Tag Archives: Mary Rose

Serocold and Sorocold – the Merchant and the Engineer

London Bridge Watercolour1799

London Bridge – late 18th century – the waterwheels can be seen at far end of the bridge


I have written before about John Serocold and his son of the same name who were Jamaica merchants during the 18th century, based in London. John Serocold senior was married to Martha Rose one of the daughters of Captain John Rose who made some of his money transporting rebels to Jamaica after the Monmouth Rebellion[1].

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..

Martha’s sister Elizabeth married Samuel Heming and had at least five children baptised in Jamaica. Another sister Frances married Dr John Charnock and had two children baptised and died in Jamaica before his death at St John’s in Jamaica in 1730. Afterwards she returned to London and married wealthy merchant Robert Fotherby who had a position in the Royal African Company and was almost certainly dealing in slaves shipped to the West Indies.

Mary Rose, older than her sisters,  married first Thomas Halse of Halse Hall, then John Sadler and finally wealthy merchant John Styleman after her return to London. You can read more about her here.

Martha Serocold died after presenting John Serocold with the second of two daughters both of whom died in infancy, and three years later he remarried with his second wife producing two sons – John and Thomas. John carried on his father’s business trading with Jamaica, later as the firm of Serocold and Jackson, in partnership with his son-in-law John Jackson.

The company of Serocold and Jackson got into severe financial difficulties but came to an arrangement with its creditors in 1782 (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 28 March 1782). Given the date it is not impossible that their troubles were connected with the disasters of the hurricane years in the early 1780s. They must have continued to struggle, for in 1786 John Serocold of Love Lane in the City of London was declared bankrupt. At his death two years later John Serocold was described as ‘formerly an eminent West India Merchant’ (Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 13 November 1788). His brother Thomas outlived him by several years, having opted for the life of country gentleman at Peterborough.

I was intrigued by the name Serocold which is quite unusual, and all the more so when I came across George Sorocold who is often credited with being Britain’s first great civil engineer and who was the designer of the world’s first factory, Derby’s Silk Mill.

George Sorocold was a quite remarkable man, but the dates of his birth and death are unknown. He was probably born about 1666 and died after 1738. It seems likely that his family origins were in Lancashire but this is difficult to establish with any certainty partly because there are so many different versions of the name. So far I have found the following variant spellings, some in original documents and some in transcriptions: Sorocold, Sorrocolde, Sorrocoulde, Soracowle, Sorocale, Sorracoll, Seracold, Serocold, Sarracold.

I have as yet found no evidence for the suggestion made by others that his father was James Sorocold who had already moved to Derby when George Sorocold married there in 1684.

There is no record of how George acquired his education and when I first saw that he appeared to have married at the age of sixteen I was inclined to disbelieve it since this would be unusually early for an educated man of middle or upper-class origins. However I then found a more or less contemporary account which suggested that his wife had already had thirteen children (with no multiple births) eight of whom were still living by the time George was twenty-eight – pretty much a mathematical impossibility unless he had fathered his first child aged fifteen or sixteen. Perhaps it was a shotgun wedding!

The account of Sorocold’s fecundity was recorded in 1715 by a man called Thoresby who knew Sorocold, and who had an interest in compiling accounts of very large families, including Jane Hodson who  according to her epitaph in York Minster, died on September 2, 1636, aged 38, during the birth of her 24th child and another woman said to have had 53 children in 35 births.

They made them tough in those days!

It is a shame that we don’t know more about George Sorocold since his achievements in civil engineering were very considerable. He created a public water supply for Derby by raising water from the river Derwent into a tank that supplied a pipe system that lasted into the nineteenth century. Moreover the waterwheel was designed to rise and fall with the water level in the river to maximise supply even in periods of dry weather.

He went on to work on a system of waterwheels and pumps under Old London Bridge and created the public water supply in a number of major cities including Leeds. At Liverpool he engineered the city’s first wet dock, contributing indirectly to its rise as a major slaving port.

Sorocold waterwheel c 1700

Waterwheels at Old London Bridge about 1700


Interest in George Sorocold’s engineering achievements means that there is now research on-going to try to find out more about his origins and background. It seems highly likely that there is a connection between the Sorocolds of Lancashire, the merchant Sorocolds of London and the eminent engineer George Sorocold – a work in progress.


Pictures are taken from Old London Bridge where you can find the history of the changes that took place during the eighteenth century when the old bridge was modernised before being completely replaced in the nineteenth century.

[1] The original lists of persons of quality; emigrants; religious exiles; political rebels; serving men sold for a term of years; apprentices; children stolen; maidens pressed; and others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations, 1600-1700 : with their ages and the names of the ships in which they embarked, and other interesting particulars; from mss. preserved in the State Paper Department of Her Majesty’s Public Record Office, England
by Hotten, John Camden, 1832-1873, London 1874.

