Mary (PELLATT) BACKLER (1789-1857)

31. Highgate Cemetery – last resting place for some Backler ancestors

In which we view the rather wooded (understatement!) last resting place of some Backler/Abelin ancestors, and reflect on how moving it is to be there, despite the absence of any visible marker.

I see from my photographs that it was way back in 2010 that I ventured to north London to visit Highgate Cemetery.  New online records had shown this to be the last resting place for Samuel Backler and his wife Mary [nee Pellatt].  What was once a major privately-owned cemetery, run by the London Cemetery Company, is now under the care of the charitable Friends of Highgate Cemetery, a similar arrangement to those of the other great municipal cemeteries such as Nunhead in south London, where other Backlers are interred.  Nowadays the focus of the Friends is not only on burials, which continue to take place in quite small numbers, but also on conservation of both its memorials and of nature in line with its overall purpose to ‘promote the public benefit’.

On writing to the Friends, I received a letter revealing that more folk than Samuel (1870) and Mary (1857) shared the gravesite: their daughter Susannah (1883) (whose marriages to James Boulding and Edwin Cross will feature in future posts); Esther Maria (1918) (wife of Magnus Christian Abelin); and their daughter-in-law Edith Ann (nee Foster) Abelin (1928).

I had high hopes as I arrived at the Cemetery for my appointment to be escorted to the gravesite.  Immediately, however, I was warned by my guide that there was nothing to see.  Up the hill we marched, past the famous sites of the Egyptian Avenue and the Terrace Catacombs, curving around to the right along a roughly paved path.  My guide had searched out the area previously, so knew when to turn right off the path, into a treacherous wooded and overgrown section, with monuments in different states of repair, and unstable ground.

We reached a spot where he had laid out sticks to mark the spot – and that was it!  I was very moved, albeit a bit disappointed. Despite the presence of monuments nearby, my guide had explored the area, probing with his stick, and had not found a memorial at our site.  There was surely once one there, but no longer.

This was an area in the early West Cemetery on high ground, which at the time of the earliest Backler burials would have had a view over London.  It was a fashionable and beautiful site, allowed to become run down during the 20th century.

A very special place: Highgate Cemetery is a Grade 1 listed site, and is a very special place not only for those whose ancestors and more recent relatives are interred there, but also for anyone interested in its historical importance for London.  I feel privileged to have ancestors for whom it was their last resting place, and have become a life member of the Friends in order to support their ongoing work.  I am sorry I now live so far away!

More about the Cemetery, its history and present day events can be found at: https://highgatecemetery.org/

28. 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.

 

 

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.