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The Deals from Rotherhithe

The Deals were a family of Thames Watermen and Lightermen for many generations, often taking apprentices from within the family.  Until comparatively recent times, when bridges were built over the Thames, the most convenient way to cross the river was by boat, so there was a thriving trade for boatmen.  Also, people used to get around London by means of the Thames; the city was clustered along its banks and the river provided a better thoroughfare than the crowded, muddy streets.  The Thames Watermen were therefore the first London 'taxi drivers'.  In medieval times they could be a rough lot, however, and passengers were sometimes robbed and drowned by their boatman. The Company of Watermen was established to regulate the trade and to protect passengers (as well as the interests of its members).  During the 18th century the Company also incorporated Lightermen (who unloaded barges and ferried the goods by 'lighter' to shore.  The difference between barges and lighters is that the former has its own power whereas the lighter has to be tugged).  Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as the docks grew the Lighterman aspect developed and the Waterman part diminished as more bridges and roads were built. Apprenticeship usually began when the boy was 14 and lasted for 7 years.  During that time the boy worked 12 hours per day, or the hours of daylight during the winter.  He was not allowed to marry during that time.  Life could be very hard for apprentices, often the masters would overwork and treat them cruelly; hopefully this would be less likely if the master was a relation?!  Usually, at the age of 21 they were released from  apprenticeship, at which time many  married.

Barges on the Thames


Descendants of Thomas Deal



Generation No. 1


1. THOMAS1 DEAL was born Abt. 17751. He married ELIZABETH ?BY2 Abt. 1800. She was born Abt. 17783, and died in 2 Cherry Garden St, Bermondsey in 1855, aged 77.  Her Will appears below.

Notes for THOMAS DEAL:

Thomas was apprenticed to a Thomas Morris as a Thames Waterman and Lighterman on 16th April 1789, at Rotherhithe and freed 5th May 1796.   Thomas then took on his own apprentices, as follows:

Randall William DEAL Bermondsey 21st August 1800 - 31st Dec 1807

Matthew DEAL (??his nephew or son) Bermondsey 23rd April 1807 - 9th June 1814

In 1848 (at time of death) Thomas was living at West Lane, Rotherhithe.  He was buried August 27, 1848, St Mary's, Rotherhithe4

Notes for ELIZABETH (?BY - this is a guess, based on her children's names):

1855 (year of death) Elizabeth died 7 years after her husband, Thomas, and was buried April 01, 1855, St Mary's, Rotherhithe4

Elizabeth's Will (obtained 3.10.03 from PRO by email)  Some of the writing is indistinct, and I have inserted punctuation to make it a bit easier to read.

This is the last Will and Testament of me, Elizabeth Deal of No 2 Cherry Garden Street, Bermondsey in the County of Surrey, Widow. First I direct that all my debts, funeral Costs. and other expenses be paid as soon as possible after my ?death, then I give devise and bequeath all my money and securities for money, household furniture, plate, linen, china and all the rest and residue of my real and personal estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever situate which I shall be possessed of or entitled to under or by virtue of any will or other document at the time of my decease unto my several children: Henry By Deal, Thomas Deal, Harrriot the wife of John Orrell, Ellen Deal, Caroline the wife of James Porter, Catherine the wife of Captain Edward Partridge, their heirs or survivors, to be equally divided between them, share and share alike, and I hereby nominate and appoint my son in law John Orrell of ?Great Mill Street ?Dorkhead in the County of Surrey Sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament, hereby revoking all other wills by me at any time heretofore made. In witness whereof I the said testatrix Elizabeth Deal have hereunto set my hand this twenty eighth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty three. Signed and delivered by the within named testatrix Elizabeth Deal as and for her last Will and Testament in the presence of us who in her presence and in the presence of each other and at her request have herunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

Herbert/Hubert Sxxham of Rotherhithe ?Wall

David Stratford 13 Cherry Garden St, Bermondsey

George ?Spicer 4 ?Square, Old Bailey.

Children of THOMAS DEAL and ELIZABETH ?BY are:

i. ELIZA2 DEAL5, b. 1800, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.  Died 1806.

2. ii. THOMAS DEAL, b. September 1801, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.

iii. SARAH DEAL5, b. 1803, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.

iv. HARRIET DEAL5, b. 1805, St Mary's, Rotherhithe; m. JOHN ORRELL.

v. ELIZABETH MARY DEAL5, b. 1807, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.

vi. (H)ELEN DEAL5, b. 1808, St Mary's, Rotherhithe. Witnessed Henry's marriage

vii. CHARLES THOMAS DEAL5, b. 1810, St Mary's, Rotherhithe; d. Bet. 1824 - 1832.

