The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Brecht One-Name Study


My mother's maiden name was Brecht.

This is a rare name in England and intially almost all the Brecht Family lived in London. Gradually members of the family moved out to the Home Counties and beyond.

My first find was the marriage of Heinrich Brecht and Mary Somes in 1808 and some years later, I visited the church, St May's, in Islington

At an early stage, I joined the Guild of One Name Studies and followed their discipline in listing all the births marriages and deaths etc.

This involved going to the General Records Center in Holborn (later the Family Records Centre near Islington) these were pre-digital days when the records were held in large heavy binders (and the censuses on microfilm at the census rooms in Portugal Street)!

Mind you digital records are prone to transcription errors and I have found Brecht transcribed as Bracht, Breacht, Bright and even Braesht.

The small size of the family can be seen from the registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths:

1837 - 1899 Births 37 Marriages 18 Deaths 5
1900 - 1949 Birrhs 64 Marriages 43 Deaths 24
1950 - 2005 Births 41 Marriages 53 Deaths 29
Totals- Births 142 Marriages 114 Deaths 58

My branch of the family thought that our ancestors came form Holland or Belgium. It was several years later that I proved that it was in fact Germany.

The main head of the family was Heinrich/Henry Brecht who had a colour making business in first Spitalfields and then Bethnal Green (see Appendix 1).

While living at Fashion Street, Spitalfields tragedy struck over a period of years and Henry lost 4 young children and his wife. Presumably this was either related to the colour making or disease (see Appendeix 2).

There were other children born in Spitalfields (pesumably to Harriet Piper), who survived and joined the move to Bethnal Green, where Henry had more children. 8 childen in all survived.

Extraordinarily of his children(10), 8 were daughters and one of his two sons died relatively young.

This left the other son, George Frederick Brecht, to father many sons (9 and 2 daughters), thus providing the foundation of the Brecht family tree in London (see Appendix 3).

This may be seen as too much detail about 2 families but much time was spent building this picture.

The highlight of the project after the initial building of the family tree was making contactr with cousins including first cousins and meeting some of them for the first time.

The second highlight must be coming into contact with a correspondent in Germany who provided information about our German roots:

Our German Roots

The 1871 Census includes our very own black sheep, George Henry Brecht, who was murdered in Australia:

George Henry Brecht

Initially it felt odd to access digital records. Now I am well-used to going into a database and entering the one word  Brecht and getting multiple hits.

I never had or sought the advantages of entering information into a relationship database. I do get jealolus though when I see the impressive Brecht family trees on Ancestry!

There are a few gaps in my research but hope that someone else will solve them!

Colin Bower
19 November 2023

Appendix 1

Businesses run by Henry Brecht

The following entries in various records show how Henry Brecht moved his business from Fashion Street, Spitalfields to Bonner Street, Bethnal Green.

The date of the move is unknown but appears to be between approx. 1830-1836 with a family christening in Bethnal Green rather than Spitalfields in 1833.

Fashion Street, Spitalfields

Johnstone's London Commercial Guide & Street Directory 1817

Henry Brecht, Manufacturer of Colours, 12 Fashion Street

History, Directory & Gazetteer of the County of York
Select Lists of the Merchants & Traders of London 1822

Colour Manufacturers

Brecht, Henry
12 Fashio Street, Spitalfields

Kent's Original Directory 1823

Brecht H. Manuf. of painting colours
12-Fashion-str. Sptalfi.

Pigot's 1824

Henry Brecht, Colur Manufacturer

Fashion Street, Spitalfields


Bonner Street, Bethnal Green

Kelly's 1836

Henry Brecht, Colour Manufacturer, Bethnal Green

Death Certificate 28.5.1838

Henry Frederick Ludewig Brecht, Colur Manufacturer
8 Bonner Street, Bethnal Green

Marriage Certificates of Henry's children 1848-1856

Father Henry Brecht Colour Maker (Deceased)
(Late 1856 certificate, Chemical Colour Maker)

Appendix 2

The entries in the Parish Records show how Henry's children and wife died young. He did not marrty again until 1837 and he died soon after in 1838.

