My family and other slave owners

I’ve just come across this video about the compensation records uncovered by the excellent Legacies of British Slave Ownership research project at University College, London. The film focuses on slave owners in London, but what was true of Bryanston Square also applied to Blythwood Square, and other similar locations, in Glasgow’s ‘merchant city’. As I’ve written before, it was a shock to discover that my ancestors’ names were among those appearing in these records. The four children of Glasgow merchant George Robb – the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb – all received compensation following the abolition of slavery in the early nineteenth century. Moreover, the Thomsons – the Glasgow family into which George Robb married – were deeply involved in trade with the West Indies, and a number of them owned both land and slaves there. Finally, as noted in the last post, it seems likely that my 3rd great grandmother Margaret Ricketts Monteith owed her middle name to a connection with the Ricketts family, who were prominent plantation owners in Jamaica.


A brief visit to the city of my ancestors

I was in Glasgow last week, for a work-related conference. I was only there for one night, which didn’t allow time for any family history research. However, as I walked from Glasgow Central Station to my hotel in George Square, and then to the conference venue in nearby Ingham Street, I was aware that I was in the heart of the eighteenth-century Merchant City that would have been very familiar to my Robb ancestors.
Exchange Place, Glasgow: entrance to the Merchant City

Although my father’s family were originally from Aberdeenshire – they owned a property in Fisherford, in the parish of Auchterless – they also had a close connection with Glasgow. According to the memorandum written in 1885 by my great great grandfather, William Robb, his parents – Charles Edward Stuart Robb and Margaret Ricketts Monteith – were married in the city. William claims that the wedding took place on 15th October 1802 at St. Mungo’s church (now Glasgow Cathedral), though I’ve yet to find a record of the event.

How Charles Robb came to be in Glasgow, and how he met his wife Margaret, remains a mystery, as do Margaret’s origins. I certainly haven’t been able to confirm or deny the family tradition, recorded in William Robb’s memorandum, that she was the only daughter of John Monteith and his wife Matilda, and that  the latter was the daughter of Viscount Stormont who was, in William’s words, ‘engaged as well as my Father’s father in the affair of Prince Charles attempt to gain the crown 1745/6.’

George Square, Glasgow, at twilight

One clue may lie in what I’ve managed to discover about Charles’ older brother George, who (I believe) worked as a merchant in Glasgow, marrying saddler’s daughter Penelope Thomson there on 15th January 1805, the ceremony being conducted by another Robb brother, William, who was an Episcopalian minister (and poet) in St Andrews. I wonder if Charles followed his brother George to Glasgow, and whether he originally came to the city to study the law? We know that later in life Charles would work as a solicitor’s clerk, as would at least two of his sons, and that another son – my great great grandfather William – would find work as a law stationer’s clerk. The law seems to have been in the Robb blood: George’s son, George Robb junior, worked initially as a law writer – or solicitor – before switching careers and becoming a veterinary surgeon, and there are numerous other associations between the Glasgow Robb and Thomson families and the legal profession.

George Square, Glasgow: early morning

Charles and Margaret Robb must have left Glasgow soon after they were married. By 1805 they were in Aberdeen for the birth of their daughter Matilda; in 1806 and 1807 they were in Alloa, for the birth and death in infancy of their son George William; and in 1808 they were in Kilmarnock for the birth and death after just a few weeks of their daughter Isabella Maria. By 1810, when their son Charles Edward was born, they had left Scotland, and were in Whitby, in Yorkshire; by 1811 they would be in Richmond for the birth of another George William; my great great grandfather William was also born there, in 1813; his younger brother John was born in Malton in 1816, as was the Robbs’ youngest child, Elizabeth, in 1820. By the mid-1830s at the latest, the family was in London, which would become their permanent home.

As I’ve noted in recent posts, I’m still trying to find independent confirmation of the relationship between my great great great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb, and George Robb, Glasgow merchant, as well as attempting to throw some light on the mysterious origins of my great great great grandmother Margaret Ricketts Monteith. I suspect there is a link of some kind to trade with the West Indies – the Ricketts family were plantation owners in Jamaica, and I’ve found records of George Robb’s children, and his Thomson relatives, seeking compensation following the abolition of the slave trade. After George died in about 1812, his widow Penelope married John Young, a West Indies merchant who had been the Receiver-General of Jamaica.

Perhaps next time I visit Glasgow, I’ll have more time to explore the places where my ancestors lived and worked, and to make progress in solving in some of these family history mysteries.

Robb, Thomson and McLachlan: merchant families in Glasgow

I don’t know much about my own Uncles and Aunts but I know my Father’s eldest brother Revd. William Robb was for some time Professor of Greek in the College of St Andrews, Fifeshire. He never was married […]

I had also an Uncle George who died many years ago leaving children but I don’t know how many. I had also an Aunt called Penelope.

So wrote my great great grandfather William Robb, in a memorandum composed on 20th June 1880. I believe that William’s ‘Uncle George’ (the brother of his father – my 3rd great grandfather –  Charles Edward Stuart Robb) was the Glasgow merchant of that name who was active in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and that his ‘Aunt called Penelope’ was George’s wife, Penelope Thomson, whom he married on 15th January 1805. The ceremony was conducted by ‘Mr William Robb, Episcopal Minister in St. Andrews’, who I believe was George’s brother, and the other uncle mentioned in William Robb’s memorandum.

Street scene, Glasgow, early 19th century (via

I’m continuing to explore the story of George Robb, and his Glasgow connections, in the hope of solving some of the mysteries surrounding my Scottish Robb ancestors. For example, William Robb’s memorandum informs us that his parents, Charles Edward Stuart Robb and Margaret Ricketts Monteith, were themselves married in Glasgow in 1802, but I can find no record of this, or any definite evidence of Margaret’s family origins.

In this post, I’ll be summarising what I’ve managed to discover so far about one branch of Penelope Thomson’s family. Penelope, who was born in about 1777, was the daughter of John Thomson of Hillhead and his first wife, Penelope McLachlan. In May 1765 they had contracted what was described as an ‘irregular marriage’. These were marriages in which a man and woman made a declaration in front of two witnesses, and later had the marriage officially registered.

I’ve been unable to find any record of Penelope McLachlan’s birth, or of her family origins, but I’m convinced that she was a member of the family of Glasgow merchants with whom the Thomsons and their descendants would continue to have close ties. For example, when Penelope’s brother Colin Thomson, a Glasgow merchant, made his will in 1819, one of the executors, and a principal beneficiary, was Colin McLachlan, who was also described in the document as a merchant in Glasgow.

I’ve discovered that a Colin McLachlan married Sarah McCallum in Glasgow in 1781, and that they had a number of children together, including Sarah and Archibald in 1790, and Colin junior in 1796. I’m not sure which of the two Colin McLachlans is referred to in Colin Thomson’s will: the younger man would have been twenty-five in 1819, and his father perhaps about 60. Nor am I sure which Colin McLachlan it was who made his own will in 1822. One of the beneficiaries of that will was an Archibald McLachlan, but the nature of his relationship to the testator is not made clear.

Remains of the old parish church, Cardross, badly damaged in a bombing raid during the Second World War (via

Interestingly, another of the beneficiaries of the will was Rev Archibald Wilson of Cardross, and we can deduce from the document that he was the husband of Colin McLachlan’s sister Margaret, and that they had two children, Colin and Jean. This is of interest because it was Rev Wilson who officiated at the wedding of Penelope Robb née Thomson to her second husband, John Young, in 1813.

So, just as Penelope’s first marriage to George Robb had been officiated by a family member – George’s brother, Rev William Robb – so it seems that her second marriage was under the auspices of a member of her own family. However, the precise relationship between Penelope’s mother, Penelope McLachlan, and these other McLaclans of Glasgow, remains something of a mystery.

New information about Mary Ann Blanch Roe, a.k.a. Blanche Vincent, ‘the dainty comedienne’

I’ve written elsewhere about my great great aunt, Mary Ann Blanch Roe, and her theatrical career as ‘Blanche Vincent’, the singer, burlesque artist and ‘dainty comedienne’. Born in 1857, Mary Ann was the third of the five children of my great great grandparents, Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch, and the older sister of my maternal great grandfather, Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947).

Blanche Vincent: real name Mary Ann Blanch Kew, née Roe

In about 1875, Mary married Leonard Vincent Kew, with whom she had two children – Ruth, born in 1876, who appears to have died in infancy, and Leonard junior, born in 1880. At around this time, Leonard and Mary launched their careers as theatrical performers, Leonard touring with the D’Oyly Carte Company under the name Leonard Vincent, and Mary – as Blanch Vincent – making her own appearances in theatres throughout England and Ireland.

Until now, the couple’s later lives and careers have been something of a mystery. We’ve known more about their son Leonard junior, his short-lived marriage to Emily Jane Harris, his imprisonment for attempted armed robbery, his second marriage to Dora Booth, his service in the First World War, and his death at the age of thirty-eight. But his parents seemed to have disappeared from the records after about 1910.

However, this week I received an email from Graham Robinson in Brazil, with some intriguing new information about Leonard Kew senior, and a couple of tantalising possibilities concerning Mary Ann.

The last notice I’d found for Leonard’s work with D’Oyly Carte was from 1884. Now Graham has come across a newspaper advertisement from 1885 concerning a certain Leonard Vidal, ‘formerly Leonard Vincent’ (see above). In 1893, another newspaper notice describes Vidal as the stage manager for an amateur performance of The Yeoman of The Guard in Bradford. In 1902 Leonard was living in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, and advertising for work as a ‘general theatrical manager’. By 1904, he was the ‘actor manager’ of the Palace Theatre of Varieties in Leicester.

Palace Theatre LEICESTER

The Palace Theatre, Leicester, in the early years of the 20th century

Why did Leonard Vincent, or Leonard Vincent Kew, change his name yet again to Leonard Vidal? It may have been to separate himself, both personally and professionally, from his wife Blanch Vincent, a.k.a. Mary Ann Blanch Roe. I’m not sure if the couple were officially divorced, but Graham Robinson has found evidence that Leonard married for a second time, to Millicent Adams, by 1891 at the latest. At the time of the 1901 census, Islington-born theatrical manager Leonard Vidal, 40, his 29-year-old Pembrokeshireshire-born wife Millie, and their 9-year-old Stockport-born son, Leonard Austin Vidal, could be found living in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

The move to Leicester took place three years later, in 1904, but in 1906 Leonard suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of 45. On 14th April 1906, The Era, a weekly newspaper, carried an extended report on his sudden death and a detailed account of his funeral, which apparently was attended by ‘a great number of the lamented gentleman’s personal friends’. The floral tributes included one labelled ‘With love from his sorrowing wife, Lenny, and Gerty’. ‘Lenny’ must be Leonard and Millie’s son Leonard Austin Vidal. At first I thought ‘Gerty’ might be a hitherto unknown daughter, but then in the 1911 census I noticed that Millie, now remarried to commercial traveller Ernest Harry Catlow, had a Nottinghamshire-born servant of that name, who probably followed the Vidals to Leicester.  The Palace Theatre staged a benefit concert for Leonard Vidal’s widow and son on 17th May 1906.

Notice in ‘The Era’, 5th May 1906 (via

Millie Catlow, formerly Vidal, would remain in Leicester with her new husband. It’s surely no coincidence that Leonard Vincent Kew junior, the child of her late husband’s first marriage to Mary Ann Blanch Roe, also ended up in the city, together with his second wife Dora, working as a gardener, and dying in the local isolation hospital in 1919.

The movements of Blanche Vincent after her divorce or separation from Leonard remain something of a mystery. Graham Robinson has found a notice advertising a concert in Preston featuring Blanche: the latest one that either of us has been able to identify. As Graham points out, it is perhaps significant that Blanch was now performing as part of Fred Karno’s company. Many of Karno’s proteges, most famously Stan Laurel, moved to the United States, and Karno himself would have a brief spell working in Hollywood in the 1920s.

Fred Karno (via Wikipedia)

Graham has come across several references to a Blanche Vincent performing in America after 1910, as an accompanist to the vaudeville performer and later film director Russell Mack. According to Wikipedia, they toured the cabaret circuit as ‘Mack and Vincent’ from 1911 onwards, and there is even a suggestion that they presented themselves to the world as husband and wife. The duo disbanded in 1919.

So did my great great aunt seek her fortune in America, after separating from her husband Leonard Vidal, formerly Vincent, née Kew? My only reservation about this theory concerns ‘our’ Blanche’s age: in 1911 she would have been 54 years old, whereas her stage husband, Russell Mack, would have been barely 20.

The naming of Sarah Parker Holdsworth

In the last two posts I’ve been exploring the life of Sarah Parker Holdsworth, the youngest daughter of my 4th great grandparents John Holdsworth and Mary Webb, who was born in Oxford in 1810. In my first post about Sarah, I speculated about the reason for her middle name, recalling that her father’s sister Sarah Holdsworth had married a William Parker in 1803, though the links between the Holdsworth and Parker families appear to go back even further.

Record of the burial of my 4th great grandmother Mary Holdsworth, née Webb, on 30th December 1810, in the parish register of St Ebbe’s church, Oxford (via

Reflecting further on Sarah Parker Holdsworth’s early life, it occurred to me that her name might be evidence of a particularly close relationship with her aunt, Sarah Parker née Holdsworth. Sarah Parker Holdsworth was christened at the parish church of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, on 22nd December 1810. The parish register doesn’t include actual birth dates, but it’s reasonable to speculate that Sarah was probably only a few days old at the time. Thanks to research shared with me by Wendy Christie, we also know that Sarah’s mother died shortly after giving birth to her: assuming that she is the Mary Holdsworth, aged 35, who was buried at St Ebbe’s on 30th December, just eight days after Sarah’s baptism.

What was forty-five year old carpenter and builder John Holdsworth to do with a newborn baby, not to mention four other children with ages ranging from one to twelve? My guess is that he called upon his only sister, Sarah Parker, then in her early forties and with no surviving children of her own (her only son, Edward, the product of her first marriage, had died in infancy eight years earlier), to come to the rescue. It’s possible that Sarah arrived before her sister-in-law’s death, assuming that Mary was taken ill shortly after her daughter was born. If so, then the name that John gave the child at her christening may have been an expression of his gratitude to his sister.

John Holdsworth’s name in the 1812 land tax records for William Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East, London

As I noted in my earlier post, John’s relocation from Oxford to London, presumably accompanied by his young family, seems to have followed soon after his wife’s death: he was certainly living there by 1812. Once again, his need for help with caring for five children may have been a key motive for the move. Having settled in London, it’s likely that John would have been able to rely on support from other members of the extended Holdsworth family besides his sister Sarah. John moved into a house in William Street, in the parish of St George in the East, that had formerly been occupied by his brother Joseph and his family, who were now living a few streets away. And John’s other brothers, William and Godfrey, and their families, were not far away in Mile End Old Town.

The question remains as to how Sarah Parker Holdsworth, having arrived in London as an infant with her father and siblings, came to meet and marry Oxford bookbinder Thomas Morley, twenty-two years later. Is it possible that Sarah actually remained in Oxford, perhaps being looked after by her late mother’s family? Or that her father John retained connections in Oxford, and that Sarah went back there to work as a young woman, possibly as a domestic servant? After all, her older sister Eliza, and a number of her female Holdsworth cousins, were sent away into service, often some distance from their homes, at a young age. These are intriguing questions, but ones to which we shall probably never know the answers.

Thomas Morley and Sarah Parker Holdsworth: new information

Following on from my last post about Sarah Parker Holdsworth, the youngest child of my 4th great grandparents John and Mary Holdsworth, and her marriage to Oxford bookbinder Thomas Morley, I’m grateful to Wendy Christie for supplying further information about the family, and for correcting an error in my original post.

Part of a 19th century map of Oxford, showing Adelaide Street, Observatory Street and Walton Street (via

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d been unable to locate Thomas and Sarah Morley in the census records for 1841 and 1851. Wendy has managed to track them down (the records were difficult to find, due to transcription errors at Ancestry) and in 1841 we find the couple living at Jericho Terrace, off Walton Street, Oxford. With Thomas and Sarah in 1841 are their children Anne, 6, Elizabeth, 2, and William, 1. Ten years later, Wendy has found the family at Walton Terrace, which seems to have formed part of Adelaide Street. The oldest Morley daughter, Anne, is now 16 and already working as a ‘pupil teacher’: she would remain a schoolteacher until her retirement in her mid forties. There are five new additions to the family: Henry, 8, Thomas junior, 6, Frederick, 4, Mary, 2, and Martin, one month. I hadn’t come across Frederick before, but I’ve now found a christening record for him, in the parish of St Giles, on 10th January 1847, when the family were living in Observatory Street, another road off Walton Street, just to the south of Adelaide Street. Sadly, Frederick would die, aged five, less than a year after the census was taken, and was buried at St Paul’s church, Oxford, on 25th March 1852.

St Paul walton street oxford

St Paul’s church, Walton Street, Oxford in 1900 (via The building now houses the Freud café.

Wendy has pointed out that my earlier post ascribed the wrong spouse to Thomas and Sarah Morley’s daughter Elizabeth. I should have been more cautious about assuming that information on other family trees at Ancestry was reliable! In fact, Elizabeth married lawyer’s clerk William Jones on 14th April 1863, at St Paul’s church. William was said to be living in Stoke Newington and was the son of a waiter. Sadly, the couple enjoyed very few years together. Wendy has found a newspaper report of Elizabeth’s death, at the age of 33, in February 1871, at the couple’s home in Notting Hill, London. Elizabeth is described as the ‘beloved wife’ of William Jones and as the second daughter of Thomas Morley, bookbinder of Long Wall Street, Oxford. It’s possible that Elizabeth died in childbirth, though I’ve yet to find any definite record of children born to the couple.


I notice that on the very next page of the St Paul’s, Oxford, parish register, recording the burial of young Frederick Morley in March 1852, is a note of the burial, two months later, of a certain Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was only one day old when he died. The address is given as St Paul’s Terrace. The poet of the same name had died in 1834. This child was almost certainly a relative, but what exactly was the relationship? I assume that the infant was the son of one of the poet’s children: but which one? I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can throw light on this.

The Holdsworth family and ‘Mr Morley’ of Oxford: a mystery solved

There are few things more exciting for a family historian than discovering a whole new branch of your family tree. I’m grateful to Wendy Christie, via a comment on this blog, for providing me with new and intriguing information about my maternal ancestors, the Holdsworths, and for solving a longstanding mystery about one of their number, as well as throwing new light on the story of the family as a whole.

To begin with a recap: John Holdsworth was my 4th great grandfather. Born in 1765, he was the eldest son of my 5th great grandparents, Yorkshire-born farmer Joseph Holdsworth (1735 – 1795) and Elizabeth Collins, née Gibson (1733 – 1809), who were married in 1763. As I’ve related elsewhere, following Joseph’s death in South Weald, Essex, his widow and adult children all moved to London, Elizabeth’s home city, settling in the expanding suburbs of Whitechapel and Stepney.

An early photograph of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire (via

All, that is, except John, a carpenter and builder, who would eventually make his home in London, but only after spending a number of years living in Oxfordshire. John Holdsworth, by then in his early thirties, married twenty-two-year-old Mary Ann Webb in the north Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton on 22nd September 1797.

Thanks to the research shared with me by Wendy Christie, we now have more definite information about the children born to John and Mary Holdsworth while they were still living in Chipping Norton. Their eldest daughter Eliza was born there in 1798, William in 1800 and Keziah in 1804. This latter information contradicts the claim made in later census records that Keziah, who was my 3rd great grandmother, was born in the parish of St Clement’s, Oxford. However, the Holdsworths must have moved there shortly afterwards, since their daughter Mary and son Joseph were christened at St Clement’s church in November 1806 and March 1809 respectively.

St Ebbe’s church, Oxford (via

However, the truly novel information supplied by Wendy relates to the Holdsworth family’s move to yet another Oxford parish, St Ebbe’s, by the time their youngest child was born in 1810. Sarah Parker Holdsworth was baptised there on 22nd December 1810. I already knew that John and Mary Holdsworth had a daughter named Sarah, but I didn’t have a definite date for her birth, nor was I aware until now of her middle name. I’ve written elsewhere about the links between the Holdsworth and Parker families: John Holdsworth’s younger sister Sarah married oil and colour merchant William Parker in Bethnal Green in August 1803. However, this was not Sarah’s first marriage: until his early death in 1799, she had been married to plumber Edward Porter, and they had named their son Edward Parker Porter, hinting at a much earlier connection between the two families. There would also be later marital links between the families. Another Sarah Holdsworth, the daughter of John Holdsworth’s brother William, would marry a Thomas Parker in Stepney in 1821, and their son, another Thomas Parker, married Eliza Roe, William Holdsworth’s granddaughter, in 1853. By giving his daughter the middle name Parker, John Holdsworth was confirming this longstanding family connection, as well as signalling that he remained close to his siblings sixty miles away in London.

Baptismal record for Sarah Parker Holdsworth, St Ebbe’s church, Oxford, 22.12.1810 (via

Wendy’s research has also uncovered two burial records for the Holdsworth family in St Ebbe’s parish. The first is for William Holdsworth, on 9th November 1809; he was nine years old. The second is for Mary Holdsworth, on 30th December 1810. She was thirty-five years old, so this must have been John’s wife. Since Mary was buried only eight days after giving birth to Sarah, she presumably died from complications following childbirth. This is the first information we’ve had about Mary’s death. It perhaps explains why John returned to London around this time: he was certainly in Stepney by 1812, when records show that he was paying land tax on a property in William Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East.

Most of John’s children went with him to London, and they stayed and made their lives there. Eliza would spend her life working as a domestic servant, firstly to the family of a Congregational minister and later to a wealthy widow; she never married. Joseph would work as a carpenter, like his father, marrying into a devout Dissenting family and later emigrating with them to Australia. Keziah married shoemaker John Blanch and they lived firstly in Bethnal Green and then in Soho. Their daughter Mary Ann married her second cousin Daniel Roe, son of Keziah’s first cousin Eliza, daughter of John Holdsworth’s brother William; Daniel and Mary Ann were my great great grandparents.

