According to his death record, Stephen was born circa 1733. His brother John Highlord Bland was born around a year earlier, according to the dates on his tombstone in St. Paul's churchyard, Hammersmith. John Highlord Bland, who died in 1791, left a very useful will which establishes Stephen as his brother and Stephen's children as his nieces and nephews, and Mrs Gwyn Bland as his sister-in-law and her children as nieces and nephews also.
Stephen Bland, who died in 1810, also left a will. In it, he made provisions for his daughters Anne Elliot (and her children, John and Robert Elliot, his grandsons) and Harriot Pontifex (wife of Daniel Pontifex, silversmith). He also left money to his son John Thomas Bland, whom he had with his first wife, and he left income property to two other sons, James Bland and Edward Bland. Finally, he instructs his son James, to whom he has left "two houses known by the name of (Bawdon?) place in the hamlet aforesaid [i.e. Hammersmith] & now in the occupation of the Rev. Raffles & Mme. Ann de St. Hippolite" that "the said James Bland will let unto Mrs. Ann & Elizabeth Watts two rooms...during their natural lives out of the house now occupied by Mme. Anne de St. Hippolite". (Fun fact: Stephen's tenant, the Rev. Raffles, has his own wikipedia page!)
Although Stephen does not specify why he is leaving instructions for James to house Ann and Elizabeth Watts, it turns out that there is a Bland family connection. They are the daughters of a Sarah Bland, who married Peers Watts, a gardener in Fulham, in 1720. We have a marriage agreement between Sarah and Peers which indicates that Sarah is the daughter of Edward Bland, also a gardener in Fullham. (Hammersmith is a parish in Fulham, so this is consistent with our Bland family living in Hammersmith). I don't have a birth record for Sarah, but if she is marrying in 1720 she is not likely to be Stephen's sister, given his later birth date, although it is not impossible. She might be an aunt, which would make her children Stephen's cousins.
|London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1812. London, All Hallows London Wall Parish Register. Marriage of Peers Watts and Sarah Bland, September 11, 1720. Marriage of William Bland and Sarah Watts, May 10, 1719.|
Peers was a widower when he married Sarah Bland. His first wife was Elizabeth Keep, whom he married in 1713.
|London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1812. City of London, St. Benet's Wharf Church, 1619-1732. Marriage of Peers Watts to Elizabeth Keep, 17 September 1713.|
Getting back to Stephen's children, we know that his son James apprenticed to become a cutler like his uncle. Sword-making seems to be a major theme in the Bland family history. But if we have the correct will, he seems to have changed his occupation later to become a sexton.
|London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1820-1840. James Bland, son of Stephen Bland of Hammersmith, gardener, apprentices himself to John Foster of Fetter's Lane, London, Sword Cutler. October 7, 1789.|
James Bland wrote a will on October 14, 1825 which was probated on July 2, 1836, in which he basically left all his possessions, including the property he inherited in ShortLands from his father, to his wife Mary Ann Bland. His wife, in turn, left a rather poignant will stating that her late husband James was "a sexton in the hamlet of Hammersmith in the Parish of Fulham in the County of Middlesex". She leaves her house, situated in "the Broadway King Street Hammersmith" to her youngest daughter, Frances Ann Bland, to be managed by Mr. Edward Bland "during the time of her insanity she being at this time in Saint [?] Asylum but if it should please God to restore her to her rational ? so as to be enabled to provide for herself" Mary Ann instructs that her property be divided equally amongst her surviving children. Her sons, Henry Nicholas (Lionel?) Bland and George Bland are named executors, and the will is proved July 30, 1836.
The London Metropolitan Archives houses the records of the St. Paul Hammersmith church (St. Paul Hammersmith: Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith and Fulham, DD/0071). The description suggests that being sexton for St. Paul's was a Bland family occupation:
The second group consists of books kept by the sextons of the church, an office held by members of the Bland family. These also are not primarily registers, and frequently contain details of tolling the bell, the allocation of grave spaces and dealings with undertakers. They also provide evidence of the way in which the overseers and churchwardens settled their accounts with the sexton. In the early 19th century the then sexton, James Bland, provided many of the older books with covers, and gave them numbers and titles. He, or his children, also seem to have used them on occasion as scribbling pads and may be responsible for the large number of missing pages.
Was Susanna Watts also a child of Peers Watts and Sarah Bland? Probably not, since she was not mentioned in Stephen's will. However, she was buried at St. Paul Hammersmith, which has strong associations with the Bland family.
|Burial record for Susanna Watts, Jan 17, 1812, age 77, St. Paul's Hammersmith Church. London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1812.|
Here are a few records which probably relate to family members, but I'm unsure exactly how.
|London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925. March 17, 1758. Thomas Bland, son of Edward Bland of Hammersmith, Clerk, apprenticed to Sanders Davenport, Cutler.|
Getting back to our Stephen, who was a gardener, not a cutler or sexton, and who named one of his sons Edward (granted, Edward was a very popular name at the time): could he be related to this Edward Bland, also a gardener in Hammersmith?
|London, England, Clandestine Marriage and Baptismal Registers, 1667-1754. Marriage of Edward Bland, Widower and Gardener of Hammersmith, and Hannah Every, Spinster, Hammersmith. January 1719.|
|Hampshire Chronicle, Monday May 1. 1786. John Highlord Bland was a sword-cutler to the King at this time.|
I think putting all these pieces together may be slow work, and some of the above records are probably dead ends. Hopefully the more I find out, the more the family will come together.