Sugar refining Backlers in Bristol and London

When searching on the internet to try and find links to Thomas Christian Backler (see blog page – South Australian Backlers), I came across an intriguing link to Michael Christian Backler and also to Christian Backler, who were both described as sugar refiners in Bristol on the website dedicated to this industry edited by Bryan Mawer.

Both worked at Daubeny’s, Christian in the 1780’s and Michael Christian before 1808 (maybe father and son).  Bryan Mawer had referenced this information to B&G Arch Soc – Trans Vol 85.  Daubeny’s was one of about twenty sugar refiners in Bristol.  He then notes that M Backler was a sugar refiner at Mr Whites Yard, Rosemary Lane and at Glass House Yard, both in London between 1829-30.  His source was the records of the Sun Fire Office insurance company.  The picture shows the advert on the roof of this building in Canterbury, Kent that long ago ceased to be a Sun Fire Office.  I have further researched the Royal and Sun 2015-11-07 13.22.13Alliance records and found that he was insured between 1827 and 1834 at those addresses.  Royal and Sun Alliance records include the Sun Fire Office, so it must have been absorbed at some point.

Whilst on the subject of insurance, a book by John Evans published in 1824 entitled “A Chronological Outline of the History of Bristol and the Stranger’s Guide through its Streets and Neighbourhood”, notes that in 1769 the sugar refiners established the Bristol Fire Insurance Office, primarily for their industry, which underlines the risks in that business.  This book was also the source of the information about George Daubeny MP below.

I have found a reference to Michael Christian marrying Mary Tibbin in Bristol on 12th October 1805 and it seems he wanted to better himself by moving to London to start his own sugar refinery.  According to the London I.G.I., Michael Christian and Mary Ann (presumably Mary Tibbin) christened a daughter, also Mary Ann at St. Anne, Soho on 23rd January 1807, so it is clear that he had left Daubeny’s and Bristol behind by then.

Intriguingly, Michael Christian, in the London Gazette for the period from 4th to 8th August 1812 in issue 16330 on page 1533, was noted as formerly of Trafalgar Square, Stepney and late of Church Street, Mile End, New Town, as a grocer.   This covers sugar refining which fell under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Grocers.  This was a second notice for prisoners in Fleet prison in the City of London who were held as Insolvency Debtors under the Act for the Relief of Insolvency Debtors.  He must have fallen on hard times before commencing again as a sugar refiner between 1827 and 1834, as noted above.

Elizabeth Catherine Backler  was born on 29th December 1780, daughter of Christian and Ann, and her will confirms that she is the sister of Michael Christian and, therefore, his parentage is also confirmed.  Elizabeth Catherine was christened at St. Peter, Pauls Wharf on 14th January 1781, according to the London I.G.I.  This suggests that Christian had left Daubeny’s and Bristol behind by 1780.

It is possible the whole family moved to Bristol, where Christian had connections and that after learning his trade as a sugar refiner Michael Christian moved back to London after marrying Mary Tibbin.

Daubeny’s was actually owned by a series of family members, one of whom, George, was briefly an MP for Bristol from 1781-1784.  Four George’s are mentioned in the family by Bryan Mawer, so it is not clear which one was the MP.  The company was located at Halliers Lane and Bridewell Lane on the bank of the River Frome where it flows into the Avon in the city centre and latterly at Nelson Street from 1805-07.

In the days before mighty sugar refiners like Tate & Lyle and British Sugar dominated the industry, sugar refining was carried out in a myriad of small companies, mostly in the port cities of Liverpool, London and Bristol.  It was a dirty and dangerous job, as sugar dust was flammable and turned surfaces it came into contact with into a black tar like substance.  I have personal experience of this in an old cake mix factory where sugar was used extensively and it isn’t pleasant.

Christian and Michael Christian are related to Thomas Christian Backler, because Thomas Christian’s father Henry was Michael Christian’s brother – see the blog page “The Will of Elizabeth Catherine Backler” for further details.

There is the possibility that early sugar refining Backlers in Bristol and London may have been German immigrants and the fact that I have found records of another Michael Christian Backler in German at the German Lutheran Church in London supports this viewpoint.  See the blog page on “Backlers – the German connection”.

I have not been able to make a connection between the two Michael Christian Backlers and I would like to find out more!  UPDATE: See the blog page “The family of Michael Christian Backler and Ann Mary Fahnert”, where I have connected them as Michael Christian Junior’s parents, through a further entry at The Savoy German Lutheran Church.

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