Emma Maria Martin

Emma Maria Martin, the third wife of Robert Humphrey Marten, was born in 1768 in the East of the City of London, the daughter of Samuel Martin, an upholsterer by trade. She was baptized on 4 Apr 1768 in Hand Alley Dissenters Church and probably had a strong non-conformist upbringing. The members of Hand Alley Church and the closely associated New Broad Street Independent Church were on the whole wealthy and practical city people.

Emma Maria Marten, third wife of Robert Humphrey Marten

Emma Maria Marten, third wife of Robert Humphrey Marten

We know that Emma had at least two sisters – Elizabeth Rebecca and Mary. Mary married William Alers Hankey, a banker in 1797, but the two elder sisters remained unmarried until their 40’s.

The Hankey marriage is a somewhat difficult but important clue in giving us the social status of the Martin family. William Alers Hankey was the illegitimate and only son of Thomas Hankey. Thomas Hankey had become senior partner in the Hankey bank in 1770 on the death of his father Sir Thomas Hankey (1704-1770). William Alers Hankey, who received his education in Edinburgh University, returned to London in the early 1790’s.

It is here that we find out how he came to know and eventually marry Mary. In Simon Tosswill’s history of the Hankey family he describes how the lodgings taken up by William Alers in London was that of a Stephen Hall, a long term partner in the Hankey bank. Here we learn that the Hall family had brought up Mary Martin as an orphan, and she was a member of the Hall household.

As Mary was certainly considerably younger than Emma and Elizabeth, born in about 1776, it is quite possible that the elder two were brought up elsewhere and in a manner that made them less likely to marry suitably. Tosswill also tells us that Samuel Martin of Bucklersbury was the first cousin of Stephen Hall’s wife, Mary. Research can show that a John Grace had married Mary Martin, Samuel’s aunt in 1721 and Mary Hall, nee Grace, had a number of siblings all living in the area. Samuel and his Grace cousins indeed were all baptized in non conformist churches in Stepney.

We know little about the sisters’ mother. Her first name was Elizabeth and it is probably Elizabeth Henderson who married Samuel Martin from St Stephen Walbrook in 1762 in Hillingdon. We can imagine therefore that if there were relatives on her mother’s side they all lived a distance away.

From this information we can surmise that Emma Maria had a difficult childhood with her parents both dying whilst she was at best a young teenager. To add to these woes, Samuel Martin, upholder (ie upholsterer) of Bucklersbury is recorded as having gone bankrupt in the London gazette in 1776. Emma and her sister most probably lived with a Grace relative possibly in Islington and this may be able to be researched further. A Mary Brownlow is a witness at one of the weddings. Very little is therefore known about the first thirty years of Emma Maria Martin’s adult life. Latterly, she lived in Colebrook Row by the Angel Islington and ran a school there for young ladies. This would have been one of the few respectable occupations for a lady of no independent means.  By the account of her future husband she certainly gained a reputation for her “very high character” and amongst her pupils were the daughters of Anthony Brown, lawyer, future partner of George Marten and eventually Lord Mayor of London in 1826.

She would have been nearly 45 on her wedding day. Robert Humphrey Marten, recently widowed, describes in his autobiography how he asked permission from his business friend, co-religionist and future brother-in-law William Alers Hankey and clearly after some deliberation thought she would make a good wife and mother, particularly to his younger children. Emma Maria was thus married on 8 Jul 1813.

After the marriage in St Mary’s Islington she moved out and went to live in Broadway House in Plaistow. The print shown in this article dates from this period. Broadway House was a large and busy house and in the following year Robert Humphrey Marten’s eldest son Robert Giles Marten married and brought his new bride home.

The line on the print “Your affectionate mother” was most probably addressed to her new stepdaughter-in-law Eliza Marten (nee Warmington) The print ended up with the family in Wolverhampton by the 1890’s and this is where Eliza had died in 1865 in the household of her third son Henry Marten.

As it is clearly an engraved print there may have been other copies done for Emma’s new-found family.

Emma Maria Martin was a good and faithful companion to Robert Humphrey Marten for the fifteen years of their marriage and we read in some detail of her trips both to Scotland and latterly Norfolk with her husband and stepdaughter Sarah in 1825. The Journal of Mr Marten’s travels in East Anglia has recently been published.

In a letter from Charles, her husband’s second son, to his father dated 31 Aug 1822 he talks fondly of his stepmother.

” above all Sir your good wife’s company is the best cordial. She is an antidote to carking anxiety; her sound sense will suggest the best means of overcoming difficulties and removing cares, and even if irremediable she best knows where to lead you for consolation. I am sure none better understands how to double pleasure and divide sorrow.”

Emma Maria Marten died and was buried in Bunhill fields on 18 Nov 1827.

In the will of Robert Humphrey Marten of 1839 he takes good care to mention his esteem for Emma Maria’s sisters Elizabeth Procter, who had married Joseph Procter, another widower in 1816 as well as Mary Hankey and his brother in law William Alers Hankey.


See also:

Mr Marten’s Travels in East Anglia, Elizabeth Larby (ed) Poppyland Publishing 2012

Hankey – A dynasty of Bankers, Simon Tosswill (2008)

A family memoir of the Powell family (1903) Thomas Wilde Powell married the eldest daughter of Charles Marten





Last updated on 9 October 2017 by JJ Morgan