Dr Spencer Jones of Wolverhampton University delivered this recent online lecture about the remarkable lives of Walter and William Congreve, a fearless father and son from one of Britain’s most famous military families.
He incorrectly claims that Sir William Congreve 2nd baronet (1772-1828), and inventor of the Congreve rocket, was Walter Congreve’s ancestor. In fact he was his second cousin 3x removed (source: Burke’s peerage). Sir William was my second cousin 6x removed and I certainly wouldn’t call him an ancestor! I think this error stems from the fact Walter was nicknamed squibs after the rockets his relative invented.
John Rowsell (1737-1792) was the first Rowsell to work in the legal profession, a job he got into through the assistance of his wife Eleanor Pugh, the daughter of John Pugh, wine merchant of Hatton garden and Jane Jones. John Pugh’s brother Evan Pugh was a Sheriff and Justice of the Peace for the City of London and it was he who introduced John Rowsell to legal work. I have already written about Evan Pugh, but this post will cover his brother John’s work as a wine merchant and publican. There are many gaps in the story so if you have any information for me then please let me know in the comment section.
John Pugh‘s exact date of birth and death are not known to me – I calculate that he was born roughly around 1727 which would make him 21 years old in June 1748 when his daughter Eleanor was born in Hatton Garden, London. John and Jane had at least one other child, that is Edward Pugh (Feb 1765 – Jun 1838) who was apprenticed to the Company of Skinners by his Uncle Evan Pugh, Alderman. I found an excerpt connecting Evan and John from a book I cannot locate entitled A Bishop Family History Prepared by Rev. John Bishop which says Thomas Rowsell (1772-1846) was apprenticed by his uncle Evan Pugh which must mean great uncle Evan since Evan was not the son of John Pugh, and more likely his brother. However I cannot find more evidence they were brothers. It is certain that an Evan Pugh apprenticed not only John Pugh’s son Edward but also John’s daughter Eleanor’s sons Thomas (clerkship began 1786) and Samuel Rowsell (clerkship began 1791) although the latter must have been apprenticed by Evan the Alderman’s son Evan Pugh junior since Evan senior died in 1787.
The familial connection is therefore certain – but it is not 100% proven that John and Evan were in fact brothers, although no other form of relation seems possible. I have previously written how the Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge reveals Evan ‘originally came to town in the humble capacity of drawer and porter at the Hoop and Bunch of Grapes, in Hatton Garden’ which must have been in the late 1730’s and that the magazine of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion,Y Cymmrodor, twice records Evan Pugh Esq, alderman of Bishopsgate as having being born in Montgomery county, Wales. My own research places him more specifically in Llangadfan. Since John Pugh also first shows up in Hatton Garden, I can only reasonably assume they worked there together and had moved from Wales to London together too.
Map showing Cross street, Hatton Garden, near Holborn
Wine Merchant and Publican
John became a wine merchant and is first attested as such in 1748 which is right in the middle of London’s gin craze.
An account relating to the conviction of murderer Francis David Stirn, published in Scots magazine dated September 1760, also in The Newgate Calendar: Comprising Interesting Memoirs of the Most Notorious Characters…, Volume 2 by Andrew Knapp, William Baldwin, reveals that one Mr Pugh kept an alehouse called The Pewter Platter, Cross St, Hatton Garden, next door to Crawford’s school. I can’t find much on the pub except that it was used as a meeting place by freemasons many decades later. Cross street in Hatton Garden can’t have had that many Mr Pughs selling alcohol so I think it is very likely to be the same John Pugh listed as a wine merchant of Cross street.
The article of clerkship for John’s son Edward’s apprenticeship under Evan Pugh in April 1780, lists the father John Pugh’s occupation as Wine merchant of Charles street, Hatton garden. John had not moved his business, rather someone decided to rename Cross street as Charles street.
Wine bottles have been found, mainly in Devon, with a John Pugh 1794 seal on them (see image above). Others have C pugh or Chas Pugh seal for 1763 (see below) but also have ‘John Pugh’ etched on the neck which seems to indicate John was reusing the bottles of a relative called Chas who was also a vintner.
Sadly, I have no more information on John Pugh and his pub or wines. I assume he died in Holborn area not long after 1794 but cannot find a record of his death.
I have found records of other London vintners by the name of Pugh though. One R Pugh was a Wine & Brandy Mercht., Baker’s Coffee-house, Change-alley near Bishopsgate in 1794. This is near Evan Pugh’s soap boiling place, but Evan had no son called R (richard?) and since John Pugh was a wine merchant it seems possible this R Pugh is the son of John and set up shop near to his uncle Evan. I have no proof though. There is a record of the death of Richard Pugh, vintner, in 1820 in these family papers in the national archives – it lists John Pugh and his executrix Mrs Elizabeth Cranston (nee Pugh) whom I might presume were brother and sister to the deceased Richard, as well as executors Stephen Pugh and William Foster. I cannot find the connection yet.
Tangentially, John Pugh was the fourth great grandfather of the famous wine critic Edmund Penning Rowsell. Perhaps wine is in the blood, but if so, I didn’t inherit the genes for it as it makes me nauseous.
In my last post I told the history of Evan Pughsenior (1718–1787) , Alderman and Sheriff of London. The Fruits of Experience; Or, Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge reveals that Evan the elder was brought to financial ruin due to ” the extravagance of part of his family.” Based on the events of his son Evan junior’s youth, we might assume he was the culprit.
Evan Pugh Esquire Jnr (1756–1837) was born in Bishopsgate in the City of London and was baptised at St Botolph’s.
At the age of 14 in 1770 he was apprenticed by his father into the livery Company of Skinners and subsequently granted Freedom of the City.
First Scandal – Soliciting the King’s Mistress
Evan who worked at his father’s soap boiling business in Bishopsgate, was a bit of a cad in his youth. He is described as a “dashing rake” in a scandalous account from about 1776 when he was 20 years old. The story involves the famous actress, poet and early feminist, Mary Robinson. She had appeared in a production of Romeo and Juliet as Juliet that year and the young Evan was quite taken with her. Presuming, quite reasonably for the time, that all actresses were prostitutes, he made her an offer, only to be embarrassed by Robinson and her wealthy, orbiting suitors (two men, besides her husband, who were competing for her affections!).
One of the men was Banastre Tarleton, the lady’s apparent favourite of the time, until 1779 when a young Prince of Wales, later King George IV offered her twenty thousand pounds to become his mistress. She found the offer more tempting than Evan Pugh’s bid of “twenty guineas for ten minutes” made three years earlier, as related in The Memoirs of George IV below.
We are by no means ignorant, that at the time when the Prince of Wales was captivated with the charms of Mrs. Robinson, there were other suitors for her favours, amongst whom General Tarleton was considered as the most favoured. The following anecdote, however, deserves mention, as it shows the manner in which she treated some of those suitors, who wholly mistook her character, in considering, according to the prejudice of the day, that, as she was an actress, her favours were a marketable commodity, and to be purchased by the highest bidder, Amongst the most dashing rakes of the City at that time was Mr. Pugh, the son of Alderman Pugh, who had seen Mrs. Robinson in the character of Juliet, and becoming violently enamoured of her, he wrote to her, offering her twenty guineas for ten minutes’ conversation with her. Mrs. Robinson immediately answered him, consenting to grant him the favour he asked, for the stipulated sum ; and, elated with the prospect of the consummation of his wishes, Pugh repaired to the house of Mrs. Robinson at the appointed time. On his arrival, however, instead, as he expected, of being closeted with Mrs. Robinson, he was ushered into a room where he found that lady in company with General Tarleton and Lord Malden ; and on his entrance, Mrs. Robinson detached her watch from her side, and laid it on the table. She immediately turned from her former companions, and addressed her conversation wholly to Pugh, who, by the titter which sat upon the countenances of General Tarleton and Lord Malden, evidently saw that he was a complete dupe in the hands of his beautiful inamorata. Mrs. Robinson now took up the watch, the ten minutes were expired; she rose from her chair, rang the bell, and, on the servant entering, she desired him to open the door for Mr. Pugh, who, completely confounded, took his leave, minus twenty guineas, which, on the following day, were divided amongst four charitable institutions. – The Memoirs of George IV
Like his father, young Evan seems to have been quite politically minded. According to St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post of 25th November 1779, “Thomas Oliver, Esq. the Aldermen Kirkmen and Sainsbury, and Evan Pugh, Esq., Son to the Sheriff, polled Yesterday for Mr. Alderman Wilkes.” This refers to John Wilkes, a radical politician, outlawed for obscene libel and seditious libel, who was banned from parliament and who, using his radical political connections, then secured a position of Alderman of the City in 1769. Wilkes was appointed Sheriff in 1770 and mayor in 1774, despite advocating for the American Revolution, which demonstrates the extent to which the institutions of of the City of London were infiltrated by subversive radicals, many of whom Evan Pugh and his father were personally acquainted with.
Cross eyed extremist and traitor John Wilkes
The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons
Evan Pugh junior and his cousin’s husband John Rowsell were also Stewards of The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons in 1781. It was founded in London in 1715, and is described as “a complex and multi-faceted patriotic phenomenon. It was simultaneously a mouthpiece for royalist propaganda and a haven for political radicals, a piously charitable foundation and an excuse for having a good time. In a period when distinctly Welsh institutions had largely ceased to exist, the Society’s annual celebration of St. David’s Day in the English capital offered a rare example of eighteenth-century Welsh people deliberately imagining into existence an identifiably Welsh nation, using ceremony, sociability, poetry, and politics to fill the institutional void.” The word “loyal” here denotes loyalty to the crown, but since Evan voted for John Wilkes, I think it is more likely he fell under the category of “political radical” rather than “royalist”.
Evan junior grew up to become more respectable…at least for a while. He married Sarah Williams on 28th March 1789 in Bishopsgate, but sadly she died the following year just 22 years old.
