Yearly Archives: 2012

Loose ends and Christmas wishes

Egmont Villa, Fulham, the last home of Theodore Hook (from The Man who was John Bull)

I dislike loose ends. Last week I ended the piece on Berners Street with a brief reference to Theodore Hook and the hope that his family had not starved after his early death on the 24th of August 1841 at the age of fifty-two. So I have spent the last week finding out what happened to them all.

Various 19th-century works recalled the life of Hook and there is a comprehensive modern biography written by Bill Newton Dunn*, who happens to be the Member of the European Parliament for the area where I live. When he was writing it, in the late twentieth century, there were not the online genealogical resources that are now available to us, and so I have had the advantage of being able to find out a little more of what happened to the Hook family than he could.

Theodore Edward Hook had lived for many years with Mary Anne Doughty, and they had at least six children together. In 1828 he wrote a Will in which he referred to them having ‘six children still living’ and requesting his executor and trustee to make provision for his children and their mother. That his brother and one of his nephews had distinguished careers in the Church of England may partly account for the total omission of Mary Anne and and her children from a later 19th-century Hook family tree, and I had feared that the family had been left in total poverty and had perhaps ended up in the workhouse.

In many ways Hook was an 18th-century character. Incredibly talented at improvising both music and verse, endlessly cheerful and good-natured and a bon viveur who increasingly drank more than was good for him, he was an energetic prankster and hoaxer but also an extremely hard-working writer and satirist.

He himself noticed the change in moral tone as the nineteenth century progressed, writing in one of his stories It sounds odd, and even absurd to say so, but true it is, that religion has become fashionable, and its cultivation and pursuits have taken place of what in the days of our grandfathers were called spirit and humour, which in plain English, meant profligacy and dissipation. No midnight broils now break the public peace, no feats of drinking are recorded in our periodical papers as matters of admiration. It is no longer thought brave to beat the watch, nor considered extremely wise to break the lamps; quiet lodgers are now never aroused from their slumbers by bell-ringings of the “Tonsonian school,” nor are waiters thrown out of tavern windows, and charged in the bill.**

That Theodore and Mary Anne lived together without marrying is another example of his 18th century character and whether he eventually married Mary Anne Doughty seems to be in question. It is suggested that they married in 1840, but I have not been able to find any record of such a marriage although it is always possible that they married in France whence Theodore’s father James Hook, noted for having composed the song Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill, had fled on hearing of Theodore’s £12,000 debt incurred in Mauritius. Although it was judged that Theodore had no criminal case to answer, the civil debt hung over him all his life and at his death all his goods were seized.

Although six children are mentioned in the 1828 Will, a contemporary wrote that only five were still alive at the time of Theodore’s death – two sons and three daughters. Only three were living in the family home, Egmont Villa Fulham, when the 1841 census was taken, these were Mary, Louisa, and William. The elder son Frederick Augustus had already left for a military career in India. Who the fifth surviving child was remains a mystery since it has proved impossible to find baptism records for any of the Hook children, and most of Theodore’s many diaries have disappeared. I had wondered whether the free spirited Theodore did not believe in baptism, but in his writing he comments favourably on attending the christenings of friends’ children. The impediment may have been the children’s illegitimacy or it may simply be that the records are not available online either under the name of Hook or Doughty. It is also difficult to establish with certainty when the children we do know of were born, although Mary was probably born about 1821 in the parish of St Pancras; Bill Newton Dunn gives Frederick’s birth as the 24th of June 1823, and Louisa seems to have been born about 1824 in Kentish Town, with William being born in Fulham in 1828. It is likely that the two missing children fell between Louisa and William.

Immediately after Theodore’s death various friends contributed subscriptions for the support of his family, so the rapid descent into the workhouse that I had feared was avoided. However the total amounts were not huge and many who might have contributed appear to have declined to offer support to illegitimate children!

The next we hear of any of them is the marriage of Louisa to Frederick Annesley on the 13th of October 1842 at St Paul’s Canonbury in Islington. On the marriage record Louisa is said to be of full age, which she may not in fact have been. Frederick’s occupation is given as solicitor like his father, and the couple both gave the same address at 9 Maberley Terrace. They went on to have at least four children before Frederick’s early death in about 1868, and there were Annersley descendants well into the twentieth century.

One of the witnesses at Louisa’s wedding was her sister, who signed herself Mary Catherine Hook, and the next clue to her whereabouts comes in a letter to The Morning Post in December 1892 by Algernon Ashton who had been concerned at the dilapidated state of Theodore Hook’s tombstone and following publicity over this had been contacted by Mary, who was then living in reduced circumstances in Agnes Terrace, Leytonstone. Ashton gave her name as Mrs Mary St C Tanner, and as a result I was able to find her in 1851 living as a widow with her mother and brother William at 7 Clarence Place, High Street, Camberwell. I cannot find any record of a marriage of Mary Hook with someone called Tanner and so wonder whether she was in fact twice widowed between 1841 and 1851, and had married Mr Tanner under a different name. Whether the reason for them living in Camberwell was that this was where Mr Tanner lived is unclear but in the 1851 census Mary is recorded as the widowed head of the household. She and her mother (who was recorded as Mary Hook, as she was also in the 1841 census) are both shown as annuitants and brother William is working as a clerk in the Post Office. They were sufficiently well off then to be able to afford a servant.

I have drawn a complete blank with the 1861 census, and wondered if perhaps the family was in France visiting James Hook’s widow Harriett, however a transcription error is perhaps the more likely reason. Mary Anne Doughty seems to have died before 1871 when we find William Hook and his wife Fanny living in Great Warley, Essex, where William is a clerk in a GPO Money Order Office. They have two children William and Alice Fanny, and Mary Tanner is living with them, still in receipt of her annuity. William probably died in the latter part of 1875 and the family moved closer to London where they remained in the Leytonstone area well into the twentieth century.

There is a further mystery attached to this unconventional family. In the 1891 census the widowed Fanny Hook was living with her son William, daughter Alice and sister-in-law Mary and a nephew called Frederick Hook who also appears in the 1901 census. Fanny died in 1894, aged fifty-nine and Mary St C Tanner died in 1902 at the age of eighty-one.

In 1911 William Hook completed the census return recording Frederick as his brother. Alice’s age was adjusted down by five years to forty-four while Frederick’s was adjusted up to twenty-nine. It seems highly likely that Frederick Samuel Hook, born in 1885, was the illegitimate son of Alice Fanny Hook and that William wished to conceal the fact.

And a final footnote, lest you think I have strayed too far from Jamaica.

