Tag Archives: Halse Hall

Skeletons in the cupboard

 

This week I have been pondering the issue of skeletons in the family cupboard and our attitudes towards them.

I had been exploring the history of West Horsley Place in Surrey, recently in the news when it was inherited by Bamber Gascoigne but which belonged to my maternal grandfather’s family for over a century and a half until it was sold to Lord Crewe in 1921.

West Horsley Place resized 450

West Horsley Place c.1840

In the process I came across my mother’s great uncle and his wife Daisy Oliphant who lived at West Horsley at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Curious about her, and thankful her name was relatively unusual, I tracked her back only to discover that her father, who was a journalist and foreign editor of the Morning Chronicle, appeared to have left his wife and first family to live with a young Scottish actress who in turn had left her husband. Now they would simply have divorced their first spouses and remarried, but divorce was expensive and socially frowned upon, and simply living as if married was cheaper and more convenient. The arrangement cannot have been too acrimonious since some of the first family turn up as witnesses to the weddings of the second.

In the records of Wills, and sometimes on death records, you may find a clue to such an arrangement where the person in question is shown with two surnames, for example in this case ‘Catherine Bland or Oliphant’. Her maiden name of MacNab was discovered because when she moved south to live with William Oliphant her mother came too and was present in a census record!

Sometimes the use of two surnames on a record may indicate that the person was illegitimate and the record is giving the surname both of the birth mother and the acknowledged father. But be careful about making such assumptions without further evidence. Particularly in more recent records the use of two surnames for a woman may simply indicate that a previous husband had died.

I enjoy uncovering these little histories in my family, but I am conscious that not everyone is pleased to find out that an ancestor was illegitimate, or left his wife, went bankrupt or worse still engaged in criminal activity. Therefore when I am asked to help find out about someone else’s family history it does occasionally present an ethical dilemma.

If someone contacts me because they are searching for a long lost living relative, and I happen to discover who that person is what should I do with that information? Does the other party want to discover they have an unknown sibling? In that particular case I was saved having to make the decision as the people in question found each other by another route.

Most people now seem to be relatively comfortable with the notion that an ancestor was illegitimate, or fell upon hard times and entered the workhouse, or was unfortunate enough to become mentally ill and was consigned to an asylum. Distance lends a certain objectivity and we no longer regard birth out of wedlock or mental illness as the stigmas they once were.

Even in the nineteenth century illegitimacy was sometimes glossed over. I recently had a conversation on the Facebook group Jamaica Colonial Heritage Society about the family of the distinguished geologist Sir Henry De La Beche whose father and uncle had changed the family name from Beach in 1790 in what may well have been a spurious attempt to claim Norman inheritance.

Halse Hall Great House

Halse Hall Great House today

Thomas Beach from Wiltshire married Helen Hynes in Jamaica in 1755 and hence acquired the Halse Hall plantations via her mother Jennet Guthrie’s first marriage to Francis Sadler.  Thomas and Helen had at least four children – Thomas, Jannet, John Hynes and Rose Sadler of whom only Thomas and John survived to change their surname.

Unless Sir Henry’s father Thomas De La Beche was married twice (which is of course possible) it appears that Sir Henry was probably illegitimate and his parents married only about a year after his birth. Thomas De La Beche had a minor career in the army until he inherited the Jamaican plantations and he died in Jamaica in the summer of 1801. His widow then took five year-old Henry back to England, surviving shipwreck on the way.

When Henry grew up he married Letitia Smith and they had one daughter, Elizabeth, named presumably after his mother. The marriage was not a success and while Henry was on a geological trip abroad his wife had an affair with Henry Wyndham, son of the Earl of Egremont, and they separated, the separation being made legal in 1828.

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Sir Henry De La Beche (The National Museum of Wales / Amgueddfa Cymru)

It must have been evident to most people that Sir Henry’s daughter Rosalie who was born in 1834 was not his wife’s child. However when Rosalie died young, not long after her father, the press notice referred to her as his youngest daughter. She had lived in his household for a number of years and was on perfectly friendly terms with her married half-sister Elizabeth. Her probate record refers to her as Rosalie Torre Gay or De La Beche so it is reasonable to suppose that her mother’s surname was Gay, but I have not found a baptism record, and her birth occurred before civil registration.

It is unlikely, I hope, that any modern descendant of the De La Beche family will be offended by these discoveries, however in the context of the joint histories of Jamaica and Great Britain a difficult issue can arise. Some people are absolutely delighted to discover they have mixed ancestry but I know of at least one case of someone who when presented with irrefutable evidence of black Jamaican inheritance absolutely denied its truth.

