Thomas Freeman (1684-1761)

6d. Children of Thomas Freeman and Dennis Gare

In which we quickly consider the descendants of Thomas Freeman and Dennis Gare – excepting those of John Freeman and Ann Backler. We trace links between families, and back to Northamptonshire for those who were in London.

Of eldest child Thomas Freeman (bap 1738 Weedon Bec – ), we know little, other than, as noted in the previous post (6c), that he was a cordwainer in Bedford, with a son Thomas Freeman (approx 1764 – ), who was briefly apprenticed to John Freeman in London before being turned over to John Grant, Citizen and Glover, in 1779. A reference in Bedford Archives catalogue in ‘An Account of the indentures of apprentice bound out by the Bedford Charity’ (X109/1/70) cites ‘John Covington 8 May [1799] to Thomas Freeman of Kingsthorp – shoe maker’. But who knows? End of known story!

Of John Freeman and Ann Backler, we will turn to them in the next post. Their children are direct Backler descendants, while those further mentioned in this post are Backler cousins by marriage.

Of Anne Freeman (bap 23 July 1742 Weedon Bec – ), we know even less than about Thomas. Did she marry? Not sure. And we have no Wills of her parents to see if she is mentioned there. She is not mentioned in her siblings’ Wills so far identified.

Of William Freeman (1745 Weedon Bec -1795), we know more. We have seen in the previous post that he went to London sometime in the 1760s or 70s, and was made free of the Ironmongers in 1787 through his brother John’s recommendation. The record of William’s marriage to Judith T(h)ompson (1756-1785) is one of those felicitous finds that brings some strands together. Taking place at Northampton St Sepulchre on 4 July 1776, it helpfully stipulates that William Freeman is ‘of Cripplegate in the City of London’. The marriage was conducted by C[harles] Tompson, Rector of Mulsoe in the County of Buckinghamshire. who turns out to be Judith’s brother. Witnesses as shown on an ancestry parish record image signed as Geo:Tompson, in a rather large, shaky hand which could be

that of her father, and a very familiar signature for the blog – that of S[otherton] Backler [1746-1819], with its distinctive wavy flourishes seen in many documents of the Society of Apothecaries. This is Ann’s brother, who would eventually become Clerk to the Society. It is surely likely that John Freeman was at his brother’s wedding as well?

George T(h)ompson, Judith’s father, was a Grocer in Northampton, also designated as Alderman in Judith’s baptismal record and Mayor in the baptismal record of his daughter Mary in 1754. His lengthy Will probated in 1787, also the year of his son the Rev Charles Tompson’s death, is long and leaves much property and wealth to innumerable children, including £1,500 in stocks and securities to his son-in-law William Freeman. His daughter Judith also features many times in the Will, but I confess to lack of inclination to decipher it all. The Will was written in 1781, and Judith predeceased her father in 1785, so her legacy would be shared by her surviving children.

William Freeman and Judith Tompson had five children as far as is known. Judith died in 1785, and William in 1795, after which date the surviving youngsters were orphans:

  • Susannah (1777-1778)
  • William (1779 -), married first Mary Hawling, and second Ann Randall, with whom he had two sons, William (1803) and George (1808). We saw in the previous post that William was apprenticed first to his father and then to his uncle John of the Ironmongers. Mention in his brother George’s Will in 1849 would indicate that William was alive then, but I cannot find a suitable death record or Will.
  • George (1780-1854), was also apprenticed to his father, and then turned over to his uncle George Tompson, Judith’s brother, in 1796 after his father’s death. In the 1851 Census he is shown as a 70-year-old retired Grocer, lodging at Radcliffe Terrace, Finsbury, the address given in his brief Will written two years before and proved by his Executor and Nephew John Downes in August 1854, and to whom the rest and residue is bequeathed after £10 and his clothes and linen are left to George’s brother William (see bullet above).
  • Judith Freeman (1781-1854) married John Downes (1781-1849), a wholesale tea dealer. They had at least five children. Their final address was 6 Bedford Place, Russell Square. Judith’s Will written 8 October 1850 would be a delightful read if it were more legible. It specifies exactly what is to go to each child, such as which volumes and editions of books, which silver spoons, which articles of furniture. But life is too short

Of Thomas and Dennis’ last child we can note just John Freeman (bap Sep 1784 St Giles Cripplegate – buried Mar 1785 St Giles Cripplegate, cause of death convulsions).

