Tag Archives: Weston

Anne Coperthwaite – a family brick wall

West Horsley Place
Photo by Colin Smith via Wikimedia Commons

When you hit a brick wall with one of your ancestors it can be helpful to write down their story as if you are telling it to an interested family member. By recording the facts you do have, together with the sources for them, you can be sure of what you know, and by making clear where the blanks are it will help you decide where to look for the answers.

Here then is my current mystery – my four times great grandmother Anne Coperthwaite[1] who married Henry Weston in 1747 when she was nineteen and he was almost seventy.

I have written before about Henry’s adventurous sister Judith Weston who travelled to India in search of a husband. Their father John Weston of Ockham in Surrey had fallen on hard times, having become hugely indebted as a collector of taxes under Queen Anne, and been compelled to sell off the family estates in 1710. [2] Henry gradually rebuilt the family fortunes and inherited valuable legacies from his friends Sir William Perkins of Chertsey (died 1741), from his brother Matthew Perkins (died 1749), and from William Nicholas (died 1750).

So, when Henry married Anne he was already wealthy and soon to be much more so. He was described as being ‘of Chertsey’ on the marriage licence, which also indicated that Anne was marrying ‘with the Consent of John Brown her Guardian appointed by the High Court of Chancery’.[3] The licence recorded that Henry was aged fifty and upwards, but in fact he was probably baptised on 21 November 1678,[4] making him about sixty-nine – fifty years older than Anne!

There may be two possible explanations for the marriage – either Henry was marrying in order to acquire further estates, or he was marrying to protect Anne and her property (perhaps at the request of her natural father) since she could reasonably have been expected to outlive Henry and she or her children would then inherit all his estates. Both could of course have been possible, as could genuine affection between Anne and Henry.

So what do we know about Anne?

I have not found a record of her baptism but when her mother Jane Coperthwaite made her Will soon after Anne’s birth, and shortly before her own death in 1727, she ensured that her property and the lands she owned in Kent were protected for her daughter.[5] On the basis of Jane’s Will and the date of Anne’s marriage licence, I calculate that Anne was probably born between 26 March and 16 May 1727.

Although her burial record refers to her as Mrs Jane Coperthwaite it also records her as a spinster, so ‘Mrs’ was a courtesy title indicating her social and economic, rather than her marital, status. [6]  At the time Jane was probably thirty-nine as there is a baptism at St Andrew’s Holborn on 19 December 1687. Her father was John Coperthwaite and her mother Jane Brodnax. The Kentish property that Anne inherited had come to Jane through the Brodnax family of Godmersham (who, incidentally, were later connected to the family of Jane Austen, but that’s another story).

So Anne’s mother was independently relatively wealthy, and might have been more so for it appears that her uncle Matthew Coperthwaite, Gentleman of the parish of St James, Westminster, probably cut her out of his Will (written in February 1727) on hearing of her pregnancy. He left her ‘one shilling and no more in full satisfaction and Bar of all demands’, but left £500 a year to her only sister Elizabeth.

Perhaps it is on the basis of the legacy of West Horsley to Henry Weston, that it has been assumed that William Nicholas must have been the father of Jane Coperthwaite’s daughter Anne. However, the Will was not a random legacy to a friend, for William and Henry were distantly related by marriage and importantly the transfer of West Horsley was effectively a sale that funded the many legacies left by William to relatives, servants and charity.

Having no male heirs himself, William left various properties to the heirs of his grandfather Sir Edward Nicholas (1593-1669). This explains the inclusion of Sir John Abdy (also an executor) whose grandmother was a granddaughter of Sir Edward Nicholas. The Will left property at Winterbourne Gunner and Bishop Cummings to Sir John Abdy, and William’s London house at Old Spring Gardens in St Martin in the Fields, London to his Compton nephews and niece (children of his sister Penelope Nicholas).