However, one of John Holdsworth’s children would remain in Oxford, or perhaps return there as a young woman. Until now, it was believed that John and Mary Holdsworth had a daughter named Ann, who married a ‘Mr Morley’ and settled in Oxford. This was certainly the claim made in notes left by members of the Holdsworth family towards the end of the nineteenth century. But Wendy Christie’s research finds no trace of Ann Holdsworth. Instead, there is clear evidence that it was actually John and Mary Holdsworth’s daughter Sarah who married a Mr Morley.

The marriage of Thomas Morley and Sarah Parker Holdsworth in the parish register of St Clement’s church, Oxford (via

On 6th May 1832, Thomas Morley, of the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, married Sarah Parker Holdsworth at the parish church of St Clement’s in the same city. When their first child (or at least the first child we have records for), Anne, was christened at the same church on 29th November 1835, the couple were living in Cowley Road. The parish register describes Thomas as a bookbinder, an occupation that he would pursue for the remainder of his life and pass on to two of his sons. Three years later, when a second daughter, Elizabeth, was born, the family was living in Penson’s Gardens, in St Clement’s, though the baptism took place in the parish church of St Ebbe’s, where Sarah had been christened. A son, William, was also born at the same address, and christened at the same church, in 1840. Another son, Henry, was born in 1842. His younger brother Thomas was born in the parish of St Giles, Oxford, in 1845. Another move preceded the birth of Mary Morley, in 1848, in Adelaide Street, on the edge of the Jericho district to the north of the city; she was christened in the parish church of St Paul’s. Thomas and Sarah Morley’s youngest child, Martin, was born in 1851 in Oxford, but I’m not sure where he was baptised.

I haven’t yet managed to find the Morleys in the census for 1841 or 1851, and it’s possible that there are missing sections in the records, but in 1861 they were living at 24 Walton Street, Oxford, not far from Adelaide Street. Thomas and Sarah were now both 49; Elizabeth was 22 and working as a milliner; William and Henry 20 and 18 respectively and both working as bookbinders, presumably alongside their father; Mary and Martin, at 12 and 10, were too young to be working. As for Thomas Morley, junior, then aged 16, he was already working, as an organist. The Morleys also had a boarder: 72-year-old Hannah Godfrey from Cumnor, then in Berkshire.

A nineteenth-century woodcut of a bookbinder’s workshop

By 1871 the Morleys had moved again, to 17 Long Wall (now Longwall Street) in the centre of the city, close to the High Street. Thomas and Sarah were now 59. Thomas was still working as a bookbinder and employing one man. Their neighbours on one side were a clergyman ‘without cure of souls’, and on the other a retired bookbinder (perhaps a former colleague or partner?) and his family.

The only one of their children still living at home with Thomas and Sarah was Mary, now 21, though she would marry tobaconnist William Nicholson in 1874 and they would settle in the village of Watlington with their son Hubert. Mary’s sister Anne, who would have been 39 in 1871, worked as a school mistress. At that date she was a lodger in the home of bargeman Henry Ashley in Victor Street, Oxford. In 1869, another daughter, Elizabeth, had married Wiiltshire-born house carpenter Henry Moxham, and by 1871 they were living in Streatham, south London, with their first child, Henry junior. [I now realise that this information about Elizabeth’s marriage is incorrect: see this post for the correction.] William Morley had married Mary Ellen Hutt in 1864 and in 1871 they were living at 27 St Giles, Oxford, with their son Frederick William, as well as a female servant and a young boarder. William was now a master bookbinder in his own right.

William’s younger brother Henry had married printer’s daughter Caroline Osborn, also in 1864, and in 1871 they were living at 18 Cowley Road, where Henry was working as a book finisher. I can’t find Martin Morley in the 1871 census records, but we know that he would also work as a bookbinder in Oxford, and in 1873 he married Ann Simmons, with whom he had a number of children.

In 1866, Thomas Morley junior had married Fanny Ann Wilkins, the daughter of a London harness-maker, in Holborn, where he was organist at St Alban’s church. By 1871 they had moved to 3 Barrack Street, Perth, Scotland, where they were living with their three young sons, Arthur, Frederick and William, and a domestic servant. Thomas was working as an organist for a local aristocrat, though I’ve misplaced the details of this appointment. By 1881, Thomas had returned to England, where he was now working as a professor of music, and was living in Harmondsworth, Middlesex, with Fanny, their three older sons, their daughters Elizabeth, Ellen and Grace, all of whom had been born in Scotland, and their youngest son Henry, born three years earlier in Tunbridge Wells.

St John, New Brunswick, Canada, in the 1890s (via

Fanny would die shortly after the census was taken, in Battersea, and four years later Thomas remarried, to Sarah Elizabeth Tipton, in his home city of Oxford. Their daughter Nora would be born in Headington in 1887, and in the same year the family would emigrate to Canada, arriving at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia in July. The Canadian census of 1891 would find the Morleys living in St John, New Brunswick, where another daughter, Ella, had been born in the year after their arrival in the country. Apparently Thomas served as organist at the Mission Church, Paradise Row. A city directory of 1889 finds Professor Thomas Morley living at No.15 Coburg. Thomas did not live for very long after arriving in Canada. The Musical Times of 1st December 1891 announced the death on the 13th November that year of Thomas Morley, ‘organist and composer’, at the age of 46.

As for the other children of Thomas Morley senior and Sarah Parker Holdsworth: Anne was already retired from schoolteaching by the age of 46, and in 1881 and 1891 was living with her parents in Long Wall. She was still with them, at the same address, ten years later. After her parents’ deaths – Sarah died in 1893 and Thomas in 1897– she continued to occupy their house, living on her own means. However, by 1911, when she was 76, Anne was living in Cowley Road, Oxford, with her nephew Frederick William Morley, the son of her brother William. Following in the footsteps of his late uncle, Frederick was also employed as a professor of music.

William Morley and his wife Mary would remain in Oxford, until Mary’s death in 1907 and William’s in 1931. In 1911 William was sharing a house in Headington with his widowed sister Mary Nicholson, née Morley. Henry Morley and his family would also remain in Oxford. In 1911 they would still be living in Cowley Road, with their unmarried daughter Gertrude, the head teacher of an elementary school. The same year found Henry’s brother Martin also still in Oxford with his wife Ann and their unmarried daughter Ethel, a milliner. I don’t know when Ann died, but Martin passed away in 1925 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, at the home of his son Arthur, a tax inspector.

Archibald Grahame, parliamentary solicitor, and the Robb family

In the last post I wrote about the family connections of John Young (1770 – 1827), the Glasgow merchant and former Receiver-General of Jamaica who was the second husband of Penelope Thomson (1777 – 1847), widow of my 4th great uncle George Robb. John Young signed and sealed his last will and testament at his home at Meadow Park, Glasgow, on 15th January 1827. He died there on the very next day. Young’s will closes with the following statement:

In witness whereof these presents written upon stamped paper by David Craig Clark to Archibald Grahame and Thomas Struthers Writers in Glasgow are subscribed by me at Meadow Park the fifteenth day of January 1827 years before these witnesses Hugh Smith Merchant in Glasgow the said Archibald Grahame Writer there and the said David Craig and George Robb Apprentice to the said Archibald Grahame (sigd) John Young Hugh Smith witness Archd. Grahame witness Dav. Craig witness George Robb witness.

I’m fairly certain that the George Robb who was one of the witnesses to John Young’s will was his stepson, the product of his wife Penelope’s first marriage to my ancestor, George Robb senior. Born in 1806, George Robb junior would have been twenty or twenty-one years old in 1827. We know from the record of the legal dispute concerning the will of his aunt Elizabeth Thomson, that George was working as a (law) writer in 1836. However, he would later change professions and work, firstly as a coal and iron master in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, and then as a veterinary surgeon in Glasgow, before retiring with his wife Jane Sharp Thomson to Essex, where they lived on their inherited wealth.

View of Glasgow in the late eighteenth century

When I first read John Young’s will, I wondered whether the reference to Archibald Grahame, the writer, or solicitor, to whom George Robb was apprenticed, was an error, and that the person meant was actually Archibald Graham Lang, who would become George Robb’s brother-in-law three years later in 1830, when he married his sister Jean. However, I soon concluded that Lang was probably too young  – he was probably about twenty-five years old at this date – to have had an apprentice. Moreover, we know that Lang was employed as a merchant, not as a lawyer. Finally, I concluded that mistakes about names do not usually occur in legal documents!

However, the similarity in names prompted me to search further, and I discovered that Archibald Grahame was a prominent lawyer in Glasgow, working with Thomas Struthers, until their partnership was dissolved in May 1827, just a few months after John Young’s will was signed and sealed, ‘the term on the contract having expired’. It seems that Grahame then relocated to England, where he secured an appointment as a parliamentary solicitor in Westminster. One source refers to him as ‘the talented Parliamentary solicitor in London.’ Graham’s name is attached to a number of cases decided by the House of Lords in the 1830s and 1840s.

This made me sit up and take notice, since I recalled that John Robb, the son of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb (brother of George Robb senior), was employed at one stage as a ‘parliamentary agent’ or clerk, indicating that he too worked for a law firm attached to Parliament. Could it be that John worked for Archibald Grahame, and/or that he acquired his post through the influence of Grahame, who had once been the employer of John’s cousin George Robb junior in Glasgow? If so, does this provide further proof of the connection between my direct ancestors and the Glasgow Robbs, and also suggest that the two branches of the family remained in contact after Charles moved with his family to London, and despite their very different economic fortunes?

The law certainly seems to have been in the Robb bloodstream. Charles Robb himself was described, when living in Malton, Yorkshire, as an ‘accountant and engraver’, but later records, following the family’s move to London, claim that he was a solicitor’s clerk. One of Charles’ sons, George William, was described as an ‘attorney’s clerk’ when he died from influenza in 1847, and of course another son, my great great grandfather William Robb, worked as a clerk to a law stationer.

Jane Grahame, wife of Archibald Grahame senior, National Gallery of Scotland

Returning to Glasgow: Is it mere coincidence that Archibald Graham Lang had a similar name to that of his brother-in-law’s employer? I know very little about Lang’s family background: some sources describe him as the son of David Lang and Marion Graham. One of the sources cited above relates that Archibald Graham was the son of another man of the same name, also a law writer, but later a partner in the Thistle Bank – and then its Cashier. His wife’s name was Jane and she was also a Grahame by birth – one of the Grahame’s of Whitehill- and indeed Archibald senior was in partnership with his father-in-law Thomas Grahame until he joined the Thistle Bank in 1781.

So far, I haven’t managed to find any connection between Archibald Grahame and Archibald Grahame Lang, but I believe the connection must exist. It would explain not only the latter’s name, but also perhaps how he came to meet his wife, Jean Robb, the sister of Archibald Graham’s apprentice George.

John Young of Glasgow and the Mitchell family of Jamaica

I’m continuing to explore the connections between my Glasgow ancestors and the island of Jamaica.

As I’ve noted before, there is strong evidence to suggest that George Robb, the Glasgow merchant who married Penelope Thomson on 15th January 1805, was the brother of my 3rd great grandfather Charles Edward Stuart Robb. George and Penelope Robb had four children – George (1806), Elizabeth (1807), John (1808) and Jean (1810) – before George’s death, which occurred some time between 1810 and 1813, when Penelope married again.

