New professionals

Capturing social capital

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Dowlais employees wearing the uniforms of the Twelfth Glamorganshire Volunteer Rifle Corps. Dowlais House, 1870. Showing front row: Dr. Burns; William Jenkins [seated]; George T Clark, trustee seated]; Dr. Pearson Cresswell [seated]. Back row: M.C. Harrison; Matthew Hirst; Edward Williams; Matthew Truran; William Menelaus, general manager; George Martin; David James. Photograph courtesy of Glamorgan Archives, Wales.

 

An important part of our project is attempting to chart the interconnected nature of professional men and their families in the nineteenth century, and the photograph above is a wonderful representation of this.

William Jenkins (seated left on the front row) is one of the project’s cohort members, and the subject of another blog entry. He was connected to Edward Williams (standing third from left behind William) through the marriage of his daughter, Alexandra Octavia, to Edward’s son Penry. William and Edward were both members of the South Wales Institute of Engineers and the North of England Mining and Mechanical Engineers alongside Matthew Truran (stood to Edward’s left) and Matthew’s father Samuel (who sadly died in 1860 when a faulty pipe leaked poisonous gas into his office). However their connection ran even deeper, with newspaper reports of Matthew’s funeral revealing that Edward’s son Penry and his brother Aneurin (M.P for Middlesbrough) were Matthew’s nephews, thus making Edward and Matthew brothers-in-law, as well as colleagues.

Alongside volunteering together in the Twelfth Glamorganshire Volunteer Rifle Corps, and working together in the Dowlais Works, many of these men and their families also held important positions in the local community. David James (standing, far right) was the cousin of cohort members Frank James, who served for many years as Registrar to Merthyr Tydfil, and on the committees of the Merthyr Board of Guardians and School Board, and Charles Herbert James who served as M.P. for Merthyr Tydfil and was chairman of the Merthyr Newspaper Company.

It seems that the relationships and connections between the men who posed in their smart uniforms in front of Dowlais House in 1870 are almost too numerous to count. Yet the scope of the Professions project allows us to examine the professional and personal interactions of these men on a scale that has not previously been attempted. This analysis is slowly revealing an incredibly complex and intricate network of social capital, a concept that was central to defining and enforcing the boundaries of the professional classes.

 

Dr Jennifer Aston

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Stocks, Shares & Skeletons

The marvellously named William Horatio Nelson Myers (1803-1869) was a well-heeled stock and share broker from our Leeds cohort. His story highlights the role of the educational society in middle-class and professional life in a fascinating way.

Although we know William Horatio Nelson’s parent’s names (John Myers and Ann Acham), we do not yet know their occupations but it would seem that William Horatio Nelson faired well in life, gathering property and wealth. For example, the Leeds Tythe Map Project reveals that in 1857 he owned a 2-acre meadow with buildings that he leased to a Henry Temple. Certainly at his death in 1869, his probate valuation of £30,000 indicates considerable financial success. Although we do not yet know much about his background [please let us know if you do], we do know that he married well, to Mary Elizabeth Beswick (b.1812) the daughter of a local landowner and Justice of the Peace. This marriage would later secure the Myers family an ancestral manor and a little local celebrity status.

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Digging into a mound on his Gristhorpe estate near Scarborough in 1834, Mary’s father William Beswick (b.1781), discovered a substantial log buried deep in the barrow. He called in his friends from the Scarborough Philosophical Society to help remove the ancient oak log. Lifting it out of the barrow, the log split to reveal it was in fact hollowed out and contained the remains of a man.

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Gristhorpe Man, The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough

The height (almost six feet) of this man, his advanced age (around sixty years old) and hence seemingly good diet, along with the grave goods, have led archeologists to conclude that he is likely a Bronze Age warrior chieftain. It would seem that William Beswick and the Scarborough Philosophical Society thought carefully about how best to look after Gristhorpe man. Interviewed by the BBC in 2009, Dr Nigel Malton of Bradford University’s Archeology Department noted that:

“We were lucky that the people involved in the 1834 dig were members of the Philosophical Society which included local doctors and so forth. He was actually treated very well. They even attempted to conserve him because he was so fragile. They boiled him in a washing tub for eight hours in a solution of animal glue, and it seems to have worked because he’s still here. He’s fantastically complete, right down to his toe bones!”

The 4000-year–old Gristhorpe Man was given to the Rotunda Museum in Scarborough where he still resides, where William Crawford Williamson (1816-1895), then little more than sixteen years of age, quickly wrote up a monograph on the ancient man.

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William Crawford Williamson (1816-1895)

In recent years Gristhorpe Man has undergone a facial reconstruction which you can view here:

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Facial reconstruction of William Beswick’s Gristhorpe Man.

 

Although he did not have any real skeletons in his closet like his father-in-law, William Horatio Nelson was also a society man and a member of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. He was also on the committee of the ‘Lancashire Cotton Districts Relief Fund, Leeds’ in the 1860s when the American Civil War cause unemployment and poverty in the region when its impact on cotton supplies forced many cotton mills to close.

Turning to generation 2, his son William Beswick Myers (1850-1904) did not follow him into the stockbroking profession, instead training in hydraulic engineering, studying in Berlin and returning to join the firm of respected engineer, John Fraser (1819-1881), whose daughter he later married. (The latter was the son of an architect and was well regarded in his field.) William Beswick was involved in constructing many important branches of the Great Northern Railway among other works but he also inherited the estate and title of Lord of the Manor of Gristhorpe in 1895 when his unmarried uncle, Thomas Keld Beswick died. A man of the community, he became a magistrate for the North Riding of Yorkshire and like his father and grandfather before him was a society man, joining the Leeds Philosophical & Literary Society.

William Beswick Myer’s four daughters appear to have been well educated; certainly Marjorie (b.1887) was educated at Roedean. They all seem to have lived independently on private means, although Joan Fraser did eventually marry automobile engineer, Major Kenneth Sporswood Jones, possibly later in life. William Beswick’s only son Bryan Beswick Myers (b.1879) sadly was unable to carry on this family’s professional project and died aged just 18 in 1896.

By Alison C Kay

 

 

References:

 

Victorian Professions Project: http://www.victorianprofessions.ox.ac.uk/

Leeds Tythe Map Project: http://tithemaps.leeds.gov.uk/TwinMaps.aspx?singleplot=WYL333_340*43*WYL333_340&singlesrch=st.6!lwd.Temple

 

Gristhorpe Man:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/content/articles/2007/07/10/bradford_gristhorpe_man_feature.shtml

http://www.bradford.ac.uk/life-sciences/news-and-events/news/monograph-of-the-gristhorpe-man-is-launched.php

http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/york/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8877000/8877132.stm

 

Fraud, Charity and the Status of Professionals

Our project covers a wide variety of occupations, one of the key questions is how newer, potentially professional, occupations compared to the older ‘traditional’ professions of the law, church and medicine. The case of Thomas Hayter Chase (1814-95) provides an interesting example that can be used to consider how one emerging profession, the police, was understood by the public.

Thomas Hayter Chase was appointed superintendent of police for Brighton in 1844 following the murder of the town’s first superintendent, Henry Soloman, by a prisoner he was interviewing. Chase had previously been superintendent of police on the Isle of Wight. He held the office from 1844 until 1853 and during this time appeared frequently in the Brighton newspapers in his professional capacity, notably when giving evidence in court. He was also a rather controversial figure as noted here. He was often criticised in the Brighton Guardian, a liberal newspaper edited by Levi Emanuel Cohen. Chase felt such criticism was unjustified, as he wrote to a rival paper the Brighton Gazette in 1853: ‘I have much to congratulate myself upon in having been abused and mis-represented for more than nine years by this editor’.

Whether or not the Guardian’s criticism of Chase was justified, Chase was dismissed from his office in July 1853. His dismissal was caused by his association with Eliza Amphlett who committed multiple acts of fraud in Brighton in the early 1850s. Chase’s wife, Eliza, had known Amphlett and her family while growing up on the Isle of Wight. As a consequence, Chase claimed in his defence, he had allowed Amphlett to direct letters to her to be sent to Chases home. She was at that time in Lewes jail as an insolvent debtor, and was, unsurprisingly, reticent about advertising the fact. The letters were in fact used by Amphlett to extract money and goods from businesses and people under false pretences, notably through the use of multiple aliases by Amphlett. Chase admitted, as the newspaper report put it, that ‘he had been indiscreet, that he had forgotten his position as an officer and acted as a man only: throughout he was actuated by “that charity which hopeth all things,” and by a desire to alleviate the sufferings of one who had fallen from a high position in society, and suffered a long and painful imprisonment for her misdeed.’

Brighton’s Improvement Commissioners (the local body responsible for the town’s police force at this date) took a rather more dim view of Chase’s behaviour. They pointed out inconsistencies in Chase’s account of his actions and that he had made attempts to obscure the reality of Amphlett’s situation and actions from the investigation undertaken by the Improvement Commission’s Police Committee. One Commissioner rather intemperately stated ‘Any one who made it his business to encourage swindlers ought to be transported.’ This issue arose at the moment at which the local government of Brighton was being fiercely debated. Some sought Brighton’s incorporation as a municipal borough with a town council, others felt the current system of government by the parish vestry and Improvement Commission was adequate. As such, another Commissioner took advantage of Chase’s actions to launch into an attack on the Commissioners and to demonstrate that Brighton needed to be incorporated. Although the Commissioners agreed that Chase had not broken the law, they felt he had acted with ‘folly and indiscretion’ and as a consequence voted for his dismissal by a majority of 30 to 4.

Clearly Chase struggled following his dismissal. On 15th August 1853 a meeting ‘of several respectable inhabitants’ took place to consider how to help Chase and his family in their ‘present unfortunate position’. They agreed to open a subscription to provide him with assistance. By the end of October 1853 they had raised the not inconsiderable sum of £215.11s.0d. and a concert was held on the 27th October to raise further money. Donations came from a number of very prominent Brighton residents including the Vicar of Brighton Rev. H.M. Wagner, and from a number of other individuals included in our study, such as Richard Mallam Webb a local auctioneer and wine merchant who would be Brighton’s Mayor in 1870.

 

The Friends of Mr Chase

The Friends of Mr Chase, Brighton Gazette, 27/10/1853, p. 1.

 

Charity in Victorian Britain has been written about extensively. Yet most of the focus has been on the history of humanitarian international charity or of poverty relief charity. Furthermore, most of studies have focused on philanthropic bodies. The case of Thomas Hayter Chase provides us with an example in which the charity was informal and aimed at an individual of relatively considerable social status.

Plenty of individuals suffered similar distress every year as witnessed by the increasing cost of poor relief in Brighton, yet none of them received over £200 of support, the question, then, is how was Chase able to command this attention? What made the inhabitants of Brighton think he was worthy of such considerable relief? His role as superintendent of Brighton’s police for nine years was presumably important. He had been a prominent figure in the town’s public life throughout that period, wielding significant power over the lives of the town’s inhabitants. He had also himself subscribed to numerous charitable causes throughout that period, subscriptions that were recorded and published in the local press. Such public service and charitable behaviour gave him sufficient status to be able to make a claim on the resources of the Brighton population. This, coupled with his own presentation of himself as having acted foolishly but nobly, made him an appropriate figure for charitable relief. The incident reveals starkly the power and status that public service could convey on professionals in nineteenth-century Britain. A former police chief who was out of work for a relatively short period received over £215 in charitable aid; that amount, raised in just two months, this was more than his yearly salary (which was £194 pa). This is in stark contrast with the relief available to paupers in Brighton in the 1850s.

By Dr. Harry Smith

Sources

This blog was written using the digitised copies of the Brighton Gazette accessible through www.findmypast.co.uk.

Gerard Lee Bevan: fraud, fist fights and rum.

In further investigating the history of the Bevan family, I have come across the case of Gerard Lee Bevan (1870-1936). He was the grandson of one of the professionals in our sample: Robert Cooper Lee Bevan. A number of Robert’s children and grandchildren followed him into banking as partners in Barclays Bank. Gerard Lee Bevan, however, was not deemed quite sharp enough to work for Barclays and so was sent to work as a stockbroker. As Margaret Ackrill and Leslie Hannah have pointed out in their history of Barclay’s Bank, this was a common strategy for dealing with children who were not cut out for life as a clearing banker. Stockbroking was believed to be stable, but easy, work, and the fact that Barclays had extensive dealing with stockbrokers meant it was easy for family members to become partners in stockbroking firms.

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Gerard Lee Bevan.

© gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque Nationale de France

In 1893 Gerard became a partner in Ellis & Co, a stockbroking firm; he became a senior partner in 1912. From 1916 he was also chairman of the City Equitable Insurance Company. Although both firms had other directors, there was little oversight, something that enabled Gerard to commit one of the most notorious financial frauds in Britain in the twentieth century. Gerard amassed a significant fortune while working for Ellis & Co. By 1920 his interest in the partnership of Ellis & Co had increased to about £1 million on paper, while the other partners’ interests were about £100,000 in all. This disparity was reflected in the lack of interest the other partners took in the financial matters of the firm, they revealed considerable ignorance of such matters at the trial of Bevan in 1922. The apparent success of Ellis & Co lead to Gerard accumulating various directorships of other companies, including Leyland Motors. There was a similar lack of oversight at the City Equitable Insurance Company, where the board of directors consisted of men with little knowledge of the insurance business.

The end of the First World War saw a period of increasing speculation in the financial markets. Ellis & Co. became, unbeknownst to its other partners, in effect a front through which money was raised and then channelled into speculative investments. Gerard ensured that Ellis & Co could use the securities held by the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company. He also made loans from one company to the other, these were substantial loans, starting at £319,000 in 1919 and rising to £911,000 in 1921. He also directed the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company’s investments into ventures which he himself had an interest in, notably a Brazilian ranch scheme which was designed to increase the value of land he and a few others had purchased in Brazil in 1918. The City Equitable Fire Insurance Company invested £445,374 in that scheme. Unsurprisingly, these unscrupulous activities left Ellis & Co. and the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company in rather perilous positions with large debts and few assets. In order to cover up the situation, Gerard issued false balance sheets in 1919, 1920 and 1921.

The downturn that began part way through 1920 placed increasing pressure on the two companies. In late 1920 he used his position on the First National Re-Insurance Corporation to gain control of two insurance companies: the Greater Britain Insurance Company Limited and the City of London Insurance Company Limited. Gerard proceeded to strip these two companies of their assets to try and prop up Ellis & Co and the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company. Such measures were not enough and in June 1921, Ellis & Co. and the City Equitable Fire Insurance Company owed nearly £2.5 million while the difference between their liabilities and assets was £560,000 (worth about £24.5 million today).

The two companies struggled on, but eventually both failed. Faced with his schemes collapsing around him, Gerard fled to Vienna with his mistress, the French dancer Maria Pertuisot. It has been suggested that he was hoping to reach Soviet Russia, had he done so extradition would have been unlikely.

He took a number of precautions to avoid detection – he dyed his hair and moustache, and obtained a fake passport. After four months on the run he was eventually tracked down and arrested. However, according to the Cornishman, the two detectives who found Bevan ran into some difficulties arresting him: ‘Bevan fought the detectives for fully half-an-hour, knocking both men down, before being overpowered, and it is reported that he afterwards tried to poison himself, and later shammed insanity.’ Despite these efforts, Gerard was returned to Britain and put on trial. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. Following his incarceration his wife, Sophie Kenrick (a member of the notable Birmingham iron founder family who were closely connected to the Chamberlains), divorced him. He served five of the seven years, his sentence being reduced for good behaviour. The story goes that in his final interview with the prison governor he thanked the governor ‘as one old Etonian to another’. On his release in 1928 he and Pertuisot left Britain and settled in Havana, where they married. Gerard lived out the remainder of his life in Cuba running a distillery.

Besides being entertaining, the story of this rogue banker has a number of implications for our project. It drives home the power that professionals could wield. Gerard came from a highly respectable family, went to Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He entered the world of finance as someone with connections that brought him considerable esteem and trust. He rose to the top of long-standing firms with prestigious histories, Ellis & Co., founded in 1788, had played an important role in funding the war against Napoleonic France. The importance of family and the status of the professions in society as a whole are precisely the issues which we are examining in our project. The regard in which he and his profession were held by people within the City and by his fellow directors (who exercised little oversight) meant he was able to commit fraud on an enormous scale before anyone took an interest. A tale which sounds all too familiar to our ears.

 Dr. Harry Smith

 

Sources

Clear guides to the complexity of Gerard’s fraud are found in:

Matthew Hollow, Rogue Banking: A History of Financial Fraud in Interwar Britain (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 46-54.

P.S. Manley, ‘Gerard Lee Bevan and the City Equitable Companies’, Abacus, 9/2 (1973), 107-15.

Margaret Ackrill and Leslie Hannah, Barclays: The Business of Banking (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 87.

Contemporary newspapers fill in many of the gaps and provide colourful descriptions:

Cornishman, 21 June 1922, p. 3.

Hull Daily Mail, 17 June 1922, p. 1.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, 25 April 1936, p. 1.

Aberdeen Journal, 27 April 1936, p. 7.

All Creatures Great and Plagued: a Scottish Veterinary Surgeon in America

men

© Manitoba Archives.

British Boundary Commission Officers; among them are astronomers, geographers and a Scottish veterinary surgeon, named W.G. Boswell (sitting front row, far right, whip in hand). 

The American Frontier has been a draw for children and adults around the globe ever since European empires began to steal their way into North America. With its mesmeric mix of romance, lawlessness, exploration, industry and brutal wars (pitched between Europeans, Native Americans Mexicans and the newly established American nationals), it became a myth in its own time and a draw for adventurers of every ilk and nationality. This includes a fascinating Dundee veterinary surgeon, James Wighton Booth (1850-92), who also worked in North America and Canada in the 1870s. This was a time when the veterinary profession was establishing itself globally and his family’s history may be closely linked to their professional experiences of that time.

The Dundee Trade Directory of 1850 lists his father, George Booth (1818-68), as veterinary surgeon at Meadowside Road, Dundee. At this time, veterinary surgeons were derogatorily called ‘Horse doctors’ and polite society considered them largely with the illiterate and labouring classes. Nevertheless, it was a fledgling profession in George’s lifetime. A Royal Charter in 1844 recognised veterinary surgeons as a profession and gave colleges the power to administer examinations. Almost three decades after the Medical Act, there also came the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1881, which legally ratified the qualified practitioner. Although George may have been untrained – as were many practising veterinary surgeons – he may also have been one of the pioneering veterinary surgeons who qualified at Scotland’s first veterinary college. William Dick was the son of an Aberdeenshire farrier, but he established the Clyde Street Veterinary College in Edinburgh in 1839. A contemporary description of William Dick’s lectures noted that above his head was ‘suspended a portion of inflated and injected intestine, with its mesenteric expansion dangling in the air, something like a lure for flies; whilst all around the room, and especially in the corners, are heaped together vast quantities of diseased bones, and other preparations, seemingly without order, and without arrangement.’ From inauspicious beginnings the College gained global renown, later becoming The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Similarly to William Dick, George Booth was born in Aberdeenshire, the son of Alexander, a blacksmith, before moving to Dundee in the 1830s. George married Margaret Buist and together they had 3 children: Margaret, Christina and James. Whilst Margaret has proved elusive to trace, Christina had two illegitimate children with David Inglis Rea, a forest labourer from Glamis, Forfarshire. Of those, George Rea Booth (1865-1909) rose to Master Mariner, but, speculatively, perhaps his scandalous birth may have hastened his grandfather’s death – George (snr) died of ‘supposed…cramp of the heart.’ Christina and her two children continued to live with the widowed Margaret. George’s son, James Wighton Booth, meanwhile had trained as a veterinary surgeon, and in 1872 he is listed as veterinary surgeon, 30 Meadow Place, Dundee.

James married Isabella Paton (c1850-1883) in 1870, in accordance with the Free Church in Dundee. They had at least six children, of which two were born in the USA, one in Canada and the rest in Scotland. Emigrating Scots were not unusual for this time, nor were the Booths’ destinations. Nonetheless, James’ occupation as a veterinary surgeon, and the fact that he returned to Scotland to continue practising, do indicate a less than usual story. To the vexing conundrum of image and reality that all historians face, it immediately poses the question of what sort of veterinary surgeon was James Wighton Booth?

Even as the Wild West was waning, American ‘heroes and villains’ were using media and international touring to bring the symbolism of their young nation to the rest of the world. For example, there is a striking image (held in Birmingham City Archives) of William F. Cody – a.k.a. Buffalo Bill – parading his Wild West show through the streets of Birmingham in 1900. A postmodern eye just cannot help to be entranced by the convoluting layers of constructed reality, nationalism, imagery and ‘history’ working in tandem. Hollywood renditions of the Wild West have placed the clash between image and reality in our international subconscious, but this seems a universe away from Dundee and its Jute manufacturing citadel. It is tempting to imagine an Elliot-esque ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ ‘Vet’ relocating from a Scottish idyll to the wilds of North America. But perhaps his travels were likely to have been a little more down to earth, if no less exciting.

In the 1860s and 1870s, North America and Canada were suffering from what was commonly called ‘bovine plague’. The nation’s livestock was valued at multi-millions of US dollars (billions in today’s terms) and the annual loss hampered economic growth. At this time, the huge cattle drives, made famous in countless mid-twentieth century Hollywood blockbusters, were re-directed and blocked by local ranchers and farmers. The context explains the antipathy towards cattle drivers who left devastated cattle in their wake – and huge economic losses. Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois all suffered huge losses, leading to some states prohibiting the driving of cattle through their lands. The birthplaces of three of James’ children place him tantalising close to the epicentre of America’s ‘bovine plague’: Canada (1872); 1874 Michigan (1874); 1875 Ohio (1875).

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Source: Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual (London: Purnell & Sons, Ltd., 1959) © T.V. Boardman & Co., Ltd.

The US Department of Agriculture was founded in 1862 to analyse the impact of the diseases in North America. J.R. Dodge, a statistician, revealed that contagious pleuro-pneumonia was spreading westward and that cattle fever (a plight in Britain too) was causing loss of cattle across the nation. ‘Blackleg, abortion, glanders, distemper, anthrax and buffalo gnats’ were also causing severe loss of animals. Horses were also affected by a wide variety of diseases, and swine were so infected that Dodge considered them ‘unfit for consumption’. In turn, veterinary surgeons were commissioned and despatched from the UK to carry out research in the Americas, of which many had originated from (and qualified in) Scotland. For example, the Ontario Board of Agriculture visited Professor William Dick in Edinburgh because they were concerned about the plagues decimating European cattle. Dick suggested one of his graduates, Andrew Smith (1834-1910), who went out to Canada to advise and teach veterinary surgery, establishing the Ontario Veterinary College in 1862. Other Scottish ‘Vets’ founded institutes, such as Cornell University’s veterinary faculty, the veterinary department at Harvard University, Chicago Veterinary School and Montreal Veterinary College. This research is a work in progress, and, presently, we do not know what role James Booth played in this broader context, but it is tempting to imagine that he was in some capacity involved in this transnational veterinary history.

References

B.W. Bierer, A Short History of Veterinary Medicine in America (Michigan State University Press, 1955)

J.M. Isa and C.A.V. Barker, ‘Walter George Boswell: Veterinary Surgeon for the British North American Boundary Commission of 1872-76’, The Canadian Veterinary Journal 31 (1990): pp. 715-22.

S.D. Jones, Valuing Animals: Veterinarians and their Patients in Modern America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)

RCVS Knowledge, an independent charity associated with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). http://rcvsknowledgelibraryblog.org/page/2/

University of Edinburgh, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/vet/about/history/clyde-street

Birmingham City archives

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Lib-Central-Archives-and-Heritage%2FPageLayout&cid=1223092755490&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FWrapper

Dr. Kim Price

Robert Bevan: banking, wealth & respectability in Victorian Britain.

Robert Cooper Lee Bevan

Robert Cooper Lee Bevan by William Boxall (painted c. 1850)

(Copyright unknown. See image source 1)

Robert Cooper Lee Bevan (1809-1890) is one of the wealthiest members of our cohort. When he died in 1890 his unsettled personal property was valued at £953,382.11s.11d. This figure is not a simple measure of his wealth as it excludes landed property and any property settled on his heirs. He certainly owned such property; for example, John Bateman’s Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland (1876) records that in 1873 he owned 3,913 acres of land in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Hampshire, worth £3,576 a year. In addition he owned houses in London and Brighton, and a villa at Cannes. However, if imperfect, his probate valuation does reflect his position in the top echelons of Victorian society – there were only around 250 probate valuations of over £500,000 made in the period 1880-99; Bevan, it would seem, was a member of the late nineteenth-century 1%.

 

Trent Park

Trent Park, New Barnet – Bevan’s estate.

(Copyright unknown. See image source 2)

How did Bevan accrue this vast fortune? Partly it came from inheritance. He was the eldest son of David Bevan (1774-1846). David Bevan’s own considerable wealth rested partly on his position as a partner in the Quaker private banking firm of Barclay, Bevan & Co. This was the oldest surviving Quaker bank in London, having been founded in 1690. However, it was also based on his marriage to Favell Lee, daughter of the wealthy slave owner and merchant Robert Cooper Lee. Robert’s wealth also came from the growth of Barclay, Bevan & Co. Robert joined the bank as a partner in 1830 when his father had to retire following a paralytic seizure. He was an active partner for fifty years, and a silent partner from 1880-1890. During this sixty-year period the bank’s profits tripled and by 1890 it was the second largest London bank.

This considerable wealth placed Bevan and his family in very different circumstances to the majority of the professionals examined by this project. This is reflected by the activities and marriages of his children. Robert Cooper Lee Bevan married twice. First, in 1836 he married Lady Agneta Elisabeth Yorke (1811-51), daughter of Admiral Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke, the second son of Charles Yorke who was Solicitor General in the 1750s and 1760s and Lord Chancellor in 1770. Agneta’s brother, Charles, became 4th Earl of Hardwicke in 1834. Robert and Agneta had seven children: Sydney (1838-1901), Francis (1840-1919), Lucy (1841-45), Alice (1843-1923), Wilfred (1846-1905), Roland (1848-1923) and Edith (1850-1929). Agneta died in 1851, and in 1856 Robert married Emma Frances Shuttleworth (1827-1909), who was a translator of German verse and a writer of hymns. She was the daughter of Philip Nicholas Shuttleworth (1782-1842) Bishop of Chichester and Warden of New College, Oxford. Robert and Emma had nine children: Ada (1857-1861), Anthony (1859-1933), Hubert (1860-1939), Millicent (1862-1946), Gladys (1865-1947), Gwendolen (1866-1937), Edwyn (1870-1943), Enid (1872-1954) and Nesta (1875-1960).

Of his sixteen children, fourteen survived into adulthood. Of those fourteen, twelve married, many into elite families. Edith married William Middleton Campbell (1849-1919), an extremely wealthy West India merchant from a family of merchants and slave owners (his grandfather had been awarded over £80,000 compensation following the abolition of slavery in 1833). Edith and William’s son, Norman Robert Campbell (1880-1949) became a noted physicist and philosopher of science. Roland married Agneta Olivia Fitzgerald (1850-1940) the daughter of Arthur Fitzgerald Kinnaird, 10th Lord Kinnaird of Inchture and 2nd Baron Kinnaird of Rossie (1814-87), a banker, Liberal MP for Perth (1837-9, 1852-78) and an eminent philanthropist. Gwendolen married Ion Grant Neville Keith-Falconer (1856-87) an Arabic scholar and son of Francis Alexander Keith-Falconer, eighth earl of Kintore (1828-1880).

A number of the children and their spouses left considerable fortunes, albeit none as large as that left by Robert Cooper Lee Bevan himself. Anthony’s probate valuation was £135,242.8s.2d. and Wilfrid’s £275,186.3s.10d. Wilfrid followed his father into banking as a partner of Barclay, Bevan & Co. Anthony was a notable orientalist and biblical scholar and a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Seven of the other Bevan children’s probate valuations were over £10,000. William Middleton Campbell, Edith’s husband, was valued at £711,389.0s.10d.

The Bevan family were one of the few families among out cohort that had close relations with the aristocracy, and these marriages and probate valuations reveal that the Bevans were part of the elite of Victorian society rather than part of the middle classes. Interestingly, two other members of our cohort married into the Bevan family. Thomas Pyper (1818-1902), the vicar of Lyminster in Sussex, married Theodosia Bevan (1829-86) the daughter of Richard Bevan (1788-1870) who was Robert Cooper Lee Bevan’s uncle. James Naesmyth (1827-96), son of cohort member John Murray Naesmyth, 2nd Baronet Posso (1803-76), married Agnes Carus-Wilson Bevan (1856-1924). Agnes was the daughter of David Barclay Bevan (1813-98) who was, in turn, the brother of Robert Cooper Lee Bevan.

The Bevans, however, are interesting for more than just their social connections and wealth. Robert Cooper Lee Bevan came from a family that had originally been Quakers. However, the Bevan family had been expelled when his grandfather, Silvanus Bevan (1743-1830) had married a non-Quaker. Despite this, the family remained closely linked to a network of Quaker bankers who included the Barclays, Gurneys, Lloyds and Galtons. Barclay, Bevan & Co. were at the centre of a network of Quaker and ex-Quaker country banks that provided much needed support and solidity during banking crises in the nineteenth century. For example, during the financial crisis of 1824-5, Barclay, Bevan & Co. co-ordinated assistance to banking firms short on accessible funds but otherwise sound, allowing them to survive while numerous insolvent banks outside this network failed.

 

Barclays Bank Lombard Street

Barclay’s Bank, Lombard Street

(Copyright unknown. See image source 3)

Bevan’s children allow us to consider what the second generation of a wealthy mid-nineteenth-century family did with the resources available to them. Five of the surviving fourteen children pursued careers of their own. They all entered the professions. Francis and Roland became bankers and partners in Barclay, Bevan & Co. Francis succeeded his father as senior partner in 1890 and was the first chairman of the new corporate entity, Barclay & Co., created in 1896 out of the merger of Barclay, Bevan & Co. with several other banks. Two of Robert and Emma’s sons, Anthony and Edwyn, were scholars of some repute. As noted above, Anthony was an orientalist and biblical scholar, while Edwyn was an historian of ancient Greece and a philosopher. Edwyn is an interesting case. For the first thirty years after leaving New College, Oxford, he lived as an independent scholar. However, in 1921 he lost a great deal on the stock exchange in 1921 and, thus, at the age of fifty one had to look for paid work for the first time. King’s College London offered him a post as a lecturer in Hellenistic history and literature. He held this post from 1922 to 1933, when increasing deafness forced him to retire. A legacy from King’s allowed him to retire and concentrate on problems of religion and philosophy. His case is notable both for the financial trouble even the wealthy could experience in the early twentieth century and for the ease in which these troubles were negotiated.

There is one striking exception to the general picture of wealthy respectability of the Bevan family. The youngest daughter of Robert and Emma, Nesta used her considerable inheritance to fund two round-the-world trips. While in India, on the second of these trips, she met Arthur Templer Webster (1865-1942), they married in May 1904.

 

Nesta Webster

Nesta Webster

(Copyright unknown. See image source 4)

So far, so unremarkable. However, in 1910 she read the letters of the comtesse de Sabran, a French aristocrat, written during the French Revolution. This convinced Nesta that she was a reincarnation of someone who had lived through that period and she began to write on the French Revolution. One of her publications was The French Revolution: a Study in Democracy (1919). In this she developed a conspiracy theory which saw the influence of ‘Illuminated Freemasonry’ driving and directing not just the French Revolution, but all revolutionary activities throughout history. The ‘discovery’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, convinced Webster that Jews directed this conspiracy. She maintained this conviction even after the Protocols were revealed as a forgery. In 1921 she published World Revolution: the Plot Against Civilization, this described the continuing ‘Judaeo-Masonic’ plot based on international finance. This conspiracy had, supposedly, been most seen most recently in the Bolshevik revolution.

 

Nesta Webster World Revolution

Nesta Webster’s World Revolution (1921).

(Copyright unknown. See image source 5)

She later wrote for The Patriot, the newspaper run by the Alan Ian Percy, the anti-Semitic 8th duke of Northumberland, in 1938-9 she penned a series of articles on ‘Germany and England’ that outlined her admiration for Hitler and the new Nazi state. However, her admiration for Hitler ended in August 1939 with the Nazi-Soviet pact, which she believed revealed Hitler as a dupe of the very Judeo-Masonic-Socialist powers he claimed to act against. She retains a strong following among conspiracy theorists and antisemites, as searching for her in google will quickly reveal. Her ODNB biographer sums her up rather well: ‘This entirely unremarkable woman has proved to be a lasting example of the fact that the most extreme and unreal views, even when naïvely expressed, can find a ready response in those political areas that thrive on the myth of a world plot.’

The Bevans were an extremely rich family who were far from representative of our professional cohort as a whole. Few of our other families married into the gentry and aristocracy and few produced anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. The information presented in this entry derives mainly from census, parish and probate records, supplemented by secondary sources on banking as well as ODNB entries for a number of the family members. The particulars of their family dynamics, marriage patterns or how Nesta came to hold such repellent views will hopefully become clearer as we delve deeper into their history.

By Dr. Harry Smith 

 

Sources

Images:

(1)http://trees.ancestry.co.uk/tree/24287338/person/12803170631/media/2?pgnum=1&pg=0&pgpl=pid%7cpgNum [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(2)http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Trent_Park_House#mediaviewer/File:Trent_Park_House,_London_N14_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1671443.jpg) [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(3)http://viewfinder.english-heritage.org.uk/search/reference.aspx?uid=211536&index=48&mainQuery=Lombard%20Street&searchType=all&form=home)[Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(4)http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/webster_career.html) [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(5)http://www.abjpress.com/world_revolution.jpg  [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

 

 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entries for:

Robert Cooper Lee Bevan

Emma Francis Bevan

Francis Augustus Bevan

Anthony Ashley Bevan

Edwyn Robert Bevan

Nesta Helen Webster

Margaret Ackrill and Leslie Hannah, Barclays: The Business of Banking, 1690-1996 (Cambridge, 2001).

New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836)

Beyond Jute: dynasty and diversity in Dundee

The diversity of the British Isles has continually engaged politicians, analysts and academics, fuelling fierce debates. Recently, the Scottish referendum on independence highlighted the contrasts and commonalities between, particularly, England and Scotland. Moreover, it raised the issue of intra-regional dissimilitude; the depth of difference within Scotland itself. There were variations in voting and opinions about independence that manifested in distinct preferences within certain places, such as Dundee; a city with a population that voted with a relatively strong majority for Yes. What those voting trends mean for present-day Scottish politics and society is beyond the ambit of this historical project about Victorian professions. Nonetheless, the emotive politics give an immediate indication of the regional challenges facing our study, which also underpins the subject of this post: Dundee.

Over one hundred Dundee professionals have been drawn from the 1851 census (a full list of the Dundee cohort can be seen here . We have then attempted to trace their parents (and grandparents where possible), together with their children and grandchildren. Subjects and themes become apparent as networks and family trees are formed. However, given the national and regional contrasts, described above, a central question immediately bubbles to the surface: Does our Dundee cohort reflect wider trends in the Victorian professions – and, if it does, to what extent? We need to know if the Dundee cohort of professional men, taken from the 1851 census, is emblematic of (or contrastive with) wider British, Scottish, Angus or Dundee trends. Distinctly Scottish themes need to be teased apart from those of England and Wales. We therefore need to garner information and data on the local, national and international ties of Dundee professionals.

New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836)

New Exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate (1836); copyright unknown, reproduced with the kind permission of ElectricScotland

 

The history of Dundee is a fascinating mix of seafaring, politics, industry and manufacturing. A historical tour of the Victorian landscape would not be complete without making reference to the jute industry, which – forgive the pun – is weaved throughout our Dundee cohort. To name but a few of the interested parties, fortunes were made by merchants, bankers and entrepreneurs. Yet, an over-focus on the jute industry can block out the range of professional life within Dundee City and its suburban conurbations. As such, a future post will discuss the long shadow of the jute industry on the professions in Dundee. This post will instead focus on professional life beyond the oft-lamented mono-history of employment in this important Scottish city. The joining of the Brodie and Paul families in 1855 therefore provides an unusual glimpse into professional life in nineteenth-century Dundee.

In this post, George Brodie (1802-1860) is our cohort member. The son of a Harbourmaster (John Brodie), the censuses of 1841 and 1851 denote George’s occupation as ‘Auctioneer’. This reflects a surprising fluidity across generations of Dundee professionals. Tight circles of movers and shakers influenced Dundee, with some families forging effective dynasties, but they and their offspring pursued a wide variety of careers. While not strictly a profession, auctioneers were part of a growing commercial class, of which some sections were moving towards professional status. The Dundee Directory of 1850 describes George as ‘auctioneer, appraiser and commission agent’. His business address was in Reform Street, but he and his family resided in Union Street. Between the 1841 and 1851 censuses, George moved the family to Edinburgh, while he lodged at Union Street in Dundee. He died in 1860, but seems to have left a comfortable annuity for his widow, Elisabeth, and their seven surviving children. Elisabeth (maiden name, Winlack), became head of the family. Their servants decreased from three to one, but Elisabeth managed to retain a single servant over the three decades of her life as a widow. According to the censuses, the family moved several times, before settling in Lanarkshire between 1871 and 1881. Two of the daughters, Cecelia and Georgina, remained with their mother. They had no occupation and died as spinsters – although Cecilia became head of the household after Elisabeth’s death, and remained so for the next two decades. Their income came from George’s legacy (possibly increased by investment) and regular boarders in their house. Three further daughters, Jessie, Margaret and Helen, are presumed married; but, as yet, we have not identified their husbands, nor traced their married lives. The two remaining children, George and Elisabeth (to confuse matters), brought the family’s fortunes into a new era, under the wing of an old and established profession: the law.

George Brodie (junior) also lived with his mother until her death. He then migrated to London, where he was documented as a lodger in the censuses of 1891 and 1901. He had veered away from the more risky commercial exploits of his father (and the seamanship of his grandfather) to pursue the relative financial security and assured status of a legal career. George was educated at home, before taking an appointment in a ‘lawyer’s office’ in Edinburgh at the end of the 1850s. His career then progressed from a legal clerk to ‘writer and notary’, before he emerged in London as a fully-fledged solicitor in the 1891 census. The contrasts between migration to and from Scotland remain to be seen in this study, but Dundee does not seem to present a brain-drain. George seems to be going against the traffic of migrating professionals into the city in the mid- to late-Victorian period. His ambitions seem to have taken precedent. He remained a bachelor, with no known children.

George’s elder sister, Elisabeth, had meanwhile married Archibald Paul (1829-1885) in 1855. It is not clear if this marriage aided George’s career, but it seems reasonable to assume that it was not an impediment, given Archibald’s success. In 1850, Archibald was a writer for a legal firm in Castle Street, Dundee. Ten years later, he had progressed to solicitor, working at another office in the same street. By 1871, Archibald was a ‘Procurator Fiscal’ and Elisabeth’s occupation was named as ‘Procurator’s Wife’ in the census of that year, hinting at the status of this role. We have no image of Archibald, but there are many extant paintings of various procurators fiscal, including John Boyd Baxter, who we will return to in a subsequent post about the powerful Baxter family.

