Two of George Betjemann Snr’s children (see Betjemann Pedigree I: Detail) married into a family named Merrick - one of them twice. While this may be reason enough to provide more detail on this particular ancillary branch of that family’s ancestry than others, it’s addressed here mainly because of an alleged mystery concerning their origin. I first became aware of elements of this story after scanning Bevis Hillier’s pictorial volume on John Betjeman in a library or bookshop and now realise that rather more of this material was provided in his biography - ‘Young Betjeman’ - which I hadn’t then read. I believe there is also reference to it in John Betjeman’s Letters by his daughter.
It thus appeared that two brothers with the surname Merrick, one of whom, William, was to become the younger George Betjemann’s father-in-law, were thought by earlier members of the family to have descended from a family of landed gentry in Anglesey, Wales - with the similar surname Meyrick (pronounced in any case, according to Debrett’s, as ‘Merrick’). In particular, ‘Celsie’ Merrick, a granddaughter of William Merrick, described her grandfather as being the younger of two boys born at ‘Bodorgan’ in Anglesey - ‘a mansion with large grounds’ - who were left in the care of guardians named Fuller and eventually placed into apprenticeships in London, where they later prospered. Meanwhile, claimed Celsie, the Fullers had taken over the valuable Bodorgan estate, in suspicious circumstances. This story no doubt intrigued Sir John Betjeman who would probably have found a descent from British gentry quite acceptable.
Some of the detail and dates concerning this branch of the Meyrick/Merrick family (the two spellings were often used interchangeably) are as shown in the Outline Pedigree on this family (see below). It is interesting that in an essay on Bournemouth in his book ‘First and Last Loves’, John Betjeman makes reference to early developers there (ca 1870s), including one Sir George Gervis, Bt, who often had their names commemorated in new local streets. Sir George later added Tapps to his name, through the requirements of a Will, and later a third addition produced a final form of the surname as ‘Tapps-Gervis-Meyrick’. Such names as ‘Gervis Place’, Bournemouth were then augmented by ‘Meyrick Park’, ‘Meyrick Avenue’, etc. John Betjeman’s interest in this matter may have followed from the fact that this man had married the daughter of Clara nee Meyrick, a contemporary (and alleged relative) of his Merrick ancestor, but this is speculation.
The other Merrick brother, seemingly unnamed in earlier accounts, was said by the granddaughter to be the elder of the two. I have however concluded that he was one Joseph Merrick and, rather than being the elder, appears to have been William’s same-aged twin. It was hoped that by seeking out additional information about these two brothers, it may have been possible to determine something more definite about their mysterious origins. Thus far, this has not been too successful. The story (as touched on above after reading Hillier’s accounts) suggested that William and his brother were cheated out of their inheritance - of the estate at Bodorgan - by being brought to London through the auspices of the suspected Fullers and subsequently raised there by unknown foster parents. It seems improbable, however, that there would be two such ‘inconvenient’ offspring, born a year or more apart, say, for whom such a scheme would be pursued. However, if they were twins, as suggested, such a scenario could appear a touch more plausible. Could they, therefore, have been the inconvenient issue of one of the several landed Welsh Meyricks born in the 1750s ? And if so, were they legitimate or not ?
Had either William or Joseph Merrick lived beyond 1851, there would have been be a better chance of discovering their place of birth. For the Census that year (and all subsequent Censuses) usefully provides this information. Sadly, both died shortly before this date and the only previous Census, that for 1841, shows only whether one was or was not born within the current county of residence. Interestingly, in the case of the Merrick brothers, that 1841 Census shows that both informed the enumerator that they were in fact born within their then county of residence - that is, somewhere in Middlesex (basically London). While William lived then in Clerkenwell and Joseph in nearby Shoreditch, there was little concern in the 1841 Census to differentiate districts within the London area to this level and even in 1851, the Census would often show simply ‘London’ or ‘Middx’ as places of birth. In other counties, by contrast, the actual village, parish or district was usually stated . It is possible of course that their mother already resided in or came to London from the provinces to give birth.
The 1841 Census also provides uncertainty regarding age. In 1851 and later, a person’s exact age is generally given (as reported to the enumerator) but in 1841 it is typically shown only to the 5 year level below one’s actual age. Thus, those aged between 65 and 69, say, would generally be shown as ‘65’ (ie read as 65+). However, in William Merrick’s case, the enumerator in Clerkenwell that year was one of the few who recorded exact ages - showing his age as ‘67’ - thus indicating that he was likely born in late 1773 to early 1774 - seemingly in the London area. But in Shoreditch, with a different enumerator, Joseph’s age was recorded that year, more typically, as ‘65’ (ie 65+) and all others in nearby households were also shown only to 5 year levels below actual ages. He too was thus aged between 65 and 69. This could prove consistent with him being a twin with William - both aged 67, say, although being a year or two different from this remains a slim possibility. It is likely that their death certificates or burial registrations will show actual ages at death, which may help resolve this uncertainty. [Yes - see below.]
Although Joseph resided in St Leonard’s, Shoreditch for much of his adult life, his burial (in 1846) was not registered in that parish’s church’s register (nor in those of two new parishes created within that large parish about then). Nor was he buried in the churchyard of Clerkenwell St James, the nearby parish where his brother and family resided latterly. The civil death certificate (copy) was another option for establishing his date of death. This shows he died on 16 Feb 1846, aged 72, [which R.D.?] which also proves consistent with a birth in late 1773/early 1774 and so further supports the view that he and William were indeed twins. Joseph’s place of burial is as yet undiscovered. A law was passed in 1854 that prevented further burials in the grossly over-crowded London parish churchyards, but the situation was deteriorating rapidly throughout the 1840s and many began to take advantage of new suburban cemeteries gradually being established from about 1845. He may thus have be buried in the Islington-St Pancras cemetery in Finchley. Abney Park is another possibility. (No; these both now checked. Where did he die - Shoreditch ?)
In any case, it was thought reasonable to at least check parish registers in the general area of north central London (as St Luke’s, St Giles, Shoreditch and Clerkenwell) to see if the two Merrick brothers might indeed have been born/baptised somewhere in this vicinity - around the time of their estimated births - concluded to be about February 1774, plus or minus 2 or 3 months. Might it reveal their parentage? These, plus Bethnal Green, were later checked; but all proved negative (although there were other Merricks in St Luke including a Richard Merrick of a watchmaker's family who was born ca 1770 - the same time as William and Joseph). There were no other (unchecked) parishes in this fairly wide swathe of north-central London in and near Shoreditch and Clerkenwell. [While baptisms were indeed checked for this area, it was later discovered that there were two intriguing marriages at least, noted here. Firstly, on the 28 Nov 1773, a William Meyrick was married in St Leonard's, Shoreditch - to an Ann Webb - and on 12 Feb 1774, a William Merrich married Mary Dottridge in that same parish. How odd that the Merrick twins, who were settled later in this very parish (and possibly from infancy), were born just as these two couples were marrying there. But no issue is then apparent for either couple in St Leonard's or nearby. Might one of these couples have been adoptive parents ?] We should seek the parentage of the above-mentioned Richard Merrick - born St Luke ca 1770 who later married ca 1805 an Elizabeth (nee...?... - still alive in 1851, shown born in.......) and had issue there including a Thomas Merrick ca 1808/9 (d 1886), a 'Watch Case Springer' who married ca 1832 Martha Morley, also of a local Watchmaking family); other sons, bn 1840s, were named Richard and William. Otherwise, it does appear that William and Joseph Merrick were likely born elsewhere. But where ? The map below shows the areas where they (and the Betjemanns) mainly lived and worked in London.
Whatever their origins, it is probable both boys undertook apprenticeships in their respective trades in their late teens - that is, between about 1788 and 1795 - probably in Shoreditch or St Luke. Information about this could, conceivably, provide clues as to their background. There are two main sources of apprenticeship records: those held at the Guildhall pertaining to the City of London Livery Companies - for those training in or near the City, and those held at the PRO at Kew covering both London and the Provinces which record payment of a tax by Masters who take on an Apprentice who isn’t their own son. I’ve checked both these sources (in the latter case for London and counties in or near Wales initially) and found no reference to either of the Merrick brothers. This might indicate they trained under their own father but as they trained in quite different crafts, this is most unlikely. A later finding (see below) had suggested the possibility of training in Birmingham - an industrial conurbation (of skilled artisans) nearer Wales, at least. I re-checked the Tax records for Warwickshire, just in case, but this was also negative. There is one promising further possibility - in Shoreditch’s own local apprenticeship records (as detailed later). Wherever they were born, raised and trained, for some reason they both ultimately ‘turned-up’ in the crowded parish of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch - at least by their early 20s and quite possibly from infancy - where in any case they eventually both married once through their apprenticeships. Joseph Merrick was the first to do so - in April 1796 - to one Elizabeth ‘Griffiths’, after banns. Both signed in a good hand and were said to be then of that parish and single. Might Elizabeth’s surname denote a Welsh relevance? She in fact signed her name ‘Griffis’ which was thought initially to reflect an uncertain literacy, but it is now thought more likely to be the Curate who got the name wrong (ie spelling it as Griffiths) when completing the registration. For it was later found that the shorter spelling was not that uncommon for this name - at about one in 10 or so. Thus, significantly, there was a ‘Paul Griffis’ who traded as a Watch and Clockmaker at 2 Old Nichol St, Bethnal Green (immediately next to Shoreditch) around 1790s -1808, after an earlier career in Birmingham (c1780). Also, a Paul Griffis and wife Phoebe had issue baptised at St Leonard’s itself in 1803 and 1807. Might Joseph have trained with one or other of these men - either in Birmingham or London - and then courted the daughter? Or did he just get to know this local craftsman and family through their common trade - similar to the situation with George Betjemann in the 1820s? One of the witnesses at Joseph’s marriage was his brother William and the other a William Ankers. Intriguingly, the Mormon IGI entry for the marriage between Joseph and Elizabeth is described as originating not by virtue of their usual general extraction of parish registers but as having been ‘submitted by an LDS church member’ at one of their ‘Temples’ (viz that at Logan, Utah; film record no. 448061, p. 190). This can be followed up one day.
At the baptism of their first born a year later (Feb 1797), Joseph and Elizabeth resided at ‘Holywell Mount’, Shoreditch (see map above). Brother William had married just three weeks prior to that baptism - on 30 Jan 1797 - also at St Leonard’s - to a Sarah Wellham (a Suffolk surname). Again, both signed, were single and described as already of that parish. The witnesses on this occasion were Jeremiah Smith and George ?Limining. These witnesses (and William Ankers above) were checked in case any appeared relevant to the apprenticeships of the Merrick brothers, but nothing apparent was noted. Equally, no Wellhams were found in the Cabinetmaking sphere locally. Ankers was a name more common in the north-west and midland counties, including Warwickshire, from where Paul Griffis at least also derived. The name Griffith(s) occurs more often in nearby Anglesey. Might Elizabeth have known about the Meyricks by way of older relatives ?
As Birmingham may have an Apprenticeship archive, I wrote to the Record Office there about this but the result was negative re Joseph Merrick, although local Birmingham Directories of Watch-makers do show Paul and brother Thomas Griffis established in Dale End, Birmingham between 1773 and 1808. Also, a John Ankers was a Clerk to a Solicitor there ca 1750, while a William Ankers was born there to a John in 1745. One can imagine a Solicitor arranging ‘adoptions’ and apprenticeships; did these involve members of an Ankers family? In London, at Lincoln’s Inn, barristers sometimes arranged adoptions and support for local foundlings, including apprenticeships for them. Did they do this also for provincial lawyers seeking such services for clients (with anonymity)? All a bit speculative. Lincoln’s Inn was in fact later checked; the numbers of such who were helped in this way proved to be very small (one or two a year only) - most being given the surname ‘Lincoln’.
Joseph named his first son, born 18 Feb 1797, after himself - on 7 May that year - at St Leonard’s. He seems to have died young as they had a 2nd Joseph some years later - in 1807. Their next was a daughter Elizabeth, named after the mother presumably - on 24 June 1799. The next, another daughter, was christened Mary Ann on 27 Dec 1801; she died in 1804. She may have been named after Joseph’s or Elizabeth’s mother. A Charlotte was next - baptised 9th July 1803, and then an Eliza on 2 Sept 1805, who died age 11 months in July 1806. The family lived then on Charlotte Street, which could account for that name choice, and later on Wood Street, both in Shoreditch. The 2nd Joseph was then born there on 20 June and baptised 11 July, 1807. These streets are all near each other on the site of the former Holywell Priory, just north of present day Liverpool St Station. St Leonard’s church was very close and abutted the western edge of the parish of Bethnal Green on the east.
It would appear that Joseph’s first wife Elizabeth died about this time and that he soon re-married, on 11 Aug 1807, to another Elizabeth (Woodall). This marriage took place in his brother’s new parish of Clerkenwell, in which parish Joseph was said to then reside - possibly temporarily with his brother and family if, as a recent widower, he needed some help with his own young family. They appear to have soon returned to Shoreditch, however, where a son Frederick was born to them on 23 June 1811 and a daughter Ann on 29 Aug 1813. Then, on 10 Nov 1817, Alfred Merrick was born to ‘Joseph Merrick of Paul Street, Shoreditch, Watchmaker, and wife Elizabeth’, being baptised at St Leonard’s on 3 Dec that year. Finally, a second Eliza, born to Joseph and Elizabeth Merrick, was baptised there June 18, 1821. What determined the name choices for these last two sons? [I noted later that a Thomas Woodall was a Watchmaker at 3 Birchin Lane (in the City) in the early 1800s.]
Joseph Merrick is listed in various trade and post office Directories as a ‘Watchmaker of Paul Street, Shoreditch’ between 1810 and 1846 (ie at #30: 1810-15; at # 28: 1816-42, and at # 34: 1843-46). In the 1841 Census, he is shown as residing at # 28 Paul Street as a Watchmaker, aged 65+, with wife Elizabeth, aged 60+ and daughter Ann, aged 25+ - all born in the local district - (recorded as the letter ‘Y’ - for ‘Yes’ - to the question whether or not born in Middlesex?). This could imply ‘London’ or even ‘Shoreditch’ (which was certainly the case in respect of Ann at least - born there in 1813). Interestingly, other entries on the same page did show some residents as being born outside the local area - ie with the letter ’N’ - indicating ‘No’: ‘not born in the local county’. So we may be fairly confident that Joseph and family’s entries were not (as is sometimes the case) recorded as ‘Y’s due simply to a careless, imprecise enumerator (‘Y’s being much more frequent), but did in fact represent what he was told. However, Joseph was not born in Shoreditch or nearby as far as the local parish registers show, nor elsewhere in London as far as the Mormon IGI shows. Non-IGI parishes should be further checked - one day.
[NB. It turns out that Old Nichol St (where Paul Griffis traded) is located at the western edge of Bethnal Green (immediately adjoining Shoreditch) while Mount Holywell, Wood St (Buildings), Charlotte St and Paul Street are all in a cluster just across that High Street - not 200 yards from Old Nichol Street (see above map). This could support the idea that Joseph may well have trained with Paul Griffis in that area and then married either his daughter or a younger sister, say. I re-checked the Apprenticeship Tax records for Birmingham. There were few there compared to most parts of the country and around 1788-90 only one apprenticed in Watchmaking there - not a Joseph Merrick (but one could check Coventry and Liverpool both of which were watchmaking centres). Nor was there any sign of William Merrick, the cabinet maker, there. Their apprenticeships may well have taken place in Shoreditch itself or somewhere nearby. One wonders, with whom ? ]
As mentioned above, Joseph did not live until the 1851 Census, when exact places of birth were usually recorded, the Civil indexes showing he died sometime within the March Quarter of 1846. This was later found to be 16 Feb that year, aged 72, as mentioned above. Joseph’s 2nd wife Elizabeth seems to have died about December 1851. There is no evidence that his business passed to one of his sons - as to Joseph (b 1807), Frederick (1811) or Alfred (1817) who, if they all lived, would be in their 30s when their father died - still residing in Shoreditch. [However, later findings indicate that his son Joseph appears to have moved out to the Windsor-Eton area as early as the mid-1830s where he continued in the watchmaking sphere while his half-brother seems to have followed him there by 1850.]
There appeared initially to be no evidence regarding marriages of sons Joseph or Frederick - eg in the 1830s - although this was before national civil registrations. [However, later data indicates that Joseph Jnr must have have married about 1835 to a Catherine Shepard with whom he had a son, also Joseph (3rd) of this name) about 1836/7 in Windsor, Berks. The youngest son Alfred, the latter Joseph's half-brother, also married - his cousin Sarah Merrick, youngest daughter of his uncle William Merrick, in St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster - on 12th April 1847, about a year after his father's death. The choice of St Martin seems to be due to the presence in that more western parish of Sarah’s near brother John Merrick, an Engraver, who the year before had also married a cousin - Rebecca Betjemann - there. She was the sister of his brother-in-law George Betjemann - who had married (2ndly) John’s elder sister Mary Ann Merrick some years before. The two families were thus quite ‘intertwined’. John and Rebecca would soon have a son they named Alfred Merrick whose birth was registered in St Martins in March quarter 1850 (see below).