Charles was apprenticed as a Thames Waterman and Lighterman toThomas DEAL aged 14 on 14th October 1824, but drowned before his apprenticeship ended. I am not sure which Thomas he was apprenticed to, I think it was his father as Thomas Jnr would only have finished his own apprenticeship about 1823/4 and this seems a bit early for Charles, although possible.

3. viii. HENRY BY DEAL, b. 1811, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.

ix. GEORGE BY DEAL5, b. 1813, St Mary's, Rotherhithe.

x. CAROLINE DEAL5, b. 1816, St Mary's, Rotherhithe; m. JAMES PARKER.

xi. RICHARD DEAL5, b. 1817, St Mary's, Rotherhithe. Died 1818.

xii. CATHERINE SARAH DEAL5, b. 1820, St Mary's, Rotherhithe; m. EDWARD PARTRIDGE (CAPTAIN).


Generation No. 2


2. THOMAS2 DEAL (THOMAS1)5 was born September 1801 in St Mary's, Rotherhithe6. He married UNKNOWN Abt. 1820.

Thomas was apprenticed to his father, Thomas, as a Thames Waterman and Lighterman 21st Dec 1815, aged about 14, at Cherry Garden. There is no record of when the apprenticeship finished but it would have been about 1823.

There is no record of apprentices to this Thomas (unless his brother Charles, who drowned was apprenticed to him).

1845 - Noted on his son's marriage cert to be a Chain Lighterman.


Child of THOMAS DEAL and UNKNOWN is:

4. i. THOMAS3 DEAL, b. November 25, 1821, Rotherhithe; d. Aft. 1881.


3. HENRY BY2 DEAL (THOMAS1)7 was born 1811 in St Mary's, Rotherhithe. He married SARAH GOODE December 09, 1838 in St Mary's, Rotherhithe.  Witnesses: Charles McNab Goode and Ellen Deal (Henry's sister) and Eliza Goode

Henry was a Thames Waterman and Lighterman. He was apprenticed to Charles William BY on 4th January 1827, aged about 16, at St Mary, Abchurch, until 9th January 1834 (age 23).

There appear to be many connections between the DEAL and BY families.

Two years later Henry took on his own apprentice, his nephew Thomas DEAL.

1840 (parish records daughters birth) Living in Cherry Garden St.


i. ELIZA3 DEAL, b. 1840.


Generation No. 3


4. THOMAS3 DEAL (THOMAS2, THOMAS1) was born November 25, 1821 in Rotherhithe8, and died Aft. 18819. He married ANN ELIZABETH BOWLES June 11, 1845 in St George's, Camberwell10, daughter of CHARLES BOWLES and OLIVIA ENGFELD.  Witnesses to the marriage: C STEVENS and P. BURROWS.  Married from Kent Road. Thomas was a Chain Lighterman.

Ann Bowles was born 1824 in St Saviour. Southwark (christened)11, and died Bef. 188112.

Thomas was born Nov 1821, baptised 3 Feb 1822. He was apprenticed as a Thames Waterman and Lighterman to his uncle, Henry By DEAL, on 14th January 1836, in Rotherhithe, aged 14 (source - same as birth). He was freed 10th October 1844, aged 22 and married the following year.

1881 - Thomas, a widower, was living with his daughter Ada (by now remarried: her first husband Grasham had died) in Rotherhithe.


5. i. ADA4 DEAL, b. March 24, 1846, 9 Cherry Garden Street, Bermondsey; d. Aft. 1881.


Generation No. 4


5. ADA4 DEAL (THOMAS3, THOMAS2, THOMAS1)13 was born March 24, 1846 in 9 Cherry Garden Street, Bermondsey, and died Aft. 1881. She married (1) CHARLES FRANCES GRASHAM October 09, 1865 in Rotherhithe. He was born 1839, and died 1872 in 1 Neptune Close, Rotherhithe. She married (2) JOHN LAWLER Bet. 1872 - 1881. He was born Abt. 1846 in Liverpool14.

Ada's first husband, Charles, died 1872, aged 32, from pneumonia. Ada remarried JOHN LAWLER, a Dock Gate Man (born in Liverpool and working at the Rotherhithe docks). At the 1881 census they were living at 2 Oak Cottage, Rotherhithe, and Ada's father, Thomas, was living with them, still a waterman. By then he was a widower. Ada was a sempstress.








1. Age at death.

2. igi.

3. Age at death.

4. pr's.

5. igi.

6. parish records.

7. igi.

8. Affidavit records from Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames.

9. 1881 census.

10. marriage cert.

11. igi.

12. Thomas a widower in 1881 census.

13. marriage cert.

14. 1881 census.

Updated Dec 27th 2003