Monday, 23 November 2015

Little Paxton, Huntingdon

St James was open but only because Mass was being celebrated; normally it's LNK when not in use however it is open on Friday's between 10.30am and 12.00pm - so that's alright then.

It's a stunning building with a fantastic churchyard full of interesting headstones but the highlight (externally) is the crude Norman south door tympanum

ST JAMES. Barbaric and entertaining Norman tympanum with a cross in the middle, on the l. Christ and the Lamb (?) on the r. two indefinable animals. In the chancel S wall the head of a Norman window. The chancel arch responds are Norman too, square with an angle shaft. So nave and chancel were once Norman. Perp W tower with its buttresses inside the church. Perp S arcade of four bays, very rough. Octagonal piers, but the responds just corbels in the form of a knot.. - PLATE. Cup and Cover Paten inscribed 1569; Plate 1685-6. - MONUMENT. In the churchyard N of the N porch plain coped stone to the architect John Buonarotti Papworth (d. 1847), architect to the King of Wurttemberg, as the inscription tells you. Paxton Park, which he built, has been demolished.

S door tympanum (1)

John Buonarotti Papworth 1847

Headstones (3)

LITTLE PAXTON. An enchanting hamlet in a lane, it has a park, thatched barns, and cottages that have been company for the church for 300 years. But best of all is the peep of the Ouse shining among reeds and willows.

For nearly 600 years the tower of the church has stood in all this loveliness, its little tiled cap peeping through the battlements. The chancel is older and comes from Norman times. The 13th century font has an oak cover 400 years younger; and in the chancel are fragments of red and yellow glass 500 years old. Two odd things we noticed by a window in the chancel, scratched drawings of horses on the wall, the work of old artists or mischievous boys.

Perhaps the best possession of the church is the south doorway, with its small arch on simple shafts. The stone over the door has a cross in a circle between two sculptures - a figure of the Good Shepherd and a wolf attacking a sheep. Roughly but finely carved, it is Little Paxton’s oldest picture.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

George Robarts 1749-1805

George is infuriating.

His death notice reads: At Hull, George Robarts, esq. formerly of Beverley, in Yorkshire, and brother to Abraham R. esq. MP for Worcester.

5th, 3rd living, son of Abraham & Elizabeth I know he lived at Linfit Hall, Slaithwaite, Yorkshire for a while but don't know when.

I've found on the web that a diary exists chronicling George Layland Robarts' life which was written by his cousin George Robarts who also lived in Beverly, York, England; could this be my George - yes; can I find a link - no.

As Joyce Grenfell said "George don't do that"

Abraham Robarts 1701-1761

Abraham, was born in 1701 and was christened on 21st May at St Dunstan, Stepney and went on to become a coal dealer and landowner living in Ratcliffe, Stepney.

In the 19th century Limehouse and Ratcliffe were notorious areas, catering to the locals and the huge influx of sailors and immigrants alike with their disreputable taverns, flophouses and brothels.

But while Limehouse has gone on to prosper – being transformed from a decaying industrial wasteland into a trendy residential area, with its restored 18th century houses – Ratcliffe has vanished. Ratcliffe was born as the first landfall for ships hitting the capital. The first wharf was built in 1348 and was the first recorded instance of the river being used for business east of the City.
The hamlet quickly grew, spreading north along Butcher Row, the main route to Stepney and Hackney. By the 17th century there were more people – 3,500 – living in Ratcliffe than in any of the other Stepney hamlets. Its bustling streets were lined with sailors’ houses, shipwrights’ offices and taverns.

But in 1794 disaster struck the area. A fire broke out on a barge loaded with saltpetre, the volatile substance used to make matches. This fire, at what is now the Free Trade Wharf, quickly spread to the wooden buildings on the shore, destroying the whole of the southern part of Ratcliffe.

Much rebuilding ensued, and with the huge influx of immigrants in the 19th century, the area changed drastically.

In 1801 the population of Ratcliffe was just 5,000; in 1861 it had soared to 17,000. Along the way, in 1840, it had been established as a parish district within Stepney, being split off from Limehouse.
The prosperous wharfingers and businessmen had now made way for sailors and dockers and Ratcliffe was entering the period of its greatest notoriety.

Broad Street, now the east end of The Highway, became a terrible slum. Ratcliffe became renowned for drunkenness, vice, opium dens and poverty. The authorities demanded that something be done.
Like Chinatown, in neighbouring Limehouse, Ratcliffe was planned out of existence. The building of the Commercial Road and of the London and Blackwall Railway demanded massive demolition; the digging of the Rotherhithe Tunnel did the rest.

As the 20th century rolled on, the laying out of the King Edward VII Memorial Park, the damage wreaked by the Luftwaffe’s bombs and the ongoing programme of slum clearance finished off Ratcliffe for good.

As its warehouses fell into decline, they were not allowed to stand, like those in neighbouring Wapping and Limehouse, but were cleared in the name of improvement.

Today, of course, those derelict warehouses have been renovated into smart new homes, while Ratcliffe lies buried beneath the roads, railways and tunnel diggings of the riverside.

The only reminder is Free Trade Wharf, which you approach from The Highway – once the Ratcliffe Highway – via a huge gateway, bearing lions and the coat of arms of the East India Company.
When you pass through the gate, originally built for the bustling area in 1796, you can reflect that you are walking on what was once one of the most infamous quarters of London – but now disappeared and almost forgotten.

On 18th Oct 1739 Abraham married Elizabeth Wildey in the Somerset House Chapel on the Strand.

Elizabeth was born abt 1705 in Stepney the daughter of Samuel Wildey (1679-1752) and his wife Lydia. Samuel was a coal merchant so it is safe to assume that Abraham either worked for him prior to marriage or went into his business after marrying Elizabeth.

What is certain is that Samuel Wildey was a substantial landowner and that, since his wife and two sons predeceased him, his business and land interests came into Abraham’s hands, via Elizabeth, on Samuel’s death. Samuel’s will was proved 14 Dec 1752 and in it he instructs that his body should be interred in the family vault at Saint Dunstan.

He also stipulated that “my body to be enclosed in a plain English oak coffin and to be carried in a hearse with four horses and two mourning coaches following with four horses to each coach and the corpse to be removed out of my house at eleven o'clock at night and the bearers be my own servants and to be deposited between the corpse of my late wife Lydia and my late son Richard, that of my wife to be placed on my left hand”. Unfortunately time, and acid rain, has dissolved the inscriptions on all the remaining vaults and headstones in the graveyard at  St Dunstan’s so finding the family vaults of both Wildeys' and Robarts’ has proved impossible.

Amongst various other bequests he left his “freehold messuages, lands, tenements and hereditaments situate and being in Wooburne, Little Marlow and elsewhere in the county of Bucks and also all those the tythes issuing, arising and payable to me out of my messuages, farms, lands or tenements whatsoever in the county of Berks and all other my real estate and also all my copyhold estate in the said parish of Stepney” as well as the “residue and remainder of my ready money, securities for money, goods, debts, stocks in the public funds or companies stock in trade and all other the residue and remainder of my estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever” to Elizabeth and therefore, by default, to Abraham (he also left her his household goods, plate, linen and jewels for her life which were to be sold after her death). This inheritance marked the beginning of the family fortunes which led to interests in the East India Company and the founding of a bank.

Samuel was the son of Richard Wildey (1641-1704) and Dorothy Butterfield (d.1699) – Dorothy was the daughter of Thomas Butterfield of Wooburn, Bucks and presumably bought the Wooburn land into the Wildey family either as a marriage settlement or upon inheritance. At his death in June 1662 Thomas was a prosperous yeoman “possessed of 2,443 loads of billets  valued at £610 15s., plus other wood valued at £129, while his barges, barge tackle and barge poles were valued at £90.” (Wooburn is on the river Wye which joins the Thames at Bourne End so presumably the barges were for ferrying his wood to markets).

Richard was a woodmonger and property owner based in Ratcliffe who states in his will “my body I commit to the earth to be decently interred amongst my ancestors in the vault belonging to me and my family in the Churchyard of Stepney aforesaid and with this further direction to my executor that my funeral be decent but not superfluous and that none but my relations be invited thereunto”! He left Samuel “the lease and premises which I hold from the company of Coopers of London (subject nevertheless to the said settlement made by me to my said wife ) and also all of my messuages, lands, tenements, parts of ships, lighters, vessels, stocks, moneys, debts, mortgages and all other my estate whatsoever both real and personal” under the supervision and guidance of his brother in law Edward Belitha who was a haberdasher and citizen of London.

In 1692 Richard Wildey was able to buy his son Samuel a share in Britain’s first life insurance scheme, the tontine. Richard had built a small property empire in Stepney: “6 houses to the street, 6 to the wharf and 2 in the Little Alley” and when William III needed to raise money to pay for his European wars the following year, Richard’s tax bill came to £8 and 6 shillings.