Meanwhile, Alfred Snr and Sarah soon moved much further west (ca 1848-50) - to Eton in Buckinghamshire (no doubt following his brother Joseph 2, already long settled in neighbouring Windsor) where the 1851 Census confirms Alfred and family's presence (on Eton High St) - showing him as a Watchmaker, aged 33 - born Shoreditch. Sarah was shown as 36 (she was I believe nearer 39) - born in Clerkenwell. No children were shown and it is not apparent that they had issue there in the 1850/60s either. [Catherine Merrick, Joseph 2's wife, died in Windsor in 1840, age uncertain, while another Alfred Merrick, licenced victualler, died in Sept 1885 in nearby Winkfield, Berks - leaving a Will proved in Oxford by one Frances Taylor - ‘commonly known as Frances Merrick’; he appears to be unrelated.] In any case, the 1871 and 1881 Censuses show (our) Alfred Merrick, 52 and latterly 62, widower and retired Jeweller, born Shoreditch (ca 1817), living at 'Flora Villa' in 'Upton-cum-Chalvey', Bucks, with one Servant (Eliza Randall). He had lost wife Sarah in 1880, aged 69, when living either in Eton or Upton (between Eton and Slough) - where he resided (eventually with his wife's niece, Celsie, I believe, his own 2nd cousin) - at ‘Rose Cottage’ also on Wellington Road. He died there in June Q 1886, age 67 - leaving a Will proved by ‘John Betjemann (Snr), Dressing Case Manufacturer - of 36 Pentonville Road, Islington described (I believe wrongly) as ‘the great-nephew’; It seems more likely that he was in fact his second cousin once removed (ie the poet’s grandfather). The latter John, then only 24, would be a second cousin, twice removed. (See also Betjemann Pedigree - Details.)
As mentioned, Alfred's older brother Joseph 2, Watchmaker, lost his 1st wife Catherine in March 1840 when she was only 30. Their only son Joseph 3 (born Windsor 1836) married Mary Ann Cartland in Eton in 1868 and appears to have had no issue by her before his early death there just 2 or 3 years later (1871). Hr too had been a Watchmaker. Mary Ann, who was born on Drury Lane, Westminster to a family who seem to have settled in the Windsor-Eton area by 1840, moved in as a lodger with the local Baker's family on Eton High Street, across the street from the famous school. By 1881, she is described as an 'Artist Photographer'. She died in 1908 (Staines RD) after moving back to New Windsor, still as a lodger. Meanwhile, Joseph Merrick 2 (1807-1860) had re-married in Dec 1850 in St George Han Sq, Westminster to a Martha Woollard (born 1816 in Barking, Suffolk). She and Joseph lived at 15 Thames St, New Windsor, Berks where Joseph's son Joseph 3, now 16, also resided as per the 1851 census. By 1871, he and his recent bride Mary Ann were still in New Windsor. His father and step-mother Martha had 3 children born in New Windsor: Edwin Merrick in Dec 1851, later a Watchmaker who possibly married a Maria Whetman in Bradfield (nr Reading, Berks) in 1877, Martha Sarah Merrick in 1854 who remained umnarried and died in New Windsor in 1888 and Frank Merrick in 1857 who may have married a Phoebe O'Carroll in 1884 in or near Bristol. Joseph 2 died in 1860 and Martha in 1891, both in Windsor.
We may now consider the career and issue of Joseph’s assumed twin brother William Merrick in further detail. After his marriage to Sarah Wellham in Shoreditch in Jan 1797, when he was about 23, he seems to have moved a little west - to the neighbouring parish of St Luke’s, Old Street - where their daughter Sarah was born 27th July 1800 and baptised on the 10th August. However, prior to this, they had had an earlier daughter - Harriett - in late 1797 - baptised at the Holborn ‘Lying-In Hospital’ on 9th Nov; this must have been an early facility for difficult confinements - which had a chapel and register for immediate baptisms. They had also had their first son - William Henry Merrick - a year later - on 4th Nov 1798 (possibly in Shoreditch) - but not baptised until Aug 10th 1800, along with younger sister Sarah - in St Luke’s. Did the name ‘Henry’ have any relevance vis a vis William and Joseph’s father (natural or otherwise) one wonders, or was Elizabeth’s father a Henry? It was later discovered that the younger George Betjemann’s wife Mary Ann Merrick (see below) died in 1840 and he re-married in 1848 to one Sarah Merrick (nee Simcoe) when the above Harriet Merrick was a witness. Sarah had firstly married William’s aforementioned eldest son William Henry Merrick on 25 Dec 1824 - at St James, Clerkenwell. He died in June 1840 (aged 42) and had probably been a Cabinetmaker as well. As eldest son, he may have expected to inherit his share of his father’s estate in 1845, but as he had died some years before his father, this would not have been the case. It is possible that his father's administrators may have distibuted his estate in part to his son's widow who, in any case, would soon marry George Betjemann, the widower of her husband's deceased sister Mary Ann nee Merrick.
St Luke’s seems to have served as a temporary bridge for William Merrick between Shoreditch and his final move one further parish west, to Clerkenwell St James, where his next daughter, Mary Ann (George Betjemann’s future wife) was baptised - on 7 Aug 1803. She was born considerably earlier that year - on 14th Jan - which could indicate her birth was back in St Luke’s. She was destined to marry George in 1830 - oddly in the latter’s more southerly located church (St Giles) in the Barbican area. ‘Oddly’, since her family resided in Clerkenwell at that time and marriages were more typically in the bride’s parish and church. Four further sons then followed: Henry (baptised 14 Aug 1808 but probably born a year or so before), Richard (baptised just three months later - on 6 Nov 1808) and Thomas (baptised 27 Aug 1809). A 2nd Sarah was born on 31 Aug 1811 and baptised on the 15th of the following month - in each case at St James church, Clerkenwell. As mentioned, Sarah would marry her cousin Alfred Merrick in St Martin’s in 1847 and settle with him in Eton. Finally, a 5th son, John Merrick, was born to ‘William Merrick, Cabinetmaker of 3 Coppice Row, Clerkenwell St James, and wife Sarah’ in 1814. He would marry Rebecca Betjemann in 1846, also in St Martin’s, where he traded as an Engraver until about 1860. They had four children, including Alfred Merrick the younger in 1850 and Rebecca Excelsior (known in the family as ‘Celsie’) - already mentioned.
Cabinetmakers’ Directories list William Merrick as a ‘Tonbridge Ware Manufacturer’ from 1809 until 1845. He was at 3 Coppice Row (present day Farringdon Road) 1809 to 1817 and then at 6 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell from 1817 to the 1830s, when he was also listed as a ‘Portable Desk and Dressing Table Maker’ (see earlier map above). This would be when and where young George Betjemann probably first met his future bride - around 1825, say. By the 1840s, William’s business traded on Red Lion Street, Clerkenwell (next to St John’s Square) when his son Richard Merrick seems to have taken over after operating as a Cabinetmaker of Garnault Place, Clerkenwell in his own right - during the 1830s. [Interestingly, this latter street immediately abuts the present day ‘Family Record Centre’ where some of this information was discovered.] He appears to have married about 1830 and had a son Richard W Merrick in about 1831 (this to be confirmed). Richard Snr was still in business on Red Lion St in 1861 - as a Tonbridge Ware Maker - when George Betjemann had moved to Pentonville Road (after running the business at 6 Upper Ashby Street (near Northampton Square), Clerkenwell for a significant 25 years (1835-1860). I have no data on the sons Henry or Thomas Merrick but the younger Richard W. Merrick could well be the man of that name who had emigrated to Philadelphia around 1851 [check shipping records] and was shown in the 1880 U.S. Census there as a Cabinetmaker, born in England in about 1831. He was then married (to a Susan) with a son William H. Merrick, 23, a law student, and a namesake son Richard W. Merrick Jnr, 13. The elder son William H. appears to have been in some difficulty with the law himself later (1897) when, as a Clerk of the Circuit Court for Eastern Pennsylvania, he allegedly conspired to grant a false certifcate of naturalization to an immigrant. The elder Richard Merrick appears to have died in Islington in 1870.
William Merrick had also moved to Northampton Square, just around the corner from Ashby Street, in 1838, although retained his (and son Richard's?) house on Red Lion Street for some years (as per Rates records). The Census in 1841 shows him as a Cabinetmaker at 33 Northampton Square, aged 67, born Middlesex (as London, Shoreditch or wherever). His daughter Sarah, age 30, was also residing there then, as was Harriett Merrick, aged 43, both unmarried. Her name may have reflected that of the mother of one of her parents. Hillier quotes Celsie Merrick as saying that her grandfather William, while living at Northampton Square, Clerkenwell, was a churchwarden of St George’s in that parish. But at that time, there was no St George’s there - only St John’s and St James’. While the records of these two churches could be checked for this aspect, it appears that Hillier had in fact received information concerning one William Meyrick, ‘Gentleman of the Vestry’ at St George-the-Martyr, Holborn from 1825 to 1836, with the implication that this could be William Merrick, the Cabinetmaker - otherwise always of the much more easterly parish of Clerkenwell - especially as he mentions that William Meyrick had died intestate that latter year - 1836 - which would be consistent with the end of this role at the Holborn church. But…
The Civil death indexes show that 'our' William Merrick in fact died in Clerkenwell and not until the March Quarter of 1845, about a year before his brother Joseph of nearby Shoreditch. It is possible they were both buried in St James Clerkenwell; this to be determined. [William at least was buried in St James - ‘on the 4th January, 1845, aged 70, he then ‘of Northampton Square, Clerkenwell’.] This, and the Census entry, again confirms a birth around early 1774 and thus his likely twin status with brother Joseph. As stated, no burial was registered there for Joseph a year later. In any case, this does not support the idea that William held a position of responsibility at another church - in a quite different and more westerly parish. Unfortunately, none of St James’ lists of Churchwardens survive from the 19th century (even though, amazingly, some do from the 17th). However, there was a ‘Register of Pew Rentals’ for St James, Clerkenwell and this shows that ‘Mr Merrick of Red Lion Street’ (in Clerkenwell) paid 20/- twice a year between 1840 and 1846 for Pew # 18 in the Gallery’. This contained 4 seats. This may have referred to William and/or his son Richard, of course, but more likely to William himself (his son William Henry having died in 1840).
Oddly, the William Meyrick of St George-the-Martyr, an Attorney/Solicitor, lived on Red Lion Square, Holborn a short time before this. The Minutes of that parish’s Vestry show he was also ‘Governor & Director of Overseers of the Poor’ there between Aug 1827 and Feb 1828 - with the styling ‘Esq’. Directories show, in fact, his residence on that Square from 1802 - largely coincident with the abode of William Merrick, a different man, in Clerkenwell. Bevis Hillier thus wrongly places William’s Cabinetmaking business in ‘Red Lion Square, London’ (ie in Holborn) where, he says, young George Betjemann would visit the workshops (and meet his future bride). This error is likely explained by the fact that William’s abode and business was located for a time on St John’s Square, and then on adjoining Red Lion Street - both in more easterly Clerkenwell - over the period that William Meyrick, Esq, a quite different man, happened to reside at 17 Red Lion Square, Holborn (a house later lived in by one of the Pre-Raphaelites). George Betjemann did not visit nor meet Mary Ann Merrick in Holborn, therefore, but in either Barbican or Clerkenwell, where they soon settled. It was William Meyrick, Esq, the Solicitor of Holborn, who died in 1836, for whom there was in fact a Will. He was an uncle to Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, a noted Antiquarian and High Sheriff of Hereford, and had other nephews and brothers who were such as Generals and Colonels in the Army. Interestingly, this was, with more certaintty, a distant branch of the original Bodorgan family, descended from one Rowland Meyrick, a Bishop of Bangor. [See Meyrick Pedigree - Details.]
Neither of the Merrick brother left a Will but an Administration was granted in respect of William’s estate (PCC - Jan 1845) which reads thus: “On the 20th day Jan 1845: Administration of the Goods, Chattels and Credits of William Merrick, formerly of St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, but late of Northampton Square, St James, Clerkenwell, Co. Middx, Gentleman, a Widower, deceased - was granted to Harriett Merrick, spinster, and John Merrick, two of the natural and lawful children of the said deceased, they having been first duly sworn to administer.” His estate was valued at £9000, a considerable amount for the times. [Did it all arise through his business or might something have come via the Fullers or some other landed family - thereby ensuring no litigation was brought?] William's money/estate would have been disbursed by his two named children - according to their father’s verbal wishes, one assumes. It is understood that his Betjemann grandchildren, amongst others, received various sums, their mother Mary Ann (nee Merrick) having already died - in 1840 - as had Wiliam's eldest son William Henry).
It was previously suggested that one of the main beneficiaries may have been that eldest son thought previously to have died in 1847 rather than in 1840 - ie before his father. He too left no Will. His widow Sarah would re-marry - in 1849 - to her widowed brother-in-law George Betjemann, as mentioned. His business soon became more successful - after an unsettled period in the early 1840s. Sarah died in 1870 and, as with her ?second husband, her burial place was for a time undiscovered. However, this was (for both of them) eventually determined to be…..Kensal Green cemetery in north-west London - where they are buried with several other of the Betjemann family.
John Merrick, who became the Engraver of 125 Long Lane, St Martin-in-the-Fields (and not a Cabinetmaker seemingly), would marry there in 1846 to Rebecca nee Betjemann and with her have 4 children: John Carisbrooke Merrick - baptised on 27 June 1847, Rebecca Medina Merrick on 3 Sept 1848, who died an infant the following September, a second son Alfred Merick baptised 5 May 1850 (who became a Dentist in Camberwell and, after marrying a Rosabella ...... in St Martins on 26 April 1874, had a son Alfred John Merrick there in 1876 (later a Dental mechanic) and possibly a John Charles Merrick also, in 1879, who may have had issue in Lambeth, and lastly Rebecca Excelsior Merrick, known as ‘Celsie’, baptised 24 Aug 1851. This lady, who would be Ernest Betjemann’s older cousin (once removed), seems to have lived into the 1930s to relate various family reminiscences and these apparently included details concerning the Merricks’ alleged but uncertain origins in Wales. [Yes; in fact, she was apparently interviewed and/or wrote to John Betjeman himself - in the late 1920s; see ‘Young Betjeman’ and further discussion below.] John Merrick (the Engraver) died in the 1879 in Hampstead - possibly where his widow Rebecca later resided - as shown in the 1881 census at No. 1 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, aged 69, born Aldersgate, along with her son John Carisbrooke Merrick, aged 34, then an unmarried Music Teacher, and her daughter Rebecca Excelsior (Celsie) Merrick, 29.
By 1891, the elder Rebecca was living with her nephew Gilbert Betjemann on nearby Junction Road, with 'Celsie' still with her (unless she was simply visiting; for she would (?later) reside at 'Rose Cottage' in or near Slough, as inherited from her sister's husband (and their mutual cousin) Alfred Merrick, the Jeweller). The son John Carisbrooke Merrick had married Emily Turner in Mar 1882 and had at least one son 'Stewart Carisbrooke Merrick' whose birth was registered in Hampstead in June 1883. By 1891, this latter family (with no further issue) still resided in Hampstead when John was a Teacher of Piano. Emily's brother Rowland Turner, 42, resided with them - 'living on his own means'. By 1901, John, then 54, is listed as a Professor of Music, Emily was 50 and their son Stuart C. Merrick, 18, was a student. They then lived in All Hallows, St Pancras. Stuart would not marry until 1926 when he was 46 - to a Mary Williamson in Lambeth. They appear to have had no children, but this requires confirmation.
Finally, we may consider again the apparent family story regarding the origin of the Merricks. Certainly, the name of the family of Meyrick of Bodorgan would not, one must assume, have been simply ‘plucked from thin air’ by the Merricks and a romantic mystery woven around it, without some basis in fact. The apparent lack of any birth data in the London area (or elsewhere via the IGI) for the two Merrick ‘boys’ could be viewed as supporting some such mystery. Also, it is noteworthy that unlike most brothers who marry and have issue in the late 18th/early 19th century, there seems no obvious communality in the naming of their children (after their own and their wives’ and the latter’s parents’ forenames are accounted for) - ie that reflects their own shared parents’ names - adoptive or otherwise. However, the naming of daughters ‘Mary Ann’ and a son ‘Richard’ might yet prove relevant; an earlier William Meyrick had a son Richard also - a common name in the Bodorgan family. On the other hand, there appears to have been no earlier Josephs in that family. Sadly, the Shoreditch apprenticeship archives are deemed to be too fragile for examination at present. Once and if they are ever repaired by the conservation staff at the London Metropolitan Archives, they could reveal something of relevance, but this could be many years hence. [See also Meyrick Pedigree below.]
In October (1998), I read Bevis Hillier’s account of the Merrick story (based mainly on reminiscences provided by Celsie Merrick) - in his biography of ‘Young Betjeman’. As stated, I must have scanned some of this previously in a bookshop or library but not the useful notes 22 to 25 on pp 410-411 - studied thoroughly on this later occasion. This evokes the following thoughts and observations: Celsie appears to have been correct in pointing out that her grandfather William was apprenticed to a Cabinetmaker, although whether he was truly the younger, unnamed brother as she claimed now seems doubtful. The other brother, who I feel was William’s twin - Joseph (not mentioned by Celsie seemingly) - appears to have been apprenticed to a Watchmaker, not a Jeweller as indicated by her. However, Joseph’s youngest son Alfred did trade as both a Watchmaker and a Jeweller - of Eton - later retiring to Slough.
She also claimed that prior to this, the two brothers were ‘left in the care of guardians named Fuller’ - but then sent to London for foster care - while the Fullers took possession of the family seat at Bodorgan and began calling themselves ‘Fuller-Merrick’ (or Meyrick) - it being “..known all around that they were not the rightful owners”, said Celsie. A solicitor had once come from Wales, she said, to see ‘Uncle Alfred’ (possibly at Slough ca 1880s?) to see if he would take the case up. In their own times, she said, the boys had prospered and never took the matter to court’.