It became clear to me as I gradually became acquainted with the history of 18th-century Jamaica and the way in which the mixed race descendants of the Plantocracy were often absorbed into mainstream British society, that sometimes these origins were consciously obscured and sometimes they were simply forgotten.

For myself I think that family skeletons should be brought out of the closet and re-clothed in the stories of their lives. It is a way of honouring those who went before and reclaiming them from the dust of history.

 

 

The Maroon War settlement of 1739

Cudjoe and Colonel Guthrie under Cudjoe’s cotton tree

The escaped slaves of Jamaica had one big advantage over slaves in many other places, that the geography of the island provided them with areas where they could hide and live with much less fear of discovery.  The original Maroons were freed or runaway Spanish slaves, whose name is thought to come from the Spanish word cimarrón, meaning wild or untamed.  Over time two main areas of Maroon settlement developed, the Trelawney Maroons lived in an area around Maroon Town and Accompong in the Cockpit country, and the Windward Maroons lived on the northern slopes of the Blue Mountains.

The territory occupied by the Maroons was ideally suited to guerrilla warfare, although that name for the technique would not be used until the time of the Peninsular War at the end of the 18th century.  Led by an extremely able commander called Cudjoe, with his brothers Accompong and Johnny in the West, and sub-chiefs Quao and Cuffee in the East, the Maroons avoided open fights preferring ambush.  Camouflaged from head to foot in leaves, surprise and their accurate shooting often brought them quick victory after which they would melt back into the woods to prepare another attack.

Various armed attempts to subdue them were made by British troops and in 1734 a Captain Stoddart led a party that attacked and destroyed Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains.  The town was never resettled and even now is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of those who died.  Nanny the Maroon chieftainess after whom the place was named is now a National Hero of Jamaica.  Although the Maroons had suffered severely under this attack many escaped, some to build a new village further inland and others removed to the Cockpit area of Trelawney.

Maroon raids increased and so did the fear of the colonists that they would encourage a mass uprising of slaves on the plantations, where they now outnumbered white settlers by about 14 to 1.  The Jamaican Assembly voted money for a large-scale campaign and the Maroons found themselves in a desperate situation, however the government did not realise this and, eager to end the fighting, they sent Colonel James Guthrie with a detachment of militia, and Lieutenant Francis Sadler with a party of soldiers, to seek out Cudjoe and offer him favourable terms for a peace.`

The negotiators exchanged hats as a sign of friendship, as depicted above, and the treaty was agreed on 1 March 1739 beneath a large cotton tree, afterwards known as Cudjoe’s Tree.  Under the settlement Cudjoe and his followers were all to be free, and any slaves who had joined them were given the choice of remaining with the Maroons or returning to their masters.  It would be interesting to know if any did, somehow I doubt it!  A land grant was made to the Maroons of 1500 acres in Trelawney, where they would have hunting rights and it was agreed “That they shall have liberty to plant the said lands with coffee, cocoa, ginger, tobacco, and cotton, and to breed cattle, hogs, goats, or any other flock, and dispose of the produce or increase of the said commodities to the inhabitants of this island”.

In addition Cudjoe and his followers were to assist the British in pursuing any remaining rebels and in the case of foreign invasion they would assist the British against the invader and in return would receive their protection.  The Maroons agreed not to harbour runaway slaves but to return them for a reward of ten shillings per slave.  Cudjoe himself was given the right to dispense justice within his community and the succession was assured, naming Accompong, Johnny, Quao and Cuffee, and after their deaths such leaders as might be appointed by the Governor.  The Maroons were required to build and maintain a road to Trelawney Town, and four white persons were to be nominated to live with the Maroons in order to facilitate communication with the government.

Following the agreement with the Maroons the Jamaican assembly rewarded several negroes who had assisted the authorities to bring about the peace.  Three men named Cuffee, Sambo, and Quashey were manumised and their owners were compensated to the value of £40 per man; and two women called Venus and Affiba were also freed with their owners being paid £30 for each.

One further consequence of the events leading to the peace was the award of £1500 to Guthrie (who however died in June 1739) and £600 to Francis Sadler who subsequently received land grants totalling 1200 acres which formed the basis of the Montpelier estate.  When Francis Sadler married Colonel Guthrie’s widowed daughter Janet Hynes in 1742 he extended the Montpelier estate still further.  This Francis Sadler, who took the name Francis Sadler Hals when he inherited Halse Hall from his half brother, was the son of Mary Rose whose life in Jamaica has already been described on this website.

So successful was the peace agreement of 1739 that it lasted for more than fifty years.

The full text of the agreement and the subsequent Act of the Jamaican Assembly can be found here.

 

A note about the picture: When I first saw the picture of Colonel Guthrie and Cudjoe I thought it an attempt to belittle the latter with a caricature. However he was described at the time as being very short and squat with a large lump of flesh on his back, and a strange wild manner. He dressed in a tattered old blue coat, white knee breeches, a head tie and a small round hat. His gun was an old Spanish musket with powder and shot, and he carried a machete worn in a leather holster.

 

Mary Rose – a colonial snob


Georgian houses in Charterhouse Square London

reproduced by kind permission of the London Photo Project

 

Mary Rose is one of my Jamaican favourites, not because I can say she was a particularly good or nice person but because she was a much married survivor. She was also more than a bit of a snob.

The Rose family came from Mickelton in Gloucestershire. Mary’s father John Rose was a merchant, based in London, who traded with Jamaica and made some of his money by transporting convicts captured after the 1685 Monmouth rebellion.

9 December 1685 –
Invoice of sixty eight men servants, shipped on board, Capt
Charles Gardner, in ye Jamaica Merchant (ship) for account of
Mr.Rose and Comp.,they being to be sold for ten years.
The men whose names are contained in the within written list, as
shipt upon the account of John Rose and Company, on board the
Jamaica Merchant, to be landed and disposed of in Barbados or
Jamaica.

Born in the City of London on the 17th of May 1681, she was baptised on the 29th of  May at the church of All Hallows Barking by the Tower, the oldest church in the City of London. She was the fifth of fourteen children born between 1676 and 1694. Her uncle Dr Fulke Rose had gone to Jamaica around 1670 and his brothers Thomas and Francis joined him there. So Mary already had family in Jamaica when she went there in her early teens.

On the 18th of  December 1697 aged sixteen, Mary married Thomas Hals (or Halse) in Spanish Town. Thomas was the great grandson of Sir Nicholas Halse of Cornwall, England and was heir to the Halse Hall estate in the parish of Clarendon. It was a sad fact of life in Jamaica that marriages were frequently cut short by the death of one partner, and on 24 Aug 1702 Thomas Halse died barely six months after his father, and was buried at Halse Hall. He left behind him one son, also called Thomas, and a rich widow.

Rich young widows in Jamaica did not long remain unmarried and within three months Mary had married again, this time to John Sadler whose father Charles Sadler was prominent in island politics. Mary and John had at least three children – Mary baptised in 1705, John Charles baptised in 1709 and Francis baptised in 1711.

In the early years of the eighteenth century Mary was joined in Jamaica by two of her sisters – Elizabeth who married Samuel Heming and Frances who married Dr John Charnock – he and their two young daughters died in Jamaica and Frances returned to England. Elizabeth left at least three children – Richard, Mary and Samuel – who lived to grow up. Mary also had several cousins in Jamaica, William the son of her uncle Thomas (who had died in 1679) and the family of her uncle Francis who lived until 1720.

Mary was luckier in the length of her second marriage which lasted over a quarter of a century. John Sadler, who like his father  took an active part in island politics, was a Member of the Assembly for Clarendon in 1704, 06 and 09,  St. Ann in 1707 and  St. John 1711. He was later also a Member of the island Council. Although it seems likely her children Mary and John died young, her son Francis went on to play a particularly dramatic part in island history – of which more another time.

After the death of John Sadler Mary returned to England where she was now the only surviving child of her mother Elizabeth. Captain John Rose her father had died in 1703 and was buried at All Hallows Staining in London. Her sister Martha who had married Jamaica merchant and agent John Serocold had died in childbirth in February 1716/17.

For a time Mary went to live with her mother who by now was in her seventies, but on the 12th of February 1731/32 at St Dunstan and All Saints she married for a third time as the fifth wife of John Styleman an East India merchant who was by then aged about eighty-two. When Mary was a small child and her siblings were baptised at All Hallows Staining there was a Styleman family in that parish and it is possible that the families had known each other for half a century. John Styleman had spent three decades in India, married there and buried his first wife and five children there before returning to England in the first decade of the eighteenth century to marry three more wives before Mary.

John Styleman died in 1734 and Mary lived out her life in his house in Charterhouse Square in London. She died about May 1750 and opted to be buried with her last husband and three of his wives at Bexley in Kent where he had built almshouses that still exist today. You can read Mary’s Will here. It makes fascinating reading being full of very specific instructions such as leaving the marble fireplaces in the garrets of the house in situ!

Sadly I don’t know exactly which house in Charterhouse Square she lived in, though it could have been one of the ones pictured, and I have no idea where the two portraits of herself and John Styleman now are, if indeed they still exist.

And the reason I called her a snob? In her Will she left her silver plate and jewels to her son Francis but specifically requested him not to use them in Jamaica, and in respect of her other household goods  “I likewise earnestly desire and request that he will not use them at Spanish Town which place is my Aversion for a Planter to live in” .