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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Lambeth. On 6 August 1924, Eveline Downing died from an illegal operation in Neville Street. The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.