Samuel Backler

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


3. Samuel Backler – lapsed schoolmaster of Ashwell

In which I describe a rather less than flattering account of the career of Samuel Backler as schoolmaster of Ashwell, Herts.

In my first blog I wrote about Samuel Backler, Vicar of Newnham, and later of Ashwell in Hertfordshire. Like many vicars, he took on the role of schoolmaster as well, assuming this role in 1683 while he was vicar of Newnham, a neighbouring parish. The school was owned by the Merchant Taylor’s Company of London and, according to an article about the school by David Short in the Spring 2010 edition of ‘Herts Past & Present’, Samuel Backler’s tenure as schoolmaster was not without its problems. The Minute books of the Company record that complaints were made about ‘severall misdemeanors’ committed by Mr Backler in around 1693 – the nature of which was not divulged. Indeed, a few years later the Company voted Mr Backler £25 to enlarge the schoolhouse – a building still standing in Mill Street, Ashwell. When Samuel Backler’s son Samuel went up to Cambridge, he was said to have been educated at Ashwell School – presumably by his father. But by 1718, two years before Samuel Sr’s death, the parishioners of Ashwell complained to the Merchant Taylors that there had been no school at Ashwell for several years, and that the schoolhouse was let out. A month after the Company sent a stern letter to Backler, suggesting that for the ‘notorious neglect of your office you be suspended from the said office of Master and the salary thereto belonging…’, his resignation was accepted by the Court of the Company.
The author of the article speculates that Samuel Backler, having become Vicar of Ashwell in 1714, may have moved from the schoolhouse to the Vicarage, and then let out the schoolhouse.
As to his neglect of teaching duties, no explanation is available.

The image of Ashwell School House is taken from:

2. Discovering the Backlers of Apothecaries Hall


Apothecaries Hall

Apothecaries Hall

My first blog about the Backlers – ‘Samuel Backler, Vicar of Ashwell, Herts’ – set out my knowledge to date about my 6x great grandfather, Samuel Backler. This blog describes how I discovered his identity, and also that of four of his descendants – all apothecaries ‘of Apothecaries Hall’.

Ever since my mother and I had found some precious marriage certificates at the old family history centre in London’s St Catherine House, I had known that my 3x great grandfather was Samuel Backler, who in 1810 had married Mary Pellatt, daughter of the famous glassmaker Apsley Pellatt. Searches on the surname ‘Backler’ in The Times of London at around that date showed that, in advertising his wares, Samuel described himself as being ‘of Apothecaries Hall’, with cures and treatments available from his elaboratory in Bedford Street, Covent Garden. I knew nothing about apothecaries, nor about City Livery companies. I had a treat in store.

Backlers at the Society of Apothecaries
When I mustered the courage in 2009 to enquire about Samuel from the Society’s archivist, I was delighted to received the following reply from the then archivist:

`I write in reply to your email enquiry … concerning your ancestor Samuel Backler. I don’t think you realise that he was a third (and last) generation Backler connected with, and a member of, the Society of Apothecaries. His grandfather So(u)therton Backler had been Beadle and his father (same name) the Clerk. I don’t think Samuel completed his apprenticeship and so was not technically a qualified apothecary…I think it would be best if you came to the Hall to consult the records yourself …’

My first visit to Apothecaries Hall was like stumbling into an ancestral (and historical) wonderland. There was information about four Backlers, from the so-called ‘Cecil Wall cards’, so named after the Clerk to the Society who sometime in the early 20th century indexed references to the Society’s members from documents such as Court Minutes, apprentice registers and much more.

Two Sotherton Backlers, plus John and Samuel
Sotherton senior’s card took me back two generations from Samuel, and provided invaluable information in several respects. The card showed that the first Sotherton (1704 -1763) was the son of the Rev. Samuel Backler, of Ashwell, Herts and that Sotherton was apprenticed to Apothecary Daniel Hanchett in 1721. Sotherton was made ‘free’ of the Society of Apothecaries in 1732, was elected Beadle in 1757, and died in 1763. His wife Ann (nee Ashley) had become Butler on his appointment as Beadle, and she continued in this role – and was also a Society pensioner – until her death in December 1768.

The Beadle’s son, also Sotherton, had become deputy Clerk in 1802 and was Clerk from 1806-1816, when, according to the notes, ‘the Society presented him with a piece of plate on his resignation, value 50 gns’. He attended the bicentenary dinner in 1817 as the Navy Accountant, and was elected Secretary to the Friendly Medical Society which post he held from 1799-1816.

The second Sotherton’s son Samuel (1784-1870) had been apprenticed in 1800 to Thomas Hall, but on his Master’s death, 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 – I suspect due to his waning fortunes, which had included bankruptcy as a tobacconist in 1831.

These three men were my 5x, 4x, and 3x great grandfathers.

But there was a fourth Backler – John Backler (c. 1780-1846), the second Sotherton’s son by his first marriage (and therefore Samuel’s half brother). John had been apprenticed to his father Sotherton, and further research through other sources showed that he had a troubled career, shortly after his father’s death in 1819 having to go to Paris to avoid court proceedings over his business dealings.

Armed with this information, I could investigate further the lives and careers of these four apothecaries – a topic about which I knew very little!

In my next blog I will look at the life and times of the first Sotherton Backler, and explore just what was meant in his role as ‘Beadle’ to the Society. After that I will look at the second (surviving) Sotherton who became first, Deputy Clerk, and then Clerk, from 1806-1816, and his involvement with arrangements for the Society’s participation in Admiral Lord Nelson’s funeral procession on the River Thames in 1806.

