John Balch - London Area Silk Thrower

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John Balch (Bap. May 22, 1642 - c. Oct. 1682) was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Byam) Balch. Baptized on May 22, 1642 little information seems to be available about John until December of 1672 when he leased a portion of land in Spitalfields (alternately Spital Fields) near London.

…the area of Spital Field itself had been leased in December 1672 by Nicholas and Cooke to John Balch and Henry Allen (fn. b) for eighty years, in trust for Balch. (ref. 11) This lease contained a restriction on building, which was lifted by a Chancery decree, probably of February 1683/4. (ref. 3) It was to Balch that the right to hold a market on the site was granted, ten years after this lease. He was a silk thrower, probablv of Somersetshire origin, who in 1679 married Katherine Wheler, the daughter to whom the ’seventh schedule’ of her father's property fell at the partition in 1675 (see page 97). In his will of October 1682 Balch, who is there described as of Stepney, esquire, speaks of Edward Nicholas as his ’cousin’, and this may account for his having obtained the lease of Spital Field. The will also speaks of ’my now dwelling house in Spittle Fields … and … the other houses thereunto adjacent which I doe hold by Lease’, out of the rents of which he left an annuity of £40 to his mother. It is not known where these were. Balch evidently carried on a considerable, if insolvent, silk thrower's establishment, apparently in with ’Captain Edward Metcalfe’. His will mentioned an engine for the mechanical winding of silk patented by ’Dr. Joachim Becker’, the patent for which Becker had assigned to him. Metcalfe enjoyed a moiety of the profits of this for seven years, and was bequeathed a further seven years' interest in the moiety by Balch. His will also referred to apprentices bound to him and Metcalfe by the Company of Silk Throwers and by several parishes. His political sentiments are revealed by his bequest to the hamlet of Spitalfields of ’those four roomes or almeshouses which I lately erected in the Teynter feilds’, probably on a site now occupied by Christ Church Spitalfields churchyard, provided that the hamlet accommodated there only ’such as have alwayes beene and shall bee Conformable to the Government both in Church and State as it is now established by Law’. (ref. 12)

Source: British History Online: Spitalfields Market Area

Genealogy of John:

Father: Thomas Balch
Mother: Elizabeth Byam

Wife: Katherine Wheler
Married: 1679 [1]


1. Elizabeth

Primary Sources/Links:

British History Online: Spitalfields Market area [1]

British History Online The Wood-Michell estate Introduction and builders [2]

Spitalfields: More than a Market [3]

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