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


© 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.


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).

University of Edinburgh, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies:

Birmingham City archives

Dr. Kim Price


Guest Post: Professional life in miniature – The Killer Cabinet Dolls’ House at the V&A Museum of Childhood

This beautiful cabinet exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood is named after the Killer family who created it in the 1830s. Ann Killer lived in Stockport with her husband, surgeon John Egerton Killer, and their children. Carefully looked after and treasured as a family heirloom, it passed to her granddaughter Rose Ellen Losh, who left it to the V&A Museum when she died in 1936.


Killer Cabinet

© V&A Museum of Childhood

The furnishings of the Killer Cabinet combine the finest craftsmanship with personal touches and home-made knick-knacks. Traces of the family can be found in every room, giving a sense of their interests, personalities and talents.

Downstairs, the parlour is cosy. The children are looking at a book of tiny sketches and poems, and an alphabet board (known as a battledore) with minute drawings representing each letter… D is for doll. The handmade sofas in this room are made of card, covered in patterned velvet with matching tasselled cushions. The round easy chairs are hand embroidered with brightly coloured silks – even the piano has been personalised with a cross-stitched panel.


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Easy chairs, footman and newspaper from the Killer Cabinet

© V&A Museum of Childhood

In the drawing room, guests sit on an elegant couch, said to be ordered especially from London by John Egerton Killer. On the table sits a copy of ‘Goody Two Shoes’ dated 1836, and a small round wooden box, with a wax portrait inside of a moustachioed man. The only clue to his identity are the initials ‘HW’ on the lid. The gaudy gold table in the corner came from Evans & Cartwright, a mass-producer of tin dolls’ house furniture, but this one has been up-cycled with gilding.

The gold continues into the bedroom next door. This bedstead is said to be a copy of one belonging to the Earl of Leicester. The daughters of the family probably sewed the tiny clothes in the basket, and somebody with good eyes and lots of patience knitted minute slippers.



Killer Cabinet Kitchen

© V&A Museum of Childhood

Back downstairs, a wealth of utensils hang on the plain grey walls of the kitchen. The ‘hastener’ is a roasting screen which stood in front of a fire as a joint turned and cooked. On the table, a spice box for cloves, nutmeg and mace sits next to a newspaper article from September 1853.

John Killer Portrait

John Egerton Killer, Surgeon (1768-1854)

© Chetham Library

John was a well-respected surgeon; thirty years before he had been instrumental in establishing the Stockport Dispensary for the Poor, and was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. Back when 16-year-old John started his apprenticeship in 1783, he undertook “to be instructed in the Art, Profession, Mystery and Business of an Apothecary”. Five decades on, the Industrial Revolution had transformed the cities of the North, and the medical profession. In 1830, the Stockport infirmary was created to provide hospital beds for workers injured in the mills.

The same year in the Killer household there were four children still at home: Jane, Mary, Frances Leigh, and Ellen, aged 8 to 14. Older siblings Sarah and John Jnr had both moved out, and three other daughters had died during childhood. The four remaining girls were old enough to complete elaborate and skilful needlework, as examples in the Cabinet demonstrate.

In 1832 John Egerton Killer retired aged 65, and moved from Stockport to Derby, where Ann’s family lived. Perhaps the Cabinet was made for this new house, as a permanent home for the dolls’ house furniture.

Over the next twenty years, John and Ann watched their daughters grow up, marry and move out. Jane and Mary had a joint wedding on 16 April 1839, both marrying solicitors. On 13 October 1847 Frances Leigh married a surgeon, William Henry Bellot, and actually moved back to Millgate Hall in Stockport. Ellen married a vicar and moved to Somerset with him in 1851. Between them, these four women had 24 children.

Frances Leigh and William Henry Bellot, or Fanny and Henry as they were known in the family, inherited the Cabinet after John Egerton Killer’s death in 1854. Henry Bellot worked as a surgeon in Stockport, but he was also a skilled painter.

