Tuesday, 17 November 2015

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment