Our Hewitt family is descended from the Viscounts Lifford, whose family name is Hewitt.
This one has been doing the rounds for more than a hundred years. As I detailed in ‘The Elusive John Hewitt‘, my Field cousin Henry Claylands Field wrote to William Hughes Field in 1897 that his grandmother Sophia Ann Hughes had married:
John Hewitt, a son or grandson of the Earl of Lifford who was also Dean of Cloyne. He was an officer in the army, I think the Guards; but retired on his marriage, which was probably considered a mere alliance by his people.
And pretty consistently when I make contact with members of the extended Hewitt family they are fascinated by this story and spent quality time trying to find out if it’s true.
IT IS NOT TRUE!
Being Viscounts, the Lifford Hewitts are very well documented. The first Viscount Lifford was James Hewitt who was born in 1712 so could have been the father of our John Hewitt. He did, in fact, have a son called John. John was born in 1756, spent time as Dean of Cloyne in Ireland and died in 1804.
So our John Hewitt was not the son or grandson of a Viscount Lifford. He was born around 1747 and so could not have been one of the Viscount’s legitimate offspring.
But I am related to them – through my grandmother and a couple of marriages. My family tree programme says that James is the “paternal grandfather of husband of 2nd great grand niece of wife of 7th great grand uncle” of me. Which in English means that a 7th great-uncle’s sister-in-law married a Lifford descendent.
My personal view is that our John was trying to impress his rich in-laws – he was, after all, significantly older than his wife. But then William Hughes was too rich to be that stupid (?) and probably checked out things before letting his daughter and heir Sophia marry.
There is the possibility that our John Hewitt was a cousin of the Viscount. So what do we know of the Lifford Hewitts before James First Viscount?
James’ father was William Hewitt, a draper and Mayor of Coventry in 1744. So far I’ve ascertained that William and his wife Hannah Lewis had three sons:
– James, 1st Viscount (1712-1789)
– William (1719-1781) – lived in the West Indies – had no children
– Joseph (1725-1813) – had no children
So our John wasn’t a nephew of James.
Which brings us to Cumberland. William Snr was born in Rockliffe, Cumberland in 1683.
The Hewitt Papers
Amongst the Hewitt Papers held at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa) is the ‘Notes and Memoranda, Genealogical, Historical and Personal of the family of Hewitt’ were written in 1891 by Rev. James Alexander Hewitt of the ‘Cape of Good Hope’. Their catalog lists it as (my emphasis):
A2 A genealogical, historical and personal record of the Cumberland Hewitts. Known as “Statesmen” the highest form of regard in the North. There are no less than 13 lines from which descendants may exist. Scattered during the Civil Wars in reign of Charles I.
This implies that there are LOTS of Hewitts out there from Cumberland. Too many to go chasing willy-nilly.
And thanks to the lovely Zofia at the University of the Witwatersrand I now have a copy of this part of the Hewitt papers. I shall start out saying that our John is not mentioned in the papers. However, there are mentioned many potential avenues of inquiry.
From a family bible the Rev James traces his Hewitt family back to a Henry Hewitt born in Blackrigg near Rockcliffe, Cumberland.
His interest was in working out which Henry Hewitt was his. From this seems to have spread an interest in the various Hewitt families that sprang from Cumberland. He noted that there were also Hewitt families in Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire which he thought came from ‘the time of the Conqueror at Manor Hewits – near Ashford in Kent’. He also mentions a branch in Warwickshire! The possibilities seem to be getting bigger rather than smaller!
The Cumberland Hewitts
The Hewitt family of Cumberland which would ultimately produce the Viscounts Lifford line began in Rockcliffe which is a few miles outside of Carlisle. The parish registers there started in 1679. The Rev James notes that at that time there were 6 heads of families called Hewitt:
Robert Hewitt whose son William was baptised in September 1679
James Hewitt who married Mary Urwin in November 1679 (grandparents of the 1st Viscount Lifford)
Allen Hewitt whose son Thomas was baptised in July 1680
Peter Hewitt whose daughter June was baptised in July 1680
George Hewitt of Castletown whose daughter Sarah was baptised in March 1681
William Hewitt of Churchtown whose son Henry was baptised in 1686
These Hewitt heads could be the g-grandfather or grandfather of our John Hewitt? Although I continue to be dubious. Why? Because none of these names appear in our Hewitt branch.
The Piccadilly Hewitts
The first Viscount Lifford’s brother William Jnr spent time in the West Indies. Papers that survive from then refer to relatives based in London. A cousin has sent details through of plaques that commemorate some Hewitts in St James Piccadilly. One is dedicated to John Hewitt by his brother Edward:
of a respectable Family in the County of CUMBERLAND, a near Relation, Friend, and many Years private Secretary to JAMES Viscount Lifford. Lord High Chancellor of IRELAND. He died 1st March 1783 Aged 46.
This isn’t our John either but is a contemporary. Also at St James Piccadilly is a plaque to his brother Edward who died in 1794.
The Hewitt papers provide further details of that branch. Edward left an estate of £18,000 (a huge fortune!) to his nieces, daughters of his brother James. This James Hewitt was a wine merchant in Carlisle. From the will we find two daughters and a son Francis. There were also bequests to various Hewitts still living in Rockcliffe further confirming the family connection. It’s still not clear if these Hewitts were first or second cousins of the Viscounts Lifford. And there is no documented connection to our family either.
I’m going to reiterate here that as I currently have no idea where our John Hewitt was born, there is no known connection to any of the Hewitts discussed above. But we keep looking. DNA may provide some hints – once I get around to it!