Meadow Park House, Glasgow, in the 19th century

Penelope’s second husband, whom she married on 27th June 1813, was described in the parish register as ‘John Young Receiver General in Jamaica’.  John and Penelope Young would live at Meadow Park House and have three children – Penelope (1815?), Janet (1816) and John (1819) – before John’s death on 16th January 1827. In his will, John Young mentions ‘my cousins John Mitchell Esquire of the City of London, William Mitchell Esquire of the City of London merchant [and] Rowland Mitchell Esquire of the said city merchant’. These three men are nominated, together with Samuel Mitchell, and with John’s widow Penelope, as the executors of the will.

Until now, I’ve been unclear about John Young’s precise connection with the Mitchell family. However, information gleaned from Malcolm Sandiland’s family tree at Ancestry has made me aware that Mitchell was the maiden name of John young’s mother. Janet Mitchell married John Young senior in Glasgow on 19th May 1767. Born in Kilmadock, Perthshire, Janet was the daughter of John Mitchell of Doune (1712 – 1783) and his wife Margaret Ferguson (1723 – 1774). They had at least seven children besides Janet, including William (1742), David (1744), Marjory (1747), Christian (1749), James (1752), Margaret (1757) and John.

Slaves working on a Jamaican plantation

A number of these children would have close associations with Jamaica. The eldest son, William, was perhaps the most prominent. According to the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership website:

William Mitchell …married Catherine Hamilton and they had one daughter. William ‘King’ Mitchell (as he was known on the island) resided in Jamaica for nearly forty years. He was both a plantation owner and an attorney who in his own estimate had ‘perhaps 16 or 18’ sugar plantations under his ‘care’ at various times. He informed a committee in 1807 that he had spent over £30,000 on the erection of a sugar works on one of his own estates which included Windsor Park in St. Catherine, Bushy Park in St. Dorothy, New Hall in St. Thomas in the Vale and Georges Valley in Trelawny. Among others Mitchell did business with and borrowed money from the powerful Jamaica planter Simon Taylor.

Mitchell was returned as an M.P. for Plympton on the Treby interest at the general election of 1796. He was an active member of the Society of West India Planters and Merchants and gave evidence before Parliament’s West India Committee in 1807. He returned to Jamaica in 1798, likely due to the death of his brother James. Although nominally held by Charles Germain, 2nd Viscount Sackville from 1776 to 1815, in real terms James had held the lease on the office of the Receiver-General, a post which brought in commission worth £6,000 per annum average. Mitchell took a place in the Jamaica Assembly in 1798 and managed to stave off a bill which would have replaced the commission system with a fixed salary. William then succeeded as the lessee of the office of Receiver-General and in 1808 he renewed the lease for a further 19 years from Sackville’s younger brother George Germain, although it appears he appointed a deputy to this position. Mitchell’s political influence in Jamaica was strong and he was instrumental in securing the position of Agent for Jamaica for his nephew Edmund Lyon.

During her residence in Jamaica Lady Nugent, the Governor’s wife, met William Mitchell. She described him in her journal noting that ‘Mr. M’s delight is to stuff his guests, and I should think it would be quite a triumph to him to hear of a fever or apoplexy, in consequence of his good cheer. He is immensely rich, and told me he paid £30,000 per annum for duties to Government… He seems particularly indulgent to his negroes, and is, I believe, although a very vulgar, yet a very humane man.’ This description gives an indication of the lifestyle of a wealthy Jamaica planter – the importance of sociability, generosity and a reputation for benevolence.

As a member of the House of Assembly Mitchell had to apply for leave before returning to England, which he did in 1805. Although it had been expected he would only remain a year he was still resident in London in 1808 when he gave evidence to a committee of inquiry on the distillation of sugar. He resided at Upper Harley Street in Marylebone and was well known for the extravagant social gatherings he arranged for the absentee Jamaicans in London. It is not clear if he ever returned to Jamaica.

Mitchell died at Brighton in 1823 having made a will in 1819 which bequeathed all his Jamaican estates and his property in Scotland to his nephew John Mitchell. He also left over £25,000 in annuities and legacies for his wife and other relatives.

Further information on William ‘King’ Mitchell can be found at the History of Parliament Online website. William’s younger brother James, who mentioned in the above account, served as Receiver-General in Jamaica: there are references to him holding this office in 1796. He died in Spanish Town in 1806.

Carshalton House, Surrey, by Thomas John R. Winn (1896 – 1990), Sutton Central Library, via

Another brother, David Mitchell, married Anne Hewitt Smith. They lived initially in Jamaica, and later at Carshalton House in Surrey. Four of their sons – John, William, Rowland and Samuel – were left bequests in the will of their uncle William Mitchell on his death in 1823. Presumably these are the cousins referred to in the will of John Young.

William Mitchell’s will also maintains that, according to the terms of the will of his late brother James, he and his heirs and executors are entitled to ‘hold, exercise and enjoy the Office of Receiver General of His Majesty’s Island of Jamaica and to receive all the benefits emoluments and advantages which have arisen or may arise therefrom for the term of nineteen years from the seventeenth day of October one thousand eight hundred and eight’.

Of the four Mitchell cousins mentioned in John Young’s will, I’ve managed to find out most about Rowland. He married Anne Heath, probably in about 1810. They had three children that I know of: Mary Ann (1811), John (1813) and Ellen Kate (1815).  The two daughters married into the aristocracy. Mary Ann married Swiss Baron Charles Alexander de Steiger and they had three children: Anna Maria Charlotte (1833), Rowland (1836) and Albert Alexander (1837), before Baron de Steiger’s death, which occurred before 1841. Ellen Kate married the Hon Frederick Thomas Pelham, later a Rear Admiral in the Navy, and the son of Thomas Pelham, Earl of Chichester.

