Robert Humphrey Marten

Robert Humphrey Marten was born in 1763 to a non conformist family in Whitechapel. Robert’s father Nathaniel had established a place in The City of London in the Cooks’ company, which formed a base for Robert Humphrey’s particularly varied and interesting career.

He married three times, but it was only his second marriage to Elizabeth Giles that gave him children. In April 1807 he moved out to Plaistow and lived in a large house called Broadway House in what was then a small village east of London.

His city career was matched by his role as a religious leader and a reformer. Politically he was a member of the committee to repeal the Test Acts, chaired by William Smith MP. This was an important liberal movement to remove legal discrimination against non members of the Church of England. We also know that he was a friend of William Wilberforce who is reported to have been a frequent visitor to Broadway House. Robert Humphrey is listed as a Freeman of the City of Magdeburg for his contribution in raising £120,000 in the city of London for aid after the Napoleonic wars. We know he visited Magdeburg in the early 1820’s to collect or acknowledge his award. He founded the Non Conformist Church in Plaistow with his neighbour John Warmington. His son Robert Giles Marten was to marry John Warmington’s eldest daughter Eliza in 1814.

His business career involved a number of directorships. Notably he was a director of the Thames Tunnel company that employed Marc Brunel to construct the pioneering tunnel under the Thames completed in 1843. He has the distinction of being rescued from the water by a young Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who dived into the flooded tunnel to rescue the portly Director. Brunel received a gallantry award for this deed from the Royal Humane Society. Robert Humphrey Marten was also a director of the East London Water Company another huge pre Victorian investment in the infrastructure of the East End in response to the threat of cholera. This was a theme that his grandson Henry John Marten was to take up in Wolverhampton.

He died in December 1839 a few months after his eldest son Robert Giles Marten.


Family of Robert Humphrey MARTEN and Elizabeth GILES

Husband:Robert Humphrey MARTEN (1763-1839)
Wife:Elizabeth GILES (bap.1759, d.1811)
Children:Robert Giles MARTEN (1792-1839)
Elizabeth MARTEN (1793-1856)
James MARTEN (1794-1795)
Mary MARTEN (1795-1797)
Charles MARTEN (1797-1851)
Sarah MARTEN (1800-1851)
George MARTEN (1801-1872)
Marriage12 Jul 1791St Peter and St Paul, Milton-next-Gravesend1

Husband: Robert Humphrey MARTEN

Name:Robert Humphrey MARTEN
Father:Nathaniel MARTEN (1735-1816)
Mother:Martha CLARKSON (1736-1790)
Birth21 Mar 1763Great Prescott Street, Goodman Fields, Whitechapel
Baptism10 Apr 1763 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Occupation24 Jan 1788 (age 24)Freeman of the Cooks Company
Residence1791 (age 27-28)St Matthews Bethnal Green on Gravesend marriage register
Religion1800 (age 36-37)Congregationalist Lay Leader
Residencebtw 1806 and 1839 (age 42-76)Broadway (or the Great House) Plaistow2
Religion1807 (age 43-44)Co Founder of North Street Congretional Church, West Ham
Occupation1807 (age 43-44)Deputy Chairman Commercial Dock Co, Rotherhithe
Occupation1809 (age 45-46)Master of the Cooks Company
Occupation1814 (age 50-51)Aid Committee chairman for Magdeburg3
Elected30 May 1814 (age 51)Freedom of the city of Magdeburg (Ehrenburger)
Occupation1818 (age 54-55)Treasurer of Port of London Seamens Welfare Charity
Occupation1824 (age 60-61)Described as a ‘Ship Broker’4
MissionAug 1824 (age 61)Visit to Magdeburg
Occupation1825 (age 61-62)Director of East London Water Works5
Occupation1827 (age 63-64)Director of Thames Tunnel Company6
Occupation27 Jun 1827 (age 64)Isambard Kingdom Brunel awarded medal for bravery in rescuing group incl RH Marten7
Occupationbtw 1827 and 1828 (age 63-65)Committee for Repeal of Test and Corporation Act
Will24 Dec 1838 (age 75)Later Proved by sons Charles and George Marten (PCC 772 Vaughan)
Death11 Dec 1839 (age 76)Plaistow, Essex (Broadway House)
Burial19 Dec 1839Bunhill Fields MI

Wife: Elizabeth GILES

Name:Elizabeth GILES
Father:James GILES (1719-1780)
Mother:Elizabeth WOLF (aft1730-1798)
Baptism18 Nov 1759Shorne, Kent
Death6 Sep 1811Bunhill Fields MI
Burial12 Sep 1811Bunhill Fields

Child 1: Robert Giles MARTEN

Name:Robert Giles MARTEN
Spouse:Eliza WARMINGTON (1793-1865)
Birth22 Jun 1792Whitechapel8
Baptism12 Jul 1792 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Graduation26 Jun 1814 (age 22)Admitted to Livery Cooks Co and Freeman of City of London
Will1 Jul 1839 (age 47)Names his brother Charles and George Executors (MS7744/O/4 – Marten Papers)
Death10 Jul 1839 (age 47)Camberwell, Surrey

