The genealogy of the Browne family of present concern has already been extensively documented in two Booklets written in the 1980s by the family's unofficial archivist - Reggie Browne (1897-1991), copies of which are held by various family members. The basic structure of the family's genealogy, and a great deal of its actual detail, is thus already available in those two excellent books - to which reference will often be made here while seeking to complement that material.

       The family's confirmed history spans a period from about 1680 (the estimated year of birth of its first certain member) to the present day - that is, over three centuries. Many noteworthy characters appear in the family during the 19th and 20th centuries as they progressed in society and are well described in Reggie's books. The present account will, initially, focus more on events and personnel of the previous two centuries, especially in this first instance as they pertain to the question of the uncertain origin of the family. This subject comprises the material of the first section below (already written and thus readily uploaded onto this site) and can serve as a general introduction to what is intended to be a more detailed account to be compiled subsequently - although some of that detail may, over time, be integrated into this introductory section as well.


       From the middle of the 18th century until the middle of the 20th, a family of the surname Browne, who resided mainly in London, produced a number of successful and worthy citizens before spreading their several branches mainly into the home counties. As mentioned, a later member of the family, 'Reggie Browne', researched the background of his family and published two comprehensive booklets on them - 'The Brownes of London (1986)' and 'Hunting The Dorset Hare (1984)'.

The following is an abridged version of the earlier parts of these two booklets - which cover some aspects of the family's origin. It will seek to fill in certain gaps and address various anomalies in this regard. More detail on the family generally will follow later.

       The earliest certain ancestor of the family was one Robert Browne who was shown in a family Bible entry to have died on June 12th, 1738 at the home of his only certain son Benjamin Browne - on Heddon Street in St James, Westminster (just off present day Regent Street). He was buried on the 18th of that month in the churchyard of St James', Paddington. This is all we know about him for certain. We know nothing with total confidence about his origins or any earlier members of the Browne or Brown family (the spelling varied but settled on Browne by the late 18th century).

       Knowing the age of his son Benjamin at his marriage, however (as discussed further below), and hence his year of birth, we may in addition reasonably estimate two other 'probabilities' at least about Robert:    1. He was likely born around 1680 (plus or minus 5 years, say) and    2. He would likely marry therefore about 1700-10, although to whom is unknown. Absolutely nothing else is known about him for certain. But, as Reggie says in his Introductory remarks: "Unless he arrived from Outer Space, one feels that it should be possible to trace his origins. From discussions with older members of the family and various documents, he informs us that "Family tradition points directly to Dorset". I have, notes Reggie, never heard or read of any other area in connection with the family's descent". The present account seeks to further establish this family tradition but does so in terms of a different route and outcome than pursued by Reggie, or by those who preceded him in this quest. But it will also hold this view in moderate 'check' in the event that later clues may lead us in another direction.

       Certain suggestions about Robert and family may also require revision. There is, for example, no evidence that he was necessarily 'aged' at his death - at say 80 years or more - rather than the 60 or so to be suggested here, or that his wife was necessarily named Elizabeth, or any other particular name. Both may, or may not, have been the case. The wife of his son Benjamin was an Elizabeth and thus giving this name to their first daughter, as they did, provides no confidence that he was thereby also commemorating his mother's name, as much as his wife's, although he may have. One basis for suggesting that this was the name of Robert's wife - the burial in 1712 of an Elizabeth Brown in Shaftesbury, Dorset (one suggested place of the family's origin) - is also unsupported, as discussed later. There was (until recently) also no confirming evidence that his son Benjamin had any siblings - as a brother Robert or sister Elizabeth, say (other unsupported suggestions) - although again, it is possible.

       [Note: a later discovery by Sir Peter Leslie (a descendent of the Brownes) of a page of details regarding Robert and his early family - found in the binding of an old family Prayer Book - amazingly supports some of the foregoing - in that it gives Robert's year of birth as 1680 (as here estimated) and in Shaftesbury, his marriage in either 1700 or 1708 (the last number being indefinite), his wife as an Elizabeth nee Browne (sic) and his children as Benjamin and Elizabeth with, in each case, exact birth dates. For the daughter Elizabeth, this was shown as 1713, thus negating (along with other evidence) the idea of an Elizabeth Browne who died in Shaftesbury in 1712 being Robert's wife. The reliability of these findings is also discussed later. Sadly, the Shaftesbury registers, minutely scrutinised by various researchers, have not confirmed the origin of any of the family there however.]

       Thus, we do not know for certain where Robert Browne was born, nor to whom - probably around 1680. It may equally have been in London [depending on the veracity of those entries found in the Prayer Book lining] but may have been virtually anywhere in the country - the surname Brown(e) showing no regional bias. If it was outside London, we also don't know when he arrived in the capitol - seemingly in the early 18th century. It may have been before, or after, his son Benjamin was born - as his place of birth is also uncertain. [Although, he too was said - in the family Bible - to be born in Shaftesbury - on Sept 15th, 1711 - but this is again not confirmed in that town's three registers]. Finally, we don't know what, if any, was Robert's occupation or social status. Was he styled an Esq or Gent, for example, or neither?

       One weak additional clue we may have about Robert pertains to the presence of a Robert Browne as a rate-paying resident in the 1720s/30s (and possibly his wife until 1744) of a house situated in the same area as would later become Benjamin's 'centre of gravity' in Westminster. Certainly there were no other Robert Brownes paying rates in St James then, despite this being a fairly common name. The area concerned is near the junction of Swallow Street and Piccadilly - close to St James church. This Robert Browne lived for several years on Piccadilly just east of this junction and may therefore have been of Gent status (as were many, but certainly not all, in the area). He may have been Benjamin's father, therefore, as discussed further below, but this too must remain speculation.

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       The certain information we do have about Robert's death and burial, as described above, arises from two sources: an old family Bible (re-copied into an equally old Prayer Book) and a confirming entry in the burial register for St James's, Paddington. [Note: The entries re-copied into the visible pages of the Prayer Book were not those found more recently in the lining/binding of same although these may also have been a copy of similar material.] Other members of Benjamin's family were also buried in that west London churchyard - both before and after Robert - and thus his details must have been passed down, along with those of the others, and entered into the later family Bible a generation or more later (now estimated to be around 1820). The relevant church was thus identified, by which means such documentary evidence on Robert (and the others) was happily later confirmed when checking the actual registers.

       Whilst the parish churches of Westminster all had burial grounds at or near their own churches at that time, they also used 2 or 3 suburban churchyards, including that at St James's, Paddington, which had fewer burials and more spacious grounds. In the 1730s and'40s, the choice of burial venue for a given parish seemed almost arbitrary. Many of the residents of St James, Piccadilly for example, were still buried in their own burial grounds then (either at the church or quite nearby), while others were buried out in Paddington, for example. Of these aspects, Reggie appears to have been unaware, thinking that his ancestors were only buried in Paddington because burials had ceased in St James. They hadn't. The choice seems to have depended on just how busy a church was on any particular day. Even a parish's own Vicar was as often buried outside Westminster as at his own church - despite many of his own parishioners being themselves buried in their own churchyard, including that of St James, Piccadilly into the 1800s.

       There were, however, certain parish residents who did not have this choice. They were members of the few dissenting churches then in London's west-end which typically had no burial grounds of their own then. For them, the burial grounds at Paddington St James was a much more probable burial site. This could well have been the case with Robert Browne - as we shall see - for it was certainly a factor in respect of the burials of members of his own son's family - both before and after Robert's burial there.

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       We know much more about Robert's son Benjamin Browne and some of this pre-dates what is known about Robert. He appears to have been born in 1709, although just where has long been uncertain, or at least unconfirmed. Nor do we know where he grew up or was educated - or to what extent. Our earliest certain information about him comes from his application for a marriage licence granted in London on Feb 2nd, 1733, the day of his marriage. Such licences were often applied for in rural parishes by the gentry to avoid having to post banns on three consecutive Sundays in the village church and so have one's business known by all and sundry. But in London, it was much more common for people from all walks of life to do so, with literally hundreds being issue every day by the London offices of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and other ecclesiastic authorities - as the Bishop of London. Applications to the Archbishop are now held in the archives at Lambeth Palace. Two separate documents had to be completed and signed - invariably by the groom-to-be. One was called an 'Allegation' in which the groom 'alleges' that he intends to marry a particular girl and knows of no impediment to same, etc and 'prayes a Licence to solemnize the said intended marriage..' while the other was a 'Bond' (or Obligation) by which he is honour (and legally) bound to proceed with his intention, etc. A photocopy of Benjamin's signed Allegation appears first below:

       While the date appears to show '1782', it is in fact 'Feb 1732'. The year only changed (to 1733) on March 25 (Lady Day) at that time but in present usage, it was in effect 1733. As with the Allegation, the Bond too generally survives (unlike the licence itself which was handed in at the church on the day of the marriage and usually destroyed after a few months). As the Bond generally contains less useful information than the Allegation, those at Lambeth Palace are held in a separate basement archive and are normally not readily available. However, I prevailed upon the archivist to allow me to examine it as well ('just in case') and a copy of this is now shown here as well:

       From the first document, we learn that Benjamin was then a Bachelor, residing in the parish of St George Hanover Square, aged 23 while his bride to be was one Elizabeth Bertrand (a Huguenot name), aged 22, then residing in the parish of St Anne's, Soho. They were to marry in St James church, Piccadilly, rather than in either of their own parish churches. This choice appears to have been theirs rather than one dictated by the licensing office - although this was not, as may seem, based on factors of social desirability associated with St James' (as Reggie seems to have assumed), but on relevant geographical factors to be discussed below. (The details of the date and place of this marriage were eventually entered into the family Bible along with that concerning Benjamin, his father and children as mentioned later; this was likely confirmed subsequently by checking the St James register by later interested descendents.)        The Bond, on the other hand, does not give the couples' ages nor Elizabeth's abode but, most usefully, did show Benjamin's occupation - namely, that of   'Cook' (as noted in its opening statement) - something not shown in the Allegation. Requesting the Bond thus proved very important on this occasion. On reading some of the legalese in the Bond more recently, I note that Benjamin was also Bound by the stipulation that: '..neither of the applicants be of any better Estate or Degree, than to the Judge at the granting of the License is suggested...'. Benjamin could not therefore legally claim to be, say, a 'Gent' or an 'Esq', rather than the 'Cook' (or whatever) he was - at least at that time.

Benjamin or Benjmain ?

       Finally, one must remark on the unusual spelling that Benjamin used for his name. His forename in the Allegation signature was thought when first seen some years ago to read 'Benj man' but on this occasion and after a closer scrutiny, it is apparent that what was thought to be just a mark on the paper above and between the 'a' and 'n' of '' was in fact a purposely inserted letter 'i' - as though the name had not been written initially as intended and then so 'corrected' by means of that insertion - to better depict 'Benjmain'. This view was confirmed when the signature on the second document was also re-examined - for it clearly shows his name as written as 'Binj main' - both written and pronounced as a two (not three) syllable word. When considered in the light of the general quality of the writing - with its slightly ornate (if atypical) capital letters 'B' and the consistency and flow of the surname Browne (including that final 'e'), one must conclude that the writer wasn't at all illiterate or without some formal education in language and writing. But how to account for the spelling 'Benj main', therefore? (Or even 'Binj main' - with an 'i' replacing the letter 'e' ?) The two signatures are reproduced and enlarged below for a clearer impression:

       One theory might suggest that he was educated to about the age of 9 or 10, say - but in France - where the name Benjamin, normally spelt thus, is relatively well known, but also occurs at times as 'Benjamain'. The latter syllable ('..main') is pronounced in France similar to how we pronounce the word '' - as in their word for hand. Benjamin (the the son of a Huguenot immigrant, say, on this interpretation), if leaving France quite young and, in those times, not subsequently having much experience of, or need for, writing (eg while a young trainee Cook), may thus have spelt his name phonetically - as he'd always heard it - when finally required to write/sign his own name. And his understanding of how to write that latter '' sound may well have been as '..main' as far as he and seemingly quite a few others in France (or Huguenot London) then understood. His father may have been a French Robert (ie pronounced 'Roeber') Brune', for example, before changing it once in England to Browne (just as Le Blanc soon became White, etc). Interestingly, the name is spelt both Brun and Brune in France, as it is spelt both Brown and Browne in England, and Broun and Broune in Scotland. Moreover, all these forms also occur, if less often, in France, as does Le Brun/Le Brune. And while I saw few instances of the 'prenom' Robert in the 18th century registers of the Huguenots' main London church (on Threadneedle Street), that particular name is at least more popular in France today than is Benjamin/Benjamain.

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[We may add here an interesting item discovered recently in an extract from a new biography on the man known as 'Phiz' who was the illustrator for the novels of Charles Dickens in the Victorian era. His real name was 'Hablot Knight Browne'. He descended from a Huguenot family who settled initially in Spitalfields named 'Bruneau' who had changed their names to Browne in about 1720. They used Christchurch, Spitalfields in which to marry (as Bruneau) but had their first born baptised Browne in their own Huguenot church of St Jean's nearby. It was said that this may have been because they didn't want to be thought as 'French spies', then of some concern. Further details about this interesting family are shown below.]

       Well, this (possible French origin) is but one (of several) theories of the Browne family's origin. Maybe early Scots pronounced it 'Binj main' (ie the latter syllable as '..mayne'), although I greatly doubt this. Alternatively, was Benjamin simply suffering a little from dyslexia - getting those 'i's and 'a's all mixed up? But it is intriguing that he was apparently 'determined' to spell that latter part of his first name as 'main' - even adding that 'missing' 'i' - after signing the first document without it - as well as dropping the middle letter 'a' on both occasions. Finally, one may note also that whilst the Clerk writing out the Allegation text (for the Surrogate, who later signed these) wrote the small case letter 'r' in the form:

,    Benjamin himself used the form:  
Both of these contrast with the older style still used by William Strahan in his own signature - ie: . This tended to go out of fashion shortly after, I believe.

      It might be interesting to learn where, if anywhere, the unusual style of Benjamin's capital 'B's, coupled with his form of 'r', was taught in school around 1720?? And where did the name Benjmain and/or Benjamain mostly occur then? Was it France?   Dorset?   Norfolk?   Scotland?   London? Could Rotterdam be another possibility? (One should probably check out typical Huguenot writing/signatures in their extensive archives. Note: I did notice that the form of 'r's used by the Huguenot Cleric for the register entry for Elizabeth Bertrand (shown below) was the same as that used by Benjamin; but 'r's are notoriously variable even within countries.)

      Finally, it was noted on the IGI that there were countless Bruns, Brunes, Brounes, Le Bruns and a few Brownes in France throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. On one Internet site ('Huguenot Information'), the Huguenots were described as "...French Protestants of the Presbyterian kind who followed the teachings of John Calvin..". After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), most emigrated to Holland (and subsequently to South Africa) but many came to England, a few to Scotland and quite a number to Ulster, "..and since they too were Calvanists, for the most part they joined the Presbyterian Church and soon became part of the Scottish communities there". While the economies of England and Ulster could apparently absorb them with little rancour, that of Scotland could not but "..nevetheless, there was a small colony (of Huguenots) in Edinburgh". Did some come to London subsequently?? Interestingly, there were even a few Huguenots who settled in Taunton - as Woodcarvers. Did any settle in Shaftesbury? Have we come full circle?

      [Note: The foregoing ideas on the unusual spelling by Benjamin of his first name were first formulated in about March 2002 and written up here about a year later. More recently, I re-ordered certain documents to copy and place on this website (including that entry for Elizabeth) and took the opportunity at the record office to examine further the baptismal registers for the Huguenots' Threadneedle church - L'Eglise de Londre. The name Benjamin therein was relatively rare, compared to such as Daniel, Philippe and Nicolas, say. Over one 10 year period, I initially found only 4 cases out of the hundreds registered. Three were spelt as Benjamin and the other as Beniamin (this sometimes also seen in earlier English registers)- ie by the English-domiciled registrar. But as I was rolling the film up, I spotted something that arrested my attention: a 'Philippe Blanchet' was baptised '10th Aoust 1707, le fils de 'Bejamain Blanchet' et Marye sa femme...'! Could this possibly be significant?

      I later found that M. Blanchet and wife had several more children baptised between 1700 and 1720, including a 'Catherine, fille de Beniamin Blanchet' and also two Benjamins - spelt now in that more typical way - as was his own forename on those occasions. It would thus appear that the spelling used in 1707, was likely not necessarily as dictated by M. Blanchet himself but rather that understood by the Huguenot Cleric then officiating. In any case, it at least indicates that this spelling was one adopted by a Huguenot official in England in 1707. My idea about the diminished first 'n' (before a soft 'j') seems exemplified by its actual absence on this occasion, although the middle syllable does now occur. One will clearly have to seek further evidence on this matter. I later noted that the IGI also had this entry listed - thus:

      In the same register, one of the few Benjamins noted was, surprisingly, combined with the only Le Brun I could find - in an Eglise de Londre baptism dated Oct 9th 1692 for: 'Benjamin Le Brun' - born to Pierre and Marie Le Brun. Most of those using the Threadneedle church lived in Spitalfields. On the next visit to an appropriate record office, one will try to remember to examine capital 'B's. Those written by the official who wrote 'Bejamain' were not at all of the form used by Benjamin; However, that official tended use very few capitals. This is seen in the copy here of the actual entry noted:

The writer concerned finished off the final 'n' of certain words, as in the above 'Bejamain', with that 'curved understroke' - as noted for example whenever he wrote the French word 'Juin' (ie June) - viz:

      [I have since checked an Internet search engine (Google) for the names Benjamin, Benjamain and Benjmain. The single word Benjamin produces an amazing 5,820,000 entries! 'Benjmain' produces a still large 1,260 entries but many if not most of these appear to be a small percentage of typing errors of that massive volume of 'Benjamins' - where the middle 'a' and 'm' have been accidentally transposed during fast typing of mainly American genealogies; for the name is generally spelt as Benjamin elsewhere in the very same documents). Finally, and probably more significantly and validly, the name Benjamain occurs just 480 times and, as implied above, a vast majority (400+) of those are on French websites. It was noticeable that in France they sometimes spell non-French Benjamins in that form - as: the 'Lycee Benjamain Franklin', and refer to our composer as 'Benjamain Britten'. I thus saw a Benjamain Peshet in charge of exports for a firm headed by one Jean Verdier and a Rugby player called Benjamain Nicolas. We should recall that they would however still tend to pronounce the name without pronouncing the last syllable as we pronounce the English word 'main'. Finally, in a marathon race in Mulhouse, France in 2001 reported in 'Le Journal Alsace', one Benjmain Hartmann came in 21st. His name was shown twice in this form on different occasions (unlike the many American examples of this due to typing errors) and so equates exactly with the spelling given by our 'Benjmain' Browne - albeit in 1733, long before typewriters. But another example of this spelling in France did turn out to be that more usual typing error. While Benjamain was once quite common in France, the more usual form of Benjamin is gradually replacing it today.