Richard was in turn the son of Captain William Wildey and Sarah Dover. William Wildey, vestryman of St Dunstan in 1643 (basically a parish councillor), who was to become a rear-admiral, was an energetic, painstaking Commonwealth naval officer. In 1653 he was consulted regarding the fitness of forty ships for State service and until June was busy finding crews and victualling the fleet at Gravesend for war with Holland. In June 1653 he wrote from Ratcliffe to the Admiralty Committee, which must have reprimanded him, “I must defend myself from your high displeasure of misrepresentation concerning me. I have been neither negligent nor unfaithful, and if I erred in carrying out your orders, it has been through misapprehension. I beg dismissal, as there are others better qualified”. He had been anxious that the crews were properly fed and clothed and constantly complained about the food.

He was married twice, first to Margaret Hawkins on 18th April 1626 and secondly to Sarah Dover on 13th February 1633, and died on 29th August 1679. Sarah died 6th April 1667. He left three sons, William, Richard and Thomas. The family lived in Stepney until 1782 when Samuel Wildey, the last of the male line, died.

William Wildey served in the Parliamentarian and Commonwealth navies. In 1646, he commanded the hired merchantman Charles, which was kept ready, but not used. Powell calls him Weldy in the list of ships held in reserve. In 1649, he commanded the 2nd Rate Charles (presumably the same ship which had been taken into service). Finally, in 1650, he was flag captain and commanded the 1st Rate Resolution – I have often wondered if this was the same ship that Abraham Robarts may have captained in 1692.

In August 1650 he commanded the flagship of Admiral Robert Blake during the pursuit of Prince Rupert to Lisbon. The King of Portugal refused to expel Rupert or to acknowledge the Commonwealth, so Blake seized the Portuguese treasure fleet from Brazil. When Rupert escaped from Lisbon into the Mediterranean, Blake continued his pursuit, attacking a detachment of Rupert's squadron in the neutral Spanish port of Cartagena and plundering French shipping when he took refuge in Toulon. Finally, with most of his fleet destroyed, Rupert fled into the Atlantic, and both Portugal and Spain agreed to recognise the Commonwealth.

Richard’s brothers, William and Thomas, both followed their father to sea, William was an EICO captain lost at sea in a hurricane in 1694 and was the Captain of their Majesty’s hired ship Modena and Thomas seems to have sailed, very successfully, on his own account since, in his will, he leaves “the eighteen houses, gardens, courts and any other outlets and any other privileges thereunto belonging to me”.

Returning to Abraham; in his will he commits his body “to the earth, to be decently buried at the discretion of my dear wife and at such place where she intends lying herself when dead” which is the beginning of the Robarts family vault in St Dunstan.

Amongst various bequests are a copyhold property “at or near Stepney Causeway”, copyhold premises in Stoneyard, Ratcliffe, a share and interest in the new Ratcliffe ferry of which he is the proprietor, £700 to his son Samuel Wildey and £1500 apiece to his sons Abraham and George. He left in total, at his death, just over £9000.00 which, depending on how it is measured, is anywhere between £565,000.00 and £6 million in today’s money which indicates how successful he was.

Apart from property and, I assume, trade investments with the EICO a large part of his fortune came through loans to the government; at the time of his death he had “four thousand pounds 4 percent annuities” and so he can be regarded as the informal founder of the banking interest.

Abraham died in October 1761 and was buried in St Dunstan, Stepney in his family vault which was/is a large altar tomb, enclosed by iron railings. Arms: 3 cross bows, a label for difference, on an escutcheon of pretence, a chevron gouttée bet. 3 birds close, for Wildey. Crest: a stag lodged regardant.

He was survived by Elizabeth and three sons.

Elizabeth lived for another seven years, dying in November 1768, and in her will decides on her final resting place: “my body I desire may be buried in a decent but not expensive manner and deposited in the vault in Stepney Churchyard as near to the remains of my late dear husband as may be”.

She goes on to discharge debts from her sons Samuel and Abraham; these were loans she had made “for their advancement in the world”. Since Samuel had been amply provided for by her father’s and husband’s estates she left the bulk of her estate to her two younger sons Abraham and George but her household goods are to be divided equally between all three sons excluding some individual bequests.

Abraham Robarts and Elizabeth Wildey had 5 children:

•    Richard Robarts 1740 – bef 1761; he died unmarried.

•    Abram Robarts 1742 – 1742.

•    Samuel Wildey Robarts born 27th Aug 1744 in Stepney, christened 13th Sep 1744 at St Dunstan and married Mary but had no children by her. Lt Colonel in His Majesty’s 28th or North Gloucester Regiment of Infantry (he sold his commission in 1794 for 4000 guineas) he was commissioned on 4th July 1759.

In 1734 Philip Bragg became Colonel of the Regiment which had been first raised in 1694 by John Gibson. Bragg was to command the Regiment for twenty-five years, until his death in 1759. In 1742 the British Army adopted a new, and initially very unpopular, numbering system for its regiments, which were no longer to be officially known by the names of their colonels. Bragg's Regiment became the 28th Foot, its red coats keeping the yellow facings of old. Many regiments, particularly the "Royal" regiments with blue facings to their coats, acquired fancier titles as well as numbers, which didn't always go down too well with colonels of less privileged, but just as proud, regiments. This in turn led to the regimental tradition of a drill command reputedly issued by one of Bragg's successors in the next century:

Neither King's nor Queen's, nor Royal Marines,
But 28th, Old Braggs: Brass before and Brass behind,
Never feared a foe of any kind;
Shoulder Arms!

In 1757 the 28th Foot sailed for the Americas with the Expeditionary Force under General Wolfe whose task was to wrest Canada from the French. The first action in which the Regiment was engaged was the Siege and Capture of Louisbourg, a strongly fortified post on the Eastern Seaboard of Nova Scotia. A year later they sailed with Wolfe up the hazardous St Lawrence River. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to gain a foothold on the mainland of Canada, a proposed plan of a silent landing below the cliffs of Quebec was conceived. On 13th September 1759 the 28th was the first regiment of the line to scale the Heights of Abraham following immediately behind 24 volunteers of the Light Infantry. When the army was drawn up to await General Montcalma’s attack it was at the head of the 28th that General Wolfe posted himself. The enemy advanced, firing as they came. When they were within 40 paces of the motionless redcoats Wolfe gave the order to fire. This first staggering volley and the quick succession of volleys that followed broke the French line, and at Wolfe's command the whole of his force advanced to achieve the victory that eventually won Canada for the British. Wolfe was wounded three times and survived just long enough to hear that victory was assured.

Samuel was unlikely to have been present at Quebec given that he only joined the Regiment in July 1759 and it took two to three months to sail to Canada but thereafter he would have been on active service.

On April 28 1760, at the defeat of Sainte-Foy (the last French/Indian victory of the war), the regiment was in Fraser's brigade on the left wing. It then took part in the expedition against Montréal.

In 1761, the regiment assumed garrison duty in Montréal for most of the year before being sent to the West Indies where it arrived in Carlisle Bay in Barbados on December 24.

In January and February 1762, the regiment took part in the expedition against Martinique and the siege of Fort Royal. Then, from March to August, it participated in the expedition against Cuba and the siege and capture of Havana suffering heavy losses from sickness during the following months. After a year in Cuba the regiment went to New York with a strength of only 208 men.

After the end of the Seven Years War (in 1768) the 28th Foot were on garrison duty in Montreal. Day-to-day life was made very difficult for the soldiery there by one Thomas Walker, an important merchant and magistrate of the city, particularly with regard to his failure to provide them with adequate quarters during the severe winter weather. The 28th decided to take revenge and on the night of 6th December a group of disguised men burst into Walker's house as he was sitting down to supper, beat him up and sliced off half his right ear.

The culprits were never brought to justice, although there was plenty of circumstantial evidence implicating Captain Payne, Lieutenant Tottenham, Sergeant Rogers, Sergeant Mee, Private Coleman, Private McLaughlan and four others.

"It was a lesson to outsiders not to tamper with the 28th, and although the removal of magistrates' ears is to be deprecated, Mr. Walker seems to have pushed the forbearance of that spirited corps rather far. The affair became a cause celebre and resulted in resignations by high officials and kept the law courts busy and the Montreal tea tables chattering for four years. One thing emerged from the incident of Walker's Ear - a new name for the 28th - 'the Slashers'."

1768 produced a comprehensive set of instructions in the form of a new Royal Warrant for the army with regard to their dress, accoutrements and equipment. Each regiment was expected to comply with these regulations, and much attention was paid to the often minor but proud distinctions of uniform detail applicable to the diverse regiments, paying particular regard to the changes that had been made since the last Royal Warrant of 1742. Inspections became more frequent as standards had to be met. The 28th Regiment of Foot was the subject of an Inspection Return on 28th May 1768:

8 Fifers. Officers - coat with silver embroidered button-holes, cross pockets, lapelled to the waist with bright yellow; yellow cape; a small round cuff - silver buttons numbered; silver shoulder-knot. White waistcoat and breeches. A Company, called the Light Infantry Company, appeared clothed in short coats and caps, but have notwithstanding proper clothing like the other companies, when required to be worn.”

The Light Infantry Company mentioned above was a hangover from the Seven Years War, as such Light Companies were not officially to be included on the establishment of line infantry regiments until 1770. The 28th were unusual in retaining a Light Company as most other regiments which had seen active service dissolved theirs at the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.

The Battle of White Plains was an inconclusive action fought on 28th October 1776 outside New York with about 4,000 men engaged on each side - the British under the command of Major General Sir William Howe, the Americans led by General George Washington. The battle came about as a result of Howe's efforts to threaten Washington's lines of communication, while keeping New York safe in British hands. The 28th Foot were present in Second Brigade with the 5th, 35th and 49th Regiments.

The attack by the 28th Foot in company with the 35th provided an alternative or additional explanation of the regimental nickname of 'the Slashers'. As they advanced towards the American position, their way was hampered by the long grass through which they marched. Using their swords and bayonets like machetes, the 28th slashed their up the slope before charging and driving the Americans from their position at bayonet point.

On 13th March 1778 France recognised the independence of the United States of America, and thus Great Britain and France were at war again. The 28th Foot, together with the 4th, 5th, 15th, 27th, 35th, 40th, 46th, 49th and 50th Regiments, plus fifty Light Dragoons, embarked at Staten Island in New York, bound for the West Indies.

In a skilfully executed combined operation, the Royal Navy and the Army captured the island of St Lucia in December 1778. Admiral Samuel Barrington's  squadron of twelve ships covered the landing of 6000 men under Major General Grant who overwhelmed the island's tiny garrison with ease. But it wasn't long before a French fleet hove in sight, twice as large as Barrington's, and escorting its own landing force, double in numbers that of Major General Grant.

Grant divided his force into three, manning the major strong points of the island. The first French attack fell upon La Vigie where Lieutenant-Colonel Meadows was posted with his three battalions, who were an interesting mix; the 5th Foot, the Grenadier battalion and the Light battalion, the latter two composed of the elite flank companies of all the British infantry regiments (including the 28th) landed on St Lucia. The entire French force attacked but were finally driven back as the British reached the end of their ammunition supply. Successive French attacks over the next several days on the two other British positions also met with failure. Within two weeks the French had evacuated the island and St Lucia was in British hands.

St Lucia was fought over no less than fourteen times between the French and the British between the 17th and 19th centuries, finally being ceded to the British in 1815, before final independence in 1979.

1782 saw the introduction of County titles to most of the Regiments of Foot in the British Army. Regiments had always recruited from far and wide in the kingdom and beyond, and, indeed, would continue to do so. Both the 28th and the 61st recruited heavily in Ireland for many years, as did many other regiments. However, the association of the various regiments with the counties of the British Isles increasingly came to mean that the army as whole began to develop the regional characteristics that were to stand it in good stead for the next two hundred or so years.

In any case, the numbering system was not abandoned. The 28th became the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot and the 61st became the 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot. There were some difficulties and arguments as to which regiments should be allocated to which counties, for change is often painful.

On 1st February 1793 Revolutionary France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands, launching an invasion of the latter fifteen days later. With astonishing rapidity Britain sent an expeditionary force to the aid of its ally, which set sail from Greenwich later the same month. The following year the 28th Regiment set sail from England with more substantial reinforcements to join the Duke of York in Flanders and by August the Royal Duke's army was over 34,000 strong.

The 28th were to remain in Flanders for a year, in a campaign marked by dismal weather, logistical breakdowns and ill-conceived and poorly executed plans undertaken by the British and their Austrian and Dutch allies. Fortunately inadequate Allied strategy was saved from disaster by the professionalism of their soldiers and the even greater inefficiency of the French Revolutionary army at this time.

Two officers of the 28th were later to achieve greater fame in the wars against the armies of Napoleon in Spain and at Waterloo. Lieutenant Colonel Edward Paget would lead the regiment in Egypt and become a general under both Moore's and Wellington's commands, while Captain Hussey Vivian would later be a successful cavalry commander. And the Duke of York himself, although never to be marked out as a brilliant commander in the field, did a great deal to reform the army which was to be Wellington's instrument of victory.

•    Abraham Robarts 1745 – 1816 of whom more below.

•    George Robarts 1749-1805 christened 11 Sep 1749 St Dunstan. Nothing else known except his death notice: At Hull, George Robarts, Esq. formerly of Beverley, in Yorkshire, and brother to Abraham R. Esq. MP for Worcester and at some point he lived at Linfit Hall, in Slaithwaite.

Abraham Roberts 1669-1716

We descend from a man of mystery - Captain Abraham Roberts/Robarts (he appears with both an e and an a in various sources) was born in Stepney in 1669 his parentage unknown but there are two possibilities for his lineage:

1. He may be connected to the Robartes’ of Cornwall – there is a long history of the surname in the south west and the fact that he was a mariner (a career I assume he followed his father in) would give the family the mobility required to get from the south west to Stepney.

2. Or he may have been the son of a Huguenot who fled French Catholic tyranny and set up in trade in Stepney, which was a centre of Huguenot resettlement. This is credible given the lack of past history and the mariner connection – the Walloons were great sea traders.

Personally I like to think we are connected to the Cornwall lot as it makes the family history (i.e. the connection to the Stuarts, since Lord John Robarts was a parliamentarian during the civil war) even more interesting but I don’t think we’ll ever know where we came from. Of course we could all be Welsh and Roberts was the correct spelling which got corrupted in transcription.

Abraham was, as aforementioned, a mariner, essentially the lorry drivers of their day, but the times he was living in meant he needed an armed vessel to ply his trade to the East Indies under commission for the United Company of Merchants of England Trading to the East Indies (the forerunner of the EICO). Records I have found show two ships he may have commanded; The James (I assume named after James II) and The Resolution.

Abraham was possibly captain of The James in 1688 (the year that James II was deemed to have abdicated), she was a licensed ship (i.e. could commit what we would consider acts of piracy under licence from the Crown) weighing 300 tons, carried 40 guns, with 60 crew members and travelled from Madras to Milford Haven; she weighed on 07 Feb 1688 and moored 28 Aug 1690 - a long trip!

Abraham disappears from records until 1692 when he may re-appear as Captain of The Resolution - a ship of 3 decks, 40 guns, 130 crew and 650 tons - when the ship was captured by the French on 31st May in the Downs. In 1692 England was at war with France and was preparing to fend off a French invasion (with the intent of restoring the Catholic James II to the throne). Abraham, as a merchantman, would have been a prize of war. It was at this time that the Bank of England  was established to raise money from private financiers to fund the national debt - some of whose later directors were Abraham’s descendants.

Abraham married Mary Cowley, born abt 1680 in Cornhill, daughter of Robert Cowley, an embroiderer (nothing more of whom has been found). At the time of his marriage he lived in the parish of St Benedict Finck which is no longer extant – it was on the south side of Threadneedle Street in Broad Street Ward and burnt in the Great Fire and was rebuilt by Wren in 1679. It was then demolished in 1842-4 for the New Royal Exchange and the parish was united with St. Peter le Poor and the monuments removed to that church. They had 6 children:

•    Mary: 1699 - bef 1772 who married Arthur Clark in Stepney on 25 Dec 1717 and had 2 boys  
     Joseph b. 1722 and John b. 1725 about whom nothing is known and neither of whom are
     mentioned in their grandmother's will of 1772 so were presumably dead by then.
•    Abraham: 1701 – 1761 of more later.
•    Elizabeth: 1703 – 1768.
•    Samuel: 1703 – bef 1772.
•    Jane: 1709-1758 who married, in 1746, Anthony Malpas as his second wife but had no issue.
     Malpas was a stockbroker of the parish of St Mildred Poultry in London and owned land in
     Stepney, Moor Street in Soho and Somerset Street in Aldgate. He married three times and his  
     third wife, Alice, was Mary Robarts’ (nee Cowley) executrix.
•    Robert: 1713 – bef 1772.

In his will, dated 1698 and calling himself Abraham Roberts, he left all his worldly goods to his wife:

In the name of God Amen the nineteenth day of November anno domini 1698 and in the tenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord William the third by the grace of God King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, defender of the faith I Abraham Roberts of the parish of Stepney and county of Middlesex, Mariner, being in health of body and of good and perfect mind and remembrance, thanks be to almighty God for the same and calling to remembrance the uncertain estate of this transitory life and that all flesh must yield unto death when it pleases God to call I do make and declare this my last will and testament in manner and form following (that is to say) adjouring and disposing all such temporal estate as it has pleased the almighty God to bestow upon me.

And I do hereby nominate and appoint my said loving wife to be full and sole executrix of this my last will and I do hereby {illegible - probably renounce} revoke and make void all former and other wills by me heretofore made in witness whereof I the said Abraham Roberts have hereunto set my hand and seal on the day and month and year first above written.

