Edward and Elizabeth Collibee of Bath

Captain Richard Boulton the elder, of the parish of St Olave Hart Street in the City of London, signed and sealed his last will and testament on 9th April 1737. Three days later, he added the following memorandum:

Whereas by mistake the Lawyer he having left out of my Niece Collibye in my draft I gave him for making my will a Legacy of one hundred pound I desire in case I make no Codicil that my Executors will pay her one hundred pound as a Legacy after my decease as other Legacies are paid.

Richard Boulton died six months later and was buried on 1st November. On 24th November Richard Boulton’s niece Hester Crabb and her nephew (Richard’s great nephew) Francis Jemblin signed an affidavit confirming that the memorandum was in fact in his handwriting.

I’ve had some success in identifying most of the beneficiaries of Richard Boulton’s will, and in establishing their relationship to him. However, until yesterday I had failed to make any progress with finding the niece named ‘Collibye’, mentioned in the memorandum. Then I happened to come across the will of another great nephew, Hester Crabb’s son Henry, who assumed the additional surname Boulton on becoming the principal heir to the family fortune. Born in 1709, Henry Crabb Boulton was, like his great uncle Richard Boulton, an official of the East India Company, eventually becoming its director and chairman, as well as Member of Parliament for Worcester. In his will of 1773, Henry bequeaths ‘unto Mrs Elizabeth Collibee (wife of Mr. Edward Collibee) of the City of Bath One Annuity or yearly Sum of Thirty Pounds’.

bath guildhall

Edward Bushell Collibee was born in about 1707, the son of William Collibee, an apothecary, Bath city councillor, and mayor of the city in 1719/20. Edward followed in his father’s footsteps, also working as an apothecary, serving on the council, and being elected mayor of Bath in 1756/7, 1765/6, 1775/6 and 1785/6. He died in 1795.

I’ve found records for two children born to Edward and Elizabeth Collibee: Elizabeth, christened at Bath Abbey in 1738 and Anne in 1741. A record of the couple’s marriage has yet to appear, but it must have taken place in 1737 or earlier, both because of their first daughter’s birth date and because of the reference in Richard Boulton’s will of that year.

Unfortunately, without a marriage record or some other reference to her maiden name, it’s difficult to be sure how Elizabeth Collibee fits into the Boulton family tree. The Bath connection might lead us to believe that Elizabeth was the daughter of Richard Boulton’s brother Peter, who retired to that city. Moreover, Edward Collibee’s middle name – Bushell – is remarkably similar to the surname of Elizabeth Bushwell who married a Peter Boulton in London in 1691, and who might have been ‘our’ Peter’s first wife. (At the same time, the Bushells seems to have been another prominent Bath family: John Bushell was town clerk in 1698.)

On the other hand, there is no mention of Edward or Elizabeth in Peter Boulton’s own will of 1741, three years after the birth of the younger Elizabeth. Peter’s will is quite brief, but he does find space to mention his wife Posthuma and to bequeath property in London to his granddaughter Mary, the wife of Walter Gibbs, another Bath apothecary. I’ve recently established that Mary was the daughter of Captain Richard Gosfreight and that therefore his first marriage must have been to a daughter of Peter Boulton. We know from Gosfreight’s will that there were no other surviving children from that marriage.

Court of Chancery

Court of Chancery

At the same time, there seems to have been no love lost between Edward Collibee and some members of Peter Boulton’s family. I’ve found a case in Chancery from 1755 in which ‘Robert Clarke, clerk of Westminster, Middlesex and Mary Clarke his wife (late Mary Gibbs, widow of Walter Gibbs, apothecary deceased late of Bath, Somerset)’ were plaintiffs and ‘Amy Gibbs, widow, Harry Gibbs, Samuel Purlewent, gent, Catherine Howe, widow, Richard Harford and Edward Bushell Collibee’ were the defendants. Samuel Purlewent was one of the witnesses to Peter Boulton’s will and made his own will in 1759. Presumably Amy and Harry Gibbs were relatives of Mary’s late husband Walter.

This record was helpful in highlighting the fact that Mary, the daughter of Richard Gosfreight and granddaughter of Peter and Posthuma Boulton, had been widowed but had remarried by this time. Walter Gibbs must have died some time after 1740, when he was mentioned in the will of Peter Boulton. As for Mary’s second husband, Robert Clarke, I had no luck in tracing him until I came across the last will and testament of Posthuma Boulton, widow of Peter and grandmother to Mary, which was written in 1754. We learn from this document that ‘clerk’ means clergyman, and that Mary’s second husband was ‘Reverend Robert Clarke late of the Kingdom of Ireland but now of the City of Westminster.’  A codicil to Posthuma’s will was witnessed by her great step-granddaughter Frances Gosfreight, by John Mackrill, husband of her other step-granddaughter Sarah Gosfreight, and by her servant Mary Hudson.

Posthuma Boulton’s will bequeaths ten pounds to Edward Bushell Collibee, but he is one among a list of minor beneficiaries who do not appear to be close relatives, so this doesn’t necessarily prove anything. It would, after all, be natural for Posthuma to leave something to an important local worthy who also happened to be married to her late husband’s niece. There is nothing else in the will – certainly no mention of Elizabeth Collibee herself – to indicate that the latter was the daughter of Peter and Posthuma Boulton.

This means that Elizabeth must have been the daughter of another Boulton sibling. I’m fairly sure that Peter Boulton’s brother Richard was unmarried, and anyway it was his reference to ‘my Niece Collibye’ that alerted me to her existence in the first place. If she were a sister of Richard Boulton junior or his brother William, I think she might have been mentioned in the former’s will of 1740.

By the time he came to write his will in 1782, Reverend Robert Clarke and his wife Mary, formerly Gibbs, née Gosfreight, had obviously moved back to Bath, perhaps having inherited property belonging to Mary’s grandmother Posthuma. Robert was now describing himself as ‘Doctor of Divinity and Dean of Tuam in the Kingdom of Ireland’.

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