Theodore Edward Hook had an older brother James, for whom incidentally he published two novels anonymously lest James’s reputation in the church should be damaged. In 1797 James married Ann Farquhar at St James, Westminster. Ann was the daughter of Sir Walter Farquhar, physician to the Prince Regent. Her mother Anne Stevenson had first been married to Dr Thomas Harvie of Jamaica.

I shall be taking a break from research over the Christmas period, but hope to be back with more eighteenth century tales in the New Year.

In the meantime may I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

 

It’s not too late to take advantage of the special December Discount on A Parcel of Ribbons!

 

*Bill Newton Dunn, The Man who was John Bull, Allendale Publishing, London, 1996 ISBN 0-9528277-0-0

**Newton Dunn, op.cit, p.300.

Berners Street – speculators and a famous hoax

Theodore Hook – the Berners Street Hoaxer

When Robert Cooper Lee returned to England from Jamaica with his family at the end of August 1771, they lived for a short time at Old Bond Street in London. But within a very few weeks Robert found a house in Berners Street on which he signed a lease for thirty years. Today in Britain anyone who can afford to buy a house also buys the freehold and therefore owns both the house and the land on which it stands. In 18th-century London such a situation was uncommon. Even the very wealthy would sign a lease on a house for anything from a few months (to attend the London social season) to a period of years. Thirty years was common but it could be anything up to ninety-nine years.

The London to which the Lee family returned had expanded hugely in the two decades since Robert had left. There were two new bridges across the Thames – Westminster Bridge which had been under construction when he left was opened in 1750, Blackfriars Bridge opened in 1769. London Bridge had finally lost its jumble of medieval houses and shops in 1757 and acquired a new and elegant Italian balustrade.

In addition to the development of new bridges, London was spreading rapidly outwards, covering areas that had been just fields in Robert’s youth, and the population had grown from about half a million in 1750 to three quarters of a million two decades later. Once fashionable areas like Covent Garden had gone downhill and were now the haunt of thieves and prostitutes. Their former inhabitants moved westwards, and large areas to the north and south of Oxford Street saw the development of elegant streets and squares, many of which still retain at least some of their Georgian houses.

Berners Street runs at right angles to Oxford Street, then still sometimes known as the Oxford Road, and while it later acquired a reputation as a location for artists and writers, there were a number of families with Jamaican connections who settled there and its occupants were generally wealthy and well connected.

The houses were new – elegant, Georgian terraces with rear access to their stables via Berners Mews. The Lee’s house at number twenty-six was described as having lofty airy bed chambers of good proportions, servants rooms and numerous closets, lofty capacious drawing room with an elegant chimney piece and stucco cornice, a large dining room and sideboard recess, library, lofty entrance hall, and suitable attached offices well arranged, and supplied with water; standing for two carriages, stabling for five horses and dry arched cellaring.

The history of the development of this area goes back to the middle of the previous century when, in 1654, Josias Berners bought an estate in the parish of St Marylebone for £970 from Sir Francis Williamson of Isleworth. Substantial development was carried out in the first half of the eighteenth century by William Berners, and so the family gave their name to the street.

The Berners family were connected to Jamaica three times over through the Jarrett family. Three of William Berners’ grandchildren married Jarretts of Orange Valley, Trelawny – Maria Berners married Herbert Newton Jarrett (the third of that name), her brother William married Rachel Allen Jarrett (the second of that name) and their brother Henry Denny Berners married Sarah Jarrett. Sarah and Rachel were sisters, Herbert was their father’s much younger half-brother. But to return to Berners Street!

The usual pattern of development in the eighteenth century was for the land owner to lease out parcels of land for development to speculative builders who would erect a group of houses and then lease these on to tenants. Sometimes the builder would merely erect a shell and the interior finishing would be carried out by someone else, often under the direction of the intended tenant. There was no requirement for consistency in the appearance of the houses, although the fashion for classical proportions to some extent encouraged it.

Unlike today no planning permission was required and there were effectively few building regulations to control the quality of the build. There were some regulations relating for example to the materials of construction and the width of streets that had followed from the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is for this reason that these elegant Georgian houses were generally constructed of brick, the brick earth being dug from the very substantial clay deposits which surround London. For example the small town of Ware in Hertfordshire had substantial brick fields and a good line of transport for the bricks into London by barge down the Lea navigation (at the end of which today stands the Olympic Park).

Among the owners of land in Marylebone were the Dukes of Chandos, of Devonshire and of Portland whose names are commemorated today in its streets and squares. You can read a contemporary description of the area’s development written at the end of the 18th century by Daniel Lysons whose Environs of London is a wonderful source of information on 18th century London.

The extent of settlement in the area by members of the Plantocracy is evidenced by the numbers of records in the parish registers of St Marylebone, for their baptisms, marriages and burials. Later in the century these wealthy occupants moved gradually northwards as development continued over the old Marylebone Gardens, once an elegant walking place but now overtaken by the profits to be made from development. Even Robert Cooper Lee moved on. Though he retained the lease on the Berners Street house, he moved to the newly completed Bedford Square, also occupied by Jamaican ex-pats such as Marchant Tubb, and members of the Hibbert family.

Although Bedford Square (above) remains largely unchanged, Robert Cooper Lee’s Berners Street house is long gone, along with much of 18th century London, replaced by Victorian apartments, flattened by wartime bombs, rebuilt after the war and replaced again by glass and steel tower blocks. To see some of those original houses, and architectural features such as mentioned in the description of Robert Cooper Lee’s house, visit the Collage website and put Berners Street into the search option.

At the beginning of the 19th century Berners Street became famous, or infamous, for a complex and well organised hoax perpetrated by Theodore Hook on the unsuspecting Mrs Tottenham who lived at number fifty-four. I cannot do better than refer you to the account on the Museum of Hoaxes website which describes how Hook fulfilled his bet to make an unassuming dwelling the most talked about house in the kingdom. Hook was an engaging but not entirely admirable character. He was a talented composer of comic operas and a writer, but after being given the appointment of Accountant General in Mauritius (as a result of the influence of the Prince Regent) where he was the life and soul of the party for several years, he was held responsible for the embezzlement of  about £12,000 by a deputy and recalled to England. He spent time in a sponging house, wrote prolifically and fathered six children with Mary Ann Doughty but eventually died deeply in debt.

What happened to his children and their mother, to whom he was not married, I do not know. One has to hope that his relations, who were well connected, made provision for them.

