Category Archives: London Life

Murder most foul

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The Old Bailey By Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes in family history research wandering down an unrelated byway reveals a story you could not have invented.

Reading the Lee letters [1] I wondered who was the school master at Chelsea who had married an heiress?   According to the letter written in November 1749  – Mr Rothery was marry’d last May to that Lady at Chelsea with 3 thousand pound fortune.

1749 11 20b Frances Lee to R C Lee

A little investigation through British History Online revealed that At Turret House, Paradise Row, the parish lecturer William Rothery taught boarders and day boys including the botanist Thomas Martyn (1735-1825), who attended for ten years and remembered him as an excellent master but one who had died in 1759 ‘lost in drink’ [2].  Indeed it is likely he is also the same William Rothery of Chelsea declared bankrupt in 1756[3].

Chelsea was then a pleasant village lying alongside the Thames away from the hurly burly and pollution of London.  The school was close to the Physic Garden which had been founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and also to the Chelsea Royal Hospital founded under Charles II for retired servicemen, the Chelsea Pensioners. Paradise Row is now known as Royal Hospital Road and Paradise Walk which in 1750 led directly down to the banks of the Thames, is now separated from it by the Victorian houses that front onto the Chelsea Embankment, but in 1749 much of the land next to the Thames was marshy and there were extensive osier beds at Chelsea.

William Rothery, baptised 18 February 1704 at St Martin in the Fields, London, and with an MA from St John’s College Cambridge, married Lydia Rooker in 1749.  If the letter is correct this was in May although a Vicar General Licence was issued on 07 Feb 1749. Guessing that if they had a daughter she might be named after her mother I quickly found little Lydia Rothery in IGI, baptised at St Luke’s Chelsea in December 1752, then her older brother George baptised in February 1750. Sadly little George died and was buried in St Luke’s on the 15th  of June 1752.

Further online searching of the National Archive website turned up a number of documents held at the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock relating to the Perrin family.  This included the Will of William Perrin of Vere in Jamaica which left William Rothery, his brother-in-law, a legacy of £500 and named him as residuary legatee in the event that Perrin’s wife and children died.  This would have made Rothery an extremely rich man as William Perrin was one of the wealthiest sugar planters in Jamaica.  The Will was proved in September 1759 which meant that the legacy to William arrived too late to save him from drink and bankruptcy since he had died in June of that year. However the Will suggested to me that Frances Perrin was probably Frances Rooker before her marriage and I found they had married at St Vedast Foster Lane in London on 22 July 1738 by Vicar General Licence dated the previous day.  Between 1740 and 1747 five children were born to them and baptised in Westminster, of whom only William Philp Perrin and Sarah survived to adulthood.

Also mentioned in Perrin’s Will was Benjamin Victor who it turns out is still well known in the history of theatre. Born about the beginning of the eighteenth century he married Mary, another of the Rooker sisters, on 3rd July 1722 at Charterhouse Chapel, Finsbury by Faculty Office licence issued on 13 June. He began life as a barber and linen draper, but the lure of the theatre proved strong and he moved to acting in and writing plays. In October 1746 he settled with his wife in Dublin as treasurer and deputy manager of the theatre in Smock Alley under Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788).  The theatre was moderately successful but closed in 1759 and Benjamin Victor returned to London alone, Mary having died two years earlier. He became Treasurer at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and published a history of the theatre in Dublin and London spanning over forty years that is still consulted by theatre historians today. He married again and died in Charles Street, Covent Garden, on 3 December 1778 and was buried in Bunhill Fields on the 6th.  Even today he rates a lengthy entry in the Dictionary of National Biography[4]. Boswell who met him at Thomas Sheridan’s on November 30, 1762, described him as an honest, indolent, conversable man [who] has a great many anecdotes.

Searching for further information about the Rooker sisters I discovered that Jane Rooker had married Mason Victor, Benjamin’s brother, on 11 April 1730 at St James’ Clerkenwell.  Mason Victor was a Cordwainer (a shoemaker and leather worker, probably employing a number of  men) who died twenty-five years later apparently childless. It seems he disapproved of his siblings since in his Will proved on 26 May 1755 he left only a shilling to his brother Benjamin, a shilling to his sister Elizabeth and everything else to his wife Jane.  He was probably buried in Bunhill Fields although the Victor buried at that date is not given a first name.  Jane Rooker may have carried on his business  in Holborn since when she died in 1787 she left small legacies to two journeymen shoemakers[5]. She too was buried at Bunhill fields.

By 1759 all three surviving Rooker sisters were widows and appear to have been living most of their time in London, although Frances retained interests in Derbyshire, and of course in Jamaica as absentee involved in the management of the plantation on behalf of her son.

Enter their brother Richard involved, as a witness, in one of the most horrific murders of the day. Richard had been apprenticed to their father, a noted clockmaker of the same name, and had the Freedom of the City of London in the Clockmakers Company, but the trade had evidently not suited him for by 1759 he was keeping a Grocery business in Water Lane, High Holborn and renting a room in the house of Sarah Metyard.

Sarah Metyard kept a Haberdasher’s shop in Bruton Street, and with her daughter Sarah Morgan Metyard supervised a group of parish apprentices who knitted mittens and purses for sale.  These children were bound to a mistress for seven years by their parish to avoid them being a charge on the poor rate, to give them a useful trade and keep them out of the workhouse. When it worked well it was a system that had merits.

Among the apprentices at Bruton Street were two young sisters Ann and Mary Nailor sent there from the parish of Tottenham High Cross north of London.  Ann was slow at her work and seems to have been picked on from the outset for particularly harsh treatment.  Given less of the meagre food available than the other girls she was regularly beaten, by both Metyard women, with broom handles, shoes and a walking stick.  When she developed a whitlow on her finger Mrs Metyard took her to have it amputated.  As conditions worsened about late September 1758 little Ann tried to run away, but bumped into the milkman Jeremy Brown who brought her back. At the later trial he said She desired and pressed upon me that I would let her go, and said she should be starved if she staid there. I said, my dear, you will not be starved. She said, pray, milkman, let me go, for I have had no victuals for so long a time (the time I cannot recollect). The daughter and the mother came running down stairs, and desired I would stop her.[6]

The attempted escape led to a severe beating administered by both Metyard women and Ann was then taken upstairs and fastened with a string around her waist and her hands tied behind her back so she could neither sit nor lie down. For three days she was kept without food, only untied at night to go to bed (and once when her sister cut the string, earning a beating for it). At the end of this the other apprentices saw that Ann hung limp from the string that tied her. Sarah Morgan Metyard came and hit her with a shoe, but when she still did not move the mother called for ‘drops’ (probably sal volatile, spirits of ammonia, used to treat fainting) and the dead child was taken upstairs to the garret.

The Metyards then contrived to make it look as if Ann had run away, and after keeping the body hidden in the garret for two months until the smell became impossible, Mrs Metyard cut it up and wrapping the parts in ‘bed furniture’ took them at night to the Chick Lane Gully hole. She had to make two trips from Bruton Street, a distance of over a mile. The other apprentices had no doubt Ann was dead as she had left behind all her four small shifts and her shoes, but they did not dare to say anything. The Watchmen who found and reassembled the body parts and arranged burial had no way of knowing who it was.

Life went on as usual at Bruton Street until about two years later when Richard Rooker came as a lodger.  He was so upset at the treatment he saw meted out to the girls that he soon moved out to Upper Hill Street, and feeling sorry for her persuaded Sarah Morgan Metyard to come away as his servant.  Later he inherited a house at Ealing (probably on the death of his father) and retired there taking young Sarah with him.  They were pursued there by Sarah’s mother screeching abuse, threatening her daughter and generally making life impossible until one day Rooker and his gardener heard screaming and found the mother, who had just dropped the knife she had been holding to her daughter’s throat.

Curious about the references he had overheard Sarah make to the Chick Lane ghost and the gully hole, Rooker questioned  his servant and the whole story came out. Believing Sarah to have been bullied into it by her mother, and wanting to deal with her once and for all, he wrote to the Magistrates at Tottenham, where Ann Nailor had come from, and in due course the mother was arrested.  Her apprentices were sent to the Workhouse and some days later Sarah Morgan Metyard was also taken into custody. The full account of the trial and the additional information to be gleaned from the evidence of the Ordinary (Chaplain) at Newgate can be read at www.oldbaileyonline.org  and in the Annual Register for 1762 (p.132 ff.). Included in the indictment was the charge of also murdering Ann Nailor’s sister Mary aged about eight.

Despite support for the daughter from character witnesses, both were condemned to hang at Tyburn on 19th July 1762.  Gruesomely the mother became insensible and suffered fits on the night before the execution but nevertheless was taken to the gallows and hanged in that state. The daughter attempted to ‘plead her belly’, having been told this would earn her a reprieve, but was examined by a group of ‘matrons’ appointed for the task and found not to be pregnant. She later denied that she had ever had ‘criminal conversation’ with any man although it was widely assumed at the time that she was Richard Rooker’s mistress.