Child 2: Elizabeth MARTEN

Name:Elizabeth MARTEN
Spouse:William COOKE (c. 1785-1873)
Birth23 Jul 1793
Baptism18 Aug 1793 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Death9 Aug 1856 (age 63)

Child 3: James MARTEN

Name:James MARTEN
Birth25 Aug 1794
Baptism28 Sep 1794 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Death14 Oct 1795 (age 1)

Child 4: Mary MARTEN

Name:Mary MARTEN
Birth11 Oct 1795
Baptism8 Nov 1795 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Death7 Apr 1797 (age 1)

Child 5: Charles MARTEN

Name:Charles MARTEN
Spouse:Hannah WATSON (1798-1881)
Birth21 Aug 1797Whitechapel
Baptism27 May 1798 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Occupation1825 (age 27-28)Marten and Heseltine stockbrokers founded
Household1828 (age 30-31)Old Bailey appearance as victim of pickpocketing9
Residencebtw 1841 and 1851 (age 43-54)Broadway House Plaistow (after death of father and brother 1839)
Occupationbtw 1841 and 1851 (age 43-54)Stockbroker (Census)
Death26 Jun 1851 (age 53)Great Malvern, Worcestershire
BurialJun 1851Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington

Child 6: Sarah MARTEN

Name:Sarah MARTEN
Birth17 Jan 1800
Death30 Dec 1851 (age 51)

Child 7: George MARTEN

Name:George MARTEN
Spouse:Anne BRIDGETT (1804-1867)
Birth4 Nov 1801Great Prescott Street, Goodman Fields, Whitechapel
Baptism13 Jan 1802 (age 0)New Broad Street Independent
Occupation1844 (age 42-43)Brown, Marten and Thomas Solicitors
Occupation1850 (age 48-49)Marten, Thomas and Hollams, Solicitors of Mincing Lane
Occupationbtw 1851 and 1861 (age 49-60)Solicitor
Residencebtw 1861 and 1871 (age 59-70)Parkfield, Stamford Hill
Occupation1871 (age 69-70)Justice of the Peace for Middlesex
Death10 Nov 1872 (age 71)Upper Clapton
Burial16 Nov 1872Abney Park, Stoke Newington10


1“Parish Register”. Text From Source: Married by licence ; witnesses Nathaniel Marten, Martha Marten, James Giles and Peggy Giles
Parish Register, Married by licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
2“Curwen, Old Plaistow, 1904”. Text From Source: At Plaistow development between 1700 and 1840 was mainly within the old village. In c. 1742–80 25 new houses were built and 13 old ones rebuilt. (fn. 56) The larger houses were typically of five bays and three storeys. Richmond House, Richmond Street, was an early-18th-century building with a segmental pediment and Corinthian pilasters to the front door. (fn. 57) John Curwen lived there in the 1860s. (fn. 58) The house was demolished in 1930. (fn. 59) Broadway (or Great) House, in Broadway, also built in the 18th century, belonged in the early 19th to the Martens, who were often visited by William Wilberforce. (fn. 60) It was demolished in 1882. In High Street one 18th-century house, no. 125, still survives. The front has recently been rebuilt. (fn. 61) At the north end of Balaam Street was an unnamed house occupied in 1754–66 by William Dodd. (fn. 62) In 1742 it was described as modern. (fn. 63) It was demolished in 1890 and replaced by the Laurels. Brunstock Cottage, no. 83 Balaam Street, still survived, greatly altered, in the 1930s, but was later demolished. (fn. 64) Edmund Burke lived there 1759–61. In 1742 it was apparently a boarded two-storey house. (fn. 65) Chesterton House, Balaam Street, had an early-19th-century front of seven bays, but an older interior. (fn. 66) Among its occupants was Luke Howard. (fn. 67) It later became part of Plaistow maternity hospital, (fn. 68) but was demolished in 1960. (fn. 69) North of Plaistow village, on the site of the present Willow Grove and Valetta Grove, was the Willows, formerly Bedfords, a large house probably built in the early 19th century. (fn. 70) Its lodge, a single-storey gabled cottage of c. 1840, still stands in Willow Grove but slates have replaced the old thatched roof. (fn. 71)

From: ‘West Ham: Domestic buildings’, A History of the County of Essex: Volume 6 (1973), pp. 50-7. URL: Date accessed: 24 February 2007.

3“Honoured Citizen of Magdeburg”. Text From Source: Robert Humphrey Marten und Lucke Howard

Der Befreiungskrieg gegen die napoleonische Fremdherrschaft hat der Bevölkerung in den von Frankreich unterdrückten Ländern große Opfer abverlangt. Auf einer Sitzung des Gemeinderates zu Magdeburg wurde am 30. Mai 1814 die Meldung verlesen, dass die Engländer zur Milderung des durch den Krieg über Deutschland und anderen Gegenden verbreiteten Elends eine Sammlung veranstaltet haben und dass das Londoner Hilfskomitee von den eingegangenen Beiträgen 2500 Pfund Sterling für Magdeburg und die umliegende Gegend bestimmt hat. Davon entfielen 1500 Pfund allein auf die Stadt Magdeburg.