My new found cousin Olivia has kindly provided some photos of the Hewitt branch of the family to share with everyone. There are three generations centering on my gg-grandfather Walter Augustus Hewitt:
his parents, uncle and mother-in-law
one of his brothers, a sister-in-law, Walter’s wife and her sisters’ families
Unfortunately, there are no pictures of Walter. To help put them in context (as well as I can) here is a Hewitt family tree which shows how most of the people here relate to each other (click on it to see it bigger, use ctrl + to make it readable):
Frederick Hewitt (1793-1883)
The beard growing continues to this day! There are allegedly also some portraits of Frederick, his wife Elizabeth (below) and Frederick’s maternal grandfather William Hughes. Frederick left these to his son Arthur Turner Hewitt, but I’m not currently in contact with any of his descendents to see if they still exist.
Elizabeth Turner Mrs F Hewitt (c1800-1874)
Susanna Birch Mrs Jonathan Muckleston Key (1807-1872)
Mother of Mary Sophia Key, Walter’s wife.
William Hughes Hughes (1792-1874)
Walter’s uncle William took his maternal grandfather’s surname as a condition of William Hughes’ will. He was a Member of Parliament.
Albert Spencer Hewitt (1837-1921)
The elder of Walter’s two younger brothers.
Louisa Whitmore Mrs Stanley Hughes Hewitt (c1850-aft 1913)
Wife of Walter’s youngest brother, Louisa was the mother of Frederick Whitmore Hewitt, an army chaplain killed in 1915. See Ben Makin’s comment and link below about a visit by her grandfather to Louisa, Frederick’s wife and daughter in 1913.
Mary Sophia Key Mrs WA Hewitt
Walter’s wife and my gg-grandmother, daughter of Jonathan Muckleston Key and Susanna Birch (see above).
Susanna Key Mrs Charles Harvey (1834-?)
One of Mary Sophia Key’s younger sisters – you can tell.
The Harvey Family
Susanna’s husband Charles Harvey and their children Amy Susanna Harvey Mrs Arnold Pittis (1862-1959) and Ralph Key Harvey (1866-1948).
Susanna’s sister Mary Alice Key married Edward Harvey (Charles’ brother?) and had a son Edward Key Harvey (1867-1921):
Third Generation – Walter Augustus and Mary Sophia’s children
Thomas Hughes Hewitt (1864-1946)
My g-grandfather – a younger and older view.
Reginald Key Hewitt (1868-1945)
After the premature death of his first wife, Reginald moved to South Africa. He had two children with his first wife Alice: Doris Kathleen and Reginald Charles and a second daughter Marion Mrs Martin with his second wife.
My first ancestor to be born in New Zealand was Winifred Alice Baker. She was born in Lyttleton in 1853, the daughter of Charles Baker (c1806 – 1868) and Emma King (1810 – 1889). Her parents and all her siblings came from London, England. I currently believe that she’s the only child of her parents to be born in NZ – records back then are sketchy!
Charles was the son of William Baker, a labourer and wasn’t born in Middlesex. At the time he married Emma, he was a gardener living in Stamford Hill. And that’s about all I know about him before he came to NZ (so, yes, he is a complete dead end, DNA permitting!).
Emma was born in 1810, the daughter of James Goodman King and Charlotte Clarke. On her marriage certificate, her father is described as a “cattle dealer”. In his 1819 London Gazetter bankruptcy notice he is described as “Cotton-Winder, Dealer and Chapman”. On his children’s 1823 baptismal records he is described as a “gentleman” He abandoned Charlotte and his children around 1829 (see my post on that!). Emma herself is listed as a servant on her marriage certificate.
Charles and Emma married in 1838. By the 1841 census, they are living in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and have 2 children. They next appear in 1851 when they immigrate to New Zealand on the Duke of Bronte. Accompanying them are their six children – Henry, Frances, Emma H.H., George, Sarah E. and William – ages ranging from 11 down to 3 months.
The Duke of Bronte left London on 10 January 1851 and arrived in Lyttleton, New Zealand on 8 June – just under 5 months later!!! So not a good voyage. The Steadfast which left London nearly two months later, arrived only 2 days later.
On the voyage Charles acted as surgeon’s mate. He was presented with £10 by surgeon William Draper for faithfully and diligently performing his duties (!!). Well, he would have been pretty strong and handy with a saw. What is more likely, as the surgeon was responsible for the ship’s stores was that he was strong and could possibly count!
The Duke of Bronte was the eighth ship of the Canterbury Association to arrive in Lyttleton (sorry Aunt Bea, not one of the first four). The Canterbury Association was created to build an organised English settlement in Canterbury by Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) and John Robert Godley (1814-1861). It was an opportunity for lower-class people like Charles and Emma to buy land and improve their and their children’s lives – the Kiwi dream.
But arriving on the eighth ship would mean that “settlement” would be in the loosest sense of the word!
Holmes, William Howard 1825-1885, “Lyttelton, taken from the foot of the Bridle road.,” ourheritage.ac.nz | OUR Heritage, accessed December 28, 2017, http://otago.ourheritage.ac.nz/items/show/5345.
Here are some links to other photos and drawings of the time:
You can browse the Christchurch City Library’s Image Collection to see how things progressed.
For Charles, used to working with his hands and outdoors in all sorts of weather, this was probably a challenge he relished. He ended up with a bay named after him – for a while – Baker’s Bay is now Magazine Bay. He ran cattle and sheep there. He advertises as follows in the Lyttleton Times:
1 May 1858
SOME persons have been injuring the Cattle on my run by means of Dogs, this is to give notice that I will reward any one giving me such information as will lead to the conviction of the offenders.
