In the last post I reproduced my transcription of the will of John Mortimer, gentleman of Paddock near Huddersfield, who died in 1823. I’m interested in this will, partly because it was the document that prompted the first attempts to trace the history of the Holdsworths (who constitute one branch of my mother’s family), and partly because the author of the will is almost certainly a distant ancestor of mine, even if the nature of his link to our family tree remains (for now) obscure. In this post, I’ll set down what I believe Mortimer’s will tells us about him and his family, and their possible connection with the Holdsworths.
The first thing we learn from John Mortimer’s will is that his wife was still alive when the will was written, though rather frustratingly, and despite the numerous references to her, he does not once give her name. We can also conclude that the Mortimers had no children, or at least none that survived, since none are mentioned in the will.
I eventually discovered the name of John’s wife by following the trail of his sister-in-law, who is also mentioned many times in the will and is another key beneficiary. John Mortimer’s sister-in-law might, in theory, have been the wife of his brother, or she could be his wife’s sister. The fact that she is mentioned so often, and almost always in tandem with John’s wife, makes the latter more likely – even if John hadn’t very helpfully named her at one point in the will. We learn that her name is Ann Hanson, and that she is a ‘Miss’, therefore unmarried, which means that she must be the sister of John Mortimer’s wife.
Armed with the information that John’s wife’s maiden name was Hanson, I searched the records and found, via the International Genealogical Index, a record of the 1792 marriage in Huddersfield, of John Mortimer and Susan Hanson. The record suggests that both partners were aged 40 when they married (which would explain their childlessness), but I believe this to be a rough estimate.
A search of West Yorkshire births, marriages and deaths led me to the burial record for John Mortimer of Paddock. He was interred at the church of St Peter, Huddersfield on 2 April 1823 (this would accord with the proving of his will on 29 May). One of the documents puts his age at 76, while another claims he was 77. Either way, John must have been born in about 1746-7 and was therefore 45 or 46 when he married Susan.
Susan Mortimer of Paddock, presumably John’s widow, was buried at St Peter’s on 5 January 1826. She was said to be 78 years old, which means she was born in about 1748 and would therefore have been 44 or 45 when she married John.
A further search in the parish registers revealed that a Susannah Hanson was baptised at St Mary’s, Elland (about five miles north-west of Huddersfield) on Boxing Day, 1748. She was the daughter of Joshua Hanson, as was Ann Hanson, who was baptised on 7 October 1749 at St John the Baptist, Halifax (four or five miles north of Elland). Further confirmation that we’ve found the right family comes from the burial record of Ann Hanson of Paddock, dated 16 April 1829. She was 79 years old.
John Mortimer’s will also mentions his half sister, who again is not named, though we learn that she married a Paul le Bas from Dublin, and that they had two children, Charles and Mary Ann. Finding records of the Le Bas family (not ‘le Bass’, as the will has it) has proven a challenge. An initial search at Ancestry revealed that Paul Le Bas of 117 Stephen’s Green West in Dublin was included under ‘nobility and gentry’ in the Commercial Directory for 1820-21. The Dublin Parliamentary Register of 1787 listed someone of the same name as an ‘examinator of corn premiums’.
The le Bas family seems to have been one of the notable Huguenot-descended families of Ireland: other prominent names included the Gothic writers Sheridan Le Fanu and Charles Maturin. There is evidence that other members of the Dublin le Bas family were silversmiths.
In the French cemetery in Peter Street, Dublin, can be found a gravestone with the following inscription:
Sacred to the memory of
Paul le Bas Esq St Stephen’s Green Dublin
Who departed this life 16 Sept 1823
After many years of lingering suffering
Which he bore with Xtian patience and
Cheerfulness. His whole Character
Was distinguished by Truth & simplicity
This Stone is erected as a trifling
Tribute of the affection of his afflicted
Family. Here also beneath this stone
Are deposited the remains of
His beloved and affectionate
Daughter Mary Ann Adams
Who departed this life April
21st 1827 aged 32 years having
left an afflicted Mother Brother
and husband to deplore her
Here are also deposited the Remains of
Relict of the above named Paul le Bas Esq
Who died on the 1 day of March 1842
Age 86 years
From another source, I discovered that Mary Ann le Bas’ husband was Robert Adams and that they were married in 1826, i.e. just a year before her death (perhaps in childbirth?). I wonder whether this is the same Robert Adams of Dublin, born in 1791, who would later achieve fame as a pioneering physician? I’ve also discovered that Charles le Bas served as an officer of state, and that he died in Toulouse in 1855.
Although the inscription reveals that Paul le Bas’ wife was named Mary, it’s not entirely clear that her maiden name was Mortimer. As John Mortimer’s half sister, she might have been the daughter of his father from an earlier or subsequent marriage, and therefore a Mortimer, or she might have been the daughter of his father’s wife from another marriage, and therefore have borne a different surname.
This means that we are still somewhat in the dark about John Mortimer’s own family of origin. The will gives no clue as to his parentage. If he was born in 1746-8, then there’s a chance that he was the person of that name christened at St Peter’s, Huddersfield, on 20 April 1747, and was the son of John Mortimer of Woodhouse, on the northern outskirts of the town. But who was John Mortimer senior, who did he marry, and how is he connected (if at all) with the John Mortimer of Shelf whose daughter Mary married my probable ancestor John Holdsworth?
This brings us to the central issue raised by the will, at least to those of us interested in the history of the Holdsworths. Here is the key clause in the will:
I give and bequeath the same unto and equally amongst all and every my first cousins on my late Father’s side who shall be living at the time of the decease of the survivor of them my said wife and sister in law
If, as those who first explored the Holdsworth family history believed, this is indeed a reference to the Holdsworths, then the father of this will’s author must have been a brother to Mary Mortimer, wife of John Holdsworth. We know from his will of 1742 that John Mortimer of Shelf had three married daughters (Mary Holdsworth, Martha Fletcher and Sarah Hobson) and three surviving sons: Richard, John and William. John appears to have been born in about 1711, which is certainly consistent with him having a son born in about 1747.
As ever, more research is needed, but the information gleaned from the will of John Mortimer of Paddock begins to narrow the field a little and may enable us to fill in some of the gaps in the generations.
Besides what it tells us about his family, John Mortimer’s will also contains other information of interest. For example, his charitable bequests led me to a reference in the National Archives, not only to papers relating to the estate of John Mortimer of Paddock, but also to correspondence and accounts from John Mortimer’s Charity and Ann Hanson’s Charity. This suggests that John’s sister-in-law continued his charitable legacy after both his, and his wife’s deaths.
Another document informs us that John Mortimer’s Charity, begun in 1823, had an annual income of £16 distributed (as directed by his will) among the old people of Marsh. Ann Hanson’s charity, launched six years later in 1829, distributed an additional £5 annual to the same recipients. Both charities continued to function into the 20th century (the Charity Commission’s website has information about them) though both have now closed.
Sir John Ramsden, baronet, who is mentioned in John Mortimer’s will, was lord of the manor of Huddersfield and appears to have owned most of the town. Huddersfield was a major centre for wool manufacturing, and in 1765 an earlier Sir John Ramsden had opened the Cloth Hall in the town. John Mortimer makes no mention in his will of the source of his own evidently considerable wealth, though it’s notable that wool staplers and merchants were among his associates. This provides another link with his (possible) grandfather, John Mortimer of Shelf, who was himself a wool stapler and clothier.