Month: November 2014

12. Sotherton Backler (1746-1819) – the last years

In which we consider events at the Society of Apothecaries during Sotherton’s reign as Clerk, and record his demise in 1819.

Sotherton Backler was elected Clerk to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries on 15 January 1806, just days after the funeral of Admiral Lord Nelson (see previous blog).  In this role he administered the workings of the Society, in particular recording proceedings in his immaculate hand in the Minute Books of the Court of Assistants.  His years as Clerk were to be of great importance for the Society.

The history of apothecaries as a trade or profession was long one of rivalry between different types of practitioner, ranging from physicians and surgeons to chemists and druggists, and from tradesmen to medical practitioners.  The rivalry with the Physicians was resolved at least in law by the case of apothecary William Rose in 1704. The House of Lords over-ruled his conviction for treating a butcher name Searle. This established the right of apothecaries to practice medicine, and changed the role of the Society from one of subservience to the physicians to a more complicated multi-purpose function of both professional and trade regulation, as well as trading in its own right.  This dual nature was to persist right through to the Apothecaries Act of 1815.

sotherton backler TIMES 1815 soc apothIn the period leading up to the passage of the Act, Sotherton, among others, was engaged in considerable negotiation and lobbying. The Society, initially reluctant to accept change, in the end took on the role of formalising a curriculum and overseeing examinations which, along with apprenticeship, attendance at lectures on such topics as anatomy and physiology, and other matters, led to the Licentiateship of the Society of Apothecaries, precursor to what we now know as General Practice.  (The extract right from The Times of 21 July 1815, announces the changes which the Act brought.) At the same time, chemists and druggists, who during the latter part of the 18th century had begun to usurp the dispensing role of apothecaries, began to formalise their own training and qualifications, resulting in the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1841.

Despite the formalising of apothecaries’ education and training, a sore point remained their inability to charge for medical advice or attendance – a hangover from earlier days of dispute with the physicians.  Apothecaries could only charge for medicines, until a court case in around 1830 ruled that they could also charge for visits and medical advice, thus reducing their previous tendency to over-prescribe medicines in order to cover their costs for practising, in effect, as general practitioners.

The Society’s records yield evidence that Sotherton Backler lived at Apothecaries Hall during at least part of his tenure as Clerk.  His wife Hannah had died in April 1803, leaving Sotherton with a large number of surviving children presumably still at home.  It seems likely that some of the older siblings would have taken charge of the household and care of the family.  On 20 March 1807 the Society was in receipt of a letter from the Secretary of the London Bridge Water Works, revealing the discovery by the Collector of the Water Rents that there might be a supply to Apothecaries’ Hall over and above that already known, ‘to the Dwelling House of Mr. Backler, for which he [the rent collector] has received an Annual Payment of £1-8-0…’  The letter asserted that additional water was now found to be supplied to ‘a large Back and two Cisterns’, estimated value of £10 a year.  The Board suggested a payment of £200 to cover arrears of water supply for an unknown period!  However, by May, it had been decided on further examination that there was no service of water other than to Mr Backler’s house, and there the matter rested, useful indeed in our ascertaining Sotherton Backler’s residence at least at that time.

And so his duties – and presumably residence – continued until 0n 23 August 1816, Sotherton Backler ‘resigned his situation as Clerk to the Society, but was requested by the Court to continue in it until a proper person is chosen in his room…’  By the 30th of October, this had been achieved, and ‘it was resolved that the Thanks of this Court be given to Mr Sotherton Backler, for his faithful and diligent discharge of the Duties of Clerk of this Society for many years past, and as a small testimony of their perfect approbation of his services, he be presented with a piece of Plate of the value of Fifty Guineas.’

rubbing 18 June 2012Hannah and Sotherton Backler and Mary SudlowIt is presumed that Sotherton then ceased residence at the Society.  On 7 January 1817, the Court Minutes noted a payment to S. Backler for coals, of £9 – 14s – 0d.

Sotherton died on 12 September 1819 in Kentish Town, and is buried with his wife Hannah and grand daughter Mary Sudlow at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground. The death duty registers show that he died intestate – unfortunately for family historians.  (Death Duty Register IR27. Register October 1819, p. 10 Ref: Vol 2, Folio 392.  IR27_28_018[1]) Administration was to his oldest son by his first marriage, about whom we will hear in later blogs: John Backler, 19 Golden Square, Westminster.

A touching endnote was the application by John to the Court of Assistants on the 26th of October 1819, ‘soliciting the Benevolence [of the Court] in favor of two daughters of the late Mr Backler and the same having been read and taken into consideration, Resolved that the sum of Fifty Pounds be given to Frances Backler [1779-1833] and Anna [Hannah] Backler [1780-1870], daughters of the late Mr. Sotherton Backler in equal shares between them.  On 21 December 1819, the Court Minutes note that letters of thanks were received from both daughters and John Backler.

And there ends the direct association of the Backler family with the Society of Apothecaries.  In subsequent blogs we will first trace the life and times of the two apothecary sons of Sotherton – the above-named John Backler, and his half-brother (my 3x great grandfather), Samuel Backler. We will then look at other descendants of Sotherton Backler.

