Tag Archives: Wheelersfield

The Story of a Mourning Brooch


One of the delights of running a website like this is when a reader gets in touch to provide further information relating to something they have read here.

When I wrote about Marchant Tubb and his wife Ann in one of my earliest pieces I was not then certain who his wife was. I did know that she had previously been married to Stephen Morant and had a daughter called Mary Powell Morant.

The reader who contacted me collects mourning brooches such as this lovely Georgian example made for Mary Powell Royall to commemorate her mother, and where possible researches the person commemorated. By a piece of clever detective work, decoding the coat of arms on the tomb that Marchant Tubb had erected for his wife, my informant was able to show that Stephen Morant’s wife Ann was called Ann Anderson and that they were married in Jamaica on the 4th of June 1737.

Ann Morant gave birth to two children, Stephen and Mary Powell Morant, before her husband died on 30 October 1742. Mary Powell Morant was baptised when she was eight months old, her baptism being recorded in the register for St Thomas in the East “Christen’d at Wheelersfield in Plantain Garden River a female child of Stephen Morant and Ann his wife aged 8 months 2 days and named Mary Powell whose Godfathers are Messrs Thomas Wheeler and Richard Swarton ye first of ’em being represented by Mr Gibbons Hodgins and Godmothers Mrs Mary Crames and Mrs Elizabeth Swarton, ye first of ’em being represented by Mrs Mary Cussans the father and mother being present.”

On the 14th of February 1745 Ann Morant remarried to Samuel Wheeler who in turn died about 1755. Some time after this she married her third husband, the surgeon Marchant Tubb, but sadly neither I nor my informant have been able to track down a record of this marriage which I am sure took place in Jamaica. By 1768 Marchant and Ann Tubb were in England together with their daughter Mary Powell Morant.

Mary Powell Morant was a considerable heiress and when after her mother’s death she decided to marry Joseph Royall in 1782, her stepfather took great care to ensure that the marriage settlement protected her rights, for as a femme couverte she might have lost control of it all to her husband. It provided further considerable work for the lawyers when, within a very short space of time, she left her husband and returned to live with Marchant Tubb. Temperamentally it seems the couple were completely unsuited, at least according to Mary ‘s very close friend Frances Lee who wrote to her brother “And what do you think is come to pass? Mr and Mrs Royall are separated by mutual Consent. They each complain of the violence of the others Disposition. Mrs R. is returned to her father whom she no longer calls Tubby. The marriage was concluded in such haste that I am not the least surprised at the separation – I pity neither.”

When Marchant Tubb died Mary inherited the share of the Wheelersfield estate that had come to him via his marriage, and on her death in 1816 she in turn left it to Frances Lee. There is no specific mention in Mary’s will of items of jewellery or the mourning brooch, although she did leave all her clothes to Elizabeth Pack (formerly Elizabeth Harrison) the black servant who had come to England with the Lee family in 1771.

There is one further little mystery that my informant found as a result of the researches into the mourning brooch. On 22 June 1739 a child called James Morant was baptised at Wheelersfield in St Thomas in the East said to be aged one year ten months and eight days old, the son of Stephen Morant and Ann Gowing. Stephen Morant was present at the baptism but Ann Gowing was not, and his godmother was Mrs Ann Morant. The infant James Morant appears to have been born about two and a half months after the marriage of his father to Ann Anderson.

Exactly one month later the adjacent record in the parish register shows the marriage of Ann Gowing to James Frazier a bricklayer. The marriage was by special licence rather than by banns which means that someone was able to put up the money for the licence and it took place in the house of Mr Roger Wood with Mr Richard Jephcott a millwright standing in place of the bride’s father.

Illegitimate children were of course very common in Jamaica, and in this case it would appear that Stephen Morant’s new wife was entirely happy to stand godmother for his illegitimate child, and that provision was being made for his mother. There is no mention in the parish register (which does generally record colour) of Ann Gowing’s colour or status, and therefore it seems possible that she was a poor white girl, perhaps a servant, rather than a slave or “housekeeper” to Stephen Morant.

Whatever the actions of Mary Powell Morant’s father, the brooch she had made to commemorate her mother and the tomb created by her stepfather for his wife are tributes to someone who was clearly very much loved during her lifetime.