Captain Richard Gosfreight

The will of Richard Boulton the elder, written in 1737, includes the following statements:

I give and bequeath to my Niece Mary Gosfreight daughter of Captain Richard Gosfreight the sum of five hundred pounds of lawfull money

[…]

I give to Captain Richard Gosfreight one of my Executors hereafter named for the trouble he may have in the Execution of my Will the sum of one hundred pounds of Lawfull money of Great Britain

Perry's Dock, Blackwall, in 1789 (Perry purchased the yard from Boulton, Gosfreight and partners)

Perry’s Dock, Blackwall, in 1789 (Perry purchased the yard from Boulton, Gosfreight and partners)

In the same will, Richard Boulton makes provision for ‘my Stock in the East India Company and every other Company my Stock Estate and Interest in Black Wall yard’. Captain Richard Gosfreight (or Gosfright or Gosfrett) seems to have been a  business associate of Boulton’s. According to British History Online, Richard Boulton was one of four partners, together with three other former East India Company sea captains – John Kirby, Jonathan Collett and Edward Pierson – in the ownership of Blackwall Yard. The same source describes Richard Boulton as a London merchant and an important figure in the East India Company, of which he was a director from 1718 to 1736 and on the Committee for Shipping from 1723 until 1726. He was also a member of the Honourable Company of Shipwrights.

The article continues:

Both Collett (with his partner Richard Gosfreight) and Boulton were important ship’s husbands in early eighteenth-century London and their connections with the East India Company no doubt provided a stimulus to the yard, with orders for new ships, as well as regular repair work.

A ship’s husband was an agent ‘appointed by the owner of a ship and invested with authority to make the requisite repairs, and attend to the management, equipment, and other concerns of the ship he is usually authorized to act as the general agent of the owners, in relation to the ship in her home port.’

The article at British History Online claims that Richard Boulton died in 1746, but this must surely refer to his nephew and namesake, Captain Richard Boulton the younger, a confusion which makes it difficult to be sure which of the two Richard Boultons is being referred to here. However, for our purposes, the important point to note is that Captain Richard Gosfreight was, like both Richard Boultons, originally a sea captain and that he had business links with the Boulton family which probably predated his marrying into the family.

Section of Rocque's 1746 map, showing Black Raven Court of Seething Lane at top right

Section of Rocque’s 1746 map, showing Black Raven Court of Seething Lane at top right

I’ve found land tax records for Captain Richard Gosfreight in Black Raven Court, off Seething Lane (which was close to the church of All Hallows Barking and to Tower Hill) between 1732 and 1735. In the latter year Hester Crabb, the widowed niece of Richard Boulton and the mother of Henry Crabb Boulton, who would eventually assume ownership of Black Wall Yard, was a near neighbour. In 1736-7 Gosfreight was paying land tax on a property in Aldgate and in 1746 in the parish of St Mary Whitechapel.

There are a variety of records from this period for a Richard Gosfreight, and even more for other members of the Gosfreight family. I’m still in the process of sorting out their precise connection (if any) with Captain Richard Gosfreight, the father of Richard Boulton’s niece Mary. Suffice it to say that the Gosfreights appear to have been an Anglo-Dutch family with longstanding business interests in the City of London. Contemporary with Richard Gosfreight, or just predating him, I’ve found London merchants with the names Francis, Solomon, George and Charles Gosfreight, but at this stage I’m not sure of Richard’s relationship to them. A Captain Gossfright was a governor of Bridewell Hospital in 1691, but this might be too early for Richard. Certainly, there was at least one other Captain Gosfright – first name George – who was a member of the Particular Baptists and associated with James, Duke of Monmouth and his ill-fated rebellion against James II of 1685. Some years earlier, in 1659, during the last year of the Commonwealth, he and his fellow Baptist (and later fellow London merchant) William Kiffen had penned a letter complaining about a raid on their properties following malicious accusations of their association with radical Anabaptists.

I’m intrigued by these connections and would like to explore them further at a later date. For now, though, I want to focus on clarifying Captain Richard Gosfreight’s relationship to the Boulton family. The only possible marriage record I’ve found for him dates from 1691, when Richard Gosfreight of the parish of St Bartholomew Exchange married Theodosia Bennett of St Mildred Poultry at the church of St Botolph, Aldersgate. However, I’ve begun to wonder whether this might not be a different Richard Gosfreight. We know from his will of 1746 that Captain Richard Gosfreight was married at least twice, and that his daughter Mary, described as a niece by Richard Boulton the elder, was the only surviving child of his first or earlier marriage.

I had assumed that, since  Mary Gosfreight was Richard Boulton’s niece, then Captain Richard Gosfreight must have married Boulton’s sister. However, Gosfreight’s will reveals that the reality was somewhat different. Having left property to his present wife, Catherine, Richard writes:

Whereas I have a daughter named Mary my only Child living by my first Wife and who is Married to Walter Gibbs of the City of Bath in the County of Somerset Apothecary

We know from the wills of both Richard Boulton the younger and Major Peter Boulton that Mary Gibbs, wife of Walter Gibbs, was the latter’s granddaughter. Richard Boulton the younger made his will in 1740 and Peter Boulton made his in 1741. This means that Mary Gosfreight must have married Walter Gibbs between 1737 and 1740.

So it appears that Richard Gosfreight married a daughter of Peter Boulton, the brother of Richard Boulton the elder. If my current understanding of the family is correct, this means that Mary Gibbs née Gosfreight was actually Richard Boulton’s great niece, not his niece as stated in his will. If Mary married Walter Gibbs in (say) 1738 or 1739, then she must have been born in about 1720 – which means that Richard Gosfreight married someone with the surname Boulton (the daughter of Peter Boulton) some time before then. It’s likely that this was in the parish of All Hallows Barking, which was home to the Boulton family, and which may explain why I haven’t been able to find any record of it online.

Langtons, Hornchurch: home of Richard Gosfreight and family

Langtons, Hornchurch: home of Richard Gosfreight and family in the 1740s (via flickr.com)

The absence of Richard Gosfreight – his son-in-law – from Peter Boulton’s will made me hesitate, but of course Gosfreight had married again by this time. His will of 1746, written only five years after that of his former father-in-law, leaves money to two daughters, Sarah and Frances, by his second wife Catherine, both of whom were still minors. Moreover, it appears that by the time of his death Richard Gosfreight was a wealthy man. We can conclude this from the amount of money and property that he was able to bequeath to his dependants, and also from the fact that he now occupied a substantial property in the country. In his will Richard describes himself as ‘of the parish of Horn Church in the County of Essex’, and it appears that the Gosfreight family home was Langton Hall or Langtons House, now a popular venue for weddings. Richard Gosfreight nominated his wife Catherine and Henry Crabb Boulton as executors of his will.

The Mansion House, Old Warden, Bedfordshire

The Mansion House, Old Warden, Bedfordshire

Sarah Gosfright married John Mackrill, a woolstapler of Southwark, in 1751; apparently she came with a £25,000 fortune. In 1763 Richard’s daughter Frances married Robert Henley Ongley, of Old Warden, Bedfordshire, who represented that county in Parliament and was created Baron Ongley in 1776.

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