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Sam Smith Mystery Series

Dear Reader #96

Dear Reader,

Amazing how one record can unlock the past. This baptism record from 14 February 1801 for my 4 x great grandmother Ann Locock has led to eight new branches on my family tree.

It looks like the Battle of Bosworth was a family gathering. I’ve discovered another ancestor there, my 15 x great grandfather Nicholas Wilder, a military leader in the army of the Earl of Richmond. Nicholas supported the victor, Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII.

Trouble with the neighbours. In 1294 Lady Hornby accused my direct ancestor John de Tunstall of shooting an arrow at her steward because he wanted to seize a wagon laden with corn to make distraint.

A colourised version of a picture taken one hundred years ago, of my great grandmother Edith.

SOE heroine Pippa Latour, was 100 on 9 April 2021.

Available soon, the audiobook version of Mind Games, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eleven.

My 12 x great grandfather Thomas Strickland was born on 6 June 1564 in Kendal, Westmorland, the eldest son of Walter Strickland Esq and Alice Tempest, both the products of gentry families. Thomas lacked Walter’s parental guidance for much of his childhood because his father died in 1569.

On 24 July 1603 Thomas was made a Knight of the Bath, a special knighthood conferred on important royal occasions such as coronations. This practice died out after the reign of Charles II. Later, George I introduced the Order of the Bath.

Sir Thomas Strickland, 1600, aged 36.

At a date unknown, probably during 1596, Thomas married Elizabeth Symon aka Seymour of Bristol, the daughter of John Seymour of Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire. The marriage produced a daughter, Alice, who married Sir William Webb, Equerry to Henry, Prince of Wales.

After Elizabeth’s death, Thomas married, c1599, Margaret Curwen, daughter of Sir Nicholas Curwen of Workington Hall, Cumbria, and Anne Musgrave. This marriage produced five children:

  1. Robert, who succeeded his father
  2. Thomas, who left no mark on history
  3. Walter, who married Anne Crofts of East Appleton, Yorkshire
  4. Dorothy, who married John Fleming of Rydal as his third wife
  5. Margaret, my direct ancestor, who married George Preston Esq of Holker Hall 

Through his birth and marriages, Thomas enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and in 1584 was made a Justice of the Peace. In 1603 he became a Sheriff and a member of the Council in the North. His roles included overseeing gaols, sewers and charities. 

Thomas’ ancestors acquired the estate at Sizergh by marriage in 1239. The family regularly represented Westmorland in parliament from 1307 and Thomas was appointed custos rotulorum as soon as he came of age. 

Margaret Curwen, Thomas’ second wife, was a strong Catholic. However, Thomas remained a supporter of Elizabeth I and her Protestant beliefs. Like his father before him, Thomas served as junior knight of the shire in Elizabeth’s last Parliament, and moved up to the first seat when re-elected in 1604. 

Sizergh, castle and grounds. Wikipedia.

In parliament, Thomas was among those named to consider bills to preserve coppices, to reform informers’ abuses and to annex certain property indissolubly to the Crown. He also proffered a bill to extend alnage to narrow draperies, but it made no progress beyond a first reading.

In the second parliamentary session, Thomas sat on five legislative committees including three concerned with the cloth trade, granting customs allowances to the merchants of York, Hull and Newcastle. Another of Thomas’ committees regulated the wages of spinners and weavers while the fifth dealt with Welsh cottons in the statute of 1604.

As Thomas’ parliamentary career progressed, he considered bills to confirm the endowment of St. Bees grammar school in Cumberland and to strengthen the enforcement of the penal laws. On 19 March 1604, he was granted privilege as a defendant in a trial at York assizes.

Outwardly successful, the above trial offers a clue as to a flaw in Thomas’ character: he was a compulsive gambler. Even at the time of his first marriage, Thomas was raising substantial loans. Gambling in the Elizabethan era centred on cards, dice, backgammon and draughts, and often took place in gambling houses and gambling dens.

Elizabethans gambling at cards.

At Easter 1607, Thomas invited his wife’s cousin Anthony Curwen to supper where arguments and attempted arrests flared up over debt. However, before Curwen ‘could get any to serve the said Sir Thomas with a subpoena, he being a Parliament man’, Thomas abstracted the lease of Sherburn rectory from his study in New Inn and obtained judgment against him.

Thomas died intestate on 19 June 1612, leaving acknowledged debts of £9,500, which equates to approximately £1,274,000 in today’s money. His widow, Margaret, bought the wardship of her eldest son Robert and managed to preserve the Sizergh estate from creditors’ demands until the latter’s majority. 

Margaret, born c1560, survived Thomas by eighteen years and died in 1630. She did not remarry, but her fortitude held her family and its estates together. In 1629, Margaret’s son, Sir Robert Strickland, sent her a letter advising her how she should proceed with the Commissioners before the President at York, ‘so as to save her estate from sequestration.’

During 1623-4, while a young man, Robert Strickland was summond to parliament as a Knight of the Shire for Westmorland. A colonel in the army of Charles I, Robert commanded a troop of horse at the battle of Edgehill, while his son, Sir Thomas Strickland, led the regiment of foot. 

Because of Sir Thomas Strickland’s gambling, his family had to fight many battles. However, for them a bigger battle lay ahead in the shape of the English Civil War.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #95

Dear Reader,

Nice to receive correspondence from readers who enjoy my books and wish to discuss the subject matter. My Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series has generated a lot of interest in that respect.

My DNA result indicated that my ancestors were in the Caribbean. Now, this record suggests that my 7 x great grandfather Edward King was baptised in St Michael Parish, Barbados on 6 October 1722, aged two. What were his parents, Thomas and Anne, doing in Barbados? Were they involved in the sugar plantations? More research required…

Sulham House, home to the Wilder branch of my family. The Wilders arrived in Britain during the second half of the fifteen century, possibly from Bohemia.

My latest translation, Stardust in Portuguese.

I’ve traced one branch of my family tree back to Lord Tancrède (Tancred) “the Viking” aka de la Ville Tancréde, born c880 in Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark. One of the foremost Vikings of his generation, Tancrède built a castle on a spur overlooking the Seine.

“Tancarville castle was the seat of one of the most powerful lineages of the Pays de Caux. This family, grand officers of the crown, were as mentioned, early landowners in the Lillebonne region. Infamous in Knightly accomplishments and during the ducal epoch, becoming that of the Hereditary Chamberlains of Normandy.” 

Tancarville Castle – le Château Fort de la Ville Tancrède

The April 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads!

In this month’s issue…

Do Pets Really Make You Healthy?

Memories of Ireland

Author Features

Escape to Simplicity 

Women of Courage 

Plus, interviews, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

My 6 x great grandfather Jasper Wheeler was born in 1745 in Westminster, London. He married Mary Cherien on 24 May 1773 and the couple had two children, including my direct ancestor, Thomas Wheeler.

At this stage, little is known about Mary. Further research is required. Her surname suggests French origin and the marriage and birth dates suggest that her son Thomas was born out of wedlock.

The scene of Jasper and Mary’s wedding, St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Holborn (Picture: Wikipedia).

Jasper earned a living as a pawnbroker in Kew Road, Richmond. He rented a property from Henry Edmead and his rent at 16 shillings was considerably higher than the eight other tenants who rented property from Henry Edmead.

Richmond contained areas of great poverty, although on the whole it was well-to-do. I sense that Jasper and Mary straddled these two worlds, living in modest comfort while dealing in the main with people who had little money.

Pawnbrokers, with their distinctive symbols of three golden balls, were integral to working class life in the 1800s. Their symbols were initially associated with St Nicholas who, according to legend, saved three young girls from destitution by loaning them each a bag of gold, paving their way towards marriage.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, Harry Furniss, 1910.

Modern pawnbroking began with the Pawnbrokers Act of 1800. Lord Eldon, who promoted the Bill, admitted that he had used pawnshops in his youth. The Act increased the interest rate to 20 percent per year with licence fees set at £15 in London and £7 10 shillings in the countryside. Although sometimes associated with crime and stolen goods, a report in the Victorian era concluded that only one in 14,000 items were pawned dishonestly.

Often referred to as ‘Uncle’, quite often the pawnbroker was the difference between a regular meal and starvation. Indeed, some communities boasted more pawnbrokers than public houses, the pawnbroker lending money on anything from bedlinen to cutlery, from jewellery to furniture, from tools to the family’s Sunday best clothes.

With the workhouse an ever-present threat, pawning became acceptable, a way of life. Families, and pawnbrokers, recognised a regular pattern, centred on Saturdays and Mondays. A family, usually through the wife, would pledge its clothing on Monday then redeem it on Saturday, after pay day. Suitably dressed, the family would attend church on a Sunday, then resume the pawning cycle, the pawnbroker earning his living from the interest charged.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, 1876. 

The entrance to a pawnbroker’s shop was usually via a side-street. In Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens offered this description of a pawnshop near Drury Lane, ‘which affords a side entrance for the accommodation of such customers as may be desirous of avoiding the observation of the passers-by, or the chance of recognition in the public street’. The door, ‘half inviting, half repelling the hesitating visitor, who, if he be as yet uninitiated, examines one of the old garnet brooches in the window for a minute or two with affected eagerness, as if he contemplated making a purchase; and then cautiously looking round to ascertain that no one watches him, hastily slinks in…’

Although associated with the working class, a pawnbroker also received visits from the middle and upper classes in need of instant cash. Due to the sums involved, these clients offered the pawnbroker richer pickings and a chance to make sizeable profits from the transactions.

The pawnbroker was entitled to keep and sell items valued at under ten shillings once the redemption period of one year and seven days elapsed. Items valued at over ten shillings were sold at public auction.

No one described the scene better than Charles Dickens, ‘several sets of chessmen, two or three flutes, a few fiddles…some gaudily-bound prayer books and testaments, two rows of silver watches…numerous old-fashioned tables and tea spoons….cards of rings and brooches….cheap silver penholders and snuff-boxes…silk and cotton handkerchiefs, and wearing apparel of every description…’ 

Charles Dickens, 1868.

Did Jasper exploit the poor, or offer an essential service? He made a living from their poverty. However, he also placed food on their dining tables. With little support from the state, the pawnbroker was an essential member of the community.

Jasper’s Will – he died in late January 1812, aged 67, and was buried on 2 February – makes no mention of his wife Mary or his son Thomas. Instead, he bequeathed money to a widow, Elizabeth Tibbs, and her family. Was this bequest a business arrangement or the result of a romantic relationship? I suspect the latter. Given that Jasper and Mary only had two children it suggests that Mary died young. But what of Thomas?

Although there is no record of Jasper falling foul of the law, the Wheelers were regular visitors to the Old Bailey. More about that, and Thomas’ fate, in a future post.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #94

Dear Reader,

On the trail of my 4 x great grandmother Sarah Foreman who packed her bags in the 1820s and left rural Lincolnshire to nurse in London. On 24 March 1834, Sarah married John Glissan, a surgeon. When John died in 1854, Sarah established herself as a dentist, chemist and monthly nurse, looking after newborn babies.

We’ve got the builders in 😉 And here’s some sheep 🐑


The Stokes branch of my family were carpenters for centuries, with fathers handing on the skills of the trade to their sons. 

Here is a document from 21 October 1794 when my 5 x great grandfather Richard Stokes took on an apprentice, William Reeves.

Along with his carpentry business in Pangbourne, Berkshire, Richard also owned a messuage in nearby Reading.

Richard married Martha in 1800. Unfortunately, Martha’s surname was not recorded on marriage or birth records so it isn’t possible to explore her branch of my family tree. She died young, in 1817.

Richard and Martha only had two children: Martha, who sadly died aged ten, and my direct ancestor, William. William broke the family tradition, which went back to the 1600s, when he turned his back on carpentry and moved to London. However, his son and my direct ancestor Richard resumed the trade.


From the 1930s. Hefty girls wanted. Must be ‘fairly good looking’ with no interest in marriage.


My 4 x great grandfather Henry Wheeler was born on 29 November 1797 in Westminster, London to Thomas Wheeler and Ann Fluin.

Henry married twice. First to Elizabeth Mitchell on 19 August 1817 then when Elizabeth died in 1844 he married Mary Ann Thorp of Colchester, Essex, a woman eighteen years his junior. Henry’s first marriage produced eight children while his second produced four, including my 3 x great grandmother Nancy Wheeler who changed her name to Annie Noulton.

Various censuses describe Henry as a labourer while Mary Ann’s mother, Hannah, was a straw hat maker, so maybe Mary Ann followed that trade. However, Henry also had another line of ‘work’, which resulted in regular visits to the Old Bailey.

The first evidence of Henry’s brushes with the law appear in 1817 when aged twenty in association with William Murray aged sixteen he was accused of stealing a set of harnesses value 20 shillings from Serach Atkinson. Henry duly stood trial and from the Old Bailey website https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/ here is an account of that trial.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

HENRY WHEELER and WILLIAM MURRAY were indicted for stealing, on the 13th of January, one set of chaise harness, value 20 shillings the property of Serach Atkinson.

SERACH ATKINSON. I am a plasterer, and live in New court, Chapel-street, Westminster. On the 13th of January, between six and seven o’clock, I missed my harness from my passage, where it usually hung. My brother had it out that day. That is all I know.

JAMES GILLMORE. On Monday evening, the 13th of January, the prosecutor came to me, stating that he had lost his harness, and who he suspected to have stolen it. About twenty minutes afterwards the prosecutor came to me with part of the harness, (the collar and traces), after that he sent for me to take Murray into custody-which I did. I went with Murray to Wheeler’s house, and took him into custody. Wheeler’s friends threatened to prosecute Murray, for inducing Wheeler to commit the robbery. The next morning the prosecutor brought me the other part of the harness, which he said, in the prisoner’s presence, was delivered to him by Wheeler’s friends.

(Property produced and sworn to).

J’Accuse Henry Wheeler

ATKINSON re-examined by the Court. I got the harness from Murray. I had seen him that night. I do not know where the harness hung up that night. I do not know where it was.

Q. Did you never say, it hung behind the street door in the passage – A. I might. I do not know that it did

Q. Will you swear that it was not hanging there – A. I do not know. I did not see it there at all. I did not see it there that day; my brother had it out.

Q. Did you not tell the magistrate, that it hung up in the passage leading to the street door, and that the prisoner must go through that passage to go out – A. I do not know. I suspected Murray, by his calling on me; I missed it about half an hour afterwards. I had not seen it that evening.

Q. After you had seen Gillmore, where did you go to – A. Into Tothill-street, to Murray’s, he is a harness-maker, Wheeler was selling the harness there.

Q. How came you to tell me that you knew no more about it – A. It did not strike me then; I met him at this end of Tothill-street, the sadler’s is in the middle.

Q. Will you swear he was at the end of the street – A. Yes.

Q. How came you to swear that Murray was waiting at the other side of the street – A. Wheeler gave me part of the harness, and brought the other part home.

Q. Why did you not tell me this story before – A. I do not know.

Q. Is what you swore before the magistrate true or not? Which story do you stick by, what you swore before the magistrate, or what you say here – A. I stick by what I say here.

NOT GUILTY.

Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Recorder.

Acquitted (on this occasion) Henry Wheeler

Henry disappeared from the historical record for gaps of several years. This is not unusual. However, the gaps between his first and second born children with Elizabeth Mitchell and Mary Ann Thorpe, nine years on each occasion, are very unusual. These women were fertile and produced children on average every two years. So why the infertile periods? The records don’t offer conclusive proof, but given Henry’s background it seems certain that he was in prison on each occasion. 

The situation is easy to imagine: Henry married Elizabeth then she gave birth. Surviving on a pauper’s wages and with a wife and baby to feed he resorted to stealing. This exact pattern was repeated with Mary Ann. Stealing is of course criminally and morally wrong, but when societies encourage vast gulfs between the rich and poor then the poor are often forced to step outside the law simply to survive.

Dorset Street, London, photographed in 1902 for Jack London’s book The People of the Abyss.

The Victorians were worried about the rising crime rate for good reason because offences shot up from around 5,000 per year in 1800 to around 20,000 per year in 1840. They were firm believers in punishment for criminals, but faced a problem: what should the punishment be?

Options included the often small and badly-run prisons, transportation to America, Australia or Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), or execution: hundreds of offences carried the death penalty. By the 1830s society was having its doubts about these punishments and favoured the building of new, larger prisons.

The Victorians also insisted that these prisons should be unpleasant places, to deter people from committing crimes. Inmates had to face up to their crimes and to encourage this they were placed in solitary confinement or when in company restricted to vows of silence. Work too was hard and boring with spells on the treadmill and picking oakum as common punishments.

Millbank Prison in London by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1829.

As my ancestor, I would like to think the best of Henry, and the pattern of his prison sentences suggest that he was stealing to support his wives and children. That said, he was an habitual criminal who did not feel inclined, or maybe did not have the opportunity, to mend his ways.

With Henry in prison, Elizabeth and Mary Ann must have struggled to survive. Yet, survive they did. There is no record of them entering the workhouse so somehow these women kept their families together.

Salamanca Court and Salamanca Street, deprived areas and home to various generations of the Wheeler family.

Henry was buried on 19 October 1874. At 76, he lived a long life considering his background and periods of hardship. In the Regency era life expectancy for poor people was extremely low – in cities a lifespan of 13% for poor people compared to the wealthy. From medieval times, through Henry’s time to our time the ratio is 85% life expectancy for the poor compared to the rich.

A widow, Mary Ann lodged with relatives until her death in 1903, aged 87. Another remarkable age given her background. You wonder what attracted Mary Ann to Henry. Maybe it was love. Or maybe she sought companionship and freedom from loneliness. If it was the latter, this is ironic because Mary Ann and Henry spent at least a third of their married lives apart.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #93

Dear Reader,

While searching for ancestors who witnessed the Great Fire of London – an ongoing search – I discovered that my 10 x great grandfather Benjamin Troutbeck served on the 100 gun warship HMS Sovereign of the Seas, later renamed The Royal Sovereign. 

While serving as a mariner on The Royal Sovereign, Benjamin participated in two major battles, the Battle of Beachy Head (1690) after which he made his will, and the Battle of La Hougue (1692). The ship went down in 1697, the year Benjamin died. Coincidence? More research required.

‘The true portrait of His Majesty’s royal ship the Sovereign of the Seas’, a contemporaneous engraving by J. Payne

A romantic headline. Meanwhile, some of the sub-headlines are relevant today, and grim.

‘Wealthiest Woman in England Marries Penniless Poet – the Romance of Modern Times.’ The engagement of heiress Annie Winifred Ellerman to American poet and athlete Robert L. McAlmon is announced, Nottingham Journal, 14 March 1921.

My latest translations, the Spanish and Portuguese versions of The Devil and Ms Devlin, Sam Smith Mystery Series book fifteen.

Whitby Market Place 1880 by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe.

Nancy Wheeler, my 3 x great grandmother, was born in 1857 in Lambeth, London the twelfth and youngest child of Henry Wheeler, and the fourth child of his second wife, Mary Ann Thorpe.

As a teenager, Nancy worked as a servant for James W Micklefield, a lighterman, and his young family. Lightermen transferred goods to and from ships on the River Thames.

In May 1873, aged sixteen, Nancy left James W Micklefield’s employment because she was six months pregnant. On 1 June 1873, she married the baby’s father, twenty-five year old James Noulton, in St Mary’s, Lambeth.

Along with the social stigma of giving birth to an illegitimate child, Annie would have faced practical considerations for herself and her baby, therefore whatever her romantic feelings towards James Noulton marriage to him would have appeared the best option. Although the parish would have granted Annie some relief, without James’ support circumstances might have forced her to place the baby in a foundling hospital.

Illegitimacy in England was never common. During the post-medieval period the figure was under two per cent. That number increased to three per cent between 1590 and 1610 and rose again to three per cent in the 1700s. However, by the 1840s seven per cent of babies were born out of wedlock, a figure that decreased to four per cent in the 1890s. When Annie was pregnant with her first child she was not alone, for around a third of women were pregnant at the time they took their marriage vows.

A detail from Henry Nelson O’Neil’s 1855 painting ‘A Mother Depositing Her Child at a Foundling Hospital.’

Earlier, in 1866, eighteen year old James fell foul of the authorities and spent three months in Wandsworth Prison. His crime: he stole fifteen feet of lead. James’ prison record reveals that he was 4’ 10” tall with a lean left leg. Blue eyed and fair haired, he worked in the local pottery. James entered Wandsworth Prison weighing 6st 12lbs and left weighing 6st 8lbs. After his release, James does not appear in the criminal records, so presumably he’d learned his lesson.

On 31 August 1873, Nancy gave birth to James Henry Noulton, the first of six children she had with James. The family lived at 13 Salamanca Street, Lambeth, while James worked as a cement porter. Charles Booth’s poverty map of Victorian London reveals that Salamanca Street was a poor area with families existing on 18s. to 21s. a week.

Salamanca Street on Charles Booth’s poverty map.

After her marriage, Nancy changed not only her surname, but also her first name. She created a new identity for herself as Annie Noulton, and gave that name to her fourth child, my 2 x great grandmother, Annie Noulton.

My 2 x great grandmother Annie Noulton with two of her daughters, c1920.

Aged forty, James died on 20 December 1888 and on 22 May 1893 at St John the Evangelist, Walworth, Annie married widower, Frederick Thomas Canty, a stoker. The couple produced one daughter, Elizabeth.

On 8 May 1897, Frederick entered the county asylum. He died in the asylum on 20 June 1897.

After a hard life in a rough neighbourhood, Annie died on 27 July 1904 aged forty seven. In her forties, she lived at 39 Neville Street, LambethOn 6 August 1924, Eveline Downing died from an illegal operation in Neville StreetThe Coroner said that it was “a very unsatisfactory case that would have to be left undecided because there was a conspiracy of silence to defeat the ends of justice.”

Eveline Downing’s death remains a mystery, but what of Annie Noulton; why did she change her name from Nancy Wheeler? Her parents and upbringing offer an explanation and I will explore that in a future post.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #92

Dear Reader,

Book five in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, Operation Sherlock is now available for pre-order 🙂

“Arthur is concerned about the Nazis’ latest terror weapon,” Guy said. “Rockets; they have the potential to cause death, destruction and chaos in Britain. He wants us to locate the launch site so that the RAF can bomb it.”

“How do we achieve that?” I asked.

“The Resistance in Paris think that they have identified the site,” Guy said. “Arthur wants us to confirm their suspicions.”

“Why doesn’t the local Sherlock network deal with this?” Mimi asked.

“Recently,” Guy said, “the Gestapo captured their wireless operator. Their network is in chaos. Trust is at a low ebb.”

I glanced at Mimi and noticed her pale, drawn features. As our wireless operator, she lived under constant stress; each transmission represented a moment of potential capture.

A trip to Paris sounded sublime. However, Mimi’s troubled expression reminded me that we were travelling into danger, potentially to our deaths.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Sherlock-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B08Y978SM6/

Electric cars are nothing new. Here’s one being charged in 1912.

From April 1807, Freedom of the City Admission Papers signed by my 4 x great grandfather James Richard Brereton of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London. Several of my ancestors signed these papers and entered into apprenticeships, in this case as a cutler. 

The text on this document is difficult to read, but basically it says that the apprentice was not allowed to visit taverns, gamble with cards or dice, fornicate or marry. Basically, he had to work for his master for seven years and not have any fun.

Later, James took his trade on the road as a tinker, marrying and establishing a family in Bristol. Sadly, he died shortly before his daughter, my 3 x great grandmother, Fanny, was born.

From our family archive, my great aunt Joan, 1924. I’ve studied this picture for years and still can’t decide if that’s her brother Roy at her side or a doll. What do you think?

My latest translations, Betrayal into French and The Devil and Ms Devlin into Spanish.

This week I discovered that my 12 x great grandfather, Rev Peter James Dent (1600 – 1671), was an apothecary 🙂

“Give me an ounce of civit, good apothecary, to sweeten my imagination.” – King Lear.

Picture: Italian pharmacy, 17th century (detail).

My 8 x great grandmother, Mary Troutbeck nee Ollyer, was the licensee at the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s Inn Lane, London. A young widow, she was a party to this case, heard at the Old Bailey on 22 May 1776.

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

The full trial account taken from the records at https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

JAMES LECORES and WILLIAM GODFREY were indicted for stealing twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence in money numbered, the property of Daniel Dance , and a bank note for 20 l. the property of the said Daniel in the dwelling house of Mary Troutbeck, widow, May the 6th. (Approximately £3,000 in today’s money).

DANIEL DANCE sworn.

I live at Camberwell: I lost a 20 l. bank note, twenty-nine guineas, a half guinea, and eight shillings and six-pence at Mrs. Troutbeck’s, the Queen’s Head Inn, Gray’s-inn-lane ; I took the money to Mr. Child’s at Temple-bar; the office was shut up; I came away, and while I was looking up at a house near Temple-bar, Godfrey came up and said, Farmer, what are you looking at? I told him I came to pay my rent to my landlord, and the office was shut up; he said he came out of Kent to a lawyer, and he supposed he was too late to meet with him; we walked together and he talked of some people in Kent; he mentioned the names of several I was well acquainted with; I said I would carry the money to Mr. Silway’s chambers, for I would not carry it back again; he said he would go with me and shew me his chambers; we went up Chancery-lane and crossed Holborn into Gray’s-inn-lane; we went about two hundred yards up and down, and then he said, if I would go into a public house we might have intelligence; we went into a public house, and he called for six-penny worth of Crank, and he asked me if I would sit down; I sat down, and in came the other prisoner and pulled out a purse of money, and said he had drank fourteen glasses of brandy that morning standing; he said he was a captain just come home: we went out from there, and he said he would shew me the way to Mr. Silway’s chambers; then we went into Mrs. Troutbeck’s and called for a bottle of wine; they hit my knuckles with a half-penny, and then asked me to put the half-penny under a bottle; while I was doing it they took the money out of my pocket; I saw the money in their hand, but they ran away so fast I could not speak; they broke a glass in their hurry in running out; the money was in a bag in my coat pocket.

When they run out you felt in your pocket? – Yes, it was gone; I saw the bag in their hands, and the note was in the bag.

Cross Examination.

Whose hands did you see the money in? – Godfrey’s.

Did you ever see these people before? – Never before; he appeared like a country farmer; I know them as well as any man in the parish I live in; I know Godfrey by his backside; I took him by the tail; I have been always positive to him; he was taken the Tuesday after the Duchess of Kingston’s trial. 

Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston (8 March 1721 – 26 August 1788), sometimes called Countess of Bristol, was an English noble and courtier, known by her contemporaries for her adventurous lifestyle. She was found guilty of bigamy at a trial at Westminster Hall that attracted 4,000 spectators.

Was that a week or a fortnight after you was plundered? – I believe it was about a fortnight.

You knew the man immediately? – Yes; I pursued him every day; he owned he had the money; his friends offered me thirty pounds.

WILLIAM SWAN sworn.

I live with Mrs. Troutbeck: the prosecutor and three more came into our house on Easter Monday, and asked for a pot of beer; I told them we did not sell beer; then they called for a bottle of wine; I stood in the passage to watch them, lest they should go away and not pay the reckoning; three of them came out very sharp, and put two shillings in my hand; I asked my mistress how much it was, she said two shillings; I went in to see if there were any glasses broke, and met the old farmer coming out; a glass was broke; I asked him if he was to pay for the glass, he said he had lost enough: I know the prisoners are two of the men; they owned before the justice they had the money, but said they got it by gambling.

LECORES’ DEFENCE.

A parcel of people about me desired me to say so, and they would clear me; I was in liquor and did not know what I did.

GODFREY’s DEFENCE.

I leave it to my counsel.

Godfrey called four witnesses, who gave him a good character.

From the Jury to DANCE. Whether they used any other means besides that of the bottle to divert you? – Nothing in the world; there was no gaming.

How long might it be from the time you went in to the time they ran away? – Not above ten minutes.

BOTH GUILTY. Death .

Tried by the First Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

The judge sentenced both men to death. However, their cases were respited. On 13 September 1776, after the respite, Lecores and Godfrey came before the court again. This time the judge sentenced them to three years on a hulk. 

The beached convict ship HMS Discovery, at Depford.

The Old Bailey case revealed that the Queen’s Head Inn did not sell beer, but it did sell ‘Crack’ and wine. The inn was situated in Gray’s Inn Lane the road by which Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones entered London. The lane was a popular hub for scholarly, legal and literary people. James Shirley the dramatist resided there and it was the favourite haunt of the poet John Langhorne.

Baptised on 14 November 1717 in Holborn, London, Mary Ollyer was the daughter of Richard Ollyer and Mary Thomas. She married William Troutbeck on 17 August 1739. Their marriage was recorded in the Clandestine Marriages Register, which suggests an air of secrecy. This pattern was often repeated on this branch of my family tree due to religious nonconformity.

William and Mary produced eight children in fourteen years. When William died on 24 March 1753 Mary became the sole owner of the Queen’s Head and with the aid of servants ran the inn, rubbing shoulders with and serving drinks to some of the leading literary figures of the age. No doubt, she talked with these people and discussed their literary projects.

Gray’s Inn Lane, c1878.
(c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited /

In her autumn years, Mary bequeathed the Queen’s Head Inn to my direct ancestors, Daniel Cottrell and Mary Troutbeck who ensured that the public house prospered into the nineteenth century.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx