Mark Wright: How Michelle Keegan’s husband has ‘incredible links to Essex beyond TOWIE’
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Mark, who starred in the reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, is married to Michelle Keegan, who played Sergeant Georgie Lane in the BBC drama Our Girl. Michelle had her own family history explored in 2018, during which she discovered she had Italian heritage and that her great-great grandmother was a Suffragette in Manchester. While Mark’s family now live in Essex, he was actually born in the East End of London.
His grandfather Eddie, who he is very close to, claims that Mark is a “true cockney” because he was “born under the sound of the Bow Bells.”
Mark told the programme that he “grew up hearing half stories from Grandad about where he thinks we’re from”, but that Eddie’s father died young and so he never got to ask him questions about the family’s heritage.
Mark said he wanted to find out the truth, so he can give something back to his beloved grandfather, who has helped the family a lot.
His first port of call was to find out everything he could about his great-great-grandfather, Edward Wright.
In the East End of London, he met a family history researcher who had obtained Edward’s birth certificate.
The first surprise for Mark was that Edward was actually born in Barkingside, Ilford, which is closer to Essex than the East End.
With this news, he re-evaluated his family heritage, exclaiming: “We were Essex boys from the start!”
He was also shown a marriage certificate that shows Edward got married in West Ham, which happens to be the football team Mark supports.
The marriage certificate revealed that Edward was a “carman”, which at the time meant a horse and cart driver.
This fit in with what his grandad Eddie, who could remember his grandfather, had told him.
The researcher also showed Mark a newspaper article from 1895 that informed him that his ancestor had run into trouble with the law.
The article said that Edward had been charged with stealing £2 worth of straw and then sent to jail for the crime.
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A few years later, he was charged with stealing bricks.
Mark wanted to find out what may have led him to criminality, and also wanted to investigate something else his grandfather remembered: that Edward had apparently disappeared off to the US at some point without telling his wife.
According to the family story, Edward had stayed there for three years buying horses from the Native Americans and selling them to the US Army.
Mark discovered that Edward had moved from Essex to the East End in 1893 and that the family lived and worked around the city’s Docklands.
The TOWIE star went to the Royal Victoria Dock area and met with an East End historian and criminologist, who showed him photographs of the area at the turn of the 19th century.
Edward apparently lived at Quadrant Street in Canning Town, a road which no longer exists but had faced the West Hall Outfall Sewage Works.
The expert explained that for those living in the slums there, stable employment was difficult to come by and so many had to resort to petty theft.
Edward’s family were on the books for the Poor Law Board of Guardians, which might explain his run-ins with the law ‒ he did it because his family were living in poverty.
He also found out the truth behind the rumour about Edward going to the US.
Edward appeared on a list of passengers traveling to America in July 1914, during which he worked as a groom of the Atlantic Transport Company.
At the time, the British Army was buying horses from America for use in World War 1.
Edward then signed up to the British Army Veterinary Corps in 1915, a part of the army that cared for 700,000 horses in France alone.
The historian said that the most likely explanation was that Edward was helping the British Army buy these horses for use in the war, rather than buying them from Native Americans for the US Army.
In this way, the story his grandfather Eddie had told had been slightly changed over the years, but had a core of truth.
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