Christmas is a time of year when many of us gather with friends and family and our thoughts often turn to Christmases past and memories of those who are no longer with us. As the generations pass and living memory fades into oral tradition we family historians turn to researching the lives of our forebears and the times in which they lived in dusty documents, photographs and other more ‘obscure’ sources of information, until we hit that inevitable brick wall. Of these my particular favourites are diaries as they contain a wealth of contextual information as well as familial information. Those such as the ‘Six North Country Diaries’ and the Diary of Archie Simpson 1878, which I plan to fully transcribe and annotate are two fantastic examples spanning a broad range of dates. The latest addition to my collection is ‘The Diaries of William Brewis of Mitford 1833 – 1850’ and for those researching their farming ancestors in Northumberland I would suggest it is essential reading as it covers a period of national and international radical social and political change somewhat resonant of today.
At what point the knowledge of our heritage fades differs widely – some of us carry unusual names that serve as a reminder. My own ‘Smith’ family has carried the name Aynsley in the male line since 1866 as a reminder of that aspect of our ancestral legacy, and the name Carnaby in the female line to earlier ancestors of that same Aynsley line dates from 1735. Clearly, as the names of these families live on they remain an obvious part of our heritage, but it is often to the exclusion of the many others that make up who we are.
The diary of William Brewis of Throphill, Mitford 1833 – 1850 stands testimony to how quickly familial connections can be forgotten. He was born at Throphill in 1778 to parents Thomas Brewis and Margaret Hair [Hare]. Through the marriage of his Mother’s sister Ann to James Carnaby, he became 1st cousin to their offspring. Following the tragic death of his cousin Barbara’s daughter Barbara Collin Donkin when she struck by lightening on the eve of her wedding in 1837, this line particular branch of the Carnaby’s would die out as non of his other Carnaby cousins left issue. William noted the event in his dairy entry July 24 – 30th.
The awful and sudden death of a near relation of ours at Shawdon Wood House happened with that great thunderstorm on the 14th and 15th of this present month to Miss Barbara Donkin, Mr Donkin’s only daughter and niece to Ralph and John Carnaby who are own cousins to us
Ralph and John Carnaby didn’t marry, and being a prosperous farmer and lawyer respectively, it may not be too uncharitable to speculate that Mr Brewis had his eye on a share of the ‘pot’. Ralph died at Shawdon Woodhouse on 13th July 1842 and again the event is noted in his diary.
Died on Wednesday last our Friend and Cousin Ralph Carnaby Esq, of Shawdon Wood House a very stout and gross made man I should say nearly 20 stones but a real worthy character. A man I should say, never did ill to no person, but a good natured peaceable person long steward for the Hargreaves family of Shawdon, and I should say by them much regretted, he has left only brother John who was an attorney some time in Morpeth … R Carnaby formerly lived at Todburn who was born then his father James Carnaby married my mother’s younger sister they farmed Todburn, Hedley Wood and the West Field near Rothbury before they left for Shawdon … the only surviving of the family is John, a very quiet and inoffensive man but not brought up to Farming, consequently he will leave the place on May first and retire to some quiet place to spend the remainder of his days.
His account would infer that James Carnaby and his mother’s sister married after Ralph had been born, however, this is not the case as they married at Mitford in 1768, some 4 years before Ralph’s birth in 1772. Although Mr Brewis is a blood cousin through the female (Hair) line he is remiss in failing to remember that Ralph and John Carnaby did in fact have another close Carnaby blood relation, the son of a first cousin, John Aynsley of the Chirm, by the marriage of their aunt Mary Carnaby (sister to James) to Lionel Aynsley.
At his death in 1842 Ralph’s estate was valued at circa £9,000 an estimated £988,444.67 as of 2018. As it happens, the executors of his will John Crea, surgeon in Glanton and Michael Carr of Titlington Mount and all bequests made by Ralph, other than to his brother John appear to have been made to parties with whom there is no known familial connection; Dorothy Crea spinster, an annuity of £80 so long as she remained unmarried; Michael Carr a legacy of £100; the unmarried daughters of William and Barbara Boak (decd) freehold property in Rothbury, (possibly that which was purchased in 1682 from John Gibson), the residue of his estate he left to his brother for his lifetime. Not an Aynsley or Brewis in sight!
John Carnaby died at Whittingham 7th February 1849 and it is perhaps the diary entry relating to this and subsequent events which is most telling of all.
Died at Whittingham on Wednesday 7th February John Carnaby Esq our cousin …it is said he has left his property which is said 15 or 20,000 to Dr Trotter of Morpeth, should it be so, it is said he was not capable of making his will but the Dr had haunted him to settle his affairs upon the Hargreave family of Shawdon, how that may be time will determine, he has no relative but our family and more strange, never sent word that he was dead, or invited to his funeral!!!