To gain a clearer perspective on the family’s alleged claim and by what connection it could, in theory, have been justified, I have sought out some of the relevant family tree of the Meyricks (see Meyrick Pedigree - Outline below). This is again augmented below with further Detail and comment - arising mainly from their many fulsome Wills:
The surname ‘Meyrick’ arose in widely separated areas of Wales - from the not uncommon forename ‘Meurig’ (or similar) at the time of Henry VIII - when surnames there, often based on such forenames, first became required by law. One of the better-off of these several quite unrelated families was settled at Bodorgan in the parish of Llangadwaladr, Anglesey from before the Conquest. Typically, through the tradition of primogeniture, the eldest son inherited the estate intact and younger sons had to cope typically by marrying heiresses, becoming lawyers, or entering the Church or Services. Property disputes at one stage reduced the solvency of the Bodorgan estate in the 1600s but by the end of that century, it was again on a sound footing and its members continued to provide MPs and High Sheriffs in each generation. All but one of the countless junior lines of the family appear to have petered out as significant landowners. The one exception had considerable success as senior officers in the Army (and also produced the Solicitor of Red Lion Square, Holborn in the early 19th century - as discussed earlier). This junior line was long settled, after Bodorgan, near Pembroke in the south-west of Wales.
But, back at the senior line in Bodorgan, in 1675, William Meyrick of Bodorgan (1644-1717) married Jane Bold by whom he had two surviving sons - Owen (1682-1759) and William (1688-c1752) - his first son, Richard (1676-1698), having died soon after graduating from Oxford and entering Grays Inn. Owen Meyrick, now the elder son, married Ann Lloyd, daughter of Pierce Lloyd, in 1704, while William married Margaret Lloyd (possibly Ann’s cousin), daughter of Rev David Lloyd, in 1711. Owen became an MP in 1715 (for 6 years) and, as eldest son, inherited Bodorgan on his father’s death two years later. Meanwhile, William had acquired his wife’s inherited estate at nearby Cefn Coch about the same time. Owen and Ann had a large family at Bodorgan between 1705 and 1718, including 6 sons, while William had but one surviving son, Thomas, and 3 daughters - at Cefn Coch on Anglesey. Thus, through most of the ensuing generation or so (1720s to 60s), there were just two landed branches of the northern Meyrick family - senior and junior - settled on nearby estates in Anglesey - headed by brothers Owen and William, respectively. Five of Owen’s 6 sons - Owen (1705-1770), William (1708-1745), John (1710-1760), Pierce (1712-1752) and Richard (1714-1781) were educated at Cambridge and at least four of them subsequently married and had issue; the youngest - Geoffrey (b 1716) - having died young without issue. William’s only son Thomas (education unknown) married in 1753, settled at Cefn Coch, and had several children there in the 1750s and 60s. The elder Owen wrote his Will in 1757 - by then retired (as a widower) on a smaller nearby estate at Trefry - presumably so that eldest son Owen Jnr could take up the reigns at Bodorgan in 1751 - after marrying that year one Hester Putland, daughter and heir of John Putland of Fulham, London. Owen Snr died in 1759 although oddly his Will wasn’t proved until 1777 - some years after his eldest son Owen’s own death (in 1770) - the latter’s role as executor of his father’s Will (due to proceed ca 1759/60) having been taken over by his widow Hester, again rather tardily, in 1777.
The Will of that elder Owen, which helps establish/identify some of this family, was written and signed much earlier - on 19 May 1757. He was even then described as ‘late of Bodorgan and now of Trefry in Anglesey, Esq’. Although he died in April 1759, probate was as mentioned not finally granted until 8 Jan 1777 - “to Hester Meyrick, widow, the relict of Owen Meyrick the Younger, deceased who, whilst living, was the son and sole executor of the said testator, whom he survived, but who later died himself without having executed the said Will”. As mentioned, his widow Hester also didn’t bother to execute it either - at least, not for another 7 years. Owen Snr asked in his Will “..to be buried in the vault ‘I caused to be made’ in the Bodorgan Chapel of the parish church of Llangadwalader” (where we presume he was in fact buried). He then refers to his marriage settlement of 1704 by which £3000 was to be available for his younger sons “..if they survive me”. By 1757, only two of these 5 were still alive - namely John and Richard - who were thus to receive £1500 each - “within one year of my decease.” It is possible that by 1760 (or ?1777), only Richard was alive for he refers in his own Will (see later) to the disposition of seemingly the full £3000 from this source. [One may compare these amounts with the £9000 estate left by our non-gentry William Merrick, Clerkenwell Cabinetmaker, in the next century.]
Owen Snr also left £1000 each to his grandson Owen Meyrick, “son of my late son William” (whose wife is not named) and “to the (unnamed) son and daughter of my late son Pierce and his wife Lady Lucy Meyrick” (she nee Pitt). These two children were later identified as Ridgeway Owen Meyrick and his sister Ann Elizabeth Meyrick. He left £200 each to two other grandchildren - the children of his still living son Richard and late wife Jane nee Cholmondley; and, to his grandson Edmond - “son of Owen my son”, he left the residue of his personal estate. No reference is made to any granddaughter or niece named Sophia - eg born just before Edmund (as discussed further below). He also remembers the two living children of his late brother William, leaving them £20 each - viz “to my nephew Thomas Meyrick of Cefn Coch and to my niece Jane Meyrick, sister of said Thomas.” Finally, he left small bequests to his married sisters. All these legacies were to be paid within a year of his death (ie by 1760) out of the income from family property in Anglesey and Denbighshire previously transferred to eldest son Owen (presumably in 1751), including the Bodorgan estate. How all this was affected by the long delayed probate of the Will (long after 1760) is uncertain; possibly the estates had not generated enough to fulfill these bequests?
The above-mentioned 'son of my late son William' - ie yet another Owen - wrote his own Will shortly after (in Jan 1760) although was to live another 45 years. In it, he (then an Infantry Capt) left £1000 to his grandfather Owen (an odd direction of bequest), of whose recent death he was presumably then unaware, and £500 each to the two younger children of his uncle (the younger Owen Meyrick, now of Bodorgan Esq) - namely William and Hester Meyrick (then just born) - who may well have split the other £1000 as well. (Again, was there also an elder daughter Sophia who, like Edmund, missed out by being a bit older? See further on this below.)
No Will has been located for the elder Owen’s brother William (of Cefn Coch) but the latter’s only son Thomas (b 1718) appears to have inherited Cefn Coch in the 1750s, where he had, according to Welsh genealogist J.E. Griffith, four children, after marrying in 1753: William (1756), Elizabeth (1758), Richard (1760) and Thomas (1762), before dying himself in 1763. The estate was eventually inherited by that youngest son Thomas who, dying in 1841 without issue, left it to a distant 3rd cousin - Edmund Edward Meyrick, a descendant of a junior branch of Owen’s senior line who had finally married that year, aged 41, possibly awaiting this inheritance (see below).
The next Will to provide information on the family was that of Owen’s son Pierce who died relatively young some years before his father - in July 1752. His Will was also written quite early - on 6 Oct 1737 - but not signed until 24 Feb 1748. He was described as being of ‘St Margaret’s, Westminster.’ It was written in the form of a legal contract (based on a marriage settlement) between himself and his wife - the Hon Lady Lucy Pitt, daughter of Thomas Pitt (late Earl of Londonderry), deceased, of the one part “and Sir William Chapple, Knt, one of His Majesty’s Justices of the Court of King’s Bench, and my father Owen Meyrick (the elder) of Bodorgan, Esq, of the other part”. Whatever money he would himself have received from the settlement, in the event of his wife’s prior death, was now to go to her, “..our two children (unnamed) having been amply provided for in the settlement”. A witness was his near brother Richard Meyrick. It was proved on 11 Dec 1752 by his wife Lady Lucy as sole executrix.
In a footnote to published pedigrees of Anglesey families by Griffith, the author points out that in late Victorian times a publication (‘Bye-gones’, April 1896) noted that a well-known story from the past, which was said to be ‘strictly true’, claimed that Pierce and his brother Richard Meyrick were intended (by their parents) to marry cousins Jane Cholmondley and Lucy Pitt, respectively, but that “as they were on their way to be so married, the young ladies proposed to change husbands-to-be, to which the young gentlemen agreed, and accordingly they were so married - at the Fleet prison” (where Clerics for a fee asked few questions). The date was said to be July 25, 1732. Those Fleet registers which have been published or transcribed (at the PRO) do not however appear to corroborate this. The legalistic format of the Will, written in 1737, in which reference is made to his two children, suggests that it may have been written two or three years after a marriage in about 1735, say, rather than 1732 (though not necessarily at the Fleet), the 5 having been possibly mistaken for a 2 by a later transcriber. [This to be further checked - one day.]