Lyttelton, April 27, 1858.
12 May 1858
THE undersigned, having taken the run lately held by Mr. Salt, begs to give notice that stock may be depastured thereon, on payment of the sum of one pound per head, per annum.
Lyttelton, May 5, 1858
ALL horses or cattle found on my run that does not pay my demand of five shillings per quarter per head, the same having always been my charge, as advertised in the ‘Times’ of May 12th, 1858; and I do not intend altering the same, they will be charged one shilling for every offence.
Emma, on the other hand didn’t like Lyttleton at all. According to the GR MacDonald dictionary of Canterbury biographies, she wanted to leave on the first ship out. Why? As a servant she would have worked in houses above her “station” in London. She probably started out living in a shack or tent when they arrived in Lyttelton at the beginning of winter. It was probably not the life she envisaged when she left London.
What probably upset Emma the most about Lyttelton was the death of her daughters Frances Harriet (aged 10) and Sarah Elizabeth (aged 10 months) in September 1851 – less than three months after they arrived.
But she never left.
Charles died in 1868 in his early sixties:
The Star, Wednesday, October 28, 1868, page 2
Local and General
FATAL ACCIDENT – We are sorry to record an accident which terminated fatally, to Mr Baker, dairyman, an old resident at Lyttelton. It appears from the statement of Mr Julian, that yesterday morning he accompanied the deceased as far as the head of the bay for a ride, and that in returning he was a few yards in advance of the deceased. When near the house of the custodian of the bathing shed, the deceased’s horse came up without its rider. He caught the horse, and upon turning round, he saw the deceased lying on the ground. He spoke to him, but obtained no answer, and observing that blood was flowing from a wound on his head, Mr Julian immediately rode into Lyttleton for assistance. Dr Motley was speedily in attendance, and ordered the removal of the deceased to his own house. Drs Donald and Rouse also attended, but the deceased never rallied, and expired at nine o’clock last night. The cause of death was ascertained to be a fracture of the base of the skull. An inquest was held this afternoon, before WJS Coward Esq., coroner, at the Albion Hotel. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
BAKER.-Oct. 27, at Lyttelton, Mr Charles Baker, in the sixty-second year of his age.
Emma moved to Christchurch to live with one of her surviving daughters. She was a rich widow – according to GR MacDonald, Charles left an estate of £10,000.
Charles & Emma’s Children
There were seven Baker children (that I know of) of whom 5 lived to adulthood:
HENRY FRANCIS BAKER was baptised on 29 Sep 1839 in Hackney. He died in Sydney, Australia. He married Ellen Augusta Holmes on 30 Sep 1857 in Christchurch.
FRANCES HARRIET BAKER was born about Feb 1841 in England and died about Sep 1851 in Lyttleton.
EMMA HARRIET HAINES BAKER was born on 18 Oct 1842 in Bethnal Green. She died on 27 Jul 1932 in Christchurch. She married David Broom Bowie (1837-1914) on 18 Oct 1866 in Christchurch.
GEORGE BAKER was born before 08 Jan 1845 in Hackney, Middlesex, England. He died in 1919 (Influenza Epidemic). He married Mary Jane Vincent around 1867 in Lyttleton.
WILLIAM BAKER was born about 1849 in England.
SARAH ELIZABETH BAKER was born in Nov 1850 in England and died about 20 Sep 1851 in Lyttleton.
WINNIFRED ALICE BAKER was born on 03 Feb 1853 in Lyttleton. She died on 21 Nov 1932 in Christchurch. She married Jasper Pyne O’Callaghan (1839-1895) on 18 Apr 1872 in Christchurch.
Mrs Constance Clarke
I don’t like to name sources as they’re usually living people and I don’t want to breach their privacy. However, Mrs Constance Clarke (nee Baker) would be 103 this year! She was the granddaughter of George Baker and Mary Jane Vincent.
I have to thank Mrs Clarke for pointing me in the direction I needed to go. When I visited the Canterbury Museum in 2000, I was fortunate to find the Baker family information she had left amongst their holdings. She left the information in 1967!
Updated: 27 November 2013 – with a photo of Fanny!
Two of my gg-grandfathers were not living with their respective gg-grandmother when they predeceased their wives (see the other in ‘Bigamy’). I like to think it’s because the wives wanted to be happy. This is the story of Fanny Keeling and William Webb Venn (jnr).
Divorce has been relatively prevalent in my family. My parents’ generation are at 100%+ (it is possibly to get divorced more than once!). However there is the perception that divorce is a relatively modern phenomenon – that it either didn’t happen or was hidden as an “annulment”. But it did.
When I was living in London, I worked for a while in Drury Lane. This was really close to St Catherine’s House and Somerset House where, at the time, lots of genealogical records were held. At lunchtime I would go and look up dead people. I did a stint collecting wills of those whose death dates I knew. They threw up some very interesting personal details – the existence of family portraits and other heirlooms, which daughter married The Wrong Man and the names of siblings, husbands, wives and grandchildren.
My gg-grandfather William Webb Venn (jnr) died intestate and so there is a Letter of Administration for his estate. I wasn’t expecting much, but the copying charges (then) were so cheap I got it anyway. And boy, did it spring a surprise:
The marriage of the said intestate with Fanny Venn having been dissolved by Decree Absolute dated the 16thNovember 1869 and the said intestate never having married again.
