Thursday, July 16, 2015

Amelia Lydia Dare and Countess Dysart – fact or fiction.

Amelia Lydia Dare (1851-1944) was the wife of Sir Thomas Jackson (1841-1915). Parts of this post will be included in my upcoming book, The Silver Bowl: The Surprisingly Irish Roots of HSBC. In this post, I am thinking out loud – sharing conjectures in the hopes of learning more.
UPDATE: Thanks to the research skills and work of Mark Sherbrooke, a number of errors (made by me) have been fixed, and new material added. July 28, 2015.

Elizabeth Murray (1626-1698) aka Countess Dysart, wife of Sir Lionel Tollemache (1624-1669) - thought to be an ancestor of Amelia Lydia Dare.
In most family histories, the stories of women get overshadowed by those of their husbands. Not so with Amelia Lydia Dare’s 5th great-grandmother. Elizabeth Murray. She was a legend in her own time, and continues to fascinate. Anita Seymour’s novel, Royalist Rebel, told from Elizabeth’s perspective, opens with a delicious quote from Bishop Burnet:

She was a woman of great beauty, but of far greater parts. She had a wonderful quickness of apprehension, and an amazing vivacity in conversation. She had studied not only divinity and history, but mathematics and philosophy. She was vehement in everything she set about, a violent friend, but a much more violent enemy. She had a restless ambition, lived at vast expence, and was ravenously covetous; and would have stuck at nothing by which she might compass her ends.

As a royalist, active throughout the Cromwellian years, Elizabeth Murray even went so far as to meet socially with Oliver Cromwell, initially to camouflage her subversive activities, but later as an act of genuine friendship. The rumours of the day (since discounted) had Cromwell suspected of being the father of some of her children.

Throughout the political Interregnum, Elizabeth was a key player in the Sealed Knot, a secret association, which was plotting for the return of the monarchy. She frequently hid secret documents in her girdle in order to ensure that they got to their intended readers in Scotland and France. As an amateur chemist, she concocted secret inks, and shared codes which were then used to transmit messages vital to the quest of overthrowing the Roundheads.

As a creature of her time and class, the needs of those beneath her in status were not on her radar. Her main concerns lay with reclaiming her lost privileges, and access to wealth and power. Both of her parents, William Murray and Catherine Bruce, had also been significant players in the behind-the-scenes schemes to restore the previous royal order. To the Murray family, active resistance was the only hope that they had of safeguarding their properties, as well as the only hope they had of being able to reclaim at least some of what had been lost in the mid-1600s political upheaval. She came out of it all better than most, not only holding on to Ham House, her family home, but also receiving the benefit of a pension of £800 a year after King Charles II was back on the throne.

Ham House.

One of Amelia Lydia Dare’s daughters, Amy Oliver Jackson, transcribed some of the correspondence relating to Amelia's attempts to prove her own ancestral links to Countess Dysart. Some of the letters were from Amelia's cousins, several of whom had grown up in South Africa. Their grandparents had settled in Cape Town in the early 1800s shortly after financial setbacks in England. William Tollemache Parke (1790-1851) and Elizabeth Bushe (1790-1880), were entrepreneurs whose family had a range of business interests in Essex. William's brother Joseph Parke was a coach maker in Ipswich, while another brother, Samuel Fenning Park, was a Liquor Merchant, Dealer and Chapman [aka a peddlar]who had declared bankruptcy in 1808. 

Amelia’s grandmother, Sarah Shrieve Parke, first arrived at the Cape with her family about 1833 when she was about fifteen years old. One of their enterprises was the popular Parke’s Hotel, where the family later resided:

… [in the] Heerengracht of the 1840s. William Parke, a confectioner who also ran buses to Wynberg, decided to enter the hotel trade. He had been running Papenboom, the old brewery in Newlands Avenue, as a boarding-house; now he opened Parke's Hotel at the corner of Heerengracht & Strand Street (later to change to the Grand Hotel site)...'Warm & cold baths are available at any hour of the day', Parkes announced - a novelty at that period. History of Hotels in Cape Town

By 1848, Parke’s Hotel was the number one place to stay in Cape Town, succeeding Mrs. Van Schoor’s boarding house, famed for having hosted (decades earlier) both Clive of India and Prince Frederick Hendrick of Holland. It was also there – or else at their boarding house at Papenboom -where Amelia’s parents met each other in 1839. George Julius Dare, then a captain in the Royal Navy, had stayed with her family while laid up with a bout of dysentery and unable to set sail. In 1894, Parke’s Hotel was replaced by the Grand Hotel. Fittingly, given the ups and downs of the fortunes of Amelia’s family, a facsimile of the Victorian version of the Grand Hotel (out in the suburbs and not on the original site) fronts a destination casino.