The Monteith and Thomson families of Glasgow

I’m still trying to trace the family of my 3rd great grandmother, Margaret Ricketts Robb née Monteith, who was born in 1782 and died in 1843. In the last post, I wrote about the Ricketts family of England and Jamaica, with whom I believe there may be a connection, given that other members of the Robb family had links with the colony. However, I’ve yet to find a direct connection between the Monteith and Ricketts families. Frustrated by running up against this brick wall, I’ve turned back to the Monteiths. We still know very little about Margaret’s father, John Monteith, except that he is said to have married a woman named Matilda, who (according to family tradition) was the daughter of Viscount Stormont.

Monteith is a fairly common name and there were a number of prominent John Monteiths living in Glasgow in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I’m assuming that my Monteith ancestors were from Glasgow, since that is where my 3rd great grandparents, Margaret Ricketts Monteith and Charles Edward Stuart Robb, were said to have been married in 1802, and we know that Charles was originally from Aberdeenshire. 

Perhaps the most famous John Monteith of this period was the manufacturer of that name, who established a power loom factory at Pollokshaws, to the south of the city. I’m intrigued by this particular John Monteith, in part because he married into the Thomson family. George Robb, the Glasgow merchant who I believe to have been the brother of my ancestor Charles Robb, also married a Thomson, though I’m unsure whether the two Thomson families are linked. John Monteith married a woman named Isabella Thomson, and they had a daughter of the same name. Charles and Margaret Robb named one of their daughters Isabella: a tenuous connection, perhaps, but it may provide an additional clue.

Power loom weaving (via

Interestingly, John Monteith and Isabella Thomson were first cousins. John was the son of James Monteith, who was in turn the son of Henry Monteith, the son of another James Monteith. According to one source:

James Monteith was a small Perthshire laird in the Aberfoyle area, whose livelihood was under constant threat from the depredations and blackmailing of Highland reivers. After his death his son Henry moved south and set up as a market gardener at Anderston, then a village near Glasgow. He fought against the Jacobites at Falkirk and died ‘a staunch Presbyterian of the old school’. His eldest son James Monteith, who was born in 1734, took up handloom-weaving. He prospered, especially when he began to import fine French and Dutch yarns, and became a cambric manufacturer on a large scale, with a bleach field near his house and warehouse in Bishop Street. 

On 8th October 1754 James Monteith married Rebecca Thomson, the daughter of John Thomson of Anderston, Glasgow, and his wife Isobel Yuill.  As yet, I’ve been unable to discover any connection between this John Thomson and the John Thomson of Hillhead whose daughter Penelope married George Robb. James and Rebecca Monteith had four sons: John (1760); James (1763?); Henry (1765); and Adam (1769).

Robert Thomson senior (via

Rebecca Thomson had a brother Robert Thomson, who married Christian Strang on 22nd April 1766. Robert and Christian Thomson had three children: Isabella (1765); Robert (1771) and Janet (1773). It was this Isabella Thomson who on 9th January 1785 John Monteith, the son of James Monteith and Rebecca Thomson. John and Isabella Monteith had three daughters: Rebecca (1786); Christian (1788); and Isabella (1791).

Three of the sons of James and Rebecca Monteith followed their father into the cotton manufacturing business:

John Monteith, the eldest, formed his own company in 1801 and established the first Scottish power loom factory at Pollokshaws. James Monteith, the second, was initially a dealer in cotton twist at Cambuslang and in 1792 bought David Dale’s Blantyre cotton mill…He died in 1802. Henry Monteith, the youngest son … took the family business to new heights of success and prosperity. He was trained early in the art of weaving, and by 1785, when he was not quite of age, he was running a large cotton weaving mill, Henry Monteith and Company, at Anderston … In 1802 he established at Barrowfield a factory for producing bandana handkerchiefs, and on the death of James that year he took on the principal management of the business, which encompassed bleaching, turkey red dyeing and calico printing, as well as cotton spinning and weaving…He bought the Fullerton estate of Carstairs, four miles from Lanark, and from 1824 had a mansion built there.

In addition to his success in business, Henry Monteith also achieved fame as a politician:

Unlike his father and brothers, Monteith was a staunch church and king Tory. At the general election of 1818 he stood belatedly for Linlithgow Burghs against a Whig, with the backing of the Buccleuch interest. He secured the votes of Lanark and Peebles, but was beaten by the casting vote of the returning burgh, Selkirk. On the death of George III in late January 1820 he declared his renewed candidature for the district…He narrowly won Selkirk, whose vote, together with those of Lanark and Peebles, gave him victory (at the age of 66) over Robert Owen, the socialist cotton master of New Lanark. 

The pattern of repeated intermarriage between the Monteith and Thomson families is reminiscent of a similar practice between the Robb and Thomson families, also in Glasgow at this period. George Robb married Penelope Thomson in 1805. In 1831 their son George married Jane Sharp Thomson, the daughter of Penelope’s half-brother Henry Thomson. After George Robb senior’s death, his widow Penelope married John Young, and in 1832 their daughter, also named Penelope, married John Thomson, another of the children of Henry Thomson.

If I could establish a link between the two Thomson families of Glasgow – the one that married into the Monteith family, and the one that was connected by married to the Robbs – then I might be closer to discovering the origins of my ancestor Margaret Ricketts Monteith née Robb.


The pattern of intermarriage between the Monteith and Thomson families was even more extensive than I’d realised. Not only did John Monteith marry his first cousin Isabella Thomson, but it seems his brother Adam Monteith married her younger sister Janet Thomson. I’m indebted to the White-Thomson family tree at Ancestry for this information.