11. Thomas Meriton Pellatt – or Sargeant: who is the father?

In which we look at the marriages and descendants of Mary Backler (1813-1882), Society of Apothecaries Clerk Sotherton Backler’s (1746-1819) grand-daughter, and oldest daughter of Samuel Backler (1784-1870), Sotherton’s first son by his second wife, Hannah Osborne.  Samuel married Mary Pellatt (1789-1857), daughter of Apsley Pellatt (1763-1826), ironmonger, and his wife Mary Maberly (1769-1822).  We will see much more of Samuel and his descendants in later blogs – he is my 3x great grandfather.  Here we consider a possible mystery around the parentage of Mary’s fourth child, Thomas Meriton Pellatt, aka Thomas Meriton Sargeant.

Mary Backler (1813- 1882married her cousin Henry Pellatt (1797-1860) of Ironmonger’s Hall on 18 March 1831 in St Mark’s Kennington, only 4 months before Henry would be sworn as an assignee in the affairs of Mary’s father Samuel, tobacconist of St James’ Place, who had been declared bankrupt and whose creditors included, among others, both Maberly and Pellatt relations.

CNV00036By the time of the 1841 Census, Henry and Mary were living in Hammersmith with their two young children, Henry Apsley Pellatt, and Victoria Mary Pellatt.  Their third child, William Cowper Pellatt, was born in 1842 and christened in Hammersmith. The 1851 Census found them in Roupell Street, very near to what is now Waterloo Station, and shown in recent years in the photo on the left.



And there, you might think, the family was complete.   Indeed, that is what the extensive family tree shows in the ‘Pedigree and Genealogical Memoranda Relating to the Family of Pellatt, by Maberly Phillips and published in two parts by Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol xxvii.

However, after a ten year gap, a fourth child was born to Henry and Mary.  He was Thomas Meriton Pellatt, born  15 July 1852, and christened at the nearby  St John the Evangelist Church on 8 August.  (I stood for many years opposite this church waiting for the 521 bus to take me to work on early mornings.)  This child does not appear on Maberly Phillips’ Pellatt family tree.  Could it be that the registered father – Henry Pellatt, solicitor, was not in fact his father?

Henry Pellatt died on 23 November 1860, aged about 63.  His wife Mary, then aged about 47, married with what might seem as unseemly haste. Less than two months after Henry’s death, on 3 January, 1861, in the parish church of  St Botolph Bishopsgate, she was wed to Thomas Waldo Sargeant, known as Waldo Sargeant.  I have not succeeded in finding the newly-married couple in the 1861 census, nor any of the offspring of Henry and Mary, including young Thomas Meriton Pellatt.  By 1871, however, Waldo Sargeant, 46, born in Devon. ‘draughtsman on wood’ is to be found in Carlton Grove, Clyde Terrace, Camberwell, with his wife Mary, 57, born Pentonville, with their son Thomas ‘do’ [ie, ditto – or Sargeant], aged 17, unmarried, violinist, born Lambeth, Roupell Street.

Had Waldo done the decent thing and informally made young Thomas his son?  Or could it be that Waldo was actually Thomas’ father?

By 1881, the marriage had clearly fallen apart.  Waldo was now a ‘designer in wood’, living with his ‘wife’ Alice, age 38 and born in Tralee, Ireland.  They were lodging in Holborn, where he is to be found ten years later as a ‘widower’, a few doors away.  Waldo was long-lived, and was to be found as a lodger in Hammersmith and then Fulham in the 1901 and 1911 Censuses.  His death was recorded in Camberwell in 1911.

But what of Mary – my 3x great aunt?  In 1881, while Waldo lodged with his ‘wife’ Alice in Holborn, she had taken up residence (perhaps refuge?) with her son William Cowper Pellatt and his wife Eliza, at 20 Union Street, Deptford St Paul – just south of the Thames near Greenwich.  Mary was styled a ‘widow’ – which she was, of Henry Pellatt, but NOT of Waldo Sargeant!  She died in 1882, and is buried in Ladywell and Brockley Cemetery, with her son William Cowper Pellatt, who died in 1899; his wife Eliza, who died in 1904, and two of their children – William Cowper Pellatt, who died in infancy, and Ernest Waldo Pellatt, who died aged 17 in 1885. His middle name Waldo – given to him while his grandmother Mary was still living with her then-husband Waldo Sargeant – could either indicate very close family links with Waldo – or simply be a mark of respect for Mary Backler/Pellatt/Sargeant’s husband!

IMG_2101Recently I became the proud owner of an extremely large and heavy volume complete with illustrations by Waldo Sargeant.   The prints in the volume are from original drawings almost all from the area around Lincoln’s Inn, the Strand and Holborn, with later ones in Putney and Fulham.  In this period, Waldo had abandoned ‘wood’ for drawing and painting.  There are no other records to be found of his artistic endeavours.

The print on the right clearly shows his signature and the date 1883 – after Mary’s death but presumably while he was still living with ‘wife’ Alice Sargeant.


But back to Thomas Meriton Pellatt/Sargeant, the subject of this blog.  He and his wife Amy Lucas spawned no fewer than 11 daughters, over a period from 1878 to 1897.  A steady succession of Sargeant daughters was wed at St Mary Magdalen Church, Peckham.  However, anyone searching the records for the origins of their father, Thomas Meriton Sargeant, Professor of Music (or violin), as he was to appear in successive censuses, might not be certain that he is one and the same as Thomas Meriton Pellatt.  His omission from the Maberly Phillips family tree leads me to infer that he was not a Pellatt ‘in blood’ although his birth certificate suggests that he is.  A mystery.