Signed, sealed and delivered, published and declared by the testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us Jonathon Booth, Mary Carpenter, George Carpenter.

Proved 23 Jan 1716/7

Abraham died, aged 47, in 1716 and was survived by Mary who lived until 1772. In her will Mary instructed that all her goods and chattels should be sold and the proceeds from the sale and the rest and residue of her estate should be equally divided between her four grandsons Captain Samuel Wildey Robarts, Mr. Abraham Robarts, Mr. George Robarts and Mr. Anthony Malpas. Her executrix was Alice Malpas, Anthony’s stepmother, who was Anthony Malpas’s 3rd wife.

George James Robarts

My 4x great uncle was a military and political figure and as as such embellished his time with his probity and liberal politics viz:

LIEUT.-Col. GEORGE JAMES ROBARTS, C.B. CORNET 23d dragoons 8th Dec., 1803; Lieut. 19th Oct., 1804; Lieut. 10th dragoons 23d Nov., 1804; Capt. 3d April, 1806; Capt. 10th dragoons 25th April, 1806; Maj. 1st Aug., 1811; L.-Col. in the army 2d June, 1813; Maj. 7th light dragoons 12th Aug., 1810: he is now on the half-pay of the 9th dragoons. This officer served in Spain and Portugal, and commanded the 10th hussars at the battle of Vittoria, for which he has received a medal: the is a Companion of the Bath.

ROBARTS, LIEUT.-Col. GEORGE JAMES, C.B. sat for Wallingford in the Parliaments of 1820-26, resigning his seat in the latter parliament, in the same year that he was returned. Adopting the military profession he entered the army as cornet in the 23rd dragoons, in 1803; received his commission as lieutenant of the 10th dragoons, in 1804; was promoted to the rank of captain, in 1806; major, in 1811; brevet lieutenant-colonel, 2nd June, 1813; was appointed major of the 7th light dragoons, in 1819; and was subsequently on the half pay of the 9th dragoons. He served in Spain and Portugal, and commanded the 10th hussars at the battle of Vittoria, for which he received a medal. Mr. Robarts who was brother to A. W. ROBARTS, Esq. so many years M.P. for Maidstone, died the 16th October, 1829, in the 47th year of his age. His political principles were liberal.

The Royal Military Chronicle: Or, British Officers Monthly Register 1813

We have much satisfaction in being enabled to mention with so much just praise the name of Major Robarts; a friend and contributor to this work, and to whom the army, in common with the country, is peculiarly indebted for embellishing the military character with all the chastities of Christian life. It is no small praise, in difficult times, to perform even the duties of an arduous profession; but it is a greater praise, and the proof of a noble mind, to carry a liberal and generous enthusiasm into such performance; and by thus outstripping the mere quantum of due service to become a benefactor instead of a servant. It does not belong to our uncourtly language to give a due eulogy to a character of this kind; but let the sincerity of our praise excuse any rusticity in our style. I pretend to nothing but to write my own language as it is spoken in good company.

Offices Held

Cornet 23 Drag. 1803; lt. 10 (Prince's Own) Drag. 1804, capt. 1806, maj. 1811, brevet lt.-col. 1813; maj. 24 Drag. Nov. 1814, 9 Drag. Dec. 1814 (half-pay).


Robarts served in the Peninsula, distinguished himself in command of the Prince of Wales's Hussars at Morales, 2 June 1813, and fought at Vitoria later in the month. On his return home he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He was the senior of the 24 officers of the regiment who in August 1814 signed a letter requesting a court martial on the allegedly reprehensible conduct of their colonel, George Quentin, in France the previous spring. Quentin was largely exonerated and, to mark the prince regent's displeasure, his officers were disbanded as a corps. Robarts was transferred to the 24th Hussars on 12 Nov. 1814. In the Commons, 23 Nov., his uncle George Tierney refuted an official statement, placed in the Courier, that in an earlier debate he had made light of Robarts's personal indebtedness to the regent for his promotion. Like the chief scapegoat in the affair, Colonel Charles Palmer, Robarts was placed on half-pay shortly afterwards.

He received £6,107 from his wealthy father in his lifetime and on his death in 1816 inherited a further £33,893 plus £10,000 in trust. He joined Brooks's in 1817 and bought five houses in the venal borough of Wallingford, which he unsuccessfully contested in 1818. He tried again at the general election of 1820, when some of the respectable electors formed an association to promote independence and root out corruption. He professed sympathy with their aims, came second in the poll and so joined two of his brothers in the House. (The other son of Abraham Robarts, James Thomas, was a supercargo with the East India Company in Canton.) Robarts followed the family line and was a steady, though apparently silent adherent of the Whig opposition to the Liverpool ministry. He was a regular voter for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation, favoured making Leeds, proposed for enfranchisement in place of Grampound, a scot and lot borough, 2 Mar. 1821, and divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824. He led the Wallingford deputation which presented a supportive address to Queen Caroline, 22 Jan. 1821. He was apparently a lukewarm supporter of Catholic relief: his only certain vote for it was on 1 Mar. 1825. His last recorded votes were against the president of the board of trade's ministerial salary, 7, 10 Apr., and for reform of Edinburgh's representation, 13 Apr., and relaxation of the corn laws, 18 Apr. 1826. That day, as Tierney told Lady Holland, 28 Apr., his family came 'very near losing' him:

He was suddenly attacked in the House of Commons ... by loss of speech and for the four following days the physicians gave hardly a hope of his being likely to live. A favourable change has however taken place and he is now out of danger, though still attended by the doctors four times a day. The case is not paralytic but is connected with some pressure of the brain.

On 16 May Tierney wrote:

 My poor nephew is still in a very precarious state, but the physicians encourage us to hope that he will ultimately recover. I should have more confidence in them if they were able to say distinctly what was his complaint.

He had come in for criticism in Wallingford for failing to pay the expected rewards to his supporters; and two months before the general election of 1826 (a few days before his seizure in the House) he was persuaded that his only chance of re-election lay in coalescing with the other veteran Whig sitting Member William Hughes, an enthusiastic briber. He was too ill to take any part in the campaign, and his brother-in-law John Maddox stood in for him. He was returned in second place, but he vacated his seat soon after the new Parliament met. He survived in a state of vegetation for a further three years, but on 27 Aug. 1829 Tierney told Lord Holland that he:

 cannot possibly last long. He is in as wretched a condition as can well be imagined, his bones through his skin and his faculties entirely gone. The physician who lives with him says that he cannot answer for him from day to day, at the same time that he may linger on for some weeks.

He died in October 1829, 'aged 47'. On the 19th his brother Abraham, the only survivor of the four (William had died in 1820 and James in 1825, at Macao), told Lord Salisbury, to whom Robarts left his shooting equipment:

The illness which led to this fatal event has been of such long duration, and was attended with so many distressing and melancholy circumstances, the termination of it can scarcely be considered otherwise than [as] a providential release from a miserable existence.

Having been extolled "for embellishing the military character with all the chastities of Christian life" it came as a surprise to find the following -

By his will, dated 24 Nov. 1823, and proved under £70,000, he bequeathed £10,000 to Mary Ann Harben, who lived in a house he owned at 57 Welbeck Street; £10,000 each to their bastard children  Georgiana Charlotte and James George, and the same sum to another illegitimate child, George Francis Stuart Andrews *. He commended the first two to the 'favourable notice' of his mother and sisters, trusting that they would 'have some feeling in consideration for the circumstances of their birth and do all in their power to make them respectable and happy in life'. His daughter received his Vitoria medal and a set of dental instruments looted from Joseph Buonaparte's carriage at that engagement.

Georgiana died aged 12 in 1832.

James (1823-1886) married Hannah Hewitt (1829-1908) in 1867 in Kensington and had a son, George Harben Robarts (1873-1900). He, James, is buried in Ipswich Cemetery.

 His, George, will led to an extensive court case regarding his children's legacies.

Hannah died in 1866 in Essex.

To us a run of the mill story but back in the day to have a mistress and two illegitimate children whilst being a sitting MP would have been scandalous - I wonder if his family knew prior to his death (particularly his younger brother, James Thomas, who died in Macao four years before him and who had his own illegitimate family).

* I'm fairly sure George Francis was his Godchild (it's the way the will reads) not another bastard son.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Fornham All Saints, Suffolk

On the face of it All Saints, locked, keyholder listed, should tick all the boxes - fabulous location, attractive exterior, interesting churchyard, quirky interior (see the aisles and north transept/chapel), great gargoyles and some good poppyheads amongst other articles of interest - but it doesn't quite do it for me. Whether this is due to the 1863 Blomfield restoration or that it was overall a dull and cloudy day I didn't warm to it as much as I feel I should have.

