A Christmas tale pt 2: The first Celestina

Welcome back for the second part of our Christmas tale. Last time we met little Celestina Christmas, a ‘visitor’ at the Harringtons’ house in Hackney when the 1851 census was taken.

I began to wonder about Celestina. I’ve got quite a few brick walls surrounding my Harrington ancestors, so it seemed sensible to look at their FANs, or friends and neighbours. Where better to start than with this little girl?

Gwynns Pl 3

Gwynn’s Place now. No 2 is above the black-painted shop

What I found threw up some interesting information about the Harrington family. But more than that – I discovered the story of a murder which, in the 1850s, was notorious around the world.

The first surprise was that there was more than one Celestina Christmas. There was the one who was at 2 Gwynn’s Place, Hackney Rd, on the night of the 1851 census. And there was her mother, who had the same name.

So let’s start with the older one. Celestina Elizabeth Christmas was born on 1 July 1827 to a well-off family. Her father, William Foster Christmas, was a silversmith living in King Sq in Finsbury, a little south and east of fashionable Islington. He and his wife Elizabeth had three of their children baptised on the same day, 19 July, 1829: Emma Mary, born in 1825; Celestina; and Alfred Robert, born on 18 May, 1829. Perhaps they’d waited for a boy to be born before bothering with a baptism. They already had an older son, William, born in 1821.

King Sq

King Sq in the 1820s (Greenwood’s map) *

There’s little evidence of what sort of childhood Celestina had. It was probably fairly comfortable, given her father’s profession. She could write, and what’s more she could sing, and must have had lessons because she went on to take part in professional concerts.

She was probably well-read, and later on in life may well have gone to performances of Shakespeare’s plays. We know she was slightly built, pretty, with fair hair and a pale complexion.

But something was missing. Parental love? Guidance? Someone to care for her? Who knows. Because in March 1845, when Celestina was 17, something unthinkable happened. Something which would change her life for ever and lead to a terrible tragedy. The pretty, talented young girl from a respectable family, who would most likely make a good marriage, was – in the eyes of all Victorians – ruined.

Celestina was unmarried – and pregnant.

* Greenwood’s map of London, 1830, via Motco

Read the rest of A Christmas tale:
Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
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24 Responses to A Christmas tale pt 2: The first Celestina

  1. Pingback: Celestina’s life in Millbank Prison: a Christmas tale pt 22 | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: A sad Christmas story | A Rebel Hand

  3. Pingback: Five years of blogging | A Rebel Hand

  4. Pingback: Will Celestina hang? A Christmas tale pt 20 | A Rebel Hand

  5. Pingback: Broadside ballads about Celestina: a Christmas tale pt 19 | A Rebel Hand

  6. Pingback: Celestina’s trial – verdict and sentence: a Christmas tale pt 18 | A Rebel Hand

  7. Pingback: Celestina Sommer’s trial for murder: a Christmas tale pt 17 | A Rebel Hand

  8. Pingback: Celestina at the Old Bailey: a Christmas tale pt 16 | A Rebel Hand

  9. Pingback: Celestina in Newgate Prison: a Christmas tale pt 15 | A Rebel Hand

  10. Pingback: New evidence against Celestina: a Christmas tale pt 14 | A Rebel Hand

  11. Pingback: A mob at the inquest: a Christmas tale pt 13 | A Rebel Hand

  12. Pingback: The inquest in the pub: a Christmas tale pt 12 | A Rebel Hand

  13. Pingback: A Christmas bonus | A Rebel Hand

  14. Pingback: Another murder: a Christmas tale pt 11 | A Rebel Hand

  15. Pingback: A Christmas tale: part 1 | A Rebel Hand

  16. Pingback: Christmas turns to Sommer: A Christmas tale pt 5 | A Rebel Hand

  17. Pingback: A horrible and mysterious murder: a Christmas tale pt 6 | A Rebel Hand

  18. Pingback: The body in the cellar: a Christmas tale pt 7 | A Rebel Hand

  19. Pingback: Julia Harrington’s evidence: a Christmas tale pt 10 | A Rebel Hand

  20. Pingback: Who killed Celestina? A Christmas tale pt 9 | A Rebel Hand

  21. Pingback: The murder of Celestina Christmas: a Christmas tale pt 8 | A Rebel Hand

  22. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 4 – what next for Celestina Elizabeth? | A Rebel Hand

  23. Pingback: A Christmas tale pt 3 – baby Celestina and the Harringtons | A Rebel Hand

  24. Pingback: A Christmas tale | A Rebel Hand

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