10 July 2010

The Spice of Life - Part Three

Louis Prosper Verheyen was born on 10 June 1867 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, near Brussels, Belgium. He had two brothers, Charles Cesar and Joseph, and a sister, Anne Joseph.

The children's father, Jules Cesar Verheyen, died on 8 December 1868, leaving their mother. Anne Catherine nee Dehouwer, to bring up the four children on her own.

Jules had been a merchant, according to the council records in Molenbeek. Anne, who may have been known as Catherine, was about 20 years old when her husband died and she moved her young family to the nearby town of Saint-Gilles on 18 December 1869.


Molenbeek-Saint-Jean at that time was in the industrial centre of Belgium. Anne, sometimes known also as Anna as well as Catherine, was born sometime between 1846 and 1848 in or near Brussels. On my great grandfather's birth certificate, her maiden name is recorded as Hanwer. It is all very confusing!

If you have explored this blog before, you will know that my great grandfather's name was Jack. He was the half-brother of Louis Verheyen, the son of Anne and her second husband, Johannes Gysemans. Johannes was also known as Jan and John. He had been married twice before and was much older than Anne.

1870s migration from Belgium to London

More about Flemish ancestry


A Carnaby Street childhood

I would be very interested to know how my great great grandparents met and what sort of people they might have been. Anne and Johannes had several children and some of them appear to have been in trouble with the law in their youth.

Johannes' step-son Louis Verheyen was even sent to a reform school for wayward Catholic boys. I wonder what his experiences there might have been like, especially as the reputation of the Catholic hierarchy has been under the spotlight recently.

The school was called the St Nicholas Industrial School and it was in Manor House, near London, in the former home of the 19th century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. If you know something about it, I would be delighted to hear from you.

I am also interested in the education Louis may have received there, and how he managed to become the manager of a spice warehouse. My great aunt Florence was his second wife. His first wife was called Kate Owen, I think.

My grandmother thinks the spice warehouse was called Van den Berg and it was somewhere near the Tower of London. If you know something of its history, I would be very grateful for any information you might like to send by email: writetovia (at) gmail.com. Thank you!

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I especially appreciate historical insights.