ALL SAINTS. Norman S doorway with one order of shafts. Early C13 W tower, unbuttressed with lancets and a small single-chamfered doorway towards the nave. Nave of c. 1300, see one window with Y-tracery. Tall Dec chancel, the E window reticulated. Perp S aisle attached to the E wall of the S porch. Battlements with initials, shields, etc., in stone and flushwork. The S arcade has two bays, the S chapel one into the chancel. The Perp E window has a niche to its r. in the SE angle. There was also one in the NE angle. - BENCH ENDS. With poppy-heads, and three with animals on the arms. - PLATE. Cup 1566; Paten 1660; Flagon 1762.


Headstone (6)

Poppyhead (2)

Gargoyle (10)

FORNHAM ALL SAINTS. It has a church chiefly 500 years old, but with a lofty chancel a century older, and with a low tower whose base is a century older still. We found much interest here in a wealth of small things - little gargoyles on the tower, a door with a very old lock, another door with fine old hinges, in the porch a wooden face with its tongue out, a king’s and a queen’s head outside the east window, carved bosses in the aisles, painted bosses in the fine roof of the chancel, a canopied niche in a chapel, and poppyheads carved on old benches.

But these are not all Fornham has for the pilgrim. The sedilia and the piscina by the priest’s doorway are 600 years old; by the altar is a statue of Christ copied from the one by the famous Danish sculptor Thorwaldsen; and at the side of the chancel is part of what was once the roodscreen. The east window has lovely tracery filled with attractive glass of Our Lord in Glory among the Apostles; and there is another fine traceried window in the Mannock chapel, which has also a peephole and many brass inscriptions to the Mannocks. It has, too, a brass of an Elizabethan Professor of Medicine, Thomas Barwick, who looks as if he is just giving a lecture to his students.

Some charming thatched cottages stand close to the church, and other cottages here have been made from the house called Aldridges, whose ancient moat is now dry.

Haverhill Cemetery

In loving memory

Angelina Ann Gurteen 1922 (5)

BVM (2)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Cambridge Cemeteries

Ascension Parish Burial Ground

Hard to find due to the narrow lane off Huntingdon Road in the north west of the city, and a major roadworks upgrade ongoing when I visited, this is a well maintained, intimate cemetery. The BBC describes it as Britain's brainiest cemetery and I have to admit that while I noticed several Dons and other brainiacs I completely missed Ludwig Wittgenstein (probably because I'm not that much in to him).

It treads a very fine line along the "managed for nature, maintained for the populace" line striking, in my opinion, an almost perfect balance.

As I said small and intimate and a good start to the day.


Histon Road Cemetery

Established in 1843 by the non-conformist community, Histon Road Cemetery was one of only three in England designed by the leading Victorian garden designer J C Loudon. Now closed, it is cared for by Cambridge City Council working closely with the Friends of Histon Road Cemetery. As one of the best preserved examples of Loudon’s work the Cemetery is English Heritage grade II* listed.

It's well maintained but somewhat dull but having said that I did enjoy the east side hodgepodge of headstones.

 Histon Road Cemetery (1)

Cambridge City Cemetery

A municipal  burial ground with Jewish and Islam sections which brings a huge range of idiosyncratic headstones to the table. And then you come across the child plot - I stayed a while, prayed and walked away profoundly moved.

Whilst this is the burial ground for thousands of Cambridge ex-residents it is also the remembrance garden of  1024 WWI & II deaths - the largest CWGC site I'd seen to date and is a sight to remember.

 CWGC Air Force plot (6a)

Mill Road Cemetery

Grade II listed site (and nine individually Grade II listed monuments) and managed for wildlife this is a fascinating, if dog shit covered, cemetery and a lovely green space even on a mizzly November day. Also the most informative cemetery I've visited both on site and on their brilliant website.

My one caveat is that management for wildlife seems to have taken precedence over care of listed monuments in some cases:




Moyes family c1865 (1)


George & Sarah Kett


George Kett 1872 (2)

The American Cemetery

Not strictly a Cambridge Cemetery, it's in nearby Madingley, the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial site in England, 30.5 acres in total, was donated by the University of Cambridge. It lies on a slope with the west and south sides framed by woodland. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,812 of US military dead; 5,127 names are recorded on the Tablets of the Missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Most died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of northwest Europe.

From the flagpole platform near the main entrance, the great mall with its reflecting pools stretches eastward. It is from the mall that the wide, sweeping curve of the burial area across the lawn is best appreciated. Along the south side are the Tablets of the Missing, and at the far end is the memorial with a chapel, two huge military maps, stained glass windows bearing the state seals and military decorations, and a mosaic ceiling memorial honoring the dead of the air forces.
Just. Do. It.

Lest we forget (12)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Little Downham, Cambridgeshire

St Leonard is a small, intimate building set in a lovely churchyard with some good glass (including Geoffrey & Christopher Webb windows), a Norman south door and a massive GR royal arms. Whilst not a top ten church I really liked it.

ST LEONARD. The small W tower is Norman in its lowest stage, unbuttressed with tiny round-headed windows. Norman also the S doorway with spiral-grooved shafts (cf. Ely), a roll-moulding with, along it, twenty-six close-set faces of all sorts and sizes and an outer zigzag moulding. But the arch is pointed and the rest of the church is indeed essentially Transitional or earliest Gothic. The transition was no doubt gradual, and certain things which appear historical development to us may well have taken place at the same moment. The small tower arch towards the nave for instance is pointed. To its l. and r. higher up two small nave W windows of lancet shape. Lancets on the second and third stage of the tower (the bell-stage is C 19*), lancets at the W ends of the aisles, and a blocked lancet in the N wall of the N aisle. The arcades go well with these windows. They have alternating circular and octagonal piers with the plainest capitals and double-chamfered arches. In the C14 the chancel received new windows (E window renewed C19), and in the C15 the porch was added (rebuilt C19). The aisle windows are mostly Victorian. The church is largely of flint, the northernmost case of this material in the county. - FONT. Octagonal, Perp, with blank arches against the stem and the coving below the bowl and quatrefoils with rosettes on the sides of the bowl.

* But Cole in the mid C18 says: ‘Tower of white brick’ and shows buttresses with lower parts.

St Thomas (2)

S door (7)

Geoffrey Webb Road to Gethsemane (4)

LITTLE DOWNHAM. Little only in name, this village has an ancient church at one end, the remains of a magnificent palace at the other, and Ely Cathedral within three miles.

The palace was built by Bishop Alcock of Ely at the end of the 15th century, and we found all that is left of it serving as storerooms for a farm; but we may see the great brick oven and a smaller one where the bishop’s bread was baked; we may look through his windows and stand under a carved archway through which passed more than one famous bishop, the last of them to a long imprisonment in the Tower. He was Matthew Wren, Sir Christopher’s uncle, who was arrested here, after Laud’s impeachment, as a supporter of the fallen archbishop; he was put in the Tower and languished there for 18 years. Long afterwards, being warned by Charles the Second as to his conduct, Wren answered in a moment of great boldness that he knew the way to the Tower.

Much of the church was already old when the palace was new. The small tower with its thick walls is mostly Norman, and best of all is the beautiful doorway in the south porch from the time when Norman ideas were changing to English. Its shafts and capitals and slightly pointed arch are a mass of crude carving, zigzags and faces and beaked animals (one of a two-headed cat), and in it hangs a noble old door with fleur-de-lys hinges.

It brings us into a plain clerestoried nave of the 13th century, with a simple arch leading into a 14th century chancel. By some of the windows are the heads of a king and a wimpled woman, a hideous dragon, and a graceless boy sticking out his tongue. The tall graceful font with a tapering bowl cut with roses is 500 years old; the fine chest cut with pomegranates is getting on for 400. We noticed that one rector, Thomas Jones, outspanned all the others on the list by serving for all but sixty years of the 18th century.

Friday, 7 August 2015

St Giles without Cripplegate, London

After St Clement, West Thurrock, St Giles (open and very welcoming) sits in one of the most bizarre settings I've yet come across. It's in the middle of the Barbican estate, a 1960s/70s housing estate and a prominent example of British brutalist architecture - it really is quite an extraordinary setting.

Whilst not the most exciting of interiors - it was extensively restored three times following fires in 1545, 1897 and in 1940 there was a direct hit on the north door in the summer and the following December the church was showered with so many incendiary bombs that even the cement caught alight - there is plenty of interest here. Given that only the shell, the arcade in the chancel, the outside walls and the tower survived the bombing this is a very sympathetic restoration.

Mee's entry records the pre-bombed church and is interesting as it shows what was lost to the incendiaries.

At the end of Monkwell Street is a passage opening to an avenue of trimmed planes in the churchyard of St Giles’s, Cripplegate.

Rahere the king’s jester built St Bartholomew’s and his friend Alfune built St Giles’s. That was in the reign of William Rufus, but the church as we see it has been twice rebuilt, and except for the base of the tower is mostly 400 years old. It must be for ever a place of pilgrimage for the English-speaking race.

Here one drab November day in 1674 they buried an old neighbour, giving him a “very decent interment according to his quality.” The little procession had come from a house not far away, with brother Christopher and two nephews, a few learned friends, and a “concourse of the vulgar” to say farewell to a blind old man in grey so long familiar in these streets. He was John Milton.

Here one summer’s day in 1620 there had come another small procession with a joyous purpose, for a young man from the country was marrying a merchant’s daughter from Essex; he was not yet 21, but was a man with great spirit, kneeling here in front of the altar with his bride, and his name was to ring round the world with that of the blind old man. He was Oliver Cromwell, and his bride was Elizabeth Bourchier. One day in the years that lay ahead an exiled king was to come back to his throne to find a paper at his Privy Council marked Old Mrs Cromwell - Noll’s Wife’s Petition.

This precious church was spared by the Great Fire, but it has suffered from other fires, for the City has always pressed closely round it, as the warehouses do still. It is plainly seen from Fore Street (the ancient way before the Wall), or from the churchyard, but the best view is from the vicar’s gate, where we see the tower with its fine 15th century base and its upper storey of 1684 with a wooden lantern and a fine musical peal of 12 bells which play hymns and songs every three hours.

This church with so much history has in its churchyard a visible monument of the earliest days of our history, a bastion of the Roman Wall with flowers and plants creeping out of its crevices. It is a thrilling sight. Sharing the churchyard with it is Milton’s statue, with these famous lines from Paradise Lost:

O spirit! What in me is dark
Illumine; what is low, raise and support,
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert Eternal Providence
And justify the ways of God to man.

On the pedestal are scenes in Comus and Paradise Lost. In the church is a tablet marking the grave of the poet; he lies with his father in the chancel. Near the tablet is his bust, by John Bacon.

The oldest monument that has escaped the fires of Cripplegate is that of Thomas Busbie, a rich cooper who died in 1575. His painted figure shows him in a black coat, his face full of benevolence, and his epitaph tells us that he gave the poor of Cripplegate every year four loads of the best charcoal and 40 dozen loaves.

Near him lies a man who died the year before the Armada came, before either Milton or Cromwell was born, leaving behind him the Book of Martyrs which was placed with the Bible in hundreds of churches, chained for safety. His name is on the north wall. John Foxe had saved his life by living abroad in the years of persecution, and though he might have held high oflice in the Church he lived in toil and privation, writing what he believed was true. It was his deepest conviction that religion had no place in it for cruel violence, a truth that was rarely seen in his day among any body of Christians in the land.

Here Lies Martin Frobisher

In that Tudor age they brought to this place another man who lives in history though his heart is buried far away in Plymouth; he was that plain old sailor Martin Frobisher, explorer of the North-West Passage, one of the most skilful of the men who shattered the Armada, and a hero after Queen Elizabeth’s own heart. His monument is in a dim corner of the south aisle, and has a relief of a sailing ship bristling with cannon. It was put here 300 years after the defeat of the Armada, and has on it the lines of Macaulay beginning, Attend! all ye who list to hear our noble England’s praise. On an ornate monument in the north aisle is a bust of Sir William Staines, Lord Mayor in 1800, in his chain of office.

Here also lies John Speed, the Cheshire man who spent most of his days working as a tailor in London, but whose remarkable knowledge of history won for him the friendship of Fulke Greville. It was Fulke Greville who enabled him to take up the task of drawing maps of all the counties of England, and of writing their history “from Julius Caesar to King James.” He was the first man to summarise all the history that was known of his country. They laid him in this church in 1629; and here we see his figure, with a book in his right hand and his left on a skull, enclosed as in a cupboard. Near him are kneeling 17th century figures of Richard and Elizabeth Smith. An Elizabethan vintner, Roger Mason, is also here, engraved on a stone panel, kneeling with his wife and daughter.

The famous Lancelot Andrewes, who was vicar here before he became three times a bishop and one of the greatest spiritual forces in the life of the Church, is remembered with an inscription. He was one of the men who made the Authorised Version, and when he passed away in 1626 Archbishop Laud wrote in his diary: “About four o’clock in the morning died Lancelot Andrewes, the Great Light of the Christian Church.” Another vicar here was Samuel Annesley, whose daughter Susannah became the mother of John Wesley.

That is All

Over the north door is a fine marble monument to Edward Harvist, one of King James’s gunners, who is shown facing his wife across a prayer desk. Edmund Harrison, embroiderer to three Stuart kings, has a tablet saying he “left the troubles of this world” in the year of the Fire, and just below is a panel engraved with the kneeling figure of Charles Langlie, a Tudor brewer. In the north aisle is a curious and striking monument with a figure of a girl in a shroud rising from a coffin; it is thought she was a relative of Sir Thomas Lucy, Shakespeare’s Justice Shallow. On the south wall are little 17th century figures of Matthew and Anne Palmer, with five children. A monument by Thomas Banks shows Mrs Hands dying in the arms of her husband, a vicar here, and near this is the epitaph to Thomas Stagg, an 18th century vestry clerk, giving the date of his clerkship and his death, and adding, That is all. The church has other treasures worthy of notice. The altar, the balusters of the rails, the clock with the gilt figure of Time, the pulpit with festoons of fruit and flowers, the font cover with its gilded dome, and the lectern, are all early 18th century, and it is believed that some of this woodcarving is the work of the Richard Saunders who made Gog and Magog in the Guildhall. The fine oak reredos of 1704 has modern painted panels, and the north chapel has a 17th century reredos with carved angels and paintings of Moses and Aaron. Like the 18th century doors to the north lobby, it came from a lost church. Hidden under the reredos are tiles 600 years old.

The east window is oval, with some 18th century glass. A modern window with three panels of the Nativity is in memory of Edward Alleyn, the actor friend of Shakespeare and founder of Dulwich College. Two other famous names come into the church register: Holman Hunt, whose painting of the Light of the World is known everywhere, and who was baptised here; and Daniel Defoe, whose death is recorded here although he lies in Bunhill Fields. He lived close by in the Barbican, and it is thought his book on the Plague deals with this parish. During that awful year the number of burials in this churchyard reached 800 in a week.

St Giles (4)

Thomas Stagg 1772

John Speed 1629 (3)

Margaret Lucy 1634

A large church mostly of c. 1545-50, i.e. at the end of the medieval church-building tradition. Much restored in the late C19 and again by Godfrey Allen after severe bomb damage (reopened 1960). It now serves as the centrepiece of the Barbican Estate’s main open space. Overshadowed by massive concrete forms and paved right up to the walls, it looks in its situation by the lake almost as if dismantled and brought from elsewhere; but it also anchors the late C20 environment in the wider urban context - in part by marking the true ground level, something visitors to the Estate may find elusive - and in an older history.

The church is recorded as having been built by Aelmund the priest c. 1102-15. According to Stow, the former vicarage stood on the site of an earlier church further W, but this may only have been a wayside shrine (by tradition the church marks the resting place of the body of King Edmund Martyr outside Cripplegate in 1010). The addition of guild chapels to the church on the present site in the C14 culminated in its complete rebuilding in 1390. The C16 rebuilding, following a fire of 1545, is thought to have reused the C14 plan, which tapers markedly from W to E with the tower slightly off axis. Substantial late C14 work survives in the chancel walls, better visible since cleaning in 1994. C14 work also remains in the base of the tower, which has angle buttresses to the outer corners, a big NW stair-turret and two-light windows. Brick top stage with panelled parapet and stubby pinnacles, added by John Bridges in 1682-4. Its two-light tracery differs from that of the restored lower apertures, but its forms are also late C19 and not 1680s Gothic. The pretty open cupola is a post-war restoration. Otherwise, the church was refaced in ragstone by F. Hammond (S side 1884-5, redone after the fire damage in 1897; N side 1903-5).

Inside, the nave and aisles are of seven bays with a partly projecting chancel, the ritual chancel extending also to the two bays furthest E. The stone piers have a moulding of four shafts connected by deep hollows with thin filleted diagonal shafts. The hollows continue around the arch. Aisle windows of three lights with simple panel tracery, on the N simpler than on the F. Fine shafts up to the roof between depressed-arched windows. The carving of corbels, stops etc. is renewed. The E end was much altered in the C18, and the chancel arch dates only from 1858-9 (galleries removed 1862). The Perp E window is post-war, based on late C14 traces discovered during restoration (replacing a large azil-de-boeuf window of 1704 with glass of 1791 by Pearson). A two-light N chancel window was opened up at the same time; the answering S window remains blocked. The post—war roof is arch-braced. Traces survive of the ROOD—LOFT DOORWAY (S wall), battered double SEDILIA with near-equilateral arches (restored with salvaged Roman tiles), and PISCINA in a square-headed surround. They look late C14.

Few FITTINGS survived the war and the church has been refurnished, partly with items from elsewhere. The big new W GALLERY by Cecil Brown has tall Composite columns. On it an ORGAN CASE, from St Luke Old Street, of 1733 by Jordan & Bridge; rebuilt in 1970 by Noel Mander, with casework of 1684 from St Andrew Holborn (behind). - FONT with elegant stem and bowl with acanthus leaves, and domed COVER, with pilasters and garlands, both from St Luke Old Street. - SWORD REST. C20. - STAINED GLASS. E window, Crucifixion by A. K. Nicholson Studios, 1957. - Armorial W window by john Lawson (Faithcraft Studios), 1968. - SCULPTURE. Four busts of c. 1900 (Milton and Defoe by Frampton; also Cromwell and Bunyan), on loan from the Cripplegate Institute. - Bronze statue of Milton (who is buried here) by Horace Montford, 1904. It formerly stood N of the church, facing the old line of Fore Street (its battered pedestal, designed by E.A. Rickards, stands outside, minus Montford’s reliefs). - MONUMENTS. Thomas Busby d.1575, damaged bust from a once large monument. - John Speed d. 1629. Bust, damaged in the war, restored 1971 in a replica of part of the old surround. Attributed to John &  Matthias Christmas (Aw). - Elizabeth de Vallingin d.1772 (part), with circular plaque of a female mourner, pyramid and urn. - Thomas Stagg d.1772, tablet abruptly inscribed: ‘that is all’. - Bust of John Milton, by the elder Bacon, given by Samuel Whitbread in 1793. The pedestal has a little carving of the serpent and apple. - Bust of Sir William Staines d.1807, by Charles Manning, from a large monument destroyed by bombing.

Around the church is a brick-paved area planted with trees, partly on the site of the pre-war churchyard. The late C19 GAS LAMPS, scattered about like saplings, were brought here from Tower Bridge. Some early C19 tombstones of rounded-coffin type, with other slabs reused as seats. The huge monolith of the Stanier vault (S side) is worth looking at. A church hall is accommodated below ground level E of the chancel.


Wesley's Chapel

Across the road from Bunhill Fields I found Wesley's Chapel but due to the number of people at prayer I didn't get interiors other than some fine stained glass - a revisit needed for this fine Georgian building next time I'm in the City.

The most striking thing in the chapel is John Wesley’s shining mahogany pulpit resting on arches flanked by fluted pillars. The round  chancel arch is original, and so are the graceful altar rails with slender balusters. The mahogany panels behind the altar were erected about Waterloo year, forming a background for the dignified chair from Wesley’s first chapel, in Bristol. On the altar table is the little mahogany lectern used by Wesley at the Foundery, the disused Finsbury arsenal where he started his London services.

A window in the gallery shows Wesley preaching to the Red Indians in Georgia, and on the sunny side of the nave is another beautiful window by Frank Salisbury, in memory of the sending of the first Methodist missionaries to Australia. The window represents Spiritual Power, and shows an armoured knight with a flaming torch kneeling before a white-clad angel with outstretched arms. Near by is Mr Salisbury’s magnificent window to all Methodists who fell in the war, with a figure of Christ calling a soldier and bearing his pack on His own shoulders. Angels hold scrolls, and a wreath of oak and laurel encircles a figure of St George.

On the wall of the apse is John Wesley’s stone, starting with his dying words: “The best of all, God is with us,” and going on to say that “He went out into the highways and hedges calling sinners to repentance, and publishing the Gospel of Peace.” Carved on the stone is a shepherd’s crook, a winged trumpet, and light breaking from a cloud. A globe symbolises the worldwide spread of Methodism, and a Bible and prayer book suggest the foundations on which it is based. On the opposite wall is the stone of John’s brother Charles, headed by his famous words, “God buries His workmen, but carries on His work.” Carved volumes of hymns and poems illustrate the inscription, which says that “as a Christian poet he stood unrivalled, and his hymns will convey instruction and consolation as long as the English language shall be understood.”

Below, on a stone to Dr Coke, an early Methodist missionary, is a Negro pointing to his favourite text, a native of Ceylon reading a Testament in his own language, and a medallion relief of the sun setting in the sea, Coke having died on a voyage to the East.

The Methodist Crusaders

On the right of the apse are marble busts of two men who worked for the church in very different spheres, James Calvert, a confident  looking apostle of Fiji, and Sir Francis Lycett with a flower in his buttonhole, a man who did much for this chapel in the Victorian Era. On the south wall is a relief by Samuel Manning showing a woman reclining under a palm tree, a tall-masted ship in the background alluding to the business interests of Lancelot Haslope, who served the Methodists as treasurer a century ago. On the same wall is a stone to three generations of Macdonalds covering 144 years, from 1784 to 1928. On the other side of the chapel is a bust of Dr Jabez Bunting, who was buried here in the middle of last century, having finally severed Methodism from the Church of England.

Another famous preacher has a stone over the vestry door, and was buried in Wesley’s grave in the last year of the 18th century. He started life in Cornwall as a farmer’s boy and a carpenter’s apprentice, becoming celebrated when his floods of tears in the pulpit earned him the title of the Weeping Prophet.

Dr Morley Punshon’s white marble bust is on the north wall, a tribute to the five years he spent at the head of the Methodist churches in Canada. On the same wall is a bust of Dr Robert Newton, one of the most popular Methodist preachers, who travelled 7000 miles a year, making a profound impression wherever he went. His bust is by Dr Frederick James Jobson, a fervent preacher and architect, whose own bust is in a draped niche.

Facing the sunny side of the chapel is a marble bust of Dr William Fiddian Moulton, rare for showing him with spectacles. At 35 he became the youngest of the men who produced the Revised Version of the New Testament. He was the first headmaster of Leys School, Cambridge, and died there in the last years of last century.

In the graveyard are buried 5000 early Methodists, and at the back of the chapel lies Wesley himself, beneath a lofty pillar topped with an urn, “gloriously triumphing over death” at 87. “I should like to be buried here,” he said, “and on the morning of the resurrection rise with all my children round me.”

Surely He has borne our griefs (4)

The seed is the word of God (3)

Frank O Salisbury (3)

The God that answers by fire (1)

Bunhill Fields

I went to Bunhill Fields in the naive hope of finding some ancestor headstones forgetting that London graves tend to be illegible due to acid rain over the years. Even if the headstones were legible they are inaccessible to the casual visitor being railed off and accessible only on a £7 guided tour (The City Guides conduct guided walks around Bunhill Fields Burial Ground beginning at 12:30pm every Wednesday from April to October.).

Having said that it's very atmospheric and I did get to see Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and William Blake's memorials.

HERE men were living in pile dwellings when Christ was born in Bethlehem, and stone tools have been picked up that were dropped long before then in what is now Clerkenwell Road. Here in the Middle Ages the youth of London came to skate and slide, and the wildfowler to shoot. It was not till the days of Plague and Fire that refugees from those twin calamities set up the first regular buildings in the marshes here. It became the home of the doctors long before Harley Street, and centuries have passed since watchmakers and jewellers and opticians made Clerkenwell their home. It has been the home of ancient and modern Crusaders, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, and the Evangelists inspired by John Wesley. Today in working hours there are in Finsbury an average of 450 busy people for every one of its acres, though it is the smallest but one of all London boroughs, with only 587 acres.

It has within its borders a spot for ever sacred in the history of our race, a shabby place that should be made more beautiful. It is the little graveyard of Bunhill Fields. There is not an acre of English earth more precious than this, where we may look across the graves of four of England’s matchless men, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, Daniel Defoe, and William Blake. One gave us the first great English story that will never die. One gave us the hymn sung by our race in all its triumphs and tribulations. One gave us a book beloved by every English speaking boy. One gave us our national anthem Jerusalem. In Bunhill Fields they lie almost together.

Blake’s grave is unmarked, but Bunyan’s has a sleeping stone figure of the immortal tinker and reliefs showing Christian with his burden and carrying the cross. The granite obelisk over Defoe’s grave was set up last century by 1700 youthful admirers of Robinson Crusoe, and near it is an obelisk to Isaac Watts, who was carried here from Lady Abney’s house at Stoke Newington, where he lived for 36 years. In a green space close by in Roseve Street lies George Fox, the heroic founder of the Quakers, and across the street lies John Wesley. Bunyan and Blake, Watts and Defoe, Wesley and Fox - we may wonder if anywhere else lie six such men in such a little space.

It is said that over a hundred thousand Nonconformists lie here, mingled with thousands of bones moved in Elizabethan days from Old St Paul’s. Here they brought criminals and victims of the Plague, mingling good and evil, proud and lowly. John Wesley laid his mother here, and here they laid General Fleetwood, who fought with Cromwell at Dunbar and married the Protector’s daughter. Near him lies the favourite minister of Cromwell, Thomas Goodwin, whose services the king refused with thanks before going to the scaffold, and who in a few years more stood by a bed in that same place while Cromwell passed away.

John Wesley lies across the City Road in the little graveyard behind his chapel, the mother of 108,000 churches. His bronze statue is under the trees, and shows him as a kindly-looking man in flowing robes, one hand raised in exhortation and in the other his little field Bible. On the pedestal are his famous words, The world is my parish. It was Wesley himself who laid the foundation stone of the chapel he made so famous. Here his body lay in state while thousands thronged past the coffin, looking on his face. Much of the building is as he knew it, though by the gabled front is a porch set on its columns about the time of Waterloo. In the lobby is a bronze relief of an angel mourning for 26,000 Wesleyans who fell in the war. Along the front wall stand six pine masts from English battleships, presented to Wesley by George the Third for supporting the gallery. Between them is a fine window by Frank Salisbury, a glow of inspiring colour, with a fiery figure of Sir Galahad brandishing a sword over the shadowy forms of Envy, Jealousy, and Greed, while below are the thrilling words of Blake’s Jerusalem.


John Bunyan

William Blake

Bunhill Fields

Daniel Defoe (1)

John Wheatly (2)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Fitzroy Clinton Robarts

Fitzroy, my 2nd Great Granduncle, and his descendants, is another slippery bugger about whom I can find very little (and his wife and children even less).

He was born in Roehampton, Surrey on 11 May 1841 the third son of Abraham George Robarts (1810-1860) and Elizabeth Sarah nee Smyth (1816-1864).

In 1841 he's found with his parents at Besborough Cottage, Roehampton, Surrey, in 1851 he's a pupil at Berkswell Hall, Berkswell, Warwickshire and in 1861 he's enumerated as a banker - presumably with the family bank - with his mother at Russell Farm, Watford, Hertfordshire.

On 21st June 1862 he married Isabella Dorothea Sherlock and they had:
  • Catherine Elisabeth Fitzroy - 28 May 1864 - 1916
  • Fitzroy John 2 Mar 1866 - 2 Dec 1936
  • Fitzroy Clinton 1873 - 1905 (presumably named posthumously after his father)
In 1869 they moved to, and appear to have become naturalised citizens of, Belgium and he was living on his own means.

And that's about it except that he died on 17 June 1873 in Antwerp and that his daughter, Catherine, appears to have married - or at least had a son by - Victor Antoine Rochet (1857 - 1914) named Charles Rochet b. 1891

Isabella lived on until 1920 dying in Antwerp and outliving two of her children.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Chaldon, Surrey

I've wanted to visit SS Peter & Paul for the extraordinarily early, and oddly placed (it's on the west end wall), C13th Doom wallpainting since my sister visited in May 2013 but timings and events have conspired against me until yesterday.

The painting is every bit as good as expected - perhaps even more so - but, despite a great location, I was disappointed with the building as a whole. Its diminutive exterior should be pleasing but isn't, to my eyes at least; it's all angular and jutting but that might be the Surrey vernacular to which I am unaccustomed.

Inside it's spartan, smaller than you'd expect and rather dull. Having said that it does have probably the most important mediaeval wallpainting in the country: which is nice.

I don't have the relevant Pevsner, Surrey's a long way from home, but more info on the Doom can be found here.

SS Peter & Paul (2)

Wallpainting (1)

Mary & Elizabeth Clayton & Bell 1891 (2)

Chaldon. One famous thing draws the traveller to this beauty spot among the Surrey Downs, one of the finest ancient possessions of its kind in the land; but there are other treasures old and rare and quaint. They are gathered in the little church with more than 1000 years of history behind it, set quietly at home with Nature, its companion an ancient farmhouse with a bargeboard 600 years old.

The church is high and short and wide, with a tower and shingled spire rising up from a corner by the porch. The outlines of the nave and chancel are as they were in the century of the Conqueror, and some of the masonry from that time is still here. From the next century come one of the aisles and the chapel. The other aisle was built on two centuries later.

One of the curious possessions of Chaldon is in the chancel, next to an arched tomb 600 years old, a remarkable tablet with a face  in the form of a flaming sun. It does not seem to be anybody’s memorial, yet it has a message for all from 1562, and says:

Good Redar warne all men and women while they be here
to be ever good to the poore and nedy.
The cry of the poore is extreme and very sore.
In thys worlde we rune oure rase:
God graunte us to be with Christ in tyme and space.

It is possible that the initials on the tablet refer to John and Ellen Richardson, who were living here in Elizabeth’s reign and may have wished to preach this little sermon.

From a century later comes the fine pulpit, one of the few known to have been made in the Commonwealth. It bears the name of Patience Lambert, who had seen her husband buried in the nave below.

In the porch hangs the oldest bell in Surrey, and one of the oldest in the country, its voice still heard. It was certainly made before 1250 and may be several decades earlier, and it tells us that it is Paul’s bell. Its fellow, Peter’s Bell, was here 400 years ago, but is now lost; the two may well have been ringing in the Norman church.

The chief of all Chaldon’s treasures is counted among the rare possessions of England, adorning the oldest wall of the church with a little Norman window above it. It is the great painting of the Ladder of Salvation, leading up to heaven and down to hell, an extraordinary achievement of Norman art thought to be the work of a monk 750 years ago. Preserved by a coat of whitewash (under which it was found in 1870), it is in wonderful condition, something to fascinate old and young today as it has been fascinating the people of Chaldon for centuries.

This great picture, 17 feet long and 11 feet high, is filled with astonishing figures and scenes. As old as the Dream of Jacob, and perhaps much older, is the idea of the ladder of salvation with the ascending and descending figures. Halfway up the ladder is a band of cloud stretching the length of the picture. It is painted in the conventional manner of olden days and is the dividing line between the salvation of souls and the torments of hell. With the ladder it forms a great cross, cutting the picture into four parts.

At the right of the lower division is the Tree of Life. Its formal design is one of the clues that help us to guess the date of the picture, which was painted about 1170, the year St Thomas of Canterbury was murdered. A serpent is hiding among the branches. It is here that the story begins, for we are first reminded of the Fall of Man.

The remainder of the lower division shows the torments of hell. Next to the tree two huge demons hold up the bridge of spikes, over which cheating tradespeople, bearing symbols of their trades, are timidly walking. This punishment is another very old idea going back almost as far as thought can reach. The nightmare bridge over Gehenna was believed to be as narrow and sharp as a razor. A blacksmith is one of the unfortunate people in the act of crossing it. His hand is raised with a hammer, and he is ready to strike a red-hot horseshoe which he holds in pincers. Villagers of 700 years ago probably knew at once that he was the blacksmith of the well-known story who was condemned to forge a horseshoe without an anvil while crossing the bridge. The man who holds a bowl so carefully at the other end was probably a milkman who had given short measure to his customers, for the bowl is painted yellow and contains white fluid. He has been given the impossible task of carrying it across the bridge; and it looks as if he will soon be crying loudly over spilled milk in the awful abyss below, where a usurer sits among roaring flames on a fiery seat. A big purse of money hangs from his neck and three bags of gold are suspended from his waist.

Here again is a subject of countless stories familiar to the village people of mediaeval times. The usurer has no eyes, and gold coins, which he is forced to count, are pouring from his mouth. Two demons leap above him and prod at his head with their pitchforks. Fire is raging in the left division below the bar of clouds, where we see a great cauldron full of suffering souls. Two frightful demons are prodding them with pitchforks. The one on the left is holding a group of souls above a demon wolf gnawing at their feet, indicating that they are dancers, who were specially denounced by the monks of those days. A dog is about to bite a lady’s hand, the allusion being, no doubt, to the wealthy lady who pampered her dogs and fed them with the rich food she should have given in charity to the poor. Clinging frantically to the bottom of the Ladder of Life are more lost souls, most of them falling down, others being relentlessly picked off with a two-pronged fork by a monster demon showing his teeth. He is handing a victim over his shoulder to the demon of the cauldron.

It is a relief to look up to the top of the ladder, where angels help the good souls to reach the heaven of their aspirations. On the right, above the Tree of Life, is a dramatic rendering of the Descent into Hell. Satan lies bound, and Christ stands over him thrusting the staff of his banner into his mouth, while Adam and Eve and the souls of the patriarchs are set free.

The Weighing of Souls (on the left of the ladder) is one of the most interesting pictures in this old English Book of the Dead. Here is another idea found in ancient religions, particularly in that of the Egyptians. The Archangel Michael holds the scales. Another angel seems to be carrying a tablet with a record of good deeds. Satan, with his tongue out, is dragging along a group of souls by a rope, and slyly tries to press down the scales on his side and thus secure another victim. One fortunate soul is being lifted up to heaven by an angel.

In all England there is not a more complete example of 12th century painting than this. It is one of the most precious of our national possessions; only fragments are missing. In planning the picture the artist appears to have forestalled Dante, who used many of the same ideas in his Divine Comedy about 60 years after this Chaldon scene appeared. Here the artist has broken away from the Byzantine tradition of representing people conventionally. Although very few of the animated figures have faces they are full of expression and are painted in natural attitudes. The complicated subject is treated with great simplicity. The ease with which the painter has handled his brush, and the skill with which he has arranged the ideas he has taken from the legends and stories of his day, reveal him as an artist of no mean talent.

To the Chaldon people this painting must have been of tremendous interest. They could neither read nor write, but the picture’s story was something they could understand.