Archive for August, 2014

In an earlier article I told of Simeon Grisdale Senior and finished with his death in Crouch End, Islington in 1825, just weeks after he had been released from debtors’ prison. Here I want to tell of his son Simeon, ‘a most systematic rogue’, of his continual movements, changes of occupation, his repeated bigamy and his spells in jail. There are still some mysteries about his life and the fate of some of his children, plus I don’t even know exactly where and when he died, but I hope it’s still an interesting tale. He was a rogue indeed but I can’t help warming to him.

Broughton, Hants

Broughton, Hants

As mentioned in my earler article titled Simeon Grisdale – bankruptcy and debtors’ prison,  Simeon Grisdale Junior was born in Houghton in Hampshire in 1805. His father, Simeon Senior, was the village baker and chandler and the younger Simeon grew up in rural Hampshire with his younger sister Mary. Whether Simeon Senior’s wife Ruth and his two grown or almost grown children accompanied him to London isn’t known. Maybe they stayed in Hampshire. In any case the next we hear of young Simeon is in June 1830 when he married Ann Jearam in the next door Hampshire village of Broughton. Three children followed: Mary in 1834, William in 1836 (both born in Broughton) and then Simeon in 1839. Baby Simeon died the next year in Over Wallop, Hampshire. But the children were not christened in either of  the Church of England churches in Houghton or Broughton, where the family were living. Instead they were baptized in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the ancient city of Salisbury, Simeon being said to be a labourer. The theme of Wesleyan Methodism will reappear later.

By 1841 the family had moved to Waight’s Terrace in Southampton and Simeon was a brewer. Perhaps the family stayed in Southampton during the 1840s, but in 1850 Simeon’s long career of bigamy starts. On 25 December 1850, while still married to Ann (she died in Clerkenwell, London in 1867), Simeon married Mary Ann Scott in Chelmsford in Essex, a long way from Hampshire. The circumstances leading to this marriage are, I’m afraid, lost forever, as indeed is Mary Ann Scott’s subsequent fate. I can find no trace of any of the family in the 1851 census, which is strange. Whatever the case, Simeon’s bigamous marriage to Mary Ann didn’t last long. Maybe she discovered he was already married? Maybe, though most unlikely, he went back to his family for a while.

But we do know what Simeon was up to in 1851. The Oxford Journal on 6 September 1851 contained the following report:

IMPOSTER –

On Monday last a man, named Simeon Grisdale, was sentenced to three months imprisonment and hard labour, as a rogue and vagabond, under the following circumstances, detailed in evidence by Mr. Parsons, a grocer, of this town, to whom great praise is due for his promptness in bringing to justice a most systematic rogue. In August last the accused called called upon Mr. Parsons and passed himself off as a local preacher attached to the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion, who was deputed to collect contributions in aid of a fund for building a chapel at a place called Stanford, to which pretended object it appeared, by a collecting book which he presented, a great number of parties in various places had subscribed. Mr. Parsons contributed a sum, but having found out subsequently such particulars as left no doubt that he had been imposed on, he procured a search warrant, and with a constable proceed to Oxford, where he heard the man was, and forthwith apprehended him, when he directly confessed his guilt. At a house where he was living portions of books were found, by which it appeared that he had visited most towns in Berks, Oxon etc, and had drawn upon the public to the tune of £40 or £50, and to such purposes he had changed the locality of the pretended chapel from place to placer as circumstances rendered it necessary. The accused had no defense to make.

Meadvale in 1955

Meadvale in 1955

Having most likely been released from prison in December 1851, Simeon, as we will see, arrived in Harefield in Middlesex to ‘open a school’. There he met Mary Ann Clarke, the daughter of Harefield carpenter Thomas Clarke and his wife Ann. In July of that year he married Mary Ann at the registrar’s office in Uxbridge in Middlesex. You have to say he got around.  He stayed with this Mary Ann a bit longer. They had four children together: Margaret in 1855 in Hounslow, Middlesex, Benomi (?) in 1857 in Heston (a suburb of Hounslow), Ruth in 1859 in Speldhurst (Tunbridge Wells) in Kent and Simeon in 1859 in Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey. Son Simeon died aged only six weeks. We can imply that during all these years Simeon was trying his hand at running private schools, though continually moving from place to place.

Certainly when he moved to Meadvale in Redhill in Surrey in 1858 or 1859 he and his wife did become schoolmaster and mistress! They are listed as such in the 1861 census. A far cry maybe from labouring, brewing, obtaining money under false pretenses and God knows what else.

Meadvale was known in the 19th century as Meads Hole. The name means meadowland hollow. Here not only dwellings but also pottery businesses scattered over the common land — some kilns remain. The major hamlet had two butchers, a baker, a draper, a tailor and a grocer’s shop. The first school was held in the village hall with a fee of one penny a week for each child. At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a tanner’s yard adjoining Earlswood Common which was pasture, not park, at the southern entrance to Meadvale.

Perhaps their school was ‘in the village hall’?

Things seemed to be going well for Simeon. But no, he had obviously not repented of his ways – bigamy and collecting money for fictitious Methodist chapels. In September 1862 various newspapers all over the country reported his activities,. This one is from the Kentish Chronicle on 6 September 1862:

A SCHOOLMASTER COMMITTED FOR BIGAMY –

Samuel Russell, alias Simeon Grisdale, a schoolmaster and a Wesleyan local preacher, was brought up Monday last before the Tunbridge bench of magistrates charged with marrying a female named Fanny Kingwood in April last, his former wife being then alive. Fanny Kingwood stated that in Apri, 1862, she was living at Reigate Heath, and the prisoner was living at Redhill, about three miles distant. She became acquainted with him by his coming to see her master for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions. She understood he was a single man, and went by the name of Samuel Russell. After several months’ courtship he induced her, on 5th April, to go to London with him, and the ceremony of marriage was gone through at York Street Chapel, Walworth. Ann Clarke, the wife of Thomas Clarke, carpenter of Harefield, Middlesex, said she had known the prisoner for ten years. He went to Harfield and opened a school, and shortly afterwards became acquainted with her daughter, Mary Ann Clarke, to whom he was married at the registrar’s office at Uxbridge, nearly ten years ago. He was married in the name of Simneon Grisdale. Her daughter was still alive. The prisoner, on being cautioned in the usual way, said, “All that I have to say is, I am truly sorry for it.” He was committed for trial at the ensuing assizes at Maidstone.

