The will of John Rodbard of Edgware, gentleman

I wrote recently about my discovery that Sarah Dickson, who married David Blanch in 1835, was the daughter of Holborn baker John Dickson and his wife Sarah, and that the latter was born Sarah Rodbard in Little Stanmore, Edgware. John and Sarah were married there in 1805. As I wrote at the time, it was probably no coincidence that the name of the person who in 1811 married Maria Blanch, David’s older half-sister, was John Rodbard, also of Little Stanmore.

Little Stanmore Church, by Frederick Albert Slocombe

At the time, my theory that John and Sarah Rodbard might have been brother and sister was purely speculative, but I’ve now found documentary evidence that proves it. I’ve discovered the will of John Rodbard, who died in 1829, eighteen years after his marriage to Maria Blanch, at the age of about 49. Here is my attempt at a transcription of the will, which was drawn up in 1846. I have kept to the original (lack of ) punctuation, made some guesses at difficult-to-read words, and inserted question marks where I was uncertain:

This is the last will and testament of John Rodbard of Edgware in the county of Middlesex gentleman I give unto my dear wife Maria Rodbard the whole of my household furniture plate linen china books pictures and all other my household effects for her own use during the term of her natural life. I give ? and bequeath all those my freehold and copyhold messuages or tenements and premises with their ? apartments situate lying and being in Great and Little Stanmore in the County of Middlesex aforesaid and all other my freehold copyhold and leasehold estates whatsoever and wheresoever the same may be situate and all my money in the public stocks or funds and all other my personal estate and effects which I shall be possessed of or entitled unto at the time of my decease unto William Tootell of Edgware Esquire and Michael Coombs of Aldersgate Street in the City of London grocer to hold to them their heirs and assignees according to the nature and quality thereof respectively upon the overall trusts following (that is to say) upon trust as soon as reasonably may be after my decease to sell and dispose of the whole of my said estates for the most money and best price or prices that ? or may be reasonably had or gotten for the same either by public auction or private contract or partly by public auction or partly by private contract and I hereby declare that the receipt or receipts of my said trustees and the survivor of them or the executors administrators or assignees of such survivor shall be a good and sufficient discharge and surcharges for the purchase monies for which my said estates or any part or parts thereof shall be sold without the purchaser or respective purchasers being obliged to see the application or being answerable for the loss misapplication or nonapplication of such purchase monies or any part thereof and until ? sale or sales it is my will that the rents and profits of my said estates be paid applied and disposed of in such and the same manner as the ? dividends or annual product of the stocks or funds hereinafter directed to be purchased with the ? money arising from such sale or sales and upon further trust after payment of my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses and  the ? and charges of and attending such sale or sales that they my said trustees and the survivor of those ? executors administrators or ? do and shall lay out and invest the ? monies to arise or be produced from such sale or sales in the purchase of Bank note (?) ? ? ? annuities and that they my said trustees and the survivor of those and the executors administrators or assignees or such survivor do and shall stand possessed of an interested in the before mentioned bank annuities and all other my bank annuities stocks or funds in trust from time to time to revive (?) the dividends interest or annual product thereof as and when the same shall ? out and be payable and pay the same unto my said dear wife Maria for and during the term of her natural life and from and immediately after the decease of my said wife then it is my will and desire that my said trustees and the survivor of them his executors administrators and assigns (?) do and shall (in such way as they think fit) sell and dispose of my aforementioned household furniture plate silver and all other my household effects for the most money that can be reasonably got for the same and that they do and shall lay out the money to arise therefrom in the purchase of bank note (?) ? ? ? annuities stocks or funds and that they shall stand possessed of the same where purchased and of all other the bank annuities stocks or funds hereinbefore mentioned upon trust to pay the dividends interest and annual product thereof unto and equally between my said two nieces Sarah Dickson and Euphemia Dickson for and during the term of their respective natural lives and in case the said Sarah Dickson or Euphemia Dickson shall die without leaving lawful issue then it is my will that the whole of the said dividends interest or annual product  be paid to the survivor of them for and during the term of her natural [sic] and it is my will that the same shall not be subject to the debts engagements (?) or ? of their respective husbands and that their respective receipts alone notwithstanding their respective ? shall be good and sufficient discharges from time to time to my said trustees or the survivor of them his executors administrators or assigns (?) for ? interest dividends and annual product and in case of the decease of the said Sarah Dickson and Euphemia Dickson or (n)either of them leaving lawful issue then it is my will and I do hereby direct that my said trustees and the survivor of them his executors administrators or assigns (?) do and shall from time to time retrieve (?) the dividends interests and annual product of the said Bank annuities stocks or funds to which ? deceased niece of nieces would have been entitled to if living and lay and [sic] out and invest the same in the purchase of life bank annuities stocks or funds and also the bank annuities stocks or funds from which they arose it is my will shall be transferred and divided unto and equally amongst the child or children of such deceased niece or nieces as and when they shall respectively arrive at the age of twenty one years and in case there shall happen to be but one such child there (?) to such only child at the like age. And in case the said Sarah Dickson and Euphemia Dickson shall die without leaving lawful issue then it is my will that the said bank annuities stocks or funds shall be by my said trustees and the survivor of (or?) his executors administrators or assignees paid transferred and assigned unto and equally between my three nephews Joseph Rodway Adam Dickson and John Dickson or such of them as shall then be living and the lawful issue (if any) of such of these shall then happen to be dead (?) such issue collectively and not individually taking (?) only the same amount as this as their parent or parents would have been entitled to take if living the said share to be divided equally amongst the ? entitled to receive the same if more than one and if but one to a such only one and my will is and I do hereby direct my said trustees and executors shall and may ? and retain from and out of the said trust monies and trust promises all reasonable and necessary ? ? and expenses attending on which they may be put unto in or about the ? of this my will or the trusts hereby reposed in them and that neither of them should be answerable or accountable for the acts deeds receipts ? or defaults of the others or other of them but each of them for his own acts bonds receipts  ? or defaults only their joining in receipts for conformity only notwithstanding nor with or for any loss which may happen either in placing (?) out or investing the monies which shall come to their hands or in depositing the same in any bankers hands for safe custody or otherwise without their respective wilful default and I do hereby nominate and appoint the said William Tootell and Michael Coombs executors of this my will to each of whom I give five guineas for a ring (?) ? which ? they will accept as a small token of my respect and revoking all other will and wills by me at any time heretofore made to ? this paper writing contained in one sheet of paper to be my last will and testament in witness whereof I the said John Rodbard the testator have to the foregoing two sides set my hand and to this third and last side  thereof my hand and seal this third day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty six J Rodbard (LS) – signed sealed published and ? by the said John Rodbard the testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who in his presence at his request and in the presence of each other have hereunto set our names as witnesses Wm Abbott 30 Cold Bath Square – Katharine Abbott same place – James Rollins Glover 20 Little Warner Street.

Proved at London 15th October 1829 before the worshipful Charles Cooke dr. of laws and surrogate by the oath of William Smith Tootell (in the will written William Tootell) the surviving executor to whom ? was granted being first sworn duly to ?

What does this will tell us about John Rodbard and his family? Firstly, it’s clear that this is indeed ‘our’ John Rodbard: the dates, locations, and the name of his wife (Maria) confirm that. Secondly, it confirms that the John Rodbard who married Maria Blanch was indeed the brother of the Sarah Rodbard who married John Dickson. We know that the members of the Dickson family whom John lists in the will as his nephews and nieces were the children of John and Sarah Dickson. Adam Dickson was born in 1808, John in 1810, Euphemia in 1812 and Sarah (who married David Blanch) in 1813, all in the parish of St Andrew, Holborn. There was another child, Mary, born in 1806, but I assume she died before this will was made. John Rodbard’s sister Sarah is not mentioned in the will, since she died in 1825, the year before it was written.

House of Correction, north side of Cold Bath Square, Clerkenwell

The will also suggests that, as well as owning property in Edgware, John Rodbard also had connections in central London. The co-executor of the will, William Smith Tootell of Little Stanmore, was born in about 1797 and died in 1869. He and his wife Eleanor had at least  two children – William Arthur, born in 1825 and Ellen Sarah in 1828 – and their christening records describes William as a conveyancer: presumably he acted as John Rodbard’s solicitor in relation to his Edgware properties. However, the other executor, Michael Coombs, is said to live in Aldersgate Street, London. I’ve been unable to find out anything about him, except that he died in 1828 and was buried at St Botolph without Aldersgate: this explains why William Tootell was the ‘suriving executor’ by the time John Rodbard died in 1829. The other witnesses to the signing of the will, William and Katharine Abbott, and glover John Rollins, lived in Cold Bath Square and Little Warner Street respectively. As the map below shows, these streets were close together in Clerkenwell, not far from Grays Inn Road. This suggests that John and Maria Rodbard may have owned property in this part of London, which would not have been far from the home of John’s sister Sarah Dickson and her family in Gravel Street, Holborn.

Holborn and Clerkenwell, in Greenwood's 1827 map of London: Cold Bath Square and Little Warner Street are at middle right, near the House of Correction (click on image to open in new window, then click again to enlarge)

Obviously, John Rodbard was a man of some wealth, though the will lacks precise details about the amount of money and property that he left. His widow Maria would be described as an ‘annuitant’ in the 1841 and 1851 census records, when she was living with her brother David and his wife Sarah, who (it turns out) was her niece, being the daughter of her sister-in-law Sarah Rodbard. The will’s indication of John Rodbard’s status adds strength to my theory that Elizabeth Higham, who accompanied Maria when she went to live with her Blanch relations, was the Rodbards’ servant during John’s lifetime.

As ever, I’m fascinated by my ancestors’ adventures in the English class system. How was it that Maria Blanch came to marry a propertied gentleman from Edgware, while her half-brother John Blanch, my great-great-great-grandfather, ended up as a humble shoemaker in Bethnal Green?

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