Divorced!! I wanted to know more. In 1869 to get divorced was quite a serious matter. I also knew that WWV was quite wealthy, so I went down to my local library in Wimbledon to see if I could find out more (this was before the internet!). The reference library had the indexes to the Times Newspaper and more importantly the newspaper itself on microfiche. Quite quickly I ascertained that they did report on marriages (yay!) and the index was done quarterly (oh). But I quickly found the item I was looking for.
I’m quoting the whole Times article here. It’s not very long and, to be frank, I couldn’t summarise it any better myself.
The Times May 10, 1869, page 11
Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, May 8
VENN V. VENN AND EBBS.
Mr Searle appeared for the petitioner
The parties were married in January, 1858, and lived together at Tottenham and afterwards at Lee until June 1868. In that month Mrs Venn suddenly left her home, and shortly afterwards she was traced to Dublin, where she was living in lodgings with the co-respondent. It was proved that Mr Ebbs had been the medical attendant of Mr. and Mrs. Venn, and had visited their house as a friend. Mrs. Venn has since gone to Australia with Mr. Ebbs. Mr. Venn met them at the docks as they were about to embark and gave Mr. Ebbs a sound thrashing. – Decree nisi with costs.
Well, I thought, perhaps I have some more half-cousins in Australia. So I got on GenForum and posted a few queries under Ebbs and Australia. A while later I got a response from a retired schoolteacher in New Jersey and we compared details. She turned out to be the great-niece of Mr Ebbs and so she was able to fill in many of the blanks.
But let’s go back to the beginning.
William Webb Venn (1838 – 1896) was the oldest (and only surviving) son of William Webb Venn snr (1810 – 1894) and Jane Wilson (c1811 – 1884). He had six younger sisters – one of whom married The Wrong Man (from WWV snr’s will) and another who married Rev. William Graham Keeling c.1835 – 1905). The Rev. William had a little sister called Fanny (1837 – 1915) – their parents were John Keeling (jnr) (1796 – 1884) and Maria Howard (1800-1880).
So how were the Venn’s and Keeling’s connected? They were not related unlike many other of my intermarried branches. However, in the 1861 census, WWV snr and John Keeling were living a couple of houses apart in White Hart Lane, Tottenham and continued to do so for a number of decades after. So Fanny was ‘the girl next door’.
WWV and Fanny married in 1858. He was 19 and she was 20. Nine months and one day later, they became the parents to Florence Marion. Two other known children followed:
Thomas Eustace b 1860
Ethel Mary b 1865
When the cracks first started is open to (much) speculation, but the death of Ethel Mary in early 1867 may have been the catalyst for the events summarized in the Times report. By November 1869 they were divorced.
William’s life after the divorce
WWV never remarried. In the 1871 Census he lists himself as ‘unmarried’ so the divorce was obviously still smarting! By 1881, he seems to have gotten over it a bit and lists himself as ‘divorced’. His surviving children stayed with him until their respective marriages in their mid/late twenties.
By profession, WWV was a notary public and worked for the firm started by his grandfather John Venn – John Venn and Sons. He seems to have had a career overseeing financial instruments such as bonds for the London Rothschilds. There are a number of advertisements in the Times and other London newspapers for the Imperial Brazilian Sinking Fund which to modern eyes look a bit dodgy but were probably as sound as anything today (and yes, there was an Emperor of Brazil back then). He also notarised the 1889 Obock-Perim Cable – part of the Altantic Cable Network.
Fanny’s life after the divorce
Fanny’s life was much more interesting! For a long time I thought she’d stayed in the UK or Ireland, until I found her in the 1901 England Census. Her subsequent children had been born in New Zealand! So she and Mr Ebbs had gotten on that boat.
Initially they lived in Oamaru, Otago. Dr William Frederick Ebbs (L.R.C.S.L, L.R.C.P.E, L.M. Dublin and Edinburgh) as Mr Ebbs was more properly known started advertising his services there in January 1869 (see the North Otago Times on Papers Past). Dr Ebbs was an active member of the local Lodge and the Jockey Club and spent quality time committing people to the local asylum!
Where Fanny was at this point is unknown, but probably not far away, probably being his “wife”. They married on 3 September 1869 – down the coast in Dunedin at the Registry Office. So a quiet wedding, possibly because she was pregnant? She may have known about the divorce from her family in London. But most interestingly, they married at least two months before her divorce was final! So it was only a little bit bigamous!
Oamaru is on the coast between Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island. Today it’s a thriving provincial town with amazing Victorian architecture. In 1881 it was the seventh biggest town in NZ! Grain, wool, frozen meat and its port were contributors to it’s ongoing success. But in 1869, there was the added bonus of GOLD.
Which might explain why after 2 years, in April 1871, they moved north to Wanganui in the North Island (now known as Whanganui). There’s not much flattering written about gold rush towns! However, Wanganui was not necessarily a better place. Dodgy land deals in the 1840’s by the New Zealand Company had led to fighting with the local Maori tribes. Wanganui had been a garrison town (complete with stockade) since 1847. This had continued on and off until as recently as 1869.
Fanny and Ebbs had two children Charles Frederick (b. 1870 in Oamaru) and Alice Emily (b. 1872, likely in Wanganui). There is a third child alluded to in the 1911 census (which lists children born and those still alive) who must have died as a baby. It’s unlikely she saw her first two surviving children ever again.
According to ads for Ebb’s medical practice, they lived on Victoria Avenue “opposite the English Church”. It seems all the churches were on Victoria Avenue at that point. Victoria Avenue is still the main street today but there are no churches anymore.