As we will see it’s doubtful  that Simeon was ‘truly sorry’.  In any case  on 29 November 1862 Simeon was tried at Maidstone Court in Kent for bigamy and sentenced to four years imprisonment.

Maidstone Prison

Maidstone Prison

Before I continue with Simeon, what became of his (legal) wife Ann and their children? Sometime in the 1850s they had moved to London. In 1861 wife Ann Grisdale (nee Jearam) was a Seamstress living at 36 Chapel Street in Clerkenwell. So too was her recently widowed young ‘Dress Maker’ daughter Mary Midson (nee Grisdale). Son William was nearby working as a ‘Pot Man’ i.e. a glass washer at the British Queen pub off Canonbury Square in Islington.

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

St Laurence, Upton, Slough

Returning to bigamist Simeon Grisdale. If he completed his full four year sentence (probably in Maidstone Prison) he would have been free at the end of 1866. His first and legal wife Ann died in London in the first quarter of 1867. Did Simeon know? Did he care? We don’t know. We might also conclude that his marriage to Fanny Kingwood had been annulled on his conviction for bigamy. Whether he was still married to Mary Ann Clarke is not known.

Yet on the 9 February 1867 Simeon married again in the Buckinghamshire village of Upton near Slough, this time his wife was widow Maria Compton (nee Stevens). Given the timing it’s quite likely this marriage was bigamous too. It does seem Simeon was a bit of a charmer and ladies’ man! He settled down with Maria and several stepchildren in Upton and he now became a greengrocer (and possibly a draper too). One son was born in 1868, who Simeon again called Simeon – third time lucky. This Simeon, who will be the subject of  a subsequent article, survived, but Simeon’s marriage to Maria Compton didn’t.

By 1871 the family had moved to Acton in Middlesex (now part of London), but they weren’t living together. Simeon is listed in the 1871 census as a greengrocer living at 5 Windmill Terrace on Turnpike Road with his young son Simeon. His wife Maria was living at 4 prospect Terrace on Park Road, working as a laundress, with three of her Compton children plus son Simeon Grisdale – he was recorded twice, both with his father and mother!

But Simeon couldn’t do without a wife. Oh no, he had to marry again, and again bigamously. On 30 November 1873 he married Margaret Mary Downie in Christ Church, in the south London area of Southwark.

And here  the ‘most systematic rogue’ Simeon Grisdale simply disappears. I can find no trace of his death. In 1881 the wife Maria was still in London but said she was a widow, so I guess Simeon died sometime in the 1870s after a full life indeed: from labourer to brewer to schoolmaster, to prisoner to greengrocer; with six wives and multiple bigamies behind him!

Later I will tell of Simeon Grisdale the third, who became a soldier, went to Ireland then to the North West Frontier in India and, well into his forties, fought in the First World War.

bigamy

In my own Grisdale family line we find the usual array of professions: yeoman farmer, blacksmith and carpenter for example. But it has always intrigued me that my third great grandfather, William Grisdale, was a Dancing Master in and around Penrith for about sixty years. Luckily William’s teaching, his Balls and his dancing school were repeatedly reported in the Cumbrian press and thus we can get just a flavour of his life and the legacy he left.

We know that William was a Dancing Master because he is listed as such in the censuses of 1841, 1851 and 1861. He was by that time already quite old, having been born in Matterdale in 1785, the sixth and last child of Dockray blacksmith Wilfred Grisdale (1711-1795) and his second wife Ruth Slee (1759-1838). But even when he married Mary Charters in Penrith in 1815 when he was thirty he was already said to be a dancing master. As we will see he’d started this vocation even before that.

The English Dancing Master

The English Dancing Master

What was a ‘Dancing Master’?  Well as we might expect he/she was a teacher of dance. Wikipedia tells us something of the tradition:

The Dancing Master (first edition: The English Dancing Master) is a dancing manual containing the music and instructions for English Country Dance. It was published in several editions by John Playford and his successors from 1651 until c1728. The first edition contained 105 dances with single line melodies; subsequent editions introduced new songs and dances, while dropping others, and the work eventually encompassed three volumes. Dances from The Dancing Master were re-published in arrangements by Cecil Sharp in the early 20th century, and in these reconstructed forms remain popular among dancers today.

Another recent writer says:

For those of you not familiar with Playford’s The English Dancing Master (1651), it was the first collection of popular dance tunes published in the British Isles. It was published in London and sold to the English country dancing market… It was a big hit, and it remained in print through various editions until 1728. It’s not exactly traditional music. It was popular music intended for an urban audience.

The various editions were updated with the hits of the day—songs from popular plays and special music used by professional dancers. However, quite a lot of the material can be found in traditional circulation… English country dancing is first mentioned in the Elizabethan period. Some of the tunes were probably at least 100 years old when they were published. Many of the older tunes existed as songs rather than strictly dance tunes. Nowadays there are two styles of what is called “English country dancing” One is based on Playford tunes. Apparently the tunes are usually played in a style based on late 19th century classical music….

But the type of dancing William taught was more like this:

The other kind of English country dancing is the kind of dancing they do out in the country in England. This is true folk dancing, done to folk tunes played in folk style. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Playford, which has been upper-class stuff since the 17th century. John Playford (1623-1686) was a successful London music publisher. A royalist, he kept a low profile during the Commonwealth and came into political favour with the return of Charles II. He catered to the taste of the emerging bourgeois class which preferred country dancing to the more formal galliards and other formal dances popular with the nobility before the Civil War. His business was carried on by his son Henry. The actual title of the work was: The English Dancing Master, or, Plaine and easie Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with the Tune to each Dance.

From where had William acquired his love of dancing? How had he started to teach? To be honest I have no idea. None of his ancestors and, with one exception, none of his descendants or relatives had anything to do with dancing. William had moved from Matterdale to Penrith sometime prior to his marriage in 1815. The couple had at least nine children. Perhaps William at first followed his father’s profession as a blacksmith or maybe he worked as a carpenter as did many of his family? If he did he didn’t stay at it long before starting to teach dancing which was obviously the love of his life.

As I mentioned, there are dozens of newspaper reports telling of  William Grisdale the Dancing Master, they span several decades. Basically what William did was move from town to town teaching young people to dance. paid for by their parents, and then a Ball would be staged to show off the results. All the reports tell of the great success of these balls and how they were a great credit to Mr. Grisdale, who as he gets older is sometimes refers to as Professor Grisdale or, more often, ‘the patriarchal dancing master’. Here are just a few of my favourites:

Carlisle Journal 13 June 1851

BALL – The merry little village of Wreay was, on thursday evening week, the scene of much gaiety and pleasure. Mr. Wm. Grisdale upon whose head seventy years have shone, has been endeavouring for some time past to fashion the young limbs of  “fair maidens and buxom lads” of the village and surrounding neighbourhood to the graceful evolutions of the mazy dance, and his labours, which have been followed by most decided success, were brought to a close with a ball on the above evening. Rarely, if ever, has so gay and numerous an assemblage of plump, rosy-checked lasses and lish, hardy, light-hearted youths, been gathered together under the hospitable roof of  “old Sally” . The”kings and queens” discharged their duties with true dignity; and the “hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,” in which cross-the-buckle, the double-shuffle and the “cut,”  were all rendered in first rate primitive style, reflect much credit upon both Mr. Grisdale and his pupils. The “bow dance,” however, was the great attraction of the evening, and in finery and gracefulness would succumb to few of our more posturing dances. The young ones having finished their spree, the older folk, inspired by the fire of early days, took possession of the floor, and kept up the pleasure of the ball until the grey mists of morning warned them to depart, which they did with hearts filled with joy.

Wreay, Cumberland

Wreay, Cumberland

Two years later on 16 December 1853 the same newspaper reported:

Dancing School Ball – Mr William Grisdale the patriarchal dancing master, held his ball at the house of Mr Thomas Furness, of Loangwathby… Mr Grisdale is upwards of 74 years of age (sic); yet, though his head is silverd o’ver by time he appears as “lish” and active as ever. He has taught dancing for upwards of half a century, and has always kept within a twenty mile circuit of Penrith, so that at the present time there are few middle aged women in the district who were not his pupils in early life . He has taught three generations. He taught the grandmothers of some of the young misses who were recently his pupils in Longwathby.

And then on 14 April 1854:

Old William Grisdale the patriarchal dancing master, has now a dancing school in Penrith Town head. He is teaching the fourth generation, having taught the great grandfathers and great grandmothers of some of his present pupils.

Naval cadets dancing a hornpipe

Naval cadets dancing a hornpipe

William was still a dancing master in 1861, aged 76, and might have continued somewhat longer. So it seems that William had brought ‘joy’ to four generations of his Cumbrian dancing pupils over a period of about sixty years. He had his fair share of tragedy too – two of his daughter died quite young – but he led a life doing what he wanted to do. Sometime in the 1860s William had to stop his teaching, possibly due too ill health, and the sad fact is that he had to enter Penrith’s workhouse where he died on 30 May 1866, his death only getting two lines in the Carlisle Journal that had followed him for decades. His wife Mary died two years later.

Just a few words on William’s family.  In the early nineteenth century his older brother Wilfred (b 1782) had moved to Carlisle and from there he emigrated with his family to Canada, just after William’s marriage, there to found a veritable Grisdale dynasty in Canada and the United States.

Another brother Gideon (b 1777) moved to London and became a jeweller; his daughter Elizabeth ‘Minnie’ Grisdale first became a ballet dancer at the Drury Lane Theatre in London before marrying a famous painter, moved to Boston and then returned as a widow to hawk fish in Falmouth! Perhaps Minnie had been influenced by her dancing uncle William?

Wilfred Grisdale, William's son

Wilfred Grisdale, William’s son

There is much to tell of William’s children. I’ll only highlight a couple of them. Their son Wilfred (1815-1893) was a carpenter. The family story is that Wilfred loved horses. The picture I have included here might suggest that. He married twice and had eleven children, one being my great grandmother Agnes Grisdale. Another son, also called William, emigrated to Australia in 1853 with his wife and child and there had many adventures.

It’s not much of a story I know, but I just love to think of William teaching country dancing to the good youngsters of Cumberland and Westmorland in the nineteenth century. Perhaps he even knew Levi Grisdale, the landlord of the local tavern called the General Lefebvre. Levi was much more famous, but he and William were related, both being descended from Joseph Grisdale and Agnes Dockray of Dowthwaite Head in Matterdale. I guess we’ll never know.

Having left Boston four days before the cruise liner Prince David struck ‘Northeast Breaker Reef’ on the 13th of March 1932, while just twelve miles and two hours from its destination of St. George’s in Bermuda. All the eighty-seven passengers and crew on board were safely rowed in lifeboats to the nearby ship Lady Somers. Most of the vacationers were from New England but also onboard was Canadian Dr Joseph Hiram Grisdale, who had recently resigned as Canada’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture for health reasons. Travelling alone, Joseph was said to be ‘on his way to Bermuda for his health and intended staying there for some time’.

I will write more at a later date about Joseph’s life, but the shipwreck story is interesting, so I’ll start there. Edward Harris, the director of the Bermuda National Museum, writes:

Prince David in Vancouver in 1930

Prince David in Vancouver in 1930

As the Great Depression of 1929—39 was beginning, the shipping subsidiary of the Canadian National Railways, the Canadian National Steamships, ordered three identical passenger liners from the Cammell Laird works at Birkenhead, near the great maritime city of Liverpool.