In total a large number of cash legacies came to over £4,600 and it appears that this was mainly funded by the transfer of the West Horsley estate and house to Henry Weston in return for a payment of £4,000, (which was equivalent to an income value of about £10.5 million at 2020 values) [7]. Henry also received a gold cup and cover, a valuable personal bequest.

William’s executors were Sir John Abdy and Richard Turner a London physician who received £1,000 of Million Bank Stock (effectively lottery tickets).[8] The two executors were also the residuary legatees.

Typical of the network of associations of their social class, Henry Weston was not simply a friend or business associate of William Nicholas. His aunt Katherine Weston was the first wife of Sir Richard Heath whose grandson (another Richard Heath, whose son Nicholas received £1,000) married Bridget Nicholas, daughter of William’s brother John Nicholas.

I have found nothing to indicate how Jane Coperthwaite might have met William Nicholas, but she was buried at Weybridge which is only about 12 miles from West Horsley, and implies she was probably living in the area and so could have known both John and William Nicholas. Chertsey where Anne Coperthwaite and Henry Weston were both living in 1747 is even closer to Weybridge. Jane’s mother and sister were later buried in the Brodnax family vault at Godmersham although Elizabeth was living in the parish of St George the Martyr, Holborn when she wrote her Will in 1738 just over a year after the death of her mother.[9] [10]

I have not been able to find a Will for Anne Coperthwaite’s grandmother Jane, nor her grandfather John Coperthwaite. Both were involved in various legal disputes relating to issues of property and inheritance and hence may be assumed to have been well to do. Indeed, a John Coperthwaite, almost certainly this one, stood recognisance for William Hussey of Highworth who was indicted for murder in 1688 and convicted as an accessory, having been present at the fatal brawl. He was later reprieved, but ‘John Copperthwaite of St. Andrew’s Holborn gentleman’ was one of several who put up £500 as security before the trial. [11]

So having found out something about the protagonists in this mystery, we are left with a crucial unanswered question. As William Nicholas was unmarried and had no heir, why would he not have married Jane Coperthwaite on learning of her pregnancy, if he was indeed the father of her child?

Was there some unresolved and implacable family opposition relating to the sides taken by the two families during the Civil War? It’s not impossible.

On the other hand, might the father of Anne Coperthwaite have been William’s married brother John Nicholas (1663-1742) from whom William inherited West Horsley?

William Nicholas in his Will seems to have been tying up a lot of loose ends, perhaps the arrangement with Henry Weston after his marriage to Anne was just another attempt to do the right thing by the family.

This is not a mystery that is ever likely to be solved, but if it was not someone else entirely, on balance I would put my money on John, not William, Nicholas as the father of Anne Coperthwaite.

Sometimes in family history research you just have to accept there may be no answer to your brick wall question, but it’s always worth looking.

Sadly Anne died in childbirth after the birth of her second child Henry Perkins Weston and, incidentally, if you think you recognise the Nicholas/Weston property of West Horsley Place it has featured in a number of TV and film productions, notably the BBC comedy Ghosts.

[1] There are a great many variants of the name Coperthwaite, including Copperthwaite, Copperthwayte, Copperwait, Copperwite and Cowperthwaite.  Generally, the family seem to have favoured Coperthwaite.

[2] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1660-1690/member/weston-john-1651-1712

[3] Faculty Office Marriage Licences. England., 20 March 1746/47. WESTON, Henry and COPPERTHWAYTE, Anne. Society of Genealogists, London.

[4] Baptisms (PR) England, All Saints, Ockham. 21 November 1678. WESTON, Henry. Ancestry Collection: Surrey, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. Image No:17. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 31 October 2017.

[5] Testamentary records. England., 11 July 1727. COPERTHWAITE, Jane. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Will Registers. PROB 11/616/214. The National Archives, Kew, England. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D631632 : accessed 30 December 2022.

[6] Burials (PR) England, Weybridge, St James. 01 July 1727. COPERTHWAITE, Mrs Jane. Surrey Burials. 2384/1/2. https://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 17 December 2022.

[7] Testamentary records. England., 10 August 1749. NICHOLAS, William. Will. Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Will Registers. PROB 11/776/158. The National Archives, Kew, England. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D3378139: accessed 17 January 2023. and www.measuringworth.com

[8] Possibly Richard Woodroofe Turner, son of Daniel and Isabella Turner, baptised 12 November 1693 at St Ann Soho. This would suggest a possible relationship to the Heath family as the second wife of Sir Richard Heath was Lettice Woodroffe.

[9] Burials (PR) England, Godmersham, St Lawrence, Kent. 04 January 1736/37. COPERTHWAITE, Mrs Jane. Canterbury Cathedral Archives U3/117/1/2. https://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 02 January 2023.

[10] Burials (PR) England, Godmersham, Kent. 27 March 1739. COPERTHWAITE, Elizabeth. Find My Past [Transcription]. England Deaths & Burials 1538-1991. https://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 10 January 2023.

[11] British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/middx-county-records/vol4/pp321-328 [accessed 3 January 2023].

In search of a Husband – Judith Weston’s Journal

Fort William, Calcutta in 1754 by Jan van Ryne

Sometimes we are lucky enough to find that kind of genealogical gold, which illuminates the lives of our ancestors and brings to life those lists of baptisms, marriages and burials.

Judith Weston’s Journal of her voyage to India rests now at the British Library for anyone to read, although at the time she wrote simply for friends and family. It appears that some of the manuscript is missing, nevertheless Judith’s intrepid character shines through – and yes she did find a husband.

In December 1727 Judith was twenty-six years old and the youngest daughter of John Weston of Ockham in Surrey. The Weston family had been in Sussex and Surrey since the days of William the Conqueror, but John Weston, who had been a Receiver of Taxes under Queen Anne, left the estate greatly impoverished and in 1710 he sold it, dying a few years later. Judith, who was one of nine surviving children, probably had very little by way of a marriage portion but made up for it by her spirit of adventure. Her brother William was already in India, a junior merchant of the East India Company.

Two other young women, Elizabeth and Mary Russell, travelled out with Judith, also in search of husbands, along with two unnamed women.

In the following extracts I have sometimes added punctuation to aid reading, but have left Judith’s spelling unchanged.

Judith was lucky that she was a very good sailor unlike some of her companions.

10th de[cembe]r.

In the Year 1727 I left the Downs in the Ship Stretham Capn. Westcot Commander for Fort William in Bengall. There was four women passengers besides my self we had not sailed twelve hours before a contrary wind & High Sea obliged us to turn Back when by the next night we reached Falmouth. It was hazey dark & as a rock lyes in that harbour we were forced to send a Lanthorn with a Boat & the Rock that we might steer clear …We stayed at Falmouth ten days where I saw nothing remarkable, the Wind coming favourable we with great Joy went aboard at Noon & made all the sail we could for the Bay of Biscay. Our ship was surrounded with a number of Porpoises wch in the Sea appear like Black hogs. Contrary & various Winds Continual Storm & of consequence Mountainous seas were our fate.

For three weeks in wch time extream sickness was suffered by all the women except myself wch was naturally following consequence of their sickness was extream fear wch was increased by the frequent Loss of small masts, which Bustle naturally shocking justly alarmed freshwater sailors. For one fortnight we never pulled off our cloths or Lay in a Bed. We could neither sit Lye or stand one Minute in a place.

The chief difficulty to me was to satisfy Hunger for as the sea air agreed perfectly with me I had a constant appetite & while my companions were groaning with Sickness & calling for proper Utensils I was striving to get to a Hamper in wch was a fine cold Buttock of Beef wch the Capn had placed there for our relief till the Weather would admit of a regular meal.

After many efforts & no other purpose than many a roll back again I at last attained the desired hamper wch was lashed to the Ground, the difficulty now was how to keep my hold & yet cut sufficient to satisfy my hunger. Here two pair of hands would have been of wonderfull service but I made my knees act their parts by pressing them as hard as I could into the matt while with all my might I held the Hamper with one Hand & cut with the other till I was weary. A delicious repast it was & was well washed down with some warm Flip wch as the weather was wet & cold was not disagreeable.