And so endeth the account of Backler-cousins-by-Freeman-marriage. In the next post we will look at the very many descendants of John Freeman and Anne Backler.

6c. John Freeman (1740-1803) Indigo Maker and Ironmonger from Northamptonshire

In which we look a little more closely at John Freeman (1740-1803), who married Ann Backler (1741-1820), speculating that the woad industry of Northamptonshire prompted his move to London to improve his fortunes in the related industry of indigo making. Also considering his links with the Ironmongers Company and his certain acquaintance (or more?) with the Pellatts, who played a prominent role therein and whose heritage we will examine in future posts.

The tree above will form the basis of this and the next post (or two). It shows two generations of descendants of Thomas FREEMAN (1684-1761) and his wife Dennis GARE (1710-1782). Of particular relevance to this post are John Freeman, who we know married Ann Backler in London, and John’s brother William Freeman (1745-1795), also to be found in London.

From his Will and other sources (see below) we know that John was an Indigo Maker. Without direct evidence, it is possible to speculate that this occupation was related to John’s and brother William’s migration from Northamptonshire to London from an area in Northamptonshire actively involved in the production of dye from woad, a crop widely grown in the area. A post on the Whilton history website describes this industry in some detail. ( ). The post describes the itinerant nature of woad workers, the necessity for communities to separate themselves from the dreadful stink of woad processing (and from the workers who carried this stink with them), and the gains to be made by landowners in letting out fields for growing the biennial crop. Every four years or so, the workers moved on to other sites. One place of residence was in the now-defunct village of Glassthorpe, almost certainly the location cited in entries in the Flore Parish Register, which also indicate that family groups were involved in the woad industry:

. 1732 Apr 9. James son of William & Martha Phipps (Woading-Labourers at Clastrop) was baptized.

1732 July 14. William son of Edward & Mary Phipps (Woaders at Clastrop) was Buried. Affadavit Dated, July 20.

1740 June 22. Elizabeth daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth Neal (Woad-Folks) was Baptized.

1740 July 12. James son of Peter & Elizabeth Neal (Woad-folks) was Baptized.

1740 July 20, James son of Peter & Elizabeth Neal was buried. Affid: Dated, July 25.

Woad was the native-grown plant which produced blue dye, but a richer, darker dye could be got from Indigo, which from the start of the 18th century was increasingly being imported from Asia and the Americas, produced largely through the work of slave or indentured labour. (See, for instance:Blue in Eighteenth Century England: Pigments and Usages. Zoriana Lotut. )

From Northamptonshire to London: At some point, probably in the 1860s, William and John – together or separately? – went to London. The first record we find is that of John, being made free by redemption of the Ironmongers Company, on 24 July 1769. The transcribed record on findmypast shows him as a ‘Blue merchant’, son of Thomas Freeman, gentleman. Proposed by W. Price. In 1787, William Freeman (1745-1795), Indigo Maker, becomes free by redemption, proposed by J Freeman, his older brother (nepotism abounds in the City Livery Companies). Further family links appear in Ironmongers’ records over the next decade:

  • Thomas Freeman is apprenticed to John Freeman, 20 March 1779. This Thomas, said to be aged 15 years, is said in the record to be the son of Thomas Freeman (1738/9 – ), Cordwainer, of Bedford. As mentioned in John Freeman’s Will of 1803, the father is John’s older brother Thomas, baptised in Weedon Bec in 1738/9 and frustratingly elusive after that. Young Thomas, apprenticed first to his uncle John, was shortly after, on 17 June 1779, turned over to John Grant, Citizen and Glover, of the Glovers’ Company. No more is known about Thomas Snr or Jnr. Records from Bedfordshire are not very evident online.
  • Thomas Freeman, this time son of John Freeman (1740-1803), was apprenticed to his father, John Freeman, Indigo Maker of St Giles Cripplegate, on 30 April, 1793, for no consideration. This apprenticeship would see out its full time, with Thomas being made Free by service to his father John, on 30 April 1800. We will return to this Thomas (1779-1853) in a future post.
  • William Freeman (1779 – ), son of William Freeman (1745-1795), who we have seen above, became free of the Ironmongers by redemption, was on 29 August 1793 bound apprentice to his father William Freeman, Little Aldermanbury, Indigo Maker. However, William Snr’s dates as above show that he died in 1795, so on 25 November 1795, young William was ‘turned over’ to his uncle John Freeman, Citizen and Ironmonger, for the duration of his apprenticeship. I have not found a record of William being made free of the Ironmongers.
  • George Freeman (1780-1854) also son of William Snr, on 27 November 1794 was also bound apprentice to his father. After William Snr’s death in 1795, on 19 March 1796, George was turned over to George Tompson (see next bullet point), Citizen and Ironmonger, to serve out his apprenticeship. I have not found a further record of George’s apprenticeship, but we will return to him in future posts.
  • George T(h)ompson (as in the previous bullet point) was made Free by Redemption of the Ironmongers on 24 June 1788, son of George Thompson, Gent (of Northamptonshire). George Jnr was a tea dealer, and was the brother of Judith T(h)ompson ( – 1785), late wife of William Freeman Snr. George was proposed for his freedom by … John Freeman! (Are you keeping up? – nepotism, indeed.) We will return to this family in a later post.

The Aldermanbury Postern address, hard by the city walls in St Giles Cripplegate, was the site of the indigo makers variably named as Grace and Freeman (appearing in London directories between 1781 and 1794), later Freeman John & Son (by 1803), then Freeman and North (1817). William Freeman (died 1795) and Henry Grace (died 1798), and John Freeman, were in partnership, with John taking over for the brief period after their deaths until his own in 1803, the original partnership having been dissolved in 1795, just before William’s death, as recorded in the London Gazette as follows:

June 24, 1795. The partnership subsisting between Henry Grace, John Freeman and William Freeman, in the Business carried on under the firm of Grace and Freemans of Aldermanbury Postern, London, Indigo Blue Manufacturers, is this Day, by mutual Consent, dissolved, the Share of the said Henry Grace being made over to the remaining partners, the said John Freeman and William Freeman, who undertake to settle all Matters relating to the said Copartnership. Henry Grace. Wm. Freeman. John Freeman. The London Gazette Issue 13790. 23 June 1795. p. 663

I am not sure who took over after John Freeman died in 1803. Could the ‘and Son’ have been his son Thomas, who had served his apprenticeship under John and then been made free of the Ironmongers? Suffice to say that at his death in Brighton in 1853, as a ‘Merchant’ he was evidently a very wealthy man. The source of his fortune is unknown. We will meet this family again.

This post has aimed at locating John Freeman and his brother William in London from their Northamptonshire origins. A review of their families in future posts will very partially uncover the tangled roots of the Freeman and related families.

6a. Ann Backler and John Freeman: exploring a newly-discovered (and extensive) Backler line

In which we unveil some details about Ann Backler (1741-1820) and her husband John Freeman, Indigo Maker (1740 – 1803), spurred on by contact to this blog by a very distant cousin descended from this partnership. In this and some subsequent posts we will briefly look at the Freeman family, and then (again, briefly) follow the many descendants, featuring some great wealth, and lots of clergy and military folk. We will move on from the report in Blogpost 6, ‘The Family of Sotherton Backler, Apothecary, and his wife Ann Ashley’ which stated as follows:

Ann 1741 –       m. John Freeman 12 July 1770 at St Andrew by the Wardrobe/St Ann Blackfriars, witnessed by S Backler and Sarah Rowley. Nothing more is known about Ann and John. [But, now, read on…]

John Freeman, of the Parish of St Ann Blackfriars, Bachelor, and Ann Backler, of the Parish of St Dunstan in the West, Spinster, were married by Licence at St Andrew by the Wardrobe on 7 July 1770. Witnesses were S Backler [her brother Sotherton Backler (1746-1819)], Sarah Rowley [not sure who she is] and Elizabeth Backler [almost certainly Ann’s sister, born 1748/9, whose fate I have not managed to trace. The tree below shows the married couple and their six children (of whom more in succeeding blogposts). The baptism records of some of the children show that John was an Indigo Maker.

