Captain William FOTHERGILL & The New England Field, St Albans, circa 1820.


Ian Bower of the SAHAAS (the St Albans Arc & Arc) writes: I'm researching the history of New England Field in St. Albans, and one of the problems I've come across concerns a Captain William Fothergill
The area called New England Field in the 18th and 19th centuries comprised what is now New England Street with all its properties, the adjoining recreation ground known by all as 'The Brickie', the adjacent stretch of Mount Pleasant, and the lower end of Lower Dagnall Street.  It was owned and/or occupied by the Niccoll/Searancke families (brewers) for at least 100 years until it was sold by auction in 1851, except for a period 
from 1816 to at least 1824, when it was owned by a Captain William Fothergill.  (One of the Niccolls had changed his name to Searancke to inherit the Hatfield Brewery from his uncle).
I have been unable to find anything about this Fothergill.  However I have discovered a considerable amount about another Captain William Fothergill RN, who died in Whitwell on 18th July
1817, and was buried in All Saints Church St. Paul's Walden.  The memorial to him in the church, plus the Naval Chronicle (July-December 1817) give much detail about his naval service in the war against the French.   He was born on 27 December 1768 at Handsworth, Staffs., to John Fothergill, the business partner of Matthew Boulton at the Soho Manufactory in Smethwick William's mother, maiden name Vernon, was heiress to a considerable fortune.  William's sister, Elizabeth Vernon Fothergill, married Rev. James Gape (of St. Michael's Manor) in 1786 at St. Michael's Church, St. Albans.
So was this William, who died in 1817, "to the regret of his family", possibly the father of the Captain William Fothergill who owned New England Field from 1816 to at least 1824 ? We know the older William had a family, but did he have a son ?   He left a widow, Elizabeth, who died on 5th May 1819, aged 61.  It seems a coincidence that the two Williams had the same Christian name, were both in, or owned land in, the county, and were both captains (I'm presuming the younger William's rank was also a Royal Navy one

As you have probably already seen, I have had two earlier enquiries about this part of St Albans - see The Brickie, New England Street, St Albans, 19th century - although they are not directly relevant to your query


Obviously the most relevant source at this stage would be any will left by William Fothergill in 1817 or his wife Elizabeth in 1819. I can't see anything in a quick search, and I assume you too have looked, but one might expect something. Any surviving documentation relating to the estate could contain relevant information if it can be located.


I also note that the ownership of New England Fields is recorded as having passed to Captain William Fothergill in 1816 - which of course could refer to the Captain William Fothergill who died in 1817. Knowing how errors can occur in original sources, and without more information on the source documents you used, I am wondering whether a crucial "late" or "the executors of" could be missing - and there is only one relevant Captain William Fothergill. This might be more likely if there was some irregularity about a will (perhaps there was none) and his (or his wife's) executors wanted a comparatively quick sale of an unwanted property (possibly at a loss) to the previous owners.


With the above reservations in mind I looked for, and was delighted to find, a possible William Fothergill, Master of a ship in the Royal Navy (surely a captain?), complete with a cocked hat and sword! He died in 1839, and his daughters were living in Hertfordshire in 1851, which of course does not automatically mean he had every lived in, or owned property in, the county.


The following comes from a will (on Ancestry):

I William Fothergill, a master in the Royal Navy residing at No 3 Catherine Street Limehouse in the County of Middlesex now in good health and a sound mind do hereby make my last will and testament in favour of my four daughters Isabella Fothergill Ann Fothergill Margaret Fothergill and Mary Fothergill .... with regard to my son William Fothergill I wish him to have all my wearing apparel with regard to my grandson William Fothergill I leave him my sword and belt uniform coat and cocked hat it is also my request that my nephew Thomas Elder has my silver headed cane as a token of my esteem towards him all my dear departed wife's clothes are also to to be equally divided amongst my four daughters on the fourth day of September next 1839 it is also my request that my son William Fothergill should be my sole executor of my will dated this twenty second day of January 1839


On the 30th Sept 1839 admon with the will annexed of the goods chattals and assets of William Fothergill late of 3 Catherine Street Limehouse in the Parish of St Anne in the County of Middlesex a Master in Her Majesty's Navy Widower deceased was granted to Isabella Fothergill Spinster one of the natural and lawful children of the said deceased having been first sworn only to admon  William Fothergill the son and sole exor having [technical word I can't read] the probate and execution of the same will and no individual legatee being named therein

Extracted from the Registry of the Prerogative Court of York

This is just a copy of the will plus details of the admon - and I am not sure whether other supporting documents survive. The fact that Isabella was involved makes me wonder what William junior's position was - for instance if he was also in the Navy there might be difficulties if he was at sea ...


William Fothergill of Limehouse was buried on 9th September 1839 aged 69 years, suggesting a date of birth circa 1770. The death certificate reference is: Fothergill William Sept 1839 Stepney 2 344.


I should point out that I have no knowledge of Navy records (no normally a high priority in Hertfordshire research) but this is a line that could be followed up. However there is a problem - see below.


We know the names of five children who were alive in 1839. A quick scan of the 1841 census turned up nothing obvious. In 1851 the four sisters were still unmarried and living in Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead. Isabella (46)  is described as a school mistress and sisters Anne (42), Margaret (40), and Mary (32) are described as annuitants (i.e. some independent income). The three older daughters were born in Tynemouth, Northumberland, while Mary was born at Yarmouth, Norfolk. They were next door to Robert Merry, surgeon, a posh area of the town, and in the second half of the 19th century there were a number of private schools in Marlowes. In 1861 Isabella (52, schoolmistress) and sisters Anne and Margaret were at Fonthill Gifford, Wiltshire.


I couldn't find a definite reference to brother William Fothergill the "best fits" I spotted being  in 1841 A William Fothergill  (aged 45-49) was a pilot at Gravesend, and his eldest son was a William - but the name William is common and there were other Fothergill families in the area (provisionally rejected as too old and born in Kent) and in the 1861 census William Fothergill (53, born Newcastle, Northumberland) who was a ship's carpenter living at Backworth,  Northumberland, in the 1861 census. He was married but no sign of children - and if a 1851 census record is the same man  he is definitely the wrong William.


However there is a serious problem. If the ages at death is correct the Captain William Fothergill (1768-1817) of St Paul's Walden cannot be the father of the William Fothergill (circa 1770-1839) of Limehouse, and master of a Royal Navy ship. The possible somewhat ambiguous birth date of Isabella also makes a father/son relationship unlikely. If the two were related they could have been cousins - but if so it is not immediately obvious why the Limehouse William with the New England Field.


Sorting out the relationship between the two Williams is unlikely to involve Hertfordshire records, and could well throw no light on the New England Field problem - so I do not intend to follow it further.


April 2014   Page Created