A portrait of him existed in 1847. It would be satisfying to fill the frame shown
The first evidence of his family was found in an Assignment of Trustees document
dated 1872. His seven-page will furnished more information of a fascinating life
William Brown was baptised on 15 May 1766 at Oakham, the county town of Rutland,
near Leicestershire. He was the third son of John and Mary (nee Maydwell) Brown who
were both from gentry farming stock - their fathers were distinguished as ‘Mr’ in
the parish records.
William had married and moved to London in his early twenties. We know this because
when John Brown snr made his will in 1812, he left £5 to his grandson, John Brown
- whose father was William. John jnr was born on 4 April 1790 and baptised at St
Mary le Bone.
William’s will, dated, 1844, mentions four surviving children -Sarah (Stimson),
James, Richard and Emma Dear (my greatx2 grandmother). By following the lives of
these children and checking parish records, details of William’s early life in London
In the census of 1861, Sarah Brown (66) said she was born at Hampstead Road, Middlesex.
This provides an address for William in 1794 and a clue to his wife’s identity. A
Sarah Brown was baptised at nearby St Mary le Bone on 5 October 1794, having been
born on 19 September. Her parents were William and Ann Brown.
James Brown was also baptised at St Mary le Bone on 24 June 1807, having been born
a month earlier on 24 May. However, his parents were William and SARAH Brown. Further
details about William at this time are provided by a deed dated 1809 which establishes
that William was a builder, living at Baker Street.
= 500 feet or 150 metres
Hampstead Road is about a mile north-east of Baker Street and to the east of Regent
Richard Brown was born to William and Sarah on 7 November 1710 and christened at
St Mary le Bone on 30 November - which was confirmed when he declared at his marriage
in 1845 that he was thirty-four years old.
Finally, Emma Brown was born on 22 July 1813 and was baptised on 3 August also at
St Mary le Bone when her parents were also recorded as William and Sarah.
From these established facts it may be inferred that William had other children between
the gaps of baptisms in the known record. However, there were more than one William
and Ann and William and Sarah couples having children baptised in this parish around
the time and so it is impossible to tell which progeny were born to my ancestors.
Naming patterns are of no help. But it seems certain that William’s wife, Ann, died
- probably in the early 1800’s - but again several Ann Browns died locally then and
in the absence of other information, it cannot be determined when Ann died
Because William Brown (and also Sarah and Ann) are common names and as the venue
of his marriages cannot be discovered - whether at Oakham or in the sprawl of London,
or indeed elsewhere - I have not been able to discover his wives’ maiden names or
details of the marriages. Sarah Brown probably died before the 1841 census as she
is not recorded in it. Because William moved around London and because Sarah Brown
is such a common name, it is impossible to pinpoint where and when she died. (But
bn 4 April 1790
bn 19 Sept 1794
bn 24 May 1807
bn 7 Nov 1810
bn 22 July 1813
William Brown’s homes
From parish records of baptisms, deeds of property transactions and William’s will,
it is possible to track his movements around London.
As already noted, William was at Hampstead Road in 1794 and at Baker Street in 1809.
By 1825, he had moved to Hoxton Fields, to the south of Hackney and that same year
he had moved again to Felix Street, Bethnal Green (see later). In 1833, William took
the lease of a property at Lea Bridge, Clapton.
William’s signature in 1809, 1821 and 1825
William Brown’s financial dealings
In his will, William alluded to his purchase of a piece of ‘freehold and hereditaments
situate on the south side and abutting north on the Commercial Road in the hamlet
of Ratcliff in the parish of Saint Dunstan, Stepney....which I purchased in 1805
from the Commissioners of the road’. He leased this property to Richard Ward for
999 years at £2 pa. The approximate location was somewhere along the red line shown
below. It was about a quarter of a mile north of the Thames, and just west of Limehouse.
Four years later, on 30 June 1809, William bought a lease for 94¼ years from the
Duke of Bedford at £6 12/- per annum, payable in four equal instalments per year.
The property was a coach house and stable measuring twenty-four feet by thirty feet
at 4 Gower Mews, St George in Bloomsbury - which was located between Tottenham Court
Road and the British Museum and was about a mile east of his home at Baker Street.
As the clipping below illustrates, William still used the stables in 1817.
William’s father, John Brown, died at Oakham in 1814 and left William £100 in his
will. By 1825, he had amassed a large sum of money because he purchased a triangle
of land at the junction of Felix Street and Cambridge Circus, Hackney Road, Bethnal
Green that included the newly-erected Duke of Cambridge tavern (at 25 Felix Street)
which was ‘being built in December 1823’. The lease cost £2,200.
The plot of land was described as being ‘at the north-east extremity of a field commonly
called Mr Brown’s field (not William Brown!) being at the corner of Cambridge Circus
and Felix Street which Felix Street runs down on the south side of the Hackney Road
at the eastern extremity thereof near the Cambridge Heath turnpike running 114 feet
on the east and west sides thereof’.
After acquiring the lease to the Duke of Cambridge for almost 58 years (the original
lease was for 60 years from 1823), William immediately sold it on - to John Field
for 25 years on 15 August 1825; to the victualler Frederick Crawley for 21 years
from 1850 on 26 May 1846 and to victualler John Smith for 11¾ years from 1871 on
30 June 1848.
He and his heirs received £52 10/- rent each year for the pub or around £3,045 in
total. In addition to this, the surrounding land also had some value.
William’s next piece of business, on 30 August 1833, was to buy a sixty-year lease
for to the land and newly built house near Lea Bridge Road (see diagram above). The
annual rent was £38.
There were other pieces of business dealings - but it is only William’s will that
discloses some of their details: three more pubs were leased: the Bridport Arms,
Bridport Place, New North Road, Hoxton; The Globe, Chart Street, East Road, St Leonard,
Shoreditch and the Three Cups tavern at Bow.
The will of William Brown
William’s will was originally drawn up on 17 April 1844 when he was still living
at Lea Bridge. His executors were his son, James Brown and his friend, Charles Coley.
The will contains considerable information about William’s family and property, as
The property at Commercial Road, Ratcliffe (see above) to son James Brown and heirs.
The Bridport Arms to son James Brown
The Glob, Shoreditch to son Richard Brown
The Three Cups, Bow - income from this to be paid to daughter Sarah Stimson (wife
of Sherman) and then to her children on her death.
The Duke of Cambridge, Bethnal Green - income from this to be paid to daughter Emma
Dear (wife of Frederick) and then to her children on her death.
£100 was to be invested by his executors in public funds and the dividends to be
paid to sister Sarah Rawlings, wife of Richard of Oakham, ‘for her sole and separate
use free from the debts of her present or any future husband’. On her death, the
dividends were to be paid to her children.
Nineteen guineas were to be paid to William’s executors ‘for their trouble’.
Sarah Stimson and Emma Dear were to be given £20 ‘for their mourning’.
Each of William’s four children - James, Richard, Sarah and Emma - were to have two
of his eight tablespoons.
Sarah Stimson was to have six teaspoons and sugar tongs.
Emma Dear was to have four teaspoons and sugar tongs.
James Brown was bequeathed a metal cased watch.
James and Richard Brown were left William’s wearing apparel.
The residue of his estate was to be divided equally between his children, James,
Richard, Sarah and Emma.
In a codicil dated 20 December 1847, William noted that his proposed executor, Charles
Coley had died and stated that Sarah Stimson, now a widow, should replace him. Sarah
was also to have William’s portrait.
If one can tell the man by the company he keeps, some information about Charles Coley
may be pertinent.
Charles was about eight years younger than William. He died and was buried at St
James, St Pancras on 14 August, 1847.
In his will (wherein William is not mentioned), Charles is described as formerly
a wine and brandy merchant of Tuffnell Place, Holloway, North London - formerly of
He held the leasehold tavern, The Fox, Old Paradise Row, Islington. He also owned
the houses at 10-12 Upper Street, Islington, 4 Tuffnell Place, Holloway, 26 and 27
Hunningford Terrace, Islington, 4 Church Row and 2 Allsop Place, Marylebone.
Of William’s children
James Brown was born on 24 May 1807 and was living with his father at Lea Bridge
in 1851. He returned to his family’s roots, marrying Mary Ann Royce (born 1815, Oakham,
Rutland) at Oakham in 1850.
In 1861, the couple were living at Northgate Street, Oakham. James was described
as a ‘Proprietor of homes’. When James died and was buried in the town on 10 April
1871, his effects were valued at under £2,000.
