Mary Pellatt (1789-1857)

38. Backler/Boulding/Cross: the denoument of my g.g. grandmother Susannah (1817 – 1883)

In which we trace the last years of my g.g. grandmother, Susannah [nee Backler] Boulding/Cross, rounding off the fates of her and the three children born to her second marriage, before following her two surviving Boulding children across the Atlantic.

In previous posts, we have seen that my g.g. grandfather James Boulding appears to have deserted his young family in or after 1848, after the birth of his and Susannah’s third child Apsley Samuel Boulding, and following the death on the same day of their second child, Lucilla Charlotte Boulding.  The first intimation of this supposed desertion comes with the 1851 census, showing Susannah and her two surviving children living with her parents in Islington.  She is ‘married’, but in this census year there is no James Boulding to be found in the British Isles.  It seems possible he had gone to Australia.

1851 England Census.  2 Old Paradise Row.  St Mary, Islington
Samuel Backler, Head, married, 66. Clerk [sic], Born Middlesex Stoke Newington
Mary Backler [nee Pellatt], Wife, married, 60. Born Middlesex Holborn
Esther Maria Backler, daughter, unmarried, 21.  Born Middlesex Bayswater
Susanna Boulding, daughter, married, 34. Born Middlesex Oxford Street.
Susanna Mary Boulding, grand daughter, 5. Scholar at home. Born Middlesex Islington
Apsley Samuel Boulding, grand son, 3. Born London Fleet Street.

We have seen in previous posts that Samuel Backler would live on for another 20 years, apparently tended by his youngest child, Esther Maria.  The status of Susanna, however, would change with her marriage on 28 October 1855, seven years after the disappearance of her husband James.  I am not exactly sure of the legal basis, but there

seems to have been an accepted rule that if someone had disappeared for seven consecutive years, with no news that they were alive, they could be presumed dead.  Hence Susanna’s status at the time of her second marriage as ‘widow’.

The marriage to Edwin John Cross, bachelor (and some 17 years Susannah’s junior), described as ‘Clerk’, took place just four months before the birth of their first child, Edwin John Frederick Cross, born on 24 February 1856, and christened at Christ Church St Marylebone on 30 March 1856, at which time his parents’ address was given as 13 Park Street.  Much more about him in a blogpost to follow.

Two years later another birth followed: Lucilla Beatrice Cross (another try for a little girl named ‘Lucilla’ – I have not found a precedent for Susanna’s use of this name).  Born on 1 June 1858, little Lucilla Beatrice was buried in Camden on 28 March 1861.  Thus the 1861 Census, taken shortly after this sad event, records just Edwin senior, Susannah and son Edwin jr.

1861 England Census. 
St Pancras, Camden Town.  3 Pratt Street (see photo right)
Edwin Cross, Head, Married, 27, China Dealer. Born Middx Marylebone
Susanna Cross, Wife, Married, 44. Born Middx Marylebone [sic]
Edwin Cross, Son, 5. Born Middx Marylebone
Susan Day, Lodger, Widow. Annuitant. Born Essex Harlow.

On 31 August 1862, Maberly Pellatt Cross was born to Edwin (china dealer) and Susannah Cross.  He was christened in September of that year at All Saints Church Camden Town, with the surnames of his mother’s maternal grandparents.  Alas, little Maberly was buried in Camden on 10 April 1863.  Older brother Edwin J F Cross was now about 6 years old, and had witnessed the deaths of two younger siblings.  Could this have affected him later in life?

Two Boulding children – soon to cross the Atlantic
Meanwhile, in 1861, young Edwin’s two half siblings appear to have been farmed out from the new Cross family.  Could this have been due to the influence of their new step-father?  We will take them across the Atlantic in a future blogpost, but suffice to say at the moment that in 1861 we find them as follows:

At number 5 Harley Street (now and then renowned as the location for private health care), in the home of Consulting Surgeon Mitchell Henry, 34, and his wife and 4 children, plus Governess, Butler, Footman, Cook, two Housemaids, Kitchen Maid, and two nursemaids, one of whom was my Great Grandmother Susan [sic] Boulding, unmarried, 16, born Middx Islington.

In the same Census, at 193 Tooley Street, in the home of Charles Bell, a Pawnbroker, we find her brother, 13 year old Apsley Boulding, Warehouse Boy, born Middlesex Strand.  He probably would not have been here long, as shortly after this Census was taken most of Tooley Street was destroyed in the great fire of 1861 (just search Tooley Street fire 1861 for details of this cataclysmic event).

How much these youngsters saw of their mother, step-father and half-siblings, is not known, though we will see that there was at least some correspondence with them after they left for America.

Back to the Cross family.
In 1871, we find Edwin, Susannah and 15 year old Edwin J F Cross at 130 High Street, Camden Town.
In 1881 Edwin and Susannah are at 58a Chalk Farm Road, a bit north of Camden Town (see left).

In this Census, sadly, we find the first intimation that things might not go too well for their only surviving child, Edwin John Frederick Cross.  As I will describe in more detail in a later post, we find in 1881 the following:

E J F C, age 24, Shorthand Writer, Patient, Lunatic, in the Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum, in Banstead Surrey, just up the hill from where I lived for many years.

On 9 February 1883, my G.G. Grandmother Susannah [nee Backler] [Boulding] Cross  died aged 66. She had congestion of the lungs, 7 days.  Her death was registered by her husband, E J Cross, of 156 High Street, Camden Town.

By the June quarter of 1884, Edwin had married widow Frances Anne [nee Lusty] Hilliard, mother of two children, and by the autumn of that year, Edwin had written his Will, leaving everything to his new wife and Executrix.  No mention at all of his son Edwin J F Cross.  Edwin Sr died in 1889, then living in Ramsgate Kent, and his Will was proved by his wife in January 1890.  At some point she emigrated to America, where she was to be found in Herrick Street, Boston in the 1900 US Census, living with her two sons Herbert H Hilliard and Walter J H Hilliard.   Frances died on 3 March 1902 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Brighton MA.  Her son Herbert H Hilliard perished on The Titanic, while her son Walter J H Hilliard died in 1926 and is also interred in Evergreen Cemetery.

Meanwhile, their step-son and step-sibling Edwin J F Cross was living out what was a rather sad and lonely life in England – the subject of my next post.

 

 

27. Samuel Backler (1784-1870), Bankrupt Tobacconist

In which we face the sad task of reporting the complicated affairs of Samuel Backler and his wife Mary (nee Pellatt), as they faced bankruptcy and the loss of money and possessions, while looking after daughters Mary and Susannah Mary, and newborn Esther Maria.  We glean most of the story from papers held at The National Archives in B/3/695: In the matter of Samuel Backler of St James Street, Piccadilly, Middlesex, tobacconist, bankrupt. Date of commission of bankruptcy: 1831 February 21

Our tale begins with a notice in The London Gazette dated 15 February 1831, to the effect that Samuel Backler, tobacconist of 81 St James’s Street, is unable to meet his financial obligations (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/18776/page/302) Screenshot (116)

An insolvent debtor who was also a trader could declare himself bankrupt.  An individual who was not a trader could be kept in a debtor’s prison, a fate which Samuel seems to have avoided.

Here began a process which stretched across the entire year, in which a parade of creditors (including close family) laid out their claims on Samuel’s assets, his wife Mary had to forego part of her inheritance from her grandfather Stephen Maberly, and at least some of the family’s furniture was sold.  The date of 1831 was significant, as the process of administering bankruptcy was changing from Commissioners of Bankruptcy (which I believe was the process under which Samuel was treated) to a Court of Bankruptcy.  I do not claim to be expert!