Two years after arriving in Wanganui, in April 1873, the family returned to the United Kingdom on the Zealandia. According to the ad for the auction of their personal effects, this was only to be for a few months. Which is why you’d sell everything up?
They returned to Ireland and lived in Co Waterford. On the death of his youngest brother in 1876, Ebbs inherited some of the family estate – Leabeg at Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow. Ebbs died there in 1880 aged only 44. Perhaps he was ill and wanted to return home. Or perhaps NZ was not as restful (or civilised) as he’d hoped?!
In December 1885, Fanny and their children left Ireland for Preston, Lancashire. There they stayed with Ebb’s sister and brother-in-law Elizabeth Martha Ebbs Sibthorp and the Rev Henry James Myler Sibthorp. There she met her third husband.
Fanny married William Henry Phillips in 1886 in nearby Ashton-on-Ribble . They had no children, but he had a daughter from a previous marriage. According to the 1901 Census, WH Phillips was a “licensed lay reader” and they were living in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire! So his job obviously involved some travel. William (no. 3) died before 1911.
Fanny died in 1915 and is buried in Somerset.
Wanganui Library has put online its digital archives. In the Harding and Denton Photograph Collection is a photo of the Christ Church choir taken around 1872. In the back row, third from the left is Dr Ebbs. In the front row, fourth from the right is Fanny. You can zoom in on the Wanganui Library website version. There are also lots of photos of Wanganui from that time including photos of Victoria Avenue.
Some Pop Psychology
This is where I make assumptions about what might have happened! Some of it is reading between the lines, some based on the societal values at the time.
They married young. Not that unusual for the time. But the attitudes of the State towards wives reflected the values of the society of the time. It wasn’t until the enactment of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 that women had any rights to their property once they married (which had the interesting effect of increasing the divorce rate!). Women themselves were viewed as their husband’s property. Husbands could divorce their wives for adultery under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 but wives could not so easily divorce their husbands.
This could be said to be reflected in WWV’s actions described in the Times report. How he persuaded (coerced?) Fanny to return from Dublin the first time she and Ebbs ran away is unknown. Whatever his methods, his actions on their return to London obviously did nothing to keep Fanny with him. To see Australia/New Zealand as the only option to get away showed some desperation on her part.
So why divorce? It was a long and expensive process. WWV was only 31 and so could easily remarry and have more children. And his wife had skipped the country. She wouldn’t be so easy to “retrieve” this time. What else could he do?
While recently looking through the database for the National Archives, I searched for Venn in their divorce records. WWV and Fanny’s came up. Unfortunately, so did a listing for their son William Eustace. His wife Mabel Smith divorced him in 1900 after 15 years of marriage. There were no children from that marriage. He had run off with Mary Christian Bell (only 18 years his junior!). According to his wife’s divorce affidavit, WE and Mary had a child in 1899 (although I’ve found records to indicate he sadly died the same year) while he was still married to her. After the divorce WE made an honest woman of Mary by marrying her in late 1901 and they had at least two more children.
It does make you wonder what his childhood with his divorced father was like? I’m not entirely sure that his sister was that happy in her marriage to Thomas Hughes Hewitt (see Where did the money go?). I hope as the child of divorced parents I do a little better.
The (possibly) final word from her father
I have recently acquired Fanny’s father’s will. John Keeling died in August 1884. His will, written in May 1880, gives a small insight into his reaction to all this.
Firstly, he bequeaths a thousand pounds each to his grandchildren, Eustace and Florence. He doesn’t mention who the parents are of any of the bequests he makes to his grandchildren!
Then he directs “my trustees to hold the sum of three thousand pounds new three per cent annuities upon trust to pay the income thereof to my daughter Fanny the wife of Frederick Ebbs Esquire for her separate and inalienable use for life. And after her death upon trust for Charles Ebbs and Alice Ebbs (her children) and any other future born child or children of my said daughter if they respectively shall attain the age of twenty one years or die under that age leaving issue and in equal shares if more than one”.
The bulk of his estate is split between her three older siblings – Herbert Howard Keeling, Marion-Howard Mrs Francis and the Rev. William Graham Keeling. They would have received around £10,000 each – worth between £853k and £12.1 million according to Measuring Worth.
Fanny’s bequest is the same as the one to her brother Thomas Howard Keeling and similar to the one left to her brother John Stanley Keeling. These were obviously the naughty children. Not sure what their scandals were. John Stanley had a bit of shotgun wedding and was in the military (not sure which came first!). Thomas Howard is living on the Channel Islands with no occupation in the 1881 census, so you can draw your own conclusions on that!
Fanny’s income of about £90/year was worth between £7-109k. It was probably a help to her during the years between her father’s death and husband number 3. Alice would have ultimately inherited all of her grandfather’s bequest as her brother Charles predeceased their mother in 1908 leaving no heirs.
Two of my gg-grandfathers were not living with their respective gg-grandmother when they predeceased their wives (see the other in D.I.V.O.R.C.E). I like to think it’s because the wives wanted to be happy. This is the story of the Rose Anne Maria Buxton and James Ebenezer Nicholls.
I’ve already mentioned that the discovery of my Gran’s family’s Bible got me first interested in my family tree. It also hides one of the best family scandals. Have a look and see if you can spot it.
When I was living in London, I worked for a while in Drury Lane. This was really close to St Catherine’s House and Somerset House where, at the time, lots of genealogical records were held. At lunchtime I would go and look up dead people. I started out collecting certificates.
The ones for the Nicholls family were relatively easy as I had the Bible to give me names dates and places. I started with my first English ancestor – my Gran’s father Alfred James Nicholls. Filling in the form, for some reason, I put his father’s name Alfred in the section on the back. When I turned up to collect the certificate, the response was “no, the details didn’t match”. I was sure I had the right entry so I asked to get it anyway.
A few more days later I turned up again to get the certificate. Imagine my shock when I discovered that Alfred James’ father was not Alfred, but James Ebenezer. The name was familiar and the first thing I did when I got home that evening was pull out my family tree. James Ebenezer was there – the younger brother of Alfred! I should add that the mother was who I was expecting – Rose Anne Maria Buxton (please note there are a number of spelling variations on her name – the e’s and a’s are interchanged depending on the source – this is my variation).
The next day I went and looked at the marriage indexes. The index reference in 1869 for James matched the one for Rose. I ordered the certificate and it indeed confirmed that James and Rose had married on 7 June 1859 in Woolich, Kent.
I was perplexed. What was going on? There wasn’t really any chance of James being mistaken for Alfred – it wasn’t one of his middle names. Unless something nefarious like identity fraud was involved. It’s not that difficult today, and it was even easier back then!
The mystery had to stay on the back burner until I was in Christchurch in early 2000. There, at the Canterbury Museum, I found some further information which had been submitted by my half cousin Ruth Gardner. Further research has fleshed out the story a little, but only hints at what really happened.
Alfred was born to John Nicholls and Elizabeth Ludwell in Bermondsey, London in 1841. Two sisters later, James Ebenezer was born in 1850. Rose was born a few months before James in late 1849 in Middleton, Norfolk to Robert Buxton and Frances Maw.
Between 1853-57, Rose moves with her family to Woolwich in Kent. Her father was a shipwright, so it was probably for work at the docks there.
In 1862, Alfred immigrated to Victoria, Australia where he was a teacher. He is not known to have married there.
Back in London, in 1869 James and Rose married. They proceeded to have three children – John Robert (1871 – 1917), Louisa Elizabeth (1873 – 1930) and Alfred James (1874 – 1949). In October 1875, they arrived in Sydney, Australia on the Samuel Plimsoll as Assisted Immigrants.
Then it gets a bit sketchy. The next fact we had for certain was that in November 1877, Rose gave birth to her fourth child, Ethel. The father was Alfred and they were living in Akaroa, New Zealand.
The melodramatic gene kicked in (got it from my Aunt – no relation to this scandal). Had James died, leaving Rose destitute with the only person she knew in the southern hemisphere Alfred? Had James run off? Had Rose and Alfred killed him? Did he consent to his brother running off with his wife? Or did they just disappear into the night?
James and his family had made it pretty quickly from NSW to Victoria. There obviously weren’t any constraints on Assisted Immigrants to stay near their destination. Perhaps they always intended to join Alfred in Victoria and the Samuel Plimsoll was the first ship out.
An amazingly detailed research piece on Alfred’s teaching career in Victoria describes him in October 1876 as having “serious domestic complications” and “leaving the country” (which the researcher thought surely meant district!).
Further research by my Melbourne cousins has filled in some of the blanks. And the answer appears to be in Tasmania.
Tasmanian Archives have digitized their “ED2 – Applications for Teaching Positions and Associated Correspondence”. Among the records is an application by Alfred to teach in Tasmania. It’s dated 21 October, 1876 and his address is given as Hobart Town. Page 3 of the records is a letter from Alfred giving further details, but as is noted on Page 2, none after 1871.
The remaining pages do not paint the best picture of Alfred (and Rose). Page 4 is a letter from the Secretary of the Board of Education in Victoria alleging that Alfred left his last school there having embezzled some of the school’s funds.
And then there are the letters from James.
While it’s exciting to see his handwriting, the circumstances that produced it are very sad:
November 16 1876
I have just received a letter from the Education Department Melbourne to tell me that my brother Mr Alfred Nicholls has applied to your Board for employment. I wish to inform you that he is not a fit person to instruct the young while he is leading the life he is, he has run away from the Dimboola State School 1372, he left it on the 12th of Oct/76 came down to Melbourne and took away my wife and three children. They have robbed me of all they could lay hands on. If you will be kind enough to comply with my request that is not to give him employment & if you have to dismiss him as my wife has a home to come to which she will be obliged to if he can not get employment. They are of course living as man and wife. This is not the first woman he has served like this for he was living with one for seven years and then left her in Sydney and now he has trapped I being a new chum only being out from home one year.
I think he ought to be kicked out of Hobart Town. This statement is quite true.
I remain Sir
Your Obed Servt,
To the Secretary
NB If you now his address please to send it to me. JN”
A second letter from James dated 29 November 1876 thanks the Tasmanian Secretary of the Education Dept for not employing his brother.
The next trace of Alfred (and therefore Rose and the children) is in Dunedin, New Zealand.
I’ve always been intrigued by their NZ dates. There is a news item in the local Otago Daily Times 17 Jan 1877 saying he has been appointed to Mataura Bridge School and another in the Press, Christchurch has him appointed at Akaroa on Dec 22 1876. (I am assuming there is only Alfred Nicholls which is supported by another article on Feb 20 1877 which has another person being appointed master at Mataura Bridge). They possibly took the first job that came along – in a nice, rural, isolated spot!
Anyway, Rose and Alfred spent the rest of their lives together in Akaroa and later Christchurch, New Zealand. The family bible lists 9 children, but only 6 were Alfred’s. Alfred was father to his brother’s children too. Their story – according to their daughter Aldyth’s birth certificate, is that they married on James and Rose’s wedding date but in Melbourne. As they never married, strictly speaking there was no bigamy.