Another researcher working on Amelia’s family history in the early 1900s was Rev. William Ball Wright (1844-1912). He was not only related to Amelia as a cousin of the husband of Amelia’s Aunt Elizabeth Legge Parke (1824-1909), but he had also served as a missionary in Japan during the 1870s, when her family was living in Yokohama. A photograph of him, taken by Samuel A. Walker, shows him looking more like a gunslinger than a missionary. At the time of his correspondence with Amelia in 1907, he was the vicar of Osbaldwick in Yorkshire. A sketch from that time has him looking more like a vicar and less like a cowboy.

William Ball Wright - the other photograph of him is more interesting, but copyrighted - so you need to follow the link to see it.

Wright’s conclusions about Amelia’s connection to Countess Dysart were based on what he could find that fit with the Parke family tale of a secret marriage between the Countess’s youngest and wayward son, William Tollemache (1662-1691), and a woman named Elizabeth. Such a marriage is not unlikely. Court records that show that William was an impulsive young man, who had killed at least two opponents in duels, and saddled his family with costly court cases as a result. One version of his alleged secret marriage is included in a 1907 letter from Amelia’s cousin Lizzie Arbuthnot:

My sister Jessie is in England and tells me this story as she heard it was William lived in hiding on his brothers estate and could not marry in his own class, and secretly married a farmer's daughter -- his brother was very fond of his children and looked after them and promised to see them righted, but could do nothing as long as William lived -- died first -- this is nearly what I heard.

William could easily have been hiding out at his brother’s house at Helmingham throughout December 1681 and January 1682. After all, on the evening of November 23rd, 1681, he had killed his drinking partner of the night, William Carnegie, 2nd son of the 3rd Earl of Southesk in a duel in Paris, and had to flee. He was nineteen years old. Two years earlier, his mother had dispatched him to Paris with his tutor for the purposes of advancing his education. By February 1682, still under threat of capital punishment, he had returned to Paris to fight his case. In the two months that he was a fugitive from the law, there would have been plenty of time for an ongoing affair at Ham House. Another opportunity for such a liaison could have occurred when he was home in 1683 after serving a second stint as a soldier in Tangiers. During this latter stay, he had worn out his welcome by running up bills which infuriated his older brother Lionel, the only responsible son of the family.

William’s father had died when William was only seven years old, so even though he could have had no say in his son’s marriage, it is most unlikely that the Countess would ever have condoned William marrying before he had reached the age of majority. Such a marriage would most likely have come about because of a loss of his partner’s virginity, or even more dramatically, a pregnancy. None of the family histories have ever touched on this aspect, but it is hard to avoid considering, especially since a grandson named Nicholas gets no mention in his grandmother’s will.  Although Amy Lloyd doesn’t touch on the question of legitimacy, she does add a little bit more to Lizzie Arbuthnot’s version:

A well supported and interesting tradition is handed down in certain families in South Africa, England and Manitoba, that they are descended from a son of his named NICHOLAS by a secret marriage of William Tollemache of Coddenham, to Suzan Bloomfield of Coddenham on 25th March 1686. The secret marriage took place while he was outlawed and his elder brother looked- after his wife and children.

The father (or grandfather) of Sarah Parke -George Dare had obtained all proofs of the legitimacy of the secret marriage, and all other descendants, and was on his way to London to put it in the hands of a lawyer with every chance of being given his lawful inheritance of both property and money. When on the way back by coach, he and his wife were taken ill with smallpox at Saffron Walden, and both died. The Landlord of the inn, fearing infection, had all their luggage burnt, and with it all the unreplaceable legal documents.

