George Sinton (1787 - 1846)
George Sinton was an auctioneer and nurseryman who had a successful business on Haverstock Hill. Four of his family, aged 11 to 29, died of scarlet fever within a few days of each other in May 1842 and George himself died of scarlet fever a few years later. The family was torn apart by this experience, and eventually disappeared from Hampstead.
There were members of the Sinton family living in Hampstead from 1820 to 1880. Every ten years the government conducts a census to find out information about the population. The information is also valuable for people trying to find out where people lived. We have looked at the census information to find out where the Sintons lived, who was living with them and what sort of work they were doing.
George’s grandfather, William Sinton, was born in Berwick, Scotland in about 1718. He married Isabel Dunlop some time before 1760. They had at least two sons – James, born about 1760, and Thomas Senior, born before 1765.
James married Joan Trotter, and had four sons including Thomas Jnr and William, both born about 1791/4 in Berwick. Thomas Senior married Elizabeth Curry, and had one son, George, born about 1787 in Scotland. In about 1820 these three cousins moved to London for work, possibly because they thought there would be more opportunities down south. Thomas Jnr went to Lewisham and William and George to Hampstead. George married Mary Johnson in 1811 in Berwick before they left Scotland and William married Elizabeth Mary in Bloomsbury in 1820.
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We don’t know what the occupations of the cousins were before they left Scotland, but William became a gardener and George became a nurseryman. (It is possible that they were agricultural workers who were displaced from the land by mechanisation and enclosure. With falling demand for their skills, many such people turned to gardening for the growing number of large houses in urban areas, or to food production for the increasing urban population.)
At the same time, a man called John Campbell had run a nursery on Haverstock Hill (near England’s Lane) since about 1774. When he died in 1804 it passed to his widow, and when she died in 1820 it was sold or leased to George Sinton. George’s family lived in Hampstead from about 1820 until after1861. This was an area of farms and nurseries on the gentle south facing slopes of the Northern Heights, well watered and with good access to markets. It should have been a profitable business. By 1881, however, this Sinton family had gone.
George and his wife Mary brought up at least eight children in Hampstead, but it wasn’t necessarily a happy place for them. Mary died in 1832 (aged 42), leaving George to raise the children, aged from 2 to 12, on his own. Then, in May 1842, four of the children died from Scarlet Fever within three days of each other, and another in 1844. George himself died in 1846, also of Scarlet Fever, leaving his two remaining sons to carry on the business and his sole remaining daughter to keep house for them.
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Scarlet fever was a disease that could be fatal in the 19th century but which is easily treatable today. It was fairly common at one time, even becoming a sufficiently familiar tragedy to play its part in contemporary literature. It is thought that Beth March in Louisa May Alcott’s book ‘Little Women’ contracted scarlet fever when she visited a poor family whose children were sick and this weakened her heart.
The nursery must have been fairly successful since, in 1851, it is reported to have employed 4 men in addition to the two brothers and in 1854 the brothers advertised in the Hampstead & Highgate Directory. However in 1855 the younger of the two brothers died and, by 1861, the older brother George (40) and sister Margaret (36), both still single, were living in one of five family units in a shared dwelling, Highfield House, in Haverstock Hill (their name was mis-spelled Sinter). They were both still at Haverstock Nursery in 1871, but George died in Hampstead in 1879, aged 58. We don’t know where Margaret lived in 1881 or what happened to her after that5
After George died we assume Margaret moved away. Between 1881 and 1891 the Russell family was working as nurserymen at 129 Haverstock Hill 5, and in 1881 Richard Wood (32), nurseryman, was living and working at 124 Haverstock Hill. By 1885 he was running both sites,6 and they continued as a nursery until Haverstock Hill was built on for housing in the 1890s to take advantage of new rail transport access into the City. Other nurseries in Hampstead survived until the 1960s.
Victoria County History of Middlesex, Vol 9 (1989): Hampstead Economic History
Pigot’s London & Provincial Directory, 1834; Hampstead Directory 1854 (Shaw and Hughes)
Stanford’s Library Map of London & the Suburbs, 1862
Decennial census of England & Wales 1841 – 1911; GRO Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Hampstead and Highgate Directory 1885/6
The Dictionary of Victorian London (Disease); Conybeare’s Textbook of Medicine; Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
Henry Mayhew, “London Labour and London Poor (1851-62)” provides very detailed information about the Costermongers and their lives.
See local history pages on Hampstead Hospitals and on Public Health.
This page was last updated on November 27th, 2020.