For more on Alfred and Rose, see my cousin Ruth’s blog.
So what happened to James?
We only have hints into what exactly happened between Rose, James and Alfred in 1875-6. James died in 1924, outliving his brother by 7 years and predeceasing his wife by one. He was still in Victoria and still legally married to Rose (there is no record of a divorce in Victoria). [Thanks to the Helpful People on GenForum!]
According to his death certificate (which was completed by Walter Ernest Jensen his “authorised agent” who was present at his death), he had a wife he married in London, two sons and a daughter – details unknown – Rose and his children by her. So he had never remarried (which would have been bigamous) nor had he had any further children. I always wonder if he knew where his family went after Tasmania…?
James is buried in Fawkner Memorial Park in the same plot as Charles Edward Jensen who had died in 1919. Charles was only 45 years old at his death, the son of Carl Jensen and Charlotte Blythe. From the electoral roll I have found that James was living with Charles’ mother Charlotte and brother James Arthur from at least 1919. Both James’ were tanners.
Further research in Victoria by my Melbourne cousins has found that James had a long relationship with the Jensen family. A number of their children had the middle name Nicholls and two sons were called Alfred. As my cousin points out “it would seem James had no hang-ups about the name Alfred” !!!
I only have dates and places for James, so I have no idea what sort of a man he was. He may have been the innocent party or the guilty one. It is unlikely we will ever know – unless the Jensen family have passed down a story about him????
My family seems to have a general policy of “why let the truth get in the way of a good story”. I don’t think we’re the only ones as many episodes of “Who Do You Think You Are?” are based on debunking family myths.
My 4x g-grandfather John Hewitt is a point in question. There are some great stories about him. Finding the evidence to back up the stories is not so easy.
The Known Facts
John Hewitt married Sophia Ann Hughes on 20 Oct 1791 in St Anne Soho, Westminster, London, England. They were married by Licence and Sophia’s sister Ann and father/brother William were witnesses. There is no sign of his family. At the time of their marriage, John was living in the parish of St Anne Soho and Sophia was living in Clapham.
Sophia was the daughter of William Hughes (c1737 – 1825) of Froxfield, Wiltshire and Anne Jenkins (1740 – 1798) of London. She was born on 19 Jan 1771 in the parish of St Nicholas Acons, London. William was a successful property speculator and landlord.
John and Sophia had the following children:
WILLIAM HUGHES HEWITT HUGHES (MP)was born on 02 Sep 1792 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. He died on 10 Oct 1874 in Ilkley Wells House, Yorkshire, England. He married MARIA FIELD on 23 Aug 1813 in St Saviour, Southwark, London, daughter of Richard Valentine Field and Sarah Ellerton.
FREDERICK HEWITT was born on 19 Aug 1793 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. He died on 13 Sep 1883 in Wandsworth, Surrey. He married ELIZABETH TURNER (c 1800 – 1874) on 22 Mar 1821 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.
SOPHIA ANNE HUGHES HEWITT was born on 24 Aug 1795 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. She died in 1873. She married HENRY FIELD (1793 – 1838) on 11 Aug 1824 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey, son of Richard Valentine Field and Sarah Ellerton (and brother to her brother’s wife).
AUGUSTUS HEWITT was born on 08 Sep 1797 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London, England. He died about Dec 1885 in Bath, England. He married (1) CHARLOTTE KEY (1808 – ?) on 03 Sep 1830 in St Matthew-Brixton, Surrey, England, daughter of John Key and Charlotte Green. He married (2) HARRIET ELIZABETH WHATTON (1826 – 1901) about Jun 1876 in Marylebone, Middlesex, England, daughter of William Robert Whatton and Harriet Sophia Seddon.
CAROLINE HEWITT was born on 09 Nov 1801 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. She married NATHANIAL DANDO (1789 – 1867) on 28 Nov 1822 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.
THOMAS HEWITT was born on 17 Jan 1804 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. He died in 1884. He married PHILADELPHIA EDWARDS (c.1816 – 1892).
CONSTANTIA HEWITT was born on 09 Sep 1805 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. She died between Jan-Mar 1891 in Brighton.
SABINA HEWITT was born on 09 Aug 1808 in Saint Anne Soho, Westminster, London. She died between Jan-Mar 1896 in Barton Regis, Gloucestershire, England.
EMMA HEWITT was born on 21 Apr 1810 in Holy Trinity, Clapham, Surrey. She died after 1891. She married JAMES WEBBER (c.1801 – bef 1891) on 11 Dec 1830 in Holy Trinity Church, Clapham, Surrey.
John was buried on 12 December 1820 at the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham. His age is listed as 73 (born around 1747), so there was only 24 years difference between him and his wife! But I have no idea exactly when or where he was born.
Sophia Anne was buried on 2 June 1821, also at the Holy Trinity Church in Clapham.
