Sunday, 14 October 2012

Kirkby Thore, Bridge End Farm.

Bridge End Farm, Kirkby Thore [1]

For most of us who are researching our family history, if we go far enough back there is likely to be a farm at the end of the trail.

Bridge End Farm at Kirkby Thore in the former county of Westmoreland is one of these farms in my case.

It appears to have been the childhood home of my great great great grandfather William Nicholson (1780 - 1859). William was the sixth of eight children of John Nicholson of Southwaite and Ann Graham. [2] Together with his elder brother John Nicholson (1774-1863) he would go down to London to found J&W Nicholson, Gin Distillers.

The farm passed to the eldest brother, James Nicholson (1773-1827), however it is clear that William remained interested in events at his childhood home long into his adulthood as the following letters will demonstrate.

These letters come from a collection that has passed down to me through the maternal lines, with each generation passing it to another chosen lady, Nicholson, Greatrex, Hancock, Balmer until in my generation, we are only boys.

The earliest letter to survive was written on the 20th September 1816, from Kirkby Thore and appears to have been written by John Nicholson, the son of William Nicholson (1780-1859) to his Grandmother Mrs. Pane.  Mrs. Pane whose name was usually spelt Payne, was the daughter of Richard Payne "of Rochester."

20th. Sept-. 1816.

 Dear Grandmother.

I take the present Opportunity of addressing you, to let you see a Specimen of my writing, which, I know will give you great Pleasure. I am a great deal taller since I. came to Kirkbythore and am so much improved in my look that I think you would scarcely know me.

My Brother William and I like this Country very well and are very content.

Give my kind love to my Mother and Sisters, and accept the same yourself, together with my best thanks 

for all your kind Presents.

I remain, Dear Grandma',
yours affectionately,
John Nicholson.

 Mrs. Pane.
at J. and W. Nicholsons, Distillers,
Woodbridge Street, Clerkenwell,

That the connection remained strong is demonstrated by the following letter from John Nicholson, (son of Thomas Nicholson (1777-1841), to his Uncle William Nicholson. Thomas was the second son of John and Ann Nicholson, who had inherited the farm when the eldest son James Nicholson had died on the 9th of May 1827.

 Kirkbythore Bridge End,
                                                         Sepr. 18th 1845.

                My Dear Uncle,
                                                I take up my pen to write a few lines to you, in answer to the queries of your letter of the 23rd. of Aug. in respect of the crops.  At the same time I hope it will find you and all my friends in London enjoying good health as it leaves us all the same.  And that the heifers have arrived safe at Highgate.
                We got the Wheat Crop all under Cover on Saturday last.  In the slack places where it was so much laid there will be little or nothing in it, but upon the hills it will be beyond an average of the county.  In point of bulk of straw we never cut such a large crop within my 

recollection.  There was above seventy stooks per acre, which would have produced in a good year 7 qrts. Per acre, but I don’t think we shall have above 4 in the very best part of a field, and I don’t expect above one qr. In per acre in the slacks.  We have a splendid crop of Barley and Oats, I expect that we shall be able to deliver to the Brewers not much short of 200 qrs. Of Barley of 31 acres of land, and the Oats are beyond average.  We shall finish cutting corn this week but we have got nothing in up to this time except Wheat.  We have had 3 weeks of very fine weather up to yesterday when the weather broke down with rain and it continues showery today, with every appearance of more bad weather, and the Barometer is very low.

Our neighbour Mr. Crosby is busy cutting a noble crop of Oats on Brampton Moor, but has not got anything housed as yet.
                Your nephew James Atkinson got a Son and heir a fortnight gone Tuesday.  I saw him a few days ago and told him about the Wheat, and he said that he had not given you any information on the important subject, which I thought was very remiss on his part.  I told him that I was going to write to you and I would tell him what had happened, but you will have heard ere this though some other channel.  And all that I can say is that Mrs. Atkinson and her infant are doing as well as her friends could wish.
                I will be much obliged to you to give me intelligence how the price of Barley is likely to be this year.
                My kind love to Aunt and Cousins, and accept the same yourself,
                                From Your Affectionate Nephew,
                                                              John Nicholson
                                            I hope you will excuse my scrawl as it was done in a very
                                         Great hurry. J.N.

Wm. Nicholson.                                  
114 St. John Street.                                         

William's nephew James Atkinson mentioned is the son of William's elder sister Sarah Nicholson (1772- who had married Richard Atkinson on 18th April 1799 at Kirkby Thore.

