London Life/Lives





The Scorrars of Limehouse

Harpoon Makers


Thomas Scorrar 1783 -1830

Margaret Scorrar 1786-1852

William Scorrar 1809-1867

Thomas Scorrar 1811-1872

William Scorrar  1834-1881


The Scorrar Surname


According to the Intenet Surname Database


Recorded as Score, Scorrer, Scorer, Scorah, Schorah, and others, this is an English surname. It is however one which is ultimately derived from French. Probably introduced in to England at the time of the Conquest of 1066, it descends from the pre medieval words escourre or escurer. As such the surname is occupational and is either a military description for a scout or courier, or more likely it was job descriptive for a person responsible for the cleaning of arms and armour. It was in its various spelling, particularly popluar in the county of Yorkshire, although later it spread throughout the country. Early examples of these recordings include Willelmus Skorer in the Poll Tax rolls of 1379, Sussana Scorer at Dewsbury in 1603, and Thomas Scorah of Doncaster, also Yorkshire, in 1655. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William le Scorr. This was dated 1297 in the County Pipe Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1st.


Scorrar appears to be a varient unique to our family and, in nineteenth century records, is only to be found in London and Essex.  This means that the Scorrar's have been relatively easy to trace, although the name is frequently misspelt in official records.


The earliest Scorrar I can find is Thomas (1783-1830).  I think he was probably from Durham in the north of England, or somewhere in County Durham.


Later census records for his sons William (born 1809) and Thomas (born 1811) are contradictory.  For example, William's record in the 1851 census states born in Scotland, but in 1861 it says born in Durham.  I am going with Durham, as there are plently of varients of the surname to be found in Durham in the 19th century births index (eg Scorer) but hardly any in Scotland.  My guess is that some mid 19th century census takers, ignorant of anywhere north of London. simply thought that Durham was in Scotland.


Thomas Scorrar (1783-1830)


Thomas Scorrar was born in 1783, possibly in Co Durham (see above). He was a smith by trade. Before moving to London, he married his wife Margaret (born 1786) and had three children - George (born 1807), William (born 1809) and Thomas (1811).


His next recorded child, Margaret was born in Southwark, London on 26 Jan 1815, giving a window of 4 years during which Thomas and family moved to London.  The next record of Thomas I've been able to find suggests that by 1815 he was already well established in the capital. 


In 1815, the year of the battle of Waterloo, the London Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactuers and Commerce awarded a prize of 10 guineas to Thomas Scorrar for a new machine for the finishing of straw hats. 


I can't of course be absolutely certain that this is the same Thomas Scorrar, but I am as sure as I can be.  First, the rarity of the surname - I can't find any trace of another Thomas Scorrar in London at that time.  Second, baptismal records show that our Thomas Scorrar lived in Southwark (Lant Street in 1817, Great Suffolk Street in 1820) and the 1815 address given for Thomas Scorrar in the Society's records (Green Street, Bennet's Row, Blackfriars Road) is close by.  Finally, parish records give Thomas' profession as smith, consistent with the metal working skills required for Thomas Scorrar's invention.


According to the introduction to the Society's proceedings for that year:




The Transactions of the Society Instituted at London for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce











In 1824, seven years after Thomas Scorrar lived in Lant Street, the young Dickens lodged there when his parents were in the Marshalsea. In the Pickwick Papers he depicts Bob Sawyer, a medical student at Guy's Hospital, in lodgings there, remarking that:


There is a repose about Lant Street… which sheds a gentle melancholy upon the soul… its dullness is soothing… The majority of the inhabitants either direct their energies to the letting of furnished apartments or devote themselves to the healthful and invigorating pursuit of mangling… The population is migratory… His Majesty’s revenues are seldom collected in this happy valley, the rents are dubious and the water communication is very frequently cut off.



Move to Limehouse


At some point in the 1820s, Thomas moved to Narrow Street, Limehouse where he died, aged 47.  He was buried at St Anne, Limehouse on 2nd March 1830.


His widow Margaret took over the business.  This is shown in the records of the Sun Fire Insurance Office of February 1831:

Insured: Margaret Scorrar 4 Narrow Street Limehouse blacksmith



Thomas Scorrar's Children


Thomas and Margaret had 9 children that I have been able to trace:


George (1807-1844)


George married Elizabeth Slater at St John, Hackey on 18 April 1824.  Their son Thomas was baptised at St Anne, Limehouse on 19 June 1825 but died on 6 November 1825.  They seem to have had no more children.  The 1841 census shows the couple living alone in Regent Street where George was a grocer.  George died in Stepney in the summer of 1844, age 37.


William (1809-1867)


My third great grandfather (see below)


Thomas (1811-1872)




Margaret (1815-1868)


Margaret was born on 26th January 1815 and was baptised at St George the Matyr, Southwark, on 23rd March 1817.


Margaret married William Colvil on 15 July 1831 at St Paul Shadwell.  William died in 1841, and the couple seem to have been childless.


Margaret remarried the year William died - on 28 June 1841 - to Joseph Richard Shoring (1821-1901) at St John, Bethnal Green.    Joseph was a mast maker and the son of a lighterman (Ephraim Shoring) so very much connected with the Thames (lighterman unloaded cargo from boats in the Port of London).


Margaret and Joseph had 5 children:


Joseph Ephraim (1842 -1843)

Thomas Frederick (1843-1911)

Leah Jane (1846-1923)

Joseph Richard (1848-?)

Henry Walter (1854 - ?)


Margaret died in June 1868 and Joseph remarried, living until 1901.


Leah (1817-1875)
















St George the Martyr, Southwark about 1840













Limehouse 1844 (key places marked)


Narrow Street, where the Scorrar's business was located runs along the bank of the Thames at Limehouse.  George Streeet, where Thomas Scorrar lived in 1841, is one of the streets in the group near the top of the map running north-south between Salmon's lane and Catherine Street. Just above Catharine Street is Eastfield Street where Richard Higgs will live 30 years later.


William Scorrar lived in nearby Bromley Street, which can be seen to the west of George Street, running north from Commercial Road.


St Anne's church, where Thomas and William's children were baptized, is marked on the right hand side of the map.




St Anne's Limehouse



Buildings on Narrow Street, Limehouse from the Thames





Limehouse 1859 by James Abbott McNeill Whistler







Extract from 1841 Post Office Trades Directory

(The only harpoon maker listed in London)






Extract from London Post Office Directory 1842, showing William Scorrar and other businesses on Narrow Street







Cutting-spade; Made by Scorrar,  London , circa   1830 - 1840; Gift of
the Guard family, 1984; GH003392/3; Museum of New Zealand Te Papa





Cutting-spade; Made by Scorrar (Close up)

























                              Elizabeth Higgs née Scorrar, born 1866