Richard Rooker died in 1763 leaving his estate[7] to his sisters and to the twin children of widowed Anne Thompson, who I initially assumed was another Rooker sister .  And there the story might have ended, until in the National Archives I came across a request made in May 1774 for letters of administration from the three Rooker sisters.

Letters of Admin Rooker T 1_508_001

In 1772, with their fellow executor Charles Blackwell, they had obtained control of the East India Bonds that had been left to the twins Ann Elrington Thompson and James Elrington Thompson, born on the 18th May 1759, who were now dead. By May 1774 Blackwell, a Holborn druggist, had gone bankrupt and was no longer a fit person to administer the bonds. The petition requested control be given to the Rooker sisters. It also revealed that the twins were Bastards of Rd. Rooker deceased. In a further twist, I noticed that there was an Ann Thompson who gave evidence at the trial in favour of Sarah Morgan Metyard – was she the same Ann Thompson who was the mother of Richard Rooker’s twins?

And Richard himself?  Berrow’s Worcester Journal  for Thursday, February 10th, 1763 reported that  On Thursday Mr. Rooker was found dead in a Lane near his House at Ealing, dismembered, and his Throat cut in a shocking Manner. This unfortunate Man formerly kept a Grocer’s Shop at the Corner of Water Lane, Fleet Street; and he appeared as an Evidence on the Trial of Sarah Morgan Metyard, who was executed with her Mother, for the barbarous Murder of an Apprentice Girl some Time ago.[8]

At the inquest the following day it was revealed that Richard Rooker had not been himself for some time.

On Friday last the Coroner’s Inquest sat on the Body of Mr. Rooker, who was found dead by the Side of a Ditch the preceding Day on Ealing Common, and brought in their Verdict Lunacy; it appeared on Examination, that he had been disordered in his Mind for some Time past, and once attempted to cut the Jack-Line, that the Weight might fall upon his Head; the Morning of the Day when he murdered himself, he went to his Washer Woman for some clean Linnen, and told her it was the last Time she would wash for him; and then getting himself shaved, told the Barber it would be the last Time; he first dismembered himself, and then cut his Throat, but had not Strength enough to cut the Wind Pipe, however the great Effusion of Blood put an End to his Life.

How much his state of mind had been affected by the Metyard case we will never know.

Frances Rooker’s son William Philp Perrin died in 1820 without having married or ever visited the Jamaican estates on which his huge fortune was based. After the death of their mother the whole residue of the estate went to his sister Sarah who had married Sir William Fitzherbert of Tissington in 1777. Tissington Hall is still lived in today by the Fitzherbert family.

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Tissington Hall By Joe Empson (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Both Lydia and Jane Rooker left their estates to their niece Lydia Rothery, and she also inherited £2,500 from her cousin William Philp Perrin in 1820.  In 1787 Lydia married Thomas Bunnett and in 1842 Thomas Bunnett of Hanworth, mentions in his Will a bureau and bookcase that had belonged to the late Mr Perrin.

And in answer to the question I started with – how did Lydia Rooker come to have a fortune of three thousand pounds? Almost certainly it was her inheritance from her father Richard Rooker the clockmaker, but until I can find details of his death and his Will this must remain a supposition.

 


[1] Now published as A Parcel of Ribbons, Anne M Powers, 2012

[2] ‘Social history: Education: private schools’, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 12: Chelsea (2004), pp. 190-195.  http://www.british-history.ac.uk

[3] dealer in books book/paper/printing trades(s) Gentleman’s Magazine, March, 1756.

[4] W. P. Courtney, ‘Victor, Benjamin (d. 1778)’, rev. David Goldthorpe, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28271

[5] PCC Prob 11/1156

[7] Will proved 8 Feb 1763,  PCC Prob 11/884.

[8] http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~dutillieul/ZOtherPapers/NewBWJ10Feb1763.html

Street Cries Ancient and Modern

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Paul Sandby (1730 or 1731-1809) Title page of Twelve London Cries (via Wikimedia Commons)

An unlikely internet sensation of 2012 was the success of Mohammed Shahid Nazir a seller of fish in Queens market, Upton Park in East London. Having been told after his first day on the fish stall that he was not shouting loudly enough, he developed his own sing-song street cry:

Come on ladies, come on ladies
One pound fish, one pound fish
Have-a, have-a look
One pound fish
Very, very good, very, very cheap
One pound fish
Six for five pound one pound each

Passers by filmed him on their mobile phones and his song went viral, resulting in the TV appearances and a recording contract.