The couple taken ill with smallpox would most likely have been Amy’s 3rd great-grandfather John Tollemache (son of Nicholas) and his wife Mary Pettit. Both of them died in 1777. Mary died at Saffron Walden sometime in April (in Amy's version - which does not agree with her gravemarker), and John on May 19th at their home at "New Place" also known as Gippeswyk Hall, in Ipswich. If they did both have smallpox, then it seems that John survived the illness, only to die about three months later (going by the death date of Mary on her gravestone - February 25th). Gippeswyk Hall is now a listed property, and is about ten miles south of the ancestral Tollemache home of Helmingham Hall. The distance between the Saffron Walden and Ipswich is about 50 miles. This was not the most direct route between London and Ipswich, but it was where some of John and Mary’s grandchildren were born, and the story of the confiscation of their luggage is a good fit with the known facts.

Assuming that there was a secret marriage, or even just an illegitimate son, Lionel Tollemache is the most likely of the two brothers to have housed him. Thomas Tollemache (1651-1694), their middle brother, was a career soldier, and rarely home. When William died of yellow fever in the West Indies in 1691 at age twenty-nine, it is unlikely that Nicholas was more than ten years old. Even though Countess Dysart lived until 1698 I can find no mention of Nicholas living with her at Ham House. This leaves us with Lionel and his wife Grace Wilbraham as possible caretakers. They had at least five children, and lived a stable life at the Tollemache ancestral home at Helmingham Hall. If the mother of Nicholas was still living, there also would have been places on their estate to house them both out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

In the end, Amy, and presumably her mother, would have known that the proof of this secret marriage was wobbly, but they decided to accept it. After all, Wright was a published author of at least a dozen genealogical studies, and he had said:

There is I think, no doubt of your mother being descended from Hon. William Tollmash, though I fear there will never be the complete proof of his marriage that would be necessary to claim property.

After nine days in the British Museum, and succeeding in unearthing a manuscript of William Tallmarsh of Coddinham, Wright felt confident enough to pronounce that he had no doubt of your mother being descended from Hon. William Tollmash. Or was he really this sure? Could this merely be the response of man who had to deliver a conclusive result in order to be paid for his research on behalf of a client who was interested in claiming lost lands? In the same letter, he added:

The remainder of the searches must be made in Suffolk, when I already had a gentleman employed on that business, but he came to a standstill, and it is only by my discoveries, that I can now set him going again.

This kind of language smacks of someone noting his billable hours. Unfortunately, five years after this letter was sent, Wright took off his coat and watch, left them on the banks of the River Ouze on October 26th, 1912, and was never seen again. In the probate of his will, he left his widow, Emma, £29 2s 6d, not much for a man of his station. This would be a fit – albeit not conclusive - with a researcher tidying up the evidence to meet his own personal need to be paid.

There is one last wrinkle to this tale. Amelia’s 1st cousin, Lizzie Arbuthnot née Ball (1846-1942), wrote to Amelia, suggesting that the secret wife was not Elizabeth Bloomfield, the daughter of a local farmer, but rather Elizabeth Bacon, daughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon. Perhaps Lizzie’s theory is not so far-fetched. Elizabeth Bacon and William were cousins, there had been other Bacon-Tollemache marriages in previous generations, and the son was named Nicholas. Also, Elizabeth Bacon’s father had died when she was a toddler, so perhaps Elizabeth suffered less supervision than women of her class tended to endure. Still, it would have been a challenge to keep such a marriage a secret.

This is far as we can take this line of inquiry right now. Did Capt. William Tollemache really have a son, legitimate or not? Did he really have secret wife named either Elizabeth Bacon or Elizabeth Bloomfield? Well, Amelia Lydia Dare seemed to believe that he did, and maybe accepting this is what matters most when it comes to understanding her personal sense of her own ancestral family.

Links on my Silver Bowl website relating to this research:

Other links:
·       Ham house, its history and art treasures 1904 by Julia Anne Elizabeth (Tollemache) Roundell
·       Ham House and Garden. The National Trust

No comments:

Post a Comment