Luigi Gargaro: An Italian in London

Luigi Gargaro was born in southern Italy sometime around 1858 to a basket making family. He probably came to London during the 1870s at around the age of 20, where he settled in Clerkenwell, an area close to the City which was home to the largest Italian community in London. He met Elizabeth Farley, a rather mysterious woman from a small village in Devon, whom he had four children with. No marriage took place between the couple.

Luigi’s first child, Dominic Gargaro, was born in May 1880 in Bermondsey and a year later during the 1881 census, the family were living in Woolwich. Apart from Dominic’s birth certificate, the 1881 census record was the first record of Luigi in the United Kingdom. He lists his occupation as a musician, which was common for many young Italian immigrants in London who turned to busking and performing magic tricks on the street to earn a living. Living with Luigi and his family during 1881 are three Italian boarders. Two are also musicians and one is a refreshment hawker.

In 1883 they had a second son, Lewis Richard Arthur Gargaro, and a year later, Charles Michael Gargaro. In 1888, Elizabeth and Luigi had a baby girl named May Beatrice Grace Elizabeth Gargaro, who sadly died later that year.

On the 1891 census, Luigi, Elizabeth, and the their three sons are living at 33 Conley Street in Greenwich. Within the next two years (1891 to 1893) however, things don’t seem to go very well for the couple. In September 1893, Luigi marries (as a bachelor) a lady named Frances ‘Annie’ Smith, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Southwark.

Frances died just over a month after getting married to Luigi, at the age of 32. I won’t know how she died until her death certificate is purchased. Her death must have happened at an exceptionally bad time for Luigi, who would have recently paid for their marriage and now for her funeral – aside from normal expenses such as looking after his three young boys. Frances was buried in a common grave at Charlton Cemetery (several metres from the plot where Luigi was buried 26 years later).

Less than 6 months after Frances’ untimely death, and less than 7 months after previously getting married, Luigi marries for a second time. This time (as a widower) to Emma Louisa Watson-Bates, a spinster, 7 years his junior. She was living at 110 Peckham Park Road at the time of marriage.

Whilst thinking about Elizabeth Farley, my first thought was that she must have died, leaving Luigi to care for the three sons. But after a bit of research, I noticed that there were no Elizabeth Farley or Elizabeth Gargaro death records anywhere to be seen which would fit the dates. Then, when I posted a question about the mysterious Elizabeth, somebody managed to find another Elizabeth Farley living with another family in a neighbouring town with her birth place listed as the same small village in Devon – Monkleigh. I now believe that Elizabeth must have left the relationship and did not have any contact with her children. Although it’s unlikely that I’ll find out what happened, I plan to research as much as I can.

Luigi had a further nine children with Emma Louisa Watson-Bates, three of whom died as infants. His youngest child, Edwin Alfred Gargaro, was born in 1910 when Luigi was in his early-50s. By the time of the 1911 census, Luigi and Emma were living with their six living children at 749 Woolwich Road, Charlton. Luigi is working as a furnace man at “Charlton Paint Works” a factory near the River Thames which was run by The Silicate Paint Company.

Luigi died in 1920 around the age of 62. He was laid to rest at Charlton Cemetery, and eight years later, he was joined by his wife, Emma Louisa Gargaro who was buried with him.


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