Whether Mohammed was aware of it or not, he was part of a long tradition of London Street sellers, whose distinctive cries were developed for exactly the same reason – to make themselves heard above the din of London’s streets.

We think of pre-industrial streets as being quieter that modern traffic noise, however imagine for a moment the area around London’s main meat market at West Smithfield.

London’s food arrived on the hoof.  Cattle, pigs, sheep and flocks of geese were driven in from as far afield as Wales and East Anglia along the drove roads.  If they arrived from the west they came in along Oxford Street, from Kent they passed over London Bridge and through the City itself.  The area around Smithfield would have been constantly noisy with the bellowing of cattle, the squeals of pigs, the shouts of traders and the sounds of slaughter. Iron shod cart wheels rumbled over uneven cobbled streets and the clatter of horses hooves added to the din. Anyone trying to sell something to make a living had to have some way of standing out from the background noise, and anyone who regularly plied the same streets would want to be recognised as the person you usually dealt with – thus personalised cries would evolve, such as the woman selling fish who cried Rare Mackerel, three a groat or four for sixpence. Incidentally mackerel were far from rare – her cry meant that they were of rare (excellent) quality.

In 2011 the Museum of London ran an exhibition on Images of London’s poor from the 17th to the 19th century and many of the prints displayed can be viewed on line. You can even purchase copies. The eighteenth century was a great age for prints with a huge expansion in their production and the market for them. They could be purchased plain or, for extra cost, hand coloured. Some were relatively literal renderings, others such as those of Hogarth and Rowlandson closer to caricatures.

In the case of street vendors the picture was often accompanied by a caption of the street cry, or perhaps a rhyme such as Old chairs to mend! Old chairs to mend! If I had the money that I could spend, I never would cry Old chairs to mend!

Sometimes a vendor sold more than one kind of item, and the well-dressed young lady who cried Will your honour buy a sweet nosegay or a memorandum book may have plied a different trade for her male customers. Street selling could provide a convenient cover and advertisement for prostitution.

The street cries provide a snapshot of what the eighteenth century housewife might need to buy Do you want any spoons, any hard-mettle spoons; All a growing, a growing, heres Flowers for your Gardens; Buy a trap, a rat-trap, buy my trap and curiously there is an image of a man scooping ‘brick dust’ into a large bowl for a young servant girl, probably for use as an abrasive cleaner cheaper than the silver sand used in some households.

A more romantic view of London street selling was provided in the musical Oliver with the song Who Will Buy? and interest in the nineteenth century was such that books were produced collecting the cries together. You can find reference to several of them here.

I’m not aware of any equivalent collections of Jamaica street cries, but I suspect that just as street markets and street sellers have existed ever since people came together in towns and cities, so Jamaicans must have had, and perhaps still have their own street cries. I’d love to know.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puritans and Planters – the Halhed family

 
 
The Cloisters at Westminster Abbey
from http://home2.btconnect.com/Crusader-Product/Westminster-Abbey.html

 

I encountered the name Halhed recently while reading about the early British Colony which settled at Providence Island, just over 100 miles off the coast of modern Nicaragua, and I remembered I had seen the name before in a Jamaican context.

Richard Halhed came from a distinguished Banbury family and indeed was apparently the last to be born in Banbury. His distant great-uncle Henry Halhed had joined a contingent of pioneers, the Providence Island Company, recruited by Lord Saye and Sele[1]. They intended to establish a colony according to puritan principles, and although Henry Halhed was already in his mid-50s he sailed with his wife Elizabeth and three of his youngest children – Patience, Grace and Samuel – in 1632.

Henry Halhed had been hit by the combined effects of a depression in the textile industry and a disastrous fire in Banbury in 1628. The colony was not a success and Halhed and three others were deported back to England on the Hopewell arriving in Bristol in early 1641. All four men were released and held to be guiltless of the charges against them, but this seems to have ended Halhed’s connection with the island, which was subsequently taken by the Spanish who deported all the English colonists.

Richard Halhed’s connection with Jamaica was very much more successful. He was born posthumously in 1685, probably apprenticed in London in 1700, and then went out to Jamaica as a planter establishing an estate called Banbury. Like many other single white colonists he fathered a number of illegitimate children of whom Richard baptised in December 1724 seems to have died young.