Mary Ann continued to live in Northgate Street, receiving dividends until she also
died and was buried at Oakham on 7 March 1896. Her effects were valued at £748.
Sarah Brown was born on 19 September 1794 and married Sherman Stimson (who was also
born at Oakham) on 27 December 1821 at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. The couple had two
sons, Sherman Brown Stimson (born 1823 at Oakham) and William (born 1827 at Shoreditch).
In 1827, Sherman was described as a victualler of Great Chart Street, Shoreditch
- and so he was also described in 1862.
In 1841, Sarah and Sherman were living at Jubilee Street, Mile End, Stepney where
Sherman was a ‘merchant’. He died in 1845. Sarah was living at 8 Seymour Crescent,
Somers Town, St Pancras in 1851 and ten years later, at 2 Brunswick Place, Islington.
On each occasion she was noted as a ‘Proprietor of houses’.
Sarah died at Brighton in July 1870.
Sarah and Sherman’s only known grand-daughter, Edith Ruddock (nee Stimson) was living
at Portsmouth in 1901 with her mother.
Richard Brown was born on 7 November 1810 and married Elizabeth Herridge on 22 February
1845 at St Andrew, Holborn.
Apart from this marriage, I have found no information about Richard.
Postscript: re: William Brown’s second marriage to Sarah
Then, an indenture, signed and dated 1 July 1872, was made between Mary Ann Brown,
widow of Oakham and Emma (nee Brown) Dear’s children - William Sidney, Frederick
George, Matilda and Alfred Samuel Dear. It referred to the leases taken by William
Brown on the Lea Bridge property in 1833 and the stables at Gower Mews in 1809.
Mary Ann Brown, James’ widow drew attention to the fact that her husband had bequeathed
his stables at Gower Mews to his sisters Sarah Stimson and and Emma Dear and also
the house at Lea Bridge with its neighbouring Pond Cottage to Emma Dear.
As both Sarah Stimson and Emma Dear had died - Emma, being intestate and leaving
leaving four children - their interest in the properties had passed to James Brown’s
widow, Mary Ann. She agreed to assign all the properties in equal shares to Emma’s
children as she believed this to be her husband’s ‘wish and intention’.
For me, the discovery of this document was exciting as it was the first sighting
of the ancestors of my great grandfather, William Sidney Dear.
William was still living at Lea Bridge in 1841 with his son James and a servant,
but five years later he moved south of the Thames to 26 Park Street, Trafalgar Road,
Greenwich. (shown right). He was still residing at Greenwich in 1848, ‘now of Union
Place East’ on the bank of the River Thames.
What follows is conjecture and is the result of some detective work. It was probable
for the reasons mentioned earlier that William had married twice. The birth dates
of two of his children born to different mothers suggested that his re-marriage took
place between 1794 and 1807. I also knew that his second wife was Sarah.
Armed with this information, could I find William’s second marriage? The obstacles
were that William Brown and indeed Sarah are common names, London was a populous
place and there is no certainty that they even married in the capital.
I therefore searched all recorded marriages of William Brown’s to Sarah’s in London
- limiting the sweep to marriages that were conducted north of the Thames where William
lived for most of his life.
I found nineteen possible marriages. It was surprisingly easy to eliminate many -
although the taught script in those times meant that several of the signature were
similar, only three showed William as a widower, as opposed to his being a bachelor.
Of these three, one William ‘marked’ rather than signed the marriage certificate
(and I knew my William was literate) and the other’s handwriting was very obviously
not that of my ancestor when compared with the three samples shown above.
The clincher was the little underlining of the ‘m’ in William found in each of the
examples shown above. (None of the other nineteen William Brown’s had underlined
the ‘m’) One of these widowed William’s had signed in like manner:
William Brown married Sarah Wilmot at St Botolph without Aldersgate on 29 February
1805. For a comparison, I have also shown William’s signature from 1821 above.
There is the bonus of a family member, William Wilmot, who signed as one of the witnesses.
My only reservation to the fact that this was my forefather’s marriage is the location
of the church - although, St Botolph was only about two miles from Marylebone, the
area in which William was residing.
The death of William Brown
The following news clipping from the Leicester Mercury, August 1849 announced the
death of William:
George Royce was a farmer of around 250 acres. He married Mary Ann Brown, William’s
niece by his brother James. George lived in the last house on the north side of Northgate
Street, Oakham - a mere 100 metres from Oakham railway station which opened in 1847.
Below is a photo of the junction of Northgate Street and
Station Road which was taken in 1860. George’s house, where William died, is behind
the wall to the extreme left.
William Brown at The Old Bailey in 1839
In 1838, there was an incident at a house on Lea Bridge Road, near William’s home,
which provides a glimpse of my ancestor’s world and character.
After dark at 21.00 on 13 December, William Palmer Smith (a solicitor’s clerk) attempted
to serve a writ on Arthur George Small, ‘a gentleman’ of Lea Bridge Road. His knock
at the door was answered by Small’s groom, William Carter who took umbrage at how
late it was in the day - ‘don’t be like a ------midnight robber’. Smith went to the
rear of the house but was thwarted by two locked, six-foot-high gates. Carter called
out dogs, climbed the gates and threatened that unless Smith left, he would ‘fire
a bullet through his ----- heart’. He pointed a pistol at Smith and at distance of
two feet, shot at him. Smith swerved and the bullet passed under his body, striking
a wall. He tried to grasp Carter who slipped back down behind the gates and shouted
that unless Smith left, he would ‘pick him off like a pigeon from a trap’. Carter
was charged with attempted murder and his trial was held at The Old Bailey on 2 January
1839. After several witnesses gave Carter a good character reference for his humanity
and general behaviour, he was sentenced to twelve months hard labour.
One of the witnesses called in the case was William Brown. His sworn statement, lodged
at The National Archives, was as follows:
“William Brown of the Lea Bridge Road, Hackney, M-sex retired builder maketh oath
and saith that on 13th December last in the evening about twenty after nine o’clock
I left Mr Jones of the Beer Shop (the British Oak Beer Shop, Lea Bridge Road which
was located about twenty-five metres west of the junction with Otley Road and was
still trading in 1904) to go home with a pint of beer in my hand. I heard a tremendous
knocking at the door of Mr Small’s house which I was informed had continued twenty
minutes, there was a voice to my left called ‘Jack, Come along’ or ‘Come away’. Jack
did not obey the call but went round to the gates which part the front ground from
the back ground and he began rattling at them as if he meant to break his way in.
The gates are six feet high, lined inside with boarding, the pales thereof pointed
tops and full of tenterhooks in all directions. The cottage is on the left of the
gates. On the right hand side of the gates to the extent of the front ground there
is a wall between six and seven feet high. On the right of the gates in the back
ground there is a stable, chaise house and tool house under one roof. There is a
lamp on the road that leads to Lea Bridge about sixty yards off but reported at the
Station House that night as not lit. Also another up the road towards Clapham 160
yards off lighted with oil not gas, no moon; no stars but a cloudy and very dark
night. I was about sixteen yards from the gates when a pistol was fired and I distinctly
saw the blaze which a discharge of powder would produce taking its course over the
stable and it is my firm opinion that if it was fired with no other intention than
to let them know he had got firearms with him.
Mr Small said to me when he had engaged the cottage to look out for him a young man
to look after his house and to manage the garden. I, knowing the prisoner to be a
steady young man, did recommend him to Mr Small and he had expressed to me since
he has been in his service how much he suited him” Wm Brown
So a little can be gleaned about William from this account – indeed, even allowing
for the strictures of making a statement, something of his manner of speech is revealed.
He was a ‘retired tradesman’ in 1838. He enjoyed a little beer in the evening, but
was only a moderate drinker. In view of his comments about Carter, he was perhaps
not exactly impartial when describing the scene of the contretemps. This conclusion
is borne out by what followed.
On 26 January 1839, a petition with more than fifty signatures was sent to Lord John
Russell at the Home Office. It was sparked by Carter being urged by his counsel to
plead guilty to minor offences rather take a chance on being ‘honourably acquitted’
when his case was heard by a jury. For this reason, a review of his case was suggested
so that ‘an innocent man’ was not punished. The first name on the petition was William’s
(followed by three other witnesses at the trial, see below). The inference must be
that William organised the petition. This was a man with a social conscience and
the wherewithal to express it.