There are many mentions of this family in the Kendal Mercury. My great great great great grandmother, Ann Nicholson, nee Graham death was noted as follows..

"At Kirkby Thore, the 5th inst., Mrs. Ann Nicholson, late Kirkby Thore Bridge End, aged 88 years—highly respected."

Kendal Mercury - Saturday 10 October 1835.[3]

Unfortunately in 1846 John Nicholson would misjudge the amount of barley he was able to offer for sale incorrectly and this would land him in court.  Thomas, his father would die on the 25th October 1847, and he may have already been ill, leaving his relatively inexperienced son in difficulty.

"COUNTY COURT, PENRITH. Monday. (Before T. H. Ingham, Esq., Judge.) There was this day a very extraordinary number of trifling cases, which were soon despatched. The court was crowded from an early hour, as several very interesting trials were anticipated. We shall notice the most important.  
New Brewery, Penrith, v. Mr. Nicholson, of Kirkby Thore. This was an action brought to recover £20 damages, for an alleged breach of bargain. Mr Wm. Blaymire appeared for plaintiffs, and Mr Jameson for defendant. John Harvey, agent to the New Brewery Company, said that in September, 1846, he bought all the barley Mr Nicholson had at 13s. 6d. per bushel. That Mr Nicholson had supplied to the New Brewery Co. 150 bushels only new and old, though he had that year 30 acres which, on average, would yield 300 bushels. Walter Wilson, maltster at the New Brewery, remembered Nicholson delivering the last 50 bushels of barley, and saying that he had other 50 ready for coming. Edward Robson, formerly brewer to the Company, remembered Thomas Nicholson coming to the Brewery and asking for empty sacks. He (Robson) told him of a party with whom the New Brewery Company had agreed to take the whole of his barley; but the party question, in consequence of the advance in the price, had refused to bring any more. Nicholson repudiated the selfishness of the individual, and said that Mr Harvey had bought all his barley, and he would deliver it, and he would have delivered it at whatever price he had bargained for. Other witnesses were called, the tendency of whose evidence was to prove that the defendant, after the advance in price, had refused to supply the barley according to bargain. Mr Jameson rose to reply for the defendant, and said that the evidence which he would bring forward would entirely contradict the evidence to which they had been listening. The plain bargain was, that Mr Harvey was to have all the new barley the defendant could spare. Mr Nicholson had about 100 head of cattle in 1846-the potato crop was a failure, as was the turnip crop to a considerable extent, and was it likely, with the fact of the failure before him, that Mr Nicholson would make a bargain as foolish as that which had been stated the plaintiffs? Was it likely that Mr Nicholson would sell the whole of his barley, and reserve none for the consumption of his family and cattle? Thomas Nicholson said that he never agreed to sell the whole of his barley, but merely what he had to spare. Other witnesses made similar statements. The Judge, in summing up to the jury, said if they believed Mr Harvey's statement of the bargain which Mr Nicholson had made, however foolish, he was bound to stand to it; but if, on the other hand, they believed Mr Nicholson, the case was widely different. These points he left for their consideration. Verdict for the plaintiffs,-- damages, £20. Mr Jameson moved for a new trial, as he said the jury had given their verdict contrary to evidence."
Kendal Mercury - Saturday 08 April 1848 [4]

I would be fascinated to learn more about Bridge Farm and the other people mentioned in these letters, and I would be very pleased to hear from you if you know anything more about their lives.

[1] Photo from Google Streetview.
[2] Rev'd Nigel Nicholson, Nicholson, being a compilation of family trees, published 1996.
[3] & [4] British Library Newspaper Archive.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Covent Garden & Sir John Baber, the Plague and a vanished monument

Fig. 1. Covent Garden in 1737 by Balthazar Nebot 
[Please click on image for larger version.]

The following blog is written in the hope that it might attract the attention of somebody with a deeper knowledge of events in Covent Garden during the period between 1650 and 1700 than I currently have, or who may have had access to records or accounts that I have yet to find.

My interest in Covent Garden stems from the discovery that one of my great x 8 grandfathers, Sir John Baber was a doctor living in Covent Garden at the time of the 1665 Plague and the 1660 Great Fire of London.

At the time he was one of three Physician's to King Charles II, and it is clear that he played a leading role in events during the plague of 1665.