…At three weeks end it pleased God to favour us with a steady Gale wch calmed the sea restored my sinking companions & enabled us to clean our persons & comfortably to enjoy plentyful meals & tolerable Quiet nights. In the midst of our solacing a sail was observed astern wch as we were in a Pirate Sea alarmed the Capn who ordered our forad lights immediately to be put up that no light from us might guide the other …

Early in the morning we fortunately got into the open sea wch no sooner was accomplished but a violent Gale right in to the Cape Sprung up wch lasted a whole fortnight & we heard afterwards three Dutch Ships were lost there at that time. Our Capn often declared He would not have been then at the Cape for any consideration. Here a new Scene ensued for we were so used to peace and Plenty in the Trade Wind that the Bay of Biscay was in a manner forgot. The Cape Sea is remarkable in Bad weather for Higth & Violence. My companions suffered so much that twould appear ridiculous to endeavour to describe it the Eldest Miss Russel with extream reaching broke some vessel in the Her Stomach whc was the cause of Her death tho three year after.

Eventually the coast of India was in sight.

….The nearer you are to Land the more anxious you are to get Sight of it & every League seems ten wch made us Tease our Capn Every hour to know how long & would be before we were to be set at liberty, wch He bore with great civility and good Nature. By break of day we were told Land was near – all hands up in a Minute & to the Belconie we fled but was some hours before we could be sensible of anything but a dark cloud – wch [illegible] till we could perceive Trees.

…About one a clock we moored about two mile from the Factory when we all prepared for going ashore wch our Capn was against our doing till evening, but being a much better sailor than a proper Judge of Land customs he submitted to our request & ordered Boats & Cattamarans to attend us for by this time we had plenty of all sorts round the ship. The Boats are extraordinary in their kind being Built so high you can but just look over when you stand upright, sewed together with cokar bark of cokar trees & made thin enough to ply & twist with the waves or they would be overset in a high surfe.

Just before we were ready to go ashore Mr Stratten, my Brother’s attorney, came aboard to carry me ashore in the evening – but we were too eager to be gone to regard his advice as he only seemed to fear the heat of the weather. Here we wanted our Comodore who would have told us how much we should alarm the Town by going at so improper a time of day, as it is the General Custom in the East to go to bed as soon as dinner is over & not to appear till the cool of the Evening. No sooner were we in our Boats (for not above two could go together) but our Capn. complimented us with a salute of nine guns wch caused great confusion ashore – they soon guessed at our Captns mistake & all hurryed to see the new Ladys land.

Much to her surprise Judith was immediately commanded to visit the Governor

 …The nearer we came to the Govrs the more my heart fluttered – sometimes I was ready to cry & as often laugh. The sight of the Govrs Guard & larger attendance made me shake – but as we entered the Gate I plucked up my courage & was resolved He should not perceive the least fear.

The Governor was seated in a Large Hall & when He had saluted me He asked me (I thought in a Gruff manner) for the Letters I had brought Him. Letters said I – yes Letters He says I mean letters of recommendation that your friends no doubt in England have wrote to me of you – recommendation thinks I, what does he take me for a servant, what does He mean by that, but with a humble curtsie I assured Him I had none at wch He laught & turned my ignorant friends justly into ridicule, for were I to send out a young woman experience has taught me that she ought to have a letter from proper people to every Govr instead of which they generally are loaded with ridiculous ones to private persons who are very unfit to serve them I mean Bachelors. I will leave anyone to judge how these letters of recommendation are received by men Given up to business & pleasure without of visible woman belonging to them.

