Gainsford Street


Shad Thames and Gainsford Street, Southwark, c. late 1760s-94


John Hays, Mary Hays's father, was listed in his will as a "mariner," and their first home may have been in Greenwich or Woolwich, where she may, as some comments in her correspondence with John Eccles suggests, attended a day school. The Hays family are not present in the Poor Rate Books for the Parish of St. John, Southwark, in 1759, but they are living in Shad Thames in 1768, though the exact arrival of the Hayses to Shad Thames cannot be ascertained, since no rate books between 1760 and 1767 have survived. After 1768, the next surviving rate book is 1776, and in the October collection Mrs. Hays, now a widow, appears in Gainsford Street; since she is missing from the earlier collections that year, it would appear she moved from Shad Thames to Gainsford Street sometime in late summer 1776. The Hays family warehouses remain along Shad Thames and Gainsford Street for many years thereafter (Shad Thames was the street adjacent to Gainsford Street and accessible at that time through the open areas between the houses on each street). Mrs Hays also operated a wine cellar and business from her home in Gainsford Street. 


In the 1760s Gainsford Street was only partially developed; the area nearby was also referred to as Blackfields, for much of the land was open fields. By 1780 that had changed considerably, and by 1800 the street was fully populated.  By the 1776 collection of the poor rate tax, John and Joanna Dunkin (married in 1774) were living in Gainsford Street next door to the widow Hays, with the Blackfields Particular Baptist Chapel at the end of the street (the minister, Michael Brown, lived on the street as well). By 1794 Mary and her mother are living primarily with the Dunkins in the home in the Paragon, Walworth. Most likely, Thomas Hays had taken over the Gainsford Street home and would live there for some time before his move to Wandsworth Common.

Nothing is left today of any of the original buildings from the eighteenth century, although the streets are still in the same location. The last picture below is of the corner of Gainsford Street and Shad Thames, which may not have been far from the location of the Hays's home.

The  Hills, Dunkins, Lepards, Jameses, Parkers, Colliers, and other Baptists who appear in the Hays-Eccles Correspondence from 1778-80 lived in and around Gainsford Street and attended meetings at Blackfields, Carter Lane, Dean Street, and Unicorn Yard.

For more on the Rate Books and the locations of the Hayses and individuals connected to them between 1759 and 1816, click here.