That his role had been very important is demonstrated by the gratitude of the local community expressed in the erection of a stone column that once stood in the centre of the Plaza at Covent Garden, and which can clearly been seen in Balthazar Nebot's painting and several other paintings from the period.

The column was erected in 1668-9 and stood there until about 1750.  It was erected by a Mr. Tomlinson, a churchwarden using funds raised by the parishioners of Covent Garden.

Fig. 2. Extract from Nebot's painting showing the column.

“The churchwardens of St Paul's Church accounts record that 

"Upon due consideration of those many signall services, that the Honorable Sir John Baber hath don this Parish from Time to Time Wee thought it good to affix his Coate of Armes, in one of the Sheilds belonging to the Colume, as a Perpetuall acknowledgement of our gratitude, and to Refuse any present from him that should be tendered Towards the Charge thereof.” [1]

Fig3. Photo of a miniature of Sir John Baber by Gibson.

By 1665 Sir John Baber had been Physician to King Charles II for about four years. He was one of three Physician's who took it in turn to attend at court on the King, for which he was promised payment for 112 days per year.

In October 1667, Sir John petitioned “for a warrant for payment from the Exchequer of 954l 4s. arrears of his pension of 12s a day, from 1st December 1662 to 16th April 1667, there being no fund at the Green Cloth from which it can be paid.”.  He annexed a “Note of monies due to Sir John Baber; for 1597 days, total., 958l 4s.”[2]

It is thought that he had obtained this post through the recommendation of a near neighbour, Dr. Manton, rector of St. Paul's Covent Garden, who with other Presbyterian divines, had taken prominent part in the restoration Charles II. He had however had the honour of Knighthood being also bestowed on him 19 March 1660 at the Restoration, immediately after the King had returned from exile, which suggests that he had played some part in those events.

I have no real idea what this role was?

Can anybody point me in the direction of any accounts that cover his involvement, or which might have clues in them?

It is a great pity that no account seems to have survived of Sir John’s role during the Great Plague.
That he did play a significant role is however clear from the following document, which describes arrangements that were made so that the Court could return to London, from it’s self imposed exile to Oxford made to avoid becoming caught up in the epidemic.

December 19th 1665. Westminster.

Edm Godfrey to Fras. Lann.  Memoranda to be imparted to Mountjoy Earl of Newport.

            The workhouse in the New Churchyard is finished, and the vault made the largest burying place in England.  The Lords Chamberlain’s letter, published by the King’s order in all churches near Whitehall, has been of great use to prevent the swarming of rascally lodgers, who, if they have not occasioned, have greatly spread the plague there, and brought more charge on the inhabitants than they are able to support.

            All the common Sewers and watercourses have been cleaned against the return of the King and Court.  Has paid Dr. Innard at the pest house 200l, for services till All Hallow’s Day.
            Since which he pretends to higher terms, on some agreement with Sir John Baber.  He and all his regiment are to be dismissed the pesthouse, except three warders and a nurse or two, to prevent its being pulled down as formerly.

            Has met Mr. Warcupp twice a week in Convent Garden Vestry Meetings; they have agreed well, and the people seem satisfied with there government, except some poor, who cry out through dearness of fuel, and want of employment because King & Court are away, and some of the nobility and gentry forget their debts as well as their charity.  They have ordered all churchyards where many have been buried to be filled up with fresh mould, and earth a yard high laid on the graves etc. etc.[4]

From the above text it would appear that Sir John must have been one of those people in authority, who had remained in London to battle with the disease amongst those who could not flee. 

As both one of the local doctors and also a Justice of the Peace, I expect that he must have been amongst those who attended the meetings of the St. Paul’s Vestry which had taken place twice a week. I expect Sir John had had to promise Dr. Innard and his brave staff a great deal, in order to get them to remain at their post in the Pesthouse.