In 1746 Grace Hazel and her children Robert, Elizabeth, and Susannah Halhed were all granted the rights of whites by the Jamaican Assembly. The children were described as free mulattos, as was Grace Hazel, who was probably Richard’s ‘housekeeper’. Robert Halhed, later described as a surgeon of St Thomas in the Vale,  subsequently applied to the Jamaican assembly in 1752 and was granted “the same rights, liberties, franchises, and immunities as His Majesty’s liege people do now hold and enjoy”. Legally he had become white.

It appears that Richard also had a daughter called Leah, who is mentioned in Robert’s Will as his half sister, who had married Thomas Leadbeater. There is a marriage for Thomas Leadbeater and Leah Phipps on the 24th of December  1738 in the parish of St Catherine, Jamaica. It seems possible however that Leah was already a widow, since the parish register record for the baptism of Elizabeth and Susannah Halhed was written on a scrap of paper, pinned to the main register, on which were also baptism records for Leah and Rachell Ydana on the same date. The Jewish Ydana family had patented land in Jamaica from the latter part of the 17th-century. It may be that the mother of Leah and Rachell (who were older than Richard’s other children) was connected with the Ydana family. There is no indication of Leah having been granted the rights of whites so she may not have been of mixed race.

Leah’s marriage to Thomas Leadbeater, a planter in St Thomas in the East, seems to have been a good one, and the baptisms of several of their five surviving children were sponsored by prominent citizens including Jacob and Sarah Neufville. It is likely that by time of the birth of the last of these children, Sarah in 1755, Robert Halhed had already left for England – a Robt Halhed was paying land tax in the parish of St Sepulchre in 1750. His father Richard died in Jamaica in July 1755 aged seventy, a very good age for a Jamaican colonist, and he was buried in Spanish Town on the 13th of July 1755.

Richard Halhed provided generously for his children. Although I have not found his Will, his son Robert’s Will (proved in 1778) indicates not only that he was wealthy but also that provision had been made by their father for the care of his unmarried daughter Susannah. Elizabeth, who at the time of the granting of the rights of whites was already married to Thomas Peirce of London, had probably died relatively young and without leaving children. Thomas Peirce married again and there is a record of a Chancery dispute involving the Halhed and Peirce families, held at the National Archives at Kew of which I hope to get a copy shortly.

Robert seems to have settled into English society with no difficulty in spite of his mixed race. He married a wife called Elizabeth, probably in England although I have not found a record for the marriage, and had one child Robert Spencer Halhed living at the time of his death. Very sadly Robert Spencer Halhed died just over a month after his father at the age of thirteen. Elizabeth outlived her husband by more than forty years, dying in 1829.

In England Robert prospered as a merchant and was close to his father’s first cousin William (1723-86)[2] who was much the same age as he was, and who became a Director of the Bank of England. Both Robert and William are recorded as merchants at 1 Bank Street, London which implies a partnership.

Robert’s successful career and marriage, and his sister Elizabeth’s marriage to Thomas Peirce are yet another example of the integration of mixed race Jamaican children into mainstream society. For Robert and his family this was crowned by their burial in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

When Elizabeth Halhed died at the age of ninety-two in October 1829 she requested burial with her husband and son and that the stone marking the spot should be recut. Her wishes very nearly failed to be carried out when a bizarre accident overtook the Will.

William Halhed had three sons, all of whom were in their seventies by the time Elizabeth died. The eldest Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, still remembered as a linguist and compiler of one of the first Bengali grammars, was according to Elizabeth incapable by then of managing his own affairs. Robert William and John were nominated as executors and when  John heard that Elizabeth was dying he travelled down to Tunbridge Wells, writing a letter to warn his brother that Elizabeth had not long to live. The following day, after her death, her companion Frances Bonnet produced a tin box with the Will and John wrote a letter to Nathaniel’s wife Luiza, detailing the legacies and asking her to forward it to Robert in London.

When John and Frances Bonnet arrived in London, Robert had not yet received the second letter although he had the first. So that evening the two brothers sat down to make a new list of the legacies, with Robert writing on the second page torn from the letter John had written to him. It was an October evening and as John read the Will by candle light he held it too close to the flame and the Will caught fire. Although the fire was quickly extinguished some portions of the will had been lost. However, because John had written to Luiza, and because he and Robert had been producing an abstract of the Will it was possible to correlate the various documents to produce evidence of Elizabeth’s intentions.

With the agreement of the legatees whose legacies had been obliterated, Robert William and John swore an affidavit which enabled probate to be granted on the 15th of October 1829. It was one of the last acts of John Halhed who was buried on the 4th of December 1829. He was survived by eleven of his eighteen children.

