Tag Archives: John Roche O’Bryen

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 .

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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 Will and codicil of John Roche, January 1826:

Lower Aghada, co Cork

The Will and codicil of John Roche, January 1826: 


Whenever it happens that the Aghada estate, is absent of male heirs, to wit, of the said James Joseph Roche, or by any other contingency reverts wholly to me, I hereby leave it in as full a manner as I can convey it to my nephew, William Roche, to be enjoyed by him and his lawful begotten heirs male for ever ; and, as I have perfected leases to be held in trust, of the demesne and two adjoining farms of Aghada, subject to a yearly rent accord-ing to a valuation made, I leave him my interest, if any I had, in those leases ; and in case of his not coming into possession of the estate by the means before-mentioned,  I leave him  £6,000 of my £4   per cent. stock, to be held by trustees, the interest of which is to pay the rent of the demesne and two farms above mentioned ;

  • to my eldest grandson, James (sic)  J. R.  O’Brien   I leave   £10,000   £4 per  cent. stock ;
  • to my grand-daughter, Jane O’Brien, I leave  £4,000 £4 per cent. stock ;
  • to my daughter, Mary O’Brien,  I leave the  £4,000  £4 per cent. stock I settled on her as a marriage portion on her marriage, for her use and that of her younger children ;
  • to my niece,  Ellen Verling,  I leave  £1,000 £4 per cent, stock, with £30 a-year profit rent I leave on her brother Bartholomew Verling’s stores ;
  • to my grandson, J. Roche O’Brien, I leave also my interest in White Point, after his mother’s death ;  
  • I leave  £100 to my sister, Ellen Verling ;
  • to my sister, Julia Enery, £100 ;
  • to my nephew, Doctor Verling,  and his sister, Catherine Ellis, £100 each,  and I desire the stock on the farm to be sold to pay these legacies ;
  • to my nephew,   William Roche, and my grand-daughter,  Jane O’Brien, I give my household furniture, plate, &c., and it is my wish, if the rules of our church allow it, that they should be married and live in Aghada house ; may it bless and prosper them and their offspring.

To the parish of Aghada, I leave the school-house, and £20 a-year for its support, and also the chapel and priest’s house  I leave to the parish rent-free for ever, as long as they shall be used for such qualified purposes ; the five slate houses I built in the village, I leave to five of the poorest families rent free ; to David Coughlan I leave the house he now lives in during his life ; to my servant, James Tracy   I leave the house his wife now lives in ;    and to my wife’s servant, Mary Ahearne, otherwise Finne, her house rent-free during their lives ; and to each of those three, viz.,David Coughlan, James Tracy, and Mary Ahearne,  otherwise Finne, I leave £10 a-year during their lives : 

having had unfounded confidence in my unhappy nephew, James Roche,  I did not take legal means under  the settlement I made to secure those last bequests out of the Aghada estate ; I trust, and hope, and desire that whosoever is in possession of the estate do confirm these my wishes and intents. I appoint my trusty friend, Henry Bennett, (my present law agent) William Roche, and my daughter, Mary O’Brien as executors of this my last will.”

 The codicil to the will was as follows :—

 By my will dated the 5th day of January, 1826, I appointed my friend Henry Bennett, my nephew, William Roche, and my daughter, Mary O’Brien, executors to that will ; now, by this codicil, I annul that appointment, and appoint John Gibson, barrister-at-law, Bartholomew Hackett, of Middleton, distiller, and my nephew, William Roche, as my executors to that will, and do hereby empower them to name and appoint two trustees for the purpose of managing the sums I left to my nephew, William Roche, my grand-daughter, Jane O’Brien, and my grandson, J. O’Brien, as it is my intent and will that they should only receive the interest, and the principal to remain untouched during their lives, to go to their children ; out of William Roche’s interest the rent of Aghada which I have leased him is to be paid ; and I desire that he and my grand-daughter Jane, who are shortly to be married, will reside there. I leave William Roche all the stock, &c., on the farm, and to him and his wife all my household furniture, plate, and china, and make them my residuary legatees ; it is my will that my grandson, James R. O’Brien, shall live with them at Aghada until he is of age, which is to be at the age of twenty-five, and not before ; and the trustees are to pay him until that period £100 a-year to complete his education, and another £100 a-year during that period to his mother, and the remainder of the interest of his £10,000 to be paid William Roche to assist him in keeping up Aghada during that period, and I trust by that time he will have a profession by which he will add to his income ; I request and desire that nothing shall prevent his following his profession;  it is my intention that William Roche and his wife shall step into possession of Aghada house, demesne, and farms, which are leased to him in the same way that I leave it when it shall please God to take me ; in case of the death of William Roche before his wife, she is to be paid the interest of her £4,000, to be made up £200 a-year as her jointure ; and if she dies before him, he is to have the £10,000, provided she has no issue; but if she leaves issue, it is to go to them after William Roche’s death, as before directed.”

Hewitt – O’Brien March 20th 1778

Castletownshend, co. Cork

1778,  March 20th, at Castle-Townsend co. Cork, Laurence O’Brien, to Miss Hewitt, daughter of Henry Hewitt, Esq, Captain of the Beresford Revenue Cutter.

The Gentleman’s and London Magazine: Or Monthly Chronologer published in Dublin,  printed by John Exshaw in Dame Street.

Laurence O’Brien and Jane Hewitt are Henry Hewitt O’Bryen [1780-1836]’s parents, and John Roche O’Bryen‘s paternal grandparents, so in our case, great, great, great, great, grandparents. Jane Hewitt is also the reason for the Hewitt name occurring as a forename in the next four, or five generations

A Revenue Cutter was a Customs vessel and each cutter master was answerable to and received his sailing orders directly from the Collector of Customs of the port to which his ship was assigned. All crew pay, requests for supplies, arrangements for repairs to the cutter, and mission-specific tasking came directly from the port’s Customs House.

So great grandpa x 5 Henry Hewitt was a Customs Officer.

Countess Cecile de Sommery 1804 -1899

This seemed so simple to start with, and turns out to be full of twists and turns.

There are rather faded entries, in difficult to decipher hand-writing, in John Roche O’Bryen’s family bible which list all his 16 children, the dates and times of the births, and where they were. It also lists the god-parents. The entry for Cecilia Agnes, the ninth child, and seventh daughter is as follows:

Page from John Roche OBryens Family Bible.

9. Cecilia Agnes [O’Bryen] at Bellvue  Novr 17th 1846          10 A.M  Gdfather, Wm Jones Esq, Pike Inn, Glamn Wales.  GdMother, Miss Cecile De Lonmery, Bath.  Died at The [French] Convent Belgium Janr 5th 1856 at 9 yrs & was buried in the Parish Church attended at her grave 320 persons who thanked God that she was taken to her  [chosen end] whilst innocent to God

I’m almost completely sure that Miss Cecile De Lonmery, is in fact Countess Cecile de Sommery. Almost all of that generation’s godparents appear to be wealthy, landed, titled, or Catholic, or in a number of cases at least three out of four.  

Willie Leigh 1829-1906 [Basil O’Bryen’s godfather – child 10] inherited the Woodchester estate in 1873, which his father had bought for £ 170,000 in 1845. He built the Church of the Annunciation, and Woodchester Priory for the Dominicans  shortly after their arrival in October 1850. It housed the noviciate of the Dominican order in England for more than 100 years; they only left in the 1960s when the buildings became too expensive to maintain. The monastery was demolished in 1970 leaving a small contingent of Dominicans to look after the parish.

Philip O’Bryen’s [ child 13] godfather Simon Scope came from a recusant family had had acquired their estates in Wensleydale in the 12th century, and still owned Danby Hall into the 1960’s.

But back to the Countess, this is her obituary in The Tablet.

THE COUNTESS CECILE DE SOMMERY.

Eyre Chantry, Perrymead, Bath

The Requiem Mass for the Countess Cecile de Sommery took place on Monday at the Franciscan Friary, Clevedon, and the body was then , conveyed to Bath for interment in the family vault [the Eyre Chantry] in the Catholic cemetery at Perrymead, where the remaining portion of the service was conducted. The grand-nephew of the deceased, the Marquis de Sommery, and Mr. Thomas Eyre, and his wife, Lady Milford, were the only relatives present. His Royal Highness the Duke of Madrid, head of the House of Bourbon, telegraphed an expression of sympathy with the late Countess’s relatives. The Countess Cecile de Sommery, Chanoinesse of the Royal Order of St. Anne of Bavaria, whose death occurred at Clevedon, Somerset, on April 26, was born in London in the year 1804. Her parents. Armand de Mesniel, Marquis de Sommery, and Cecile Riquet de Caraman, came over to England with the Bourbons during the French Revolution. Her mother was among the ladies last presented at the Palace of Versailles to Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette. One of her sisters married Count Eyre, father of the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. R. I. P.

The above text was found on p.26, 13th May 1899 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 .

So far, all very factual, but fairly astonishing all the same. An elderly single lady being buried in Bath, whose mother met Marie Antoinette, and one of whose nephews was the first Catholic archbishop of Glasgow since the Scottish Reformation, and one of the first patrons of Celtic FC. Another nephew, William Eyre was the rector of Stonyhurst between 1879 -1885, and would have been so for almost the entire school careers of both Ernest and Rex O’Bryen there. So Cecile de Sommery’s nephew was the headmaster to her god-daughter’s youngest two half-brothers, although she [Cecilia O’Bryen] had been dead for eleven years when the elder of them was born.

The sister who married Count Eyre, father of the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow was Augustine Cécile Pulcherie de Sommery (1797 – 1876). They married in 1828, three years after the death of his first wife Sarah Parker (1790 -1825). John and Sarah had five sons, four of whom became priests, and four daughters, three of whom died young, in the eight years of their marriage. So Augustine would have been very much a mother to all the children, who were all under nine when she became their step-mother.

John Lewis Eyre (1789-1880), Count Eyre, was an entrepreneur and one of the founding directors of the London and South Western Railway Company, taking for many years a leading part in the development of that railway. His title was a papal one, granted by Pope Gregory XVI, who created him a Count of the Lateran Hall and Apostolic Palace in 1843. According the Burke’s  A Genealogical And Heraldic Dictionary Of The Peerage And Baronetage Of The British Empire” 1845.  ” The dignity of a Count of the Lateran Hall and Apostolic Palace was conferred by the sovereign pontiff Gregory XVI on Count Eyre the brevet or patent is dated at St Peter’s Rome under the seal of the Fisherman the 3rd day March 1843 and in the thirteenth year of his pontificate signed A Cardinal Lambruschini.”  Pius IX made the title hereditary in 1847, it was inherited by the Archbishop in 1880.

The best known of his four priest sons is Charles Eyre, the first post- Reformation Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. the others being John, a priest in Newcastle, William Eyre S.J., Rector of Stonyhurst and Vincent Eyre, parish priest in London, first of St Mary’s Cadogan Street and then St Mary’s,Hampstead.

Another nice touch, St Mary’s Cadogan Street was the church that Bishop Bidwell was parish priest of, for thirteen years [from 1913 – 1930], and St Mary’s,Hampstead was, in part, founded by Joseph Francis Lescher (1768 – 1827).

In 1894, Archbishop Eyre  invited the Sisters of Notre Dame to come from the Mother House in Liverpool to establish a community in Glasgow. The Notre Dame Training College was opened in 1895 at Dowanhill. Joseph Francis Lescher’s great granddaughter Mary Adela Lescher ( 1847 – 1926)  [Sister Mary of St Wilfrid] was its first Mother Superior.

She  was Harriet Grehan’s niece, and Harriet Grehan was John Roche O’Bryen’s step-mother-in -law. She was also Fanny Lescher’s niece, she [Fanny} was another nun – [Sister Mary of St Philip] who was the Mother Superior at Notre Dame in Mount Pleasant,Liverpool.

It is still a mystery why Thomas Eyre’s wife still called herself Lady Milford after her first husband’s death  in January 1857. She and Thomas married in 1861, she was Lady Anne Jane Howard, daughter of William Howard, 4th Earl of Wicklow, so was a Lady in her own right. But it does seem odd that she still called herself Lady Milford  years after her first husband’s death, and only three years of marriage [ his second after a twenty eight year first marriage].

The Eyres were an old English recusant family, at Newbold, Derbyshire and Lindley Hall, Leicestershire, very wealthy, and owned a substantial amount of land in Ireland, as well as in England. Thomas Eyre had a large Georgian house at Uppercourt, Freshfort, county Kilkenny, . In the 1870s he owned 762 acres in county Tipperary, 1,909 acres in county Kilkenny and 164 acres in county Waterford.

In 1891, he and Lady Anne were living at 16 Hill Street, in Mayfair, just off Berkley Square. It was a very grand household, with  a butler, two footmen, two ladies maids, two housemaids, a kitchen maid, and two scullery maids, and curiously on the night of the census, no cook living in.He was succeeded by his cousin Stanislas Thomas Eyre in 1902, and left the modern day equivalent of £ 120m.

It’s all a very small world

Eugene Macarthy, committed for trial at Bow Street, August 1862

The Times, Tuesday, August 26, 1862.

POLICE (Courts)

Bow Street Magistrates Court

Bow-Street.-A middle aged man, of gentlemanly appearance, named Eugene Macarthy, was brought up in custody of Inspector Scott, of the A division of police, the officer in charge at the Reading-room of the British Museum before the sitting magistrate, Mr. Henry, on a charge of stealing from the reading-room six books-viz., Dugdale’s “Antient Usage of Arms,” the “Historical Memoirs of the Irish Rebellion of 1641,”  Dod’s “Parliamentary Companion”, Lawless’s “Ireland,” Hegel’s “Philosophy”, and a work in the Irish language, the title of which in English is “Christians’ Instructions”

Mr Poland, the barrister, attended to prosecute for the Trustees of the Museum, and the prisoner was defended by Mr. Morgan, solicitor.

It appeared that the prisoner, who had practised as a solicitor in Ireland, was recently prosecuted for marrying Miss Mary Anne O’Brien during the lifetime of his former wife.

In the course of that prosecution he wrote a letter to Mr. Miler, Miss O’Brien’s solicitor, applying for certain books, papers, &-c., which he had left in her care at the time when they were living together as husband and wife. Mr. Miller submitted to her brothers, Dr. John O’Brien and Mr. Stephen H. O’Brien, tho prisoner’s letter, which was as follows:-

” 2, Caroline-street East, Camden-town, Aug. 7.

“Sir,- I venture to trespass on your kind indulgence to ask the favour of your either preferring the request yourself,or forwarding the request to 30, Westbourne-place, that certain books and MSS., with some other things, fairly mine, and of much moment to me, may be forwarded here by parcels’ delivery:- a hat-box and an old carpet-bag, both containing MSS., with a small writing-case,. I would have have asked this earlier of you, but severe illness prevented me till now. I apologize for addressing you, but really not knowing whom else to ask of, will excuse me. I am your obedient servant,”

“E. P. Macarthy.”

Book Stacks, British Museum Reading Room

Mr. Miller advised the Messrs. O’Brien, acting on behalf of their sister, to deliver up to Mr. Macarthy all books, papers, or other property belonging to him, but with the precaution that they should carefully examine such articles, and make a list of them. In the course of the examination which was made, in conformity with Mr. Miller’s advice,Dr. O’Brien discovered that among the books left by the prisoner in Miss O’Brien’s care were two which had evidently belonged to some library. These were the ” Historical Memoirs of the the Irish Rebellion of 1641” and Dugdale’s “Antient Usage of Arms” .It first struck Dr. O’Brien that these works were impressed with a crown on the binding, and were marked with certain numbers. Upon a closer scrutiny he came to the conclusion that they were stolen from the Reading-room of the British Museum. He at once proceeded to the Museum and submitted the books to the inspection of Mr. Rye, one of the principal assistants there. Mr. Rye identified the books as having been stolen from the Reading-room. [The Reading Room was officially opened on 2 May 1857 ] They had been given out in July, 1857, to a reader named Macarthy, and had never been returned. The were missed on the 1st of September, 1857. At that time the prisoner was a reader at the Museum. He became a reader on the 22nd of July that year, when he entered his name in the usual manner in the readers’ book, and that signature was proved, to be in his handwriting. His name was also entered in his own hand- writing on the fly-leaves of the books, and in one of them a label engraved with the Macarthy arms had been pasted over the Museum press mark. Upon this label the mottoes of the Macarthy family were written in Latin and in Irish, in the prisoner’s handwriting.

There was also found among the books left in Miss O’Brien’s care by the prisoner, four other books:-viz., Dod’s Parliamentary Companion, Lawless’, Ireland, Hegel’s Philosophy, and The Christians’ Instructions, all bearing the press mark, and all identified as having been missed from the Museum prior to the 1st of September. They were all marked with the prisoner’s signature and other memoranda, and marginal notes in his handwriting. Upon this information, Inspector Scott apprehended the prisoner at the Central Criminal Court, when he attended to take his place upon tho charge of bigamy. He was then taken to the station-house in Bow- street, but was not brought before the magistrate, as it was agreed, in order to leave him free to answer the charge of bigamy, that the present charge should be postponed until the other prosecution had been disposed of. He was convicted of the bigamy, and sentenced to a week’s imprisonment at the expiration of which period he was again apprehended by Inspector Scott, and brought up at Bow- street on the present charge.

Dr., Mr., and Miss O’Brien, Inspector Scott, and other witnesses, including Mr. Rye and Mr. Holder of the British Museum, were examined at great length in support of these charges.

Mr. Morgan, in cross-examining Miss O’Brien, asked her whether she had not herself held a ticket of admission to the Reading room of the Museum, and whether she had not signed her name in the readers’ book.

She replied to both questions in the affirmative.

Mr. Poland observed that he was glad those questions had been put, as it would enable him to show that Miss O’Brien was not a reader until after the time at which the books had been stolen.

The readers’ book, in which Mr. Macarthy’s signature had already been proved, was now again produced, and Miss O’Brien swore to her own signature as “Mary Ann Macarthy” (at that time she believed herself to be Mr. Macarthy’s wife). It was under the date 14th October,1857.

Mr. Poland called the magistrate’s attention to the fact that all these books had been missed from the Museum on the 1st September, being six weeks before Miss O’Brien had admission to the Reading room.

Mr. Morgan said,-After the evidence which we have beard, I think that the most prudent thing for the prisoner is to decline to say anything.

The prisoner was committed for trial, without bail.