Edwardes v. Edwardes 1854

In the Matter of the Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage of Rosette Edwardes.

I, Rosette Edwardes of No 31 Charing Grove in the county of Middlesex, the petitioner in this cause make oath and say as follows.

  1. On or about the thirty first day of May One thousand eight hundred and fifty five, I, then Rosette Lloyd, spinster, was lawfully married to Grant William Edwardes at Bathurst, River Gambia, West Coast of Africa.
  2. After my said marriage, I lived and cohabited with my said husband at Bathurst aforesaid, and at New York in the United States of America, again at Bathurst aforesaid, subsequently at Eastbourne Terrace, Hyde Park in the county of Middlesex, then at Cape Coast Castle on the West Coast of Africa, and at Eastbourne Terrace, aforesaid, and at Paris in the Empire of France, and at Aubrey Road, Notting Hill in the said county of Middlesex, afterwards at   Kensington in the said county of Middlesex, afterwards at Bathurst aforesaid, and afterwards at Brunswick gardens, Campden Hill aforesaid, and there has been no issue of the said marriage.
  3. that the said Grant William Edwardes at the latter part of the year One thousand eight hundred and sixty one whilst residing with me at Aubrey Road, Notting Hill became addicted to habits of intemperance, and frequently returned home at all hours of the night in a state of intoxication and on such occasions behaved very unkind to me abusing me in disgusting and insulting language.
  4. That on an occasion happening one night in my bedroom in the summer of the year One thousand eight hundred and sixty two, after abusing me in very insulting language, he spat in my face.
  5. That on an occasion happening in the spring of the year One thousand eight hundred and sixty three, I went to the theatre with some friends when he promised to join me in the course of the evening but did not do so, but when I returned to my friend’s house he was there – it was a very raw cold morning about one o’clock, and on my asking him to allow me to ride home, he refused, and said I must walk home, whilst walking towards home he abused me in very bad and insulting language, and struck me several times with his walking stick, pushed me in the gutter, pinched my arms, slapped me on the face, and otherwise ill-treated me, and that he afterwards put me in a cab, sent me home by myself, and did not return to his home for two nights, and then refused to inform me where he had been.
  6. That in the month of May, One thousand eight hundred and sixty four, while residing at No. 17 Brunswick Gardens, Campden Hill, Kensington in the county of Middlesex, he became very ill and was covered with sores all over his body – that I also had a very bad leg with three sores, which were very painful, and from which I suffered a great deal, but the said Grant William Edwardes would not allow me to have a Medical Man to see me, and falsely alleging that I had given him the bad disease he was suffering from, declared that he would never be a husband to me again; that one night in the month of May, One thousand eight hundred and sixty four, on his return from a dinner party at about twelve o’clock at night when I got out of bed to dress his sores as I was wont to do, he abused me in the most insulting language, said he hated me, and that he had two children by another woman, and that he and I must be like strangers to each other.
  7. That on an occasion happening one evening in the month of June, One thousand eight hundred and sixty four, whilst sitting at tea, and after abusing me and my mother, who was not present, in insulting and bad language, he threw the contents of two cups of tea over me, slapped my face with his hand, tore off my head-dress, and otherwise ill-treated me.
  8. I have been informed, and believe that during the time the said Grant William Edwardes was residing at Cape Coast aforesaid between the month of November, One thousand eight hundred and sixty, and the month of August, One thousand eight hundred and sixty one, he on divers occasions committed adultery with a woman of color, but whose name is unknown to me, at divers places at the Cape, the particulars of which I am unable to set forth.
  9. I have been informed, and believe that on an occasion happening on the twenty second day of May, One thousand eight hundred and sixty three, being the Oaks day at Epsom, the said Grant William Edwardes returned from there in company with a female named Lizzie Graham in a brougham accompanied by several others persons, that he then, in the presence of the whole party had connexion with the said Lizzie Graham in the brougham, and that afterwards on arriving in London the said Grant William Edwardes passed the night with, and committed adultery with her at a house, No.10 James Street, Haymarket, in the county of Middlesex.
  10. I have been informed, and believe that on another occasion in the month of April, One thousand eight hundred and sixty four at the said house, No.10 James Street, Haymarket, the said Grant William Edwardes committed adultery with a female named Jenny Boyce.
  11. I have been informed, and believe that since the said thirty first day of One thousand eight hundred and fifty five the said Grant William Edwardes has committed adultery with divers women whose names are unknown to me, and that I am unable to set forth the particulars of such acts of adultery
  12. No collusion or connivance exists between myself and the said Grant William Edwardes with respect to the matters contained in the relief prayed for by the said petitioner

Grant William Edwardes 1830 – 1877

Every so often an exceptional character leaps out, Grant William Edwardes (1830 – 1877) is one of those characters. He turned up just by chance, and he gives every impression of being a very bad boy.

Grant was born in London in 1830, and baptised in St Martin in the Fields in September that year. In Pallot’s Baptism Index, his parents are listed as John and Ann, and John’s profession is given as “gent”. In his brother Alfred Edmund Edwardes’ entry two years earlier, John Edwardes describes himself as a merchant,  and the family are ascribed to the parish of St Paul, Convent Garden, a five minute walk away. St Martin in the Fields church had existed in its current form for just over a hundred years by that time. But Trafalgar Square had yet to be laid out, and the National Gallery hadn’t been built.

Their parents were John Mortimer William Edwardes who was born in Pembrokeshire in 1804, and Ann Wills who had been born into a Baptist family in Cornwall in 1798. They had married in London on the eleventh of October 1827 at St George’s Bloomsbury. Alfred, their eldest son, was baptised five months later on the 16th March 1828.

The Edwardes family seem to have been at one time landed gentry in Wales, and John Edwardes’ great-uncle Francis had been the M.P. for Haverfordwest, and his first cousin once-removed, William Edwardes succeeded his father as M.P. for Haverfordwest, and was later became Baron Kensington, rather oddly as an Irish peerage. He had also inherited his maternal grandfather’s estates which included a large chunk of present day Kensington, including Holland House. So, technically, a junior branch of the Edwardes family, Francis Edwardes’s family had done very well from a good marriage.

Back to Grant’s parents, they don’t seem to be hugely prosperous, but they’re not the struggling poor either. In 1851, John and Ann Edwardes are at 22 Edward Street in Marylebone. Beyond Wells Street, the eastern portion of present-day Mortimer Street W.1 was originally developed as Charles Street, part of the Berners estate, and named after the landowner William Berners’s son and heir. The Middlesex Hospital was built there in 1755–7, house-building following on from 1759. Rather more importantly, Edward Street was at the northern end of Newman Street, Oxford Street being the southern end, and by the mid-1850’s the British and Foreign Marble Galleries of Edwardes, Edwardes & Co were at 17 Newman Street. 

Grant Edwardes seems to slip under the radar rather between his birth, and a legal notice in the London Gazette on the 5th August 1862 was the first major clue about him.

His parents, and brother Alfred show up in the 1851 census at Edward Street, where John Edwardes is described as an “invalid”, and Ann Edwardes is described as a “milliner and dress-maker”. Twenty-three year old Alfred Edwardes is living at home, working as a “marble clerk”. The rest of the household comprises one female house-servant, and three of Ann Edwardes sisters who are visiting. There is no sign of Grant.

Where he next re-surfaces is startling. On the 31st May 1855, he gets married in Bathurst, in The Gambia, on the west coast of Africa. He is twenty-one, almost twenty-two years old, his bride Rosette Lloyd who was born in 1840, was probably only just sixteen. Neither gave their age on the licence, and neither of their father’s names, or professions were recorded. A Francis Lloyd was one of the witnesses, so one can assume some sort of family consent.

Grant married in an Anglican ceremony, and his elder brother Alfred Edmund Edwardes married the following year, 1856, at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, in Brook Green in Hammersmith in a Catholic wedding ceremony.

Grant and Rosette’s marriage did not go well, and on Christmas Eve, 1864, Francis Kearsey, a City solicitor filed her petition for divorce. He was thirty-three, and she was only twenty-four. Her grounds for the divorce were cruelty, and Grant committing adultery throughout the marriage. Rosette got her decree absolute on the 9th November 1865.

I suspect Grant’s behaviour caused a certain amount of tension within the family, to put it mildly. His partnership with his brother had ended by 1862, and the remaining partnership with Henry Burke would have been complicated. Henry Burke became Alfred Edwardes’ brother-in-law in October 1861. So rather awkwardly, Alfred had broken up the partnership with his brother, and brother-in-law, only for them to remain in partnership without him. But by 1865, a further split must have happened because Henry Burke was in sole charge of the premises at 17 Newman Street operating as W.H. Burke & Co.

Grant re-married three months after his divorce on the 8th February 1866 at St Mary’s, Paddington. He was thirty-five, his bride, Elizabeth Ponsford was twenty one.

The whole marriage seems peculiar. Elizabeth Ponsford appears to be quite respectable. Her father William, is described on the register as a “builder”, which is sort of what he described himself in the 1851 census, where he says he is a “proprietor of houses (builder out of business)”. At her brother Thomas’s marriage in 1860, William Ponsford is described as an “architect”. In 1851, the Ponsford family were living at East Lodge, in Acton. The family had three house servants, and East Lodge also had a separate gate house where the coachman/gardener lived with his family. At that point Acton was a village outside London, and comprised about 135 houses. By 1861, the family were in Sheffield Terrace, just off Kensington Church Street, where Ann Ponsford described herself as a “land proprietor”, and both her daughters Mary, and Elizabeth were described as “ladies”. William Ponsford seems to be dead. All the female members of the Ponsford family are describing themselves as “annuitants” in 1871.

So, a respectable bride, and a bridegroom who seems to be the reverse. Every detail of the marriage says something’s wrong. Every other entry on that page of the parish register is a marriage completed after the banns have been read three times in the church. Grant and Elizabeth’s marriage is by licence. Every other entry to the parish register is a marriage conducted by the vicar or curate at St Mary’s, Paddington. Grant and Elizabeth’s marriage is by a former chaplain of the Gold Coast, Africa. Grant and Elizabeth also appear to be rather grander than the vast majority of the people being married at St Mary’s Paddington.

The choice of church is also strange. St Mary’s, Paddington is about two miles away from Elizabeth Ponsonby’s family home, the much more obvious choice would have been St Mary Abbots, the local parish church, which is only half a mile away. But given that Grant and Rosette had lived at various times during their marriage in Aubrey Road, and Brunswick Gardens, the former 700 yards, and the latter 350 yards away from the Ponsford family home, perhaps the risk of getting married in St Mary Abbots was too great

The next significant problem is that Grant Edwardes calls himself a widower, but presumably this is the only way he could get married. Is it legal? I doubt it. Were the Ponsfords aware the Grant was a divorcé, almost certainly not. William Ponsford junior, Elizabeth’s brother was one of the witnesses

Grant and Elizabeth next appear in the 1871 census living at 83 Landsdowne Road in north Kensington. Grant is described as a “wine and spirit broker”. Six years later, they are to be found in Campden Hill Gardens, about a quarter of a mile away from Elizabeth’s family in Sheffield Terrace. Grant dies there on 3rd January 1877, aged forty-seven. He didn’t leave a vast fortune leaving Elizabeth just £ 450 [present-day value £325,000].  Elizabeth remained a widow for nearly forty years, dying in Brighton in 1916. She left £ 4,731 [present-day value £1.8m].

Rosette Edwardes reverted to her maiden name, and in 1871 was living in Woburn Place between Tavistock Square, and Russell Square, and just round the corner from the British Museum. She described herself as a widow aged just 31.

 

Burke v. Keith

This is the final post, at least for now, in a series called “A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) ” . To re-cap slightly, my starting point for looking at William Burke was one of his sons-in-law Basil O’Bryen. Almost from the start of my research, Basil has been a source of fascination. Certainly a bigamist who abandoned his [second] wife and three children from two marriages. He appears to be fairly wealthy, though rather curiously, he seems not to be a beneficiary of his father’s will. Married at twenty-two to a woman ten years older, widowed, and remarried at the age of twenty-five. But, seemingly, well-thought of by William Henry Burke. As detailed in part four, I had gone to the National Archives to see whether Burke v. Keith could shed any light on the story. It does, and doesn’t, and here’s why.

The front page of the court case was a surprise.

1872-B-No 246 Filed 28th November 1872 pursuant to order dated 1st November 1872

In Chancery

between

William Henry Burke – plaintiff

and

Wilson Keith

Basil William O’Bryen, and Harriet Matilda, his wife

Mary Ann Burke, the wife of William Henry Burke.

and

William Donald Henry Burke

Edmund John Burke

Kate Alice Burke (spinster)

Sarah Elizabeth Burke (spinster)

Walter Keith Burke

all infants

Defendants

So Burke v. Keith and others is a case where Henry Burke is in a legal dispute with his sister, and two brothers-in-law, [Wilson Keith is Mary Ann Burke’s brother] and his wife, and children are also defendants in the case. Prior to this case, there had been the settlement of a caveat against the proof of WHB’s will by Henry Burke, and agreed in November 1870. More detail can be seen in “A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) ” part four. Burke v. O’Bryen followed some time before August 1871, though very frustratingly I still don’t know what it was about. It is, however, safe to assume Henry Burke is still not happy, and, by 1872, Henry is back in court again.  There is a reference to Burke v. O’Bryen 1871 B no 80, which he partly won, in the Burke v. Keith papers, where the Vice Chancellor Sir John Wickens “recognized his right to the residuary estate” but the order was expressly made “ subject to any arrangements the parties may have made between themselves as to the same”.

This time Henry is trying to get the trust for his wife and children set aside. To summarise some of  the key parts:

William Henry Burke of 17 Newman Street, St Marylebone filed his bill of complaint in Chancery on 30th July 1872, amended 3rd October 1872. Essentially his complaint was against the trust his father set up for his daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.

“An indenture of voluntary settlement dated 6th May 1870 was made and executed between and by William Henry Burke since deceased the father of the plaintiff William Henry Burke of the one part and the said William Henry Burke the father, the defendant Harriett Matilda O’Bryen (therein called Harriett Matilda Burke), the defendant Wilson Keith, and the defendant Basil William O’Bryen on the other part as follows: – “

All their addresses are given, William and Harriett Burke are at 32 Thistle Grove, South Kensington, Wilson Keith “of Earls Court, esquire”, and Basil O’Bryen at 18 Gunter Grove, Chelsea. The settlement document was witnessed by John Roche O’Bryen at 28 Thistle Grove, and Corinne O’Bryen who was at 18 Thistle Grove on or about 6th May 1870. 

The “ indenture witnesseth that in pursuance of the said recited desire on the part of the settlor and in consideration of the love and affection which the settlor has and beareth towards his daughter-in-law Mary Anne Burke, the wife of his son Henry Burke, and her issue by his son”

It’s all slightly strange, initially it seems to be WHB looking after his daughter-in-law, and some of his grandchildren. The question is why? Henry Burke was thirty-five years old, he was first a sculptor, and then set up his own firm W. H. Burke & Co.,  who were “at first sculptors and importers of marble and bronze before becoming one of the pioneering firms of the Victorian mosaic revival.” By 1871, he was occupying all of 17 Newman Street, just off Oxford Street  ” these ‘very extensive premises’ included an octagonal modelling room and a large ‘marble yard’ extending behind the neighbours at Nos 18 and 19, reached via Newman Passage.”  In the late 1850s the main premises had become the British and Foreign Marble Galleries of Edwardes, Edwardes & Co., boasting the largest stock in Europe of marble sculpture, and by 1865 were Henry’s workshops. In 1851-2, the octagon room had been used as a studio by Ford Madox Brown, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Henry Burke had been in partnership with the Edwardes brothers, and Alfred Edwardes was married to Henry Burke’s elder sister Elizabeth. Henry was recorded in the 1871 census as employing 28 men, and 1 boy. So he appears to have been doing quite well, so why did his father feel the need to provide for Mary Burke separately?

The settlement was arranged to pay Mary £ 300 a year in equal quarterly payments for her “sole separate and inalienable use” with a further caveat that if Henry becomes bankrupt then Mary Burke gets all the income over and above the £300 per year [using the same methodology as elsewhere in these posts, it is a modern-day equivalent of £ 224,000]. Otherwise, the rest of the income is to be invested until the youngest child is 24 or in the case of girls married. The trustees can dispose of assets as they see fit. 

Henry and Mary Burke’s children were

  • William Donald Henry Burke , then aged 10
  • Edmund John Burke then aged 8
  • Kate Alice Burke (spinster) then aged 6
  • Sarah Elizabeth Burke (spinster) then aged 3
  • Walter Keith Burke  then aged 1
  • and George Arthur Burke who died, aged four months, in July 1868

Henry claims that he is entitled to the residuary estate of his father, and the trust funds should be part of it because the length of the entail is so long as to make it ” void ”, and he should get the income apart from Mary’s £ 300 p.a.

This is where it all gets unbelievably frustrating. Three large archive boxes full of papers, most of which were un-related to the case, and crucially NO VERDICT.

It still sheds very little light on why twenty-two year old Basil O’Bryen was regarded as a suitable trustee. Wilson Keith, Mary Burke’s younger brother seems slightly better, but even then he’s only twenty-six. It does make one wonder if part of Henry’s case was simply pique at having to deal with two much younger trustees?

John Roche O’Bryen’s will – 1870

THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of me John Roche O’Bryen Esquire of Thistle Grove Brompton in the County of Middlesex Doctor of Medicine I appoint my dear wife Celia Mary O’Bryen and the Reverend Henry Hewett O’Bryen D.D. my oldest son to be Executrix and Executors and Trustees of this my Will and Guardians of my infant children during their respective minorities And I direct that my children be educated in the one Holy Catholic Church of which Pius IX is now Pope. I bequeath to my said dear wife all the wines liquors and other consumable effects which shall at my decease be in or about my dwelling house I also bequeath to my said wife the sum of one hundred pounds for her immediate occasion to be paid to her as soon as conveniently may be after my decease I devise the freehold copyhold and leasehold estates to which I shall be entitled at my decease with their appurtenants unto and to the use of my said trustees their heirs executors administrators and assigns according to the nature thereof respectively upon trust when and as my said trustees in order to effectuate any of the purposes of my Will or with a view to the advantage of my estate for the more convenient division thereof among the persons entitled thereto shall in their discretion find it necessary or expedient so to do to sell my said estates or any part thereof together or in parcels by public auction or private contract or to raise money by mortgaging in fee or for years or by charging my said estates or any part thereof and to do all acts requisite for effecting or facilitating any sale mortgage or charge pursuant to this trust I bequeath the residue of my Personal Estate and effects of every kind to which I shall be entitled at my decease unto the said Celia Mary O’Bryen and the Reverend Henry Hewett O’Bryen upon trust subject as herein after mentioned to convert into money get in and receive so much thereof as shall not consist of ready money or of such investments in stocks funds or securities (whether of the description contemplated by the trust for investment herein after contained or not) as my said trustees shall think it desirable to continue And I direct my said trustees to receive the money to arise from my said residuary personal estates and stand possessed thereof together with the stocks funds and securities to be continued as last aforesaid upon the trusts herein after declared concerning the same And as to the monies to arise from the execution of the trusts herein before contained concerning my real and residuary personal estate and not presently applicable to the purposes of my Will I direct my said trustees to invest the same in their names in or upon any of the securities herein after mentioned And I authorize them to vary and transpose at their discretion as well the stocks funds and securities whereon such investment shall be made as any stocks funds or securities which shall at my decease compose part of my personal estate for any other stocks funds or securities of the description contemplated by the preceding direction And I direct my said trustees to stand seized and possessed of my residuary real and personal estate upon the trusts herein after expressed and declared concerning the same that is to say upon trust to permit my said wife to occupy and enjoy at 28 Thistle Grove my residence aforesaid and to have the use of the furniture and other effects in and about the same including the horse and carriage during her life provided she shall so long remain my widow And upon trust to pay the net income arising from the residue of my said real and personal estate to my said dear wife Celia Mary for her life for the maintenance of herself and children and their education which I request may be of the best character in her power In the event of my said wife Celia Mary marrying again after my decease she will have the interest of her own fortune which is already settled upon her And I direct my trustees to stand possessed of the income of my residuary estate during the remainder of the life of my said wife upon trust for the equal benefit of all my children by my said wife And upon trust from and after my decease to set apart out of my residuary estate the sum of one thousand pounds or stocks or shares forming part of my residuary estate of that value at the market price of the day and to pay or transfer the same to the trustees for the time being of a certain Indenture of Settlement bearing date the thirteenth day of May one thousand eight hundred and seventy made between me of the first part my daughter Corine Margaret O’Bryen of the second part and Mrs Mary Celia O’Bryen and Miss Harriet Matilda Burke of 32 Thistle Grove aforesaid of the third part to be held by such trustees upon such and the same trusts as are declared in and by the said Indenture of the trust estate thereby settled And upon trust after the decease of my said wife Celia Mary to set apart out of my residuary estate the further sum of three thousand pounds or stocks and shares forming part of my residuary estate of that value at the market price of the day to be held by them upon trusts herein after expressed and declared for the benefit of my daughter Evelyn and her issue and to set apart in like manner the sum of two thousand pounds for each of my other children by my said wife Celia Mary living at my death And I direct that the income to arise from each said sum of three thousand pounds and the said sums of two thousand pounds and the investments thereof shall be applied to the benefit of my children respectively until they shall respectively attain the age of twenty five years when the corpus shall be paid to sons and shall be settled upon daughters in manner following that is to say Upon trust to pay the income thereof respectively to such daughter for her sole and separate use free from the control of her husbands and so that such daughters shall not have power to dispose of the income in the way of anticipation And upon trust after the decease of my said daughter in trust for all or such one or more of the child and children and remoter issue of my said daughter such remoter issue being born during the life time of my same daughter at such ages or times or age or time in such shares if more than one upon such conditions and in such manner as my same daughter shall by any deed or deeds with or without power of revocation shall appoint And in default of such appointment and so far as any such appointment shall not extend in trust for all the children of my said daughter who being a son or sons shall attain the age of twenty four years or being a daughter or daughters shall attain that age or marry under that age in equal shares and if there shall be but one such child then the whole to be in trust for such one child And subject to the payment of the several last mentioned sums be and shall stand possessed of my residuary real and personal estate in trust to pay or set apart in manner aforesaid and to transfer to the trustees of the said Indenture of Settlement of the thirteenth day of May one thousand eight hundred and seventy and to stand possessed of the ultimate residue of my estate in trust for such child or children of mine by my said wife Celia Mary as she shall by Will or deed appoint at her discretion the sons when they shall attain the age of twenty five years the daughters when they shall attain that age or marry under that age with the consent (if marrying after my death) of her or their respective guardian or guardians and if more than one in equal shares Provided always and I declare that if any child of mine for whom provision is made by this my Will shall die in my life time leaving issue in existence at my death and who being male attain the age of twenty one years or being female attain that age or marry under that age of each such child of mine so dying shall take by substitution as tenants in common in equal shares per stirpes if more than one (and so that no issue remoter than a child of such deceased child shall take except in case of the death in my life time of his her or their own parent and in the place of such parent) the provision which such child of mine would have taken under the trust in that behalf herein before declared had he or she survived but Provided always and I hereby declare that it shall be lawful for the said trustees or trustee for the time being after the death or future marriage of my said wife or during her widowhood with her consent in writing (and so that the present power may be resorted to for the purpose of making an addition to any of the respective legacies herein before bequeathed to each of my sons attaining the age of twenty five years and to each of my daughters attaining that age or marrying under that age with such consent as aforesaid and so augmenting the provision then immediately available for any such son or daughter of mine respectively) to raise any part or parts not exceeding in the whole one half of the then expectant share or presumptive share of any child under the trusts herein before declared and to apply the same for his or her advancement or benefit as the said trustees or trustee shall think fit And I hereby declare that the said trustees or trustee for the time being shall after the death or future marriage of my said wife apply the whole or such part as they or he shall think fit of the interest dividends and income of the share to which any child shall for the time being be entitled in expectancy under the trusts herein before declared for or towards his or her maintenance or education and may either themselves or himself apply the same or may pay the same to the guardian or guardians of such child for the purpose aforesaid without seeing to the application thereof and shall during such suspense of absolute vesting as aforesaid accumulate all the residue (if any) of the same interest dividends and income in the way of compound interest by investing the same and the resulting income thereof in or upon any such stocks funds shares or securities as are herein after mentioned for the benefit of the person or persons who under the trusts herein contained shall become entitled to the principal fund from which the same respectively shall have proceeded and may resort to the accumulations of any preceding year or years and apply the same for or towards the maintenance or education of the child for the time being presumptively entitled to the same in the same manner as such accumulations might have been applied had they been interest dividends or income arising from the original trust funds in the year in which they shall be so applied Provided always and I hereby declare that it shall be lawful for my trustees for the time being to defer and postpone the sale reversion and collection of the whole or any part or parts of my said real and personal estate respectively so long as to such trustees or trustee shall in their or his uncontrolled discretion deem proper but my real estate shall for the purpose of transmission be impressed with the quality of personalty from the time of my death And I empower the said trustees or trustee during such interval or postponement to manage and to let upon lease or from year to year my real and leasehold estates and to make out of the income or capital of my real and personal estate any outlay which such trustees or trustee may consider proper for improvements repairs insurance calls or shares premiums or policies or otherwise for the benefit or in respect of my real or personal estate And I declare that the net rents and profits or other income produced from every or any part of my real or personal estate previously to the conversion or collection thereof pursuant to the trusts herein before declared shall be applied in the same manner in all respects as if the same were income proceeding from such investments as are herein after directed or authorized and that the whole of the income produced from my estate (real or personal) in the actual condition or state of investment for the time being whether consisting of property or investments of an authorized or of an unauthorized description and whether of a permanent or a wasting character shall as well during the first year from my death and at all times afterwards be applicable as income under the trusts of this my Will no part thereof being in any event liable to be retained as corpus or capital but no reversion or other property not actually producing income which shall form part of my estate shall under the doctrine of constructive conversion or otherwise be treated as producing income or as entitling any party to the receipt of income Provided always and I further declare that notwithstanding any thing herein before contained any investments taken or made for the purpose of this my Will during the widowhood of my said wife (whether originally or upon a variation or transposition of investments) may with her concurrence and consent (whether she shall at the time be a trustee for the purposes of this my Will or not) be taken or made (if the trustees or trustee for the time being of this my Will shall so think fit and in their his or her discretion) in or upon any Government or real or leasehold securities in the United Kingdom or Bank Stock or the Debenture Guaranteed or Preferred Stock or Shares or the debentures or obligations of any Railway or other Incorporated Company of the United Kingdom Colonial Bonds and Russian (Nicola) Bonds or any other stocks funds shares or securities which the said trustees or trustee shall consider fitting and safe and every investment so taken or made shall be deemed to all intents and purposes an authorized investment Provided always and I declare that the provision hereby made for my said wife shall be accepted by her in satisfaction and bar of the dower and freebeuth to which by the Common Law or by Custom she might be entitled in or out of the freehold copyhold or customary hereditaments of or to which I have been or am or shall be seized or entitled Provided always and I further declare that (unless as to any such sum I shall in writing direct to the contrary) all sums which I shall in my life time advance or give or covenant or agree to advance or give to or with any of my children on his or her marriage or otherwise for his or her advancement or preferment shall be taken in or towards satisfaction of the provision intended to be hereby made for such children (as to a child dying in my life time) for his or her issue taking by way of substitution as aforesaid for such child respectively and shall be brought into hotchpot and accounted for accordingly But so that with respect to any child of mine any such future advancement shall be taken as being primarily in or towards satisfaction of the legacy herein before bequeathed to such child of mine respectively and as to the excess only (if any) of the amount of such advancement above such legacy respectively shall be taken in or towards satisfaction of the share of such child in my residuary estate And with respect to the issue of any child of mine dying in my life time and such future advancement in favour of the parent shall not be accounted for unless the total amount of such advancement shall exceed two thousand pounds and then shall only be accounted for to the extent of the excess of such advancement above such sum of two thousand pounds And I declare that if any question shall arise as to the amount to be accounted for the same shall be determined by the trustees or trustee for the time being of this my Will (other than the child the value of whose advancement shall be in question if such child shall happen to be a trustee of this my Will) according to their his or her discretion and such determination shall be final And I declare that if the trustees hereby appointed or either of them shall die in my life time or if they or either of them or any future trustee or trustees of this my Will shall die or desire to retire from or refuse or become incapable to act in the trusts of this my Will before the trust shall be fully performed then and in every such case it shall be lawful for my said wife during her life and after her decease for the continuing trustees or trustee for the time being of this my Will or if there shall be no continuing trustee then for the retiring or refusing trustees or trustee or the executors or administrators of the last acting trustee to appoint any other person or persons to be a trustee or trustees in the place of the trustee or trustees so dying or desiring to retire or refusing or becoming incapable to act as aforesaid with liberty upon any such appointment to increase or diminish the original number of trustees and upon every such appointment the trust premises shall be so conveyed and transferred that the same may become vested in the new trustee or trustees either jointly with the continuing trustee or trustees or solely as the case may require and every such new trustee (as well before as after the trust premises shall have become vested in him) shall have all the powers and authorities of the trustee in whose place he shall be substituted I devise and bequeath all estates vested in me as a trustee or mortgagee unto the said Celia Mary O’Bryen and the Reverend Henry Hewett O’Bryen their heirs executors and administrators subject to the trusts and equities affecting the same respectively but so that the money secured by any mortgage shall form part of my personal estate In witness whereof I the said John Roche O’Bryen the testator have to this my last Will and Testament contained in this and the nine preceding sheets of paper set my hand this sixteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy – John R. O’Bryen M.D. – Signed by the said John Roche O’Bryen the testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us (present at the same time) who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses – William Henry Burke 32 Thistle Grove, Brompton  – Chas Jas Richards Clerk to Jas Warner 61 Chancery Lane & 9 Livermere Road, Dalston

 

The Grant of Probate for John Roche O’Bryen’s Will shows assets valued at under £14,000. 

This transcription of John Roche O’Bryen’s Will is reproduced from the original manuscript copy retained by the Probate Office Sub Registry in York .

A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 4, Burke v. O’Bryen

A little over a year ago, I came across this in the national Archives catalogue,  ” Cause number: 1872 B246. Short title: Burke v Keith.”  Basil and Harriet O’Bryen were somehow involved in the case. I registered for a reader’s ticket, given the required notice because the records were stored off site, and was booked in for a visit to the National Archives in Kew.

National Archives, Kew

My original plan was to see if anything about Burke v. Keith could shed any light on Burke v. O’Bryen. It was a rather odd experience. Very close, in fact only a few stops on the Overground. Almost airport-style searches for entry into the reading rooms, and then a collection of the materials ordered via a rather strange two-way locker system.  Everyone else seemed to be either collecting books, or A4 box files, or even large heavy-duty brown envelopes. What I seemed to be collecting was larger. “Ah, the large order” was what the lady at the desk said ” I’ll bring the trolley round to your locker. It’ll probably be best if you take the boxes out one at a time, and return each one before you collect the next.”

What turned up was three cardboard archive boxes, each tied with rather elderly bits of string, and after a lot of looking through irrelevant, unrelated cases. I found this

1872-B-No 246 Filed 28th November 1872 pursuant to order dated 1st November 1872

In Chancery

between

William Henry Burke – plaintiff

and

Wilson Keith

Basil William O’Bryen, and Harriet Matilda, his wife

Mary Ann Burke, the wife of William Henry Burke.

and

William Donald Henry Burke

Edmund John Burke

Kate Alice Burke (spinster)

Sarah Elizabeth Burke (spinster)

Walter Keith Burke

all infants

Defendants

So Burke v. Keith and others is a case where Henry Burke is in a legal dispute with his sister, and two brothers-in-law, [Wilson Keith is Mary Ann Burke’s brother] and his wife, and children are also defendants in the case. What follows is fairly full and verbatim:

The joint and several answer of Wilson Keith, Basil William O’Bryen, and Harriett Matilda, his wife, three of the above-named defendants to the amended bill of complaint of the above named Plaintiff.

In answer to the amended said bill we, Wilson Keith, Basil William O’Bryen, and Harriett Matilda O’Bryen, say as follows-

  1. We believe the statements contained in the first eight paragraphs of the Plaintiff’s Bill of Complaint are correct.
  2. The said William Henry Burke the testator in the Bill named made his will dated the 6th day of May 1870 and thereby after making certain bequests and devises he gave all the residue of his real and personal estate to his daughter the defendant Harriett Matilda O’Bryen then Harriett Matilda Burke absolutely and he appointed the defendant Harriett Matilda O’Bryen and George William Wood and the defendant Basil William O’Bryen, executrix and executors of his said will.
  3. The said testator died on the 17th July 1870 without having revoked or altered his said will except so far as the same was revoked or altered by a codicil thereto which did not affect the disposition of residue or the appointment of executors in the will contained.
  4. Upon the testator’s death a caveat was entered by the Plaintiff William Henry Burke  against the proof of the said will and codicil. The said caveat was however withdrawn and the said will and codicil admitted to probate upon an arrangement being come to between the Plaintiff and the defendant Harriett Matilda O’Bryen then Harriett Matilda Burke. The said arrangement was embodied in the following agreement which was duly signed by the solicitors of the parties on 19th November 1870.

“Miss Burke to assign Green’s mortgage debt and the West Drayton mortgage and the securities for the same”

“Miss Burke to take upon herself payment of Mr and Mrs Shea’s annuity”

“Mr Burke to provide for the child Rhoda and to pay Messrs Jenkinsons’ and Mr Lovejoy’s charges and expenses in respect of Green’s mortgage.”

“Miss Burke to pay all debts and charges out of residue, The household furniture, plate, linen, brougham, and horse and things in and about the house and premises not to be considered residue but to be the property of Miss Burke.

“Miss Burke to be entitled to retain out of residue £200 and £500 to dispose of as she sees fit.”

“The balance of the residue (if any)to be handed to Mr Burke.”

“Miss Burke to execute deeds in accordance with drafts marked, A,B, and C. Mr Burke to execute deed in accordance with draft marked D.

“If residue insufficient to pay the debts and charges including the £200 and £500 Mr Burke is to make up deficiency to the extent of £1000 to be paid in equal instalments in one and two years. If the deficiency should not exceed £500 to be paid within one year and if not exceeding £250 to be paid on demand.

It’s not Burke v. O’Bryen, in fact it seems to be rather the reverse. An out-of-court settlement between Henry Burke and his younger sister, which seems to be very much in his favour. Harriet does get most, if not all, of the house contents, but by and large, Henry Burke seems to have got his way regarding the residue.

It still leaves the question about what exactly Burke v. O’Bryen in 1871 was about. It must have happened between the 1st February, when Harriet and Basil were married, and 8th August 1871 when the notice was published in the London Gazette. 

There are two other major questions raised by Harriet and Henry’s settlement. First,  why does Henry agree for “Mr Burke to provide for the child Rhoda.” Who is she, and why does she need to be provided for? Secondly, who are Mr and Mrs Shea, and why does Harriet ” take upon herself payment of Mr and Mrs Shea’s annuity” ?

The other person who doesn’t really seem to appear much is Elizabeth Sarah Burke. In 1870, she was forty years old , and had been married to Alfred Edwardes for fourteen years, all five of their children had been born, and their eldest son was about eleven years old. Both Elizabeth and Alfred seem to have avoided the dispute.

But the next step is to look in greater detail about what Burke v. Keith can tell us.

A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 3, the court cases.

Part of the William Henry Burke story  [If you haven’t seen part 1 and part 2 use the links here]  was always going to come from what the court case was. Quite early on, I had come across this cutting from the London Gazette.

So it’s quite clear that there has been some sort of argument about the will. Given the title of the case referred to “Burke against O’Bryen” and that George Wood is “one of the defendants and executors”, it must be the case that either Basil or Harriet O’Bryen, or, most likely, both, were also defendants. The only close adult member of the Burke family likely to be the claimant is (William) Henry Burke, and it appears from this notice that he had some sort of dispute with his sister, and a brother-in-law. So the search was on for what the case was about. We knew from the details in the ” Illustrated London News “ in January 1871 that WHB left about £ 18,000. The only figures in that clipping were that Henry Burke received shares worth £ 6,070 ” beyond any other provision made for him “. We also know that he made “provision and settlement for his two daughters, and daughter in law,” , and that Harriet received £ 500 to give to charity as she saw fit, and that she was the  “residuary legatee of both his real and personal estate “. So the bulk of the estate, almost two-thirds in fact, are either settled on the daughters, and daughter-in-law, or part of the residual estate. Harriet also seems to get the family home, and potentially other property as well.

32 Thistle Grove [now Drayton Gardens] in South Kensington was a fairly new-built house, construction had started in 1845, with the majority of the houses completed by the end of the 1850’s. It had probably cost in the region of about £ 600 to build. So not a bad thing to inherit. All in all, Harriet and Basil seem to have done fairly well from her inheritance, certainly well enough for Henry Burke to feel hard done by.

The next step was to try to track down the details of Burke against O’Bryen. After a lot of fruitless searching, I finally came across something in the National Archives catalogue, having searched under O’Bryen. The following came up:

Cause number: 1872 B246. Short title: Burke v Keith.

Plaintiffs: William Henry Burke.

Defendants: Wilson Keith, Basel William O’Bryen, Harriett Matilda O’Bryen his wife, Mary Anne Burke (wife of William Henry Burke) and William Donald Henry Burke, Edmund John Burke, Kate Alice Burke spinster, Sarah Elizabeth Burke spinster and Walter Keith Burke.

The title of the court case isn’t Burke v. O’Bryen exactly, but it’s definitely a court case involving Henry Burke, his sister Harriet, and Basil O’Bryen. It had to be worth looking at, so a little over a year ago, I’d registered for a reader’s ticket, given the required notice because the records were stored off site, and was booked in for a visit to the National Archives in Kew.

A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 2, Basil and Harriet.

For reasons I’m not entirely sure why, there has been a large increase in interest in the post I did just over two years ago about the will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870).  This got me to look at him again, and to see what else could be put together. This is the second of a series of posts that should explain a lot more. If you haven’t read the first one you can find it here. My starting point for looking at William Burke was one of his sons-in-law Basil O’Bryen. But everything is much more complicated than that.

To re-cap slightly.

William Henry Burke and John Roche O’Bryen [Basil’s father] were neighbours in South Kensington. Both men drew up new wills in May 1870, and died in July that year. What raised my curiosity was the fact that neither of WH Burke’s elder children, or their spouses were made executors, and he chose his youngest daughter, and her twenty-two year old fiancé Basil. Basil O’Bryen had stood out very early on. Mostly, because he is a wrong’un; he married three times, at least once bigamously [at least according the English law] in Australia. He abandoned his son from his marriage to Harriet, and his second wife and their two children, and moved to Australia, where he married his third wife. There is also signs of at least one court case, with reference to a court case Burke v. O’Bryen in a London Gazette notice in August 1871.

So on with the story.

There’s something about the Basil and Harriet story that I just can’t get at the moment. In brief, it reads like the plot of a novel. They marry when he is twenty-two, and she is thirty-three. I still can’t work out whether it’s love, money, or both. His father left  £1,000 [present-day value £750,000] to the trust Harriet was a beneficiary of when he drew up his new will. The other parties to the settlement being his daughter Corinne, and Basil’s step-mother Celia. Presumably, there were already funds in the trust, initially I thought it seemed to be a Marriage Settlement, but I am beginning to think that it was a settlement to provide income for both Corinne, and Harriet. John Roche O’Bryen’s will is very detailed, quite long, and very specific with regard to provision to the children of his second marriage to Celia Grehan. There is a great lack of detail about any of his adult children, apart from the reference to the settlement.  The reason, I now think, it may be a settlement for adult female members of the family is the will very clearly states that any sums provided for daughters should besettled upon daughters in manner following, that is to say. Upon trust, to pay the income thereof respectively to such daughter for her sole and separate use, free from the control of her husbands.” But this doesn’t really help with where Basil got any money from, and when. The best guess is that there was money from Eliza Henderson [ JROB’s first wife], his mother, and that both Henry Hewitt, and Basil had benefitted from that already.

The marriage lasted just thirty-one months, and Harriet was dead by the end of August 1873, leaving Basil a twenty-five year old widower, with an eleven-month old son Basil John. All very tragic, but Basil bounces back, and is re-married within nine months of Harriet’s death. He is now twenty-six, and his bride Agnes Kenny is twenty-three.

Basil and Harriet’s marriage also raises questions about who the families are. The main one is why were they married by the Archbishop of Westminster? Marrying in the pro-Cathedral makes sense because it is fairly close to Thistle Grove, and was probably the parish church at the time. Archbishop [later Cardinal] Manning seems to be a rather grand celebrant for the wedding, particularly as Harriet had been christened as an Anglican, at St Leonard’s Shoreditch, as had her brother, and sister. But perhaps, as Manning was a convert himself, he looked fondly on bringing Anglicans to the true Church. Elizabeth Burke, Harriet’s sister also married a Catholic.

What is interesting is how connected to the Burke family he seems to remain, at least initially. Or possibly more correctly, how connected to Burke property he is. According to the London Gazette  William Henry Burke of No 32 Thistle grove South Kensington, had his will proved by amongst others, Harriet Matilda Burke of No 32 Thistle grove  and Basil William O’Bryen of No 28 Thistle grove. So in December 1870, they each gave their father’s addresses as theirs. On the census date, April 2nd 1871, they both were listed at his step-mother’s address No 28 Thistle grove, where they were described as “visitors”. But the probate record for Harriet – slightly strangely not proved until 30th August 1875, two years after her death, gave her principal address at the time of her death as No 32 Thistle grove, which was also the address that Basil gave when he proved the will.  So five years after William Henry Burke’s death, and two years after Harriet’s, her widower is apparently still connected to the Burke family home. Even though during that time, Harriet had given birth to their son Basil junior in Torquay, and she died at 34 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne. Her probate record recorded her as “late of 32 Thistle grove”. She left just £100.

The next nugget came from a small story in “The Tablet” [The International Catholic News Weekly.]

THE PRO-CATHEDRAL—A pleasing addition has lately been made to the Pro-Cathedral of Clifton. The side chapel, dedicated to St. Joseph, has been entirely renewed and decorated, and a marble altar erected, the reredos of which was executed in Belgium. The whole has a very pleasing effect. It is the gift of Basil O’Bryen, esq., as a memorial of his late wife Harriet Matilda O’Bryen, who died August 23, 1873, and whose remains are buried in the cemetery at Fulham.  [Page 18, The Tablet, 5th February 1876.]

This is also very curious. There doesn’t appear to be any family connection between the Burke family, and Bristol. In fact, far from it. William Henry Burke gave his birthplace as the “City of London”, and Sarah Burke (neé Penny) and all the children were recorded as being born in London in the 1841 census when they were living in Noble Street in the City. [Noble Street is north-east of St Paul’s]. There is an O’Bryen Bristol connection, John Roche O’Bryen had practiced medicine there from at least 1841, and Basil himself was born there, and his mother, and six brothers and sisters, are buried in the city. But by the time Basil was 10 the O’Bryen family were in Liverpool, and by 1861, when he was 12, the family were in London, and he was at boarding school at Ratcliffe College.

It’s an interesting public gesture, and all the odder for the eccentric choice. A memorial in the Pro-cathedral in London would have seemed more obvious, given that Basil and Harriet got married there, or a memorial at St Thomas of Canterbury in Fulham, where John Roche O’Bryen, Basil’s step-brother Walter, and Harriet were buried; followed twenty-five years later by his step-mother Celia, and, later still, by another step-brother Philip. Perhaps Basil felt the need to try to repair his father’s somewhat sullied name in Bristol.

But there is still the question about why Basil and Harriet were her father’s executors, and more particularly, in a rather patriarchal age, WHB didn’t choose either his son, or a long-established son-in-law.

The Burke children were

  • Elizabeth Sarah (1829 – 1889)
  • William Henry ( 1835 -1908)
  • Harriet Matilda (1838 – 1873)

In 1870, the eldest daughter Elizabeth Sarah was forty years old , and had been married for fourteen years, all five of her children had been born, her eldest son was about eleven years old. In one of those nice twists, and coincidences, Elizabeth and Alfred Edwardes’ second son, nine year-old, Henry Grant Edwardes would go on to marry Lucy Purssell, whose sister Gertrude married Basil’s step-brother Ernest O’Bryen in 1898. So Basil’s nephew was his step-brother’s brother-in-law.

His only son William Henry, known as Henry, was thirty-five, had been married nearly nine years, and was the father of four children, with another one on the way. Yet the choice of executors was the youngest unmarried daughter, and her much younger fiancé.

 

So is the answer to be found in Burke v. O’Bryen ?

A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 1.

For reasons I’m not entirely sure why, there has been a large increase in interest in the post I did just over two years ago about the will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870). In fact there has been a 375% increase in views this year, compared with 2016. Neither the post about his will, nor another one about him posted about the same time give many, or indeed any, clues as to why it is there. Both posts were very early ones in the history of this site, and like a lot of the early posts are almost like cuttings in a scrapbook, not clearly explaining themselves. This is the first of a series of posts that should explain a lot more. My starting point for looking at William Burke was one of his sons-in-law Basil O’Bryen.

William Henry Burke and John Roche O’Bryen [Basil’s father] were neighbours in South Kensington, both living in Thistle Grove [now Drayton Gardens, not to be confused with the current Thistle Grove, parallel with Drayton Gardens]. Both men drew up new wills in May 1870. On the 6th May in  William Henry Burke’s case, and ten days later  on the 16th May by JROB. William Burke witnessed John Roche O’Bryen’s will, and John Roche O’Bryen’s youngest adult son from his first marriage, Basil O’Bryen, was one of the executors of William Henry Burke’s will, along with WHB’s daughter Harriet, and an accountant. JROB also drew up a Deed of Settlement on the 13th May 1870, in favour of Harriet Burke, with his wife Celia, and daughter Corinne [Basil’s older sister] as trustees. This was presumably a Marriage Settlement as Basil O’Bryen and Harriet Burke married in 1871.

So far, it all appears fairly straightforward. Two families who have grown close, and about to be linked by marriage. But something about it just niggles slightly, and has almost from the start. The closer one looks the more of a story there seems to be.  For a start, both men were dead within months of drawing up the wills, and trust settlements. With almost perfect symmetry, William Henry Burke lasted seventy-two days, dying on the 17th July 1870, at Queenstown [now Cobh] in Cork; John Roche O’Bryen lived a day less, dying seventy-one days after signing his will, on 26th July 1870 at home in Thistle Grove in London. William Burke was seventy-eight years old, and JROB was sixty.

So both men may have just been putting their affairs in order, and a forthcoming marriage, and the need for a marriage settlement may have just prompted the work, or it might have been something else.

This prompted me to look at the families, and to who in each family was doing what. John Roche O’Bryen had a lot of children, well more accurately had had a lot of children. In total, he had sixteen, starting in 1833, when he was twenty-three, and finishing thirty-four years later in 1867 at the age of fifty-seven. There were ten children from his first marriage to Eliza Henderson, of whom only three survived to adulthood, and six children from the second marriage to Celia Grehan, of whom five survived to adulthood. At the time he drew up his will, JROB had three adult children, and six under the age of twelve, the youngest being two and a half.

William Henry Burke’s family is easier. He had three children with Sarah Penny, who he married in 1827. All of William’s children were over thirty, and at the time of his death, his eldest daughter was forty.

Both men had three adult children to choose from as executors, and trustees, and they appeared to make some slightly odd choices, given the possibilities. The Burke children were

  • Elizabeth Sarah (1829 – 1889)
  • William Henry ( 1835 -1908)
  • Harriet Matilda (1838 – 1873)

and JROB’s adult children were

  • Henry Hewitt (1835 – 1895)
  • Corinne Margueritte (1837 – 1907)
  • (William Gregory) Basil (1848 – 1920)

So the next step was to look at the trustees and executors. The Illustrated London News, on  Jan 14, 1871, told us that William Henry Burke’s will was proved by “Miss Harriett Matilda Burke, his daughter, George William Wood, and Basil William O’Bryen, the joint acting executors.” John Roche O’Bryen’s will was proved eighteen days after his death by his widow Celia, and Rev. Henry Hewitt O’Bryen D.D. the executors. This seems perfectly suitable, Henry is the eldest son, thirty-five years old, a doctor of divinity, and a Catholic parish priest just outside Wigan. How close the relationship between father and son was is never really that clear. Henry started training for the priesthood in his late teens, and aged twenty transferred his sponsoring diocese from Clifton, where the family home in Bristol was, to Liverpool. He then studied, and was ordained in Rome, before returning to Liverpool in 1858. Their paths crossed for a couple of years in Liverpool between 1858 and 1860, when JROB practised as a doctor there, but by 1861 John Roche O’Bryen and his family with Celia Grehan [Henry’s step-mother] had moved to London.

William Henry Burke’s executors are much odder. Here’s part of the reason why

WHB’s executors are his youngest daughter, her fiancé Basil, and an accountant. This always seemed to be slightly strange. William Henry Burke had three children, and at the time he wrote his will, his eldest daughter Elizabeth Sarah was forty years old , and had been married for fourteen years, a mother of five, her eldest son was about eleven years old. His only son William Henry, known as Henry, was thirty-five, had been married nearly nine years, and was the father of four children, with another one on the way. Yet the choice of executors was the youngest unmarried daughter, and her much younger fiancé.

Right from the start, this raised the question – Why these two? Basil O’Bryen had stood out very early on. Mostly, because he is a bit of a bounder, to put it mildly. Basil married three times, at least once bigamously [at least according the English law] in Australia. The legal position in Australia was more complicated. Apparently re-marriage after seven years of no contact with a previous wife was legal in Australia. What is beyond dispute is that he abandoned his son from his marriage to Harriet, and his second wife and their two children, and moved to Australia, where he married his third wife.

So with the benefit of hindsight, Basil does appear to be a wrong’un; which brings us back to WHB’s will, or more specifically, at this stage to the probate notice. Two things stand out, the first is that Basil is described as an accountant, and the second is his address is given as 18 Gunter Grove.  In 1870, Basil is twenty-two, and four years into an apprenticeship with Charles Rowsell, an accountant based in Walbrook, in the City, just down from the Mansion House. So maybe he is just being economical with the truth, he is a sort of accountant. But the Gunter Grove address is very confusing. It’s about three quarters of a mile away from Thistle Grove, but it does seem peculiar that he is not in the family home. He’s fairly young, as yet unmarried, and it seems unlikely that he would bother living away from the family home. 18 Gunter Grove, if he was living there, is a big house. The next piece of the jigsaw came from in a notice in the London Gazette

The London Gazette, December 9, 1870

WILLIAM HENRY BURKE Esq Deceased

Pursuant to the Act of Parliament of the 22nd and 23rd Vic cap 35 intituled An Act to further amend the Law of Property and to relieve Trustees

NOTICE is hereby given that all persons having any  claim, debt, or demand against or upon the estate of William Henry Burke late of No 32 Thistle grove South Kensington in the county of Middlesex Esq (who died on the 17th day of July 1870 and whose will with a codicil thereto was proved in the Principal Registry of Her Majesty’s Court of Probate on the 3rd day of December 1870 by Harriet Matilda Burke of No 32 Thistle grove South Kensington aforesaid Spinster George William Wood of No 4 Sambrook court Basinghall street in the city of London Accountant and Basil William O Bryen of No 28 Thistle grove South Kensington aforesaid Accountant are hereby required to send in the particulars of their claims debts or demands to the said George William Wood one of the said executors at his office No 4 Sambrook court Basinghall street in the city of London on or before the 1st day of February 1871 after which day the said executors will proceed to the assets of the deceased among the parties entitled thereto having regard only to the claims debts or demands of which they shall then have had notice and the said executors will not be liable for any part of such assets to any person or persons of whose claim debt or demand they shall not then have had notice Dated this 7th day of December 1870.

WILLIAM GILLS Solicitor, No. 26, Old Broad –street, E.C.

So perhaps the National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) entry is wrong, but it is surprising that a formal legal document would get something so basic wrong, and also then place Basil O’Bryen quite so geographically close. By the time of their marriage, both Basil and Harriet are described as being in Thistle Grove again.

The Medical Press and Circular Advertiser Feb 8 1871

On the 1st inst at the Pro Cathedral Kensington, by his Grace Archbishop Manning, assisted by the Rev Fathers Foley and Conolly. Basil, second surviving son of the late John Roche O’Bryen Esq MD to Harriet Matilda, youngest daughter of the late William Henry Burke; both of Thistle Grove South Kensington.

They marry almost exactly six months after JROB’s death, and therefore six months and two weeks after William Burke’s death. This would be the expected period of “full mourning” after the death of a parent, but still relatively soon after both fathers’ deaths. It might explain the somewhat low-key, and under-reported, wedding. Having said that, one or both of them are sufficiently well-connected for them to be married by the Archbishop of Westminster himself. The Pro-Cathedral was, what is now Our Lady of Victories on Kensington High Street. But there is still the nagging question about the age gap. Basil is twenty-two, and Harriet is thirty-three. The marriage does seem to have been approved of by both fathers, or at least one can surmised that from the deed of settlement drawn up by John Roche O’Bryen in May 1870.

The next step came from the London Gazette

This looked interesting. It was something to hunt for, given the names involved, it’s a dispute about William Henry Burke’s will, and as George Wood is one of the defendants, someone is suing the executors. Are Basil and Harriet too good to be true?

The Late Sister Mary of St. Philip (Frances Mary Lescher). 1825 – 1904

The name which heads this article (writes a correspondent) was dear and familiar to thousands, and the shadow which her loss has cast over the great Convent and College of Mount Pleasant falls indeed over the whole of Catholic England. Frances Mary Lescher was the eldest child of William Joseph Lescher of London, and his wife Mary, daughter of John Hoy, of Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk. The Leschers were of German descent, and had preserved the Catholic faith unsullied since pre-Reformation times. So, too, had the Hoys; and their ancestors, the Daveys, and the Cruises, were well-known ” Papists “ in Oxfordshire. There seems to have been in both families something of the old Chivalry of the Knights of the Middle Ages—their warlike spirit, enthusiastic devotion to a great cause, the exquisite tenderness and finished courtesy. And all these things were inherited to the full by Frances Mary, the child who came into the world on May 8, 1825.

Her first education was confided to the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall, where she remained till the age of 14, bearing away the gold medal, the highest prize for excellence in the school. From this time onwards she pursued her studies under the supervision of her father, whose constant companion she now became, reading with him and travelling with him on the Continent.

The Oxford Movement aroused her keenest interest, and her sympathy with the converts, to whom the Leschers’ house in Nottingham-place stood always open, was unbounded. Frances threw herself heart and soul into the great movement of revival among English Catholics, which had been set on foot immediately after the Catholic Emancipation Act, and with which the names of Bishop Wiseman, Dr.Gentili, Father Spencer, Frederick Lucas, and the elder Pugin are intimately connected, and gave in her own generation all the support a woman could give to those anxious to devote themselves to the furtherance of the Catholic cause in England. Her wide reading, brilliant conversation, and personal attraction charmed all, and she was as wise and practical as she was accomplished and ardent. The teaching of poor children—that work with which the name of Sister Mary of St. Philip is indissolubly connected—found early a place in her life; she made a classroom of the coach-house and there taught them their catechism, and more than once led the ragged waifs and strays, who formed her Sunday school class, through the streets of the city to church. This passion of her heart, for in truth it was nothing else, eventually drew her into the institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, which is wholly devoted to the education of girls, more especially of the poor. About the time of Miss Lescher’s entrance into the order, Father James Nugent (now Mgr. Nugent), Father James Carr (now Mgr. Carr), and others of the Liverpool clergy, had invited the Sisters to take charge of some of the elementary schools in the town.

Mount Pleasant.

In 1856 they opened in Mount Pleasant a training college for schoolmistresses, and Frances Lescher, immediately on the completion of her novitiate, came to fill the post of Mistress of Studies. From that moment her name was identified with the work; the training college was what it was, and is, because of Sister Mary of St. Philip—and from that Feast of Candlemas, when she gave her first lessons to the little band of 21 students, to the last day when she sat among the 160 girls gathered round her in the splendid new hall, it has been her spirit and her heart which have been the life and light of the place. All, Catholics or Protestants, inspectors, clergy, university professors, admired her superiority of mind, respected her judgment and her counsel, and recognised her influence. “She is a woman,” said Sir Francis Sandford, then Secretary of the Education Department, “who might fearlessly place her hand even on the helm of the State.” His appreciation of her was ratified by that of his successors in office, and by many men eminent in the educational world, who from time to time visited the College. Such, in the early days, were Sir James Kaye Shuttleworth, Earl Granville (who in 1861 was President of the Committee of Council on Education), the Marquis of Ripon, and in later years Mr. Mundella and Sir G. Kekewich. MM. Inspectors of Training Colleges, Mr. Tinling and Mr. Warburton, both Canons of the Church of England, Sir Joshua Fitch, and Mr. Scott Coward, regarded Mount Pleasant as a model institution, unique in its organisation and work, and the local inspectors have not been less warm in their praise. It may be fitting to remark here that the home and centre for pupil teachers at Mount Pleasant paved the way for the foundation of similar centres for the collective teaching of pupil-teachers, first in Liverpool, then in the metropolis and other large towns. Mr. Sadler, in his recent report, says : “There is, so far as I am aware, no educational institution in England exactly comparable to that which, by the patience and foresight of the Sister Superior, has gradually been built up at Mount Pleasant. here in one long range of buildings, the slowly achieved outcome of half a century of work, every grade of girls’ education is provided for, from the primary school upwards, including the professional education of girls preparing themselves for the work of teaching in elementary or in secondary schools. Nor, in spite of the magnitude of the undertaking, is it the impression of mere size or numbers that dwells in the recollection of the visitor. It is rather the sense of quiet, cheerful, untiring, labour and of care for each individual pupil that lingers in his mind, and comes back vividly to his thoughts as he recalls what he heard and saw.” This appreciative and sympathetic report of Mr. Sadler’s was one of her last human consolations. In the beginning of December she caught a serious internal chill, and from the first, on account of her advanced age, the doctor entertained grave apprehensions as to the issue. From her sick bed she took the keenest interest in the College celebrations of the jubilee of the Immaculate Conception, arranging for the solemn Act of Consecration, and listened to the notes of the hymns borne up from the procession winding along the corridors below. On the morrow she received the Last Sacraments in great peace, and from that moment she laid aside completely, with the simplicity of a little child, the burden of her solicitous work, to give all her thought and care to the last great journey. But her splendid constitution, the widespread and incessant prayer sent up to God for her dear life, and, above all, her own extreme clearness of mind and freshness of memory made her sisters and children hope against hope. A serious crisis on the afternoon of Friday the fifth took away all illusion; it was repeated on Saturday, and on Sunday night at about 11 p.m. she gave up her soul into the hands of God, very tranquilly and gently. Her noble life had closed nobly, fittingly. All that the Church could give her she had; and two days before the end the Bishop had brought her the supreme consolation of the Holy Father’s blessing. To the last she kept an unclouded mind, visibly uniting herself to ‘the prayers and hymns, pressing the crucifix to her lips, lifting her feeble hand to make one of her old large signs of the Cross as she received her frequent absolutions—to the very end her own sweet, simple, great self.

She was laid out in the community-room in all religious simplicity with no other pomp than that of the kneeling Sisters, who watched her night and day, and the never-ceasing influx of her dearly loved and faithful “old students,” whose grief was pitiful to behold.

The Funeral.

On Thursday last Bishop Whiteside sang the Solemn Requiem in the beautiful convent chapel, whose sanctuary was entirely draped in black. The Mass was admirably chanted by the diocesan choir, conducted by the Rev T. A. Walmsley. The Right Rev. Mgr. Carr, V.G., acted as assistant priest ; Canon Gordon, of Birkdale as deacon; Canon Banks, of St. Edward’s College as subdeacon. The deacons at the throne were Canon Kennedy and Canon Cosgrave ; the masters of ceremonies the Revv. J. Clarkson and W. Slattery. More than 80 priests were present in the chapel amongst them Provost Clegg, Mgr. Marsden, Canons Beggan, O’Toole Barry, Singleton, Richardson, Chisholm ;the Rev. T. J. Walshe, chaplain to the community; Father Hayes, Rector of St. Francis Xavier’s; the Rectors of the churches of Liverpool and the outlying district, and representatives of different religious orders.

Immediately after the absolutions the cortege passed from the chapel down the main staircase and along the spacious corridor to the door of the new wing in Hope-street, where a long line of coaches awaited the mourners—clergy, sisters, and former students with other friends, all anxious to give this last testimony of esteem and affection to her whom they had loved and venerated in life. But the most touching part of the funeral was the assemblage of poor children drawn up at intervals along the route in front of each school with their parents and teachers, patiently standing in frost and fog, the boys with raised caps, girls with joined hands and bowed heads. Some 40 coaches reached the Great Crosby Cemetery, where the procession formed and passed through lines of teachers and former students proving by their presence and their sorrowful demeanour that she whom they mourned had been their best and truest friend.

Expressions of sympathy and condolence have flooded in upon the Sisters from all quarters ; telegrams were received from the Marquis of Ripon, from H. M. Inspectors, from the Professors of the Liverpool University ; letters from his Grace the Archbishop of Westminster and the bishops and clergy all over the British Isles. A vote of sympathy was passed by the Association of Principals of Training Colleges holding their annual Conference in London, and “carried in silence,” wrote the President, “by the whole body of members rising in their places.” A deputation from the University conveyed expressions of esteem and regret from that body ; and the Liverpool Education Committee passed a unanimous resolution : “That this Committee desire to express their deep regret at the death of Miss F. M. Lescher, Principal of the Mount Pleasant Training College ; to place on record their high appreciation of the services rendered to the cause of education in the city ; and to convey their sympathy with the authoritieS of the college in the loss they have sustained.”

The main lines, large and simple, of Sister Mary of St. Philip’s striking personality were apparent to all who came into even passing contact with her. A countenance, noble and eminently good, and easy dignity of presence that was far removed from stiffness or condescension, and above all the genuine and unaffected interest which she took in the doings, plans, joys and sorrows of the most casual visitor, and what someone has happily called “that princely gift of making herself all in all,” these things charmed and won multitudes. Multitudes too, recognised and admired her royal gifts of mind—her quick and sure judgment, her wise and temperate counsel, her quite exceptional capacity for organisation and. administration and few who knew her ever so little, but felt the charm of the freshness, the enthusiasm, the youngness of heart which were so beautiful and harmonious a contradiction of her ripe years. Others have been privileged to see more— the grand simplicity of her daily life, devoting to others, without suspicion of heroism, time, talents, labour ; the large sympathy that went out to the smallest the most trivial of sorrows ; the ever-growing gentleness and forbearance and long patience ; and that lowliness of spirit which was so marked and beautiful a trait in one so great. The fragrance of all these things and many more is with those who immediately lived and loved and laboured under one roof with Sister Mary of St. Philip, and they are to them part of her very name. Yet not to them alone does that name belong, but to the whole Catholic Church in England, to the poor of Christ and the priests of Christ, wherever they suffer and toil between its three seas. R.I.P.

The Sisters of Notre Dame, Mount Pleasant, desire to thank most warmly all those who have written to express sympathy with them in their sorrow. Owing to the large number of letters received from friends and from students, past and present, it is impossible to write an individual acknowledgment.

The above text was found on p.26, 31st December 1904 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .