Samuel Backler (1784-1870): a quiet end

In which we follow as far as possible the final years of Samuel Backler.  We mention in passing two daughters Susannah Mary Backler (1817-1883) and Esther Maria Backler (1830-1918), of which more in future blogs. In a previous post we followed the fortunes of Samuel’s oldest daughter Mary Backler (1830-1882)  through her marriages to her cousin Henry Pellatt (of which more to come in the next blogpost), and Waldo Sargeant. 

Alas, the 1841 census for part of Middlesex is missing.  Presumably Samuel, Mary and their two unmarried daughters lived together, but their circumstances following the traumatic bankruptcy in 1831, when they lived in Kensington, are unknown.  Other than at the marriage of his daughter Susannah, the only confirmed sighting we have of Samuel before the 1851 Census is a design registration  of 1847, held at The National Archives as follows:

Reference: BT 45/6/1046
Description:

Useful Registered Design Number: 1046.

Proprietor: Samuel Backler.

Address: 4 Cambridge Terrace, Islington, London.

Subject: Spatula.

Category: Surgical and Medical Instruments etc.

Date: 1847 April 28
These are the designs submitted to the Patents, Designs and Trade Marks Office under the terms of the Non – ornamental (‘Useful’) Designs Act 1843.  The quote in italics below is from a presentation at the National Archives by Julie Halls, the Archives’ specialist for registered designs and the author of Inventions that didn’t change the world (Thames & Hudson, 2014).

‘These designs were registered for copyright under what was called the Utility Designs Act of 1843. This came about primarily as a result of the expense and difficulty inventors found in patenting their ideas during the first half of the nineteenth century. The system had become notoriously expensive and inefficient, and there were concerns that it was holding back innovation. An inventor would have to negotiate a labyrinthine system, taking his design to as many as 10 different offices, with a fee payable at each, and petitions, warrants and bills were prepared several times over, signed and countersigned, before a patent was approved. In his short story ‘A Poor Man’s Tale of A Patent’, Charles Dickens asked: ‘Is it reasonable to make a man feel as if in inventing an ingenious improvement meant to do good, he had done something wrong?’

‘A solution came about in the form of the 1843 Act, which was for ‘any new or original design for any article of manufacture having reference to some purpose of utility, so far as such design shall be for the shape or configuration of such article’. Under the Act, proprietors were given three years’ copyright protection at a cost of £10, as opposed to up to £400 for 14 years’ protection for a patent.

‘Although the Act was meant to apply to the appearance and not the function of useful objects, which was still supposed to be patented, in practice it was widely perceived as a cheaper and quicker form of protection than the convoluted patent system, and the law struggled to make a distinction between the two. Thousands of inventors chose to register their designs, resulting in the unique documents we hold at The National Archives.

‘To copyright a design the inventor had to take or send to the Designs Registry, originally based at Somerset House in London, ‘two exactly similar drawings or prints of the design made on a proper geometric scale’. He, or less often she, would also need to provide the title of the design – quite often deciding on a pseudo-scientific name for what could often be quite a mundane object. Explanatory text also had to be included, saying what the purpose of the design was and what was new about it.

( http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/inventions-didnt-change-world-history-victorian-curiosities-2/ )

I have a beautiful photo of the original design of this ‘heated spatula’, copyright by The National Archives, which I can forward for personal use, on request.  There is no sign that this design was ever put into production, but the design itself is a thing of beauty.  The photo, purchased from the National Archives online, is of the original document, which would have been handled by Samuel himself.  Awesome!

The address given on the design shows that the family lived in Islington, where Susannah Mary Backler had married James Boulding in 1844 at St Mary’s Parish Church.  On the marriage certificate, Samuel Backler was styled ‘Gentleman’, the first time we have seen him designated as such. Perhaps he felt the need to keep in step with James Boulding’s father Samuel Boulding, who all along, as we shall see in the future, was styled the same.

By the 1851 census, however, we find that Samuel is recorded as a ‘Clerk’.  (I wonder if this is an error by the census enumerator, as it seems likely that Samuel would have described himself as a Chemist.)  The family are living at 2 Old Paradise Row, Islington, and as we shall discover in a future blogpost, nothing would be seen now or in the future of James Boulding.  The family are listed as follows:

  • Samuel Backler, Head, married, 66. Clerk [sic]. Born Middlesex, Stoke Newington
  • Mary Backler, Wife, married, 60. Born Middlesex Holborn
  • Esther Maria Backler, daughter, unmarried, 21. Born Middlesex Bayswater
  • Susanna Boulding, daughter, 34, married.  Born Middlesex Oxford Street
  • Susanna Mary Boulding, grand daughter, 5, scholar at home. Born Middlesex, Islington
  • Apsley Samuel Boulding, grandson, 3. Born London, Fleet Street

Backler places of residence:  In these times, most folk rented, often on an annual basis, rather than owning their own properties.  While we know Samuel and Mary were in Kensington/Bayswater at the time of his bankruptcy in 1831, we do not know when they moved to Islington.  Once there, however, they seemed to stay quite local, although we have no way of knowing how many other addresses they had than those listed here:

1847: 4 Cambridge Terrace (registered design application)

1851: (census) 2 Old Paradise Row (facing Islington Green, on the north side)

1857: (wife Mary’s death certificate) Rheidol Terrace  (east of, and roughly parallel to Essex Road in Islington)

1861: (census) 14 Angell Terrace (in the block bounded by Rheidol Terrace, River Lane, Lower Road and Queens Head Lane in Islington).  Here, Samuel is found as a 77 year old Accountant [sic], a widower, with his daughter Esther M, 31, single, and one servant.

1870: (Samuel’s death certificate)  11 Maria Terrace  (since re-named Lambert Street, on the census enumerator’s route of Albion Grove (re-named Ripplevale Grove), and Thornhill Road in Barnsbury – can be seen on the map accompanying a historic walk around Barnsbury at: https://www.islington.gov.uk/~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/leisureandculture/information/factsheets/20112012/20120303localhistorytrailbarnsbury

The map below incorporates two old maps, and shows how local the various addresses were, over a period of decades.

Screenshot (145)Maps: http://london1868.com/weller19.htm#image and http://london1868.com/weller18.htm#image  Both maps from David Hale and the MAPCO : Map And Plan Collection Online website at http://mapco.net

An address in Bishopsgate? See: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18340703-106&div=t18340703-106&terms=Backler#highlight  3rd July 1834

It seems to me there is no way of knowing if the court case described in Old Bailey records in 1834 refers to ‘our’ Samuel Backler and his wife Mary.  Here, Samuel is described as a silversmith (not an unusual occupation for someone with an apothecary’s background), and Mary as a ‘staymaker’.  Was this the family’s next step after the bankruptcy of 1831?  An address in the City of London is not impossible, as both Samuel’s and Mary’s origins were related to City Livery Companies, and I am not aware of any other couple in the area known as Samuel and Mary Backler. (Please correct me if I am wrong!)

The gist of the case was that ‘HARRIET BATE was indicted for stealing, on the 9th of June , 2 spoons, value 9s.; 10 yards of crape, value 2l.; 1 printed book, value 6d.; and 1 handkerchief, value 6d., the goods of Samuel Backler , her master.’

MARY BACKLER deposed: ‘I am the wife of Samuel Backler, who is a silversmith , and lives in Bishopsgate-street without , and I myself keep a staymaker’s shop – the prisoner worked for me for about five years, and left – I lost some silver tea-spoons – I mentioned it to her – she said she thought it must have been the servant, who had just left – I said, “No; it is impossible, for I know her well” – she said, “Why did you not look into her box?” – I said, “Because I believed her strictly honest” – I said no more about it then – I gave the prisoner a china crape dress, containing ten yards, to get dyed, as she had said she knew where to get it dyed – I afterwards found it had not been taken to the place, and in consequence of suspicion I gave her into custody – I lost a little book from my work-room, and a handkerchief – (looking at the property) – I know the crape by a tear in it – the spoons have our initials on them.’

After the usual rather dubious evidence from witnesses about various items said to belong to the Backlers, Mary Butt was found guilty, and detained for three months after being recommended for mercy by Mary Backler.

Death of Mary [Pellatt] Backler and burial at Highgate Cemetery. As seen in the address list above, Mary Backler died in 1857, and was buried on 7 February in what would become a family plot at Highgate Cemetery.  I have visited the site, which is in a wooded area, with no stones visible.  Samuel would be buried there in 1870, along with their daughter (my 2x great grandmother Susanna [Backler] Boulding Cross – more of her in a later post) – and some others.

Interestingly, just a few weeks after Mary’s death, Samuel’s half-sister-in-law Susannah Maria [McLauchlan] Backler died in Peckham, Samuel’s half-brother the apothecary and Cupper John Backler having died nearly a decade earlier in Paris.  I have wondered how or if these half-sibling relatives were in touch with each other, suspecting that Samuel and his family might have been seen as rather a failed branch of the family.

Death of Samuel in 1870. As seen above, Samuel died on 24 May 1870, aged 85, ‘formerly dispensing chemist’, and was interred at Highgate Cemetery.  By this time his daughter Susannah, presumed widowed, had re-married; Esther Maria had a child but was not yet married to her soon-to-be Swedish husband; and the grandchildren Susannah Mary and Apsley Samuel Boulding had emigrated to the USA, or were about to do so.

Samuel seems to me the ‘not-quite’ successful apothecary son from a line of apothecaries.  Having never fully qualified as an apothecary, he seems to have moved through a range of occupations, perhaps not very successful with their business aspects, and almost certainly rocked by the trauma of his bankruptcy in 1831.  Marrying well into the highly prosperous Pellatt family, he seemed to manage to have a respectable but not very prosperous life.

And so, we bid goodbye to Samuel.  Future blogposts will look at another development in the always interesting family of Mary Backler and her cousin-husband Henry Pellatt, at an outline of Mary Pellatt’s lineage, and at the fortunes of Esther Maria Backler.  I will also do a short feature on my trip some years back to find the Backler grave at Highgate Cemetery (pretty unrewarding, just so you don’t have raised expectations).  After all that, we will at last cross the Atlantic to follow the fortunes of Susannah Mary and Apsley Samuel in New York City.

 

 

2 comments

  1. Hi Barbara,

    Another great posting! I liked the map too, which is a new addition to your postings. It really gets across how people did not move far until the railways began to open up the country.

    Best wishes,

    Ray

  2. Thanks Ray. I also wonder if folk in London might not have gone far anyway, since someone like Samuel presumably needed to be in a population centre to pursue his trade? But why he was a ‘clerk’ and then an ‘accountant’ before he died remains a mystery and perhaps highlights his lack of success as an apothecary. Forwarding you under separate cover the image of his design. Barbara

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