Daniel Cole (c1772-1840) potter, brickmaker, seaman

Daniel Cole was the earliest member of the Cole family of brickmakers and potters to be identified by name. He is credited with being the founder of the business in Islington, although we know that there was at least one unnamed Cole potter or brickmaker before him. He was a colourful figure who spent his early life in Nelson's Navy during the Napoleonic Wars - presumably leaving other family members to take care of the business and his wife. This page outlines what is known of him as a biography. Sources are listed below and comprise both publicly available records and those which survived in the family.

Biography of Daniel Cole

Daniel was born in an area of Middlesex that would now be called London, but we do not know precisely where or when and no baptismal record has come to light in spite of energetic research. Judging by later documents, he must have been born around 1772.

During his youth he was exposed to the trade of pottery, so much so as to be documented in his naval discharge papers as 'bred to pottery' but we do not know how this came to be - whether he was working with his father, another relative, or - for some reason as yet unknown - elsewhere.

What Daniel Cole looked like

Considering how long ago Daniel lived, we are fortunate to know a remarkable amount about his appearance as a grown man. He was 5'8" tall with a fresh complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Until his 30s, when a broken leg forced him to walk with a limp, he had no distinguishing features. (The physical description, which is the next best thing to an artist's portrait, comes from his naval discharge papers (see below); the permanent limp was an anecdote passed down in the family.)


On 15 May 1792 Daniel married Ann Moss in Old Church St Pancras. Both were resident in the parish at the time. However, no baptismal record for Ann or Daniel has shown up in that parish or the surrounding ones, so we do not know how long Ann or Daniel had been living there. The 1841 census (the last before Ann died) indicated that she was born in a different county.

Where the young couple lived

The Brill in St Pancras, Somers Town in the 1700s

The Brill in St Pancras, Somers Town in the 1700s

Brill Place

Placard about the Channel tunnel terminus during building works, showing the address Brill Place

By 1797, Ann was living at the Brill in St Pancras, Somers Town (or Somerstown) - then such a peaceful setting.

St Pancras Station during building works for the channel tunnel terminus

St Pancras Station during building works for the channel tunnel terminus

The Brill is now totally unrecognisable as the location of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link at St Pancras Station.

A sailor in Nelson's navy

By 1797 Daniel had gone to sea in Nelson's Navy to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. He was not listed as a victim of the press gang but appears to have been one of the 'Quota' system (Sandwich). He had probably signed up because of the severe food shortages in and around London at the time. If a man volunteered for Nelson's Navy he would receive conduct money and two months wages in advance. However not all 'Volunteers' volunteered willingly; frequently a man taken by the Press Gang would be offered the chance to volunteer and so receive a share in the pickings (known as the bounty). Also joining the navy was a way to escape from the threat of the debtors prison. The navy would protect any man from his creditors if his debt was less than 20.

Ships in Nelson's Navy showing the Defiance

Daniel Cole served on The Defiance which is on the far left."

Daniel's first stint in the navy began at the age of 24 as 'No 826 on the books of His Majesty's Ship Defiance'. Defiance was a class three ship of 74 guns launched in 1873 and becoming part of the Channel Fleet in 1794. We have no information on what happened in the four years between Daniel's marriage and his call to the sea. It seems likely that some children were born, but we have no firm record of them. Evidence points to a son named Thomas.

Daniel's started service on the Defiance on 22 Feb 1796. The previous October there had been a mutiny on board which saw five men hanged, and it is likely that most of the crew were being replaced. During Daniel's service there was a second mutiny on board, as part of the Spithead mutinees by sixteen ships of the Channel Fleet.

On 6 July 1798, Daniel was promoted from ordinary seaman to able seaman. He left the Defiance sometime towards the end of the century when there was a lull in hostilities with the French and there was a widespread laying-off of seamen. Presumably he returned to Ann in this period as his twins Catherine and Sarah were born on 9th July 1802. By the time of their birth, though, Daniel was back at sea on another ship, the Narcissus, a new ship in 1801 but only a fifth class ship of 32 guns. He he served two stints on her. The first was from 29 October 1801 until 2 December 1803. In that period, on 1 Mar 1802, he was promoted to second gunner. He served his second stint on the Narcissus from 30 August 1804 until 13 September 1805, one month before the Battle of Trafalgar.

Discharge from the navy

Daniel's discharge from the Narcissus at the stated age of 34 was finally due to a broken leg which left him with a permanent limp. Presumably, on his return, he was met with twin daughters who he knew nothing about!

Daniel's naval discharge papers are on another page.

Back to the trade of pottery

After his naval discharge, Daniel plied his trade as a potter in Tileyard Road, Islington.

It was to be two more years before Daniel and Ann were to have another child. The child was John who was born in Islington on 14 October 1807 and baptised the following Spring in St Pancras on 17 April 1808.

In 1809 Daniel and Ann had what was to be their last child, another Daniel Cole, born 16 November 1809 and baptised at St Mary, Stoke Newington on 11 March 1810. The location suggests that Daniel the father had already moved to the Tottenham Tile Kilns for which Stoke Newington was the nearest major town. After this there is no record of Daniel the son in censuses or death records. Possibly he emigrated. It was probably too early for Australia and there is no convincing American record. There is a record in the 1861 census that could be for him, but it gives his birthplace as Edmonton. Since his brother John was at Stoke Newington at the time, it seems unlikely that Daniel would have forgotten his birthplace. The Daniel in the 1861 census was unmarried, age 50, a bricklayer's labourer, living in Edmonton, listed as Daniel Coil.

Death and burial

The next record for Daniel (the father) is the last but one, and comes from over 30 years later. It shows his death on 12 October 1840 at the Tile Kilns, where his daughter Catherine was also living. Catherine, had married William Dean and become Catherine Dean, and Daniel had become the foreman at the Tile Kilns. On the death certificate Catherine gave his age as 68. Sarah, the other twin, seems to have married Jeremiah Plume on 29 Jun 1823 at St Pancras but there do not appear to have been any children.

Daniel was buried in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington, on 18 Oct 1840.

Ann survived Daniel by nearly seven years. According to the 1841 census, she was living for at least part of this time with her son John's family. However, when she died on 1 February 1847, aged 79, it was sadly in the Edmonton Union Workhouse. The cause was given as bronchitis of one week's duration. No workhouse records survive from that time, so there is no way of knowing whether she went there to die or whether she was a 'permanent' inmate. According to the census, she had not been born in Middlesex, but, being 1841, there was no hint as to where she actually was born.

Ann was buried in Abney Park Cemetery in the same grave as Daniel: burial 000046, section J07, index 1S01.

The children that the couple left are on the descendants page.

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  1. Various birth, deaths and marriage certificates.
  2. The IGI and various parish records
  3. Various censuses
  4. The National Archives at Kew
  5. Islington Archives
  6. Camden Archives
  7. Records from Abney Park Cemetery
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This website Potteries and brickyards worked by the Cole family is Pat Cryer. For applications to reproduce text or images, click here.