John FREEMAN (1740-1803) was born in Weedon Bec, Northamptonshire, son of Thomas FREEMAN (1684-1761) and Dennis [sic] GARE (1710-1782). I spent many engaging hours in the summer of 2022 working with distant cousin Chris to disentangle the various lineages originating in Northamptonshire and linked in many different ways to Ann Backler and John Freeman. My challenge is to get them into some kind of order for the purposes of my Backler blog! The very many descendants of John Freeman and Ann Backler are cousins of one sort or another with me and the other Backler descendants chronicled on this site – all sharing in some degree as grandparents, Sotherton Backler (1704 – 1763) and Ann Ashley (c.1714-1768).

For some time I had linked the name of Ann Backler with that of John Freeman, but it wasn’t until his death date of 1803 was suggested to me that I identified the correct John Freeman, among many possibilities, and found his Will, clearly citing his brother-in-law Sotherton Backler as an executor. The Will was one of those very helpful ones, citing lots of clearly-labelled relations. It showed that John Freeman was resident in Newington Green, Middlesex, hard by Islington and Stoke Newington, the places of residence of many of our Backler and, later on, Boulding and Pellatt ancestors. However, John wished to be buried at St Ann Blackfriars, right by the Society of Apothecaries and the site of many Backler baptisms and burials.

By the time of drafting his Will, just one of John and Ann’s children had married, three having pre-deceased them. Mary, the youngest, had in 1802 married to soon-to-become very-wealthy Richard Pack, cited as an executor in John’s Will. (More about them anon.) Son Thomas would marry soon after his father’s death, and daughter Sarah would follow a couple of years later. She is left a handsome legacy, with provision after John’s wife Ann’s death for both daughters and their children. Also mentioned are John’s niece, Mary Gough (which, in sorting out various Freeman families in Northants helps to confirm John’s family), and John’s brother Thomas, of Bedford – a mysterious soul, indeed. The Will shows that John owned a house in Fore Street, Cripplegate, where the Sotherton Backlers also had lived – could this house have come to him on his marriage to Ann?

John Freeman was the great grandson of Richard FREEMAN [1] ( – 1694) and Mary GODFREY [sometimes GODFREE] of Brockhall (1622-1691). Brockhall was one centre of residence for the Freemans, Godfreys and others prominent in John Freeman’s family tree. Adjacent parishes include Dodford, Norton, Whilton and Flore, all places of births, marriages and burials of various kin.

Richard Freeman [1] was a Bonesetter, a largely un-formally-trained version of an osteopath, chiropractor and physiotherapist. Such was his fortune, however acquired, that in 1644 he purchased the Manor of Whilton. His and Mary’s son Richard FREEMAN [2] (1646-1684, note he died ten years before his father, so Richard [1’s] grandson inherited) married his cousin Elizabeth GODFREY. ‘Our’ John FREEMAN was the youngest son of Richard FREEMAN [2].

A number of features marked Whilton in this period. First, and perhaps relevant to the bonesetting, was the Civil War. Northamptonshire supported the Parliamentarians, but battles took place all around the area, including in Whilton and Flore, and notably at nearby Naseby.