I took the Govrs treatment in High dugeon & was determined to be on my guard but as he had lost his Limbs with the Gout I could not conceive what it was I had to fear tho overwhelmed with it …

I thought I was got to an odd market but was determined I would make the best I could of it but could not well relish the merchandile way of disposing of goods. When I least expected it the Govr asked me if I knew How He came to ask me to be with him. I told Him I was at a loss to Guess.

It turned out the Governor had simply wanted to assist Judith in finding decent accommodation since there were none of the respectable inns she had expected to find.

An English reader may imagine me very conceited to feel any uneasyness at being distinguished in so extraordinary a manner – but as I was at an extraordinary distance in an extraordinary country remarkable for Levity & Seraglioes had had a thousand misrepresentations in England of the Scarcity of White women etc pray who can wonder at my jealousies & feeling I cannot tell how till I was fully informed of the reason of my being so honoured. I slept better than could be expected – was summoned to breakfast at seven – I found the Gvr agreeably situated in a Virando toward the Garden. He received me very civily & told me He had just heard the Miss Russels were obliged to Lye in a Punch House wch He was very sorry for & wondered that their cousin’s attorney had not taken more care of them that as their father had been Govr of Fort Wm had not wrote to Him He thought he had nothing to do with them but that if they were had provided by right He would endeavour to accommodate them. He said He had invited all the new Ladys of many of the Factory to dinner & that we were to have a Ball at night. All my difficultys were over & I was merry at heart.

The women found the Governor’s manners very uncouth, but Judith decided the only thing to do was to stand up to him.

The Govr who had more Wit than Manners attacked us strongly at dinner. I observed the eldest Miss Russel through sickness misfortunes & natural modesty was incapable of answering Him – that she was ready to sink – while he was putting us all to sale like a Hog merchant – the whole company was silently gratified for there is a vast deference paid to Govrs. I found the only way to stop His Honours mouth was to Joyne with him & as I was within a weeks Voyage of my Brother cared for no one.

The Govr had stated our case in a very melancholy Manner as that there was no men likely to marry worth having, that we were all bound for the Bay but that He feared we should be baulked there for that we were but coarser goods but he would do his utmost to get some of us off that Madrass. I looked very [illegible] & told Him that I was very sorry to hear so bad an account, that it was hard to come so far for nothing but desired to know what His Honour thought of putting us up at outcry next day. The Govr took it very merryly & from that time never attacked us.

After two weeks being entertained by the Governor, Judith set off again to join her brother, despite the Governor’s attempts to marry her off at once!

The Govr … found it was not in his power to settle me then to advantage therefore proposed sending me to Visacapatam to Mr Davies who was chief of a factory then dependent on Fort St George. Mr Davies had long given him commission to Consign a Lady to Him. The Govr proposed this strongly to me – I as strongly opposed it. On serious subject no man could reason better – but I could not relish being tossed about like a bale of goods & as I was so near my Brother was resolute not to dispose of myself till I had seen Him.

…. The Govr told me He feared I should repent but wished me well & after twelve days our whole cargoe packed off undisposed of – a sure Instance of the market being over stocked..

Judith Weston found herself a husband in Calcutta, and although it is not clear exactly when or how she met John Fullerton, they were married there on 16 August 1728. The Miss Russells also found husbands. Elizabeth married Samuel Greenhill on the 18th of  September 1728, and her sister Mary married Josiah Holmes on the 13th of November 1728.

Judith and John Fullerton remained in India for several years while he built up a small fortune. In the summer of 1732 they decided to travel back to England and as Judith was already pregnant she went on ahead. Their son John was born on board ship while she was still three weeks out from England, and John Fullerton himself was delayed in reaching home when the ship he was travelling on lost several masts, he eventually arrived back in England in August where the couple remained for the rest of their lives.

Judith’s Journal is with the Fullerton papers at the British Library.

Mss Eur B162. WESTON (Judith )
Account by Judith Weston, later Mrs John Fullerton, of a voyage to Madras in the East Indiaman `Stretham’ under Capt George Westcott, East India Company commander 1720-47, to join her brother William Weston.  14 folios 1727 – 1727.