In the last post I mentioned three cases in Chancery that appear to have involved my 6 x great grandfather, John Gibson, merchant and coal factor. I have now ordered documents covering these cases from the National Archives and look forward to their arrival.

Merchants doing business in an 18th century coffee house

Merchants doing business in an 18th century coffee house

In one of the cases in which my ancestor was a plaintiff, the defendant was Anne Furrs, widow and administratix of Nicholas Furrs. The latter was John Gibson’s business partner for a number of years: we learn about their relationship from John’s pamphlet, written in his defence after he had been arrested for fraud, declared bankrupt, and imprisoned in the Fleet. Writing of himself in the third person, John states:

In the year 1721, he entered into a Partnership with Nicholas Furs, who was then, and had long been, a Coal-Factor at the Port of London; and he, Gibson, was to have the first Year 50l. the next 100l. and then the Stock was to be made up, which was done, and he equally concern’d with Furs.

Gibson then goes into further detail about the financial arrangements involved in the partnership, in which we learn that, from 1723, ‘Furs took Care of the Afffairs of the Compting-House, and the Management of the Business without Doors was left to Gibson’. This business arrangement continued until the end of 1729:

From Christmas 1720, to Christmas 1729, Gibson carried on the Business in Partnership with Furs, and the Partnership being then expired, Gibson agreed with Furs to give him 300l. a Year for 12 Years, on Condition he would quit the Business wholly to Gibson, and never act in it more; which Annuity was paid, and that together with Furs’s Stock, then drawn out of Trade, amounted to several thousands Pounds.

I’m almost certain that, despite John Gibson’s description of his erstwhile partner as a coal factor, Nicholas Furrs is the citizen and grocer who appears in a number of contemporary records: I assume the two lines of business were not mutually exclusive. As far as I can tell, Nicholas Furrs was born in about 1685, probably in London, though I have no firm information about his background. On 14th October 1708 he married Anne Savary at the church of St Dunstan in the East. Later members of the Savary family would be Quakers, but I believe they were originally French Huguenots.

The church of St Dunstan in the East, London

The church of St Dunstan in the East, London

It appears that Nicholas Furrs and his family lived initially in Billingsgate. In 1713 Nicholas ‘Fures’ paid land tax on property in the precinct of St Mary-at-hill. Interestingly, his name is bracketed in the record with that of Michael ‘Savory’: was this Anne’s father? In 1697 a Michael Savary had been admitted into the Freedom of the City of London in the Company of Loriners (loriners made and sold bits, bridles, spurs and stirrups).

In 1719 Nicholas Furrs, citizen and grocer, took John Arden as an apprentice. By 1727, Nicholas owned property south of the river, in Camberwell, and was entered there in the electoral register, in the list of grocers. However, in 1730 he was still paying land tax on property in Billingsgate. Nicholas and Ann Furrs had seven children: Elizabeth (born in 1709), Ann (1710), Michael (1711, died in 1713), Mary (1715), Savary (1715), Hannah (1719) and Pleasant (1720). All were christened at St Dunstan-in-the-East except Hannah, who was baptised at St Mary, Lambeth.

Nicholas Furrs died in 1732 and was buried on 27th October at St Giles, Camberwell. John Gibson’s legal case against his wife would come to court three years later, and presumably relates to his will (though I’ve yet to come across a copy of that document).

In 1734, Ann Furrs of Camberwell, daughter of Nicholas, married Theophilus Dorrington, a gentleman of the parish of All Hallows Staining in the City of London. Dorrington would become the Chief Cashier of the East India Company, and he and Ann would have eight children together: Ann (1738), Edmund Peirce (1740), Theophilus (1743), Edward Waldo (1744), Charles Duboice (1746), Pleasant Molly (1747), Harriet (1749) and Joseph (1751).

Chertsey in the 18th century

Chertsey, Surrey, in the 18th century

In 1740 Nicholas’ daughter Pleasant married Isaac Knight, a ‘writing master’, in Chertsey, Surrey.  They had four children – Isaac (1741 – 1742), Richard Freeman (1742), Riviere (1744), and another Isaac (1745) – before Isaac senior’s premature death in 1750. Some sources claim that Riviere Knight owned a haberdashery business in Cheapside, though according to another record in 1770 a fishmonger of that name took Savary Dorrington, presumably a relative and a descendant of Theophilus and Ann, as an apprentice.

Nicholas Furrs’ son Savary married Mary Brettingham and they had three children: Martha Ann (1749), Matthew Brettingham (1762) and Henrietta Dorrington (1764).

Anne Furrs née Savary, Nicholas’ widow, died in 1744 in Chertsey. In her will, she left substantial sums to her children and their spouses, but there is no mention of any debts or outstanding legal proceedings.



I’m thinking of starting a new series – of howlers by Ancestry transcribers. First in the series would be their mis-reading of the (admittedly already exotic) name of Riviere Knight….as ‘Trivien Fright’. It’s so good, I’m thinking of adopting it as a pen name.