 

 

 

 

Curtis Brett – Spanish Town Printer

 

18th Century style wooden Common Press at The Tom Paine Printing Press Lewes, Sussex

I have to thank Professor Roderick Cave* for reintroducing me to Curtis Brett, who had only merited a footnote in my book. Until now I had been completely unaware of Curtis Brett’s key role as the printer to the Jamaican Assembly at a time in the island’s history when the location of its capital was in dispute. The Kingston merchant lobby wanted to relocate the capital there and avoid the hot and dusty ride across the St Catherine plains to Spanish Town to attend to legal matters. The Plantocracy and its lawyers on the other hand wanted to be able to come in from the surrounding countryside to attend the law sessions in Spanish Town and combine this with residence in their town houses, attendance at balls and social functions, and days at the races.

Brett, who had been born in Ireland in 1720, had trained as a printer, and although his early ventures in Jamaica were as a storekeeper in Kingston, and then as a plantation overseer, he moved on to work in a counting house in Spanish Town for Archibald Sinclair. It was here that his previous printing experience led to his appointment as printer to the Assembly.

In order to raise the start-up capital required it was agreed to invite subscriptions to publish a book of The Laws of Jamaica. Brett finalised the manuscript on board ship, returning  to London in June 1755, where the book was printed and bound by his previous master William Strahan. Back in Jamaica he was to be assisted by Charles White, whose work on the Spanish Town Census of 1754 has already been described here.

In the spring of the following year Curtis Brett returned to Jamaica with copies of the Laws of Jamaica and all the equipment required to set up as a printer in Spanish Town. By the 8th of May he was ready to produce the first edition of the St Jago Intelligencer, of which sadly only one (or possibly two) issues are known to survive.

 

 

This very rare book, of which only three copies are known to exist was printed by Curtis Brett in 1757. Details of this copy, for sale by the William Reese Company, can be viewed online here.

 

By insisting that subscribers to the Intelligencer paid their subscriptions in advance, and by printing materials for the Assembly and probably a book almanac as well as the book highlighted here, Curtis Brett found his business so successful that by 1761 he had accumulated about £5000 and was looking for fresh challenges.  Roderick Cave believes Brett was then bought out by his partner Charles White before setting off to pursue activities as a merchant in Jamaica, New York and London.

 

By this time Curtis Brett was married and the father of a son. His wife was the widowed Ann Allwood, whose first husband was Hayward Gaylard. Hayward Gaylard had a chequered history, he had been a haberdasher and merchant in Cornhill, London but had been declared bankrupt in 1746, and had presumably travelled to Kingston in the hope of mending his fortunes. There was in London at the same time a printer called Doctor Gaylard (c.1699-1749). He was not a medical man, for Doctor was indeed his baptismal name! and although he came from Sherborne in Dorset it is not unreasonable to suggest that he was connected with the family of Hayward Gaylard and hence through the printing connection Curtis Brett may have been introduced to Hayward.

Hayward Gaylard married Ann Allwood, in Spanish Town, on the 25th of  December  1752. The marriage was to be short lived and apparently without surviving children, for Hayward Gaylard was buried in the North churchyard at Kingston on the 24th of July 1756. It seems possible that when Curtis Brett first travelled to Jamaica it was with Hayward Gaylard, and this would account for how he came to meet his future wife.

What is harder to account for is how Ann came to be there in the first place. We know that she had at least two brothers, both of whom had interesting careers. Her brother John was an artisan painter who took an apprentice in St Giles in London in 1765 and spent some time on the Carolinas, painting an altarpiece in Charleston in 1772.

Her brother Thomas was apprenticed to Thomas Johnson in Liverpool in 1752 and became a master carver and gilder. In this role he exhibited sculptures and created picture frames for Romney, framed works by George Stubbs and undertook decorative carving work for the Prince of Wales at Carlton House. Whether because the Prince was notorious for not paying  his bills or for other reasons, sadly, in 1799 Thomas was declared bankrupt, and family properties in Great Russell Street and Charlotte Street had to be sold. What happened to him after this is unknown, but it seems likely he lived out his life at Barking in Essex, died in 1819 and was buried in the family grave in the Whitefield’s Memorial Church in Tottenham Court Road, London. My reasoning on this is governed by the burial in the same church in a ‘family vault’ of his brother-in-law Curtis Brett in 1784.

John Allwood, who died in about 1796, left a wife, seemingly his second, and the only reference to a child was to his son John who had some years previously left for Bombay and had not been heard of since.

So how did Ann Allwood come to be in Jamaica in 1752? It is possible that she travelled there with her brother John, since we know he ventured to the Americas twenty years later. There is the further possibility that there was a third brother, called Francis, who set up shop in Harbour Street, Kingston and lived out his days as an established member of the community there, dying in Liguanea in April 1793. He was noted for having blown up his own house in Kingston to prevent the spread of a conflagration in 1782. The Cornwall Chronicle of 1789 reported that ‘His long pursuit of that business, and known integrity, see from the year 1774, until the fatal conflagration in 1782, which, to save the town from still further destruction, had his house blown into the air by gunpowder, for which he has never received the smallest recompense.[1]

If she did travel out to Jamaica with her brother Francis, this would have placed Ann firmly within the merchant community in Kingston and in a position to meet both of her husbands.

We know of only two children of Ann and Curtis Brett. Charles Richard Brett was born in Kingston on the 4th of September  1761 and he may have been the child mentioned in his father’s letter,  quoted by Daniel Livesay[2], as being sent to England. A second son, Curtis Brett, was born on the 8th of October  1765 and one on-line source suggests he was baptised at Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex on the 11th of November that year, which would imply he was born in England, but I am unable to verify this.

The second Curtis Brett signed  Articles of Clerkship with John Windus of Tooks Castle Yard on the 19th of  November  1781, but I am unclear whether he ever practised law. In due course he inherited all his father’s estate, including mining interests in North Wales, when Curtis Brett senior died in 1784. Four years later he married Anna Maria Johnson and they had a family of four sons and two daughters.

Of their children, Charles Curtis became an army veterinary surgeon; Henry Richard was a wine merchant and later Brewer’s Agent whose son Walter spent several years in Belgium before he migrated to Canada where his sons both became taxidermists; George fared less well and in 1851 seems to have been a Watchman at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The third Curtis Brett fell even further and seems to have ended his life in the Camberwell Workhouse, perhaps his previous employment as a grocer and later wine cooper and brewer’s agent had led him to drink. I cannot trace Louisa, but Emily Maria married well to a respected clergyman and her grandaughter  Emily Mary Edith Lloyd married the wealthy Charles Bosanquet. It was however a tale with a sad ending. Of their three children Muriel died aged only seven, Sydney died of wounds in the early months of the Great War aged barely twenty and his brother Leslie, who appears not to have served, died aged eighteen in November 1918 perhaps in the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Curiously, or perhaps not so curiously given the social set they all moved in, Charles Bosanquet was related to descendants of Robert Cooper Lee whose letters form such a major part of A Parcel of Ribbons.

 

* ‘Two Jamaican Printers’, in Roderick Cave, Printing and the book trade in the West Indies (London: Pindar Press, 1987) pp. 206-218.

 

 


[1] http://jamaicanfamilysearch.com/Members/C/CornwallC_01.htm

[2] Curtis Brett to his son, c. 1777, MS 10, letter no. 19, 40, National Library of Jamaica,  cited in Children of  Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Migration from the West Indies to Britain, 1750-1820,  Daniel Alan Livesay, unpublished PhD thesis (book in preparation)

These Curtis Brett letters are partial transcriptions of the originals, the whereabouts of which are sadly currently unknown.

 

The Swymmer family of Bristol

College Green Bristol where the Swymmer Family owned property during the 17th and 18th centuries. Bristol Cathedral is in the background*

 

 

The Bristol-based Swymmer family played a key part in the development of merchant venturers in that city, in the early history of Jamaica, and in the slave trade.

There are records of seventy-three indentured servants (mainly men) despatched to Jamaica from Bristol by the Swymmers between the 16th of September 1676 and the 10th of August 1685 . With the growing demand for plantation labour and a shortage of indentured servants the trade in the latter decreased as the trade in enslaved Africans increased.

Anthony Swymmer was present in Jamaica from the early days of the colony and in his Will dated the 11th of October 1684, he referred to himself as “Anthony Swymmer of the City of Bristoll, Esq , late resident in the Island of Jamaica, and now bound thither again”. Probate of the Will was granted in 1688 and it is presumed that he died in Jamaica. This Anthony Swymmer was married to Jane Langley, the sister of Elizabeth Langley who was married to Fulke Rose and later to Sir Hans Sloane.

Disentangling the members of the Swymmer family can be tricky – for example not only did this Anthony Swymmer have a son called Anthony but so did his brother William. Both brothers were themselves sons of another Anthony Swymmer and his wife Joan Hayman. Unfortunately Swymmer baptisms on IGI are patchy, although there are also some marriage and burial records. There are fifteen Wills of members of the Swymmer family at the National Archives and I am gradually working my way through transcribing some of them. Some already appear on this website – you can see the current list here. There are also records of property owned by the family held at the Bristol Record Office for members of the family owned considerable property in Bristol on College Green, and also Lower Green, Nicholas Street, Small Street and Kings Square. They also owned land and property at Marshfield, at Rowberrow in Somerset, in Buckinghamshire and later in Flintshire and elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

The Lord Mayor’s Chapel in Bristol where Bridget Swymmer was buried in 1820**

 

 

 

 

 

The Swymmer family may have originated in Cornwall where John Swymmer and his wife Susan had three sons Peter, Warne and John baptised in Padstow in 1631, 1634 and 1637. Peter is recorded as a mercer and issued his own tokens (there being regular shortages of small coins). One website suggests that he also lent money at interest. With his wife Grace he had a daughter Elizabeth and a son, another Peter Swymmer. That there were connections with the Bristol branch of the family is further hinted at through the marriage in Padstow in 1700 of a Susanna Swymmer and Arthur Merrett, while a Barbara Swymmer married Anthony Merrett in Gloucestershire about 1698, and Rebecca Merrett married John Swymmer in 1696 at St Philip and St Jacobs, Bristol. Moreover in his Will of 1726 William Swymmer of Bristol left a legacy of £100 to another William Swymmer, the son of John Swymmer of Padstow.

John Swymmer of Bristol died relatively young, and childless, in 1700. He was the eldest son of William (c.1650-1715) the stay-at-home brother of the first Anthony who went to Jamaica. That first Anthony had a son called Anthony who married first a daughter of Bernard Andreiss, possibly called Johanna (widow of a Dutchman called William Kupius resulting in a petition of Mr Swymmer for an escheated estate of one Kupuis, late of Jamaica, deceased’) and then a woman called Milborough (surname unknown) who was the mother of Jane Langley Swymmer and Anthony Langley Swymmer.

John Swymmer’s widow Rebecca (Merrett) shines through his Will as a young woman well endowed in her own right, with a large collection of family jewellery and a passion for both needlework and riding. John, who left the majority of his estate to his brothers, nevertheless explicitly left Rebecca all the needlework hangings she had made and her own bay horse with its saddle and other ‘furniture’. He also left her half the contents of the house in Small Street, Bristol, made sure her marriage settlement was honoured and that she was repaid the twenty-five pounds of her own money she had paid out for his medical bills. A Memorandum attached to the Will also listed items of furniture and other household goods. Whether he remembered them after writing the Will or whether she persuaded him to add such detail is unclear, but at a time when a married woman’s property belonged to her husband such a precaution, preventing as it did all these items from being included in the residuary estate, did secure her position.

The Wills of the Jamaican Swymmers – Anthony, Anthony and Anthony Langley provide an insight into the accumulation of family lands by 1760, when the last of these died in St Thomas in the East. Apart from his extensive holdings and mineral rights in Flintshire in Wales, Anthony Langley Swymmer left 2036 acres at the Nutts River plantation, 1120 acres at Clark’s River, 332 acres acquired from Richard Risby, 4000 acres in Vere and 1100 acres in the parish of St George. There was also land and buildings in Spanish Town ‘near the Beef Market’. As he died childless the main beneficiaries of all this were the children of his sister Jane who had married Richard Chandler Champneys whose first wife was Sarah Daines, Jane’s second cousin.

I must apologies incidentally to any Welsh speakers for my inability to read the names of the various places in Flintshire where Anthony Langley Swymmer held property!

Sadly the Champneys family squandered their inheritance:

Sir Thomas Champneys inherited several estates from his father, but from mismanagement lost all but the Orchardleigh and Nutts River estates. He died at Exton, Hampshire, aged 76 in July 1821. His son and heir, Thomas Swymmer Champneys, squandered what was left of the family’s fortune and ended up in the insolvent debtors court in the 1820s which declared his the largest amount of debt ever filed in the court since its establishment in 1813, with debts and liabilities upwards of £429,000.”

It is a tale not at all untypical of wealth accumulated in Jamaica, using slave labour, by the early migrants who managed their estates in person, but whose successors became absentees spending the profits of an earlier generation. The Swymmer family however, not only made their fortunes on the plantations, they had also made much of it directly through the slave trade, and in the process contributed to the wealth of Bristol derived from that trade.