The best summation of what’s known about John Hewitt comes in a letter between some of my Field cousins in 1897:
Henry Claylands Field to William Hughes Field, 28th Feb 1897
Ann (my Grandmother) became the wife of a wealthy stockbroker and money lender, in either Greek St. or Frith St.., Soho Square London. I am uncertain now as to the name of the street, but it lead out of Soho Square, towards Seven Dials, on the east of Crosse and Blackwell’s pickling and preserving works, and the house was a ______ one, on the right hand side after passing the first cross street. I could point it out now if it still exists, and I was on the spot, as it was my mother’s birthplace. I do not recollect the money lenders name, if indeed I ever knew it, but fancy it may have been Isaacs, as a Mr Harrison Isaacs who had a large booksellers and stationers shop, in another street leading out of Soho Square, was somehow connected with us. He was burnt out, when I was about ten years old, through the preparation which he was melting to make tracing paper boiling over and setting fire to the premises. My Grandmother had no family by the money-lender, who soon died leaving her all his property; and then she married John Hewitt, a son or grandson of the Earl of Lifford who was also Dean of Cloyne. He was an officer in the army, I think the Guards; but retired on his marriage, which was probably considered a mere alliance by his people, and he carried on the money lending business for many years, living first in the old house, where my mother and the elder members of the family were born, and afterwards at Clapham, in Surrey, about 5 miles south of London. It was he and not Wm Hughes Hughes who built __ many houses at Clapham and in my early days they all belonged to my mother’s brothers.
Henry Claylands Field was born after his grandparents died, so he never heard their stories firsthand. He was in his early 70s when he wrote this letter.
Sophia’s first marriage
Have yet to find anything about this. Harrison Isaacs is quite well documented, but I haven’t found any marriages that might link them. She was only 20 when she married John, so any first marriage must have been very young and very brief. Her marriage to John doesn’t give her marital status, but it does list her as Sophia Hughes implying she wasn’t a widow.
Son/Grandson of Viscount Lifford
While their surname is Hewitt, their tree is quite well documented. The first Viscount Lifford James Hewitt was born in 1712 and didn’t marry until 1749. He did have a son called John who was Dean of Cloyne and born in 1756, but this John married someone else and died in 1804.
Unless our John was an undocumented “wrong side of the blanket”, it’s impossible that he was a son or grandson. He possibly could have been the son or grandson of one of James’ uncles or brothers, but I have yet to find one documented that fits the details we have. And there are no James Hewitt’s in our branch – you’d think it might be a name that turns up?
Not sure which Guards – anyone out there who can enlighten me? Still looking for that one in the National Archives Online. Have downloaded the Army Officer Lists for a number of years, but have yet to find a John Hewitt. Found a Christopher Hewitt who was Provost Marshall of Havana – that would be an interesting ancestor to have!
Money Lender, Soho
This one appears to be true. The first record I found was in the Fire Insurance Policy Register for 1786. There is a John Hewitt, Pawnbroker in Greek Street, which is one of the streets Henry was trying to remember in his letter. Greek Street is also in the parish of St Anne Soho where John was living when he married. There are records on London Lives which indicate John Hewitt, the pawnbroker, was paying rates in Greek Street during at least the period 1786-1802. There is also an 1786 fire insurance policy for another John Hewitt in Denmark Street – I believe them to be the same person.
An 1822 declaration by John’s second son Frederick regarding the assets (or lack thereof) of his estate confirms that this John Hewitt is our John Hewitt:
“John Hewitt formerly of Greek Street in the parish of St Ann Westminster in the County of Middlesex but late of Clapham in the County of Surry”.
Given that John and Sophia married in 1891, it seems unlikely that he took over the business on his marriage to her.
There is an interesting article on Pawnbroker signs and some of the history of pawnbrokers in London in the 1902 Volume of the The Archaeological Journal produced by the Royal Archaeological Institute. John doesn’t rate a mention but there is reference to pawnbrokers advertising in newspapers – so somewhere new to look!
I think there were ultimately quite a few houses built in Clapham by the Hewitt family. John’s second son Frederick (one of Henry’s uncles) had 9 when he died, leaving two to each of his four sons and a third to his eldest. Unfortunately, none of them made it down to me.
The value of his estate implies that he owned none of them when he died. However, if he was a savvy businessman he may have “sold” them to his sons to reduce the amount of death duties he would have to pay. Another area to research!
I have a couple of theories on this story:
John Hewitt was a lying toerag of an Irishman (the Viscount Liffords being an Irish title) who lied about his connections and service record to impress his potential in-laws. After all, if his birth date is correct, he was significantly older than his wife. Proving it will be difficult because I currently have no records as to where or when specifically he was born.
And/or, there is some confusion over who married who. Perhaps John was married to a Miss Isaacs, not Sophia – he was certainly old enough to have had another wife. Research into this will continue.
The declaration made by John’s son Frederick in 1822 regarding the value of his father’s estate does nothing to improve my image of John. Frederick states that value of his father’s assets is not the “under £800” declared under the administration of his estate but rather around £20. It turns out that the “Household Goods Furniture Plate Linen and China” that comprised the nearly £800 were actually the property of the landlord and not John’s. His only assets were his clothes “which on account of his having for a considerable length of time previous to his decease been confined by severe illness to his Chamber and principally to his Bed were much under the value of twenty pounds”. Frederick then noted that he had applied for and received a refund of death duties paid.
It does make you think that his wife had all the money. However, back then, women couldn’t really own anything and Sophia predeceased her father so had no inheritance. So what were they living on? And what sort of man was he?
b. 05 Oct 1849 in Middleton, Norfolk, England to Robert Buxton (1822-1884) and Frances Maw (or Man or Shaw???) (1823-aft 1881)
d. 20 Apr 1925 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
immigrated to Sydney, Australia in 1875 on Samuel Plimsoll as assisted immigrants
Rose immigrated to NZ, via Tasmania, with her children and James’ brother Alfred – they never married (links to my half-cousin Ruth’s blog on this). NZ records give the impression that all the children were Alfred’s.