 John Boyd Baxter (1796–1882),

John Boyd Baxter (1796–1882), Procurator Fiscal of Farfarshire by Daniel Macnee, 1881;reproduced with the kind permission of Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection (Dundee City Council)

 

The procurator fiscal is a uniquely Scottish post. Although the term itself has origins in Roman law and Latin, the Scottish legal system and use of the procurators is something altogether different. For our Victorian professionals, it compounds the importance of local context. Scottish law differs greatly from its English counterpart. For example, there is no coroner in Scotland. The Procurator Fiscal is the public prosecutor responsible for the investigation of crime, and all sudden, suspicious or unexplained deaths. There is no equivalent in England and Wales. Scotland has led the Western world in legal medicine, creating a whole spectrum of legal practice within its borders in the nineteenth century. For example, the Edinburgh professor, Andrew Duncan (1744-1828), coined the term ‘medical jurisprudence’. Moreover, in 1856, knowledge of forensic medicine became essential for entry to the Faculty of Advocates (one of the most important professional bodies in Scottish legal practice). The use of medicine and forensic expertise in the courts impacted on the education and career structures of legal professionals in Scotland. It also created a range of legal fees, and a salaried post, that provided income for legal practitioners that would not have been available elsewhere. This rich and complex history has left a legacy. Today, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee have become centres of expertise in forensic medicine.

The Dundee directory of 1882 further underpins the success of Archibald, who served as Procurator Fiscal and become a partner in one of the city’s legal practices, Paul, Dickie & Paul. Small wonder, then, that by the 1880s his health had become a growing concern. What kind of physiological ailment – whether it was mental or physical morbidity – is unclear from the 1881 census, but it lists Archibald as a boarder in a hydropathic centre in Stirlingshire, along with Elisabeth and two of their children. Their choice of care provider provides an insight into another aspect of nineteenth-century Scotland that interplays with our professional cohort. Given the district (Logie) we can surmise that Archibald stayed in the Bridge of Allan hydropathic centre, notable for Robert Louis Stevenson’s annual visits. It was also listed in Dr Thomas Linn’s international guide to hydropathic centres.

 Bridge of Allan Hydropathic

Bridge of Allan Hydropathic; reproduced from Library of Congress, no known restrictions on reproduction

 

Hydrotherapy was a semi-medical experience for much of the nineteenth century. As Janet Oppenheim has said, ‘hydropathic practitioners stressed the inextricable links that bound the nervous system to every bodily tissue’. It thus became the treatment of choice for professionals suffering from mental breakdown, depression and nervous disorders. These were places of rest and convalescence, generally associated with healthy living and abstinence (particularly, from alcohol and pharmaceuticals). Nonetheless, hydrotherapy was big business. It evolved into an indulgence of the professional and middle classes. Hydro-centres became forms of conspicuous consumption and health tourism; expensive and lavish hotel complexes set in beautifully bucolic landscapes. Turkish (Roman) baths, steam rooms and plunge pools typically formed the internal workings of a complex, while days were spent on scripture reading, religious attention, walking in fresh air and socialising.

Although the Paul family’s experience at Bridge of Allan would not have been a uniquely Scottish phenomenon, the industrial scale of hydrotherapy in Scotland was unusual. It was constructing water therapy centres disproportionately for its population size and in comparison to the rest of the British Isles. By 1891 there were 63 hydro centres in Britain, 20 of which were in Scotland. James Bradley, Marguerite Dupree and Alistair Durie observed of Scotland, ‘…between 1875 and 1884 over half of the total capital mobilized in the service sector can be attributed to the fourteen hydropathic establishments that were limited liability companies.’ Archibald and Elisabeth were therefore archetypal consumers for a health and leisure industry, which was at the height of its provision. Yet, over-investment and over-expansion was to lead to the rapid decline of the hydropathic industry in Scotland within a few years of their stay.

Whatever the reason for their hydrotherapy, Archibald died of heart disease in 1884 aged 56 years old. Elisabeth lived a further 16 years before her death at the age of 65. Together, they had 10 children. Of their three surviving sons, two went into law and the third became a commission agent. It seems to have been a life well-lived for Archibald, the son of a coachman and, Elisabeth, the daughter of an auctioneer. Nonetheless, despite a shaping of their own destinies, the experiences of the Brodie and Paul families reflect an intricate relationship with Scotland and Dundee.

 By Dr. Kim Price

 

Further Reading and Sources

 

Bradley, M. Dupree and A. Durie, ‘Taking the Water-Cure: The Hydropathic Movement in Scotland, 1840-1940’, Business and Economic History, 26, 2 (1977): pp. 426-37.

 

Bridge of Allan Hydropathic, Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001703595/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Dundee Directories, transcribed and hosted by Friends of Dundee City Archives http://www.fdca.org.uk/Dundee_Directories.html [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Dr Thomas Linn, Where to Send Patients Abroad for Mineral and Other Water Cures and Climatic Treatment (George S. Davis: Michigan, 1894), The Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/wheretosendpati00linngoog [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

New exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate, from Charles Mackie’s, Historical Description of the Town of Dundee (1836) http://www.electricscotland.com/history/dundee/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

Oppenheim, ‘Shattered Nerves’: Doctors, Patients, and Depression in Victorian England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

 

Photographs of Nineteenth-Century Dundee, http://photopolis.dundeecity.gov.uk/ [Accessed 29/01/2015]

 

D.J. Pounder, ‘Law and Forensic Medicine in Scotland’, The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 14, 4 (1993): pp. 340-49.

 

K.D. Watson, Forensic Medicine in Western Society: A History (Routledge: London, 2011).