You can read a transcript of Elizabeth’s Will here, and also a transcript of the Will of Robert Halhed. As Elizabeth’s Will makes no mention of Jamaica and her legacies are mostly in 3 per cent consols (safe bank investments) it is to be assumed that at some time after her husband Robert’s death she sold the property and invested the proceeds to provide a regular income. As the great days of sugar were largely over, this was a sensible move freeing her from the worries of an absentee landlord. That she was still a wealthy woman, despite her investments having to support her into great old age, is an indication of the wealth accumulated by Richard Halhed in Jamaica and consolidated by Robert in London.

 

 



[1] Providence Island 1630-1641, Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

[2] Much information about the Halhed family may be found at www.halhed.com

 

A White Beaver Hat

A Beaver Hat perhaps similar to the one sent to Mary Rose, although apparently dating to about 1830. Source: http://extantgowns.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/beaver-hat.html

Rose Fuller left Jamaica in 1755, after two decades running the Fuller and Isted interests, in order to return to Sussex to manage the family estates he had inherited on the death of his older brother.

He left behind his housekeeper and long time companion Mary Rose who would now keep an eye on his properties in Spanish Town and at Grange Penn. It is clear from her letters that she missed him. Although we do not have his replies to her letters the fact that several of her letters to him are preserved among his papers at the East Sussex County Record Office suggests the affection was mutual.

One of those letters contained a shopping list which included a request for a white beaver hat. Beaver hats had been fashionable in Europe since the sixteenth century. The barbs on beaver fur make it particularly suitable for felting and the inner fur is very soft. Later on a new process for preparing the skins would be developed using mercury salts, which combined with the steam used in shaping the hats produced highly toxic fumes. Mercury poisoning can result in madness and this is thought to be the origin of the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’.

By the eighteenth century the European beaver was being hunted so extensively that numbers were dramatically reduced. However the development of the North American fur trade meant that the beaver hat still had a future. From the late seventeenth century the Hudsons Bay Company was sending back regular shipments of furs to Europe. One beaver pelt could be traded for an iron axe head and the pelt would in turn be worth a dozen such axes. The benefit was not all one way however, since the increased efficiency of an iron axe over a stone one and the time saved in making the stone axe head benefited the native Americans and Canadians who trapped the beaver.

As you would expect for a fashion that has lasted for over four hundred years, beaver hats came in all shapes and sizes, from the large, dashing Cavalier hats of the court of Charles I, to tricorns and military hats, stetsons, top hats and trapper style hats with ear flaps.

I have only come across a couple of historical references to white beaver hats – one in Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and another a reference to one worn by American President John Adams. Clearly white beaver hats must have been much more expensive than black or brown, and much harder to keep clean. Whether there was a particular fashion for them in Jamaica in the mid-eighteenth century I do not know, but what is certain is that it would have been an expensive luxury item. I do hope Rose Fuller sent the hat and that Mary Rose enjoyed the wearing of it.

You can read more about the history of the beaver hat in a project by Kelly Feinstein-Johnson here.

 

Probate Inventories and a Coat of Arms

The Arms of William Jaques

Probate inventories can be a surprisingly illuminating aid in your family history search.

They were compiled after a person’s death in order to value the estate. This was especially important if there were unpaid debts or monies owed to the deceased. More modern probate records for England and Wales can be found on Ancestry which has the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) for 1858-1966, and this will tell you the value of an estate at death and will usually give you the address of the deceased, date of death and to whom probate was granted. This latter is more helpful when probate is granted to a relation than if it is granted to a firm of solicitors.

Ancestry also carries a number of other probate indexes and digital images of some Wills. For Scotland a free search for Wills can be done on Scotland’s People although they charge for downloading images of the documents. It is not often these days that prices are reduced, but I have noticed a small recent price reduction for downloading the .pdf file of Wills from the UK National Archives. They also hold some probate inventories and you can make a document request to get a copy of these.

Earlier inventories were often made on long narrow strips of parchment which were then stored rolled up. I have transcribed two of these from my own family – for Richard Graybee and William Jaques. Richard Graybee was my eight  times great grandfather twice over, since his daughter Mary married Joseph Lee and her sister Sarah married master watch-case maker William Jaques. Their children Joseph Lee and Frances Jaques were my six times great grandparents.