      [To further complicate the picture, I have now checked the IGI for all spellings of the name Benjamin (as a forename) - this being a surprising facility provided by the Mormon's computers. Whilst this would be impractical for the millions of Johns, Williams, Elizabeths, Marys, etc, for less common names - like Benjamin - it can prove useful. Thus, we find that in both France and England, the name Benjamin (as aforename) occurs over 2000 times in this index - over all regions and time periods. But the form Benjamain surprisingly occurs more in England than in France - with 34 occurrences vs just 16. But of those 34, 14 prove to be entries in Huguenot churches - in both Spitalfields (Threadneedle Street and St Jean's - in the mid-1600s to early 1700s) and at the Walloon church in Canterbury (1680s and '90s); interestingly, the one at St Jean's, Spitalfields was for a 'Benjamain Toars', dated 26 June 1709, very near the date of birth estimated for our 'Benjmain'. He was born to a Benjamain Toars and wife Elizabeth (nee Binguet) - who appear to have married in 1705 in St Dunstan's, Stepney. No other issue was noted for them and the name Benjamin/Benjamain Toars never appears again in the indexes. Did they change their name - eg to Browne, just as the Bruneau's did in that same parish of St Jean's, Spitalfields? It was an easily recognised English name; whereas Toars was often taken as 'Towers'. But while this might give us a future 'Benjmain Browne' - who married Elizabeth Bertrand in 1733, it sadly doesn't give us a father, Robert Browne, buried in 1738. Or did Benjamain Toars Snr seek a totally new identity - and thus became 'Robert Browne'? This would be stretching credulity a bit too far.]

      The other 20 Benjamains were spread across the country in such as Gloucester, Sussex, Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Lincoln, plus one in Bridport, Dorset, in 1670. Thus, the French/English balance is quite comparable. For the shorter spelling 'Benjmain', however, we find no entries in France, but 37 in England(!?) and one in Scotland. This was most unexpected. Again, there was one (only) in Dorset (in Wimborne Minster), several in Yorkshire, Staffordshire, London, Gloucester and Wiltshire. Now, the question arises - were these entries actually written as 'Benjmain' originally and then transcribed accurately as such, including any eventually typed versions, or were the latter the same mis-typed errors (transposing the letter 'a' from before to after the letter 'm') as noted in the general entries published via the Google search engine described earlier (where the documents concerned generally showed the name to have really been written as Benjamin)? To resolve this important issue, it will be necessary to examine the actual registers themselves. For the outcome could indicate whether our Benjamin Browne was more likely to be of British or French origin. We may note that if they were mostly of this typing error, that this didn't appear to occur in France; were the French transcribers and typists simply more careful?]

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      A large proportion of the French (and other) immigrants into England during the 18th century and earlier applied for Naturalization or 'Denizenation' papers and these have been indexed by the Huguenot Society. Thus, there is an entry for 'Nicolas Bertran' for 1709. (The name is indexed in France itself as both Bertran and Bertrand). The following were also noted: 170 1/2 - 'James Browne, son of James Brown (sic) by Ann his wife, born at Bergerac, Guinne, France'; 1703/4 - 'George Brown, son of George Brown by Sarah his wife, born Stockholm, Sweden'; 1709 - Jacob Brun (no other details)'; 1711 - Anne T. Browne (no other details). In a book on pre-1700 Nationalization records, there were 14 Brown(e)s listed although only one Robert: 1610 - 'Robert Browne, Gentleman of Your Majesty's Cellar, born in Scotland and his children which at any tyme hereafter shall be borne within the Kingdom of England or Scotland'. (Did he have a grandson Robert?) And later - in the 19th century - there were 31 Brown(e)s listed, including a Benjamin Brown from Russia - now living in Edinburgh and naturalised 19th May 1896. Several others were from Russia, as well as Germany. One would like to know what percentage of 17th and 18th century immigrants are covered by these Huguenot publications. Also, what percentage of Huguenot baptisms in London are covered in the Mormon's IGI? [Later concluded that they covered virtually 100% of these.)

      Information should also be sought on the extent that Huguenots could marry in their own churches prior to ca 1740, say, (certainly, the Huguenots of Spitalfields eventually used the new Anglican parish church of Christchurch, Spitalfields for many marriages and burials but rarely for baptisms in the early 1700s) and whether the latter in London were more often of the conforming rather than non-conforming branch of that Protestant church. Did Benjamin (rather than Elizabeth) decide in which branch he preferred to have his children baptised and if this was the non-conforming, Presbyterian one and there was none of same convenient in Westminster, might he have utilised an English or Scottish church of that Presbyterian persuasion as the next best thing? Or, even, was he already a member of one or the other - - whether in London, Dorset, Ulster or Edinburgh, say? (See further on this below, including the section on 'Benjamin's Church' below.)

Some Marginal Support for the Idea of a Huguenot Origin for the Brownes

.       As touched on above, an interesting book was published (2004) by one Valerie Lester entitled 'Phiz'. It concerned a man with that unusual nickname who was born in London in 1815, about the time the Napoleonic Wars ended. His full name was 'Hablot Knight Browne'. He came from a talented family of artists and artisans and his own talents were in the area of fine penmanship and drawing. He was introduced to Charles Dickens when that famous author was seeking someone to provide drawings to accompany his popular novels. Dickens had acquired the nickname 'Baz' and, in time, Hablot Browne took on his equivalent of 'Phiz'. He became much respected in his day but was generally self-effacing and avoided the limelight.

      The relevance of this man and, more particularly, his Browne family backgroud is amply covered by the following verbatim account provided in an abstract about the book posted on the Internet by the publishers:

      "The Brownes were, and still are, passionately proud of their Huguenot ancestry. They are descended from families who fled from Mons (Hainaut) and Langres (Champagne) as a result of religious persecution sometime between the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 1572 and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. They settled in London, becoming members of the thriving colony of French silk merchants and weavers in Spitalfields. Precious little is known about their background in Europe, and even Charles Gordon Browne and Algernon Sidney Bicknell, authors of the 1903 handwritten 'Notes to Assist the Future Authors of the History of the Huguenot Family of Browne'(!), have nothing to say on the topic. Phiz's uncle, John Henry Browne, just two generations beyond his Huguenot ancestors confesses: 'All the information I can give you of my fore-fathers lies in a very small compass. Simon the son of Michael & Eleanor Browne was born 25 Sept. 1729 & I recollect my Father [Simon] telling me that he was born in Spitalfields & was the son of a maker of the wires used in weaving velvets. It appears that he had a turn for mechanics, for my Father used to show me some of the parts of a watch which he said his Father had made, but which was then without a case, & the parts of it were kept in a small box.' This turn for the mechanics of watchmaking is an early allusion to the Browne family's gift for working on a minute scale.

      Various family researchers have scrabbled hard and long at the Huguenot Library in London trying to find the elusive ancestor who became Michael Browne and promptly forgot his French name. 'The name Brunet or Brunel was never spoken of,' continues John Henry Browne. 'My father used to say [the name] was probably Le Brun; & accordingly I put the name of Le Brun in some of my French schoolbooks.' Calling themselves Le Brun was wishful thinking on the part of Simon and John Henry, who probably wanted to ally themselves with Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), the famous artist at the court of Louis XIV. Phiz's cousin, Charles St Denys Moxon, brushes aside this notion, saying, 'Le Brun was a Parisian in high favour at court - no Huguenot, or if he were, not a man at all likely to sacrifice his interests for the sake of his religious views.'

      Another notion the Brownes entertained was that the artists in the family (which included almost everyone) inherited their skill from a connection with the internationally fashionable portrait painter, Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842). This had no foundation in fact as she was Le Brun by marriage, not by birth.

      Time and again, the efforts of family researchers to trace a Brunet, Brunel, or Le Brun proved fruitless. Recently, however, it occurred to me that since the Brownes had cousins called Descharmes, the mysterious French ancestor might well have married a Descharmes (cherchez la femme!), and that indeed turned out to be the case. On Christmas Day in 1722 at the Huguenot chapel of St Jean, Spitalfields, Helene Elisabeth Descharmes married Michel Bruneau. BRUNEAU! They never mentioned the name again, and became Michael and Eleanor Brown (sic), desiring to assimilate as quickly as possible, like so many other Huguenots, who could not afford to be suspected as spies for France.

      Michael and Eleanor lived on Brick Lane, just a stone's throw from the site where magnificent Christ Church, Spitalfields, was under construction. Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, it was completed in 1729, the year of their son Simon's birth. (Little Simon was named after his uncle/godfather, Simon Descharmes, a noted clockmaker.) The gleaming new building played an important part in Michael and Eleanor's lives, and they were buried there when they died within three months of each other, Eleanor in October 1747, Michael in January 1748.

      A memorial ring of intertwined bands of gold and black enamel, minutely engraved with the words 'Eleanor Browne ob. 26. Oct. 1747 aet. 42. Michael Browne ob. 11 Jan. 1747/48 aet. 44' descended through the family. It clearly demonstrated Simon's talent for calligraphy and the ingenuity with which he could fabricate intricate objects. It is on this ring that Browne appears spelt with an 'E' for the first time.

      Simon Browne (1729-1797), Phiz's grandfather, a dazzlingly gifted calligrapher and artist, can be regarded as the patriarch and progenitor of the modern Browne family. He was diminutive and courtly, a French scholar who could relate a fund of anecdotes about the Huguenots and their various trials and tribulations while remaining obstinately ignorant of his French patronymic. After the deaths of his parents, he left London - for love. The object of his affection, Ann Loder, was the daughter of a Bermondsey wool stapler who, finding more call for his trade in Norwich, packed up his family and set forth, with Simon in pursuit. On 6 October 1754, at the age of twenty-five, Simon married twenty-year-old Ann, at St Stephen's, Norwich." They prospered there.

      One of Simon's sons, William Browne, married well and returned to London. Phiz was one of the last of a large family born to him (apparently) and his wife Katherine but he may in fact have been the result of an affair that lady had with a dashing French cavalry officer with the surname Hablot [these details need confirming; the above abstract stopped short of addressing this aspect touched on in another review and not now accurately recalled.] In any case, one may now better appreciate that many Huguenots appear to have altered their surnames once settled here in the 1690s/early 1700s and one particular case - of a 'Bruneau--->Browne' alteration, and in Spitalfields - must at least be viewed here with considerable interest.

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The More Traditional View.

      Initially, of course, we had but one single item of evidence indicating that Benjamin's place of origin was not such as France or even Scotland, say, but...Shaftesbury in Dorset. This was the entry written in the family Bible in which Benjamin's stated date of birth was shown as 'September 15th, 17l1' - with "at Shaftesbury in Dorsetshire" inserted above this original entry, probably some time later. Thus, it seems to have been written by about 1820 - possibly by Benjamin's grandson George Howe Browne or his gt-grandson Edward Walpole Browne - when allegedly copying information from what was described as Benjamin's own Bible. This appeared to be the ultimate and sole basis of the original focus of enquiries into the family's possible Dorset origins. [We now have the additional clue found in the Prayer Book lining showing Benjamin's father Robert as having been born in Shaftesbury also - in 1680; however, we don't know when or by whom this was so entered.] The absence of any detail concerning the origin of Benjamin's parents from the Bible source may require explanation. It was stated in the College of Arms memorandum of 1822 (discussed more fully elsewhere) that details of Benjamin's date and place of birth derived ultimately from his own, even older Bible. This belief (by the future Rear Admirals Browne) was no doubt based on the written statement to this effect which appears at the top of the right side page in the later Browne family Bible where, written in a copperplate style, it says: "Copied from Benjamin Browne's Bible". A photocopy of the upper portion of this page is shown here:

      However, the above heading rather too neatly balances what appears at the top of the left side page, in a different and earlier hand: "Copied from the Bertrand Bible" (photocopy of this not presently available). It was as though the later writer was trying to reproduce and match the sense of a known past or 'background', as already depicted (possibly as early as ca 1690s) on the Bertrand side of the family. But while details of the parentage and earlier family of Elizabeth Bertrand are clearly shown there, the equivalents for Benjamin's own Browne family are totally lacking. Surely such information would have been included had it truly come from his own earlier Bible ? Or was it just omitted? Another oddity is the fact that Benjamin is depicted as 'the son of Elizabeth and Robert Browne..', with the mother's name shown first. I've never come across this before and wasn't aware that feminism had taken root by the early 19th century. What, if anything, could this possibly signify?

      And, if Benjamin stated, as he did on his marriage license application (never seen by later members of the family), that he was 23 at the beginning of 1733 (and thus born in mid-1709), why would his alleged own Bible show him as born in 1711, and towards the end of that year as well? If the year of birth said to be from his Bible is wrong, can we accept that the place of birth, said to be copied from that same Bible, is any more valid? If, as was apparently believed when those copies were being made (ca 1815-20?), Benjamin died in 1788, did they subtract his understood age then of 77 - and thereby conclude that he must have been born in 1711 - and only then enter that into the Bible or, did they already believe that he was born in 1711 and by subtracting that year from 1788, the year it was wrongly believed he died, conclude only then that he must have been 77? We can't be sure. What we do know is that he actually died in 1787, not 1788, and that he said he was 23 in very early 1733. He was thus 78 at his death. I believe therefore that they subtracted the wrong age from the wrong year of death and concluded the wrong year of birth. Three wrongs don't make a right; That is, they could at least cast some doubt on the veracity of 'Shaftesbury' as his or his father's birth place.

      The Shaftesbury focus was initially given some impetus by the finding that a 'Robert Brown' did have issue in Shaftesbury in the early 1700s, although awkwardly not a Benjamin. But several of that man's issue who were buried there were also not shown as having been previously baptised there and thus, like Benjamin, may, conceivably, have been baptised elsewhere - or at a local dissenting church (if any was established there by that time) and possibly recorded before that register was 'maliciously destroyed' around 1820 (as has been reported). [It now appears, however, that non-conforming churches in Dorset rarely had registers before ca 1750; Bridport being the one exception.]

      On the other hand, a nearby town such as Salisbury also shows a Robert Brown having issue (as per Anglican parish registers) at that same period (again no Benjamin), as no doubt would many similar-sized towns throughout Britain around those decades - the name Robert Brown(e) being just too common. There was, for example, a Beniamin Browne (spelt thus) born in late 1709 to a Robert Browne - baptised on 5 Jan 1710 at St James church in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk (as noted in an index). [I later examined the actual register in Bury - to see if it may have shown the mother's name or any other useful details. But, rather oddly, the entry read 'Baptised 5th Jan 1709 (which would be 1710 today) - "Beniamin Browne, the child of Robert". This was a most unusual form of baptismal entry in the Bury registers for that period. Almost all entries gave the child's full name - as eg John Banks, say, followed by such as ... 'of Edward and Mary Banks'. On just one occasion that I noted, it read "William Smith, base child of Mary". Otherwise, the terms 'child', 'son' or 'daughter' were never included nor was the parent or parents surname not given with there forename.

There was no entry in the St James registers for the marriage of a Robert Browne to whomever during the immediately preceding period. A Robert Browne (born ca 1680?) married an Elizabeth Baker in Eriswell, Suffolk on 3 Aug 1702 who, conceivably, may have later moved into Bury - the larger market town about 8 miles distant. About 10 miles in the other direction, in Chediston and Walpole, Suffolk (with strong non-conformist leanings), a Robert Browne was baptised 17 Apr 1707 in both parishes (born to a Robert Browne) as was his sister in Walpole on 1 Nov 1711. And so on. Thus, the finding of a Robert Brown having issue in such as Shaftesbury in the 18th century does not of itself provide us with much confidence. Especially when there was a reason why the county of Dorset in particular may have been particularly focused on. (Could StEdmundsbury be misread as Shaftesbury ?)]

      [We may now add that the other possible basis of the Shaftesbury origin, even the source(?) of that sole item of evidence as mentioned, could be that recently found in the lining of the family's Prayer Book. This, as mentioned earlier, states that Benjamin's father at least, Robert Browne, was himself born in Shaftesbury - on a very specific date: the 27th of September, 1680; also that he married an Elizabeth nee Browne on the 11th of June 1700 (or 1708 - the last numeral being ambiguously written), although where is not stated. Their subsequent children are shown as: Benjamin Browne - born 15th September 1711 (who 'had issue vide following page') and Elizabeth Browne - born 11th August 1713 - 'died unmarried'. Oddly, however, their places of birth were also not shown in this apparently earlier version which was subsequently placed into the lining of a Prayer Book (likely purchased after the Bible). Why was it so placed? There was also no 'following page' found in the lining as stated, although the always visible Prayer Book pages did have the same copied entries of Benjamin's date and place of birth and that of his issue - exactly as entered in the family Bible and probably again written by George Howe Browne or his son Edward Walpole Browne; that found in the lining was in a different hand - not yet identified, nor the period when it was written or, later(?), so entered. One wonders if an assumption was made that 'therefore, Benjamin too was likely born in Shaftesbury?? This was then added later to the Bible entry - above the reference to his assumed date of birth.

       But,if this was the source, why wouldn't the copier of same (GHB or EWB) into that family Bible not include the associated details about Robert and his wife - Benjamin's parents - these (the family's earliest accepted progenitors) normally being the most sought-after detail of such early records to be recorded in a family Bible??? Was it felt (ca ?1810-20) that showing an even earlier birth for Robert provided greater scope for a connection with the landed Brownes of Dorset? But felt by whom and why? It must be added that no confirmation of the birth/baptism in 1680, nor marriage of a Robert Browne in 1700 or 1708, nor a baptism for any issue of such a couple has been noted in Shaftesbury or nearby registers, (by various searchers including myself) over the years. And why was this information effectively 'buried' in the Book's lining ? ]

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       Knowing the date of Benjamin's marriage licence and his 'self-reported' age on that day, we thus obtained a good estimate of his year of birth at least - ie mid to late 1709. Similarly, we have established from her baptismal record that his wife Elizabeth was born in December 1710 in Spitalfields, east London. The entry is as follows:

Registre De Baptesmie Pour L'Eglise De Londre
Commence Le Premier De Janvier 1691/92   jusqu'a - 1727.

Elizabeth's entry is on a later page headed:                   'Le 10 DeSsembre 1710'

which is followed by 3 or 4 entries and then under:               'Le 17 Ditto'        we find, after another Elizabeth baptised that same day:

              'Elizabet fille de Nicolas Bertran & de Marie sa femme - par Nicolas Bertran son grandpere & Elizabet Le Bailly'.

The next entries are dated  'Le 20 Ditto'. A copy of this entry is shown below:

       For some reason however, Elizabeth's year of birth is shown in the Browne's Bible as 1711 - after being changed from 1710. That in the (always visible pages of the) Prayer Book was then apparently accepted as 1711 as well and subsequently copied there as such. They hadn't checked the actual register. Did they wish her age to be nearer Benjamin's (and not older) and his to be 1711 - as that fitted better with a birth to an Elizabeth (nee Browne) who was only born 18 years before that latter year, but only 16 if Benjamin's birth was accepted to be 1709? This is touched on further below. [Some further detail about the Bertand family of Spitalfields will also be placed about here later.]

Where Benjamin Lived in London.

       The inclusion in the licence application documents of Benjamin's place of abode in 1733 was most fortunate in that it allowed one to identify and examine the appropriate parish rates books in the event he was residing there as a rate payer - that is, in the parish of St George Hanover Square - and if so, for how long before 1733? Such rates were paid by the occupants of property, whether owner or tenant, but not by such as servants residing in their employer's own residence. Fortunately, Benjamin Brown(e) was so listed - as paying rates for a modest rented house - on the north side of Brook Street of that parish, just two doors west of its corner with New Bond Street, and as doing so for several years before his marriage. Originally, this area of St George Hanover Square was, like St James, Piccadilly and St Anne's, Soho, a part of the earlier and much larger parish of St Martin-in-the Fields. These two parishes were created out of St Martin's around 1685, while St George's was created rather later - in 1725. Brook Street itself (and its houses) was built shortly before this switch - ie in 1722. This was therefore the first year for which its rates records become available - in the records for St Martin-in-the Fields (Conduit ward) - before they switched to those for the new St George's parish.

       Those for St Martin's show that by 1723 and 1724, rates were paid for the first 3 houses on the north side of Brook Street, immediately west of New Bond Street, by a Lewis Pew, John Dogan and Richard Barrel, respectively. By early 1725, document F459A, still for St Martin's, shows the same three names again - although the rates book were for some reason not signed until a year later (1726). In their next record F5580 of about Sept 1725, John Dogan's name again appears but was later crossed out (in about November) and that of   'Benj. Brown' written above it. This also seems to have been so recorded retrospectively - possibly by the new (St George) collectors, who now collected for this area. We thus find Benjamin Brown(e) first paying rates under the new jurisdiction (St George's film C1 - Westminster Record Office). Rateable Values for those first 3 houses were then shown as: Lewis Pew (£20), Benj Brown (£15) and James Moseley (£15). By early 1726, a Richard Bellwood replaced James Moseley in the third house while Lewis Pew in the first (corner) house appealed the level of his valuation, which was reduced to £15. Around the corner, on New Bond Street, Lady Shaftesbury's much larger house was then rated at £60. Films C2, C3, and C4 show similar details - for succeeding quarters through 1726, after which they were only paid six-monthly - at the rate of about 10% of the rateable values - per annum. The records for the following 10 years years (1727 to 1736 - in St George's films C48 to C79) then show the 6-monthly rates paid continuously by these same three neighbouring households, including that for Benjamin Browne, although sometimes in arrears.

       The property lived in then by Benjamin Browne is still there today, as a small office, although it may or may not be the original building. In his day, it would have access at the rear to the inevitable mews/stables (entered by a small lane a few doors to the west) which served mostly the larger homes nearby - including those just around the corner on Bond Street - one of which was the London residence of Lady Jane (nee Ewer), widow of the 3rd Lord Shaftesbury (an important Dorset family). One could have gone conveniently from the rear of such a property to the rear entrance in Benjamin's much smaller home (possibly owned by those of the former) and vice versa. It may also be significant with respect to the identity of Benjamin that his immediate neighbour Richard Bellwood and he (who both settled on Brook Street at about the same time) would eventually both be employed at the same establishment - as discussed further below.

       A possible scenario can be imagined in which Benjamin trained as a Cook in such an aristocrat's house (of which there were dozens then in that immediate area, interspersed with many more smaller dwellings) from the early 1720s, say, and then obtained and rented his own small residence (probably owned by his employer) once mature enough (he was likely 17 in the spring of 1726) - at a modest rent. Young men, I have read, anticipated adulthood much earlier in those times - earlier even than those depicted by Dickens a century later, when young Pip first came to town - still a teenager to share 'rooms' with an equally colleague. Also, many such aristocratic families lived in London for only part of the year ('the season') and preferred not to take on permanent 'live-in' servants. During the winter, it is obvious that rates on many of those smaller homes were often not paid, the occupant listed as 'Poor' and arrears grew for several months. [Note: It would be useful to see if there were any rates paid in Westminster under the name of Benjamin's father Robert Brown(e) prior to the 1720s when Benjamin would of course still be at home.]

       In any case, he paid rates on Brook Street for about 10 years - from 1726 to 1736 - marrying during this period and very likely having the first 2 or even 3 of his eventual 10 children while still residing there. His rates were in arrears (1726, 1727 and 1732/33) when the record showed the word 'Poor' indeed added beside his home's entry details. Of the 21 occasions when his name was shown in these rates records, it was spelt as 'Brown' 17 times and as 'Browne' 3 times (seemingly by one collector - around 1730). We may recall that in 1733 Benjamin himself spelt it with the final 'e' - on his marriage license documents. Exact or consistent spellings were certainly not a high priority in those times.

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      We have no clue as to how Benjamin and Elizabeth met or their marriage was arranged, if it was, through any parental influence (as was generally the case then). They did live in neighbouring parishes - on either side of what is today Regent Street (then Swallow Street). Elizabeth Bertrand may have been in service in the small Huguenot community of St Ann's, Soho although, of all her family who resided in that same community back in Spitalfields, she is the only one who appears to have left it for this more westerly, less artisan section of same and to have married outside her own local community (if 'Benjmain' Browne was indeed outside it). She was still at home in Spitalfields when she was admitted (ie as a young adult) into the main Huguenot church nearby - on Threadneedle Street - at the age of 15 - in early 1726. This was apparently the main centre of the 'conforming' section of the French church in this country. She likely entered service soon after this - by 1727/28, say - and somehow came to meet Benjamin Browne, probably within a year or two. Was it through some common church connection? Or…(common employer?) Or…(parental connections) Or…(common ethnic origins)?? Or?? [Possibly Elizabeth worked as a day servant with Lady Jane Shaftesbury on Bond Dtreet, an easy daily walk from St Ann's, and met Benjamin thereby?? Are there any archives for the Shaftesburys at this date, one wonders ?]

      Reggie Browne, not knowing of Benjamin's early status - as a Cook - but only his later one of eventually becoming 'a Gent' (who voted as such in a much later poll), and knowing also that some of his children had, like Benjamin himself, also married at St James, Piccadilly (but much later), drew the not unreasonable picture of him as a young 'gentleman about town' - associated with the latter church so favoured by the Tories and gentry of the day and thus most likely to derive from some landed family of means (as in Dorset). Certainly a generation later, his sons at least would be fulfilling this conception with rather more certainty. With the passing of George II in 1760, and the associated demise of his loyal supportive Whigs (so often of Scots and Huguenot descent then) and his replacement by his grandson George III, with his high church Tory acolytes, St James Church did indeed then increasingly host many of the local gentry's marriages and baptisms. Quite understandably, Reggie projected this image back a generation to their father Benjamin - knowing only that (1) he had married there himself, (2) had his eldest son Robert at least, baptised there and (3) later voted in Westminster - as a 'Gent'. It all appeared to be of a consistent piece. And if Benjamin was of this station, it could well imply certain things about his own father Robert in turn. And yet, and yet… So much in genealogy is not as first appears…

       We may discover more about Benjamin by tracing his rate-paying record in the Westminster rate books and seeking the christening records of his other children - ie after first son Robert - which, again, Reggie seems to have over-looked, or been unaware of. First, we may note that, as at their marriage, Benjamin and Elizabeth travelled past his own parish church (St George's Hanover Square) all the way to Piccadilly, in a different parish, to have their first child baptised - in 1734. Why was this? Reggie, who wasn't aware of just where they then lived, would reasonably assume that they must have lived in or near St James parish itself at that time. THey didn't. The old family Bible confirms that Benjamin and Elizabeth had nine more children over the next 18 years. And yet, no others were shown to have been baptised at St James, Piccadilly, nor indeed at St George's Hanover Square or anywhere else. The next child - Benjamin Jnr - might also have been baptised in St George's - as they still resided in that more northerly parish that year (on Brook Street) - but again no baptism is recorded for him there. Nor, this time, at St James, Piccadilly, or at any other local Anglican paraish churches. Why not?

       By June 1734, the rateable value of Benjamin's house (and those of his neighbours) on Brook Street had been reduced to just £12 and his six-monthly 'taxes' to 6 shillings. This continued unchanged for two years - until June 1736. The next record - for December 1736 (C79) - shows Benjamin's name again entered for Brook St - but then crossed out after one quarter and replaced by that of one James Masfield who continued thus, along with Lewis Pew and Richard Bellwood, for several more years there. Where did Benjamin and family go?        Meanwhile, a similar three-house rates record can be detailed for houses on the west side of Heddon Street, about a half mile south-east of Brook Street, but in the parish of St James, Piccadilly. In 1735 and 1736, three consecutive properties there, all with valuations of £18 and annual taxes of £1, were occupied, respectively, by a John Riddle, Michael Boson and Henry Stanton (D424 and D40). In 1736, the names shown were John Riddle, James Wallis (one quarter only, then house 'Empty') and Henry Stanton (D433 and D 439). By April 1737 (and likely from January or February, the names were John Riddle, Benjamin Brown (paid for last quarter only (Jan to Mar), the house having been empty the previous 3 winter quarters) and Robert Barrel (described as 'poor', owing £1 and having recently replaced Henry Stanton) (D41 and D440). It thus strongly appears that Benjamin and his growing family moved from the smaller house on Brook Street to a slightly larger one on Heddon Street around Christmas 1736. The lack of any gap or overlap in Benjamin's rate record points strongly to the two homes having been those of the same Benjamin Browne and family - their residence in the latter succeeding that in the former exactly.

      (Awkwardly, there was one other Benjamin Brown in St George Hanover Square around that period - who did have issue baptised in that local church. This was not'our' Benjamin and only one person of that name is ever shown in the local rates records. Much of the population lived in even smaller houses or rooms paid for by the local parish and paid no rates. While our Benjamin's new home did now fall (just) within St James parish, yet his subsequent children were still not to be baptised in the church for his new loacl parish (nor back at that for St George's).        The family then resided for about 6 or 7 years on Heddon Street, St James (1737-1743) - during which time, as mentioned, Benjamin's father died - apparently whilst staying there - possibly during some illness. We don't know if Benjamin's mother was still alive then. [Did Robert also reside with his son's family on Brooks Street earlier? We may note that on one occasion, Reggie Browne surprisingly described Benjamin's father Robert Browne as (also) 'being of St George Hanover Square'(!) despite being unaware of Benjamin's Brook Street domicile or rates record, nor of Benjamin's marriage license details (which both show him to then be of that parish (?also).]

       Around 1744 the family moved again (from Heddon St) - eventually to Vine Street by 1745 (D47) - which was even closer to St James, the parish church. They remained there for about 10 years - until 1755. [Note: Some of the St James rates records were audited and signed up to a year after the periods they covered and weren't always shown twice yearly; it is thus not always possible to pin-point a starting or leaving date with accuracy. Thus, I was unable to confirm any rates-paying record for Benjamin during 1743/1744; one theory was that he may have moved in temporarily with his widowed mother (on Piccadilly?) although rates there were still shown under the name of a Robert Browne; possibly this was Benjamin's brother, or did the collector not know that Robert Snr had died?]       ( Again, none of the later children were baptised in that now even closer Anglican parish church - of St James, Piccadilly, nor were those who died in infancy during the 1740s ever buried in its local churchyard. Rather, like their grandfather Robert and indeed their mother, they were all buried in Paddington - even though burials were still taking place in Westminster churchyards then - including some at the nearby burial grounds for St James, Piccadilly itself - their then parish of residence. Rates formerly paid under the name Robert Browne on Piccadilly ceased being so (possibly by his widow?) at about the same time as Benjamin moved (ca 1745) into his slightly larger house on nearby Vine Street. Had she moved in with them? We can't say for certain. Nor do we know when she died, nor where buried; there being too many female Brown(e) burials registered over the relevant period, including many Elizabeths, in all relevant nearby churches.

Benjamin's Church.

       The reason Benjamin and Elizabeth married in St James, Piccadilly in 1733 was because it was the closest church to their own church - barely 50 yards away - in which marriages were not then allowed or registered. And their first child (only) was then baptised in 1734 - also at St James similarly - only because this was the last year in which baptisms too were not (yet) performed in their own nearby church - with St James still being the closest one where they were performed. But all nine of their subsequent children appear to have been baptised in that latter if still unmamed family church - between 1735 and 1750 - once such services were so allowed - and so not at St James, nor in any other local Anglican parish church (as St George's where they had still resided between 1733 and 1736/7).       ( Finally, all burials for the family were also necessarily out at Paddington (or somewhere comparable) as their church, as mentioned, also had no burial grounds - only the established churches providing this facility then, including St James, Piccadilly. Benjamin's long-attended familty church turned out to be…the 'Scots Church' - on Great Swallow Street - just two doors from Piccadilly - with St James' church located immediately across that street. The Scots church was a Presbyterian, non-conformist church said 'to serve mostly London-based Scots' at the time. All 9 of their younger children were thus baptised there - but, for some reason, such baptisms (and the locations of same) were never recorded in the family Bible - although all their births were (which do not therefore mention any church). Should we not ask why this was the case ?

       Benjamin's moves from Brook Street to Heddon Street and then on to Vine Street thus served in effect to place his family increasingly closer to his own church - and, only coincidentally therefore, nearer the church of St James, Piccadilly as well. His home on Vine Street was in fact just a few yards east from his own (Scots) church during the important period of the late 1740s-early 1750s. [For a separate, fuller account on this church, please see Appendix One by Clicking here:    To Appendix One: 'On Benjamin's Church' and then returning to the next section below.]

The Children Born To Benjamin and Elizabeth.

       Benjamin and Elizabeth would eventually have 10 children born to them before Elizabeth's early demise in 1751. As noted, their names and birth dates are shown in the family Bible (still extant), again as apparently copied from an alleged earlier one of Benjamin's - seemingly around 1815-20 by George Howe Browne. (See photocopy of part of these entries above.) Thus, just over a year after their marriage, their first child Robert Browne, named after Benjamin's father presumably, was born - on May 3rd 1734 - while they still resided on Brook Street (as far as one can tell), and then baptised on May 20th that year some distance from their home - as shown in the church register of St James, Piccadilly, although not shown as such in the family Bible. Oddly, the Bible showed him as born on Heddon Street even though the family was definitely not shown as resident there for another 3 years, after which they were. Significantly, the St James' register did not show places (ie streets) of birth - as would that of the Scots church later. The next two children were also born (as per the Bible record) before the move to Heddon Street: ie Benjamin (Jnr) on May 30th, 1735, and Elizabeth on Oct 24th, 1736 (named after their parents) and, appropriately, they at least were not shown as born on that latter street (to where they had yet to move, nor indeed on any particular street. But, unlike for Robert, no baptism details appear for either of them - at St James, Piccadilly - nor elsewhere as far as can be determined. The reason for this is discussed below.

       This daqughter Elizabeth (the 1st of three that would have given this name) lived just over a year - dying on Jan 8th 1738, by which time the family had moved to Heddon Street. She was, as shown in the Bible copy, buried in the churchyard at St James, Paddington - the first of the family to be buried there (the Scots church having no burial grounds of its own then although St James. Piccadilly did). Her place of abode then was however still not shown in the Bible. Their fourth child, Nicholas (named after Elizabeth's father), was born (apparently at Heddon Street but again this was not stated) on May 3rd, 1738, but he also soon died, barely a month old, on the 22nd of that month. No baptism is apparent for him either. His place of burial was not shown in the Bible but, again, was most likely Paddington. For, less than a month later, Benjamin's father Robert Browne Snr died at Heddon Street - on June 12th and his burial was shown - to be in what had clearly now become the family's chosen burial site - Paddington churchyard - on June 18th, 1738. Oddly, he was described by Reggie Browne (as mentioned above) as having being 'of St George Hanover Square' - the parish we associated earlier with his son Benjamin from 1725 to 1736 - although dying at Heddon Street, St James according to the Bible. Where did Reggie get this information? It seesm an odd mistake to make. Robert left no Will or Administration.

       Thus, by the end of 1738, the family on Heddon Street now consisted of Benjamin and Elizabeth and their two sons Robert and Benjamin, then aged 4 and 3. (We are still uncertain if Benjamin Snr's mother was still alive and if so, where she lived. Interestingly, an Elizabth Brown of St George Hanover Square was buried in Paddington on July 2nd, 1735. Also, on March 18th, 1737, a Katherine Brown of St James, Westminster (where Benjamin then resided) was buried there also).) Then, on May 28th of the next year (1739), a 4th son - George Browne - was born to them - his birth shown in the Bible to have been 'on Heddon Street' but no church of baptism is mentioned. It is not apparent after whom he was named - possibly the reigning sovereign?

       Significantly, George would become the progenitor of the one ultimately surviving line of Brownes extant today. It was shortly after George's birth that Benjamin Snr, now with three young sons, must have left his current employer (where he may or may not have trained as a Cook (this now explained below) and, on June 8th, 1739, began his career at St James Palace on the Royal Household kitchen staff (as also discussed further below). Almost two years later, a 5th (but ultimately 4th surviving) son then joined the family - when Philip Browne was born - also in the Heddon Street home - on April 5th, 1741. After whom he may have been named is unknown, but intriguing. He would be destined for the Navy. But just three months later, the second oldest son, Benjamin, died - on July 7th, 1741, aged just 6 years, and was buried with the others in Paddington.

       The family was now back to the two parents and now 3 surviving sons. They were joined two years later by a daughter - another Elizabeth - born June 20th, 1743, probably on Hatton St, but she too soon succumbed, aged just 2 1/2, on December 22nd, 1745 - again buried out at Paddington. We're not certain where the family resided during 1743-44 and thus where this 2nd Elizabeth was born with certainty. Significantly, the Bible is again silent on the matter. A daughter was then born who did survive: Katherine Browne - being the first shown to be born 'at Vine Street' - on January 22nd, 1747. There was a Katherine in Elizabeth's Bertrand family after whom she may well have been named. A second Nicholas appeared next - born July 9th, 1749. Oddly, his place of birth (presumably Vine Street also) is not shown in the Bible. He was however also destined to die young - on May 2nd, 1753, before his 4th birthday. And finally, they were more successful with a third daughter named Elizabeth - shown born at Vine Street on March 20th, 1751 - who would survive and one day marry. But sadly, her mother Elizabeth Snr was not so fortunate. She died within the month - on April 17th that year and soon joined her four deceased offspring and father-in-law at Paddington - on 24th April, 1751. Young Nicholas 2 would soon follow them there - on May 2nd, 1753 - aged not quite four.

       As mentioned, except for eldest son Robert, baptised in St James church in May 1734 before baptisms were performed (or allowed) at the Scots chrch, there was no reference in family sources to any baptisms regarding any of the 9 later-born children. It was eventually discovered through the Mormon church's Index that the Scots church began performing baptisms from about 1735 only. But the original recording of these appears to have been made into a temporary book of some kind until a more formal register was finally instigated - in 1750. Thus we find that the last born (in 1751) of the 10 children, Elizabeth 3, was baptised at the Presbyterian 'Scots' church on nearby Swallow Street, with the entry made directly into the new register - ie at that time. It reads:

       "1751 - April 30 - Elizabeth, daughter of Benjamin Browne and Elizabeth his wife was born on Vine Street in the parish of St James, Westminster on the 20th of March 1751 and was baptised this day".

       But, immediately after this entry, the following was also now entered that same day (as copied from some earlier temporary record) into the formal new register:

       "Her brother George was born the 28th May 1739 in Heddon Street in the same parish and baptised on the 1st of June following".

       "His brother Philip was born the 5th of April 1741 in Heddon Street and baptised on the 28th April 1741".

       "His sister Katherine was born the 22nd Jan 1747 in Vine Street and baptised the 4th Feb following".

       "Her brother Nicholas was born the 9th July 1749 in the same place and baptised the 27th following".

       We might reasonably assume that Benjamin requested that these particulars be so entered into the new register although similar retrospective details were in fact so recorded for many other parents - ie for many children born and baptised between 1737 and 1750. It was more likely a general procedure therefore - adopted for those relatively few couples who were still having issue there after some 10 to 15 years of marriage. It would appear that it was not thought necessary to enter details concerning those other 4 children born to Benjamin and Elizabeth (or those born to others) who had died in the interim ie in the case of the Brownes - Benjamin, Nicholas 1 and Elizabeths 1 and 2. This is, in contrast to the survivors who, conceivably, may wish to consult such retrospective entries in future (as might their descendents in time) which would not be the case for the non-survivors of course. But we may assume that baptisms and the other details of date and place/street of birth were nevertheless also entered originally in the same temporary format for those who only subsequently died young. [This explains why no addresses are shown for any of the issue who died in infancy. That they were shown in the family Bible for only the survivors implies that

this infomation was obtained from the Scots church source

which, suspiciously, is never admitted.] It was through the discovery in the Mormon Index of the above 5 baptisms of the then survivors that the identity of Benjamin's church was in fact first revealed. A copy of the title page of the new Register is shown below along with that showing the contemporary baptismal entry for Elizabeth and the retrospective ones for her earlier born, and then still surviving, siblings (but, significantly, not for those who had not survived). The quality of those added entries is unfortunately not very clear.

       Thus, Benjamin, now a widower of about 42, was left initially with 6 of their original 10 children - 4 boys and 2 girls - although as mentioned he would soon lose Nicholas 2 as well; the remaining 5 children would all survive and marry and have issue - except for Katherine (who remained a spinster). But we might pause for a moment and consider life in the Browne household during, say, all of 1752. The eldest, Robert, was then 18 and very likely already out to work - in some clerical capacity in a private office, say, if not yet within government service (as he would be shortly). George, 13 and Philip, 11, were probably both still at school - somewhere. But Katherine was just 5, Nicholas not yet 3 and baby Elizabeth only 1. Who would care for these 3 youngest and very dependent children over the next few years - to about 1765, say ? Did Benjamin hire a nanny/housekeeper or did one of Elizabeth's relatives step in to help? We can't be sure.       ( The two eldest boys would have been educated through the 1740s while the family resided on Heddon and then Vine Streets. There were schools run by Huguenots in neighbouring Soho then and they may well have attended one such (as had one of the sons of the Pitt family - of 'Diamond Pitt fame'). In any case, they obviously received adequate training in the language, arithmetic and bookkeeping skills needed to obtain such as clerical employment somewhere in London - with its many administrative and commercial opportunities for that small minority who were adequately educated in these skills. The majority of children were uneducated.

       Meanwhile, younger brother Philip would shortly be 'put to sea' aged about 12 (ca 1753) - this being another route towards advancement in society in those times (ie via a career in the Navy). As with his two older brothers' educations, this too would have entailed some significant expenditure on the part of Benjamin during the late 1740s/early 1750s - this constituting the crucial factor dividing society into the 'haves' and the 'have nots' of the day - with most by far remaining in that latter category. Arranging a 'good' marriage for at least one of his daughters (Elizabeth) would be another priority (and cost?) for Benjamin - for her future security. This would also be a consideration with respect to all 3 sons. But in this latter case, we have little or no details or confirmation.       Katherine, while 4 years older than Elizabeth, would remain single and be 'placed' as a kind of companion in a middle class home near Richmond, Surrey while younger sister Elizabeth would, only after her father managed to raise himself to an adequate status and income, go on to marry an Esq. Katherine's placement, probably in the late 1760s, seems to have been at the country residence of a family who were colleagues of her brother Robert's new in-laws - the Aldertons (being in similar businesses near Covent Garden). The family's fortunes were likely not yet adequate enough when Katherine (the elder girl) happen to come of age but fortunately became so shortly after - when her younger siblings,includimg Elizabeth, first sought suitable spouses (from about 1758).

Benjamin's Career.

       Fortunately, the eventual expenses of these events and some social improvement coincided with necessary advances in Benjamin's employment prospects, status and income. In 1739, he had left some previous employer and began a long career as a Cook in Royal service - at St James Palace on Pall Mall - then the main residence of staunch protestant George II. Many loyal Scots and Huguenots - typically of Whig leanings - were so employed during that reign. Benjamin had married early in 1733 and had probably not long completed his basic apprenticeship as a Cook (probably near Brook Street initially) and would now be looking for an improvement in salary and prospects - to match his new responsibilities. Possibly his previous employer had some connections at Court since entry into that service was much sought after and not easily effected. (This proved to be the case.) It offered relative security and a career structure of fairly predictable advancement through the 'Child, Groom, Yeoman and Master' categories, the latter two, once achieved, consistent with the stylings of 'Gent' and 'Esq', respectively, the former of which Benjamin did indeed eventually attain (and virtually the latter as well). Neither of these stylings would attend Benjamin during the 1730s or'40s, say, by virtue of some prior family standing in his background. He seems, in a sense, to have raised himself by his own 'bootstraps'.

       The first clue about a Benjamin Browne's possible role in the Royal Household kitchen occurred when Sir Peter Leslie noted this name listed as a Cook in one of the Annual Registers (of those in public positions in the government or Royal service) - for the year 1750. It seemed to signify to him nothing at the time - there being many of this fairly common name in many walks of life, including such public service at all levels, and our Benjamin's understood position as a 'Gent' (as long understood by Peter and others then pursuing this matter) wasn't thought particularly consistent with such employment. If he did work at something, which seemed unlikely in that original understanding, this was quite unknown. But fortunately this snippet of earlier information was tucked away in Sir Peter's excellent memory and happily later recalled when, some time later, I happened to report on my discovery elsewhere of Benjamin's actual status as exactly that - as a Cook - when I examined his marriage licence Bond. Further details of such employment in Royal service was then quickly sought out and confirmed from records at the public record office (LS 13/263). His appointment there had indeed been effected on June 8th, 1739 when he presented to the 'Clerk of the Board of Greencloth' a Warrant authorising same as given him by the then Lord Steward, the Duke of Dorset (Lionel Sackville):

       It would appear that the Lord Steward was the final arbiter as to whether one received this vital Warrant for such employment (and for all subsequent promotions). We may assume that he would be prevailed upon to consider various potential appointees brought to him by friends and colleagues who would assure him of their shared Whigish bona fides (just as the King was assured of his). Thus, the Dukes of Dorset, Devonshire and Chesterfield of the day all held this particular role under George II (at extremely good annual stipends). (We should mention here that the Duke of Dorset had absolutely no connctions with the county of Dorset itself; rather, he was of a long established Kentish family accorded this title generations earlier.) As mentioned, Benjamin's next door neighbour on Brook Street, Richard Bellwood, would also be employed in the Palace kitchens - but from a later date (1749) - by which time Benjamin had probably acquired some minor influence himself and may even have suggested this former neighbour and likely friend. Richard was, initially, a 'Salsaryman' and soon moved to the Buttery department. These positions would include various perks, especially at the higher grades, and would be much sought after.

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      We interrupt the flow of our narrative (written in 2002) at this point (which will continue some pages below (at **) - in order to insert here some recently discovered material in 2012) which should prove self-explanatory.

Post Script Concerning the Life of Benjamin Browne and Family.


       We recall that in his history of the Browne family, Reggie Browne focused on the apparent gentry status and origins of young Benjamin Browne, progenitor of the family, who had married in St James church, Westminster (1733), had his eldest son Robert baptised there (1734) and voted himself as a resident in that 'up-market' Tory parish in 1749 - when he was described as a 'Gent'. Son Robert and his brother George Browne were also soon accorded Gent status themselves - shortly after gaining junior positions at the Pells Office of the Treasury; it appeared that Sir Edward Walpole, then 'Clerk of the Pells' (a very well-paid political 'placement' arranged by his father, the then Prime Minister) was, for some unknown reason, their patron. The sons would also both marry in St James church, and intriguingly, George would name his second son 'Edward Walpole Browne' - thus confirming the seeming patronage - of unknown basis.

       Reggie had thus reasonably assumed that Benjamin, wherever he was from, was by the 1730s or so, a 'young Gent about town' - of a non-working background (possibly Dorset gentry), with a quite adequate income and probable influence. He was however never aware of Benjamin's actual status at that time - as an employed Cook - 'working his way fron the bottom'. The conception of his gentry station in life would no doubt have been even further consolidated in Reggie's mind had he been aware that by 1758, Benjamin had moved into a larger (if still rented) house - in Knightsbridge - and had in fact recently assumed the styling of Esq ! As someone in the Treasury, with a father an Esq living in Knightsbridge, his son Robert would, unsurprisingly, be in a good position to secure a most adequate marriage at about that time - and those for his brother George and sister Catherine would certainly now be further facilitated as well. Moreover, youngest son Philip Browne was also guided towards a promising future as a Gentleman by virtue of an early start in the Navy - an accepted route towards a commission and subsequent gentry standing. All seemed well with the Browne's aspiring world and their implied origins - certainly as interpreted by Reggie with the facts then available to him.

       And yet and yet... . When we ultimately discovered that Benjamin at his marriage in 1733 was required to give his then status or occuption as that of 'Cook' (not Gent or Esq), we had to re-adjust much of our foregoing conceptions. For he had married in St James, Westminster, despite his bride residing in St Anne's, Soho at the time and he in St George, Hanover Square, only because his own 'Scots' church (just across the street from St James') was not yet allowed to perform such services, nor baptisms (eg for first son Robert) - until 1736. Their nine subsequent children were thus not themselves baptised at St James - but at that Scots church - something oddly unmentioned by Reggie. Their dates and places of birth were usually mentioned (as recorded at home in the family Bible) but their places and dates of baptisms were not mentioned or recorded.

       From 1739, Benjamin's employment as a Cook in the Royal service (once discovered) could be monitored in the records at Kew - as he progressed up the career ladder at St James Palace - until 1760 - although we knew not how he managed to gain entry into that service from 1739 (when 30 years of age) - after 6 years of marriage. He was then progressively a 'Child', Junior, Groom, Yeoman and finally (almost) a Master - Cook - at the Palace. At the Yeoman level, his salary and responsibilities were such that he could now style himself 'Gent' - as was documented when voting in 1749. But having the vote was not itself dependent upon such status; anyone residing in Westminster then who owned or even just paid rent and rates on property there had that voting privilege. He would not have been deemed a Gent in the mid-1730s, for example (having yet to achieve that status), but would already have had the vote then, as a rate payer, nevertheless.

       Once his sons were in the Pells office and Philip into the Navy by the late 1750s, Benjamin reasonably anticipated shortly his next advancement - that of Master Cook with its considerable increase in salary (compared with all earlier rises) and the status of Esq. He seems to have taken a gamble in so styling himself a little early and taking on the greater rent and rates for the larger Knightsbridge house - when and where he so described himself. Sadly, he paid those dues for only the first quarter there - then went increasingly into arrears until, by late 1761, he was reported in the rates records as having 'Gone'. This was not long after the death of the Whig'ish George the Second - when Benjamin and 99 others in the Royal service (often of Whig'ish and loyal Huguenot or Scottish Presbyterian backgrounds) were retired to pension at just a third of his shortly anticipated new annual salary, to be quickly replaced by those high Tory supporters of the new monarch - George the third. Benjamin soon moved in with son Robert and family in Manchester Buildings (next to Westminster Bridge and convenient for Robert's work at the Pells). He often collected and signed for his father's pension quarterly at the Palace through much of the 1770s and '80s.

       The foregoing picture remained our understanding (for the past several years) of the evolving developments in the lives of Benjamin and his family. But, it had left unanswered: (1) just how Benjamin gained entrance into his career in Royal service at St James Palace in 1739, (2) where and with whom he had trained (1724-1730) and (3) where and with whom he was first employed (ca 1730-1738) - quite possibly in St George Hanover Square where he and Elizabeth first lived. It was also unknown how his sons later gained entry into the Pells Office (much later) - around 1758. Was Benjamin's position in the Palace by then (not directly a governmental one) of any relevance or influence - in the latter regard ? Would he even know or have any credit with someone like Sir Edward Walpole, say (his sons' if not his own, alleged but unexplained patron) - who lived in Surrey or Berkshire at that period ? It seemed most unlikely. Certainly this possibility, even at that late date, wouldn't have been an option for Reggie to consider - as he was never aware of any working status for Benjamin, including one that might provide (if even needed) any such influence early in his life.        But, again, we might well utter the phrase - '..and yet and yet….'. For, out of the blue, I have just received a short email from a PhD historian in Pennsylvania - who is writing a book on a most interesting character of then Georgian period - one Thomas Dunkerley - whose life happily intersected, if briefly, with that of our Benjamin Browne ! And this gives us a new slant on things not previously suspected, or mentioned in the slightest (although in hindsight easily imagined - as if one knew it all along. But one didn't know it; nor did anyone else, including Reggie or Sir Peter Leslie or whomever.

       I would love to be able to inform Reggie, Bertie and Peter Leslie of this finding - modest though it may be. But, too late…! However, Sue, Baylo, John Browne (and maybe their children) - might, we hope, still be interested. And possibly others (eg Sir Peter's wife Charlotte informed us she certainly was).


       Edward Walpole was born in 1706, the second son of Sir Robert Walpole of Houghton, Norfolk, MP, later to become England's 1st recognised Prime Minister (1721-1742). As a boy, Edward was well cared for in north Norfolk by his favourite Nurse - one Mrs Boness - who had a daughter Mary. On the occasion of a visit to Houghton by the then (2nd) Duke of Devonshire - at Christmas 1711), a servant accompanying the Duke, one Adam Dunkerley, took a fancy to young Mary and the following year, with permission, they married. The Duke soon promoted him to a position of Porter at Somerset House in London (which must have been in his gift) where Adam and Mary would long reside and have a large family including latterly a son Thomas Dunkerley - born about 1722, as estimated.

       Meanwhile, like his father, Edward was educated at Eton (1714-22), Cambridge (1723-25) and Lincoln's Inn (1725), where he was called briefly to the Bar. He then spent some years on the Grande tour of Italy (1725-30) acquiring his life-long interests in Art, Music and Gardens. Although more than capable, he showed little or no interest in either the Law or politics, but did represent Gt Yarmouth as an MP from 1734 to 1768, later apologising to the burghers there for his general lack of attention to their needs and being 'grateful for their continued indulgence'. He would at least maintain the Whig'ish stance of his family and so hold down three very lucrative titular positions in government, 'for life' - granted to him by his politically powerful father, including that of 'Clerk of the Pells' - at £30,000 a year (!). (One could live very comfortably then on £500.) He could then, amongst other things, staff the Pells as he wished.

       But, before this, on his return from the Grande tour in 1730, aged just 24, Edward lodged temporarily on the north side of Pall Mall in upstairs apartments leased out by a couple called 'the Rennies' who produced and sold quality Children Coats in their up-market street level shop below. Helping them there was a Seamstress called Dorothy Clement (b 1715) from Darlington, Co Durham. Her father (baptised in Durham Cathedral and later to be Postmaster of Darlington), had a very large family and it was decided that Dorothy should move to London to live and work for the Rennies (seemingly family friends) - from about 1731. She was later acknowledged by many as one of the most beautiful girls in London. Edward was certainly much taken by her. Their subsequent friendship worried Mrs Rennie who feared it might lead to a more serious relationship, so she informed the girl's father (about 1732) who soon came down from Durham to 'fetch her home' - the difference in their social levels being thought much too great.

      Edward had recently moved to his own premises (by about 1732) just across the street - at number 71 Pall Mall, a property (now refurbished) that his father had apparently purchased four years earlier - primarily in order to thwart the intentions of the then Duchess of Devonshire (with whom he was then having serious disagreements) who had also wanted to buy same - in order to construct a passage-way from her London residence (Marlborough House) just behind, through to Pall Mall. (She later bought a similar property even nearer St James Palace - at that western end of Pall Mall - to successfully effect the same thing.) Across the street, Dorothy became quite upset when her father arrived and sought to take her home. An argument ensued and she ran over to Edward for protection - which he was pleased to provide her. They would have married almost immediately but Edward's father (who held the purse strings) withheld his permission - believing the affair would soon wither. However, the couple remained steadfastly together - at the Pall Mall house - with Dorothy producing three daughters and a son as his fully accepted common-law wife before she sadly succumbed after the birth of the last child - in 1739. Edward never subsequently married. The children were all raised as Walpoles and the three daughters married into the highest social circles, including royalty (the Gloucesters) and the well-off Waldegraves. The son died young.

      Meanwhile, Adam and Mary Dunkerley and family had continued living in their apartments at Somerset House. Sir Edward decided to provide Mary's mother (his former Nurse) and now a widow, with an apartment there as well, plus a small annuity. She mentioned to him that she missed her weekly joint of beef (as enjoyed in Norfolk) so it was arranged that her grandson Thomas Dunkerley could come weekly to Edward's home on Pall Mall, on a Monday morning, with a basket and clean napkin, to collect such a cooked joint from his kitchen - especially for her. Thomas was then 'a little boy', reported a witness who also said that this arrangement continued 'for a long time'. We might therefore reasonably envisage young Thomas aged about 11 or 12 at the time and thus, if born in 1722, his weekly trips may well have transpired from about 1733 to 1736 or so, not long after Edward and Dorothy had set up their new household at No. 71.

       These aspects are only known because they would be later described by one William Bray in 1777 - when relating various tales about Georgian life in an early book - something discovered and consulted by my Pennsylvanian historian for her scholarly analysis of those times. In that account, Bray confirms the above reported remarks regarding Thomas Dunkerley's weekly visits to the Pall Mall residence around 1733 to 1736 when, significantly, he relates that:

"...Benjamin Browne, then Cook to Sir Edward, has verified this…". (!)

      Now, there is no way that a Cook named Benjamin Browne, employed as such in the 1730s in Sir Edward Walpole's house on Pall Mall, could possibly not be 'our' Benjamin Browne - who would later work just three doors away, as a Cook - in St James Palace itself (from 1739), have sons later employed in Sir Edward's Pell's Office (1750s)- one of whom would actually name a son 'Edward Walpole Browne'! It is certainly, 'all of a piece'.

       It would thus appear that Benjamin, who still lived on Brook Street in the early 1730s, had likely trained (as an apprentice) from about 1724 to 1730, say (aged 14 to 20) in that area, with its many titled families, was then employed there or nearby for another year or two - until having enough experience to gain a good reference, a reference which we might reasonably assume gained him entry into Sir Edward Walpole's recently set-up household - by about 1732/3 - when he and Dorothy were expecting their first child (Laura Walpole b. 1734). Significantly, Benjamin and his bride Elizabeth Bertrand would themselves then marry - in St James church, (interestingly, the parish which includes Pall Mall) - that same year (1733). Seemingly, Benjamin now had confidence in his prospects (by virtue of his recent new employment) to effect that recent marriage. [Might we even suggest that he may have met Elizabeth because she was in service on Pall Mall or even with Sir Edward himself ?] Benjamin was just 24, and Sir Edward 27 - two young men effectively starting out in life - albeit at much different levels of society. Shortly after, Benjamin and Elizabeth moved to their better house - on Haddon Street - with its higher rent and rates.

       But, with his Dorothy sadly dying in 1739, Sir Edward likely had to make new arrangements (possibly shortly moving to Berkshire). It appears that it was at this point that Benjamin obtained the vital recommendation - we must assume from Sir Edward (a fellow Whig) - to be taken on for a secure, well-paid career in Royal service - with its virtually automatic advancement through the various grades thereof. He thus soon moved to Vine Street (1743). Some years later, his sons (now not so mysteriously) enter the Pell's Office as junior clerks and, even later, an 'Edward Walpole Browne' was born to younger son George Browne, Esq (progenitor of all subsequent Brownes) and so baptised. Thanks to Thomas Dunkerley and William Bray, it is indeed now 'all of a piece', whereas previously, there was much doubt and conjecture. Benjamin Browne and Edward Walpole would both die aged 78, three years apart in the late 1780s.

      It may usefully be pointed out that while later members of the family had believed that their Browne ancestors derived from a family of gentry in Dorset and some were subsequently a little 'let down' when learning that this was very unlikely to be the case (once they undestood that Benjamin had been but a 'Cook'), his role and position as a Chef who undoubtedly would have cooked for both the Prime Minister of the day and later for Royalty, places him rather 'higher' than may have been appreciated. One might consider the celebraty status of many Chefs today !

       We might add too that just as Benjamin would likely have begun his apprenticeship at age 14, so too did young Thomas Dunkerley - in about 1736 - but with a Barber. However, he was not happy in this and soon ran away to sea - getting himself on board Sir John Norris's ship, shortly to sail as part of a fleet to the Baltic. Sir Edward heard of this, paid off the Barber to ensure he wouldn't sue the mother, now a widow, and spoke to Sir John to ask him to 'take good care of Thomas' - who, he said,' was a very clever lad'. He thus received a good training in seamanship, mathematics and gunnery (during the 1740s) and was subsequently recommended to Lord George Anson as a most fit person to become a master at a naval technical school at Portsmouth, and was later present at the (first) siege of Quebec (1759) - where he gained further credit. The interesting story of Thomas Dunkerley does not end here but will be available to reveal more when my colleague publishes her book on him this autumn (of 2012). But the foregoing aspect is mentioned in the event that when Benjamin's youngest son Philip Browne (later Captain Browne, RN) sought a career in the Navy, one might at least consider whether it too may have been expedited to some extent by Sir Edward and his Naval contacts ? This can be looked into one day by anyone interested.

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       Yes (and nevertheless), we still don't know how Benjamin came to live on Brook Street in the 1720s, near where he likely served his apprenticeship and initial placement (with a family probably well known to Sir Edward), nor where he came from prior to that. We can now report however that whilst attending his Scots church throughout the 1740s, the then Minister in charge of that church, William Crookshank, M.A., seems to have sought subscribers for an intended work of scholarship (later commended by Thomas Carlyle to John Stuart Mill). This was entitled: 'The History (of the State and Sufferings) of the Church of Scotland - from the Restoration to the Revolution': London, 1749 - 2 Vols.'. Would all members of the church (which seems to have includes some English non-conformists as well as mainly Scots) be expected to subscribe (to help defray costs) or would only those of Scots descent be that interested or expected to contribute ? In any case, Benjamin Browne was listed as one such subscriber in 1749 (as noted in an on-line source for the British Library). Might this have any implications as to his origins ? The hunt goes on !

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      ** We now return to our original narrative after the foregoing insertion of October 2012; there may be some repetition:

       The same National Archive records (Series LS 13/) referred to above regarding Benjamin's subsequent career at the Palace show his gradual advancement through the various levels of seniority in the Kitchens there. This occurred over a 20 year period - from 1739 to 1759 (between the ages of 30 to 50) - when his salary slowly rose accordingly from £30 to £55 per annum. [We may note here that the first rung on the ladder in the royal household, that of 'Child', reflects the ancient concept as detailed in Byron's poem 'Childe Harold' as being one formerly in training towards gentryhood, knighthood or squiredom and could, in later times, apply to one of almost any age - even up to 30, say, as Benjamin then was - in comparable Royal services.]

      By the late 1740s, Benjamin had risen to the position of Senior Groom Cook and with this came the styling of 'Gent' or Gentleman, and a relevant increase in salary. It was earlier believed (by Reggie) that this in turn gave him the right to vote but, as mentioned, it appears that this was in fact a right, in Westminster at least, held by all males over 25 who paid 'lot and scot' - ie who simply paid rates. Less than 10% of voters were in fact of Gent or Esq status. Benjamin thus voted, albeit as a Gent, in the election of 1749 - for the Whig candidate Granville Leveson-Gower (Lord Viscount Trentham), son of the 1st Lord Gower. He won on a re-count against Sir George Vandeput, Bt, the Tory. Whigs were in the ascendancy then and, importantly for Benjamin, for the next decade.

      The anticipated advancement to the position of Master Cook by the late 1750s (with its much greater increase in salary (to £130) and perks than occurred with any of the previous steps up that ladder of royal service (it was likely a management and buying role), was at about the time he had moved to a larger house (with higher rates) - just beyond the western end of Piccadilly (near Knightsbridge). He was thus on the verge of exceeding his Gent status and consolidating that of being an Esq (which styling he had in fact briefly adopted) when George II inconsiderately died, his Tory-minded grandson succeeded and Benjamin and 99 others (presumably all placed in posts by virtue of someone of Whig influence) lost their jobs. In the ambiguous terminolgy of the times, it was thus decreed that: "Whereas We have judged it expedient for Our Service to discharge several of the servants of our late Grandfather of Glorious memory..deeming them proper objects of Our Royal Bounty...". Rates were soon left unpaid by Benjamin on his new, but still rented, property and he would have now to live on a more modest but still adequate 'pension' of that Royal Bounty - of £50 per annum.

     It is a touch ironic that although never a 'young Tory gentleman about town' in his early days - attending St James church, etc (as Reggie had wrongly if reasonably assumed) - his Scots church (and thus Whigish) associations had probably proved the more useful in obtaining initial employment at the Palace, at least in those early years. [One might even suggest that some colleague in his youth (ca 1730, say) had said to him "If you want to get on here in London Benjamin (especially in Royal service), 'marry a Huguenot (or even be one), always vote Whig and join the Scots church' - which of course is just what he did, though quite possibly not directly with that purpose in mind. And then, conversely, his sons would likely be told after 1760 to become more associated with St James church, vote Tory and never mention the Scots church again (or their origins?) - which, to get on in society, appears again to be what in fact they probably did.]

       By about 1756, his three surviving sons were off his hands (see later) and he and possibly his two young daughters moved to Knightsbridge, then in the parish of St Margaret's, Westminster (Absey Division) where he paid rates on that larger rented house on the north side of that (effectively) western extension of Piccadilly. After the first 25 houses there, valued at only £7 to £9, there was a group of 10 or so more substantial homes rated much higher - at £26 and taxed at about 12 shillings per quarter. Benjamin paid his first quarter's rates for one of these houses during 1757 (E401). He was listed as 'Benjamin Brown, Esq' and lived next to an Alexander Strahan, Esq and Henry Manley, Esq - the latter's rates then being in arrears by £2.5.6. Between 1758 and 1761, Benjamin's payments also began slipping into arrears (see E405; E409; E413; E417) until, by 1762, he owed £7.10.0 which was later recorded as 'lost', Benjamin as 'gone' and the house as 'E' (for Empty). Interestingly, Strahan and Manley were also in arrears - for 2 or 3 quarters - and these too increased later. Quarterly rates had now gone down to below 9 shillings and times may have been difficult. Rates of bankruptcy apparently went up markedly by mid-1762 (possibly due to Whigs now being out of favour).

       Thus, around the summer of 1762, Benjamin (possibly with Katherine, 15 and Elizabeth, 11) seems to have moved in with eldest son Robert or second son George - both then recently married and living in Manchester Buildings, near Westminster Bridge. One or other frequently signed for receipt of Benjamin's regular pension payments during the 1760s/70s (as per PRO records). They had, very conveniently and significantly, obtained posts as junior clerks in the Pell's Office of the nearby Treasury during the late 1750s. Robert had married about the time his father moved to Knightsbridge, now styling himself not a Clerk but a 'Gentleman' ('who did something in the Treasury'); this would no doubt be perceived by a potential father-in-law as fully consistent with Robert's father (now styled an Esq) - living in Knightsbridge. A good marriage settlement should therefore now be possible. Undoubtedly, both sons would now seek to 'get on' in the new order of things (post-George II) and, quickly adopting a more Tory orientation, and attending St James church, etc, little or nothing seems to have been heard again of the family's non-conformist, Scots Church, whigish background; Nor of their true origins seemingly.

      Despite his apparent humble beginnings, we may assume however that it was Benjamin who saw to it that his sons obtained the best educations he could provide them and, probably through his Palace contacts (and, as we now know, those of Sir Edward Walople), guided them into their early positions - eventually as trainees/clerks at the Pells Office at the Treasury - and, with sister Elizabeth, into satisfactory marriages. These crucial first steps in the Browne family's later fortunes would have been taken over a relatively short period - around 1750-55, seemingly, when they lived on Vine Street near their own church - and were due, I would suggest, not to his sons somehow 'lifting themselves up by their own bootstraps', as it were (bright as they may have been with their (possible) British-Huguenot 'hybrid vigour'), but by the continuing efforts of their ambitious, self-made father - Benjamin Browne - over this particularly important narrow window. From the moment he could refer to himself as a 'Gent' (ca 1748) and later (albeit slightly anticipated) as an Esq (ca 1758), so the aspirations and possibilites for both himself and his children would take a quantum leap. They (and their ancestors) were most fortunate in having this determined father.

      For some unknown reason, however, Benjamin himself apparently ended up living on the south bank of the river, downstream - at Rotherhithe - where he seems to have died in 1787, aged 78+, although was said to have been buried near his wife Elizabeth back at Paddington churchyard. [One assumes that the Benjamin concerned, and the dates and places involved, were in accord with information recorded in the family Bible, as the basis for this generally accepted view.] This being the case, it is possible that Benjamin had maintained contact with those landing provisions in Rotherhithe and may well have had a role as a middleman providing same to the Palace through his continued contacts there. There was a contemporary Huguenot family with connections both with the Palace and with Rotherhithe whose details are presently misplaced; they will be placed here once re-found. [This concerned a sister of Mark Verdier (who worked with Benjamin in the Royal kitchen) who had married another seeming Huguenot (surname Schertner) in Rotherhithe where they apparently remained.] I also have details about a 'Benjamin Browne, Gent' who lived and owned two small houses on Newman Street, off Holborn in the 1770s and later south of the river - in both cases near a senior Colonial Office administrator John Larpent, Esq (apparently of Huguenot descent); this Benjamin's identity needs further confirmation.

       Benjamin's eldest son Robert Browne would appear to have been clever and talented in his role in the Treasury. He was continually promoted through the 1760s and, by 1769, had moved from Manchester Buildings to Abingdon Buildings on New Palace Yard. His rates there that year, paid by 'Robert Browne, Esq' were £45 on which he paid £1.11.10 per quarter (reduced the following year to £38 and £1.2.11). He was now 36 and had thus matched and would soon exceed the level and status of his father. No 'Child-Groom-Yeoman' stages for him. His younger brother George Browne had also taken the first steps on an equally successful career - in the Fire Insurance business in Covent Garden, while youngest son Philip Browne would become a Naval hero. While neither Benjamin nor his father, nor his elder two sons Robert or George, would leave a Will (which seems most odd at their stations in life), his youngest son Phillip (died 1771) and his grandson George Howe Browne (died 1838) both did so. Any significant details in either Will may be included in the sections to be devoted to them later.

[to be continued]...

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       In the meantime, we may ask ourselves why it was that Benjamin joined the non-conformist Scots Church - and from what date? Were his parents members? Reference has been made to a Robert Browne residing very near this church in the 1730s and possibly earlier. Was he a Scot? Robert Brown(e) is certainly a common name in Scotland, although the forename Benjamin isn't - being much more common in such as Dorset and East Anglia. And who was Benjamin named after? If he was a first or second son, this could be the name of Robert's father, but he may have been a later-born son of course. The fact that detail said to be copied concerning the places (ie streets) of birth of his children (in addition to their dates) are restricted to those 5 younger surviving children for whom such information was exactly as given in the retrospective Scots church entries (and not in any earlier family Bible), leaves us with certain questions. The streets of birth are not shown in the family Bible for those 5 who died young - just as they are not shown in the Scots church Register. Surely Benjamin's original Bible entries would not have so exactly differentiated on this one odd basis. The birth dates (but not baptisms) were available for all (from somewhere) but the abodes only for those surviving issue shown in the Scots church register. Why? Was there truly an earlier Bible with key information in it - although oddly nothing about his father Robert's origins or parents - or references to the places of birth of children who only happened later to die ? Personally, I do not believe so.

Hunting The Dorset Hare.

      If Shaftesbury wasn't really the place of origin, was it nevertheless somewhere else in Dorset? Those who have read Reggie's booklets on the family will be aware that there was a long-established family of landed gentry in Dorset of the name Browne - the last of whom died in 1833 without known heirs. This was not long after the time that Benjamin's sons and grandsons, etc were becoming successfully established in the Covent Garden area of London and elsewhere, and beginning to ask questions about their own origins. Two of these later members of the family appear to have become intrigued by the possibility (or ?hope) that they too may have had illustrious ancestors. It certainly wouldn't in those times harm their advancement prospects in the Services, say, if this were the case, or simply facilitate more successful marriages and comfortable social retirements. Could they, therefore, be related to the landed Brownes of Dorset, for example? Possibly there were a few unsubstantiated hints about the family's background - but nothing too definite to go on? This is the big mystery.

       To this end, contacts were made around 1820 (by one of the the future Rear Admirals Browne - descendents of Benjamin as detailed later) with the College of Arms who instructed their 'local' genealogist in Dorset who, unsurprisingly, soon managed to locate a Robert Brown having issue in the early 1700s in a Dorset town - ie Shaftesbury - that was at least not too far from one of the Dorset Browne's last seats in that county (at Blandford St Mary), although as mentioned a Benjamin Brown(e) was not so found. However, had he looked in the registers for other comparably sized towns at that time - as Salisbury, Winchester or Dorchester, say, he would quite possibly have found very similar results. The names Robert or William or John Brown(e) were just too common; they appeared all over. When the Shaftesbury registers were looked at further, on a later occasion, it was noted also that (in addition to many Browns), an Elizabeth Brown was buried there in this period - thought possibly (by Reggie) to be the aforesaid Robert's wife. However, that register invariably described those so buried as 'wife of…whomever)' if married, but not so described if unmarried - as this Elizabeth appears to have been. We might consider if she may instead have been the alleged daughter of Robert but at that young age, she would also have been so described. There was no such elaboration in the case of this particular Elizabeth Brown - whether as daughter or wife; she was very likely an unmarried spinster therefore. She may have been a sister, of course. One should probably ask why attention was focused on the name Elizabeth.

       The nearby seat of the landed Brownes had ceased by this period but not that long before. Attempts were made to relate these two not very contemporary Robert Brown(e)s - ie of Shaftesbury and Blandford - the latter having apparently died at the age of 82 or 83, which figure was somehow confounded with the supposed age at death of Benjamin's father Robert in London. These attempts by the College to link the London family to that of Dorset were ultimately left in abeyance it seems - as noted in papers left there at the time (as subsequently examined by Peter Leslie and myself; see Appendix Two as described below). [It is possible that the Dorset genealogists may have been directed specifically to Shaftesbury if, as is possible, this place of birth had already been entered into the family Bible (ca 1815-20, say) - ie prior to the overtures made by the future Rear Admirals - as by George Howe Browne, for example. But on what informatioon would this have been based ? Had he yet read Hutchins' account of the gentry of Dorset in that recently published Directory of the County - showing a branch of the landed Brownes resided at least near Shaftesbury? That, and its timing, are very relevant questions.        We now have additionally the entry in the Prayer Book lining (of uncertain date or provenance) which indicates that Benjamin's father Robert was himself (conveniently?) said to have been born in Shaftesbury - and on a specified date in 1680 - and to have married an Elizabeth nee Browne, again on a specific date, although not where. I don't believe the Shaftebury registers (there were 3 or 4 active churches there at the time) confirm either event after several examinations over the years by various searchers. But why would such information be later 'hidden' in the lining of a family book? There was also the suggestion that the London Robert may have married a cousin Elizabeth Browne. The Dorset genealogists pointed out that a Browne daughter of the Frampton-Blandford Browne union of this same name had died in 1721 at St Clement Danes in London (but apparently as a spinster).

[Note: I made a second visit to the College of Arms and my subsequent report on same (in which these matters are more fully addressed) is reproduced in Appendix Two. This may be read next if wished - by Clicking here on:    Report on 2nd Visit to the College of Arms - Oct 8th, 1996. or continuing below with a briefer account of similar material - to where one is returned in any case.

       The last Robert Browne of Frampton to marry had, as described in the Appendix on this topic, rather too coincidentally already married his cousin - not an Elizabeth however but a Frances nee Browne, daughter of the last Robert Browne of Blandford (d 1710) located a few miles south of Shaftesbury. But (as mentioned), also conveniently, they had a daughter Elizabeth, born about 1700, who was indeed buried at St Clement Danes in 1721. But neither of her parents had a sibling or cousin who had a son Robert (eg 'our Robert) - to be such an Elizabeth's or Frances' cousin'. She appears in any case not to have married and, if she did, was most unlikely to have had a son Benjamin by ca 1709 - being much too young. The burial entry in the register should describe of whom she was the daughter or possible wife and may be so checked. Moreover, her mother Frances Browne didn't herself die until 1740 and was also buried in St Clement's. Three of her sons lived to much later in that century and Benjamin's nearby family would surely have become aware of any such contemporary near family members living closeby in London or elsewhere - if they were so related (as now would we). The Dorset genealogists also suggested that Robert may have been born to a Benjamin Browne of a branch of the Frampton family who resided much earlier at Godmanston, Dorset. If there was such a person (interestingly as mentioned by Hutchins in his book on Dorset apparently), there is no evidence (eg in relevant Wills of the time that mention all other near family (and which I did check) that such a man, if ever extant, survived childhood, married or had issue. The relevant baptismal register shows the baptism entries for the siblings of such a man, on either side of the year this alleged Benjamin was thought to have been born (ca 1631) but no marriage or subsequent issue for him is shown in this or nearby registers (nor in London).

       In any case, the conclusions proffered to Benjamin's great grandsons by the College were apparently sufficiently vague and not entirely dismissive as to encourage them to begin to assume the Arms and Crest of the Brownes of Frampton, Dorset - seemingly not long after the death in 1833 of the last certain member of that ancient family - Francis John Browne. This was some years after their father (and Benjamin's grandson) George Howe Browne, then Secretary of the Westminster Fire Office in Covent Garden, had become (as had Francis John Browne of Frampton) a member of the Royal Society of Arts nearby. With the same surnames, it seems probable that they would at least know of each other, although whether any conversations ever touched on their respective family backgrounds is not recorded. (One of the Dorset genealogists implied later that Francis John Browne (to whom he had spoken) would not be averse to any such investigations of a possible connection between them. This could imply that he had not in fact been previously aware of these other Brownes nor aware of any such distant possible 'off-shoots' of his family.)        A few years after Francis Browne died as the accepted last of his family, Rear Admiral Edward Walpole Browne also pursued the idea of a possible family link - at the College of Arms - possibly seeking confirmation that he could adopt their Arms as his own. As mentioned above, George Howe Browne appears to be the one who completed the earlier Browne entries in the family Bible - which then more exactly balanced those previously entered about the Bertrand side of his family. Oddly, no mention was ever made about Benjamin's position in the Royal kitchens or his membership of the Scots church and we can't now know whether the Admirals Browne or their immediate descendents were ever aware of these aspects and if not, why not?

A New Perspective.

       Several generations later, Reggie Browne, delving more thoroughly into the claimed family connection with the Dorset Brownes, concluded that Benjamin's father Robert Browne, whom he felt was of Shaftesbury, was however not of the extinct Godmanston/Blandford branch of that landed family in any case, but descended instead from another, almost forgotten branch of the original Frampton family, centred some distance away in Taunton, Somerset - at least until the late 1670s. I subsequently spent several years attempting to confirm this hypothesis - entailing in particular one or two very lengthy blind alleys. Eventually, however, I concluded that a most plausible route which I eventually did manage to tease out of the myriad of facts unearthed along the way could, conceivably, support the main part of Reggie's thesis. This side-stepped the Shaftesbury hypothesis, however, but did prove compatible with the idea of a link with the Taunton branch of that same landed Browne family - via the Bridport area. This route will be described more fully below. See also the associated Pedigree (to come). Thus:

The Graston Theory.

       In brief, we may firstly note that a Benjamin Brown(e) was born - and to a Robert Brown(e) - and in the exact year estimated, 1709, and in a Dorset parish near Bridport (Burton Bradstock) - where, significantly, the Taunton branch of the Browne family had held a small Manor house and property called 'Graston'. The eldest son of the Taunton family, Robert Browne, was left much in debt on his father George's death in 1679 - due to unpaid mortgages on this and other Dorset properties (as The Bull Inn in Bridport and a small manor house in Benville, north of Netherbury). He would thus be required to keep a very low profile in the 1680s - due to mounting debts and looming Court cases (he was in fact said to have 'disappeared' for a time). It may be suggested, not too unreasonably, that from about 1690 or so Robert and his family may have been given the use of a small cottage on the Graston estate by the mortgage holders (the Strode family - former neighbours of Robert's mother in Netherbury).       ( Thomas Strode of Parnham in Netherbury was a respected Barrister and Sergeant at Law in London. Most unexpectedly, he had withheld foreclosing on the mortgages owed by Robert Browne on Graston for some 15 years but finally did so in about 1696 after the Deputy of Robert's father George at Taunton Castle (who had also lent George money) sought redress by going to law against others of his creditors, including Strode. Thomas Strode died in 1698 and left his property, including Graston, to his daughter and only child Mary Strode. I was long under the impression that she had later married a man named Clarke (as per a footnote I believe I had seen in Hutchin's 'Dorset'). One often wondered if any documentary evidence concering this couple (if ever found) may have made some fleeting reference to any rentals paid at Graston, or even not paid, by Robert Browne (or any son) especially during the period ca 1695-1720s). Clearly a long shot. [But see further now on this at (***) below.]

       The ex-Taunton Brownes no doubt then went through a period of severe financial difficulty in which education was probably minimal for Robert's children and grandchildren - including apparently a namesake son Robert born about 1679/80 - who may have been the one of this name who definitely married in Bridport in 1701 and, amongst others, had a son Benjamin baptised in 1709 in nearby Shipton Gorge (a chapelry of Burton Bradstock), immediately next to Graston. The family were probably in no mood to advertise, even to their own progeny in the earlier 1700s, their true origins and unpaid debts - including a mortgage on the Bull Inn in nearby (neighbouring) Bridport (lost around the same time to the mortgage holder Giles Catchpole). Interestingly, this entire area had a large non-conformist population at the time.

       In London meanwhile, the Scots church was soon to split into two conflicting factions and the one that remained on Swallow Street, as I have read, now received (and possibly sought) members from English non-conformists living in the West end in the 1720s. (Did any of these have Dorset names ? This to be checked). One would then have to assume that through family connections in Dorset, a position as a trainee Cook in London was then offered to Benjamin - around 1723, say, at the usual age of 14. Two to three years later, he resided on Brook Street in a house with very low rates but nevertheless was often in arrears. His parents may have tried their luck in London as well. The rest is history (as noted earlier).

       Conceivably, some snippets of information may have come down to Benjamin's great-grandsons - as, for example, misconstruing a birth in 'Graston' in Dorsetshire as one in 'Shaston' (the colloquial Dorset term then for Shaftesbury), say - if and when poor writing regarding same was misread in an even older family Bible (a written G can look like an Sh). Or, they may have heard that he was once in service with one of 'the Shaftesburys' ? They may also have heard about Monmouth and the Bull Inn and confounded that with ideas of losing their estate not through debts (as they actually did) but as a penalty for rebelling (which they didn't). The foregoing theory of the family's origins certainly appears on the face of it robust enough and would only be replaced, I would suggest, by anything better. If anyone knows of same…..? [Ironically, if anyone does, it may turn out to be myself - if the views expressed above about 'Benjmain' Browne (as a Huguenot from ?France) ever bear fruit.]

       The smaller scale map above map shows the position of Burton Bradstock and Shipton Gorge in relation to the town of Bridport (just off the upper left of the map) - where the Bull Inn had been owned by the Browne family until about 1685 and where (in Bridport) a Robert Brown(e) married in 1701. His father may have been the Robert (then aged about 46) who had held the manor of Graston (inherited through his mother) but lost through unredeemed mortgages by 1696. The younger Robert then had issue, including Benjamin, in 1709, baptised in nearby Shipton Gorge Chapel. The map shows the position of Graston farm - the former Browne manor - in the lower central area; its lands in the early 18th century quite likely extended north towards Shipton Gorge to include, for example, the small cottage shown near the altitude mark 65 (in middle of map) which, courtesy of the mortgage holders, could well have provided a most reasonable abode and haven for the later Brownes - who would likely find the church at Shipton Gorge more convenient (and less public?) than that at Burton Bradstock. (Note dotted path directly to the church.)

The church at Shipton Gorge, formerly a Chapelry of Burton Bradstock, Dorset.

A Benjamin Brown(e) was baptised here on 12 June 1709 - the son of the Robert Brown(e) and Gertrude Mellor who married in 1701 in Bridport.

      Inside the chapel is only one memorial - to a Jacob Brown and sons. He was the son of a local farmer Simon Brown in whose Will of 1771 he leaves everything to that son Jacob; the absence of any other names could imply they were not related to Robert and Benjamin.

Simon would have been born around the same time as Benjamin but none of that name were shown as born to the latter's father.

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       (***) Since writing the above, a little more information has been found concerning Graston. Amazingly, it was mentioned in Doomsday book in 1086. Later, it was held by Abbotsbury Abbey (of swans fame) when, significantly, its Graston lands extended to Shipton Gorge. In 1545, at the dissolution, it was granted by Henry VIII to John Russell who, as Lord Russell, became Comptroller of the King's Household, ancestor of the Dukes of Bedford. His father had farmed the neighboring farm at Lt Bredy. Later, it was held by the Brownes of Frampton and, like the Bull Inn and Benville, was left to the younger Browne sons Including a Robert) who had settled at Taunton before the Civil War. A local history notes that, later, " the 18th century, Graston was 'bought' by the Strodes of Parnham and, by 1800, belonged, with Bredy, to the Hussey family". Our own enquiries established that Graston had in fact become part of Thomas Strodes' estate by 1695 (and effectively even earlier) - but not through purchase directly but by way of unredeemed mortgages.

       Thomas Strode (born at Parnham, next to Netherbury, in 1628) was a successful lawyer in London (Lincoln's Inn) who appears to have married (as had several of his forebears) into the Wyndham family of Somerset and Norfolk). He wrote his Will in 1692, with a Codicil dated 1st Jan 1697/8. He died in late 1699, I believe, but the Will was for some reason not proved until 10 Dec 1701. In it, he left many bequests - listed under 18 'Items'. The first concerns £3000. he leaves to his wife Mary (possibly nee Wyndham) 'in full satisfaction of her dower'. He also leaves her his coach and horses and all his gold items, plate, jewellery, household goods, etc. as well as all the rental income from the 'joynture lands' she brought to their marriage, situated in the Bishopric of Durham. He then entrusts the Guardianship and Tuition of his daughter and only child Mary Strode to his brothers Sir George Strode of Parnham, Knt and Hugh Strode of London, Merchant whom he names as his Executors and by whom he stresses repeatedly he wants his young daughter to be guided in her eventual choice of husband. After detailing several bequests for his many relatives (including 4 Wyndham girl cousins) and servants, of value ca £40 to £100 each, he leaves his real estate (ie 'all my Manors (unnamed), messuages, mortgages, lands, tenements, hereditaments and leases') to his Executors - as Trustees - for the benefit solely and entirely of his daughter Mary Strode.

      Unless there was an Inquisition Post Mortum (not many were held after the Civil War), we do not know the names, extent or location of this considerable real estate. Conceivably, this would also be delineated in any marriage settlement associated with Mary's eventual marriage, if any. It sounded as though she was then about 12 or so and thus born in the 1680s, say (in a rather late marriage by her father, then in his 50s possibly; she would likely marry around 1705 in that case, assuming she lived. If she did die young, the £2000 was to go instead to Thomas' two brothers (the Executors) at £1000 a piece and, amazingly, his third brother Sir John Strode, and all 10 or so of the three brothers' children, were also to receive that same amount each ! Intriguingly, one of these nephews, a son of Sir John Strode, was named 'Browne Strode'! Why? But, it appears that Mary did live (and so receive that £15,000 or more herself, plus the real property), and marry. But to whom?

      As mentioned above, I vaguely recall seeing in Hutchins, that Graston (amongst other property?) went in marriage to a man named Clarke. There was a Sir Edward Clarke (1655-1710), an MP for Bristol (and seemingly of Chipley, Somerset and/or Bridwell, Devon), who would appear a most suitable candidate, but this is just a suggestion. However, I later noted that Mary (?eventually) married Thomas, Lord Foley - of Kidderminster, Worcs. The date has yet to be discovered but if it wasn't until ca 1712, say, it could have been a second marriage for Mary. In any case, we find that her husband Lord Foley pre-deceased her (as well?), in 1733 - allowing Mary to leave a Will at her own demise just two years later, in 1735, in which she would have some scope to name and direct her own estate presumably. Thomas Foley had been created a Baron in 1711, being the 4th generation of a wealthy family of Iron Masters from Stourbridge (eg supplying the Navy). His grandfather had thereby purchased an ancient Manor House at Gt Witley, Worcs called 'Witley Court' ca 1655, later described as one of the most magnificent in the country (and I believe, still visited). This is where Thomas and Mary resided during the 1720s and '30s (when not in London presumably). They also had the church at Gt Witley re-built in 1733/4 and in it, Mary commissioned a memorial to her husband and herself which is apparently still the tallest in the country. They were married long enough to have had 7 children but the ?last 5 all appear to have died young, leaving only a daughter Elizabeth (who would marry the then Earl of Oxford) and a son Thomas, born around 1714 or so (this an estimate needing confirmation) who inherited the title and estate.

       It would certainly be convenient if, by the 1720s, say, he and his wife had acquired a 'town house' in London. For one could imagine a greater chance of someone of their standing being in a position to offer young Benjamin Browne (assuming Mary did indeed know him or his father back in Dorset, ultimately through her own father) an opportunity to train as a Cook, whether at Witley Court or in her London house near Brook Street, than would our anonymous Mr Clarke, possibly of south Dorset or Somerset; and/or provide an introduction to the Duke of Dorset towards gaining a position later in the Royal kitchens. But did the future Lady Foley, now of Worcestershire, really inherit and retain an interest in, amongst many properties, Graston back in rural Dorset? Had she not sold them years before or would they not have been automatically absorbed into her new husband's vast estates and so lose its individual identity? In those days, all property routinely became the husband's, I believe. I have not yet seen Lord Foley's Will. Mary wrote hers, however, which I have seen, on 6 June 1735. Intriguingly, it reads as follows:

              "IN THE NAME of GOD Amen...I, Mary, Lady Foley, widow and relict of the Right Honourable Thomas, Lord ffoley, Baron of Kidderminster in the county of Worcester, deceased, Do make this my last Will and Testament ( be decently buried next to my dear Lord ffoley in Gt Witley church, etc...); ITEM - I give and devise to my kinsman George Strode of Parnham in Dorsett, Esq, son of my uncle Hugh Strode, deceased [in 1727], and to his heirs forever, all that my lands and hereditaments called GRASTON Farme, situated in the County of Dorsett, and all other my hereditaments in that county, to the use and benefit only of the said George Strode and his heirs forever. ITEM - I give to my daughter Elizabeth ffoley the sum of Twenty Thousand Pounds(!), with its interest from the time of my death. [Her marriage to the Earl of Oxford was thereby ensured; this very large sum would appear to be that which, in the circumstances, didn't go to her uncles and cousins on her earlier possible demise.] She also gives Elizabeth various enamel paintings by a My Zinks, some formerly owned by her husband, and others owned by her other son (Strode Talbot Foley, now deceased) as well as a gold watch and other gold items. ITEM - I give to my cousin Thomas Strode the younger, the other son of my uncle Hugh Strode, deceased, Fifty Pounds [and like his father a City of London Merchant apparently] and I give to my cousin Frances Wyndham the younger, daughter of Sir Francis Wyndham, late of Trent in Somersett, now living in Grosvenor Street, Westminster, Ten Pounds now and Fifty Pound a year, paid quarterly." (She also leaves smaller bequests to two servants, to the poor of Gt and Lt Witley and to the local Rector. Finally, she names her son 'Thomas, Lord ffoley', her sole Executor to whom she leaves the residue of her personal and real estate. He no doubt acquired the main estate through his father's Will two years earlier.] Mary's Will was thus proved by him, then the Right Honourable Lord Foley (2nd Baron), on 14 Jan 1735/36. (Recall Benjamin Browne then working for Sir Edward Walpole and his father Robert still alive.)

       It is most interesting to see that the very first Item in Mary's Will concerns the disposition of her own named property - that at GRASTON(!), still in her own possession. Quite possibly her husband had so released this property to her in his earlier Will, it having been brought, with others, with her to the marriage. How long did George Strode of Parnham, Esq retain Graston we may ask, and what became of the estate records of same? Did they go to the Hussey family shortly after ? (Parnham was in Beaminster - immediately next to Netherbury where the Gollops (and some Strodes) resided; the families were inter-married and, significantly, Robert Browne himself was born in Netherbury, in 1655, his mother having been a Gollop.) One will now seek any archive material in the Strode, Hussey and Foley records, if these exist, to see if there might conceivably be any useful rental data (and names!) concerning Graston in the later 1690s/early 1700s. (One appreciates that this is a long shot. And estate documents do tend to get disbursed over succedding ownerships.) Also, whether the Foleys, like their relatives the Wyndhams, had a residence in Westminster in the 1720s and if so, where. We'll see.... We will also keep in mind any role that the Lady Jane Shaftesbury's (nee Ewer) household may have played in the employment and possible meeting of Benjamin and his wife Elizabeth in the early 1730s. And who may have introduced Benjamin to someone of influence at the Palace ?

      The Will of George Strode of Parnham, Esq has now been located. It was written on 20 Jan 1753 at Parnham. In it, he directs his body to be buried next to that of his wife in his Vault in Beaminster church. He leaves, amongst many other bequests, money for Rings for the son and daughter of his aunt Mary Foley (nee Strode) " acknowledgement of the many favours and friendship received from them and their parents (Lord and lady Foley) - Mary having left him Graston. He had two nephews - Thomas and Francis March - sons of his sister (?Grace Strode). Thomas March had daughters Catherine and Grace while Francis also had a daughter Grace. These 3 girls were referred to as 'my said heires' on 3 occasions in the Will. To Catherine, who would marry Nicholas Cary of Up Cerne, Esq, he left £3000 and to the two others, he left £1000 each. These bequests would be in addition to other provisions he would make for them for their lifetimes - in the form of Leases on properties from his estate. However, he also states that "...It is my will that (a) Two Thousand (Pounds) part of my personal estate be laid out in lands which I would have settled upon 'my right heires' forever - in like manner and for the same uses as I have settled my farm at Graston by a Deed - dated 20 November 1739. The residue of his estate, including his mansion house at Parnham, was to go to his brother Thomas Strode of London, Esq, for his sole use and whom he names as his sole Executor. The Will was proved on 26th Sept 1753.

      It is possible that a copy of the above Deed of 1739 is deposited with Chancery records at the PRO and this can be checked. Were his 'right heires' again just the 3 March girls or did they include his brother Thomas? What were 'the same uses' for which that property was settled, and on whomever? He had inherited Graston only 3 years before and, for some reason, decided to so settle it many years before writing his Will. There is no clue in the Will of his brother Thomas Strode of Bloomsbury, Esq who wrote same on 16 March 1757, just 3 1/2 years after the death of his brother George. He too wished to be buried beside his wife in the family Vault in Beaminster church. He left £3000 to his (gt) niece Grace March (thus matching this amount left by his brother to her married sister Catherine). All the residue of his estate was to be sold by his Trustees and the money divided equally between the same three gt nieces as remembered by his brother ie the two Graces and Catherine (nee March), with the husband of the latter to receive £1000 in settlement of a Bond given at their marriage. It was proved on 21st Nov 1764 on the oath of one of the Trustees. If Graston was settled on this Thomas Strode (rather than on any of the nieces), it wasn't mentioned in this Will. In any case, our interest in that property concerned any reference to the possible residence there of Robert Browne much earlier in the century - ca 1700-1730s when Mary Foley held it, and then left it to George Strode. At some point, it appears to have been purchased by the Hussey family. The Deed of 1739 might be interesting to read, if it can be found, just to complete out story of Graston.

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       The position of Benjamin Browne in the family's history can in any case serve as a convenient 'fulcrum point' in our subsequent discussions - as these divide naturally into two major Parts - focused respectively on Benjamin's Antecedents and Descendents. The former and the matter of his origins generally, as touched on above, clearly entail various hypotheses and speculation; the latter, in contrast, is essentially factual and well documented. We hope eventually to cover both aspects more thoroughly. For the moment, however,we may continue by utilising Reggie's outline of the family as descended from Benjamin into which we may integrate any further information since obtained.

[To Be Continued]





      Thanks to the Mormon church's International Genealogical Index (IGI), I discovered (as touched on above) that Benjamin had several of his children baptised at the Swallow Street Presbyterian Church, also known as the 'Scots or Scotch Church', situated near where that street joins Piccadilly and thus just a stone's throw from St James parish church. Prior to this, the places of baptism of the younger 9 of his 10 children were unknown and unmentioned in family papers. While the IGI covers about 70% of the established parish church registers (of baptisms and marriages) in England, it helpfully transcribed the registers of virtually 100% of the non-conforming churches, as these had been collected together into one convenient location - at the old Public Record Office (Chancery Lane) in about 1840. These were later later transferrd to microfilm. Film RG 4/4175 is entitled 'No. 15 - Scots Church: Certificate or Statement to Accompany Register Books': "Annexed are the original Register Book(s) which have been kept at the Swallow Street Scots Church of the Presbyterian (Not Unitarian) Denomination - founded in 1709. The First Register Book began in 1750". Signed - James R Brown, D.D. 9th Nov 1840'. It also describes the church as being " Communion with the Established Church of Scotland". The first page of the Register states: "The Baptismal Register of Births and Baptisms in the Swallow Street Meeting, London - from Lady Day 1750 to Michaelmas 1783". The first two pages of the register are combined in the copy shown here:

The first entry is dated April 16, 1750 - for a child residing in St George, Hanover Square. Many came from a greater distance. As shown also in the main account above, Benjamin's last-born daughter Elizabeth was baptised there about a year later - on April 30th 1751. Her entry and those retrospective ones for her four surviving siblings are shown below: (Permission to photocopy and transcribe the register onto microfiche of the IGI was given to the Mormon's in the 1970s.)

      But neither marriages nor burials could be performed in non-conformist churches at the time. Benjamin and Elizabeth were thus married - in Feb 1733 - in the nearby Anglican parish church of St James, Piccadilly just across the road. One could imagine the principals and guests returning to celebrate in their own 'Meeting House' immediately after the brief ceremony there. Their first child, Robert, born in May 1734, was however baptised in that same convenient Anglican church, even though they then resided on Brook Street in the neighbouring parish of St George, Hanover Square. But none of their other children were baptised at St James, even after the family had moved into that parish itself. Instead, all appear to have been baptised in the family's own Scots church, although evidence exists only for the 5 later-born children. It seemed odd that one child only - their first - was baptised in the Anglican church and all others (apparently) in the Presbyterian one. An examination of the retrospective entries in the latter register shows that the earliest entries only began sometime after 1735 (the year after Robert's birth) although the church was in existence long before that. Whatever the reason, the lack of any baptisms there before 1735 would seem to better account for the absence of Robert's baptism there in 1734, than the possibility that his parents had not yet started to use that church. Benjamin, in particular, may well have been a member of it from his arrival in London in, say, the mid-1720s. This view was strengthened when a book on this and similar London churches was examined. 'The History and Antiquities of the Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses in London, Westminster and Southwark', written by Walter Wilson of the Inner Temple, was published in 4 volumes in 1814. A copy is held at 'Dr William's Library', an ancient non-conformist institution tucked behind London University in Gordon Square.

     Volume 4 includes entries on two Swallow Street Presbyterian churches. As early as 1676, an 'English Presbyterian' church became established on Swallow Street - some way north of the later Scots church there. Wilson describes four Ministers who preached at this church the first two of whom had to contend with antagonistic pre-1688 authorities and antagonisms but the later two having a more reasonable time. One of the latter later took up a post as Minister at the English Presbyterian church in Rotterdam from 1699 to 1718 when he returned to lead a dissenting congregation at Haberdasher's Hall in the City. His successor at the Swallow Street church was a Mr. Stort from Harwich, Essex, a place with probable links with dissenting Flemish and Dutch Heguenot churches. He died in post about 1710 when "..his congregation dissolved and most of the surviving members united themselves with Dr Anderson's (Scots) church in the same neighbourhood".

      The second Swallow Street entry concerns this latter 'Scots Presbyterian church' which was "..established around the beginning of the 18th century (ca 1705) by Dr James Anderson, a Scotsman, and consisted of such persons of his own nation as resided in the west-end of the town (ie Westminster). Their first place of worship was in Glasshouse Street (just above Vine St) from whence they removed, in Feb 1709/10, to a larger building on Swallow Street, near Piccadilly. This had been for several years (from 1692) in the possession of a congregation of French Protestants of the Episcopal persuasion". [Apparently some French Huguenots, albeit anti-Catholic, were more akin to the Anglican than to the Presbyterian church.] The French congregation was much reduced by 1709 and offered to sell their lease to Dr Anderson and his elders, who accepted. Their numbers received a considerable accession from the remnants of Mr Stort's congregation in that same area (ie ca 1710).

      Dr Anderson was a native of Aberdeen where he received his Doctor of Divinity degree. He was a Calvanist and later moved to London (ca ?1700) where he soon "collected a congregation from amongst persons of the Scottish nation who resided in Westminster. Their numbers grew despite Westminster being generally "..a part of town where dissenters are very little in fashion". He soon became well known in London as 'Bishop Anderson' and as a respected historian of his own country. He also published, in 1732, a famous book on Royal Genealogies which was dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales and went through several editions. He married a lady of considerable fortune but lost it all in the South Sea Bubble of 1720. (His brother, Mr Adam Anderson, was 40 years a Clerk at South Sea House and compiled that valuable work 'The History of Commerce'."

      About the year 1734, the Scots congregation at Swallow St separated into two factions (on the basis of some unknown disagreement) and Dr Anderson left to set up a new church on Lisle Street near Leicester Square, taking some of his members with him. He died there in 1739 and his successor, another Scot, transferred that congregation some years later to nearby Peter St, Soho. Before the breach, the Swallow St premises had been re-built and "comprised a large oblong building with 3 galleries fitted out with great neatness". It has, wrote Mr Wilson in 1814, ". .always been a place of considerable resort for people of the Scottish nation and the congregation is now (1814) in a flourishing state." The other Scotch church, on Peter Street, also continued well into the 1800s. I could see only one other Scottish Presbyterian church described amongst the many Dissenting churches listed for the London area in Wilson's voluminous work. This was one in the City called 'Founder's Hall'.

      Dr Anderson was succeeded at Swallow St in 1734 by another Scottish Minister - William Crookshank, MA, DD (bn 1700). He moved to London on an invitation to succeed Dr Anderson and was ordained in the Swallow St church Jan 23 1734/35. He too was a learned historian and published works on the sufferings of the church in Scotland under the Stuarts. It would appear that it was on Dr Crookshank's initiative that baptisms were first performed at the Scotch church on Swallow St - from 1735 or so - and while not initially entered into a permanent register book, were clearly recorded somewhere and, in 1750, transcribed retrospectively into a formal register. Usefully, these entries included the place of birth of the surviving infants concerned (and of all infants after 1750). He continued in this post some 33 years but left under some controversy (unexplained) and died in 1769. [Check his Will.]

      Another publication examined at Dr William's Library was a 'List of Presbyterian and Independent Ministers in England between 1717 and 1731' - by one Thomas James (1866). This too showed that there were very few Scottish Presbyterian congregations in southern England, including London. Most (12) were in Northumberland, 2 in Durham and 1 each in Lancashire and Staffordshire. There were, on the other hand, a great many English Presbyterina and independent Chapels throughout England at that time, including many in London and, for example, 21 in Dorset - including one in Bridport and another in Shaftesbury. The Minster there, a James Green, transferred to Exeter in 1723 and would thus have been active in Shaftesbury in the preceding decade or so. The church register for that church (possibly not commenced until much later that century?) was said (by a local historian) to have been 'maliciously destroyed' early in the 19th century - the reason unknown. Unlike the Scots church then in London, it may have performed and recorded baptisms from the 1730s, say, but we can't be certain. The earliest recorded baptisms in Dorset appear to have been performed at Bridport where there was also a Presbyterian congregation, and another in Netherbury. But the Bridport Chapel baptised many children from all over Dorset and Somerset, including some from Shaftesbury (although no Brown(e)s), from about 1730. Shaftesbury's Chapel may well have not started until later that century therefore. Very few Presbyterian churches in the country had registers before the 1740s or '50s.


      There was no shortage of Presbyterian and Independent churches in London and Westminster from the early 1700s. Except for Dr Anderson's Scottish church on Swallow St (and its later off-shoot), and the one in the City, these were all described as 'English Presbyterian' churches. Normally, one would have to assume therefore that any Presbyterian arriving in London from the English provinces in the early 1700s, would have any number of such English churches of that persuasion to join. Those (from elsewhere) who purposely joined the Scots church instead would therefore very likely be of Scottish nationality, one must assume. Certainly, a check of the surnames of those having children baptised there in the 1730s/40s/50s showed these to be predominantly Scottish - both from the highlands and lowlands/borders. There were, however, some names of more ambivalent status - as Miller, Taylor, Smith and Brown - who could have been of either origin. [We should now check to see if any names may have a Huguenot relevance.]

      The qualification 'normally' seems justified in the foregoing however because of the existence until 1710 of that English Presbyterian church on Swallow St itself - from which a number of such dissenters transferred to the nearby 'Scots' church, then recently established by Dr Anderson. One would have to assume therefore that this church continued to accept such worshippers over the next few years and quite possibly into the 1720s. There may not have been an English Presbyterian church so conveniently located nearby (nor possible a Huguenot one of their original 'Presbyterian' (non-conformist) orientation?]. Our task of trying to establish an origin for Benjamin Browne or his father Robert is thus to this extent compromised. For without that earlier English church's 'remnants' in 1710, we might more reasonably conclude that Robert and his son Benjamin may well have been of Scots descent. But because of these factors, an English one seems equally probable. Or might it have even been French? Yet more evenly-balanced theories.

Click here to Return to section on 'The Children of Benjamin and Elizabeth'

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      On 'phoning the College, I was put onto the 'Officer of the Day' - a junior Herald, Mr Dickenson - and asked him if it was possible to examine a specific Manuscript - viz that of former Garter King of Arms Sir Charles Young - MS 910. I explained that I had examined it on a previous occasion about 3 years prior - in the company of Sir Peter Leslie - but in rather cramped facilities and probably too briefly - under the oversight of Mr Gwynne-Jones (now Garter). As I knew the exact MS number and it could thus be retrieved with little effort, it was thought to be in order to so re-examine it and I could now do so in a special 'Students' Room' next to that of the Archivist - a Mr Yorke (who would see to its delivery and return). I could examine it for as long as I wished - for the set fee of £10. If there were any other 'notes' pertaining to this matter in the College's archives, these could only be searched (and probably examined) by a Herald (or an Assistant) under the more usual arrangements, as the College's ethics require - and at considerably more cost.

      I wished to re-examine these 'notes' (as Reggie referred to them) in order to confirm or not my impression that I had, on the previous occasion, noted therein some reference to the estimated age at which Benjamin's father Robert had died in June 1738. Reggie had stated in his booklet that "..the Bible and other documents tell us [amongst other things] that Robert died at a great age, believed 83..". As I had examined the Bible and found no reference there to this fact, it must have come to Reggie from these unspecified 'other documents'. But, according to Peter Leslie, when he asked Reggie about this some years ago, he couldn't recall or specify just where this information came from. It was quite central to Reggie's case that Robert was the son of George Browne of the Frampton family - born in May 1655 in Netherbury, Dorset. The subtraction 1738 minus 83 resulted in exactly this year of birth.

      Apparently, those 'other documents' were in fact these 'notes' held at the College of Arms. But the reported age of death that I believe I had seen when we examined these, albeit fleetingly, was in fact 82. If this was the same as seen by Reggie (who examined these papers in the l960s, I believe) but later forgotten, he may well have later adjusted his figure by this single digit in order to better fit the calculation he was making - to support a particular origin for Robert. It turned out that my vague impression was correct; I had indeed seen the age '82' mentioned in MS 910. I had also noted a reference there to the belief that Robert had died at "an advanced age". However, these two opinions were not conjoined but occurred in quite different contexts. This is shown below where I reproduce much of the contents (often paraphrased or abstracted) of the relevant MS that pertains to the Browne family.

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      Manuscript 910 is a bound volume entitled 'Miscellaneous Pedigrees' and is one of over a thousand such volumes in Sir Charles Young's collection. It comprises various letters, notes and hand-drawn pedigrees of a number of families in no particular order. Many letters were dated in the year 1841 but those concerning the Brownes were written between 1820 and 1822. They fall in the middle of the volume and are numbered as pages 111 to 139. While Reggie described them as 'notes' left by Admiral Philip Browne (then still a Captain) with Sir Charles Young, they in fact comprise about 8 letters and one 'Memorandum'. Whether any actual notes exist elsewhwere in the College seems unknown.

      The memorandum is undated. But in it, amongst other items, is a description of the issue of Philip Browne's father, also Captain Philip Browne (Snr), in which the younger Philip, the 4th-born son, is described (seemingly by himself) as " 1821". It would appear that the younger Captain Philip Browne began his investigations concerning his family's origins by examining and quoting evidence from the family Bible during 1820 (when he was aged about 48). For the earliest letter appears to be one from a William Vaux, Curate at St James church, Shaftesbury, dated 27 Nov 1820; he reports that he (and others) had searched the Registers of all 4 local parishes, emphasising the great fatigue in doing so; their finding were listed on a separate sheet. This showed the same three baptisms and/or burials of children born to a Robert Brown there between 1690 and the early 1700s as noted by Reggie (and myself later). With no other evidence, we may conclude that Philip had previously written to the Shaftesbury cleric requesting this search on the basis of what he had noted in his family's Bible. What we don't know is when that Bible entry was written, by whom and on what prior evidence. I now feel it was likely written by George Howe Browne between about 1800 and 1820 - but based on what information and by whom ?

      The next day, another letter from Shaftesbury was sent to Philip - from a Mr Bowles (whose writing is almost illegible). It refers to "...the remarkable coincidence of a Robert Browne of Frampton marrying a Frances Browne of Blandford St Mary and they having a daughter Elizabeth who died in 1721 in St Clement Danes, London". But just what aspect of this information comprised the coincidence, remarkable or not (and with respect to what), is not made clear. It would seem that those in Shaftesbury had been told that the wife of Philip's grandfather Robert was a cousin - Elizabeth. But otherwise...?

      After his initial overtures in 1820 and 1821, Philip composed a Memorandum in which he attempted to set out in a somewhat impersonal, objective way the facts as he understood them about his family. This was apparently done in about 1822 - possibly over several months as new facts emerged. He probably presented the final version to the College of Arms (who may have requested same) and they, in turn, instigated further enquiries in Dorset. For the next letter was dated 1 Feb 1822 and sent from one Edward Boswell of Dorchester to a General Garth [of where not stated; both seemed to be Dorset antiquarians/genealogists] possibly employed as and when needed in Dorset by the College. Some of what they had to go on may thus have derived from the Memorandum - if its contents were passed on to them. It (now a part of the present MS) is thus reproduced (in part) below - viz:

      "Memorandum of the family of Captain Philip Browne (Jnr) taken from the Bible of Benjamin Browne, his Grandfather....(who was)...the son of Robert and Elizabeth Browne (and was) born at Shaftesbury, Dorset Sept 15 1711 and (who) married Elizabeth Bertrand and had issue…[there follows a listing of their 10 children with their exact dates of birth (cf baprisms) and years of death, but no place names]. The above Benjamin Browne was the youngest of three children; the others were named Robert and Elizabeth and (they) died unmarried between the years 1730 and 1750 at their father's [presumably in London?]. The first-named Robert and Elizabeth Browne [Benjamin's parents] are descended from the family of that name who resided at Godmanston and Blandford St Mary in Dorset [this was of course unverified and later unsupported by any evidence] and...were dispossessed at the time of the Monmouth Rebellion." [We would very much like to know who told Capt Philip these views and on what evidence. It seems quite possible that a similar story was told to Benjamin by his father (and then passed on) as an explanation as to why the family had (apparently) fallen on hard times ca 1690-1710, even if this was not really the case; see elsewhere where that Rebellion was however quite possibly on the periphery of their possible troubles then.]

      "There does not appear any other Memoranda (concerning) the gt-grandfather Robert Browne excepting his having died in Hendon Street (sic) in St James at his son's house in June 1738, at a very advanced age". [From where did this latter view derive? It is not in the family Bible. Philip clearly uses the term 'memorandum' in the sense of a statement of historical information - as he understood it. We might reasonably enquire how it was that there was no other information on this key link to the family's past.] "It is probable [continues the Memorandum] that the Registers of Blandford St Mary or Godmanston may show who his father was, who was most likely born about 1630-40...and the Register may also show who was the wife of this Robert, it having been said that her name was ..... Browne, a cousin of his...". [Note: above the blank space the name 'Frances' appears to have been added later; this proves inconsistent with the information that her name was in fact Elizabeth. But leaving this blank may have allowed of the slight possibility that he descended directly from that Blandford-Frampton union where the cousin concerned was indeed a Frances Browne. In two other places, notes were also later added - querying the spellings of names; the original writer's 'a's often appearing as 'e's.]

      "The name of Philip was heretofore used by the family - the present Philip Browne...recollecting that he was destined for the church - it being said that an ancestor of his was in that profession and held a living in that part of Dorsetshire from whence the family came - but, his (elder) brother Richard dying early, who was in the Navy, Philip succeeded him in that (ie Naval) profession."

      "The late Capt Philip Browne, R.N. married on 14 May 1768 Miss Catherine Dalby of Hurst Lodge, Berks and had issue:

                        Thomas Leveson Browne   -   d. 1801 Artillery
                        Richard Howe Browne   -   d. 1787 Navy
                        Robert Browne   -   d. an infant
                        Philip Browne   -   living 1821 "

[Did Philip not enter the Navy until 1787 therefore, when aged 15?]

      "The Arms borne by the late Capt Philip Browne were those of his grandfather [ie Robert Browne d 1738] which are described below and the Seal (?unfashion) in which those of his father are quartered with the Arms of Dalby and Holloway:

      [Here is drawn the Frampton Browne's Arms beside which is a red wax-impressed Seal showing a shield with 2 diagonal quarters depicting these same Arms and the 2 others with the differing Arms. Note: Capt Philip (Snr)'s Seal on his Will (dtd 1772) in fact shows what appears to be warrior's helmetted head - with no shield or Arms whatsoever.]

      "A remarkable coincidence attends the marriage of the late Capt Browne - it having arisen from a former acquaintance between the families of Dalby and Browne when residing in Dorset - the late Capt's wife's mother being a Miss Kent - a daughter & coheir of the late Charles Kent of West Hall, Dorset - descended from the Chafes and Molines of that place." [This is the second 'remarkable coincidence' depicted in these papers and again the degree to which it is 'remarkable' is not very apparent. There is no evidence that the Dalbys ever resided in Dorset nor that they or the Kents had any contact with the progenitors of the Brownes of London, nor indeed with the earlier Brownes of Dorset.]

      Following receipt of this Memorandum seemingly, the letter from Edward Boswell to General Garth was sent from Dorchester on 1 Feb 1822 in which the latter is informed that "I have sent you the pedigrees of the family of Browne of Godmanston & Blandford St Mary and for those of Frampton & Forston". There is then reference to the marriage of Frances Browne of Blandford to her cousin Robert Browne of Frampton and to the inclusion in the list of issue of an earlier Robert Browne of Godmanston and his wife Bridget of a Benjamin Browne (bn 1631) - as shown by Hutchins, but with no mention of any marriage, issue or date of death for that man. He also notes that the Blandford Register shows a Thomas Browne and wife Martha having a son William in 1619 who are "left out of the pedigree - as no doubt were many others, for very good reasons - Browne Willis (who had inherited) having sold the Blandford estate." [This seems a little naive in that the Blandford branch of the landed Brownes only settled there ca 1665. There was no Thomas & Martha anywhere in the landed Browne family for their inheritor to be concerned about. But there were unrelated 'Brown(e)s' everywhere. What they didn't report on nor discover seemingly was the fact that Robert Browne of Blandford did have a son Robert Browne Jnr - who would have provided a most convenient potential link to the London Brownes but his baptism and subsequent burial in infancy, while clearly recorded, were entered at the back of the Blandford register, which had also been 'reversed' (as often done in those times to save space). His existence, even if brief, was thus unsuspected and virtually unknown.]

      There is then a 'Chronological abstract' of various Browne entries from Hutchins and Coker's Survey and 'other authorities' - from ca 1380. Three of these were:

                        1488 - William Browne presented to the living of Godmanston
                        1506 - Nicholas Browne was instituted to the living of Frampton 20 Jan
                        1543 - Philip Browne was instituted to the living of Frampton 28 May."

      On Feb 15 1822, Philip wrote to Mr Bowles who replied on the 22nd of that month saying "I have communicated the contents of your letter [of the 15th] to General Garth. He intends searching the Blandford Register later this week and will reply soon after. It is the General's opinion (and I agree) that Mr Francis John Browne would be pleased with your enquiries. [This re-states a comment in another letter by Mr Bowles of 6 Feb 1822 (to Capt Browne) saying that "..if Mr Browne of Frampton should ever hear of your enquiries into his family with an idea of endeavouring to find a common ancestor with yourself, he would not think it otherwise than a laudable enquiry. [This view apparently based on many years acquaintance with Francis Browne but Bowles writing is very difficult to read.]

      Next, in March 1822, Mr Boswell wrote again to General Garth but in a more sceptical tone - saying, for example, that "it is most extraordinary that the name Benjamin does not once occur in any of the Registers examined and it is only to be found in the pedigree sent to you by my friend Mr Bowles [seemingly from Hutchins] in which he is described as the 4th son of (an earlier) Robert Browne and his wife - now shown as Katherine (nee Savage); he is shown as 'born 1631 and d.s.p. (died sans prole)' [ie without leaving progeny]. This name and such information could not have got onto such a pedigree without some authority. The Registers show the baptisms of [this couple's] first two sons Richard and Robert at Sydling St Nicholas [in 1622 & '27] and two later sons - Alexander and George in 1629 and 1633 at Godmanston. There seems to be a hiatus, therefore, between 1629 and 1633 in the Godmanston Register. It requires further careful study...[If his birth can be confirmed]...then one must seek evidence of his subsequent marriage and you can then connect this with your [suggested] continuation...[which]...supposes that this Benjamin had a son Robert who married a relation [a cousin] Elizabeth Browne and that this Robert died in London at his father's." (sic) [This is a slip; he actually died at his son's.]

      It continues: "Benjamin [Snr] - Robert (d 1738)'s supposed father - would have been 54 at the time of Monmouth's Rebellion. If Robert was born when Benjamin was about 25 - as you suppose - that is, in 1656 [ie 1631 plus 25] and died in 1738, he would have been 82 years old [at his death]. Benjamin, who was born in 1711, was thus 27 before his father died. These are probable circumstances."

      Another letter was written by Edw Boswell in March 1822 (the exact day again not shown) - this time to Capt Philip Browne, R.N. at Hurst Grove, Wokingham, Berks. In this, he explains that the Registers of Godmanston and Sydling do not show the baptism of a Benjamin Browne in 1631 - even though Hutchins does show this - as well as that of a daughter Frances in 1646. He said that Hutchins claimed as sources "entries at the Herald's Office and other authorities". [I seem to recall that Hutchin's father or grandfather was the Rector at Sydling and may have had access to some register before it deteriorated?] He also suggested to Philip that he may find it useful to engage the services of a Mr Hewlitt of London who is most capable in searching the records in the Public Record Office. [Where are these records of the Herald's Office today?]

      Sadly, there were no comments or suggestions in MS 910 by Sir Charles Young himself on the matters of concern, nor any final conclusions. If there were further developments - either in the 1820s or later (?1830/40s), when Adm Edward Walpole Browne apparently became more involved, records of any authorization granted by the College to use the Frampton Arms would be held by them in some relevant file. It is interesting to note that young Capt Philip Browne quotes his father's use of the Frampton Arms (ie prior to his death in 1779) which he describes as those of this father's grandfather' - ie of Robert Browne (d 1738) - even though he stated that nothing except his date and place of death, at an advanced age, was in fact known about him.

      It can now be seen that his estimated age at death of 82 (correctly recalled, it now appears), was one that followed from General Garth's reasoning concerning an estimated birth not in Netherbury (to George Browne of the Taunton branch) but in 1656 - and to a Benjamin Browne of the Godmanston branch (possibly born in 1631) when that man was an estimated 25. If his age then was estimated instead to be 24, the outcome would of course be the same in the two cases. The General's reasoning was quite reasonable, given the possibility of this earlier Benjamin's existence (with a father named Robert); his age in 1738 would simply follow as a fact. The description by Philip Browne that his gt grandfather was previously somewhere described as being of 'an advanced age' in 1738, was a quite independent feature (arising where?). The two were seemingly then combined by Reggie when composing his treatise - probably from memory when he couldn't locate all his initial facts.

      The other interesting finding concerns the description of Benjamin being the youngest of three [?surviving] children born to Robert and Elizabeth. That the other two had such common names as Robert and Elizabeth and were both unmarried provides one with little useful additional material. One of the Roberts born in Shaftesbury to Robert Snr (seemingly the 2nd one - possibly born in 1701 and baptised in the Shaftesbury Presbyterian church whose registers were 'maliciously destroyed in the early 1800s) was buried on 6th Jan 1702/3. (However, later information casts doubt on the existence of such registers before about 1750.) The first Robert, whose baptism is also lacking, was buried in 1690 and likely born but a few months before. It would thus appear to have been a 3rd Robert who, for some reason, was baptised in the parish church - on the 16th of Jan 1702/3 - and thus likely born only a few days after the 2nd Robert had died. It would be this 3rd Robert, some 7 years older than Benjamin, who apparent1y died unmarried later that century.

      If Robert Snr's wife was indeed an Elizabeth, it follows that this Shaftesbury couple would be expected to name a daughter thus - and presumably early in the marriage - ie ca 1690-95. They also had two daughters - Ann and Catherine - baptised in 1696 and 1699, respectively. Ann was later buried but Catherine appears to have survived. An Elizabeth Brown was buried in Shaftesbury in 1712 but, atypically, she was not described as the daughter or wife of...(anyone) - ie she was likely an adult spinster and unrelated to Robert (unless his sister). Some years later - in 1717 - an Elizabeth, daughter of (a) Robert Browne, was buried in Shaftesbury. It may have been another Robert Browne (as father). Thus, it makes some sense to suggest that Benjamin did indeed have at least two older siblings, as named. On July 2 1735, (when Benjamin still lived in St George Han Sq), an Elizabeth Brown of that parish was buried in St James, Paddington (the church used by Benjamin and family). And not long after they'd moved into St James, a Catherine Brown of St James was buried at Paddington on 18 Mar 1736. I haven't noted a Robert Brown(e) dying there in the 1730-50s (except he of 1738). But, these names are so common, finding such entries probably proves nothing - unless one of these left a Will in which some clue about identities might usefully appear.

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