Information copied at TNA 26 September 2009.  B/3/695.  The information is mainly extracted.  Where verbatim, it is in quotes.  I have poor quality photos of further lists of creditors than are reported in this account – they are not usable, and so I have left them out.  The total in debts was over £1,000, while money due to Samuel Backler was in the low £100s.  The outcome of it all was that creditors were to receive £2 and 5s in the pound.

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22 February 1831.  Samuel Backler Tobacconist.  Burwood Rooms   George Maberly, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square Middx. Coachmaker.  Against Samuel Backler of St James’ Street Piccadilly in the County of Middx tobacconist.  £104 – 17 – 4d lent between 1 January 1830 and 1 February 1831: ‘no security or satisfaction whatsoever’ except promissory notes and Bill of exchange.

Note: George Maberly was some sort of cousin to Samuel’s wife Mary Pellatt, though given the number of Maberly families in London at the time, I am not exactly sure of his relationship.  George is probably the George Maberly who eventually became a partner in the famous firm of Thrupp and Maberly.
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23 February 1830 [sic –  is this 1831?].  George Cross of 3 Poole Street, Hoxton, Gentleman. Has known Samuel Backler four years, during which time he carried on trade, buying and selling tobacco, snuff, cigars and other commodities of a like nature.  He said Samuel Backler was in insolvent circumstances and unable to meet claims of debtors.  On Monday 14 February inst Samuel Backler came to Hoxton and asked for a bed because he was afraid of being arrested by his creditors for debt if he remained at his own house of residence.  Samuel Backler stayed there until the present, having not returned to ‘his own house or place of business’.
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22 February 1831.  Provisional Assignment of Estate to William Burwood of Southampton Buildings Chancery Lane Gentleman. John Beauclerk, Jefferies Spranger and John Dyneley Esquires, the major part of Commissioners named and authorised in and by a Commission of Bankrupt – awarded and issued and now in Prosecution against  Samuel Backler of St James’ Street Piccadilly in the County of Middlesex tobacconist.  S.B. declared bankrupt at Burwood Rooms, 22 February 1831.
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22 February 1831 p. 350. London Gazette   Giving notice of the following dates: 25 February, disclosure; 8 March – Assignees; 5 April – finish examination of creditors, agree certification.  On this day Samuel Backler was reported as not at present prepared to make full disclosure and discovery of his Estate and Effects, praying further time until the next day.  25 February:  Still not full disclosure.
______________________________________________________________________________

8 March 1831. List of Creditors:

  • Gilbert Selioke Edwards, Newman Street, Oxford Street, Coachmaker. Late of Pall Mall.  Executor Thomas Chamberlayne. Had loaned £25 10s
  • Samuel Ward, Piccadilly, tobacconist. £100 – 10 – 10 for goods sold and delivered to Samuel Backler
  •  Henry Pellatt of Ironmongers Hall, Gentleman.  £104 – 8 – 6 money lent and advanced on 25 May 1829, 25 January 1825, 7 May 1828.  [on 18 March 1831, while these proceedings were going on, Henry had married his cousin Mary Backler, Samuel and Mary’s oldest daughter!  They feature in several posts (and one forthcoming).]
  • George Maberly, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square,  Coachmaker.  £104 – 17 – 4
    George Maberly and Henry Pellatt chosen as assignees

On this date, the solicitor’s bill of £40-8-2 to be paid from the first monies raised.  Also the Messenger’s Bill, £14-4-8d
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5 April 1831.  More creditors:

  • Richard Vandome, Leadenhall Street, City of London, Scalemaker.  £59 – 5s
  • John Bale [Bask?] Derby Place, Bayswater in the County of Middlesex, Coal Merchant.  Goods sold and delivered £14 – 16
    _____________________________________________________________________

8 July 1831.  London Gazette. P. 1382:  ‘The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing date of 21st February 1831, awarded and issued forth against Samuel Backler … intend to meet on the 29th of July instant at Eleven in the Forenoon, at the Court of Commissioners of Bankrupts at Basinghall-Street in the City of London in order to Audit the Accounts of the Assignees of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt under the said Commission, pursuant to an Act of Parliament, made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George Fourth intituled “An Act to amend the laws related to Bankrupts.”

An untimely death:  On 3 June 1831, Mary [Pellatt] Backler’s grandfather Stephen Maberly died in Reading.  The timing of this death was rather unfortunate for Mary, in light of her husband’s bankruptcy proceedings!  Stephen Maberly had made specific provision for his grandchildren in his Will, which was proved on 5 July 1831, with quite a few Codicils relevant to the Backler bankruptcy.  Having initially left £4000 in trust for the benefit of ‘all and every the child of my late daughter Mary Pellatt’ [Samuel’s  mother-in-law], this sum was reduced to £2500 in a codicil, which excepted Mrs Mary Backler.  In an earlier Codicil, dated 12 August 1826, there was to be deducted £250 from ‘Mrs Backler’s share of the property I have left to her, having lately advanced that sum for her husband’ but that Codicil was revoked on 26 April 1827 in favour of the following:

£400 on trust – interest, proceeds etc – to Mary Backler into her own hands for her sole and separate use exclusively of her present and any future husband and without being liable to his debts or arrangements.  On her death, proceeds to go to every her child and children when they become 21, or when the daughters marry.

This inheritance results in a notice on August 22:  The Law Advertiser, Vol. 9:  Special meeting of creditors of bankrupts:

‘Backler, Samuel, St. James’s-st., Piccadilly, Middlesex, tobacconist; Sept 21, at 12 precisely, C.C.B., as to assignees compromising their claim to a legacy of 200l, bequeathed by Stephen Maberley, deceased, to the bankrupt’s wife, by accepting half of such legacy, and permitting the remainder to be settled on bankrupt’s wife for her separate use; and on other special affairs.’

Some confusion?  I am not sure how the legacy of £200 was determined.  In his Will Stephen Maberly had declared the legacy of £400 to be free from any debt of her husband.  Was this £200 Mary’s share of the £2500 left to all the children of Mary [Maberly] and Apsley Pellatt?  I don’t fully understand, as I thought she had been exempted from this.  Apparently not (see below).  Perhaps the £400 would remain at the disposal of Mary.

At the Court of Commissioners of Bankrupts, Basinghall Street London 21st day of September 1831:  Memorandum – At a Meeting of the Creditors and Assignees of Samuel Backler of St James’s Street Piccadilly in the County of Middlesex Tobacconist Dealer and Chapman a Bankrupt held on the day and year and at the place above written pursuant to a notice in the London Gazette of the thirtieth day of August last in order to [sic] the said Creditors to assent to or dissent from the said Assignees compounding their claim to a Legacy of £200 bequeathed by the Will of Stephen Maberly late of Reading in the County of Berks Esquire deceased to the Bankrupt’s Wife by receiving one half of the said Legacy and allowing the other half to be retained by the Trustees or Executors under the said Will for the purpose of Settlement on the said Wife of the Bankrupt for her separate use according to the decisions in Equity in like Cases And further to assent to or dissent from the assignees paying to a party to be named at the meeting the amount of certain premiums paid by him on a policy of Insurance in the London Life Association effected on the life of the said Bankrupt for the sum of £500 with a view to the Assignees obtaining possession of the said Policy And also to assent to or dissent from the said assignees selling and disposing of the said Policy and of any other the Estate and effects of the said Bankrupt either by public auction or private contract and for such terms and prices as they shall think fit And also to assent to or dissent from whatsoever the said Assignees hitherto done or at the said Meeting shall propose to do in reference to the said Bankrupt’s Estate.

The following is a copy of a letter from Mr Apsley Pellatt [Mary Backler’s brother] to the assignees produced and read at the Meeting –

“Mr Apsley Pellatt presents respects to the Assignees of Samuel Backler and acquaints them that he is willing to surrender to the use of the Creditors the Policy of Insurance of His (Mr B’s) life of £500 in the London Life Assurance Office on payment of the premium (he has paid) amounting to £27.13.10  Mr Apsley Pellatt begs also to say that he has no doubt on the Creditors assenting to accept £100 in full satisfaction of the Legacy of 1/11th of £2500 left by Will by the late Stephen Maberly Esquire to Mrs Backler that the Executrix will forthwith pay the same into the hands of the Assignees”.  Falcon Glass Works.  17 Sept 1831

Present the undersigned Creditors

It was resolved and agreed that the said assignees be authorized to pay to Mr Apsley Pellatt the Sum of £27. 13. 10 the amount of the premiums paid by him on the above mentioned Policy   And that they be at liberty to dispose of the said Policy  either by Surrender to the London Assurance Office or by Public Sale or private contract and at such price and on such terms as to the said Assignees may seem meet

Secondly – It being stated at the meeting that the Legacy in question being to the Bankrupts Wife and that the Court of Chancery thro’ which alone such Legacy could be recovered always makes a provision for the Wife out of it, and generally to the extent of one half of the Legacy, It was resolved and agreed that the said Assignees be also authorized and empowered to receive the sum of £100 in full satisfaction of their claim of the Legacy of 1/11th of £2500 left by the Will of the late Stephen Maberly Esquire to Mrs Backler the Wife of the Bankrupt and that they also be authorized to give and sign full and sufficient receipts and discharges for the same

Thirdly – and resolved and agreed that the undersigned do approve of the sale of the Bankrupts Furniture as made by the assignees, and ratify the same accordingly.

Henry Pellatt.  Richard Vandome.  Sam Ward
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22 November 1831.  London Gazette. P. 2442.  Notice of the following event: The Commissioners ‘intend to meet on the 23rd day of December next, at Ten of the Clock in the Forenoon … in order to make a Dividend of the estate and effects of the said Bankrupt; when and where the Creditors, who have not already proved their debts, are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the benefit of the Dividend. And all claims not then proved will be disallowed.

Account: Cash realised:

Sale of bankrupt’s furniture                                           £20/3
Cash in compromise of Stephen Maberly legacy        £100/ –
Deposit on sale of policy per Mr Shuttleworth           £24/-
Balance from the purchases [?]                                       £96/–

£240/3-

Paid:

30 Sep Solicitor’s bill re choice of assignees                £40 – 8 – 2
Mr Pellatt’s claim re life policy                                       £27-13-10
Mr Shuttleworth’s charge on sale of policy                  £6 – 0 – 0
Messenger bills                                                                   £20-14-8
Auctioneer charges sale of furniture                             £4 – 14 – 0
Solicitor dividend                                                               £49-13-10
Claim of shopman in full                                                     £5 – 10
Claim of maidservant in full                                              £3 – 0 – 0
Balance to be divided                                                           £82-8-6

£240 – 8 – 0

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23 December 1831: More debts!

  • Richard Cater, deceased.  17 September 1827                     £23-8-4
  • William Deighton 71 St James’s Street Tailor.  Goods
    sold and delivered. Work and labour done as a tailor       £22 – 1 – 6
  • Maria Palmer 8 Kensington Terrace, Kensington
    Gravel Pits late servant to the Bankrupt. Wages due.
    Her X.                                                                                            £3 – 0 – 0
  • John Martin, 82 St James’s Street, tailor.  Goods sold
    and delivered.                                                                             £6 – 19
  • William Cousins, 45 Duke Street, St James’s. Carpenter
    Carpentry work                                                                         £6 – 12 – 5
  • James Davies, 106 New Bond Street, late shopman to
    The Bankrupt.  For wages                                                       £5 – 10 – 0
  • John Collier, Carey Street, Lincolns Inn, Gent.
    By judgement HM Court Kings Bench, Easter term
    11th year King George IVth for £500 debt and 65
    shillings costs. Indenture re William Nokes [Noke?]           £203

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23 December 1831.  Creditors to get £2s 5d to the £

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What to make of all this? Little more is heard of Samuel Backler before his death in 1870, other than his presence in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses and the marriage of his second daughter Susannah Mary Backler to James Boulding in 1844.  We do not know what happened to Samuel and Mary after the traumatic events of Samuel’s bankruptcy in 1831, other than to assume that it did little in terms of good family relationships!  Clearly Samuel was a poor businessman.  Was he reckless, or just unfortunate?    We may never know.

 

 

 

 

 

25. Samuel Backler (1784-1870). A question of Bark

sam-backler-1784-baptismIn which we consider the life and early career of my 3x great grandfather, Samuel Backler, having reviewed the varied fortunes of his four half-siblings and nine siblings in previous posts.  We follow Samuel as he embarked on a career as an apothecary, like his father, grandfather and half brother John before him.  We see his fortuitous marriage to the eldest child of noted glassmaker Apsley Pellatt, and after what seems to have been an abortive apprenticeship, we witness Samuel setting up in business, perhaps armed with inside knowledge of the market for Peruvian Bark from his and his father’s association with the Society of Apothecaries.   

IMG_3340 (2)Early years: an apothecary apprentice and laboratory worker.  Samuel Backler was the second child and oldest son of Sotherton Backler (1746-1819) and his wife Hannah Osborne (approx 1763-1803).  He was born in Stoke Newington, and baptised at St Mary’s Church there. (The church, left, is ‘the old church’, no longer consecrated.)

No evidence as to Samuel’s education has come to light.  His older half brother John (c.1780 – 1846), and youngest sibling Sotherton (1798-1875), were educated at St Paul’s School, but there is no record of Samuel having been there, nor of him attending university. When he was just two years old the family faced sorrow.  Infant Thomas Backler, aged 8 months, was buried at St Andrew by the Wardrobe on 16 December 1786, followed just two weeks later on the 30th by Samuel’s 9 year old half brother Sotherton.  On 14 May 1791, Samuel’s 2 year old sister Elizabeth was also interred in the church, and to cap it all, his mother Hannah was buried in April 1803 at Bunhill Fields, aged about 40.

Samuel’s older brother John was apprenticed to their father, Sotherton Backler.  Samuel, however, was apprenticed in 1800 to Thomas Hall, but on Hall’s death in 1802, Samuel was released from his indentures and in 1805 gained the freedom of the Society by Patrimony.  The records show that he was in the service of the Laboratory Stock, established many years previously to oversee and control the quality of the manufacture of chemical and plant-based medicines. In 1843, he withdrew from the Society.  He had never fully qualified as an apothecary, though he was surely well trained in aspects of the art through his tenure in the laboratory. We will see that his subsequent career was to have many twists and turns.

Fortuitous marriage: Apothecaries’ Hall was located on Water Lane, very near to St Paul’s Cathedral, whose churchyard housed, among other residents and enterprises, the firm of Pellatt and Green, known as glassmakers to the King.  Here the names of Pellatt and Maberley enter my family tree, with the marriage in 1810 of our Samuel to Mary Pellatt, eldest child of Apsley Pellatt (1763-1826) (the third of six with that name) and his wife Mary Maberly.  The marriage linked two families prominent in their respective Livery Companies.  Apsley Pellatt had been Master of the Ironmongers Company.

screenshot-90Bedford Street Laboratory:  Following his marriage, Samuel set up his lab at Covent Garden’s Bedford Street.  Here he marketed a range of interesting lotions and potions, such as this one for Asthmatic Strontium Tobacco (The Morning Post, 10 October 1811).  Backler was in the forefront of the use of stramonium, derived from the common thorn-apple, in treating asthma.  The history of the use of smoking in treating asthma is fascinating, and can be explored through the following link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844275/

A matter of Bark:  I speculate that another of Samuel’s treatments, Peruvian Bark, might well have been linked to activities at the Society of Apothecaries’ labs, which I was able to learn more about through some sessions a few years back in the Society’s Archives.

By the early 19th century, Peruvian Bark (Jesuits’ Bark; cascarilla; le remede anglais) – or the various forms of cinchona – had become key elements in the maintenance of health in the far-flung British Empire.  First recorded as being used for fever in South America in the 17th century, and thought to have been brought to Europe by the Jesuits, it had become an important trade item.  Historians continue to debate the origins of the name cinchona, once said to have been because of a cure of a fever in the Countess of Chinchon.  Its use in England dates from as early as 1658, when the ague had become endemic in the south-east.  However, its first use at that time resulted in the death of the Alderman of the City of London – not a good start![1]   A decade or so later, however, Robert Talbor (or Tabor) began to use a remedy which included the Jesuits’ powder.  He went on to use this cure across Europe and in the Court of Charles II.  It took some time for understanding to develop that Peruvian Bark was not effective for all fevers – only those of an intermittent nature, like malaria. And it was not until 1820 that Pelletier and Cavenout isolated the alkaloids quinine and cinchonine.[2]

It stands to reason that with such an important product, the Society would be involved in its preparation and sale as part of its trading activities.  The Laboratory Stock and Navy Stock companies had been engaged in trade throughout the 18th century, and in 1810, during the Peninsular Wars, an approach from the Army Medical Board opened the prospect of providing the Army’s medical supplies.

Questions of quantity and quality: The Archives show that a special meeting of the Court of Assistants was convened on 8 October 1810, to consider a letter from the Army Medical Board of 26 September in which the Society was informed of the Army’s intent to obtain its supplies from the Society – subject to the answers to a series of questions.  These included whether the Society could at short notice ensure a sufficient quantity of medicines ready packed to be immediately available, and whether the Society would consider having Depots at Plymouth, Portsmouth, Falmouth and elsewhere. The Army also wanted to know if supplies could be returned to the Society if they were not wanted.

The Society indicated that they would certainly be able to supply medicines for an Army of 30,000 men – at ten days notice. and every medicine to be delivered in a ‘most perfect state’ – but not from Depots, which would be removed from the Society’s methods of quality control.  There would be no question of receiving returned unwanted goods!

By Spring 1811, a further letter from the Army Medical Board raised questions about the quality of drugs imported from abroad, suggesting that it was said to be the custom of the druggists ‘after purchasing them in their original state from the Merchants, to assort and mix the different qualities previously to offering them for sale, so that it is difficult, if not impossible, to procure any of the genuine.’  They asked how the Company could ‘obviate this nefarious and dangerous practice’ with respect to Bark: ‘It is understood that the only species of Peruvian Bark which of late years have been imported of distinct fine quality are the Crown Bark and grey silver coated Bark in small quills, but that these are afterwards mixed by the Dealers with others.’  They wanted ‘to be informed whether all the Drugs that are used in a state of Powder are bought by the Company in the gross, and powdered under their own inspection, such as Ipecaccuanha and Jalap, as well as Bark.’

On 13 March 1811 came the reply (no doubt drafted by the Clerk to the Society, Samuel Backler’s father Sotherton Backler):

‘…They [Master and Wardens of this Society] beg to observe that their mode of dealing does not expose them to any of these Inconveniences, as the Drugs sent to them for purchase are (in the language of the Druggists, garbled, that is picked, before they receive them) that they buy by competition, and by sample, without knowing of whom ‘till the purchase is made and without Reference to price or anything but the perfection of the Article to be bought; … On the subject of Bark … [there are] three sorts, corresponding with the directions given them by the College of Physicians’.  These were Yellow Bark (cinchona cordifolia Cortex), quilled or pale Bark (the Crown Bark – cinchona lancifolia cortex), and Red Bark (cinchona oblongifolia Cortex)…The Bark sent by them [Master and Wardens] when simply the Term Bark is employed, is the Cinchona lancifolia or Crown Bark, which is considered as the best Bark in the market…they never purchase any Article used in Medicine in powder…every article of the Materia Medica is bought in the Gross, and powdered at their Mill in the Premises under the Inspection of their very confidential Servants.’

A speedy reply (or rebuke?) on 14 March 1811 suggested that the Army didn’t want to know about the three types of bark – but wanted to know how the Society got the best quality of each type.  Furthermore, the Society had said that when ‘Bark’ is used, it referred only to Crown Bark. But, a sample was purchased  ‘at your Hall in which a proportion of 3 in 16 of the small quilled Bark, a sort considered inferior, was found mixed with the best Crown Bark, the whole being sold as an article of the best quality.’

On the 16th of March the Society replied that when any article was wanted, notice is posted so interested parties, druggists, merchants in the City, will want to produce proper samples.  Re the Bark bought at the Hall, ‘they think it proper to observe that the most eminent Druggists in London are not as yet perfectly decided on every identical piece of the Crown Bark, but at all events, the Committee can only purchase the best Article submitted to them’.  Pharmacists had to judge the quality of cinchona bark, as it arrived at London Docks, by colour and taste. The relationship between commercial barks and botanical species was unclear, and there was no assay to measure the active components.

This episode clearly hit at the heart of the Society’s reputation as provider of pure and high quality substances, and the doubts raised must have resonated throughout the Society and its laboratories.

One historian noted: ‘A further problem was that harvesting the bark of cinchona trees often led to their death. As the trees grew wild, regeneration was not sufficient to maintain supplies. By the beginning of the 19th century, as Spain’s American colonies gained independence, there was serious concern in Europe over the quality, quantity and price of exports of bark. Cinchona was taking on an increasingly important role in the occupation and safe administration of tropical colonies in Asia (India, Indonesia) and Africa.’[3]

At the same time as this spat with the Army Medical Board, Samuel Backler, Sotherton’s son, was trading on his links with the Society to market his own preparation of Peruvian Bark.  In a Times advert of 10 January 1811, we find S. Backler, ‘from Apothecaries’ Hall’, marketing a preparation of Peruvian Bark in the form of an oval tablet equal to one teaspoonful of powdered bark.  The advert modestly states that ‘S.B. confidently assures the faculty and the public that, having studied more than eight years in the chemical department at Apothecaries’ Hall, he is enabled to prepare all sorts of medicines agreeable to the plan pursued there…’

This, along with the advert for asthma preparations discussed above, and several others, such as the one below for whooping cough (BCWG, 16 May 1822 – alas my notes don’t say what ‘BCWG’ stands for, and I cannot find it online!), whooping-cough-bcwg-thu-16-may-1822-p1d1suggest that for a while, at least, Samuel, adept at trading on the name of Apothecaries’ Hall,  pursued a successful career marketing medicines from his laboratory in Covent Garden and later from his home in Berners Street.  To modern eyes, his claims of quality and efficacy make interesting reading indeed!

In the next post, I will follow his life and times as a parent, ‘tobacconist’ and ‘bankrupt’; ‘clerk’ in the 1851 Census; and ‘formerly dispensing chemist’ (his death certificate).  The records show that Samuel  ‘withdrew’ from the Society in 1843, and my feeling about him is that he was first, a poor businessman, and second, that he suffered by not having completed his apprenticeship, therefore not able to make claims to be an apothecary after the Apothecaries’ Act of 1815, which regularised and strengthened the role of apothecaries, forerunners to today’s general practitioners.

[1] ‘A cure for the ague: the contribution of Robert Talbor (1642-81)’. T.W. Keeble J R Soc Med 1997; 90:285-290.

[2] For a very interesting discussion of the uses of Peruvian Bark in the battle against malaria (or ‘fever’, or ‘ague’), see M.R.Lee, ‘Plants against Malaria. Part I: Cinchona or the Peruvian Bark’, J R Coll Physicians Edinb 2002: 32: 189-196

[3] A short history of Cinchona (Kew) http://www.kew.org/collections/ecbot/collections/topic/cinchona/a-short-history-of-cinchona/index.html