethnal Green but by 1871 they had left London for Oxted.

In the criminal records there are numerous entries of prosecutions for a John Donovan of Whitechapel. The offences range from larceny and theft to assault and are recorded for the 1840s to 1860s. There is no way of ascertaining whether these were attributable to John Donovan II or others with a similar name and location.

The couple went on to have a further five children having relocated to Oxted where they resided in The Village in 1871; thence on to Chalk Pit, Caterham where they could be found by 1881. Chalk Pit was located in Tupwood Road near where it joins Godstone Road. Chalk Pit Cottages were demolished in 1971. The site is now dominated by a modern commercial office building. John Donovan II is still being described as a 'general dealer'. Although John III (his son) was married by 1881, the census includes John II's wife and 5 children. Ten years later by 1891 John and family had returned to Oxted village where he lived in the High Street. This is a narrow picturesque lane now away from modern day Oxted village centre.

A Marine Store Dealer was a licensed broker who bought and sold used cordage, bunting, rags, timber, metal and other general waste materials. Marine Store Dealers were governed by an Act of Parliament 1st. Geo. IV. sec.16 cap.75. which stipulated that every marine-store-dealer must have his name inserted in legible characters over his shop-door and must also keep a book in which he inserts the name and address of any person from whom he purchases anything.

    A Conversation
Shabby Lady. Where are you going, you merry throng?
Fine Lady. To the Marine Store Shop, so come along.
S,L. But what to do if I may make bold?
F.L. To turn Rubbish into Silver and Gold.
S.L. Indeed I should like to go as well;
But really I have nothing to sell.
F.L. Nonsense. I thought like you Eliza,
But now I've grown a good deal wiser.
Last Sunday I looked dreadful shabby,
My gown was torn, and my bonnet was flabby,
And for my shoes the sight was piteous,
They were a deal more holy than righteous.
S.L. And how did you get such a fine turn-out,
Why, you're fit to go to VICTORIA'S rout!
F.L. By taking all sorts of odds and ends,
To a man who deals with myself and friends.
Nothing comes wrong, spoons, candles, or keys,
Coals, penknives, scissors, just what you please.
Soap, brushes, handkershiefs, please to bring,
Or once in a way, a brooch or a ring.
The hundred things that Missuses miss,
But nobody never knows where they is.
Bring any or all to John Donovan,
He asks no questions, and pays like fun.
S.L. You're right Ma'am, right as ever can be,
You're attir'd in splendour, and why not me?
To-night with a bundle of things I'll come,
And so hurrah for John Donovan!

Source: Punch 1854 p.264.

John Donovan II died in the Caterham Asylum of minor epilepsy - attacks with transient loss of consciousness in November 1898. He had been admitted on 22 April 1895 at the apparent age of 64 according to the records, making his d.o.b. 1831. He had come from St Olave's Bermondsey. On his death he was described as a builders labourer of Bermondsey, 65 years old. This makes his d.o.b. 1833, which does not correspond to other information. This confusion about his d.o.b. inevitably raises questions about whether this is the right John Donovan although the absence of any other contender appears to make him the most likely candidate.

Caterham Asylum was opened on 9 October 1870, and run by the recently constituted Metropolitan Asylums Board for the care of "insane paupers" who were "such harmless persons of the chronic or imbecile class as could lawfully be detained in a workhouse". "Dangerous or curable" patients were to be sent to the county lunatic asylums. At first children were admitted along with adults, but from 1873 the children were sent elsewhere.

What became of the children?

Mary moved to Oxted where she is recorded in the 1871 census.

Edward became a publican, running the "Chart" beerhouse at Oxted, later landlord of a pub in Mitcham Road, Croydon during World War 1. then moving to the Rising Sun in Croydon later. He was also the coachman at Addington Place for a while. He married and his daughter became theatrical director of the Croydon Empire.

John went on to become a builder and marry and have a family. His details can be seen by clicking on his name below.

Richard Donovan became a road sweeper in Oxted and has been knicknamed a Highwayman.


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John Donovan 1st

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Mary? Donovan

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Mary Ann Hayes

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Mary Donovan

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John Donovan III

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Ellen Donovan

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William Donovan

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Annie Donovan

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Elizabeth Donovan

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Richard Donovan

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Edward Donovan

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Charles Donovan

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Julia Donovan


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