Parish Records

St Mary’s, Islington

Heinrich Brecht
Married 14.7.1808
Mary Somes

Christ Church, Spitalfields


*Maria Catran Brecht bp 12.7.1812 (born 16.6.1812)
(Parents Heinrich Brecht, Colour Maker, Fashion St & Mary)

*Elisabeth Catharine Bracht (should be Brecht) bp 15.10.1815
(Parents Henry Brecht Colour Man of Fashion Street & Mary)

*Charlotte Bracht (should be Brecht) bp 28.6.1818
(Parents Henry Brecht, Colour Maker of Fashion Street & Mary)

Eleanor Brecht born c 1823


*Maria Catharine Brecht buried 16.11.1814 (Age 2)

Mary (Somes) Brecht buried 3.1.1819 (Age 35)

*Charlotte Brecht of Fashion St buried 15.1.1819 (Age 9)

*Elisabeth Catharine Brecht of Fashion Street buried 17.6.1821 (Age 5)

Eleanor Brecht of Fashion Street buried 24.10.1824 (Age 17 months)

Henry Frederick Ludwig Brecht buried 3.6.1838 (age 54)

*children of Heinrich/Henry Brecht & Mary (Somes) Brecht

1841 Census

Henry Colvin Colur M. Age 25
Harriet Colvin (born Piper Late Brecht) Age 35
Catherine Brecht Age 15 born c 1825/6
Caroline Brecht Age 15 born 1827/8
Rose (Rosnea/Rosina) Brecht Age 14 born c 1824/5
Elizabeth Brecht Age 12 born c 1828/9
Eleanor Brecht Age 10 born c 1830/1
Henry Brecht Age 8 born c 1832/3
Christiana Brecht Age 6 born c 1834/5
George Brecht Age 4 born 1836/7

In the 1841 Census some entries were given an approx. age, e.g. Henry & Harriet Colvin and Catherine & Caroline Brecht above.

Further Parish Records

St George in the East

Henry Brecht
married 21.4.1837
Harriet Piper
(the Pallot Marriage Index 1780-1837 gives Henry's name as Hy Fredk Ludewig Brecht)

Henry Brecht of St. Paul, Shadwell buried 2.8.1855 (age 22)

St Dunstan & All Saints, Stepney

Catherine Brecht born Nov 1822 bp 13.9.1865
Henry Brecht, Paper Hanger, Stepney & Harriet

Christiana Brecht born (?) Oct 1835 bp 13.9.1865
Henry Brecht, Paper Hanger, Stepney & Harriet

Elizabeth Piper Brecht born 13.1.1830 (Spitalfields)  bp 12.10.1881
(Parents Henry Frederic Ludovic Brecht, Colour Maker of Spitalfields at time of birth, & Harriet Brecht)

A Note No 179 was added underneath: Elizth P. Brecht married Thos. King & is now a widow

Appendix 3

Most of George Brecht's family are shown in the 1881 Census. The eldest children George, Mary & Henry are shown in 1871 and the youngest John in 1891:

1871 Census

2 Martha Street, Saint George in the East

George Brecht (age 40) Head House Painter born Bethnal Green
Mary Brecht (age 36) Wife born Shadwell, Middx
George Brecht (age 14) Son Works with father born Shadwell, Middx
Edward Brecht (age 11) Son Scholar born Shadwell, Middx
Mary Brecht (age 9) Daughter Scholar born Shadwell, Middx
Henry Brecht (age 7) Son Scholar born Shadwell, Middx
Margaret Brecht (age 5) Daughter Scholar born Shadwell, Middx
William Brecht (age 2) Son born Shadwell, Middx

1881 Census

41 Burgess Street, Limehouse

George Brecht Head 43 Painter born London, Middlesex
Mary A. Brecht Wife 41 born London, Middlesex
Edward Brecht Son 22 Painter born London, Middlesex
Margaret Brecht Daughter 15 Scholar born London, Middlesex
William Brecht Son 13 Scholar born London, Middlesex
Charles Brecht Son 9 Scholar born London, Middlesex
Albert Brecht Son 7 Scholar born London, Middlesex
Arthur Brecht Son 4 Scholar born London, Middlesex
Walter Brecht Son 2 Scholar born London, Middlesex

1891 Census

165 Balaam Street, Plaistow

George Brecht Head 55 Painter born London, Spitalfields
*Marian Brecht Wife 52 Marine Store Keeper born London, Shadwell
William Brecht Son 21 Seaman born London, Shadwell
Charles Brecht Son 19 Dock Labourer born St Pancras
Albert Brecht Son 17? Dock Labourer born St Pancras
Arthur Brecht Son 15? Scholar born Bow
Walter Brecht Son 12 Scholar born Bow
John Brecht Son 9 Scholar born Bow

*Should have been Mary Ann Brecht

The Family had business interests in Balaam Street for many years:

London City Directories

Brecht Family - Index

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