BROWN, Digswell House, Late 19th Century

July, 2009


Michael Rhodes (michael @t, of Sydney, Australia, wrote: I am a direct relative of Phoebe Tatham, wife of William Brown.  They owned/rented Digswell for 20+ years.  Phoebe came with 1/3rd of Duncan Dunbar's money.  They disappeared from Digswell.  Where did they go? What happened to people straight out of the East End into Digswell?  I have the (fragmentary) family history, but no continuity past this stage.  Any ideas?  An enormous amount of money went with Phoebe.  Hard to hide or lose that amount without publicity.

You don't include any information on the sources you have already consulted in you request, but there is enough easily available to be able to provide the answer is that William Smith Brown was still living at Digswell House, as a widower, in 1891 (Phoebe had just died) and he died less than 12 months later. The answer to your question is that they didn't go anywhere, they died.


Digswell House - from a postcard circa 1905
In 1850 the house was occupied by Henry Pearse, Esq.

See Sale of the Contents of Digswell House in 1870

The Evidence

A search of the censuses on Ancestry (1851-1901) showed that William had an interesting career, with a very significant improvement in his status between 1861 and 1871.

A check on the 1866 Post Office Directory listed Felix Pryor. Esq. at Digswell House and William S Brown was at Ayot House, Ayot St Lawrence. In 1894 Kelly's directory (online) recorded that that Digswell House was the residence of Captain John Eliot Pringle, R.N. In

A check for deaths on FreeBMD provided the following two entries:

Presumably William was away from home in 1871 on shipping business (he may have been on a ship, or overseas on census day) and the shipping connection may explain why his death was registered at Portsea.

Writing in 1878 Cussans, in the Broadwater section of his History of Hertfordshire, says:

Digswell House, a large and well-built mansion, adjoining the church, was erected in 1805, by the Honourable Edward Spencer Cowper, who lived there of some years. It was afterwards the residence of Sir James Mansfield, Sir John Norton, and lately, of Thomas Powney Marten, of Marshal's Wick, Sandridge, Esq.  It is now in the occupation of William Smith Brown, Esq., who has moved hither from Ayot St Lawrence.

Suggested Further Sources of Information

If you want further information the following sources should be useful:

Death Certificates for Phoebe and William Smith Brown.

The Memorial Inscriptions for Digswell have been recorded by the Hertfordshire Family History Society and you can buy a copy of the booklet from them to see if Phoebe and William are recorded on a memorial.

William almost certainly left a will, and this could be very helpful, as it might give information on all his children, and possibly any grandchildren. Phoebe may also have left a will, but this is by no means certain. Copies of wills are available from the Courts Service Web Site and there is a leaflet (which is not exactly worded to help people researching their ancestors).

William and Phoebe had six children and their names and approximate year of birth are Phoebe (1848), Duncan (1850), William Edward (1852), Margaret Emily (1856, wife of Harry Rivers), Francis Dixon (1858) and Arthur Kay (1860). You may be able to find at least some of these are recorded in the 1901 and 1911 census returns. However the earlier census returns shows that at least one of the boys had connections with the East India Company - so some may have gone overseas.

Page created July 2009