Die geschäftsführenden Sekretäre des “Komitees zur Verteilung der Unterstützungen für die durch den Krieg am meisten gedrückten deutschen Länder zu London”, auch “Britischer Verein zur Linderung der Leiden des festen Landes in London” genannt, waren Robert Humphrey Marten, Esquire (Hochwohlgeboren), und Lucke Howard, Esquire. In ihrer Dankadresse an den Verein teilt die Stadt u.a. mit, dass sie seine “ausgezeichneten Mitglieder” Marten und Howard in die Reihen ihrer Bürger auf nehmen möchte. Weder der Londoner Verein noch der Zivilgouverneur Wilhelm Anton von Klewitz hatten Einwände gegen die beabsichtigte Ehrung.

Nach dem “Verzeichnis neuaufgenommener Bürger 1809 bis 1850” erhielten Marten und Howard am 18. Oktober 1815 das Ehrenbürgerrecht (die Bürgerrolle der Altstadt 1801 bis 1831 erwähnt das “freye Bürgerrecht”).

Das in englischer Sprache abgefasste Dankschreiben von Marten vom 8. Juli 1816 befindet sich noch heute in den Akten das Stadtarchivs.

Im August 1824 besuchte Robert Humphrey Marten Magdeburg. Ihm zu Ehren wurde am 19. August im Lokal “Stadt London” ein Festessen veranstaltet.

(Source: Broschüre Magdeburger Ehrenbürger, Landeshauptstadt Magdeburg 1994)

4“Committee investigating Lloyds shipping classification”.
5“The Times 7 Feb 1825”.
6The chairman of the Thames Tunnel Co is William Smith MP – who is also the chair of the Committese for the repeal of the test and Corpration Act – repealed 1829. Chief Engineer was Mark Isambard Brunel.
7“Royal Humane society website”. Text From Source: The second incident, involving four men, happened a month later on 27 June 1827.

A boat carrying the party, including Brunel and Gravatt, capsized following a sudden onrush of water.

Brunel and Gravatt sprang into action and rescued and “placed in safety” two directors of the Thames Tunnel company, Mr R H Marten and Mr R P Harris, followed by two other men, Mr Dowling and Mr Richardson.

Only then was it realised that a fifth man was missing:

“These two gentlemen [Brunel and Gravatt], on hearing of it, stripped and returned to the spot, and the former dived several times after him. The body, however, was not found for twenty minutes when he was taken to the house of Mr Beamish, and placed upon his bed.”

A local surgeon was called and “every means was resorted to which have been pointed out as calculated to restore life. A warm bath, hot bricks to the extremities, inflation of the lungs, friction, &c; these applications were persevered in for four or five hours – but all in vain – the silver cord was broken, and the spirit had returned to God who gave it.” (Annual Report 1828, p 37).

At an Extraordinary General Meeting held on Wednesday 5 March 1828, the Royal Humane Society decided to award both Brunel and Gravatt an “Honorary Medallion” – or Silver Medal – for their “meritorious and gallant conduct … in saving human life.”

8Dissenters Birth Certificate MS7744/P/29
9“The Proceedings of the Old Bailey 4th December, 1828”. From Source: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref: f18281204-1
——————————————————————————–DENNIS BRIANT, theft : pick pocketing.The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Ref: t18281204-234
Trial Summary:
Crime(s): theft : pick pocketing,
Punishment Type: transportation,
(Punishment details may be provided at the end of the trial.)
Verdict: Guilty,
Other trials on 04 Dec 1828
Name search for: DENNIS BRIANT,
Crime Location: Whitechapel
Associated Records…Original Text:
234. DENNIS BRIANT was indicted for stealing, on the 5th of December, 1 handkerchief, value 1s. 6d., the goods of Charles Marten , from his person .CHARLES MARTEN . On Friday last, I was going through Whitechapel, on the Plaistow stage; I felt a little twitch at my pocket – I turned, and saw the prisoner dropping from the coach, with my handkerchief; I called to the man to stop, and jumped down – the prisoner turned down Great Garden-street, and ran down several streets; I pursued, and took him – I only lost sight of him as he turned the corner; he had dropped the handkerchief – I brought him back, and some person had picked up the handkerchief, in the line which he had run; from the observation I had of him at the back of the coach, I should be doubtful of his person, but I scarcely lost sight of him till I took him.(Property produced and sworn to.)THOMAS SMITH . I produce the handkerchief. Two men brought the prisoner to the watch-house; the prosecutor said, in his presence, that he never lost sight of him from the time he dropped from the coach, with the handkerchief in his hand.CHARLES MARTEN re-examined. It was not above a minute or two before I took him; he was walking then – I had run him out of breath; I should not have the smallest hesitation in saying he is the person.Prisoner’s Defence. I was turning round the corner, and he collared me.GUILTY . Aged 16.Transported for Fourteen Years .


10“Abney Park Cemetery”. Text From Source: Burial number 051157, Section L06, Index 2S06
Last updated on 15 January 2024 by JJ Morgan