The three were of a royal strain, being duly knighted Prince David, Prince Henry and Prince Robert, and were intended for luxury service on the Canadian west coast, operating out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Alas, the Depression put paid to that concept and after brief service in those parts, two of the vessels were transferred to the Canadian Maritimes in the east, for service to Bermuda and the West Indies.

The two ships were placed on a regular cruise service to Bermuda from St John and Boston, berthing in St George’s, and it was planned the pair would operate to Bermuda for several months, with departures each Friday and Sunday.

The first departure was taken by Prince Henry, which departed Boston on 25 February, followed on 27 February by Prince David, with 122 passengers on board.

 

Prince David in Bermuda in January 1932

Prince David in Bermuda in January 1932

The cruise on which Joseph Grisdale was sailing was only the second the Prince David had made to Bermuda.

On 14 March 1932 The Ottawa Evening Journal reported:

St George Harbour, Bermuda

St George Harbour, Bermuda

HAMILTON, Bermuda, March 13.

The Canadian National steamship, Prince David, struck a reef two hours out of St. George’s today, forced the evacuation of her 87 passengers, and several hours later was sinking.

The accident was blamed on poor visibility in a blinding rain, storm, and occurred just before the Prince David picked up her pilot. According to passengers, the vessel was making a speed of about 23 knots when the accident happened. The third officer was on the bridge at the time, passengers reported, and all were ordered immediately to don life preservers.

The life boats were lowered quickly while an SOS was sent to the Lady Somers. When all the’ passengers had been taken off the Prince David was listing badly. The Lady Somers, fearful of entering the channel, stood by three miles out while passengers and crew alike worked at the oars. They rowed for an hour and a half in rough sea before reaching the Lady Somers.

Chief Steward Kerr of the Prince David was praised highly by passengers for his work in the transfer of passengers. All were brought safely aboard the Lady Somers and then taken ashore.

The transfer was accomplished without any serious Injury to any of the passengers or crew. It was 11 a.m. when the 3.072-ton vessel bearing 87 vacation-minded passengers from Boston for St. Georges, was brought up sharply upon the reef. Ships officers calmly directed and assisted passengers in donning lifebelts and soon lifeboats were -swung over the side and the long pull started to the Lady Somers.

Later, it was said by passengers, that there was little commotion as the majestic liner was abandoned. True to the traditions of the sea, Captain A. & McKay was the last man leave… the listing vessel. Captain McKay and two engineers remained aboard surveying the situation…  Most of the passengers of the ill-fated Prince David were New England holiday-seekers. The only Canadians known to be aboard were Dr. J. H. Grisdale, former Dominion Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Murphy, Toronto.

There are many others reports in Canadian newspapers telling that Dr Grisdale had survived the wreck.

One passenger, Maxine Morgan, reported to the newspapers:

Lady Somers

Lady Somers

HAMILTON. Bermuda. March 13.

The Prince David struck a reef today, and we all had to take to the lifeboats to complete a pleasure trip to Bermuda from Boston. It was about two o’clock when the ship was brought up abruptly against a reef. The third officer got into action immediately, while the rest of us were trying to figure out what happened… My mother and I adjusted belts, as did the other men and women passengers. There was no great commotion although I guess we were all very excited. While the process of adjusting our belts was going on, the crew of the Prince David was busy getting ready the lifeboats. Soon we were told to get into them. There was no chance to collect wraps or personal baggage. I went into the lifeboat with my mother, and neither of us had a chance to go to our staterooms and collect our effects. Other women and men were in the same predicament.

After we got into the lifeboats, we were lowered into a rough sea- and then the task of rowing to the steamer Lady Somers was started. As we pulled away from the Prince David, she seemed to be listing badly. We were told after we reached land that the craft was sinking slowly. The ride out to the Lady Somers, which apparently did not venture into our position for fear of meeting the same fate, was not a pleasant one but the men passengers in the boat proved good seamen and took a hand at the oars. It took about an hour and a half before we reached the Lady Somers, which made the trip down here from Boston the same day we Jeff-last Friday.

The man whom I think was the hero of the whole affair was the chief purser. Kerr is his name. He was efficient, gentle and courageous and certainly helped us women a great deal. Most of the passengers said the same thing about him: The Lady Somers brought us all safely ashore the only thing we missed, especially, the ladies, was a change of apparel. Tonight we had hopes that some of our effect might be saved before the ship sinks.

Lady Somers

Lady Somers

The timing of the ship hitting the reef varies in the various newspaper reports. More recently marine historian Piers Plowman in A Century of Passenger Liners to Bermuda  wrote:

St George Bermuda in 1930s

St George Bermuda in 1930s

On the morning of Sunday, 13 March 1932, Prince David on its second cruise was approaching Bermuda in heavy rain causing poor visibility.

Shortly before noon the Island hove into sight, and the officers on the bridge estimated their position from the radio direction finder, as they had done the first time the ship cruised to Bermuda.

Unfortunately, only days previously the Bermuda radio direction equipment had been moved from its original position near St George’s to ‘Eagles Nest’ in Devonshire, but the captain of Prince David was either unaware of this, or forgot.

The result was that, instead of following a course that would bring them safely to the entrance of the channel through the reef, the ship was several miles off course.

At 12.40pm it struck one rock, went over it and then became firmly lodged on a second rock that formed part of the reef near North Rock.

An SOS message was immediately sent, being picked up ashore, and also by Lady Somers, which was also approaching the Island from Boston.

An hour after the ship went aground, the rain stopped, but a strong wind sprang up from the south west, which soon whipped up a heavy sea, preventing Lady Somers, or the tugs that had rushed to the scene from St George’s approaching the grounded ship.

At first there seemed little danger, and passengers were served their lunch in the dining room as usual.

During the afternoon Prince David began to sink by the stern, and as the tide began to fall, also began listing to starboard.

This increased concern for the safety of the 84 passengers, resulting in them being placed in the lifeboats, along with some members of the crew, and transferred to Lady Somers.

Eventually at low tide Prince David was listing at 45 degrees, and the stern had disappeared beneath the water, only the captain and four officers remaining on board.

The five officers remained with the ship throughout the next day, but rising seas on the evening of 14 March forced them to decide to abandon the ship too.

A group of St George’s men, including some pilots, manned a small boat to rescue the officers. Battling strong squalls and heavy seas, the boat took three and a half hours to reach Prince David, at 2am on 15 March.

By then the men on the stricken ship were numb with cold, and it was a major task to rescue them, but at last all five were safely on board the small boat.

The voyage back to St George’s was as difficult as the outward trip, the small launch battling huge seas that threatened to swamp it at any moment. It was 5am before the boat finally tied up at Market Wharf.

When the weather moderated, divers were sent out to examine the hull of the ship. They found much of the bottom plating at the forward end of the ship had been torn off, and it was awash to B Deck aft.

It was thought the ship would be a total loss, but it was held firmly on the reef by the bow, and it was thought she might be saved.

Salvagers later determined that the cheapest course was to turn the Prince David back to her owners, Canadian National Steamships, who eventually got her off, refitted her and sent her back for another four years’ service. Later she served throughout the war before being broken up at Swansea in 1951.

The United States declared war on Britain in 1812 when all Britain’s attention was focussed on, and resources stretched, fighting Napoleon’s French, who had subjugated much of Europe. Many factors were involved but essentially it was an attempt by the Americans to grab more or all of British North America (Canada) while Britain was occupied elsewhere. So Britain had to fight a war on two fronts, on either side of the Atlantic. It’s a long and fascinating story, at one point the British captured Washington D.C. and burnt the White House; the Americans were only saved by a huge storm which forced the British to withdraw. The war dragged on the two and a half years before being formally ended by the Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 1814, although fighting continued into early 1815.

Throughout all this time the Royal Navy was actively involved, blockading the American coast, fighting American ships and landing troops on the coasts. One young Royal navy Lieutenant involved in all of this was a certain Charles Grisdale. Charles was most likely involved when a fleet of some 30 warships sailed out of Negril Bay, Jamaica on 26 November, 1814. ‘The fleet under command of Admiral Cochrane moved into the Gulf of Mexico ready to attack New Orleans. Cochrane’s fleet was transporting 14,450 British troops who had recently been fighting in the Napoleonic wars in France and Spain.’

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of New Orleans. January 1815

Perhaps Charles Grisdale was injured at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, whatever the case shortly thereafter Charles was back in Jamaica where he boarded the ‘postal packet’ Princess Mary bound for Falmouth in England.

But shortly after leaving Jamaica the ship ‘experienced the most dreadful weather’, in fact a ‘hurricane’, during which it ‘was struck by lightning… by which Lieutenant Charles Grisdale, of the Royal Navy, was killed, and several of the crew seriously injured’.

Princess Mary

Princess Mary

The newspapers reported the ‘instantaneous’ death after the Princess Mary arrived in England and mentioned Charles’ father, the Reverend Benjamin Grisdale of Withington in Gloucestershire. When Benjamin and his family heard of Charles death in their Rectory in Withington they must have been devastated. Whether Charles was buried at sea or brought back to England I don’t know, I presume the former.

Charles was only twenty-two and Benjamin’s first born child. He was named after Benjamin’s close friend General Charles Cornwallis, the commander of the British forces which had surrendered to George Washington’s Americans at Yorktown in 1781. Benjamin had been a long-time chaplain in the British Army and served throughout the American War of Independence; he was with Cornwallis at Yorktown. I wrote about him in a story called Rev Benjamin Grisdale and the siege of Yorktown 1781.

But in 1815 Benjamin still had three other living sons: Edmund (1799), Henry (1800) and William (1807), another son had died in infancy. He and his wife Elizabeth Unwin also had two daughters, all born in Withington Rectory. But before his death in 1828 aged eighty-four, Benjamin would have another tragedy. His next oldest living son, Edmund, had joined the Indian Army been made an Ensign then a Lieutenant and was shipped with his regiment to Bombay in 1819. But on 4 December 1820 Edmund died at Surat. We don’t know the circumstances of his death – I suspect he died of something like malaria rather than in battle.

Bombay 1820

Bombay 1820

Before I tell of the fate of Benjamin’s other children after his death I would like to say a little about his family and particularly that of his younger brother Browne Grisdale.

Both boys were the sons of Matterdale-born Benjamin Grisdale and his wife Anne Browne. They were born in Threlkeld, the next-door parish to Matterdale – Benjamin in 1744 and Browne in 1750. I don’t yet know which Grammar School they attended; it might have been St. Bees or Barton, or possibly Carlisle where Browne was later headmaster. But no doubt with the help of their uncle, Joseph Browne, who was both the provost of Queen’s College and the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, they both went to study to be priests at Queen’s College in Oxford.

Joseph Browne was elected Fellow 1 April 1731, and became a successful tutor; took the degree of D.D. 9 July 1743, and was presented by the college with the living of Bramshot, Hampshire, in 1746. In that year, he was appointed Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy and held that office until his death. He was instituted prebendary of Hereford Cathedral on 9 June of the same year (he was later called into residence), and on 13 February 1752 was collated to the chancellorship of the cathedral.

On 3 December 1756, Browne was elected Provost of Queen’s College. From 1759 to 1765 he held the office of Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University. He had a severe stroke of palsy 25 March 1765, and died on 17 June 1767.

In 1776, while his older brother Benjamin was still in America with the army, Browne by now a priest and schoolmaster in Carlisle, married Ann Dockray in St. Cuthbert’s church in Carlisle. Five children followed, one after the other: Joseph Browne 1777, named after the Rev Joseph Browne, Mary Ann 1778, Elizabeth 1779, John 1780 and Caroline 1782.

Carlisle Cathedral - where Browne Grisdale was Chancellor

Carlisle Cathedral – where Browne Grisdale was Chancellor

Of course this family had sprung from yeoman farming stock in Matterdale, but Browne and his brother had both gone to Oxford and entered the priesthood and so other courses were expected of their children. Both of Browne’s sons, Joseph and John, were pupils at Carlisle Grammar School where their father was first a teacher and then headmaster. Browne himself later became the Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle and a powerful local Justice of the Peace.

Son Joseph entered the army and became a Lieutenant in the 17th Regiment of Foot, which was posted to the island of Minorca in 1800 as part of the long struggle with Napoleon. And there he died in early 1801, aged just twenty-three. In April 1801 an announcement appeared in The Monthly Magazine which, under ‘Deaths Abroad’, reported:

At Minorca, J. B. Grisdale, esq, lieutenant in the 17th regiment of foot, much lamented by his brother officers.

I wrote of Joseph in a story called Death in Minorca.

Browne’s younger son John on leaving Carlisle Grammar School (where he was a bit of a star) had gone to Christ’s College, Cambridge and won the second highest prize in mathematics. John had first entered Trinity College in 1799 but switched the following year to Christ’s. His decision to move to Christ’s was probably connected with Dr William Paley. Paley had graduated from Christ’s in 1763 as “senior wrangler”, became a tutor at Christ’s and since 1782 had been Archdeacon of Carlisle Cathedral and a colleague and friend of John’s father Browne Grisdale.

I told John’s story in an article called Alas how false our hopes! – the short life of John Grisdale.

Christ's College, Cambridge

Christ’s College, Cambridge

Not to repeat the story here, but John became at lawyer in Lincoln’s Inn in London but died suddenly ‘in his office’ there in 1812, aged just thirty-two. His father Browne, the Chancellor of Carlisle, died two years later

Withington Rectory where Benjamin Grisdale lived

Withington Rectory where Benjamin Grisdale lived

Down in Gloucestershire, Browne’s brother Benjamin, the Rector of Withington, would have heard of his nephews’ deaths with sadness. But then as we have seen he was soon to experience the deaths of two of his own sons: Royal Navy officer Charles returning from Jamaica in 1815 and army officer Edmund in Bombay in 1820.

What became of Benjamin’s other sons – Henry and William?

Henry followed a career path I don’t yet know, but on 27 June 1829 the Oxford Journal reported that ’an inquest was held at Withington, Gloucestershire, by Joseph Mountain, gent. coroner, on the 10th..  (for) Mr. Henry Grisdale, who, in a fit of temporary insanity, destroyed himself with a razor’

When I get a copye of the inquest report we will know more of Henry and his suicide.

After attending Rugby School youngest son William had followed his father and uncle and studied at Queen’s College, Oxford. He became a curate at Cubberley in Gloucestershire where his brother-in-law William Hicks was Rector. (William Hicks had married Mary Grisdale in 1833.) But in August 1841 William died in Cubberley Rectory aged just thirty-four – I don’t know the circumstances.

Cubberley Church

Cubberley Church

So the upshot of all this tragedy and death is that not one of the six sons of the ‘successful’ cleric brothers, Benjamin and Browne Grisdale, had survived long enough to have families of their own! There are no descendants bearing the Grisdale name.

On another occasion I might tell something of the daughters. Brown’s daughter Mary Anne married the Reverend Walter Fletcher who became Browne Grisdale’s successor as Chancellor of Carlisle. Benjamin’s daughter Mary married the Rev William Hicks of Cubberley as already mentioned.

When I came across a story printed in the London Standard on 29 December 1845 concerning a collision of two steamers off the west coast of India I was intrigued. One of the ships, the Parsee, which was carrying a very large load of opium and treasure, was commanded by Captain Grisdale. So which Captain Grisdale was this? I will tell you later, but first the short story.

The sources for this story are the report in the London Standard plus various other reports in the Indian press. I would like to acknowledge the collation of these reports by marine salvager Pascal Kainic who I will quote:

A steamer like the Parsee

A steamer like the Parsee

‘The “Parsee” was a little steamer employed in the East India country trade, owned by Messrs. Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy, Sons & Co. and commanded by captain Griesdale. She was totally lost by a collision  with the “Sir James Rivett Carnac”, captain P. Duverger, a vessel employed in the same service, but fortunately without loss of life.

The “Carnac” was on her way from Bombay to Tankaria Bunder and the “Parsee” was returning by the same route, with a cargo of 525 opium chests, valued at three lakhs of rupees, as well as a large number of native passengers on board; she had taken 45 when she touched at Surat. The collision took place in about 20° north of latitude, and 12 miles from the shore, about 11 o’clock at night, on 29th of October, in about 17 fathoms of water.

The night was fearfully dark and excepting the watch, all hands were asleep. It would appear that as both vessels had lights hung out, each was aware of the presence of the other, but unfortunately by mistake or ignorance , both altered their course in the same direction, and in consequence  the “Carnac” ran into the “Parsee”  on the starboard side, just abaft the foremast, cutting her side completely through.

The foremast of the “Parsee” was carried away by the bowsprit of the “Carnac” and immediately fell on the deck among the passengers, but providentially without hurting anyone. It was at once perceived that the fate of the “Parsee” was sealed, and her passengers and crew took advantage of the contact of the vessels to rush on board the “Carnac” for safety.

No time was lost in saving the whole of the passengers  and crew, consisting of 70 souls; and just as the last man stepped out of her, the little steamer sank.

The injury done to the steamer “Carnac” is trifling, her bowsprit was split and the bows injured.

She is undergoing the necessary repairs to enable her starting this day, 20th November, in prosecution of her voyage. This is the first collision in the Indian Seas.’

The London Standard also reported that £31,500 of coins was also lost.

Chines Opium Den

Chines Opium Den

The British East India Company had wanted to find a way to pay for what they bought in China other than using silver. It hit upon the idea of taking opium grown in India to use to pay the Chinese. Large sections of the Chinese became opium addicts and Britain and France fought various Opium Wars with the Chinese to keep the trade open. The East India Company declared a monopoly on the trade in India which was pretty solid in Bengal and Calcutta but in the west their control was much less and various local Parsi merchants got in on the act. Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy, the owner of the two steamers which collided, was one of these Parsis,  hence the name Parsee, the ship commanded by Captain Grisdale. The other ship was named after a former Governor of Bombay Sir James Rivett Carnac.

The whole history of this opium trade is fascinating but I’ll leave it here.

So who was Captain Grisdale who had lost his ship and his opium? Was he perhaps Whitehaven-born Captain Joseph Grisdale who became a China Tea Clipper captain and died in Shanghai in 1859? Well I think not because Joseph only got his Master’s certificate in 1851.

That leaves only one possibility: Captain Grisdale was the Workington-born mariner Edward Grisdale who had been part of the crew of the convict ship Numa taking convicts to Sydney. He married one of the female convicts in Parramatta Female Factory in 1835. He then became a steamer Captain operating out of Tasmania before disappearing from the records. I wrote a story called Edward Grisdale’s convict wedding at Parramatta and one about his father called Ferrying Troops and emigrants – Captain Edward Grisdale of Workington.

So it was Workington-born Edward who was part of the India to China opium trade. Didn’t the family get around!

Workington Harbour

Workington Harbour

“Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.”

On 26 February 1836 a twenty-two year old Cumberland lead miner called John Greenwell stepped ashore in the Australian penal colony of Sydney from the convict ship Susan. The voyage had taken 114 days and there had been a serious outbreak of scurvy which had taken the lives of several convicts. John knew he would never return to England as he was a convicted murderer. At his trial for murder in Appleby in Westmorland John was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but at the last minute this was commuted to transportation to Australia for life. And who had John killed? The answer is that he had repeatedly stabbed Thomas Grisdale of Patterdale, the son of local Hartsop Hall farmer Robert Grisdale, and Thomas had died of his wounds within the hour.

Before I tell the full story of Thomas Grisdale’s murder let us say something of the circumstances. John Greenwell was a lead miner in the Greenside ‘silver-lead’ mine in Patterdale. He had been born in 1814 in another lead mining village – Alston in Cumberland – but the Greenside mine was flourishing and miners like John came from all over to work there. The miners lived in appalling conditions in the mine ‘lodging shops’.

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Greenside Lead Mine in Patterdale

Before there was a smelting mill at Greenside ‘the metal, after being washed, was put into bag holding about 1 cwt. each. The whole was carted to Penrith, where it was met by a string of horses and carts and conveyed to Alston, where it was smelted, and eventually from there put on the market’. The miners only got paid twice a year; they had to go to the Angel Inn in Penrith ‘where the agent (Mr. Errington) attended to pay the men’.

The miners, some accompanied by their wives, used to walk into Penrith. Others came by boat to Pooley, there being no ‘ Raven ‘ or ‘ Lady of the Lake ‘ in those days; whilst others came in carts — conveyances, or light carts as they were called, being very scarce in the country at that time.

From there they would head back to Patterdale to settle their bills in the mine’s ‘shop’ and of course to spend a lot in the local inns.

Mr. Cant’s shop on Patterdale miners’ pay day used to be like a fair, almost all the miners being supplied with provisions by him throughout the six months, their ‘better halves’ putting in an appearance on pay days to straighten up their shop bill.

It was after one of these pay days that John Greenwell and some of his mining friends were drinking in the White Lion Inn in Patterdale ‘Township’.

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

Patterdale Township circa 1900. The White Lion is on the left

The later Rector of Patterdale, the Rev W. P. Morris, wrote in The Records of Patterdale in 1903:

These pay visits continued until the year 1835, when a serious misfortune took place at Patterdale amongst some of the miners. It was always surmised that there was a little jealousy amongst the natives, and a parishioner was stabbed to death. The sad affair took place on a Sunday night (March 8th, 1835), when two miners, one named Joseph Bainbridge and the other Greenwell, both natives of Alston, had been down into what is termed the ‘Township’ (in the White Lion Inn), and whilst there had got into a quarrel with some of the residents. After dark they started for the mines, and whilst traversing one of the lanes leading out of Patterdale, they went into the dyke to cut themselves each a thick stick to provide weapons of defence should their assailants trouble them again. While in the hedge someone approached, and Greenwell, thinking it was one of their opponents, rushed out at him and stabbed him in the abdomen with the clasp-knife he was using. He turned out not to be a miner at all, but a young parishioner returning to his home. The two miners were tried at Appleby Spring Assizes in the year 1836 (actually 1835). Bainbridge was acquitted and Greenwell was sentenced to death, but was reprieved and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Greenwell was a quiet young man about 20 years of age, of light build, and bore an excellent character. Bainbridge was a powerful fellow, a kind-hearted chap, but rather rough in his manner, and somewhat quarrelsome when he had any drink. After his release he went into Durham to work in the coal pits, and I have heard my brother John, who lived at Hartlepool, say that he was one of the best coal hewers in the county. After the affair the officials thought it prudent and more safe to pay the men at the mines and not bring them into Penrith, hence the abandonment of Patterdale pay days at Penrith.

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

The White Lion Inn (left) in about 1900

But is this what really happened? It was not. There are many reports describing the trial and the testimony of the witnesses called. Here is just one published in 1836 in The Annual Register… of the year 1835. It gives the full story.

