Frances Harris

24. Mr Tryan’s Successor: The Rev Sotherton Backler 1798-1875

In which we trace the life and times of the youngest child of Sotherton and Hannah Backler – a story which ends here, as the youngest Sotherton had no children.  This post was written a few years ago as an essay for my course in genealogy and family history.  It is therefore extensively footnoted, but astute readers may notice some missing footnotes resulting from a few cuts to the text, and the writer’s laziness in not renumbering the list!  The lack of illustrations is frustrating, but results from a desire not to infringe various copyrights. 

The name ‘Sotherton’ first appeared in the Backler family with the christening of John Sotherton Backler in Ashwell, Herts, on 19 July 1699.  His fate is not known (nor is the origin of the name), but his next sibling to be christened, on 5 February 1703/4 was the first Sotherton Backler, about whom I have written already, along with his son, also Sotherton.

In this post we look at the life and career of the first Sotherton’s youngest grandson, Rev. Sotherton Backler, BA, MA (1798-1875).  He was the fifth – and last – Sotherton Backler, the youngest of the 14 children of the 3rd Sotherton and his wives Frances Harris and Hannah Osborne.

First ‘acquaintance’:  I first came across the 5th Sotherton Backler in the Old Bailey online series.  In the early days of my researches on this branch of the family, I found this resource very useful in locating both Backler and Pellatt ancestors in the early to mid 1800s. The website features transcripts of the Old Bailey covering the period 1674-1913 and is a rich source of names, of criminals and their alleged offences, and of those against whom they offended.  In almost every case, my ancestors fell into the latter category!  In this case, a student ‘Sutherton Backler’ had had a handkerchief stolen; the felon was sentenced to transportation for life:

 On 18 September 1820,  THOMAS ABDEY was indicted for stealing, on the 9th of July , one handkerchief, value 3 s., the goods of Sutherton Backler, from his person.

SUTHERTON BACKLER. I am a student at Cambridge, and live at Thavies Inn. On the 29th of July, between one and two o’clock in the afternoon, I was walking on the right hand side of Fleet-market, and missed my handkerchief as I was going to use it. I turned round, and saw the prisoner close to me; I collared him, and saw his waistcoat protruded, lifted it up, and took my handkerchief from it.  (Property produced and sworn to.)

Prisoner’s Defence, I saw two lads drop it, and I picked it up; it was not in my waistcoat, but in my hand.

GUILTY . Aged 18. Transported for Life. London Jury, before Mr. Common Sergeant.[1]

 Whether poor Thomas Abdey did or did not steal the handkerchief, he was shipped off to Australia in the Minerva.  The index of the Colonial Secretary in New South Wales for 1788-1825 shows that he was in a certain amount of trouble on arrival, subsequently being convicted of robbery of hospital stores on the Minerva.[2]  Little did young Sotherton know that his nephew Joseph Backler, son of his brother Joseph, would ten years later feature in Old Bailey proceedings, as we have seen in my two most recent posts.

At the time of this first encounter, I did not know who this ‘Sutherton Backler’ was, but knowing that my 3x great grandfather Samuel Backler was the son of a Sotherton Backler, I felt sure he had something to do with me!

First clues: CCED and Cambridge University Alumni:  The main records which helped me to pin down Sotherton to his place in history were the Venns’ Alumni Cantabrigiensis and the ACAD (A Cambridge Alumni Database), and the Clergy of the Church of England (CCED) database.[3]  In both the CCED and the various Cambridge University directories, a search on the name ‘Backler’ yields a rich harvest.  The Cambridge entry – and Venn – reveal that Sotherton was educated at St Paul’s School.  Here is the story we can find, using St Paul’s School records and history; a volume about bedels and clerks of the Society of Apothecaries; the St John’s College Cambridge Register, Venn’s and the ACAD; and the CCED, Clergy List and parish information about Stockingford in Warwickshire, and Blatherwycke in Northamptonshire, the latter home to the Rev Sotherton Backler for around 37 years.

Early years:  Sotherton Backler (1798-1875) was the second child of that name born to Sotherton Backler (c. 1746 – 1819), Citizen and Apothecary.  The first had been christened at St Ann’s Blackfriars on 5 January 1778, but was buried at the same church on 30 December 1786, some time after the death of his mother Frances (Harris) Backler.  His father Sotherton had married for the second time, Hannah Osborn(e) in Bocking, Essex on 30 September 1782.   Having produced four children with the deceased Fran, Sotherton went on to father ten children with Hannah.  Of these, the youngest was Sotherton Backler, christened at St Ann’s Blackfriars on 4 April 1798.

Young Sotherton’s oldest surviving half sibling Frances would have been nearly 20 when he was born. His half-brother John and half sister Hannah, were both christened on 11 June 1780 at St Ann’s Blackfriars.  Could they have been twins? (There are apparent twins later on, born to Sotherton’s older brother Samuel.) Sotherton’s older siblings may have played an important part in his upbringing, as his mother Hannah died in 1803, and was buried in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, where his father would be interred 16 years later.

Two of the young Sotherton’s siblings by his mother Hannah were christened at St Mary’s Stoke Newington, but by the birth of the short-lived Thomas (1786-1786), the family were back at St Ann’s Blackfriars, where Sotherton senior was closely associated with the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.  As we have seen in previous posts, he had been admitted free of the Society by Patrimony on 2 October 1781, and in 1783 had been listed in the Yeomanry of the Society, address at Newington Green.  For some years he acted as Deputy Clerk to the Society owing to the then Clerk’s failing health, and in 1806 Sotherton became Clerk to the Society.  On October 30th 1816, he was presented with a piece of plate valued at 20 guineas on his resignation as Clerk; records show that in December 1817 he attended the Society’s bicentenary dinner, as Accountant of the Navy Stock.[4]

St Paul’s School:  Young Sotherton’s older half-brother John had been admitted to St Paul’s School, aged 10, on August 17th, 1790[5], later becoming an apprentice apothecary to his father.  We have met him in previous posts. There is no indication that young Sotherton’s older brothers Samuel and Joseph attended St Paul’s.  However, Sotherton jnr was admitted age 10 on 4 March 1809:

‘son of Sotherton Backler, navy accountant, Apothecaries Hall.  Pauline Exhibitioner, 1817. St John’s College Cambridge, B.A. 1822; M.A. 1843; Rector of Blatherwycke, Northants, 1838, and Rural Dean; died c. 1876.[6]

(As we have seen, Sotherton’s father was the Accountant to the Navy Stock, but also had been Clerk to the Society since 15 January 1806.  The Navy Stock had become an established company in the early 18th century, to overcome inconsistency in the quality and supply of medical supplies for the navy.  The stock company obtained its medicines and drugs from the Society’s own Laboratory.[7] )

St Paul’s School had been founded by Dean John Colet of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1509, and placed by him under the trusteeship of the Mercers’ Company. Now sited in West London by the River Thames, its original location was in St Paul’s Churchyard.

When Sotherton Backler joined the school in 1809, its High Master was Richard Roberts, a colourful figure who was to serve the school from 1769-1814.[8]  According to the history of the school, it flourished for the first 20 or so years of his leadership, and broadened the geographical spread of its pupils from a largely London base to country-wide, becoming a truly ‘public’ school.  Towards the turn of the 19th century, the school had suffered a decline in numbers, in common with the Merchant Taylor’s and Westminster Schools,  but by the time Sotherton joined, it was thriving again.  About 10 per cent of the boys admitted under Roberts went on to universities.  He was said to have an ‘uproarious crew of boys’ under him.[9]  Sotherton would have sat in the 70 foot long school room, on one of hard benches lining both sides.  His day might have begun as described here:

‘At seven o’clock on a winter’s morning, the shivering scholars assembled with sixpenny tapers in japanned boxes and fingers below freezing point, no fires being at any time allowed.  At half past seven magister crawled in, but in complete dishabille with a blue nose, ludicrously winking his eyelids to keep them open.  Having seated himself at a desk with black props opposite the pupil’s face, the latter strove to fix upon the said props within convenient distance, a duplicate of the lesson to be delivered.  If his trick could not be performed, some auxiliary would inevitably puff out the doctor’s taper, upon which like a giant aroused from slumber he would cut away right and left in the dark, assailing face and limbs indiscriminately.’[10] 

Young Sotherton’s time at St Paul’s was clearly profitable, as he emerged a Pauline Exhibitioner on his departure for Cambridge.  The Pauline Exhibitions dated from 1564, aiming to fund one scholar or more to the University – ‘the aptest and most meetest scholars in St Paul’s School to be advanced and preferred to the University and specially Mercers children of this Fellowship, if any such may be found apt and meet…’ One exhibition was for Oxford, and one for Cambridge.  Originally to the value of £5, from 1773 they were valued at £50. Of variable duration initially, they were deemed from 1618 to last 7 years, reduced to 5 years in 1827 and 4 in 1847.[11] As well as being awarded the Exhibition, Sotherton was awarded the Governors’ prize for English verse in 1817.

And so to Cambridge.  I have already shown how Venns led me to St Paul’s as Sotherton’s school.  Further details are as follows:

Adm. Sizar[12] at St John’s Feb 15, 1817…Matric. Easter 1817. B.A. 1822; M.A. 1844. Ord. Deacon 1823; priest, 1824. R. of Blatherwick, Northants., 1838-1875.  Rural Dean of Weldon, 1848. Died Nov. 19, 1875.[13]

St John’s College, Cambridge:  St John’s was founded in 1511. Its foundation charter, dated 9 April that year, was sealed by the executors of the foundress, Lady Margaret Beaufort mother of King Henry VII, who had died in 1509 . Originally a seminary focused chiefly on the liberal arts, theology, and the biblical languages, St John’s alumni have included the social reformer William Wilberforce and the poet William Wordsworth. It has embraced all social classes, including those assisted by the sizarships and scholarships designed since early times to make it possible for those of academic merit but less means to benefit from a university education.[14]

Sotherton clearly fell into this latter group.  His father died intestate in 1819, the Death Duty Register (TNA: IR27) showing that administration of the very modest estate was granted to his oldest son and Sotherton’s half brother, John.

Shortly after he was awarded his BA, Sotherton was ordained a deacon in the Church of England.  What had brought him to this?  Sotherton’s male siblings went into trade – John (half brother) and Samuel were both apothecaries, like their father.  Joseph was a stained glass artist of some note.  This was not a wealthy family, although the sons appeared to marry well.  I have not found any specific family connection which would have brought him the patronage he would have needed for the Ministry.

Ordination:  Sotherton Backler was ordained Deacon in 1823, and Priest in Hereford Cathedral on 1 August 1824.[15]  In both cases he would have been just over the minimum ages of 23 and 24. Bishop George Isaac Huntingford was the Bishop there from 1815-1832, but I know of no link between him and the Backler family. At this time there was little formal training for the Ministry;  Sotherton’s Cambridge degree would have ensured that he was competent in Latin, and he would have had to show he was ‘sufficiently instructed in the scriptures’.[16]  But he would have had little in the way of professional training for his new role.  This lack of formal training meant there was quite an industry in publishing handbooks and guides for men preparing for the clergy, and carrying out their duties.[17]

There is no indication why Sotherton should have been ordained in Hereford, and the CCED database gives us no clue as to what might have been the curacy or living which Sotherton could commit to in order to become ordained priest.  There is one family connection with Hereford, though. Could this be relevant? Sotherton Backler’s older brother Joseph, a noted painter on stained glass who had a few years before completed the Great Norfolk Window for the Baron’s Hall at Arundel Castle, had been commissioned in 1822 to execute the East Window of Hereford Cathedral, as we have seen in a previous post.  The window was typical of Joseph Backler’s grand scale designs, for instance:

From A topographical history of England: ‘The east window forty feet high and twenty feet wide representing the Lord’s Supper is considered the largest in this branch of the art since its revival in England. The figures are fifteen feet in height beautifully painted by Mr Backler from [Benjamin] West’s picture of the Lord’s Supper at an expense of £2000 towards defraying which the late Dr Cope canon residentiary bequeathed £500.’

Joseph Backler must have been known to the Clergy and others at Hereford Cathedral – might he have exerted some influence in the ordination there of his much younger brother, Sotherton?

Curate in Yorkshire:  Sotherton’s whereabouts for the 3 years after his ordination are unknown.  The CCED shows him licensed as Curate at Hanging Heaton, York on 23 May 1827.  The Patron was John Buckworth, the patronage an Ecclesiastical Corporation.  Again, there is no evident reason for his move here. To my knowledge there are no family connections in Yorkshire.

Assistant Curate in George Eliot country:  Sotherton next appears intriguingly as assistant curate at Stockingford Chapel, Nuneaton, on 2 October 1832. [19]  Stockingford Chapel was none other than the ‘Chapel of Ease’ at Paddiford Common in George Elliot’s novella ‘Janet’s Repentance’, third in her ‘Scenes of Clerical Life’, her first collection of stories.  A local account describes the village:

Stockingford was not a village in the usual sense. It was a straggle of poor cottages, tenements and hovels which intermittently lined the road … Church Road was not Church Road until the Chapel of Ease at Stockingford was opened in 1824 to attend to the spiritual needs of our distant ancestors who had until then only managed to get little religious comfort from attending Nuneaton parish church. It is not surprising that a stiff two-mile walk there and back on a Sunday morning deterred all but the most earnest “Stockingfordian”. What a revelation it was when the chapel opened in 1824 and its first curate was a hardworking evangelist the Rev. John Edmund Jones (Mr. Tryan in George Eliot). [NB: while the story of Mr Tryan is correct, he was not the first curate.  He took over the curacy in 1827.] Imagine the situation, here in this secluded part of Nuneaton parish, a curate with definite opinions of his own, he preached extempore, founded a religious lending library, expounded the scriptures in the humblest cottages, and his very preaching was attracting dissenters filling up his church on the Common. Now that was all well and good whilst the only beneficiaries of his largesse were the great unwashed of Stockingford but when Nuneaton townspeople got wind of a parson with a way with words that they had only heard stumble out from the old perpetual curate in Nuneaton church, that this man made the ladies swoon, was accepted and preached in the best houses, and was even thinking of giving evening lectures on Sundays in Nuneaton Parish Church, then the big wigs  became un-nerved. The status quo of Nuneaton lethargy was being threatened. The rest of the story is amply covered in George Eliot’s “Janet’s Repentance” and any Stockingfordian trying to get a flavour of life in the early years of his or her parish should read that novella for the appropriate background. For Stockingford all this was cut short when the Rev. Jones died at the age of 54 in 1831 and was buried in his home parish of Withington near Cheltenham. [20]

Janet’s Repentance is a great read.  It draws a fascinating portrait of life in the village of ‘Paddiford Common’, and challenges the reader to question values and morals.  Although highly romanticised, it is based enough on real events to enable one to sense some of the reality which Sotherton Backler might have experienced when he took over as assistant curate from John Edmond Jones.  The closing stages of the novella show the ailing Rev. Tryan succeeded by ‘Mr. Walsh’. It seems possible that close perusal of diocesan or other records might shed more light on Sotherton Backler’s role in succeeding Rev. Jones, who had became Stipendiary Curate in 1828 (not 1824 as above);  the first Stipendiary Curate and Jones were under the patronage of the vicar of Nuneaton, Richard Bruce Stopford.  There is no record, however, of Sotherton’s patron  for Stockingford.

In 1834 he had married Mary Hill at nearby Chilvers Coton, Warwicks.  Chilvers Coton, like Stockingford, was a centre of coal-mining, and also ribbon-making.  Many homes had looms, providing employment within the family.  Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) was born there at Arbury Farm, where her father was Francis Newdigate’s land agent.  She attended a school in Nuneaton, and was said to have heard all about the events surrounding the evangelical priest John Edmond Jones.  It seems possible that she could have known Sotherton Backler’s wife, Mary Hill.   Their marriage record is dated 6 January 1834.  Sotherton was a Clerk, of the parish of Nuneaton, Bachelor; Mary, a spinster, of this parish – Chilvers Coton.  Witnesses were W F Gramshaw (a surgeon from nearby Hinckley in Leicestershire), and Caroline Hill.

Vicar of Blatherwycke: There is no evidence in printed or online sources to say why Sotherton was granted this benefice; could it have had anything to do with his marriage with Mary Hill?  Or even with the witness to their marriage, William Farbrace Gramshaw? The 1841 Clergy List reads only:[21]

 Alphabetical list: p. 8 Backler, Sotherton B.A. Rector of Blatherwycke near Wandsford, Northamptonshire.

List of benefices. * indicates that there is a glebe house fit for residence.  *Blatherwycke, R. Npton. Post town Wandsford. Dioc. Pet. Incumbent and year of admission: S. Backler 1838. Curate [blank] Patron: S. O’Brien Esq. Val: £394. Pop. 227

S. O’Brien was Stafford O’Brien, (1783-1864) who had been educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. A small parish by any standards, Blatherwycke seems mainly to be a village centred around the now-demolished Blatherwycke Hall. It appears to have remained Sotherton and Mary’s home until their deaths in 1875. (Unlike many other clerics of the time, Sotherton does not seem to have had more than one parish under his wing.) The post office was in the hands of John Wright, post master, with letters arriving from nearby Wansford at 7.20 in the morning, and despatched there at 6.30 in the evening.[22]

Located in Corby Hundred, Blatherwycke Parish had grown in population from 154 in 1801 to a peak of 243 in 1851, thereafter declining to 192 in 1871. It included a part of Rockingham Forest, now the scene of the Forestry Commission’s Ancient Woodlands Project.  The church was small, appearing mainly to serve the estate of Blatherwycke Hall.  The 1851 Church Census shows that on 30 March in the morning the general congregation was 30, the Sunday scholars 24; in the afternoon the figures were 51 and 23.  Average attendance over the previous 12 months was 40 in the morning for the General Congregation, and 30 Sunday Scholars.  In the afternoon the average figures were said by Sotherton Backler to be 80 and 30.[23]


Holy Trinity Church (pictured above) dates in part from the 11th century, with many changes over the years, including re-roofing in 1855, a new south porch in 1868, and partial re-building of the church wall in 1870.[24] All these were under Sotherton’s watch.  The living was a rectory in the deanery of Weldon, valued in 1874 at £450 per annum.  The tithes were commuted in 1844 for a rent charge of £290, and the rectory house had been erected by the previous incumbent in 1836 – a ‘neat stone building in the village’.

By all accounts the life of the Backlers was a quiet one – very much the country parson.    The last marriage Sotherton conducted in 1875 was number 51 in the register, which had begun with civil registration in 1837, and he hadn’t conducted all of these.  The vast majority of marriages were of estate workers – labourers, servants, butler, groom, farm bailiff, gardener, farmer (many), and blacksmith. There were dressmakers and an engine driver. Many of the ‘professional’ ones, and those of the O’Brien family, were conducted by someone else, including the former rector, Francis J. Noel.

There were between three and ten baptisms per year, most taken by Sotherton Backler.  Most years showed 5 – 8 burials, sometimes taken by the Vicar of Laxton, William Pattinson.  Several burials were of people from Oundle Union.

Sotherton Backler buried his wife Mary on 19 February 1875. She was aged 73.  That May he buried Augustus Stafford O’Brien, aged 29.  Sotherton’s burial was taken by Charles H. Frost, Curate in Charge, in November 1875.  His last baptism had been in May, 1875, Charles Frost already having started to conduct some baptisms.  He was gone, though, by January 1876, and Alexander Lendrum became Rector from 1876 – 1890.

During his incumbency, Sotherton had become Rural Dean of Weldon, so he would have been in contact with other clergy in the area.  It could be that records at Peterborough Diocesan office would reveal more about his life and work in Blatherwycke.  In 1868, it was reported that ‘Rev. Sotherton Backler to be Chaplain to the High Sheriff of Northamptonshire’, indicating that he had some status in the county as well.[26]  A search for ‘Sotherton Backler’ on the National Archives website brings up a record held in Northamptonshire Record Office, of the account by the Rev. Henry Smith, Vicar of Christ Church St Albans, of his friendship with Sotherton Backler, Rector of Blatherwycke.  This account might shed some personal light on this rather dry account of Sotherton’s life and times.

Extended family:  I had long been curious about how much contact there was between different members of Sotherton Backler Senr’s large family with Frances Harris and Hannah Osborne.  Several events show that Sotherton had contact with some nieces and nephews, and perhaps there was more.

On 6 April 1853 Sotherton conducted the marriage ceremony of his widowed niece, Susanna Maria Backler Raoux (aged 31), to the very wealthy William Gott of Leeds (55, a widower) in Blatherwycke.[27]  As we have seen in a previous post, Susannah was the daughter of Sotherton’s half brother John, an apothecary who had gone to Paris in 1821.  She was christened in Christ Church, Southwark, in 1822, but as far as is known, had then lived in Paris until her father’s death. The church marriage record says that her father was ‘John Backler, Surgeon’, and does not say that he was deceased.  Witnesses to the marriage were Susanna’s brother Henry McLauchlan Backler, LG Appleby, Margaret Gott and John Gott Jnr.  When Sotherton died in 1875, his will made Susanna and her brother, Henry McLauchlan Backler his executors.

Sotherton also conducted a marriage on 21 December 1857 between his nephew, Algernon Sudlow (son of his sister Mary (Backler) and John James Joseph Sudlow), and Rebecca Elizabeth Alderson.  His and her father were both lawyers.[28]

What is not clear is whether Sotherton also kept in touch with his brothers Joseph, who appears to have fallen on hard times, and who died alone in London in 1848, and my 3x great grandfather Samuel Backler, who also fell on hard times and died without leaving a will in 1870.  The stories of these three families – John’s, Joseph’s and Samuel’s – are in many ways far more dramatic than that of the Rev. Sotherton Backler.

His memorial inscription reads:

(Tomb) The Rev. Sotherton Backler MA, 37 years Rector of this parish, died November 10th 1875 aged 77.  “He giveth his beloved sleep” Psalm CXXVII.

Alongside is: MARY the beloved wife of the Rev. SOTHERTON BACKLER, died February 15 1875 aged 73.  “Looking for that blessed hope **** glorious appearing of the Great God.”[29]

 And the following advert appeared shortly after his death:

‘The rectory of Blatherwycke near Wansford, Northant, is vacant by the death of the Rev. Sotherton Backler, M.A., aged seventy-seven, who had held the living for thirty-seven years.  It is in the gift of Mr. H.D. Stafford, and worth £450 a year, with house and 105 acres of glebe.’

 Sotherton Backler was only my 3x great uncle, but researching his biography has added a dimension to the very varied stories of the children of his father, Sotherton Backler, and his wives Frances and Hannah.  I have not been able to ascertain any further detail about his wife Mary Hill, nor do we find a ‘personal’ insight into Sotherton himself.  Without a mother from the age of 4, and his father having died when he was about 20, Sotherton may well have had a close relationship with one or more of his older siblings.  The ‘connexions’ which led him to a secure profession in the clergy may have originated from his time at Cambridge, or through other family ties which remain to be discovered.




[3]The ACAD website explains what the database contains, firstly using the Alumni Cantabrigiensis volumes by John Venn and his son John Archibald Venn.  The first four volumes covered ‘from earliest times to 1751’, and were published between 1922 and 1927.  When Venn the younger took up the task, four further volumes were published covering 1752-1900, published between 1940 and 1954.  A.B. Emden published in 1963 an enhanced work to cover the years up to 1500.  These works, plus information from Newnham and Girton Colleges (so as to include women), have been brought together into the ACAD database. I have used both the database and Venns volumes.; John Venn: Alumni Cantabrigienses, a biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1751, 4 vols (1922–27).

John Archibald Venn: Alumni Cantabrigienses, . . . 1752–1900, 6 vols (1940–54).

A.B.Emden: A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (1963)

[4] Whittet, T.D.  Clerks, Bedels and Chemical Operators of the Society of Apothecaries. The Gideon de Laune Lecture for 1977. n.d.

[5] The Admission Registers of St Paul’s School from 1748 to 1876. Rev. Robert Barlow Gardiner M.A., George Bell & Sons, London, 1884, p. 200.

[6] Ibid. p. 237

[7] Hunting, Penelope. A History of the Society of Apothecaries. The Society of Apothecaries, London, 1998, pp 167-8.

[8] McDonnell, Michael F J. A History of St Paul’s School.  Chapman and Hall, London, 1909.

[9] Ibid, p. 357

[10] Ibid, p. 358

[11] Ibid. pp 398-9.

[12] A sizar was a student originally financing his studies by undertaking more or less menial tasks within his college and, as time went on, increasingly likely to receive small grants from the college without being ‘on the foundation’

[13] Alumni Cantabrigiensis. A biographical list of all known students, graduates and holders of office at the University of Cambridge, from the earliest times to 1900.  Compiled by J.A. Venn, Litt. D., F.S.A.  Part II from 1752-1900. Volume I Abbey-Challis. Cambridge at the University Press, 1940.  Sources cited in Venn for Sotherton’s entry are the St Paul’s School Register, and H.I. Longden, Northamptonshire and Rutland Clergy from 1500. Vol. 1. Northampton, Archer & Goodman, 1938.  This gives us the additional information that Sotherton was installed at Blatherwyke on 22 August, 1838.


[15] CCED database shows: HCRO CA19/3 Episcopal Register

[16] May, Trevor. The Victoria Clergy. Shire Publications Ltd, Princes Risborough, 2006, p. 12.

[17] Ibid. p. 11

[19] CCED shows: LRO [Lichfield Record Office] B/A/11/2/E Curates licences 1830-4 p; £50 pa plus surplice fees and pew rent from Stockingford; NB nominator not named.  Ordinary/Jurisdiction: Ryder, Henry/Coventry & Lichfield 1824-1836


[21] The Clergy list for 1841. London Cox 1841.

[22] Slater’s (late Pigot & Co) Royal National Commercial Directory and Topography of Northamptonshire. Isaac Slater. 1862.

[23] The 1851 Religious Census of Northamptonshire Ed. Graham S. Ward. Northamptonshire Record Society, 2007.

[24] History, Topography and Directory of Northamptonshire by Francis Wellan & Co. London. Whittaker & Co.

[26] The Standard, London, Monday Mar ch 23, 1868, p. 6 – ‘Eccleisastical Intelligence’.

[27] Blatherwycke parish records:  BLATHERWYCKE (Holy Trinity) : CB 1621-58, C 1664-1968, M 1623-65, 1678-1899, 1905-32, 1938-61, 1968-71, B 1664-1973, 1995-97, banns 1754-1808, 1823-1974, confirmations 1631, 1639, militia lists 1762 & 1777, list of rectors & curates 1614-2003, churchwardens 1621-1905, Clare, Hilary (trans.) , 2006.

[28] The Morning Post, London, Thursday December 24, 1857, p. 8 Issue 26204.

[29] Northamptonshire monumental inscriptions, vol. 3E, Northamptonshire FHS, 2001.


18. Backler sisters at Geffrye’s Almshouses

Hannah and Sarah Ann Backler:
Half-sisters who lived in Sir Robert Geffrye’s Almshouses

Geffrye Feb 2012

The 1851 Census shows half-sisters Hannah [aka Anna] and Sarah Ann BACKLER living in Kingsland Road Ironmongers’ Almshouses. They were two unmarried daughters of the 14 children of Sotherton BACKLER (1746-1819), who had been Clerk to the Society of Apothecaries.

Hannah BACKLER, daughter of Sotherton BACKLER and Frances nee HARRIS: Hannah was christened on 11 June 1780 at St Ann’s Blackfriars, on the same day as her brother John (see previous blogs for his story and those of is children). Given the christening dates of the previous two children, Sotherton (1778-1786) and Frances (1779-1833) and the marriage date of Sotherton and his first wife Frances HARRIS on 11 February 1777, it seems likely that Hannah and John were twins.

Sotherton and Frances were married at St Mary’s Stoke Newington. Witnesses were Hannah HARRIS [mother? sister?], John FREEMAN (most likely husband to Sotherton’s sister Ann, who married a John FREEMAN in 1770), and Nathaniel JENNINGS. Frances (Harris) Backler presumably died around the time of, or just after Hannah and John’s christening date. I have not succeeded in finding anything about Frances’ origins, nor a date for her death or burial.  I also have no further information about the other two children of this marriage, Sotherton and Frances (who was buried at Bunhill Fields in 1833).

Sarah Ann BACKLER, daughter of Sotherton BACKLER and Hannah nee OSBORNE: Sotherton married his second wife, Hannah OSBORNE, in Bocking, Essex in 1782. (I have not seen the record itself, and so I do not know the name of Hannah’s father, which I suspect could be Thomas Osborne (July 1796 – November 1796) – the name of one of Sotherton and Hannah’s several short-lived children.) Together they had 9 children, the first-born being Sarah Ann, christened on 10 August 1783 at St Mary’s Stoke Newington, as was her next sibling, my 3x g. grandfather Samuel BACKLER, on 18 August 1784. All the subsequent children were christened at St Ann Blackfriars, neighbourhood church to the Society of Apothecaries.

Two daughters married:

  • Mary (1791- 1860) to John James Joseph SUDLOW, a lawyer. They had very many children and descendants and will feature in a future blog.
  • Jane Ozella  (1795 – 1830) to Daniel BURTON, who re-married after Jane’s death and the birth of their child, Sarah Ann BURTON (1828-1916). Their tree can be seen here:  Jane Ozella family tree

The Geffrye almshouses – for the elderly poor:  Sir Robert Geffrye was a prosperous merchant of humble origins. He was twice Master of the Ironmongers Company, and in 1685 became Lord Mayor of London. Among his many legacies to charitable causes, he bequeathed a substantial sum to the Ironmongers Company for the building and maintenance of almshouses. A plot was found on Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, where the buildings, finished in 1715, now stand as the Geffrye Museum. [1]

So what else is known of Hannah and Sarah Ann? Precious little! With luck there could be some information about them in the records of the Ironmongers’ Company, which I have not yet managed to access. Sarah Ann’s mother Hannah (Osborne) died in 1803, when Sarah would have been about 20 and Hannah just a bit older. Did these two young women (and their sister Frances, who died in 1833) remain at home with their father, in particular to look after their much younger siblings? (Their youngest brother Sotherton was born only in 1798 – much more about him in a future blog.)

Death of their father, Sotherton BACKLER: I have already described in a previous blog how, at the time of Lord Nelson’s funeral in January 1806, their father Sotherton had just been appointed Clerk to the Apothecaries, having been acting Clerk for some time. It is possible that he was on the Society’s barge in the funeral procession from Greenwich to Westminster, but in any case, the three young women would surely have viewed the funeral procession as it made its way to St Paul’s, as well as the procession of barges along the river.

Their father Sotherton died intestate in 1819. Administration was granted to his oldest surviving son, John Backler (as noted above, possibly Hannah’s twin), and on 26 October 1819 the Minutes of the Court of Assistants of the Society record a letter from Mr. John Backler, son of the late Sotherton, requesting that the sum of £50 be granted to Frances and Anna [sic] Backler, Sotherton’s daughters. This was duly agreed, and letters of thanks from the recipients were recorded at the Court of Assistants on 21 December 1819, after which there is no further mention of the daughters in the records of the Society. The oldest daughter Frances (who died in 1833) does not appear to have needed this extra sum.  I wonder why.

Census returns for Hannah and Sarah Ann: The 1841 Census shows that Hannah, age 60, was living at the Geffrye almshouses. I cannot find a record of Sarah Ann in 1841, but both are shown in residence in 1851 at Jeffries’ Alms [sic], both ‘Almswoman’, Sarah A, 67, at number 5, and Hannah, 71, at number 14, the house which has recently been restored to show how the residents might have lived, in the 1780s and 1880s. The picture here shows the interior as it could have been in the 1880s.

14 Geffrye 2 Hannah Backler 1851

Sarah Ann’s death was registered in 1857, but Anna [sic] Backler appears in the 1861 Census, aged 82, shown as ‘formerly Companion’. This time the house is not numbered on the census return, which helpfully indicates the former status of residents, many shown as ‘widow of …. [citing their late husband’s occupation]’. Hannah’s death was registered at the GRO in 1870, presumably while she was still resident.

Family connections with the Ironmongers – introducing the Pellatts: There was a family connection by marriage to the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers. Hannah’s half-brother, and Sarah Ann’s brother Samuel BACKLER married in 1810 to Mary PELLATT, oldest of the 15 children of Apsley PELLATT (1763-1826), a well-known glassmaker with his son, also Apsley, who later became a member of Parliament. Mary’s grandfather Apsley PELLATT (1735-1798) was Master to the Ironmongers in 1789; his son Apsley (Mary’s father) was a member of the Ironmongers, and another son Thomas was clerk to the Ironmongers. Whether this family connection had anything to do with Hannah and Sarah Ann ending their days in the Ironmonger’s almshouses remains to be discovered.

[1] For much more detail about the history of the Almshouses, see ‘A History of the Geffrye Almshouses’ by Kathy Haslam, published by the Geffrye Museum – no date.