The two children of the marriage of Pierce and Lucy were Ridgeway Owen Meyrick (named after both grandfathers) and Ann Elizabeth Meyrick. Richard and Jane were also to have two only - at about the same time. As their father Owen was still in residence at Bodorgan at this early date (with elder brother Owen Jnr waiting in the wings), these two younger sons seem to have soon settled into properties acquired through their well-off wives. Lucy Pitt had inherited land in several southern counties through her wealthy father, although she and Pierce appear to have preferred the social life of London and Westminster. One should probably seek confirmation of their marriage and their children’s baptisms at St Margaret’s or St James, Westminster. At Pierce’s early death in 1752, the children would still be in their teens and likely continued residing in Westminster with their mother Lady Lucy.
A marriage was eventually arranged for son Ridgeway - with Diana Wynn, the daughter of a small landowner in Denbighshire - Pierce Wynn of Dyffryn Aled. [Note: ‘Wynn’ and ‘Gwynn’ were often used interchangeably.] With his own father dead, it seems likely this marriage was arranged by Ridgeway’s uncle Richard Meyrick who lived near Denbighshire. This took place around 1771 and the couple soon settled at Dyffryn Aled, Diana’s father possibly having already died. They apparently had but one child - Henry Ridgeway Meyrick (bn ca 1772) - who seems to have soon died in infancy by 1774 (this to be confirmed) - not long after the father Ridgeway had himself succumbed - on April 19, 1773, while still in his thirties.
In his Will written on 16 Feb 1771, seemingly not long after his marriage, Ridgeway O. Meyrick refers to property in Yorkshire which came to him by that marriage, and in Dorset, Devon and Wilts acquired from his father in 1752 - through the latter’s marriage to his mother Lady Lucy nee Pitt. From these was to be raised some £8000 to be held in trust by two of his three executors (a William Lally and his uncle Richard Meyrick) from which the interest was to go eventually to the younger children of his cousin Mary, the daughter of Richard and wife of the Rev Thomas Holme of Upholland, Lancs (this being Richard’s home parish). He also remembered his cousins Capt Owen Meyrick, son of his late uncle Captain William Meyrick (and any issue of his), Rev Owen Lewis Meyrick, only son of his uncle Richard, and to the younger children of his uncle Owen Meyrick, late of Bodorgan, deceased (who seems to have died only a few months earlier). Sadly, the numbers and names of such children were not named. Finally, he left £1000 to his only sister Ann Elizabeth Meyrick (still residing in London) and to any issue she, still a spinster, may eventually have. The Will seems noteworthy for its total lack of reference either to his wife or to any issue they might yet have (eg the son that they in fact soon did have). Diana was named as a 3rd executor - although when proved by the other two, a note stated that his widow ‘had not applied to administer’. It seems she did receive a modest £700 - possibly through the efforts of Richard Meyrick (see below).
It seems as though it was a loveless, arranged marriage intended partly to secure more property for the Meyricks. But what if Diana was in the early stages of a second pregnancy - still unbeknown to her - when her husband died in April 1773 - to give birth in about January 1774? The couple were after all of proven fertility. One would assume she would at least retain her father’s estate at Dyffryn Aled in Denbighshire and thereby have some security and the hopes of attracting a second husband. But what effect might having an unexpected late-born child and heir, especially a son - or even worse, twin sons - have on such re-marriage prospects? It was not unknown for the gentry to have such awkward offspring fostered to a wet-nurse immediately after birth - preferably some distance away as, say, London. (Recall Lady Cavendish doing so at about this same period.) Diana may well have had no affection for the Meyricks, nor for unwanted twins of that ilk. Why was the interest from such an enormous amount (£8000) left by Ridgeway to a cousin’s issue rather than to his own?? It may be significant also that, with little or no direct connections in the north, he was not to be buried in Denbighshire, but rather far away - in Sunninghill, Surrey - a parish with which the Pitt side of his family had some slight connections - his father and sister oddly also being buried there. We shall return to such considerations later. Where would such twins have been baptised? [Try the Denbighshire parish in which Dyffryn Aled (not itself a parish) is situated (ie…………..…) or possibly Upholland in Lancashire or….…?]
The next Will of relevance was that of Pierce’s brother (and Ridgeway’s uncle) Richard. It was written on Sept 1st 1774, when he is described as of ‘Upholland, Lancashire’, and proved in 1781. He left £4000 - received from his father - to his two children Owen Lewis Meyrick and Mary Holme Meyrick) - the unnamed grandchildren referred to in Owen’s Will. He also refers to the son of his late brother William - now Captain Owen Meyrick - and to his ‘sister Meyrick’ (seemingly Hester) and to his sister-in-law Lady Lucy Meyrick. It is possible that before his death, Richard may have been instrumental in arranging a second marriage - not finalised until 1782 - for his sister-in-law Diana to a local widowed landowner - Philip Yorke of Erthig, nr Wrexham, Denbighshire. He had been married firstly to Catherine Cust by whom he had three children - sons Simon and Brownlow Yorke and a daughter Dorothy. One wonders if Richard ensured that Diana came to such a marriage with no encumbrances? Philip and Diana were subsequently to have six children of their own - she indeed proving fertile, as suggested. [Erthig was and remains a very important stately home - long associated with the Yorke family. One wonders if there is still an archivist there?]
One would like to examine next any Will left by the younger Owen Meyrick (d. 1770) but this does not appear to have been proved in the PCC - as would be expected for someone of his standing and property. Griffith shows a Will was proved - in 1771 - but does not say by which Court. Was it one serving Chester or York? In particular, one wonders how many daughters he may have referred to. Was it two or was it three (including a Sophia)? Were any or all of these baptised at Bodorgan and are the relevant entries still extant? This younger Owen Meyrick of Bodorgan (born 1705), was admitted a Barrister of Lincoln’s Inn in 1731 and was later an MP. As stated, he married Hester Putland, an heiress of Fulham, London, in 1751. He was then a rather mature 45 and one wonders if he may have had an earlier marriage (or mistress?) in his 20s or 30s? Why such a delayed marriage?
Burke’s Peerage (1923) describes their son, Owen Putland Meyrick (bn 1752), as the ‘eldest son’ (cf ‘elder’), suggesting at least two others were born to them subsequently. These were in fact soon confirmed - as a William Putland Meyrick (c1757-1810), later of Tregayan, who acquired that estate on marrying in 1797, and an Edmond Meyrick (bn c1758), of whom nothing more is known at present. There were then also at least two sisters - Hester and Martha - born in the early 1760s. The former remained single and died in 1840 while the latter eventually married a Mr. Sparrow about 1785. There was, in addition (as we've alluded to above), a ‘Miss Sophia Meyricke’ - described in Holden’s London Directory of 1810 as being “of Bodergin, nr Anglesey” (sic), who resided at 5 Russell Place, near Fitzroy Sq, London between 1807 and 1810 (as per Rates records). Such an address (Fitzroy Sq in Bloomsbury was described as architecturally then one of the best Squares in London) would seem to imply a lady of some means who was more likely to be of mature years than otherwise. Could she have been another sister of Owen Putland Meyrick therefore - born about 1754-56 say (or even earlier if a half-sister)? Her identity is still being investigated. The younger Owen Meyrick’s Will may well have been useful in establishing her identity. Interestingly, his son Owen P. Meyrick and family resided for many years - when in London - at 7 Upper Harley Street (ca 1802-1825) - quite close to Fitzroy Square - and moreover, he was described in Holden’s Directory similarly as “of Bodergen, nr Anglesey” (sic). It seems odd that the correct spelling (Bodorgan) was produced in neither case and, rather than described as being ‘in Anglesey’ (as it is), was said in both cases to be merely ‘near’ that island county. In any case, Sophia was clearly described as ‘of Bodorgan’ and thus her identity should be discoverable - assuming that it was not actively obscured by the family. The question thus remains: Just who was ‘Sophia Meyricke of Bodorgan’? Did she ever bear twins? Or, was it Diana ?
Owen P Meyrick married the heiress Clara Garth in 1774 - oddly the very year we have calculated the two Merrick boys were born (ca February, say). I wonder if this birth year was known or even estimated by the later Merricks or Betjemanns - when analysing the family story? They seemed to have wrongly assumed that they were born somewhat later. Owen and Clara married on the 6th Sept that year - at her parish church at Morden, Surrey. Such a marriage, at that time, would very likely have been arranged by the parents - usually in London - with a clear understanding of dowries, joyntures and other financial settlements (yes, see terms of marriage settlement below re Wills). It is most unlikely that this couple would have got together prior to their marriage - to produce illegitimate twins; they would surely have simply advanced the marriage date if such had happened. And, in any case, what would then motivate the ‘spiriting away’ of any such offspring, if their own?
While it is quite possible that young Owen Meyrick got some local or London girl pregnant, any resulting child or twins would be most unlikely to be named ‘Meyrick’ (or ‘Merrick’) - unless the mother was a paternal cousin, say (Sophia?). Or might the mother have given them their putative father’s surname, after their birth in distant London? Had he actually married such a girl but she died giving birth to twins, they would then have the surname Meyrick/ Merrick and may well have proved an embarrassing hindrance in any negotiations with potential new in-laws - such as the Garths. ‘Spiriting away’ could then be one route out of their dilemma. But such a first marriage would seem difficult to cover-up and in any case there is no evidence of same. However, if Owen had an unmarried sister or niece who produced such twins (as for example the younger Hester, Ann Elizabeth or even the mysterious Sophia Meyrick), they would have that family name - although any rights to inherit would seem doubtful. It may, however, have been prudent to remove them nevertheless. There is also the interesting possibility as described regarding Diana Meyrick ca 1773-74 - after her husband’s death; the timing fits surprisingly well. What to think?
There seems no way to choose between these various alternatives. It would appear that the younger brothers and sisters of the Bodorgan family (of Owen Jnr) were too young to have fathered or borne the twins by late 1773/early 1774. Might Owen have fathered them in the summer of 1773, possibly while enjoying his last days as a bachelor in the London ‘season’ that year? Like so many of the country gentry in Georgian times, the Meyricks likely spent much time in London during the social season. Did an unwanted conception occur here in 1773 - in respect of a then young ‘Miss Meyrick’? Were any resulting twins immediately whisked away to a wet-nurse - eg in Shoreditch? If Sophia wasn’t an eldest sister, might she have been Owen’s cousin or even mistress - who had or took on his surname, if not married status, and was eventually supported in nearby Fitzroy Square? Did the twins thus acquire and retain the surname ‘Merrick’ (as Meyrick was pronounced)? Were any earlier Meyricks in the legal profession ca 1775-80 - to arrange discreetly the twins upbringing? Records in some such Solicitor’s office, long-since destroyed, may well have held the secret - only oral fragments of which remained - to be conveyed through the memories of William and Joseph, and later Alfred and Celsie Merrick in particular, and so to the Betjemanns - with dates so often uncertain or simply estimated.
Clara and Owen had a son Owen Garth Meyrick a year or so after their marriage but he died age 7 in 1783. A daughter Clara was born in 1780 and then Lucy in 1784 - baptised in St Marylebone - the parish for Upper Harley St. Is this when arrangements were made concerning the twins? One may assume that Owen P Meyrick would have been introduced to Augustus Fuller, Esq (of distant Sussex) by the 1790s and, for the usual ‘considerations’, agreed a marriage with his elder daughter Clara - the twins then safely ensconced elsewhere (if they were in fact a reality in their lives). These considerations seemingly included the fact that given no male heir from Clara, none of Owen P’s brother’s, sister’s or uncle’s issue (nor his own illegitimate ones, if any) would inherit the ancient Bodorgan estate - it presumably being no longer ‘entailed’ by this date. (This elaborated further below re Wills of the Fullers, etc.)
In any case, it is difficult to imagine the still young Fullers having any interest or opportunity to ‘pack off’ the Merrick boys to London (as Celsie implied) after their marriage (in 1801) - considering that the latter were themselves already married there - 5 years before(!) - and were now in their mid-20s. That is, they weren’t, as apparently implied by Celsie, younger than Clara, but in fact older. Moreover, they would have been in their apprenticeships - seemingly in London - from about 1788, when Clara Fuller was just 13! Also, the Fullers weren’t in possession of Bodorgan until 1825. They both died in 1857 when Clara’s son Owen Fuller legally inherited, leaving it in turn to his sister and husband in 1876. In each case, surnames were altered to that of Meyrick from Fuller or whatever as required by Wills. And so it remains to this day.
It would appear therefore that any shenanigans vis a vis the two Merrick brothers must have occurred rather earlier than when the Fullers became involved in the property. It would be Owen Putland Meyrick and his wife (the earlier Clara - nee Garth) who might, conceivably, have had some such ulterior motive in spiriting away two such boys - before 1785, say - long before the Fullers entered the scene. And it was probably not until after 1825, when the property was inherited by the Fullers, that young Mary Ann Merrick, soon to marry George Betjemann, would have first heard about the earlier alleged injustices - from her father presumably. It would thus be from that rather late date that the Fullers’ name (only now part of the story) first became wrongly embroidered into the hazy account - to be carried into the next century by her cousin Alfred and niece Celsie - somewhat distorted as to exact dates, names, etc. - as often happened in Victorian times when inheritance conflicts arose - with much wishful thinking and little critical analysis or exactitude.
I must agree with Bevis Hillier that there does seem a rather ‘suspicious defensiveness’ in the memorial (scripted by whom?) to Owen Putland Meyrick (d 1825) and wife Clara, viz: ‘by her has left two only children…’. But, by whomever else, might he, conceivably, have left two others?? It seems quite possible that some other mother may have come to London or was already resident there - to have her twins - thus supporting the veracity of both Merrick brothers’ answers to the question as to where they were born. But where were they conceived, baptised and, in the 1770s-80s, schooled? How did they both come to start their adult lives in Shoreditch of all places, and who financed their apprenticeships - quite possibly there? I have recently learned of a file in the Metropolitan Archives (former GLRO) - viz P91/LEN/1331 - which provides details of apprenticeships financed by the parish of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch during the 1780’s and ‘90s - the very decades of concern. Sadly, its condition is currently listed as ‘Unfit’ - ie for consultation. However, I have completed a request form to advance its restoration or microfilming which could result in it being available within a year or so. We shall await this with interest. [The answer sadly was that there may well be a more prolonged wait - even decades. Also, such local authority ‘apprenticeships’ were often as ‘house servants’ only although there may have been some at a more artisan level.]
Several other Wills provide further detail concerning the Meyrick family. [These may require considerable stamina and interest for the reader to maintain focus!] Thus, in 179 1/2, seemingly at a goodly age, the Rt Hon Lady Lucy Meyrick wrote her Will. She was then of Gt George Street (very near Westminster Abbey), a widow of long standing and, as she states, ‘commonly called ‘Lady Lucy Meyrick’’. She refers to an Indenture of 4 parts dated 29 Dec 1770 between herself, her only son Ridgeway Owen Meyrick, Esq, now deceased (as of 1773), her only daughter Ann Elizabeth Meyrick (who never married) and her brother-in-law Richard Meyrick, late of Upholland, Lancs, Esq, since deceased (1781) and William Lally of the Chancery Office, Gent - concerning much property in Dorset, Devon and Wilts thereby conveyed on Trust to trustees from which various bequests and legacies were to be paid to many relatives and friends - especially her son and her daughter (Ann Elizabeth). These included, interestingly, the five children of Thomas Meyrick of Cefn Coch in Anglesey. As mentioned, Griffith shows only 4 such children (none a Sophia) and thus it becomes possible that the fifth one could be her - born in 1754, say, and thus about 19 (fittingly) when and if conceiving out of wedlock in 1773. However, she was not described as being (also) of Cefn Coch (in 1810) - or was this name even more awkward to accept or spell in London Directories than nearby ‘Bodorgan’? Was it near enough to Bodorgan to be so described? In her Will, Lucy refers also to God-daughters Lucy Yorke, Jane Holme, Lucy Cleeve and to sister-in-law Hester Meyrick. Several other relatives are named but not a Sophia Meyrick - despite the latter lady apparently being not only ‘of London’ (as was Lucy herself) but of Bodorgan, if not Cefn Coch - both mentioned by Lucy with respect to others of the family. Was Sophia being purposely ignored - due to some indiscretion - or was her existence implied in that reference to the 5 children of Thomas Meyrick? Lucy’s Will was proved by her daughter Ann Elizabeth - in 1802 when Lucy would have been about 90 apparently; (Sunninghill memorials may establish her year of birth and hence age at marriage and death).
The next Will of relevance was that of Philip Yorke written in 1799 and proved in 1804 - the year he died. He, who became a noted antiquarian, described himself as of Erthig and Dryffyn Aled, both in Denbighshire, Esq. He wished to be buried in the Erthig vault of the parish church at Marchwid. To his wife Diana, he left any rent arrears owing him in respect of the estates in Denbighshire and Flintshire, which he possessed through her, and also all Stock at the farm at Dyffryn Aled, and his Coach and Horses. She was to be guardian of ‘my younger children’ (ie that he had by her) and, with older son Simon, to be an executor of his Will. He also left her £100. Because his elder sons and daughter (by his first wife) were well provided for by an earlier Settlement, they were to receive just £50 each. His 4 younger sons (by Diana) - Pierce, Robert, Philip and Charles Yorke were to get £100 each. His two daughters by her - Diana and Lucy Yorke - were to share the proceeds from the sale of £4000 South Sea Annuities to which he became entitled - again under the right of his wife Diana - when these were somehow left to her under the Will of the late Matthew Gostlin, Esq. The administration of this and of the interest from about £700 he again held ‘in right of my wife Diana’ (as left her by her first husband Ridgeway Owen Meyrick) - in both cases for the benefit of his daughters - was to be as directed by Diana in her Will. No reference was made to any issue of Diana by her first husband.