13 March – Murder – Appleby – John Greenwell was indicted for the willful murder of Thomas Grisdale at Patterdale on the 8th March. George Greenhill disposed that on the Sunday preceding he and the deceased went to the White Lion public-house in Patterdale. There were many persons in the house, and among them a young man named Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell. There was a great deal of noise, but the deceased was very quiet and took no part in it. Greenwell quarrelled with a man named Rothey, and they had a little fight or scuffle for about five minutes. They both went down on the floor. The deceased lifted them up, and seemed desirous to part them. After they had got up, Bainbridge and the prisoner Greenwell said they would fight any two men in the dale. The deceased said very good-naturedly, that if it was day-light he would take both of them, and he would then in the house, if anybody would see fair play. After this Bainbridge and Greenwell became so troublesome, that the landlord put them out. In the course of a little time the latter returned, and was again thrust out, but in these matters the deceased did not interfere. In the mean time the witness and two lads went out of the house with the deceased. Soon after, they saw Bainbridge call Greenwell to the end of the house, and they procured each a stick, about a yard long, and a little thicker than a walking stick. They came running towards these three, who ran out of their way for some distance, when the deceased, having not retreated awhile, said, “I have not melt (meddled) with them, why should I run away?” and stopped. The witness ran on about twenty yards further, and then stopped also. On turning his head, he saw the prisoner Greenwell run up to the deceased, and make a push at his belly, and then at his breast near the neck. The deceased seized the prisoner by the collar and pushed him away, and then put one hand to his belly, and the other to his breast, saying, “Oh Lord, I’m killed, he has stabbed me.” Witness and his companions then ran up to him, and the prisoner ran away. They soon after found the prisoner lying besides the wood, and told him to get up and go before them to the King’s Arms public-house in Patterdale. Being afraid of him, they told him to throw away what he had, and he threw a pipe from his pocket. They followed him, and he was taken into custody. The next morning a knife was found at the place where the prisoner had lain down, which was bloody. It appeared in subsequent evidence that the knife belonged to Bainbridge, but had been borrowed by the prisoner just before the commission of the fatal deed. A surgeon was sent for to the deceased, who was taken to the White Lion, where he died in three quarters of an hour. John Chapman and Thomas Chapman, two witnesses who were with Greenhill, corroborated his testimony, which also confirmed as to several points by other witnesses, without varying the general features of the case. The surgeon stated that either of the wounds was sufficient to cause death, and he could not state which was in fact the cause of the death as distinct from the other. In summing up the evidence the learned Judge defined the distinction between murder and manslaughter upon provocation, and put before them all the circumstances in the case which had any tendency to justify the more merciful conclusion; but after a short retirement the jury found the prisoner Guilty of wilful murder. Sentence of death was then pronounced upon the prisoner, and the execution ordered to take place the following Monday.

Obviously the Judge was somewhat sympathetic toward Greenwell and before the coming Monday he was reprieved and sentenced to life in penal servitude in Australia.

Hartsop Hall

Hartsop Hall

Thomas’s Hartsop Hall ‘respectable’ farming family was devastated, their son was only twenty-seven. He was, reported the Kendal Mercury, ‘… sober in his habits… extensively known and greatly esteemed’. They buried him in Patterdale Churchyard, ‘close to where the old church stood’, on March 12th, 1835, erecting a tombstone which reads:

To the memory of Thomas, son of Robert and Elizabeth Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, who was brutally murdered by an unprovoked assassin on the evening of Sunday, March 8th, 1835, aged 27 years.

It continues:

 By man’s worst crime he fell and not his own, Belov’d he lived and dying left a name, With which his parents mark this votive stone, The grief is theirs, th’ assassin bears the shame. Better to sleep tho’ in an early grave, Than like the murder’r Cain exist a banished slave.

Patterdale Church in1805

Patterdale Church in1805

For more about the family see The Grisdales of Patterdale and Hartsop and From Matterdale to Alberta – the story of the English past of one Canadian Grisdale family and Robert Grisdale’s Escape. And what of John Greenwell, the ‘murder’r Cain’, who would lead his life like a ‘banished slave’? After his reprieve from death, John would have first spent some time in prison in Westmorland before being sent to a hellish Prison Hulk anchored at Woolwich outside London (see here for a Grisdale-related story of Prison Hulks). The surgeon of the convict ship Susan, Thomas Galloway, kept a Medical Journal from 12 September 1835 to 26 February 1836. He tells us ‘of the three hundred convicts embarked, 200 were taken on board at Woolwich and 100 at Sheerness’, before departing from Portsmouth for Australia on 16 October 1835 –  it arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney) on 7 February 1836 with 294 male prisoners aboard.

Early convict ship like the Susan

Early convict ship like the Susan

Galloway tells both of the scurvy and that: ‘There were several men who had very recently been in Hospital for various illnesses and who concealed this at the time of the surgeon’s examination because of their desire to proceed to New South Wales. Also several old and very infirm men who had to be kept entirely on the Hospital Provision. Ophthalmia was not confined to the prisoners and several of the seamen were also affected as well as Officers of the Guard.’ As well as the 294 male convicts:

A detachment of the 28th Regiment arrived by the prison ship Susan. They were Landed at the dock yard in Sydney on Friday afternoon 12th February and marched to the barracks. The band did not meet them as was usual on such occasions. Some of the 28th who arrived on the Susan included Captain George Symons, Private James Flanagan, Private John Mooney, Private Henry Gunter, Private William Gollett, Private Walter Williams. Other convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the Charles Kerr, Westmoreland,  Marquis of Huntley,  Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye, Portsea and Lady McNaughten.

But the convicts would have had a different welcome. First an ‘indent’ was taken so that if they escaped they could be identified. John Greenwell is described as 22, 5ft 7.5 inches, of ‘ruddy’ complexion, brown hair, with eyes ‘hazel and inflamed’. He had : ‘Hairy mole right ear, mole under left ear, ears pierced for rings, mole above right elbow, three scars back little finger right hand, and three on thumb, scar cap of left knee.’ Pretty much like all Australians then! I know only a little about what happened to John, suffice it to say that in 1848 after twelve years of penal servitude he was granted a ‘conditional pardon’ by the governor of New South Wales Sir Charles Fitz Roy. He was free to stay and work at his trade in Australia but could never return to Britain. As a miner did he go off to the new gold ‘diggings’, we don’t know. And here I will end except for one thing. The two old photographs of the White Lion Inn in Patterdale where Thomas Grisdale was murdered were taken by Patterdale photographer Joseph Lowe around 1900. They are the oldest photographs of Patterdale and Joseph’s wife was Jessie Grisdale, the great granddaughter of Robert Grisdale of Hartsop Hall, murdered Thomas’s father! See Death and photographs in Patterdale.

John Greenwell's Conditional Pardon NSW 1848

John Greenwell’s Conditional Pardon NSW 1848