9. The Family of Sotherton Backler 1746-1819 with his wives Frances Harris and Hannah Osborne

I which I set out the families of Sotherton Backler with his first wife, Frances Harris and his second wife, Hannah Osborne.  I know little about the wives, but quite a bit about their offspring!  The story becomes quite complicated for some of them, so I sketch just a very brief outline here. Later blogs will follow the different families in turn.  I will look at my 3x great grandfather Samuel Backler and his descendants after I have covered all the others.  But in my next blog I will trace what is known of the career of Sotherton Backler, Clerk to the Society of Apothecaries.  His period of office spanned (just) the funeral of Admiral Lord Nelson, and the Apothecaries Act of 1815m a very important landmark in the regulation of the medical profession.

IMG_3340 (2)

Sotherton Backler, Clerk to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, married twice, first to Frances Harris on 11 February 1777, at St Mary’s Stoke Newington (the old St Mary’s, pictured).  Witnesses were Hannah Harris, John Freeman and Nathl Jennings.  John Freeman was most likely Sotherton’s brother in law, married in 1770 to his sister Ann.

Four children of Sotherton and Frances Harris

Sotherton and Frances had four children:

Sotherton Backler (1778 – 1786).  Nine year old Sotherton was buried at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, the companion church to St Ann Blackfriars, on 30 December 1786 – not a very happy Christmas for the Backler family, since this burial took place just just 14 days after the burial of Sotherton’s infant half-brother Thomas (see below).

Frances Backler (1779 – 1833).  Frances fared better than her older brother Sotherton.  She was christened on 23 May 1779 at St Ann Blackfriars, the local church for the Society of Apothecaries.  She was buried at Bunhill Fields Burial ground in October 1833, having been brought from Hampden Street, Somers Town.  Several Backlers and related families seemed to have lived in this area, which is east of Euston Station and north of Euston Road.  Hampden Street can be seen on the map through the link below.

Hannah Backler (c. 1780-1870) and John Backler (c. 1780-1846) These two were christened on 11 June 1780 at St Ann Blackfriars – were they twins?  Hannah later lived at the Jeffrye Almshouses with her half-sister Sarah Anne.  John was the first of Sotherton’s sons to become an apothecary, and will also feature in a later blog.  He and his descendants have fascinating stories to tell.

Is it possible that Frances died at or soon after the birth of the twins?  No death or burial record for her has been traced to date.

Nine children of Sotherton and Hannah Osborne

Sotherton then married Hannah Osborne (c. 1763 – 1803) on 3 October 1782, in Bocking Essex.  Could she have been the daughter of Thomas Osborne, whose signature appeared alongside Sotherton’s in the London Sessions Court document mentioned in my last blog?  So far it has not been possible to trace details about Hannah, although there are some possible leads in Bocking awaiting perusal.

Hannah and Sotherton had nine children:

Sarah Ann Backler (c.1783-1857) was the eldest, christened at St Mary Stoke Newington on 10 August 1783. Sarah Ann died in 1857 at the Jeffrye Almshouses in Shoreditch.

Samuel Backler (1784-1870) – my 3x great grandfather, also christened at St Mary Stoke Newington: a not-quite-qualified sometime apothecary, tobacconist and chemist, about whose business, bankruptcy and eventual demise we will hear about in blogs to come. Samuel married Mary Pellatt in 1810.

Thomas Backler – born and died in 1786 – christened at St Ann Blackfriars on 8 May 1786, and buried at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, 16 December 1786 – just 14 days before his older half-brother Sotherton.  Both were buried in the church.

Joseph Backler – christened January 1788, died 1848.  A famous artist in stained glass, whose son Joseph became a noted convict artist in Australia – much more about them and others of Joseph’s offspring to come. Joseph married Jane Cowie.

Elizabeth Backler – christened 25 June 1789 at St Ann Blackfriars and buried 14 May 1791 at St Andrew by the Wardrobe

Mary Backler – christened 13 April 1791 at St Ann Blackfriars. Married to John James Joseph Sudlow, Solicitor. Died in Southampton 7 March 1860

Benjamin Backler – christened 18 June 1793 – nothing further known about him

Jane Ozella Backler christened 17 February 1795. Married Daniel Burton.

Thomas Osborne Backler christened St Ann Blackfriars 3 August 1796. Buried St Andrew by the Wardrobe 2 December 1796.  Given the traditional naming patterns in this family, and the fact that there was already one son ‘Thomas’, born and died in 1786, I feel the name of ‘Thomas Osborne’ was likely that of Hannah’s father.  This remains to be proved.

Sotherton Backler christened St Ann Blackfriars 4 August 1798.  Died Blatherwycke Northamptonshire 19 November 1875.  No children but lots of information about the Rev Sotherton Backler, and his links with different branches of Backler descendants, including the family of his aunt Mary Backler, married to John James Joseph Sudlow; and the family of his half uncle John Backler, cupper, who had had to flea to Paris to avoid court dealings in around 1820.  As far as I know, his was the last use of the name ‘Sotherton Backler’.