Not having found any contextual information for that period, there is later evidence found by my Freeman-sleuthing partner: reference to Mr Freeman, Bonesetter in Memoires of the Verney Family, Vol IV, downloaded from

Young Edmund Verney, a student at Oxford from 1685-8, has had an accident, and damaged his elbow. On 6 April 1687, his father wrote to Dr Thomas Sykes: ‘ This day about noone yr Messenger Brought me the ill newse of my Sonnes unlucky accident last Munday. I am very sorry for it : But am extremely joyfull to under- stand by you that the worst is past with this and that He is in so fayre a way of amendment soe I Hope There is noe Danger in a dislocation of an Elbow, where such excellent Chirurgions and Bone setters are at Hand, and Physitians if occasion Be : I Guesse This was done at wrestling…’ However, the arm continued to prove troublesome, and by May young Edmund still did not have proper use of it. On 14 May 1687, his tutor wrote to the lad’s father, also Edmund: ‘His arme is free from paine, but he hath not yet the right use of it, And upon that Account as soon as I was fearfull that all was not right, I would have had him gone home to you in order to his consulting some very skilfull Chirurgion, and particularly advised him to one Mr. Freeman who lives near Daventry in Northamptonshire, and is every market Day Here at the Wheatsheaf. This man here is look’d upon by Physitians and others as the most skilfull Bone setter in all England, And therefore I had a desire that your Sonn should have his opinion ;‘ On 22 May 1687, young Edmund’s father wrote: ‘The famous Bone setter Mr. ffreeman Lookt upon the arm and ffelt it, and sayd it is right sett, and nothing out, but That the sinues are shrunk wch makes Him That Hee cannot Hold his Arme streight : But Mr. ffreeman sayes his Arme will Do well : and Be as streight as ever, if Hee Doth use it and exercise it with care : and ffollow his directions and prescriptions.

An entry in the Parish Register of Brockhall does record one impact of the Civil War: ‘May 4th 1653. Brockhall Parsonage was by Mr. James Cranford resigned to the Present Rector thereof Mr. William Borlee, who by Reason of the Warrs between the Royalist [sic] and Parliamentarians not being Constant Resident until February 2nd 1646 noe Just Account could be taken of the Severall Baptizeings Marriages and Burrials.

Whether the above hiatus also afftected a delay in baptising of Richard Freeman [2] from his birth in 1646 to his Baptism in 1650 is not known. What is known is that he and Elizabeth Godfrey had five children, of whom the oldest, Richard [3] (1677-1749) and the youngest, Thomas Freeman (1684, the year of his father’s death – 1761) are most relevant to our story.

First off, Richard [3] (1677-1749) had two wives, Mary CORPSON (1680-1707) – 6 children, most of whom were short-lived except for the Rev. John Freeman (1703-1786), educated at Pembroke College Oxford and then Rector of Louth in Lincolnshire. His half-siblings were the children of Richard FREEMAN [3] and his second wife, Elizabeth LANGTON (1688-1761), whose first son the Rev Langton Freeman (1710-1784) inherited Whilton Manor. Langton was the oldest of ten children, and an avowed eccentric. His and his siblings’ stories are interwoven throughout the vicinity, including Daventry, Northampton, and into Warwickshire. Much too numerous to delineate here, and anyway, they aren’t Backler descendants! His Will, however, made unusual provision for his interment:

first, his body to lie in the Bed in which he dies for four or five days until it becomes offensive; then to be moved in the Bed to the summerhouse in the garden, ‘and to be wrapped in a strong double winding sheet, and in all other respects to be interred as near as may be to the description we receive in Holy Scripture of Our Saviours Burial. The doors and windows to be locked up or bolted and to be kept as near and in the same manner and state as they shall be at the time of my Decease. And I desire that the Building or Summer House may be planted around with evergreen plants and fenced off with Iron or Oak pales and painted of a blue colour. For carrying this out, he gives Whilton to his nephew Thomas Freeman (1746-1801), son of Langton’s brother Thomas (1715-1777) and his second wife Anne Adams ( – 1781). Nephew Thomas died in 1802, and the estate passed to his daughter Marianne (1788-1866), who had married Dr Charles Rattray ( – 1836). The estate was then sold.

This takes us to the branch, founded by Richard FREEMAN [2] and Elizabeth GODFREY, and of direct interest to the Backler story: that of Thomas FREEMAN and his wife Dennis GARE. BUT, to develop this story in bitesized chunks, I will leave this family to the next post! Hopefully there won’t be too much of a gap before it appears.