Inhabitants of Yaverland to Sir W. Oglander
The Humble desire of ye Inhabitants of yaverland August the 30th (65)
These few lines are to entreate yor worpp for to send to Bradinge yt they might sett a watch & ward to keepe out all newport people out of the towne wee are resolved to keepe a gard day & night att yarbridge & wee have beene with Major Holmes att the fort & he hath promise that none shall come that way & we doe understand that the Lady Richards is minded to come to Yaverland too morrow but we are resolved for to stop her & not to lett her come in & wee are fearfull if she might come in thorough Brading & soe to come over the wall by ye sluce therefore we thought fitt to acquainte your worshipp with it hopeinge that yor worshipp will send to Bradinge that they might secure that way 

In much of Europe there was a tradition of building ornamental columns to celebrate a city or towns deliverance from the Plague.  The Piazza at Covent Garden when it was originally laid out had an empty square.  At some point in the 1630’s a single solitary tree was planted in the centre of the Piazza surrounded by some wooden railings.  In 1668 it was decided by the parishioners that a column be erected to replace the tree which was not growing very well.  A Mr. Tomlinson, who was probably Richard Tomlinson, a churchwarden, proposed the erection of the column.  In 1668 he informed the vestry: -

“that he and his gentlemen had a desire to erect a Doricke columne of polished marble, for the support of a quadrangular dyall in the midst of the railes where now the trees are, it being very improbable that they should ever come to any maturity.” [6]

The Churchwarden’s accounts for 1668-9 record the receipts of gifts “towards the Erecting of the Columne - £20 from the fifth Earl of Bedford, and £10 each from Sir Charles Cotterell, master of ceremonies, and Lord Denzil Holles. 

£90 was paid to “Mr Keizar at the Sculpture of the Pallas for the Columne”, 8s. 6d. to Mr Wainwright for the four gnomons, and £2to Mr. Browne, “the mathematician, for his paines about the dial.”

10s. was paid for “ Drawing A Modell of the Columne to be presented to the Vestry.”

Then the churchwardens accounts go on to record that “Upon due consideration of those many signall services, that the Honorable Sir John Baber hath don this Parish from Time to Time Wee thought it good to affix his Coate of Armes, in one of the Heilds belonging to the Columne, as a Perpetual acknowledgement of our gratitude, and to Refuse any present from him that should be tendered Towards the Charge thereof.” [7]

John Baber had lived in the area from at least 1655.

The following entries in the cover page of the Overseers of the poor record that he was paying contributions for the poor, along with his neighbours.

Handberrye Overseers

For the Poore of the Parrish

Of Convent Garden [8]
Anno Dm


Page 1

Poore of the Parrishe of Convent
Garden Anno Dm 1655.

West Division

Henretta Street


Right Honoble Earles of Bedford
Jerfox Braves

Honoble Lady Wootton

Will Lord Munson

Samuel Cooper

Mary Norfolk

John Jerman

Richard Doe

Abr Soaudebrug

Ralph Snillorke

Hugh Sharpington

John Baber

John Bradshaw

John Share

Edward Wallinger

Solloman Moore

John Staley

Fig. 4. An engraving dating from 1690 showing
A bonfire next to the column in the Piazza at Covent Garden [9]

As Sir John did not die until 1704, it is very possible that he saw the events portrayed above in 1690. He was buried in the St Paul's Church and the family erected a large monument to his memory. Sadly the church burned out in the 19th Century destroying the interior and the monument.

Fig. 5. John Rocque drew the Piazza in 1742 when
 the monument can still be clearly seen.

Fig. 6. Covent Garden by Samuel Scott showing . Scott lived on the east side
of the piazza until about 1758 when he moved to Twickenham. 
[Click on image for a larger version] 

It is not known when the column finally came down, or what became of it. I don't suppose that anything survives, but it would be fun to find it hidden away like Temple Bar.

If you can add any thing to the information above, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at

[1] Survey of London, page 79, Covent Garden Churchwarden's Accounts
[2] C.S.P.D. Volume CXCVII paragraph 93
[3] C.S.P.D. Volume CXXXIX 1665-1666 paragraph 68
[4] Source: (OG/89/11) from
[5] See “Survey of London, Volume XXXVI, page 79, and 331, originally from British Library scrapbook
[6] See “Survey of London, Volume XXXVI, page 79, and 331, originally from British Library scrapbook entitled “Gleanings relating to the Parish of Covent Garden Westminster” pressmark 1889 a 20
[7] Covent Garden Churchwardens Accounts, Westminster Records Office.
[8] House of Commons Journal Volume 7: 10 March 1660', Journal of the House of Commons: volume 7: 1651-1660 (1802), pp. 868-71
[9] See Survey of London, volume XXXVI, page xv.  Original is part of the Crace Collection in the British Museum, Views portfolio xviii.

[5]  entitled “Gleanings relating to the Parish of Covent Garden Westminster” pressmark 1889 a 20.

Holne August 1853. [Please click on images for larger versions.]

 The water colour shows Holme Church and Church House Inn.  This house has changed very little since the water colour was done as can be seen from the following photograph.

Church House Inn Holne.[1]

By comparing the water colour, photos and Google Earth it is possible to work out the approximate location from which the water colour was drawn. It appears that a house and the farmyard would probably block any modern artist from capturing this view, but it is still possible to find several of the buildings shown in the picture.

A Google Earth Image marked to show the approximate view point
from which the water colour was drawn.

The view point must have been on the lane to the east of the village.
The blue arrows show the artists view point.

It is not entirely clear who the artist was, but it is very probable that it was Sarah Nicholson sister of William Nicholson, who was the Rector of Corscombe in Dorset.  

At letter from William Nicholson to his sister Sarah Nicholson.  The letter is written in a cross pattern.  This way of writing was used to limit the number of sheets sent, in the days before the Penny Post, because postage was paid by the sheet.

The letter written to Sarah Nicholson reads as follows:

                                                                                                                                Holne, Ashburton.
My dear dear Sarah,
                I hope by this you are snug and comfortable at Folkestone.  The weather is broken up here, and I fear will not be much better with you.  May the change be of benefit to you both!  Take as much air as you can without risk or over fatigue.
                Your present is most acceptable, it is decidedly the right article, for which I have long been on the look out.  How very busy you must have been.  I sometimes feel disposed to bewail my hard lot that I cannot witness your energetic proceedings.
                We hope to hear tomorrow of your safe arrival with good accounts of dear Mother.  Do you think it necessary to return to meet the Travellers?
                I will give you some account of our proceedings yesterday we heard that Prince’s Town and its prison , you have looked at from Benjay Tor, were well worth a visit.  So off we set.  The day proved gloomy, but rain did not come down till some hours after our return.  The greatest incident was that we completely lost our way on the desolate moor and for an anxious hour were wandering about, without even the track of a cartwheel to guide us, amidst huge boulders, rocks and unwished for bogs, only admired by such specimen hunters as yourself.  However even Eliza forgot to hunt for the bottle beauties, our eyes being directed far and wide for some traces of a trodden path, and John’s confidence began to grow pale.  I resolved to preserve in a straight forward direction, knowing that at the worst we could always return, at length we found ourselves on the borders of an oasis in the wilderness, a well managed model farm in the midst of the desolation of the barren moor.  For this point all went on horrid enough.
                The horses behaved well only Eliza complained of bumps behind, I mean the back part of the carriage.  I greatly wished you had been with us, and as we were returning homeward, John very much regretted that Miss Sarah had not seen what we had seen that day.  Prisoners are prisoners all the world over, we certainly saw plenty of ill looking fellows, working in gangs, the greatest number in your favourite bog, cutting and carrying turf for fires.  We found the Sun at Prince’s Town very dirty and comfortless, and do not intend to go there again.
                Eliza is busy with her elementary books, she often wishes you were here, especially when we meet with any thing a little amusing, for we find it very hard to get a good laugh now you are gone.
                You will not get many sketches at Folkestone I fear, as far as I remember the houses look as if they had fallen from heaven in a sort of hail storm.
                Take a good scampering ride now and then along the downs of Dover and Deal.
                Do tell me exactly how you are and give me a full account of dear Mother.
                This is a most depressing day for me and the throat has not forgotten to sing its old song.  However as the Doctor says I continue to hold my ground.  Do not forget us.
                                Give my best love to dear Mother.
                                Your very loving Br.

Sarah often stayed with her brother William at Corscombe, and it appears from the letter that she may have travelled to Dartmoor with William during August of 1853 and to Holne, before setting off by September to Folkestone to stay with her Mother.  William’s letter makes it clear that Sarah had previously been up Banjay Tor, and was going to be sketching at Folkestone, so it is quite likely that these are earlier examples of her work.

Holne Bridge, the oldest in Devonshire
Augst 1853

Sarah appears to have visited the New Bridge at Holne which was built in about 1413. There was also an even older bridge so she appears to have been mislead as to its being the oldest bridge in Devonshire.  It is recognisably Holne Bridge, however Sarah appears to have struggled with the perspective as the arch appears to be rounder in modern photos and the approach ramps flatter. Has the bridge been modified since 1853?

We have no idea who they were staying with, or where. It is possible that it was in the Church House Inn. Was William acting as a stand in for the Parson perhaps during the summer?