Further ahead, I will look at a trade issue arising in correspondence by the Society with the Army Medical Board in 1810-1811, concerning, among other matters, the quality of Peruvian Bark (or Jesuits’ Bark, or cinchona), and the coincidence of timing with the trade of the afore-mentioned Samuel Backler, my 3x great grandfather. 

In all of these blogs I will also describe what I know of these men’s families, finishing my stories of the Backlers with a look at the career of the 19th century cleric, Sotherton Backler, and that of his half brother, John Backler, apothecary.

1. Samuel Backler, Vicar of Ashwell, Herts


In which I  give some information about Samuel Backler of Ashwell, Hertfordshire ([?]1662 – 1720), his marriage and children; and then pose some questions about his origins. 

In my next blogs I will trace the life and times of the many men named Sotherton Backler, who, apart from the cleric son Samuel, are the descendants about whom I have documented evidence. 

Samuel BACKLER – my 6x great grandfather – died in Ashwell Herts in 1620 (the parish church of St Mary is in the photo).  He was buried on September 5th. He was ordained deacon (Lincoln) June, 1683, then was Vicar of Newnham, Herts, 1684-1713,  Curate of Astwick, Beds, 1697-1701, serving as Vicar of Ashwell and schoolmaster there from 1713 until his death.  Sadly, his records on the Church of England database do not give his father’s name.  Nor do those of Christ’s College, Cambridge, whose records show:
Name: Samuel Backler
College: CHRIST’S
Matric. sizar from CHRIST’S, Michs. 1678; B.A. 1679-80; M.A. 1683.

At London’s St Gregory by St Paul:

‘Samuel Backler of the County of Harford Clerk to Mary Howorth of St Botolph Aldersgate by License. Marryed 4 January 1686′.  (Ancestry features in its London Metropolitan Archives – LMA – collection, a marriage bond signed by Sa Backler and Jo Somerscales in its marriage bonds and allegations collections. It is in Latin and seems pretty undecipherable – any Latin specialists out there?)

On the same day, Elizabeth Howorth of St Botolph Aldersgate was married to John Somerscales of St Michel Wood Street

In November 1686, Mrs Margaret Howorth had been buried in woollen in Newnham.  Was she related to Margaret and Elizabeth?

The births (and deaths) of the Backler children

Samuel and Mary had nine children, many of whom did not survive infancy.  As vicar, he had the sad task of burying 4 of his infant children.  The family comprised:

Mary Backler c. 27 December 1687 [her fate is not known]

Ann Backler christened 5 April 1689, buried August 1689 in Newnham

Samuel Backler c. 1690.  Educated at Ashwell School, he also attended Christ’s College Cambridge, matriculating in 1710, and receiving his BA in 1713-14.   According to Alumni Cantabrigiensis, he was ordained Deacon, St Mary Aldermary and Priest Sep 22 1717,  Lambeth Parish Church. He then became Vicar of Lowesby, Leics, 23 Sep 1717, Curate Rearsby, Leics. 5 June 1719, succeeding his father in 1720 as Vicar of Ashwell, Herts.  He moved on 17 Feb 1728 to be Rector at Battlesden Beds., from which he is said to have resigned in 1733.  No further information is known of him – did he marry? When and where did he die?  Did he emigrate?  Send word!

John Backler christened 2 December 1692, buried 26 December 1692 in woollen, in Newnham, Herts

Anne Backler christened 1694, buried on 12 July 1694 in Newnham, Herts

Anne Backler christened 1698 [her fate is not known]

John Sotherton Backler christened 4 August 1699 – buried 13 August 1699.  This is the first known use of the name ‘Sotherton’ in this family.  Was it a geographical association with Sotherton, Suffolk (see below)?

Sotherton Backler (my 5x great grandfather) christened 5 February 1703/4.  Much, much more about him and his descendants to come in future blogs!

John Backler christened 19 July 1706 [his fate is not known]

Mary (Howorth) Backler was buried on 1 September 1728 in Ashwell.

Some questions to ponder

Was Samuel Backler, Clerk, the son of Samuel Backler and Ann Ede, who married in Huntingdon in April 1660, and whose son Samuel was born on 13 April 1662 and christened in Huntingdon on 30 April 1662?  The dates seem possible – BUT there were quite a few ‘Samuel Backler’s’ around at the time.  How can we be sure this is the right one?

A Mrs Anne Backler, widow, was buried in Ashwell on 31 May, 1716, in woollen, in ‘ye 87 year of her age’.  This extra information is highlighted in the entry written by Samuel Backler, vicar.  Could this have been his mother, Ann Ede?

How did  Samuel Backler (Clerk’s) father Samuel – if, indeed, that is his father – link in with the various Backler families in East Anglia in the 16th and 17th centuries?  For instance, the family of Richard Backler in Dedham; or John Backler, Grocer, of Stratford? Or, as one record suggests, was he the nephew of Samuel Backler, of Whatfield, who was ejected in 1662 and died in East Bergholt? Whose family was he part of? 

Is it too much of a coincidence to link the name ‘Sotherton’ – about which there will be much more in future blogs – with the record on findmypast showing that Mary BACKLER  was christened in Sotherton, Suffolk, on 4 April 1659, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Backler?

And there I will leave my first Backler blog.  I hope to be back soon, to introduce readers to the First Sotherton Backler and his career as an apothecary in London.