 

*By Snapshots Of The Past (College Green Bristol England) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Original image: Photochrom print (color photo lithograph).

**By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Of Autumn Leaves and Christmas Puddings

 

 

‘Making the Empire Christmas pudding’, artwork by F C Harrison produced for the Empire Marketing Board
Date: 1926-39  – Note the Jamaica Rum on the table.

Here in England the clocks have now reverted to GMT and although the mornings are temporarily a little lighter, the evenings draw in. Halloween has passed with its imported American festival of trick or treat which has completely replaced the ‘guising’ of my Scottish childhood, when children in disguise would go from house to house required to perform a party piece in return for an apple or an orange, the latter no longer subject to wartime rationing.

The other thinly disguised pagan festival of the autumn, Bonfire Night, a combination of primeval defiance against the encroaching darkness and the anti-Catholic celebration of the execution of Guy Fawkes is also passing. The simple post-war family bonfire with its handful of small Golden Rain and Roman Candle fireworks, the inevitable non-rotating Catherine wheel,  supplemented by a handful of Sparklers has been replaced, largely for safety reasons, by the municipal event. Even small village celebrations are fewer than they were as the cost of insurance rises.

The first frosts of the winter have changed the colours of the leaves, and despite the dreadful wet summer (one of the wettest since records began) which followed eighteen months of drought, we now have a brilliant festival of reds and golds, greens and purples, only awaiting a late autumn gale to strip the trees.

It is now that thoughts turn to the making of the Christmas cake and Christmas puddings so that they will have time to mature before December the 25th.

Even here things have changed somewhat since my childhood when recipes required you to pick over the dried fruit removing pips from raisins and sultanas from their stems, washing the fruit and chopping citrus peel and cherries. Now everything comes pre-prepared, and pre-packaged but even fifty or so years ago during my childhood the purchase of such items was closer to the 18th-century than the twenty-first. The grocer’s shelves were loaded with large tin boxes, or small hessian sacks, filled with loose items such as raisins that were scooped out, individually weighed and then packed into bags made of brown paper or blue sugar paper neatly folded and twisted from a single sheet under the skilled hands of the shop assistant. Butter and lard were cut from large blocks, weighed on scales balanced with huge brass weights, and wrapped in greaseproof paper. Sugar, like oranges, not long off rationing was still used sparingly.

Our Christmas recipes have evolved from a time before refrigeration when you either had to eat the meat you killed immediately, or had to wait for the autumn frosts to arrive before you killed a pig to make bacon. In the tropics, without such frosts, the only alternatives for preserving meat or fish were either to salt it heavily, to smoke it or to dry it in wind and sun. In both Britain and Jamaica spices were used at least in part to disguise the taste of meat past its best. You are probably aware that our Christmas mince pies, made with mincemeat, once actually contained meat where now they only contain a mixture of fat and fruits.

It is interesting to compare the recipe for Christmas pudding that I have used ever since I received a free cookbook with my first gas cooker in 1968 with Hannah Glasse’s recipe for ‘A Boiled Plumb-Pudding’.

My recipe calls for two pounds of dried fruits, currants, sultanas and raisins, a quarter of a pound of candied peel, the juice and rind of two lemons, a quarter of a pound of orange marmalade, six ounces of Demerara sugar, eight ounces of flour, six ounces of breadcrumbs, six ounces of shredded suet, three eggs, half a pint of Brown ale, a teaspoonful of salt, a teaspoonful of cinnamon, and a teaspoonful of mixed spice. Even in the 1960s I was still being exhorted to wash and prepare the fruit a day beforehand and to slice the mixed peel.

By contrast here is Hannah Glasse’s 18th century recipe*.

A Boiled Plumb-Pudding

Take a Pound of Suet cut in little Pieces, not too fine, a Pound of Currents, and a Pound of Raisins stoned, eight Eggs, half the Whites, the Crumb of a Penny-loaf grated fine, half a Nutmeg grated, and a Tea Spoonful of beaten Ginger, a little Salt, a Pound of Flour, a Pint of Milk; beat the Eggs first, then half the Milk, beat them together, and by degrees stir in the Flour and Bread together, then the Suet, Spice and Fruit, and as much Milk as will mix it all well together and very thick; boil it five Hours.

Although she does not call it a Christmas cake, the nearest recipe I can find to a modern Christmas cake in Hannah Glasse is her recipe for a

Rich Cake

Take four Pound of Flower (sic) well dried and sifted, seven Pound of Currants washed and rubb’d, six Pound of the best fresh Butter,two Pound of Jordan Almonds blanched, and beaten with Orange Flower Water and Sack till they are fine, then take four Pound of Eggs, put half the Whites away, three Pound of double refin’d Sugar beaten and sifted, a quarter of an Ounce of Mace, the same of Cloves and Cinnamon, three large Nutmegs, all beaten fine, a little Ginger, half a Pint of Sack, half a Pint of Right French Brandy, Sweetmeats to your liking, they must be Orange Lemon, and Citron. Work your Butter to a Cream with your Hands before any of your Ingredients are in, then put in your Sugar, mix it well together; let your Eggs be well beat, and strain’d thro’ a Sieve, work in your Almonds first, then put in your Eggs, beat them all together till they look white and thick, then put in your Sack and Brandy and Spices, and shake your Flower in by Degrees, and when your Oven is ready, put in your Currants and Sweetmeats as you put it in your hoop; it will take four Hours baking in a quick Oven, you must keep it beaten with your Hand all the while you are mixing of it, and when your Currants are well washed and cleaned, let them be kept before the Fire so that they may go warm into your Cake. This Quantity will bake best in two Hoops.

It may surprise a modern reader that the recipe was to be beaten with the hand, but the best sponge cake I ever tasted was made by my Scottish grandmother who always beat the butter and sugar together with her hand. Perhaps the additional warmth of a hand compared with a wooden spoon or metal beater makes the difference, but it is certainly hard work! I am curious that Hannah Glass refers to ‘hoop’ rather than a cake tin, and I don’t know whether this means that it was a freestanding hoop resting on a metal tray, or just another name for a cake tin.

One thing we can be pretty certain of and that is that Hannah Glasse’s double refined sugar would have come from Jamaica, but been refined in a sugar bakery in England.

*First Catch Your Hare…The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady (Hannah Glasse), a facsimile of the first edition supplemented by the recipes which the author added up to the fifth edition and furnished with a Preface, Introductory Essays by Jennifer Stead and Priscilla Bain, a Glossary by Alan Davidson, Notes and an Index. Prospect Books, Totnes, 2012. ISBN 978-1-903018-88-0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bits and Pieces

Royal York Crescent Clifton, Bristol*

This last week has been a busy one, taken up with a variety of activities and so by way of catching up this week’s blog piece is a bit of a patchwork, piecing together some of the scraps of information recently acquired.

Part of the week was spent stitching together a family tree for a friend of a friend who will probably be as surprised as I was to discover in it a Jamaican connection. In his case this was a young soldier who joined up at the age of seventeen in the first half of the nineteenth century and served with his Regiment, the 33rd Foot the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, in the West Indies, among other places.

Yesterday I spent in Bristol at a conference on Jamaica and the Caribbean: Beyond the Boundary. It took place in the Watershed, a converted dockside warehouse, now an arts centre and cinema, and was part of a three-day event to “reflect on the sometimes difficult political, economic and social development of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago since independence 50 years ago, and also the significant impact these countries have had on the Caribbean community in Bristol and the UK.”

The wealth of Bristol, a significant seaport for centuries, was in many ways derived from slavery, the slave trade, and the income from the products of slavery particularly sugar. Although it was a much smaller city than London, perhaps 20,000 people in the first part of the 18th-century, by the end of the century it had become one of the most favoured retirement spots for members of the Plantocracy returning home, especially in the area of Clifton. The names of streets today reflect this, Royal York Crescent, Regent Street, Merchants Road – in the fresh air high above the river Avon and the Avon Gorge with easy access to the city of Bristol and its trading connections, but set apart in genteel Georgian splendour.

Much of the conference was concerned with the modern Caribbean and the Afro-Caribbean migrants to Britain, Bristol in particular. It began, however, with a historical introduction to Bristol and Jamaica by Professor Madge Dresser of the University of the West of England. She outlined a little of the early history of Jamaica and the connections with the island of Bristol families such as the Penns and the Swymmers. Elizabeth Swymmer is one of the few women whose direct connections to the slave trade can be tracked. She mentioned the records of the Bybrook Plantation held at the Bristol record office, and the often chance distribution of Jamaican and Plantation records to other record offices around the country. Talking of the distribution of records she mentioned the use of the slave ownership compensation records compiled in 1833 for tracking both slave owners and enslaved people. Just as I have discussed here previously the way in which the mixed race Jamaican descendants blended into English society, so the profits derived from Jamaica were often used to build the great 18th-century British country houses, with the origins of the funds subsequently suppressed or forgotten.

The second speaker, Adrian Stone, was a hugely enthusiastic speaker about his own genealogical researches which had taken him from 21st-century Bristol to 18th-century Jamaica. A self-taught researcher he had begun by interviewing close family members and then more distant cousins about their origins in Jamaica and the complex interrelationships of a large family. Living now in London he had discovered cousins he did not know existed and had explored their joint history using resources such as the Mormon family history Centre in Exhibition Road, and the National Archives at Kew. He had found that many people asked if he was able to traces family origins back to Africa and demonstrated how the slave returns for Jamaica, which I discussed last week, could sometimes be used through the names of women such as ‘Ebo Venus’ to relate their origins to specific tribes and regions in Africa.

This brings me to another of this week’s bits and pieces, for I came across some material relating to slave names. I will cover it in more detail another time but, briefly, enslaved Africans in the early eighteenth century were often given names of classical origin such as Venus, Phoebe or Chloe. Christian baptism frequently over wrote such names with English ones. But throughout it all names of African origin persisted, for example, Cudjoe the leader of the Maroons during the war of the 1730s whose name from the Guinea Coast indicates he was born on a Monday. Where these names exist in the slave records they can be used, together with some tribal references which remain, to establish areas of origin in Africa.

My final fragment for this week concerns the sort of correction a genealogist sometimes has to make (but hopefully not too often). In dealing with partial records of baptisms marriages and deaths and information derived from Wills, we reconstruct family trees and sometimes we get it wrong!

When I was working some time ago on the Aikenhead family, three of whose daughters were prominent among the Wills I transcribed, I had attached them to Archibald Aikenhead of Stirling Castle, well aware that this involved a certain amount of guesswork. I now know that some of my guesses were wrong, for I recently acquired, courtesy of Dianne Golding-Frankson, the Wills of two men both called William Aikenhead. Doctor William Aikenhead, who died about 1762, left no direct heirs and made his uncle Archibald Aikenhead his residuary legatee. The other William Aikenhead who died about 1760, referred specifically to four children – his son John Lawrence Aikenhead, and his daughters Elizabeth, Margret Helen, and Milborough Aikenhead. By the time he wrote his Will his daughter Elizabeth was married to Gilbert Ford, and Milborough to John Harvie. Margret Helen, who I take to be Margaret Eleanor Aikenhead, brought her inheritance as dowry to her marriage with Samuel Alpress about a year after the death of her father. All this means not only that more of Archibald Aikenhead’s children had died in infancy than I had previously suspected, but also that Archibald and William must have had another brother, the father of Doctor William Aikenhead. Whether this brother had a presence in Jamaica or had remained in Scotland I don’t know.

So continuing the patchwork metaphor with which I began, the work of the historian and the genealogist is to attempt to make a pleasing (and it is to be hoped truthful) pattern from the scraps and pieces of information that have been left to us. Sometimes it is necessary to unpick a piece of work and re-make it in an attempt to produce a more accurate reconstruction of our past.

* Photograph of Royal York Crescent from lizzieparker.wordpress.com where you can find a whole treasure trove of photographs and information about Bristol and Clifton.

Wills, Property and Slave Returns

Slave Return for 1817 from Ancestry.co.uk

I have commented before on how useful Wills can be in establishing family relationships, highlighting people one had missed when searching parish records, and filling in background on where a family was and when.

Following the piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Samuel Felsted I have done some further research on his family. His sister Mary, who married Stephen Cooke in Kingston in 1782, outlived her husband by a quarter of a century dying in Bethnal Green, London in 1843 at the age of ninety-three. Her Will is here.

Several branches of the family had settled in London, but Samuel’s youngest son John Lawrence (or Laurence) Felsted probably died in Jamaica, although we know from his Will that he owned a house in London. John’s sister Sarah also died in London and we know from her Will that she owned property in Kingston.

When John Lawrence Felsted died in about 1821 he left property to his two children Justina Frances and Samuel James. This included a house in Church Street, Kingston; a store in Water Lane (convenient for the harbour front) and a Penn in the parish of St Catherine. In August 1820 John had sworn an affidavit on his slave return that in June of that year he had owned three slaves. Only two are named – eleven year old Henry, a creole ‘sambo’, and seventeen year old Betsey a creole ‘negroe’ both of whom appear to have been passed on to John by his mother Margaret Mary Felsted. In 1817 she had been in possession of thirteen slaves, in 1823 this number had reduced to six. Betsey was still enslaved in 1832, the return then being sworn by the attorney for the Executors of John Lawrence Felsted, whose name incidentally was Justinn Nelson which suggests that John’s daughter Justina may have been named after him.

John’s sister Sarah was also a slave owner, the return for 1817 showing her as having a twenty-nine year old negro creole slave called Cassander and her three sons, Richard, John Walker and William aged twelve, two and four months respectively. She also owned a twenty-one year old African negro woman called Ellen. Sarah was listed as owning Ellen outright, but as having a one-sixth share of Cassander and her children. She shared ownership with  C.Dawson, S.M.Robertson (her sisters) S.M.Fry of London, J.L.Felsted and J.F.Fry ‘an infant of this Island’. All these are descendants of Samuel Felsted and although I have not seen his Will it is reasonable to suppose ownership of Cassander was passed to his children by Samuel. It is possible this list also provides evidence that Ann Cooke Felsted, who married Joseph Fry, had died before 1817 since S.M.Fry and J.F.Fry referred to are her children.

The information from the slave registers for Jamaica can be viewed on Ancestry for the years 1817, 1820, 1823, 1826, 1829, 1832 and 1834 (you do need to be a subscriber to view them). The registers were compiled following the abolition of the slave trade in order to try to ensure that the trade was not being continued.

Returns had to list not only slaves owned, but the changes in numbers since the previous return due to deaths of any slaves or the birth of new ones. Usually in addition to the name and sex of the person, their age and racial mix is given together with whether they were ‘creole’, that is born in Jamaica. I have seen one who was listed as American.

These documents may be one of the few ways someone with ancestors who were enslaved has of finding out about them, and of course they also tell us something about their owners.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of all the Jamaican Wills of the eighteenth century is the way in which slaves are routinely listed as property alongside stock, horses, carriages and all the paraphernalia of the plantation or merchant business. Just occasionally a named individual is able to stand out, perhaps through manumission or the gift of a small legacy, but too often by being passed on, still enslaved, to a new owner.

Jamaican History in postcards

 

There are of course no photographs from eighteenth century Jamaica, and while there are portraits of members of the Plantocracy and some lovely early nineteenth century watercolours of Jamaican landscapes, such as those by Hakewill, it is hard to get close to the lives of enslaved and free mixed race Jamaicans in the early part of the island’s history. By the mid-nineteenth century the advent of photography and the arrival of tourism means there is a legacy of wonderful images such as those in the Jamaica Nostalgia  galleries.

At the turn of the twentieth century many photographs were being taken for the booming postcard industry. While often they were of the hotels a tourist might stay in, or the landscape they saw, there are quite a number showing the lives of ordinary Jamaicans.

 

 

This picture in a banana plantation was clearly posed. In one version a small boy peers out from the leaves at the top of the tree. The white man in the distance appears to be wearing a dog collar and is perhaps the local vicar.

 

 

 

 

 

This hand coloured image of ropes of tobacco at a local market has a more natural feel about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captions often reflected the attitudes of the time, referring to ‘native’ people, but in spite of the sometime patronising tone the images do provide glimpses of the lives of the majority of Jamaicans.

 

 

 

 

 

Street scenes like this one were probably photographed before the earthquake of 1907. You have only to imagine removing the telegraph poles and wires to have a scene largely unchanged for a hundred and fifty years.

 

 

 

It is frequently difficult to imagine the sights and sounds of the world of our grandparents let alone that of three hundred years ago. In the lifetime of my grandmother, born in 1883, she saw the development of the pneumatic bicycle tyre, the motor car and aeroplane, modern telecommunications, the launching of satellites and men on the moon. In the lifetime of her grandparents the developments of the industrial revolution had changed the world. But in the early twentieth century there were still many corners of the world in which ways of life persisted as they had done for centuries before. Subsistence agriculture powered by horses, mules and oxen, harvesting by hand, processing food and clothing by traditional techniques all continued.

These postcards of life in Jamaica at the turn of the twentieth century sometimes allow us to glimpse the island’s earlier past.

 

 

Fort Augusta Jamaica

It is easy to think of Jamaica’s history simply in terms of sugar and slavery and to forget its crucial role as a British military foothold in the Caribbean. Although tens of thousands of enslaved Africans worked to produce sugar, many were also made to work on military building projects in terrible conditions.

From the beginning, with the conquest of the island when it was seized from the Spanish in 1655, the island was home to a transient military population. For most of the eighteenth century Britain was at war with Spain or France or both, as all sought to establish empires, search for gold and other treasure, and plant colonists for permanent settlement.

In the case of Jamaica the port of Kingston, with its huge natural harbour, also became one of the largest in the world for the slave trade, receiving enslaved Africans from the notorious Middle Passage and selling many on to Britain’s American colonies in the Carolinas, Virginia and further north, and also selling on into Central and South America. This was a valuable trade that required protection at sea, but although Jamaica did have her own Militia it also created a situation that from time to time threatened to erupt into rebellion,calling for additional military support on land. Those soldiers were housed in a variety of barracks and forts, the remains of which form a very significant part of Jamaica’s eighteenth century historical legacy.

The strategic location of Jamaica and the safe harbours she provided gave the island added military importance throughout the eighteenth century and during the Napoleonic Wars. Funds for the building of forts were largely provided locally and voted by the Jamaican Assembly, and the labour was largely provided by slaves. Today this heritage is overseen by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

 Eighteenth century Plan of Fort Augusta from Historic Jamaica from the Air p.79

One fort that has recently been in the news is Fort Augusta, which was built in swampland to protect the western end of Kingston harbour, facing across to the remains of Port Royal and which despite huge earthquake damage in 1692 still also housed a military presence.

Fort Augusta is notable both for the huge effort, and loss of life, that went into filling the swamp, and for its curtain wall of cut stone blocks. On three sides this is 1500 feet long,  42 feet thick and nearly 16 feet high. On the northern side a further 900 feet of wall six feet thick faces onto Hunts Bay. Once this eight acre fort would have housed large numbers of British soldiers and their supplies including gunpowder. In modern times it has housed a women’s prison.

In 1763 the Fort Augusta gunpowder magazine was hit by lightning, killing 300 people and breaking windows up to seventeen miles away. Benjamin Franklin had already been involved in developing lightning conductors to protect such military installations from similar disasters, and had developed his lightning rod in 1749, but there is no evidence it had been fitted anywhere in Jamaica.

 Fort Augusta in 1967 from Historic Jamaica from the Air p.78

The reason Fort Augusta has been in the news recently is because of plans to expand Kingston’s ability to handle container shipping. The container port is on the opposite side of Hunts Bay (now enclosed by the Port Kingston Causeway) from Fort Augusta. There is a classic conflict of interest between the needs of economic development and the benefits of preserving a nation’s history, highlighted in a recent letter to the Jamaica Observer. Fortunately assurances have been received that there is no intention to demolish Fost Augusta.

 

Fort Augusta today showing the Port Kingston Causeway top left, which now encloses Hunts Bay (from Jamaica Observer online 6 August 2012)

Many places have found that by preserving their history alongside modern developments their cultural heritage is enriched and the economic benefits of the new development are enhanced. Let us hope this is possible in the case of Fort Augusta and that the development will bring a renewed interest in Jamaica’s history and appreciation of those who lost their lives creating it.

 

Historic Jamaica from the Air, by David Buisseret with photography by J. Tyndale-Biscoe and cartography by Tom Willcockson, Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston Jamaica 1996.

 

Samuel Felsted – Jamaica’s first Classical Composer

 Jonah and the whale (faux-bronze).Detail of a vault fresco “La Résurrection” by Michel Corneille the Elder (1601-1664), church Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, Paris. (via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Jamaica boasts the first classical composer in the Caribbean, and possibly in the New World. Samuel Felsted wrote an oratorio called Jonah which was first performed in 1775. This part of Jamaica’s history seems recently to have been rediscovered[1] and you can hear a small extract from the oratorio sung by Marie McMarrow here. Samuel also composed extensively for the organ.

The Felsted family probably originated from the English village of Felsted in Essex. Samuel Felsted was born about 1743, most likely in Jamaica. His father, William Felsted, seems to be the same person as the one who in 1736 applied in Boston Massachusetts for permission to open a shop, and who was recorded there as an ironmonger who had arrived from Jamaica. He married Joyce Weaver in 1741 in Philadelphia.

The family were Anabaptists which means that they did not believe in infant baptism, and this contributes to the difficulty in locating all of William and Joyce’s children. Samuel Felsted was baptised on 20 November 1763 in St Andrews Jamaica when he was recorded as being aged twenty and an Anabaptist. There are also baptisms for Sarah and Mary Felsted on 21 August 1768 in Kingston when Mary was eighteen and Sarah twenty-two. It is highly probable that they were Samuel’s sisters. There is also a burial record for John Felsted in 1789 in Kingston, a “Practitioner in Physic and Surgery” – possibly Samuel’s brother.

Samuel became the organist for both the church of St Andrews, Halfway Tree and at Kingston, and in 1770 he married Margaret Mary Lawrence. They had at least nine children, and one source refers to William, James Lawrence and Christiana all playing the organ. Daughters Mary Stephens, Elizabeth Stephens, and Elizabeth all seem to have died young and a Sarah Felsted was buried in Kingston in 1804 (though this may have been Samuel’s sister rather than his daughter).

Three, and possibly four, of Samuel and Margaret Mary’s children had descendants outside Jamaica. Susanna married Captain James Robinson Commander of the ship HMS Castor in 1815, and their son James Felsted Robinson was born in Jamaica the following year.

James Lawrence Felsted and his wife Maria had a son Samuel James born in Spanish Town in 1818. James had been baptised in 1802 in Kingston, so unless he was unusually precocious he too was probably not baptised as an infant. Samuel James left for England where he seems not to have prospered. He married in 1844, worked as a commission agent (basically a salesman dependent on commission for his income) and had three children James Melville Felsted , Grace Lawrence Felsted and Frank Adolphus who died as a baby. Their mother died in 1856, and the two surviving children were boarded out. Although Samuel probably remarried in 1857, he died in 1860. His son James Melville was employed as a railway porter in 1873 but was dismissed the following year for unspecified reasons, and later census records show him as working as a plate layer on the railway, basically as a labourer. However James Melville’s only child Florence Felsted married a coal miner called Tom Rodwell in 1901 and by the Second World War her husband was running his own haulage company with their son, and they were able to afford two trips to New York on the Queen Mary.

Grace Felsted fared rather better than her brother and although she began her life in domestic service, in 1877 she later married David Charles Cox a young policeman and by 1911 they were living comfortably in a six room house in Wimbledon on his police pension. Three of their four children were still alive.

The two branches of Felsted descendants who seem to have fared best were the children of Ann Cooke Felsted and her sister Christiana. Ann married Joseph Fry in 1798 in Kingston. He was a Bristol merchant with connections to Livorno in Italy (known by the English at the time as Leghorn). The 1824 Jamaica Almanac shows Fry as the owner of Felsted’s Pen, with sixteen slaves and two stock. The number of slaves had reduced to nine in 1827, and by the end of the decade the Pen seems to have passed into other hands. The Frys had four children born in Jamaica and some time after 1812 they left the island.

Christiana also married in Jamaica, to John Dawson in December 1815, but almost immediately they left for England where four children were born in Bethnal Green. Joseph and Ann Fry’s daughter Sophia Mathilda married Peter Paul Pate, who is given in one source as having been born in Livorno and whose name is listed as Pietro Paolo Pate. However the marriage took place in England, in Bethnal Green, so it is not clear which rendering of the name is correct. Certainly their daughter Sophie was listed in the Census records as born in Italy but a British subject. Christiana and John Dawson had a son called William Richard born in 1823, and in 1857 he married his first cousin once removed Sophie Pate. So clearly the sisters Ann and Christiana and their families had remained in close touch.

Samuel Felsted died in 1802 and was buried at Kingston on the 29th of March. Margaret Mary his wife outlived him by many years and died on a visit to her daughter Christiana at Livorno in 1833 where she was buried in the Old English Cemetery[2]. Joseph Fry also died in Livorno in 1848.

The story of the descendants of Samuel Felsted illustrates very clearly the fate of families in the days before any kind of welfare state. Whereas the descendants of Ann Cooke Felsted and her sister Christiana remained firmly among  the middle-classes,  living in solid Victorian mansions and on annuities, the grandchildren of their brother John Lawrence Felsted descended into relative poverty.

All was not lost however and the rise of the Rodwell family during the first half of the twentieth century demonstrated what could be achieved through luck and hard work.

I am curious to know what the 21st century Fry, Dawson and Rodwell families would think of their famous musical ancestor who seems set to be reinstated in his proper place in Jamaican and musical history.

 

 



[1] http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Battle-for-an-old–historic-building_9870327

[2] http://leghornmerchants.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/jamaica/