One was thus curious to see to whom Diana Yorke may refer in her Will which, as she did indeed die after her 2nd husband - in Jan 1806, was assumed would be listed in the usual PCC indexes. Sadly, it wasn’t; only an Administration was granted - to her son Pierce Wynn Yorke, Esq in respect of her credits, goods and chattels valued at under £3500. The properties were likely transferred to one or other of the Yorke sons prior to their father’s death. Oddly, she (apparently) left no Will - even though a widow. Her daughter Lucy (b 1785) married a George Cummings of Scotland shortly after her mother’s death. Pierce Yorke was later a High Sheriff of Denbighshire while issue of his older half-brother Simon, MP for Grantham (whose mother was a Cust), appear to have maintained links with that family from whom descend the Purey-Custs - one of whom, intriguingly, resided in the neighbourhood of young John Betjeman in Highgate around 1910. A painting of a London scene observed from the Purey-Custs’ house in Highgate was (and may still be) on show at their former mansion of Belton House, near Grantham, to this day. It is now under the National Trust - the last Purey-Custs retiring to Jersey, apparently. [See also coincidental reference to the Purey-Custs by John Betjeman. As a youngster, he was briefly infatuated with Peggy Purey-Cust - feelings that, sadly, were not reciprocated in the slightest - particularly by her parents. The view from John's house may well have been similar to that in the painting.]
Not long after Diana died, the widow of the younger Owen Meyrick - Hester Meyrick - wrote her Will (1806). She was then residing at Beaumarais in Anglesey - her son Owen having long since been at Bodorgan (when not in Marylebone). She wished to be buried in the churchyard (not the family vault) of Langadwalader church. She left what little was hers to pass on - namely £1000 in Govt Stocks and a house in Fulham left her by her aunt Martha Putland - to her 4 younger children: Edmund Meyrick (who soon died without issue), William Putland Meyrick (d 1810) - whose younger son, another Edmund, would also reside in Beaumarais, Hester Meyrick (who never married) and Martha who had married one Bodycham Sparrow and resided on Gt George Street, Westminster. The Will was proved in 1812 by her sole executrix - her daughter Hester. The lack of reference to a Sophia Meyrick ‘of Bodorgan’ (still living in 1806) would seem to imply such a person was not an elder daughter - at least not born to Hester (unless again purposely ignored?).
Also residing on Gt George Street about then was the younger Hester’s unmarried cousin Ann Elizabeth Meyrick, the only daughter of Lady Lucy Meyrick and brother of Ridgeway Owen Meyrick, long since deceased. She wrote her Will before 1812, as she refers in it to Owen’s widow Hester who died that year, to whom she left £2500 in 4% Consols. She left £1000 to Hester’s second son William Putland Meyrick (Snr) then of Tregeyan, Anglesey, and to his sister Hester she left £100. Her main bequest was £3000 to a cousin Essex Cholmondley of Vale Royal, Lancs. The Will was long and detailed with many references to family members including the unnamed (and unnumbered) children of the elder Thomas Meyrick of Cefn Coch (also remembered by her mother Lucy some years earlier who referred to ‘the five children of…’), but again there was no reference to a Sophia Meyrick. Ann directed that she be buried with her brother Ridgeway and father (Pierce Meyrick) at Sunninghill, Surrey (her mother Lucy seemingly buried elsewhere). The Will was proved in 1816.
The next Will of interest was that of Hester’s eldest son Owen Putland Meyrick - written and proved in the spring of 1825. He was described then as of Bodorgan, Anglesey and Upper Harley Street, St. Marylebone, Esq. The Will is structured in terms of the usual Indenture/Marriage Settlement - dated 1 Sept 1774 - between himself, his father-in-law (to be) Richard Garth of Morden, Esq and the latter’s daughter (and Owen’s wife-to-be) Clara Garth, his uncle Richard Meyrick of Upholland, Lancs, Esq (shortly to die) and several other trustees. The settlement was to provide income for his wife Clara (whom he married 5 days after signing the settlement) and to convey his estate to their legal heir - ie on his death. They had only one son - Owen Garth Meyrick - but as mentioned he died aged about 7 in 1783 - the last male Meyrick of the senior line. There were also two daughters - the elder of whom, Clara, married Augustus Elliot Fuller, Esq by whom she had one son - Owen John Augustus Fuller - to whom the estate was to pass directly (he conveniently turning 21 that very year of 1825). In the event of the latter’s early death without issue, it was then to go to the eldest of any other male issue of his daughters, otherwise to their daughters (Clara had five) and the latter’s male issue, if any, in order of seniority, etc.
However, Owen Fuller, who never married, was to live to 1876 - seemingly at Bodorgan. On his death, the son of his married sister Clara (nee Fuller) inherited. Except for the inclusion of Owen Putland’s uncle Richard as a trustee (who in any case died many years before the Will was proved), it was now as though no other branches of the formerly extensive Meyrick family existed (eg in Wales). The Fullers - ‘by the right of Clara (nee Garth)’- would seem to have perceived the estate from 1825 as now essentially a Fuller property (even if they and their descendants were to change their name to Meyrick) and thus no further bequests or references to members of the original Meyrick family occur in Wills of this ‘new’ branch of the family - to help us identify its members - as transpired previously in the extensive ‘network’ of cross-references in the Wills of the many relevant branches of the actual Meyrick family in Wales.
Just two years after Owen P Meyrick wrote his Will (and died), his 30 year old nephew - William Putland Meyrick (son of Owen’s brother of this same name who died in 1810 without leaving a Will) - wrote his Will (1827) as an Ensign on half-pay in the Army - stationed in France. He was very ill and in a dictated Will left anything he may possess to a fellow Officer, also stationed in France. No other names were mentioned. About a decade later, in 1838, the younger, unmarried Hester Meyrick - then of Beaumarais , wrote her Will which was to be proved by her great nephew and executor Owen Fuller (later called Meyrick) in 1840. She directed to be buried with her mother in Langadwalader churchyard. She left all her silver plate ‘of Bodorgan’ with other jewellery, pictures etc to Owen Fuller and his successors at Bodorgan. She left small bequests to two god-children (one the daughter Hester of her sister Martha) and to her servants. The residue of her estate (including her share in a Tontine) was to go to her nephew Edmond Edward Meyrick, the surviving son of her late brother William Putland Meyrick (the elder).
Again, no reference was made to a Sophia Meyrick, despite that lady having once been ‘of Bodorgan’ - which place seemed of considerable significance to Hester. The only Will located in the name of a Sophia Meyrick was one proved in 1845, she a spinster at least - of Ludlow, Shropshire (bordering Wales). It was very brief - she left her estate (unspecified) to her nephew - one Rev Robert Meyrick, also of Ludlow (with whom she possibly lived). One wonders if a Ludlow tombstone might identify her more? It is possible that an 1841 Census entry for her there might at least reveal her age and thus approximate year of birth. Otherwise, the civil death registration can be checked. I can however see no validated route of descent for a Rev Robert Meyrick from the Bodorgan family however - whose father would have to be Sophia’s brother - and if she was born as early as required (ca 1754), she would have survived to a rather noteworthy age. Possibly she had died earlier and was buried in St Pancras (the parish for Fitzroy Sq) ca 1810/11 and, if so, at what age? This too can be checked sometime.
The younger brother of Ensign William P. Meyrick - Edmund Edward Meyrick (1800-1857) also resided at Beaumarais in Anglesey (as had his aunt and grandmother Hester) and in 1841, shortly after inheriting the residue of that aunt’s estate, inherited also the nearby estate of Cefn Coch from his distant 3rd cousin Thomas Meyrick. His only son - yet another William Putland Meyrick - died without issue in 1875 - seemingly without leaving a Will - while his eldest surviving daughter - another Clara, who married a local vicar Rev Williams - succeeded to that estate that year. Her eldest son Edmund Williams subsequently inherited in turn but sold the estate in 1899 - apparently having no issue. With the death of Owen Putland Meyrick’s nephew Edmund Edward Meyrick in 1857, and that man’s son William Putland Meyrick (the 3rd of that name) in 1875, the landed Meyrick lineage - as descended at Bodorgan through the male line for over a thousand years - appears to have come to an end. From 1825, the senior line had, it is true, ostensibly continued - but only by virtue of the Fuller and Gervis families, via the Garths, assuming the ancient name of Meyrick of Bodorgan. But they were really gone.
How did it come about then that the unrecorded origins of the Merrick twins - born who-knows-where and to whom - in early 1774 - was ever associated with a gentry family of north Wales? Was any newspaper publicity given to the death of Owen Putland Meyrick in 1825? Did his obituary describe Bodorgan and did this stimulate romantic imaginations in Clerkenwell or Shoreditch workshops that year? Or, did it re-kindle memories based on vague but well-founded whisperings heard in some foster home there in the 1780s? Will we ever know the truth? Must it remain a mystery?
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