The Genealogical Jigsaw Puzzle

St Mary Aldermanbury before the Blitz


It is always very satisfying when another piece of the genealogical jigsaw puzzle slots into place, and this is what happened following the item I wrote last time about Robert Fotherby, who gave his body to science.

I already had a copy of his Will and decided now was the time to transcribe it and to remind myself why I knew anything about him in the first place. I had in fact come across him in the Will of John Rose of Cotterstock (c.1696-1736), which is one of those documents that is a real treasure trove. John Rose had no children and left a number of legacies to his cousins before making over his estate which included holdings in Jamaica to his nephew, then a minor, on condition that he change his name from John Pate to John Pate Rose – which in due course he did.

He listed the following cousins – Robert Fotherby and his wife Frances; Mary Stileman; Martha Milner; Thomas Bush; Thomas Pain the Elder of Oundle, and his sons John and Thomas; Rose Fuller and Francis Sadler both of Jamaica; and the widowed Mary Smith of Leicester. He left a number of charitable legacies and money for his servants as well as, intriguingly since I don’t know what the connection was, Fifty pounds to be equally divided between the two Sons of Thomas King late of Spanish Town in Jamaica aforesaid Dancing Master deceased to be paid them in Jamaica money. Whether John Rose had ever visited his estates in Jamaica, which were being managed by Francis Sadler, is not recorded. You can read the Will in full here.

To unpick all these relationships we need to go back to the early days of settlement in Jamaica when the sons of Thomas Rose of Mickleton decided that their future lay there. The eldest brother William, an apothecary, remained in London acting to some extent as family banker; Dr Fulke Rose and his brothers Thomas and Francis patented land in Jamaica; John Rose pursued a career as a merchant based mainly in London, trading goods and convicts into the island (although one of his daughters was born in Jamaica). There was also a sister Elizabeth Rose, possibly married in 1679 to Richard Phelps in Jamaica, and later to a man called Milner, finally in 1699 back in London to a widower called William Bush with whom she had several children.

So we can de-code the cousins of John Rose of Cotterstock, whose father was William Rose the Apothecary, as follows: Mary Stileman was a daughter of John Rose the merchant and you can read more about her here. Her son from her second marriage was Francis Sadler. Martha Milner was a daughter of Elizabeth Rose, and Thomas Bush was Martha’s half-brother. Rose Fuller was a grandson of Fulke Rose and as a young man he went to Jamaica to manage the estates belonging to the Fuller and Isted families.

That was as far as I had got until I looked again at Robert Fotherby and discovered a marriage licence allegation on Ancestry for an intended wedding to the widowed Frances Charnock ‘aged upwards of thirty years’, in 1732.  Frances Rose had buried her daughters Elizabeth and Mary in the parish of St John Jamaica in August and October 1720, and her husband Dr John Charnock in September ten years later. Their deaths are recorded in a monumental inscription (Lawrence Archer, p.313).  Returning to England she remarried and had, it is to be hoped, ten happy years with Robert Fotherby. That he was very fond of her is evidenced by the care he showed in providing for Elizabeth Lambe, who had been her companion, and perhaps her nurse in her last illness.

Frances was buried on the 2nd of March 1741/42 at St Mary Aldermanbury in the City of London, where her mother Elizabeth had been buried in 1735 and her infant niece Elizabeth Serocold (daughter of Martha Rose) was buried in 1716. The church was destroyed by enemy action in 1940, but in 1969 when the site was to be redeveloped the stones were sold and the church was rebuilt in Fulton, Missouri, USA as the National Churchill Museum.

So of this extensive list of cousins, all apparently relations of the Rose family, I am left with Thomas Pain and his sons who I suspect were closely related to John Rose’s wife Elizabeth (one of the witnesses to her Will was a Thomas Payne) and Mrs Mary Smith of Leicester.

I did not hold out much hope of finding Mrs Mary Smith though my guess is that she was also a member of the Pain family. However I then discovered that in 1758 the Bank of Smith and Payne was established in London’s Lombard Street. John Payne, the founding partner, and a Chairman of the East India Company, was a nephew of the Thomas Payne of Oundle mentioned in the Will of John Rose of Cotterstock. Both the Smith and Pain/Paine/Payne families had connections with Wigston near Leicester.

John Paine of Oundle, son of Thomas the Elder, was buried  in the church of St Peter, Oundle on the 23rd of July 1801, aged eighty-one, at which time his younger brother Thomas and sister-in-law Sarah were still alive.


As a postscript: John Pate did obtain a private Act of Parliament in 1744 to change his name to John Pate Rose. He went on to have three daughters with Martha Henn, but I am not clear whether he was married to her. Hannah Bella born in 1753 died young. His daughters Letitia and Sophia born in 1751 and 1752 both married within a month of each other in 1784, each couple being witnesses at the others’ wedding – Letitia to the widowed Sir George Booth and Sophia to the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne with whom she had a daughter Margaret.



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.