The first  inventory I  investigated was for William Jaques. He died intestate in January 1719/20, and as he was a Citizen of London and a member of the Clockmakers Company, and several of his children were still under age, his case was dealt with by the Court of  Orphans of the City of London. They appointed  Thomas Powle and Solomon Bonquet to evaluate  ‘all & singular the Goods Chattels Rights and Creditts late belonging to and appertaining unto William Jaques of the Parish of St Sepulchre late Citizen and Clockmaker of London deceased’. The parchment roll showing the results of their labours is in the London Metropolitan Archives.

Thomas and Solomon had gone systematically through the house in Angel Court listing the contents. These included household furniture and items such as feather beds, chairs, tables, dressing glasses, pots and pans, tongs and shovels, 120 pounds weight of pewter items, 170 oz of plate (presumably silver and gold)  and household linen consisting of

16 pair sheets 12 pair of pillocases & 3 damask table cloths & 23 napkins diaper table cloths 40 diaper and Huccaback napkins 3 kitchen table cloths 3 jack towels & 3 doz of hand towels (worth £12 2 shillings).

In addition to all the household items which were listed by room, thus telling us how big the house was, there were all the materials of William’s trade as a master silversmith. This included gold worth £263 and 25 oz of new sterling silver. The presence of bedding in the ‘Shopp’ alongside the tools suggests that an apprentice probably slept there, providing security.

Even the clothes of the dead person were assessed and in William’s case this raised an intriguing possibility.

Apparell

4 Intestate wearing apparel linen and woollen Books & arms & a silver watch £15

This website and the book A Parcel of Ribbons had their origins in my search for the truth behind the story of an Indian Princess which had come down through the family, together with various papers from my great-aunt Alice. She had left a painting of a coat of arms to a cousin of my mother who supplied me with the image above. It seems highly likely that it was this painting that was referred to as ‘arms’ in the inventory. It was also this painting that confirmed for me the link between the Jaques and Graybee families.

William had also owned bonds in the ill-fated South Sea Company, which the executors were able to sell just before the Bubble burst, and the inventory also shows a lengthy list of persons owing money to William, many of whom were clockmakers thus providing further historical information to those interested in eighteenth century clockmaking.

Among the debts owed by William at his death was 10s 6d to the Nurse, so we can infer that he had been ill for a while, if not sufficiently ill to feel the need to make his Will or possibly too ill to be able to do so. His funeral expenses came to £167 16s 6 ½d  which must have produced quite a lavish funeral being equivalent to about £19,600 in modern retail prices.

A generation earlier William’s father-in-law Richard Graybee left a probate inventory which tells us about the contents of his house in Little Old Bailey and about the probable occupation of one of his sons. Although Richard himself was a cooper, there were materials in the cellar of his house suggesting someone involved in the dyeing trade. This ties in with baptism records for the children of a John Graybee who was a silk dyer living close by, almost certainly Richard’s eldest son. Unfortunately the records of the Dyers Company were lost in the Great Fire of 1666 so confirmation is lacking.

One interesting feature of the way the inventories are written is that they refer not to rooms on the first or second floor of the house, but to ‘one pair of stairs’ or ‘two pair of stairs’ as well as garrets, kitchens and cellars. Decoding the values of the goods recorded can be tricky as earlier documents may use Roman numerals for money values rather than arabic, and of course the amounts are in pounds shillings and pence, possibly including halfpennies or farthings.

I have not yet examined any Jamaican inventories, although I hope to do so in future. For anyone interested in Jamaican inventories, you may like to look at that for the estate of Henry Morgan for which Dianne Frankson has made a transcription part of which can be viewed here. One interesting feature of this is the mention of a ‘musketto nett’ which was the first time I had realised that mosquito nets were in use from the earliest times.

When a probate inventory exists it puts flesh on the bones of a person’s Will and gives us a peep into the contents of their home and the way that they lived. It also gives us an idea of the value of the estate left behind and the relative wealth of an ancestor before the formal establishment of the Probate Registry.

 

First Catch Your Hare

The title page from the facsimile first edition, Prospect Books 2012[1]

‘First Catch Your Hare’ is one of those apocryphal quotations that was in fact never written, in spite of being repeatedly attributed to Hannah Glasse.

Hannah Glasse was the author of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy first published in 1747, and although she is less well remembered than Isabella Beaton she pioneered the method of writing recipes in a systematic fashion that could be understood by anyone who could read.

That her book sold so well gives the lie to the notion that all but the richest eighteenth century women were illiterate. In fact she was at the leading edge of the rise of the self-help book, something which would really take off in the following century with the introduction of steam-powered printing.