Fanny had four daughters, Rose, Agnes, Amy and Sophia, and a son named Hugh. The family were wealthy, and spent their money furnishing their home in lavish Victorian style, with a mixture of treasured heirlooms and designer pieces. The Cabinet was important enough to be included in both their wills.

Henry Bellot wrote in his:

“The old oak peg fanguard belonged to the Bellot family to be bequeathed to my son… small water colour portrait by late Sister Jane also to my children Amy and Blanche. To make clear though I may repeat I state that under furniture I include the Cabinet or Dolls house to be left to Amy and Blanche”.

By the time Henry died in 1895, Amy and Blanche were in their 40s, and living together in a house in Leamington Spa. Their mother Fanny died eight years after her husband and her will is an inventory of a lifetime of collecting precious objects. This is the account of the objects left to Rose Ellen Hale Leigh Losh, her eldest daughter. It shows how sentimental and monetary value were intertwined. The precious jewellery, with sapphires and topaz stones, also evoke the language of the lapidary, which attributed a special meaning to every jewel.

“my sapphire and diamond ring, turquoise and pearl ring, gold and blue enamelled ring miniature of Mr Thyer, hair bracelet made from my Mother’s hair, gold bracelet with aqua marine stone, Mosaic brooch, Topaz brooch, small coral brooch, Canton Crape shawl, small chest of drawers formerly my father’s, brooch in memory of my father, Dresden basket, two very small Dresden cups and saucers and tea pot ornamented with forget-me-not, two Coalport cups and figure of Napoleon, two Chinese vases given to me by Miss Garrett, six cups and saucers and tea pot formerly her aunt Jane Bellot’s, my largest Chinese bowl and Dolls cabinet given to me by my husband.”

It isn’t clear whether the Cabinet went first to Amy and Blanche, or straight to Rose, but in the end Rose outlived her sisters and it was she who, in 1932, offered to leave the Cabinet in her will to the V&A Museum. When she died three years later, Rose’s husband James Severne Losh wrote to the Museum, in his heavy black handwriting, to carry out his beloved wife’s wishes:

“Can you send someone down here to see it and pack it, the person you send should see it before it is packed or it would not be known where each beautiful thing should go in each of the four rooms… I should think a woman would pack it best and to get a man to make a case for it.”

Once the Cabinet had been packed “beautifully” and dispatched, the Museum sent Mr Losh some photographs of the house set up in the Central court of the V&A. He was delighted:

“How my dear wife would have liked them [the photos]. She loved that dolls’ house and to show it to people. I shall value them much.”

Collections relating to the Killer family can be found at: John Rylands Library, University of Manchester; Chetham’s Library, Manchester; Manchester City Galleries; and Manchester Grammar School.

Exhibition details: 

by Alice Sage, Curator

V&A Museum of Childhood

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 




(1) [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(2), [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(3)[Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(4) [Last accessed 9/2/2015]

(5)  [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 [Accessed 29/01/2015]


Dundee Directories, transcribed and hosted by Friends of Dundee City Archives [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 [Accessed 29/01/2015]


New exchange and Shipping from West Dock Gate, from Charles Mackie’s, Historical Description of the Town of Dundee (1836) [Accessed 29/01/2015]


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


Photographs of Nineteenth-Century Dundee, [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).

Faith and fortune maketh the man…or, the butler did it.

Image1_AmosBarton The Rev. Amos Barton and his Family (c.1863);
by Peter Paul Marshall (Scottish, 1830-1900). Oil on panel (Copyright unknown)


In Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) the author George Eliot asks the reader how the uncharismatic Amos Barton, a curate living in 1820 in the fictional village of Shepperton on an income of £80 a year, could be expected to support a wife and 6 children and live decently in the way expected of a clergyman. Whilst clerical incomes had improved greatly across the previous century, in the 19th century there was still great disparity and they were still regarded as deficient in comparison to middle-class income generally. A typical lower middle-class income range was anywhere from £60 to £200, however many thought that an income of closer to £400 was more suitable as it would situate the clergyman in the ranks of the upper-middle-class professionals. In reality incomes for clergy were as varied as the clergy themselves and depended on parish resources. A “living” (a post for a rector or vicar) would in theory support a wife but a curate without a “living” would find this more challenging and could wait many years before a “living” became available. It was common for members of the clergy to supplement their parish incomes by taking on additional employments associated with the church such as teaching. Inheriting a private income or marrying well, although more common in fiction than reality, could of course be extremely helpful. One of the second generation clergymen in the Victorian Professions Project’s database did just that!

Robert Addison Watson (b.1847. Scarborough) was the son of a Wesleyan Minister, John Watson (b.1801. Hull) and his wife Anne (b.1812. Hickling, Nottinghamshire). Residing in Scarborough and Leeds initially, he was sent away to school in Chalcombe in Somerset. In the 1881 census he is recorded as a curate of St. Mary’s at Taunton, Somerset. He is married to Gertrude Oakes Hardstaff (b. 1858. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) – a young woman elevated by her father Henry’s significant change in fortune.

Methodist Henry Hardstaff was a man whose story could have been drawn from the pages of a Victorian novel. Born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in around 1802, only his mother’s name (Mary Hardstaff) was given on the record of his christening. Henry worked his way up the ranks of domestic servants to become the butler at Hatch Court, a substantial residence in Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset, where he served his master, William Oakes (b.1787. Kirton, Nottinghamshire) for many years.


Photograph of Hatch Court, taken c. 2000


William Oakes owned Hatch Court from 1838 until his death in 1855, aged 68. Hatch Court is a Bath-stone Palladian house built in 1750 by Thomas Prowse. Today it is Grade 1 listed and was valued at £3million back in 2000.* In his will he left his lands, tenements and estates to his much younger second wife Sarah (b.1820. Plymouth), unless that is she remarried. If she married again she would instead have £350 a year and the estate was to be given to Henry Hardstaff, his butler. Clearly widowhood didn’t suit her. Just three years later the Royal Cornwall Gazette (3 Sep 1858) reported that Sarah Oakes (now aged 41) had become Sarah Luscombe, wife of William Luscombe (b.1811. Plymouth), his Netherland’s Majesty’s Vice Consul. In 1861 they can be found living very well in Compton Hall, Plympton, Devon, accompanied by their housekeeper, lady’s maid, two servants and a footman. In addition to her £350 per annum, Sarah did get to keep the deer, horses, carriages, plate, jewels and furniture but these too were to pass to Henry Hardstaff on her death. The executor to the will of William Oakes – the person responsible for making sure this all happened – was Henry Hardstaff himself. When he died in 1872 his probate calendar entry indicates significant wealth with effects ‘under £45,000’i.e. around this figure.


Section of the will of William Oakes


From the perspective of the Victorian Professions team, what happens next is very important. How socially mobile are this family? Do the Hardstaff daughters now marry well and what do the son’s do? Of the elder children, Mary (b.1833. Shirland, Derbyshire) and Catherine Hardstaff (b.1835. Shirland, Derbyshire) were already of full age at 25 and 23 years of age when their father became a landed proprietor. Perhaps their path had already been set? Mary’s fortunes were certainly very different to the rest of her siblings. She had already married grocer and draper, Joseph Pym Turton (b.1824. Ripley, Derbyshire) in 1856 – after William Oakes’ death but before her father inherited the estate. By 1871, the census reveals, Mary and Joseph had 7 children and Joseph was employing 1 man and 1 boy in the shop. By 1891, perhaps in semi-retirement (aged 67), Joseph had become an assistant tea dealer. Their daughters by this time have been sent out to work and are a dressmaker, a small-ware dealer, hosiery runner (x 2) and a milliner’s apprentice respectively. Their remaining son is a surgical appliance maker. The eldest child, Joseph Pym jnr, had already moved on and would eventually emigrate to the US in 1881. He is found in New York in 1910 working as a contractor and in 1925 as a janitor.

In contrast, Mary’s sister Catherine married William Taunton Plowman in 1859. The 1861 census records his occupation as M.D. and General Practitioner (St. Andrews 1854; L.S.A. London 1858). He was the son of Henry Plowman, surgeon (b.1781. Dorset, England). Unfortunately he died at sea in 1865, with his death recorded in Brisbane, Australia. A couple of years earlier, The Courier (Brisbane) reported on a Supreme Court wounding case in which he gave evidence as the surgeon on board the vessel the Young Australian. According to family history sources, returning from a second voyage to Australia in 1865, he left Moreton Bay, Queensland on April 1st onboard the Fieray Star. On the 20th April he abandoned the ship in one of the boats due to a fire and was never seen again! What of William and Catherine’s children? Catherine’s daughter Frances from her first marriage was a lifelong spinster. Her son William died as a baby but she did go on to have other sons with her second husband. Her second husband was a solicitor, James A Rouse (b.1817. St. Breock, Cornwall), and together they lived a little more affluently than her elder sister’s family, with 2-3 servants to assist them. When James died in 1888, he left her an estate of almost £10,000. Their sons Randolphus (b.1872. North Curry, Somerset) and Claud Rufus Algernon (b.1876. North Curry, Somerset) then seem to have lived largely on their own means, themselves leaving healthy estates of over £9000 and £6000 respectively.

Turning to the younger Hardstaff children: Jane was 12 at the time of the inheritance and when she was twenty she married into a professional family, as her sister Catherine had done before her. She became a surgeon’s wife in 1866, marrying Richard Augustus Rouse (b.1833. Great Torrington, Devon). Richard himself was the son of a surgeon and apothecary, Richard B Rouse (b.1801. Great Torrington, Devon). Jane and Richard appear to have lived comfortably with four servants and a groom. After Richard’s death, Jane and her youngest children eventually moved back to live with her brothers at Hatch Court. Her eldest son Richard Henry became a branch bank manager but her younger children, Mary and Augustus William, lived on their own means. [Although it seems likely, it is not clear whether James and Richard Rouse were related.]

Henry Hardstaff’s fourth daughter, Martha Elizabeth (b.1857. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) was born around the time of the inheritance and married the up and coming Goodbarne Wilson (b.1855, Taunton, Somerset). Goodbarne was a bank clerk on his way to county bank manager. He was the son of a retired farmer, Rowland Francis Wilson (b.1803. Alford, Lincolnshire.) Martha and Goodbarne’s son Ralph (b.1884. St. Decumans, somerset) himself became a farmer at a young age, rather than following in his father’s footsteps. However it is possible that he inherited the farm and what he did after the 1911 census when he was only in his early twenties is unknown.

Gertrude, who we have already met earlier in this blog post, was the youngest daughter and married into a family of clergymen picked up in the Victorian Professions Project database, with whom we began this story. Robert Addison Watson was a graduate of Queens College, Oxford (M.A.) and his career in the established church brought him to Gertrude’s parish, St. Mary’s in Taunton, as the curate. A gushing description of their June wedding was given over a third of a column in the Taunton Courier in 1881. The ceremony was held at the Hardstaff family home, Hatch Court, where triumphal arches were erected. Her father already having passed away, Gertrude was given away by her brother-in-law, solicitor James Rouse. She wore a dress of ‘cream satin de merveilleux, trimmed with lace and flowers’, with a tulle veil with wreaths of orange blossoms. The presents were ‘numerous and valuable’ and included a bound volume of Tennyson’s poems, hand painted desert dishes and a handsome silver tea service. That evening the event was commemorated by a tea party provided for by the bridegroom for 160 of the poorer parishioners and chorister boys. The couple took a honeymoon in the Channel Islands, after a driving tour of Devon and Cornwall. On his return Robert continued his career, taking up a “living” as the Rector at Slaugham in Sussex. Looking at the census and their probate records, Gertrude and Robert do not appear to have had children.



Calendar of Probate entry for Gertrude Oakes Watson


It would seem that all the Hardstaff daughters married into the professions, ranging from the very well established to the newly professionalized bankers. Holding considerable assets and with an estate to manage but no need to earn a living, The Hardstaff sons could afford to live as gentlemen. It is curious that neither married. Each left a substantial estate on their death: Richard Henry (b.1856. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) left £11,201 4s. 2d. in 1891 and William Charles (b.1848. Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset) left £19391 13s. 3d. in 1898. Both estates were proved by their brother-in-law, Goodbarne Wilson, who himself left a tidy fortune.


Calendar of Probate entry for Goodbarne Wilson


Gertrude, the youngest daughter and the clergyman’s wife, seems to have inherited the heart of the Hardstaff estate. When she died in Newton Abbot in 1942, aged 84, she left £42,003 0s. 8d. to her sister Martha’s daughter, Gertrude Victoria Rouse, wife of bank manager Herbert Forster Whitley (b.1874. Bath, Somerset), whose own name pops up frequently in the families probate bequests. Henry Hardstaff’s eldest daughter, Mary, who became the draper’s wife, isn’t found in the probate records and neither is her husband. Perhaps she had little of note to leave.

by Dr. Alison C. Kay


* Hatch Court is a Bath-stone Palladian house built in 1750 by Thomas Prowse and is now a Grade 1 listed property. Advertised for sale in 2000*, it was priced at £3million and described as having 9 bedrooms, numerous bathrooms, dressing rooms and an orangery, along with 33 acres. Its TV credits include the BBC’s Sense and Sensibility. Hatch Court was sold by the Hardstaff family in 1899. A full description of can be found on the Images of England website: [Last accessed on 8/1/2015]. [Last accessed on 8/1/2015].


Useful links

TNA link to the will of William Oakes: [Last accessed on 8/1/2015).


William Taunton Plowman:

The Courier (Brisbane), Wednesday 19 August, 1863. (Last accessed via Trove Digitised Newspapers on 8/1/2015).

Fire on the Fieray Star (Last accessed on 8/1/2015)


Wedding of Gertrude Hardstaff and Robert Addison Watson in the Taunton Courier: ‘Fashionable Marriage at Hatch Beauchamp’ , Taunton Courier, 29 June, 1881, p.6). (Last accessed via, 8/1/2015).

About this project

This three-year research project, beginning in January 2014, will investigate whether during the Victorian period the professions formed a distinct self-sustaining social group with its own mores and values.

With the advent of family history websites and social media it is possible to determine for the first time by studying families across several generations if professional families generally intermarried and whether children entered professions rather than chose careers in enterprise. We have included, unlike some commentators, the army and navy and civil service alongside the old professions of church, law and medicine. We will also seek to discover if the new professions which emerge during the Victorian period, such as accountants, architects, bankers, engineers and teachers, are also colonised by children from professional backgrounds.

A good deal hangs on these arguments as it has become fashionable in contemporary politics to attack the professions as being inimical to economic development because as a group they espouse social welfare values.

The research will focus on a sample of 1,000 professional people drawn from the 1851 census for Alnwick, Brighton, Bristol, Dundee, Greenock, Leeds, Merthyr Tydfil, Morpeth and Winchester. We have chosen these towns because they are geographically far apart and have different characteristics.

You will find lists of the people we have selected on the people page on our website. If you know about the family histories of any of these people, we are keen to hear from you. We are interested in any papers, photographs or memorials you may know of. If your family includes professional people and is from these towns, but not in the sample we would also like to hear from you.

Information about who we are and how we can be contacted can be found on the who we are page in the blog. The research project is funded by the UK Economic & Social Research Council and based at the Universities of Oxford and Northumbria.