An entry in Week 22 is even bitterer.
An alarming and destructive fire took place at Shawdon Hall, the seat of W Pawson Esq on Sunday last… But the Hand of Providence is sure and retribution cometh in due time, the family of Dr Trotter and Mr Smart of Sunderland swindled our family of the cash and goods belonged our cousins Carnabys effects!!!!
Ooooh feel the burn! John Carnaby had in fact been declared bankrupt in 1818 and the sale of his goods and chattels indicates he had enjoyed a good standard of living.
Despite bankruptcy John Carnaby left an estate worth circa £12,000 at the time of his death in 1849. His will does make somewhat complicated reading, as it includes two codicils in favour of the Trotter, Pawson and Smart families as William Brewis suggests. In the original written shortly after his brother’s death in 1842 he does, however, remember his family with the first two bequests being; Thomas Brewis of Angerton (a nephew of the diarist), a freehold dwelling house in Rothbury and the sum of £500 and John Aynsley of the Chirm, the sum of £500.
It is from here on that his wishes become somewhat convoluted and complicated; William Trotter (Dr) the sum of £1000 and Robert Smart of Bishop Wearmouth the sum £1,000; the residue of his estate in equal share and proportion to William Trotter and Robert Smart, subject to the payment of £2,000 to ‘selected’ creditors under his bankruptcy agreement of 1818. Codicil One adds £300 to relatives of his sister Barbara’s husband Edward and Robert Donkin in satisfaction of a bond. It is dated soon after the original will in 1842 which in all other respects remained unaltered.
Codicil Two is dated just a few weeks before his death on 25th January 1849. In this second codicil he bequeaths to; Adam Pile of Whittingham, Innkeeper £50; Elizabeth Pile his wife £50; Ann Pile spinster £50; Mary Ann Pawson, (nee Trotter sister of Dr Trotter) wife of William Pawson of Shawdon Hall Esq £1,500; Mary Trotter of Morpeth spinster (niece of Dr Trotter) £1,000; Elizabeth Aynsley, Sarah Aynsley (several possibilities but none confirmed) and Ellen Elsdon (niece of Adam Pile, Innkeeper), John Pile and George Pile £10 each; Mary Ann Pawson and Mary Trotter ‘aforesaid’ all the household furniture and effects from his house at Whittingham.
Why John chose to favour the Trotter family to such a great extent over his own flesh and blood is not known – they certainly didn’t need it – Dr Trotter at his own demise in 1857 left an estate valued at around £40,000. They were, however, a very interesting family. Dr William Trotter was one of four sons and three daughters born to the Rev Robert Trotter, Presbyterian Minister of Morpeth and his wife Mary Akenhead of Falstone. William was actively involved in establishing a dispensary for the poor in Morpeth in 1816. Other than his sister Mary Ann who married William Pawson of Shawdon, sometime High Sheriff of Northumberland, the only one of his siblings to have issue was his brother John Spottiswood Trotter an officer in the East India Company. It is ‘said’ he married a local lady while stationed in India and where Mary was born circa 1824. Her parents succumbed to the fever later that year and her father John, along with other military colleagues, is remembered in a monumental inscription in Madras. An image of the memorial can be seen at the FIBIS website and reads:
Mary was brought to England where she was raised by her uncle the doctor. In November 1855 she married Richard Welch Hollon a Drug Merchant and moved to York where her husband became Lord Mayor of the City in 1864. However, Mary never forgot the people of Morpeth and in 1860 she donated the three clock faces that adorn the steeple of St George’s Church in memory of her uncle Dr Trotter and her grandfather the Reverend Robert.
She died at York in 1880 aged 55 and in remembrance of their happy marriage and love for Morpeth her husband Richard established a fund to provide an annuity of £10 and a tonne of coal to 25 Morpeth residents over the age of 60. In April 1885 a drinking fountain was erected on the site of the old market cross in her memory and to mark her husband’s generosity to the town.
The ‘Hollon Tea’ as it has become known still thrives today. It is celebrated each year on the 5th November, the anniversary of Mary and Richard’s marriage. In 2018 over 80 Morpeth residents over the age of 75 enjoyed the ‘Hollon Tea’ and received their traditional cash annuity. It would be nice to think that these generous and charitable attributes were recognised by John Carnaby when he wrote his will, and that in some small way his legacy, as well that of Mary and Richard Hollon, lives on through the annual ‘Hollon Tea’. A far cry from the resentment recorded by the diarist at the time of John's death, but rather a lasting legacy indeed.