Hannah was the illegitimate daughter of Isaac Allgood (of Brandon White House and Nunwick, Northumberland) and Mrs Hannah Reynolds. Her parents’ relationship ended after the birth of three children. Perhaps surprisingly Hannah then lived, not with her mother, whom she called a ‘wicked wretch’, but with her father and his wife, and she grew up close to her legitimate half-brother Lancelot Allgood.

In 1724 her stepmother died suddenly and her father was in very poor health so she moved in with her grandmother Ryecroft in Greville Street, Hatton Garden. It was from here that she left in secret, aged just sixteen, to marry John Glasse at Leyton in Essex on the 5th of August 1724. A month later when her grandmother found out and threw her out, she and John Glasse moved to rooms above a chemist’s shop in the Haymarket.

Over the next fifteen years Hannah bore eleven live children and suffered at least one miscarriage of twins. She corresponded with members of her father’s family in Northumberland and those letters provide most of the evidence for her life with John Glasse, who seems to have been largely without visible means of support and who died in 1747.

By this time Hannah had already indulged in several money-making ventures including selling Daffy’s Elixir, writing her cookery book, and setting up a ‘habit warehouse’, a high class clothes shop in Tavistock Street. Quite how she managed it is unclear but among her clients were royalty, including the Prince and Princess of Wales. It was perhaps her bad luck that ‘poor Fred’ the Prince of Wales died suddenly, and possibly poor management or the unpaid bills of the aristocracy that led to Hannah’s bankruptcy in 1755. This resulted in the sale of the copyright of her book The Art of Cookery, in a story sadly very similar to the sale of the copyright in Mrs Beaton’s books a century or so later.

Hannah went on to write The Compleat Confectioner and the Servant’s Directory but neither had the success of her first book.

As with Isabella Beaton, Hannah Glasse did not invent her recipes, rather she plundered a variety of sources. It seems likely that although she had not had to earn her living as a cook and came from the gentry classes, that she actually enjoyed cooking. Although she took her recipes from other sources the main change she made was to provide precise measurements of quantities where none were given in the originals. She also gave very clear instructions and simplified much of the language that had been used in earlier recipes, for example changing ‘two right oranges’ to ‘two large oranges’, and instead of ‘lard them with small Lardoons’ she has ‘lard them with little bits of Bacon’. Where Hannah was not so systematic is in her arrangement of the recipes, there was no index in the first edition, nor are all recipes for similar ingredients grouped together.

One fascinating aspect of her work is that it makes clear to us that many 18th century ingredients were a little different from now, for example eggs were generally much smaller, so if instructed to take a piece of dough the size of a hen’s egg it is well to remember this. Poultry too were smaller, but teaspoons appear to have been larger and she is probably referring to the caddy spoon used for measuring out tea rather than the smaller spoon for stirring a cup of tea. The Prospect Books facsimile of her book includes not only background to her family, but also detailed discussion of her sources, ingredients and methods of cooking.

Here is a sample recipe chosen at random. I hope to post some more in future. It should be remembered that oysters in 18th century London were still commonplace and cheap. Whether the paper used over the breast was used dry or wet I am not sure.

To marinate Fowls

Take a fine large Fowl or Turky, raise the Skin from the Breast Bone with your Finger, then take a Veal Sweetbread and cut it small, a few Oysters, a few Mushrooms, an Anchovy, some Pepper, a little Nutmeg, some Lemon-peel, and a little Thyme; chop all together small and mix with the Yolk of an Egg, stuff it between the Skin and the Flesh, but take great Care you don’t break the Skin, and then stuff what Oysters you please into the Body of the Fowl. You may lard the Breast of the Fowl with Bacon, if you chuse it. Paper the Breast, and roast it. Make good Gravy, and garnish with Lemon. You may add a few Mushrooms to the Sauce.

And if it seems as if Hannah Glasse’s story has an exclusively London bias, there is a curious postscript. For a document preserved at Nunwick Hall lists some of her surviving children, as of about 1767. Hannah the eldest was alive and unmarried, Catherine was twice widowed and had one son then living, Isaac Allgood Glasse was in Bombay, George who had joined the Royal Navy was lost at sea in 1761, and Margaret (chief partner in the habit making business) had died unmarried in Jamaica.

This raises intriguing questions about why she was there. Clearly a good living could be made in London if her mother’s client list were exploited, so had she gone to Jamaica alone or with a brother? I have not been able to find a burial record for her, nor any other trace of the Glasse family, except perhaps an Edward Glasse who was in Port Royal, and who buried a daughter called Margaret there in 1741. Was he perhaps an uncle?



[1] 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.