On 26th August 1791 Evan apprenticed his first cousin once removed Samuel Rowsell into the Company of Skinners.
Since his father’s death, Evan had run the soap making business in partnership with Benjamin and William Wood but had an issue with a thieving servant. Old Bailey Proceedings from 22nd June 1796 detail the case of Pugh vs his servant Jones. Evan gave the following testimony.
I am a soap-boiler , I reside in Bishopsgate-street , in partnership with Benjamin Wood and William Wood; the prisoner was my servant , and had been ten months; I stopped him in the gateway with the soap in his possession, secreted within his smock frock;
EVAN JONES, aged 32, was found guilty for feloniously stealing, confined three months in Newgate, and fined 1 shilling (He was recommended to mercy by the Jury).
By 1803 Evan was still making soap but was now listed, in Kent’s directory, not in Bishopsgate, but in Well close Square.
Through his role in the Company of Skinners Evan also became, by 1826, a Member of the Court of Assistants of Tunbridge School in Kent which was connected to the livery company.
Second Scandal – An old man marries a young Indian lady
In very late life, aged 74, Evan married a mixed race woman, Sophia Mordaunt (1785-1853), the daughter of Captain John Mordaunt of the Bengal Army Artillery. She and her five siblings were, in her father’s words, “begotten on the bodies of women Natives of India.”
The half Indian woman was also widow of naval officer William Rudall, of Crediton, Devon. After the death of her husband in the 1820’s, Sophia returned from Devon to London where she had been an apprentice school mistress in her youth in Bethnal Green. She then, in need of a husband for financial reasons, was engaged to two different men!
The first of these was a young man named Henry Hylton Riches who eventually brought a legal case against Sophia and the elderly Evan Pugh because she married the old man instead of him! Riches v Pugh and Wife, 19th June 1832, went over two pages of the Times newspaper of 20th June 1832 (page 1, right hand column, and page 2), suggesting great public or legal interest in the case. The judges summed up the case in the following account which I found on this website:
Lord Tenterden (the judge)
in summing up the case observed, that there could be no doubt on the evidence, that the defendent, Sophia Pugh, did promise to marry the plaintiff, Mr Riches, nor could there be any doubt that the promise had been broken, because she had married another man. He (Lord Tenterden) could not say, as a matter of law, that there appeared to be any intention on the part of the plaintiff to abandon the contract. If, indeed, it had been made to appear that he had consented to put an end to the contract, he could not be entitled to support the present action, but he (Lord Tenterden) must say that the letters which had been written before the marriage of Mrs Rudall with Mr Pugh, did not convey to his mind the impression that it was intended to break off the contract. It was clear by the lady’s letters, that she had desired the plaintiff to desist from visiting her, and she no doubt wished to put an end to the engagement, but it did not appear that he had consented to do so, for he wrote in a tone of kindness to her, and seemed anxious to retain her affection. The jury would, however, judge for themselves, from the whole of the facts, whether the plaintiff on his part relinquished the contract. If he had not, he would be entitled to their verdict; and then came the question of damages. With a view to their determining that question he would direct their attention to the situation of the two parties. The plaintiff was 27 or 28 years of age. The lady 45 or 46. She was a widow and competent to make an engagement of this kind for herself. Before she had entered into such an engagement she would have inquired a little into the situation in life and circumstances of the plaintiff. Her income was £100 a year, – all the interest of stock, and £50, the amount of a pension which she received as the widow of a half pay officer in the navy (an officer not actually serving on a ship, in reserve, in effect). The plaintiff’s money, it appeared, was £120, payable quarterly. After the lady came to London from Oxfordshire, she had some communication with her brother, Mr Mordaunt, on the subject of her proposed marriage with Mr Riches who had, it seemed, candidly informed her that he was in some pecuniary difficulty, and Mr Mordaunt advised her, that the match would not, in his opinion, be a prudent one on her part. Not long after this conversation with her brother she married Mr Pugh, her present husband and certainly that was not a marriage which he (Lord Tenterden) could consider at all creditable (to) her, she being of the age of 45, and Mr Pugh of the age of 76. Such a marriage could hardly take place with any other than that of a sordid motive. Every woman has a right to endeavour to better her condition in life; and if she were under no pre-engagement, no one has a right to question her conduct. The plaintiff, it appeared, had made himself acquainted with the fact of this lady’s marriage with Mr Pugh calling at the house. Just about that time he was arrested for a debt of £30, and expected a (unreadable) against him for another debt, an old one for £20, and he thought it proper to write to Mrs Pugh for the loan of £50. That letter was not answered, and certainly he had no right to expect that the wife of another person should advance him a sum of £50. Nothing more transpired till the 7th February, 1831, when the plaintiff wrote the letter which had been so much commented on. It was undoubtedly a most improper letter – a letter evidently written with a view to extort money from this lady and her husband, under a threat that he should be able to produce, before a court of justice, such evidence as they would not like to have brought forward – evidence of something which, he said, had taken place between him and Mrs Pugh. Such a letter might, certainly, weigh with the jury forming their estimate of the damages. It was a very, very improper act. The jury would say, upon the whole, what amount of damages they thought the plaintiff was entitled to. It appeared that Mrs Pugh was a comely and agreeable person, and, she was, it seemed, a woman who was likely to have retained his affections, and they might have lived comfortably together. The jury would take the whole (unreadable) into their consideration. Unless they thought that the plaintiff had voluntarily relinquished the engagement he would be entitled to their verdict, and then they would say the amount of damages he should receive. If they viewed his conduct in a very improper light, they would say so by giving as very small amount.
After consulting, the Jury found for Riches and awarded damages of one farthing – the lowest possible fee. The plaintiff was denied his costs. After Evan died Sophia chose a younger man, her own cousin, for her third husband. She died in 1853, aged 67, living at 89 Sloane Square in London.
Evan Pugh Junior died an old man four years later. His obituary was published in The Times. Wednesday, 18th January 1837.
“DIED … On the 13th inst., Evan Pugh, Esq., aged 86, father of the Skinners’ Company and much esteemed and respected by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintence.”
I have known for some time that the Rowsell family of Lambeth, who descend from a vintner of Cross street, Hatton garden, London named John Pugh, were given a “leg up”, so to speak, into the legal profession and the livery Company of Skinners by a notable uncle named Evan Pugh (1718-1787). I had not realised just how notable Evan was until I uncovered his forgotten story, which I feel is so interwoven with significant events of late 18th century Britain, that it is strange he has been forgotten. In this blog post I will attempt to reveal the extraordinary story of a man of humble origins who influenced the events of history.
Evan Pugh, son of John Pugh, was born in 1718 in Llangadfan, Montgomeryshire, Wales. He and his brother John jnr both moved to London when they were young and began their careers in Hatton Garden which was in Holborn. John eventually became a wine merchant (first attested in 1748) and ran a pub on Cross street known as The Pewter Platter (attested in 1760, Scot’s magazine) but it seems John was preceded by his elder brother Evan, who according to the Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge ‘originally came to town in the humble capacity of drawer and porter at the Hoop and Bunch of Grapes, in Hatton Garden’ which must have been in the late 1730’s. However, Evan soon found more promising opportunities in The City of London.
The Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge reveals that Evan went to live with Alderman William Benn, to take care of his horse and cart; and was later admitted as under clerk in the counting-house. Benn (pictured below) was a Jacobite who later became Mayor of London. Benn’s career was very similar to his employee Pugh’s – He was elected Alderman of Aldersgate Ward on 12 November 1740. In 1742 he was Sheriff of London. He became Lord Mayor of London for the year 1746 to 1747. He was President of Bridewell and Bethlehem Hospitals from 1746 to 1755 which Evan Pugh was made a governor of before he died in 1786. Similar, but not quite as impressive, honours would also be bestowed on the young Welshman before his time was up.
Benn with bottle, drinking with fellow followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie
Young Evan moved to Whitechapel in East London, where he used to commute down Whitechapel High Street and through the medieval “Aldgate”, which was not removed until 1761, to Bishopsgate in the City of London where Benn ran a soap boiling business. It is thanks to Benn that Pugh went from horse groom, to counter and finally became an equal partner of the Mayor in his soap business of Bishopsgate. Evan resided in Whitechapel in 1755, when William Benn died, but soon after moved to Bishopsgate to be nearer the business which he took over. However, this became very controversial and resulted in ongoing legal problems for Evan, who was accused of defrauding Benn’s son and heir, William Benn junior, of his inheritance and according to City biography, published 1799, “was afterwards compelled by the Court of Chancery to restore.” The Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge relates the events as follows:
He (Evan Pugh) was afterwards taken into partnership and on the death of his old master (William Benn), the son not liking his father’s business, the whole of it devolved upon him and he conducted it very prosperously until he became Alderman;
Pugh had been promised by Benn a wage increase of £10 for every child he and his wife Elizabeth would have, but their first child wasn’t born until after Benn died. The child was named Evan Pugh junior (1756 – 1837) and was also a noteworthy man as I will explain in a future post. Their second son was named Samuel (b. 1758). The following excerpt from Benn’s will and from the following court case of 1778 reveals the details of the dispute between Pugh snr and Benn jnr.
Excerpt from Reports of Cases Upon Appeals and Writs of Error Determined in the …, Volume 3 By Josiah Brown 1803
A proud Welshman of England
The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons
Pugh was evidently proud of his Welsh ancestry. He was a member of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion which records Evan living in Whitechapel in 1755. It was connected to The Most Honourable and Loyal Society of Ancient Britons, of which Evan junior and his cousin John Rowsell would later become stewards. It was founded in London in 1715, and is described as “a complex and multi-faceted patriotic phenomenon. It was simultaneously a mouthpiece for royalist propaganda and a haven for political radicals, a piously charitable foundation and an excuse for having a good time. In a period when distinctly Welsh institutions had largely ceased to exist, the Society’s annual celebration of St. David’s Day in the English capital offered a rare example of eighteenth-century Welsh people deliberately imagining into existence an identifiably Welsh nation, using ceremony, sociability, poetry, and politics to fill the institutional void.”Their magazine Y Cymmrodor records Evan Pugh Esq, alderman of Bishopsgate again in 1778. Both listings reveal he was born in Montgomery county, Wales.
The precise extent to which Evan Pugh shared the royalist sentiments of some members of the Society of Cymmrodorion, or the Jacobite beliefs of his former employer, is not clear. His later acquaintances in the City of London were quite radically inclined to the opposing political perspective, but Evan is recorded as a ministerialist.
Pugh Elected Alderman and Sheriff
The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 46 describes the party Pugh held after being elected Alderman
His character and associations are first revealed when he was elected Alderman of Tower ward on 25th September 1777. An Evan Pugh is already listed as a Justice of the Peace from 1770 and is later listed as an Alderman, so I presume it to be the same man. The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 46 entry for Friday 26th September 1777 reveals that after being elected, Evan entertained his friends in “an elegant manner” at the King’s Head Tavern, which may be a jibe implying he had an extravagant and drunken party. Evan, soapmaker and skinner (meaning he was a member of the Worshipful Company of Skinners) was mocked in the Morning Post Paper of 1st October, shortly after assuming the role of Alderman and in advance of his promotion to Sheriff. The article implied he kept bad company and surely refers to radicals among his fellow Aldermen.
Almanac showing Evan Pugh as Sheriff – Credit: Bell house
We hear that the new elected Alderman, Evan Pugh, Esq. intends, previous to his being elected one of the Sheriffs of this city, to take a few lessons of oratory from a certain spouting Grocer, and an eminent quack Doctor, whose places of residence are not far distant from the Alderman’s habitation. – The Morning Post
The following is an account taken from the Bell House website of Evan Pugh’s installation as Sheriff:
Yesterday morning the two new Sheriffs, viz. Aldermen Wright and Pugh, went in their carriages to Stationers’ Hall, where they breakfasted, and afterwards proceeded with the Master, wardens and Court of assistants of the said Company to Guildhall, where they were sworn into their offices, with the usual formalities. Their chariots were very elegant. The livery of Alderman Wright is a superfine orange-coloured cloth, richly trimmed with silver; Alderman Pugh’s is a superfine green cloth, with a rich broad gold lace, and both make a grand appearance as any Sheriffs have for several years. The old and new Sheriffs returned from the Hall to the Paul’s-Head Tavern, Cateaton Street when, according of annual custom, the keys of the different jails were delivered to the new Sheriffs, and they were regaled with walnuts and sack by the Keeper of Newgate. After the ceremony at Guildhall, the Sheriffs etc. returned to Stationers’ Hall where an elegant dinner was provided by Mr. Sheriff Wright. The whole was conducted with the utmost propriety, and was the better attended than any feast given on a similar occasion, there being sixteen Aldermen present besides the Sheriffs. A Correspondent has favoured us with the following description of the painting on the new Sheriff’s chariot: …
See the image below for the description of the chariots of Sheriff Wright and Sheriff Pugh. The focus of the imagery on Evan’s chariot is tyranny and liberty, revealing his political concerns.
A description of the chariots of Aldermen Wright and Pugh – Credit: Bell house
Common Council Chamber, Guildhall
Another honour bestowed on Evan and his family in the same year was a Grant of Arms, as described in the below excerpt from the Montgomeryshire Collections by the Powys land club.
One of Evan’s Alderman colleagues was Brackley Kennett, who would later become Lord Mayor of London. It is revealed in The Fruits of Experience; Or, Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge that Pugh, when insulted by the coarse Kennett, countered with a witty and cutting remark.
Mr. Kennet had begun life as a waiter, and his manners never rose above his original station. When he was summoned to be examined in the House, one of the members wittily observed, ” If you ring the bell, Mr. Kennet will come of course.” His excuse for his behaviour was, that being attacked both before and behind, he was seized with temerity, which made him not know what he was about (*This refers to Kennett’s role as Mayor during the Gordon Riots). One evening at the Aldermen’s Club, he was at the whist-table; and Mr Alderman Pugh, a dealer in soap, and an extremely good-natured man, was at his elbow, smoking in pipe. “Ring the bell, Soap-suds, said Mr. Kennet, in his coarse way. “Ring it yourself, Bar,” replied the Alderman, “you have been twice as much used to it as I have.” Mr Pugh was another of the instances of successful industry with which our metropolis abounds.
Cartoon of Mayor Brackley Kennett
The unpopular Kennett (depicted in cartoon above) was convicted in 1781 of criminal negligence for his action (or rather lack of) during the Gordon Riots and was fined £1,000. He was also thought to be sympathetic to the rioters. Kennett is not the only man behind the Gordon Riots with whom Pugh was acquainted, as I shall reveal.
While the above account paints Pugh in a favourable light, others, like the Morning Post’s quoted previously, are more mocking. Pugh is also ridiculed in a poem contained in The comforts of matrimony; or, loves last shift by Ned Ward, Jr., published 1780.
… Have Sawbridge, Townsend, Crosby, Lee, Procur’d one grain of Liberty? And might they not as well be dumb As Kennett, Esdaile, Hart, or Plumbe? Or if they spoke, in mere despite, Might nothing say – like Sheriff Wright: The best of all ‘twixt me and you Is the plain Welshman, Evan Pugh, Who stands among em all a Row Nor shines, nor longs to make a shew; His utmost wish his utmost hope To make, and then to sell his soap…
The poem compares Pugh to a number of subversive radicals of the time. John Sawbridge, James Townsend, and Brass Crosby were all whigs, radicals and supporters of John Wilkes (who Evan’s son later polled for). They wanted to limit the power of the Monarch. These sorts of people, influenced by Protestant extremism, are responsible for the Gordon Riots, and supported the American and French revolutions. The other list of names includes several Lord Mayors of London; Thomas Wright, Samuel Plumbe, Brackley Kennett, and James Esdaile, each of whom worked with Evan Pugh. Evan’s connection to Kennett is mentioned above, Evan was a Sheriff at the same time as Thomas Wright and Evan worked with Mayor Plumbe in August 1779 when a case document shows the Hands and Seals of Samuel Plumbe Mayor and Evan Pugh Esquire ‘one of the Aldermen of the said City, Two of his Majesty ‘s Justices of the Peace” – this proves Evan was Justice of the Peace as well as Alderman. Evan also worked on other cases with Esdaile. The poem seems to be mocking Evan for being a humble soap seller acquainted with so many extremists. He also worked, in 1781, in his capacity as Justice of the Peace, alongside fellow Welshman and member of The society of Cymmrodorion,Watkins Lewes who had been knighted in 1773.
Besides his legal work, soap selling, role as Sheriff, and in the society of Cymmrodorion, Evan was also Governor and steward of the London Dispensary on Primrose street, Bishopsgate in 1777, Vice-President of the same by 1784, a subscribing member for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1780, and a member of a change bell ringing society of the City called The Ancient Society of College Youths Est. 1637 – Evan was member number 1190. He was also a member of the Royal Humane Society as this dinner invitation below shows. See transcription above image courtesy of The British Museum.
‘The London Dispensary’, with garlands creating border. Printed within in red ink, “Sir, You are desired to dine with the Right Honourable the Earl of Sehlburne, President; Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, Bart. Sir Gerard William Van Neck, Bart. James Townsend, Esq; and Alderman; William Baker, Esq; and Evan Pugh, Esq; and Alderman, Vice Presidents; Edward Jeffries, Esq; Treasurer; and the other Governors of this Charity, on Tuesday the 19th of March, 1782, at the Paul’s Head Tavern, Cateaton Street. Dinner to be on the table at Four o’Clock…
Evan was also involved in The Protestant Association, an originally Scottish movement to repeal the Catholic Relief Act of 1778. It was started by an acquaintance of Evan’s named Lord George Gordon and when it spread to London, it sparked the Gordon Riots of 1780. In ‘Crowd Actions in Britain and France from the Middle Ages to the Modern World’ (Springer: 2015) Nicholas Rogers explained that not all the members of the Protestant Association were radicals and anti-Catholic extremists, but that repeal of the Catholic Relief Act was “seen as a nonpartisan measure, safeguarding British liberties from the Catholic threat…” Which is why the association cut across party lines attracting “ministerialists, such as the London alderman Evan Pugh” as well as moderates and radicals. Rogers identified Pugh as a “ministerialist” (that is someone loyal to the current government – in this case a pseudo-Tory party led by Lord North) by his voting behaviour in the 1770s. According to John Sainsbury’s ‘Disaffected Patriots’, Appendix D, in the 1772 mayor election, Evan Pugh voted for Harley and Shakespear, not Wilkes and Townsend. Pugh signed the loyalist address of October 1775 and the June 1779 address supporting the war with the American rebels. He also identified with the Ministry in The City of London Corporation’s dealings with the New York Association which had denounced Lord North’s policy as despotic.
The Gordon Riots
Lord Gordon was responsible for the riots
The Gordon Riots were several days of anti-Catholic extremist rioting in London in 1780. Catholic houses were burned as the mob had been convinced that Catholics were going to take over the military and bring back Absolute Monarchy. Lord George Gordon was a Scot who was radicalised in America as an Anti-Catholic extremist. He met with alderman Pugh during the riots which were named after Gordon and which he inspired. Gordon evidently recognised the Jewish character of his American Protestantism because six years after the riots, he converted to Judaism in Birmingham where the resident Jews declared him Moses reborn. The English gentiles, however, were less impressed and he was, from then on, a social outcast. The following is an account of Pugh’s involvement with Gordon on Tuesday 6th June 1780 during the riots (source).
12.00PM: ‘What? What? What?” With no response forthcoming to £500 and pardon offer, to inform on rioters, Mad King George threatens to lead the Guards himself. Then insists on new reading of the law, so that troops can fire on a ‘lawless mob’ without a magistrate. Which doesn’t get much support, till Attorney-General Alexander Wedderburn arrives at the Privy Council meeting. After receiving a threat himself, he gives his casting vote with the King, who cuts the Gordon Knot, saying, “So let it be done.” A Royal Proclamation is put out, and Amherst issues the order from the Adjutant General’s Office: ‘In obedience to an order of the King in Council the military to act without waiting for direction from the Civil Magistrates and to use force for dispersing illegal and tumultuous assemblies of the people. Amherst.’ (2 centuries on the Angry Brigade are busted on Amhurst Road and tried at the Old Bailey.) 3.00PM: Lord George ventures out of his Minories riot safe-house once more, to meet Alderman Pugh in Coleman Street. There the mob are engaged in pulling down the house of one Robert Charlton, a Catholic druggist. Troops arrive and the officer gets the mob to be quiet, so Lord George can attempt to pacify them. But when they realise he’s there, ‘there arose a huzzaing and hollooing “Gordon forever!”‘, and Lord George and Alderman Pugh have to beat a hasty retreat.
Gordon also wrote an incriminating protection paper that night while in a carriage with Evan Pugh. One Richard Pond, when cross examined by the Attorney General in the trial of George Gordon, had, during the riot, got Mr Gordon to sign a paper confirming that he was a Protestant and the mob ought not to burn his house which was in danger because of a Catholic tenant living in it. Pond said that George Gordon was in a coach with Sheriff Pugh when he signed a paper during the riots, indicating Pugh was close to Gordon.
Pugh and Gordon seem to have tried to prevent the Catholic chemist’s house from being burned, but to no avail. Pugh would later face legal charges for this. As for Gordon, he, like many radical thinkers involved in the riots, was brought to justice. The riots also destroyed the popularity of radical politician John Wilkes, who despite being influential on the extremism that led to the riots, actually led militiamen against the rioters and shot at them. Unlike Evan Pugh, many of the extremists were sympathetic to the American traitors who led the Revolution and some historians even view the Gordon Riots as a precursor to the French Revolution. It was a lesson from history about the dangers of subversive ideologies left unchecked.
Warren Hastings impeachment
The trial of Warren Hastings
The impeachment of Warren Hastings of the East India Company was the longest political trial in British history. It was a failed attempt between 1788 and 1795 to impeach the first Governor-General of Bengal. Long before the impeachment was led by Edmund Burke, there were preliminary legal disputes. On 1st November 1782, a committee of six aldermen and twelve commoners assembled in The Court of Common Council to review the East India Company’s decision to remove Warren Hastings as governor of Bengal. Evan Pugh was one of the six Aldermen. Many Whigs had been involved in a conspiracy to remove Hastings, which was led by Irish born Whig, Phillip Francis.
Continuing his legal work, Evan Pugh worked with Nathaniel Newnham after he was made Mayor in 1782, and they cosigned many legal documents in the following years. Evan is depicted among the throngs in this drawing of Mayor Newnham taking the oaths by Benjamin Smith, after William Miller. A detail of Pugh from the Miller original is pictured at the top of this post. The painting also includes Mayor Nathaniel Newnham, John Boydell, Thomas Wright, Brass Crosby (who gave us the phrase ‘Bold as brass’), George Dance, Sir Robert Taylor, and numerous other sitters I cannot identify.
Newnham takes the oath – National Portrait Gallery
Governor of the Hospitals and prisons of Bridewell
In his capacity as Justice of the Peace, Evan Pugh had worked with the Bridewell Royal Hospital since at least the seventeen seventies. A hospital in those days was not merely a place where sick people were sent; it was also a prison and a lunatic asylum. On 27th July 1786, Evan was proposed by Mr. Samuel Swain to be Elected a Governor of Bridewell royal Hospital. On 30th November of the same year, Evan and four others were unanimously elected “Governors of these Hospitals and It is Ordered that Staves be sent them forthwith.”
Bankruptcy and late life
Several accounts reveal Evan’s financial ruin late in life. This is either related to the scandalous misdeeds of his son Evan Pugh jnr, or the cost of his legal disputes; with a court case in 1778 relating to the son of William Benn and another in 1786 relating to Evan’s role in the Gordon riots.
…(Evan Pugh) failed through the extravagance of part of his family; but such was the respect in which he was held, that he was chosen to a lucrative office in the city, where he spent the remainder of his days in peace and comfort, as much as if he possessed a large independence of his own. Indeed nothing is more evident than that money, beyond a certain degree of competence, neither increases happiness nor improves the disposition – The Fruits of Experience; Or, Memoir of Joseph Brasbridge
The above account attributes the bankruptcy declared in 1782 to the extravagance of a family member. This, I shall show in my next post, most likely refers to the scandal of Evan Pugh jnr. We learn more about the “lucrative office” he held from the excerpt below.
He (Evan Pugh) was appointed coal metre in 1784, a sinecure place worth 1200l. per annum. Alderman Hart and he held the place in conjunction, who had also been a bankrupt, on condition they should both resign their Alderman’s gown, which they did. – City Biography- Containing Anecdotes and Memoirs of the Rise, Progress, Situation & Character of the Aldermen and Other Conspicuous..
Pugh’s colleague Thomas Wright. Source: Stationers’ Hall
The aforementioned legal case of 1786 saw the Catholic chemist Robert Charlton defended by Henry Bell against the former City Sheriffs Thomas Wright and Evan Pugh in the Court of Kings Bench at Westminster for damages to Charlton’s property in the Gordon Riots of 1780. One culprit, William Pateman, had been hanged in Coleman Street on Tuesday 11th July 1780 for demolishing the house of Robert Charlton on the evening of 7th June. It had been the custom of the time to hang people close to the site of their crimes during the riots. Evan, now 68 years old, was ordered to pay damages.
Evan died the following year on 14th May 1787 when he was 69 years old.
Edmund Penning-Rowsell 1913-2002 was a famous wine-critic and a socialist. He was this author’s 4th cousin twice removed, he from the line of Samuel Rowsell, our last common ancestor being John Rowsell. It is said in the charming little film posted below, in which he was interviewed in the years before his death, that he was conservative in everything except politics. The great depression caused his father, Edmund Samuel Penning-Rowsell’s (1882-1964) printing business to go bust and therefore cut short his education at Marlborough college. This departure from privilege caused him to turn on his own society and favour communism. Such sheltered privileged types are often lefties. A cellar full of old Pétrus softened his brain and made him as red as his claret!
Edmund Penning Rowsell signalled his socialist virtue by REFUSING to visit Spain while the Nationalist government was in power…But he never refused the contents of Baron Rothschild’s wine cellar in Château Mouton. That he remained friends with members of a banking family of this shady sort shows how little he understood of what caused the Great Depression.
A few portraits of my direct ancestors who lived between the 16th and 19th centuries survive. I have compiled them here in to one document. These include ancestors from Denmark and Ireland as well as Britain, but all are of the nobility, since my lesser ancestors did not have portraits made.
A documentary which looks at the Ooty Club in Tamil Nadu where Cecil Ralph Townsend Congreve was the Master of the Hunt. In the film I also visit Blair Athol where CRT Congreve and his wife Esme lived and where his father in law Norman Rowsell died. I also locate the grave of Norman Rowsell near Coonoor.
Vere Norman Rowsell (1887-1945) was born in Ceylon, the son of tea planter Norman Rowsell and his wife Florence Congreve. They were living at Abbotsleigh estate when he was born.
Inside the room in which Vere was probably born
The bungalow on Abbotsleigh
view of Abbotsleigh estate
Vere was raised at first in the hills of Ceylon but was later sent to England to be educated at Wellington college, Berkshire. He is recorded as living there in 1901 at the age of 13. After school he joined the Coldstream Guards and fought in WWI as a lieutenant. Vere was wounded at Somme in 1916 then sent to NT Polesden Lacey in Surrey probably after treatment at Edward VII Hospital for Officers.He was wounded again at Paschendael 1917 and again in Cambrai. Vere was married in Somerset in 1917 and then returned to the front to fight yet again!
Vere at Wellington seated in white trousers on the right 1904
This photo of an officer was taken at Polesden while Vere was staying there in 1916. It looks very much like it is him…
He was reported missing on 13th April 1918, just a few months after the wedding and was presumed dead. He was cited for a Victoria Cross but was discovered in a German hospital on 24th December 1918 and was awarded with a Military Cross instead.
Vere remained in the military until 1920 and was married in Somerset in 1917. His son Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000) was born the same year that Norman Rowsell died. Vere and his family moved back to India in 1920, the year after his father’s death, and probably met up with his remaining family there (mainly Congreves). He received his MC that year at an address listed in Bulsar (Valsad). He seems to have gone back to England though as a passenger document in 1934 lists his home address in Cheltenham.
Vere Norman Rowsell OBE MC, Lieutenant Coldstream Guards.
In 1935 Vere returned to India again, where he and his wife, Dorothy Isobel Edwards (1890-1971), remained until his death in 1945, after which she returned to England. Vere had been working in the State of Rajasthan as a Railway Traffic Superintendent on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway when he died of a cerebral haemorrhage caused by an injury he had sustained during the war. Six months before he died, as part of The King’s Birthday Honours celebrating the official birthday of King George VI, Vere was awarded with an OBE, civil division, for his work on the Indian railways. At the time of Vere’s death, his son Colin had just finished fighting in WWII, and like Vere, tragically missed the last chance to see his father and share his experiences of battle.
I recently learned that in 1883 Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) was the Honorary secretary and treasurer of the Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club (which was actually also a rugby club) now known as the Darrawella Club. I managed to find some more photos of him and his younger brother Eustace Farquhar Rowsell (1867–1911) on the History of Ceylon Tea site. There is a whole album of photos from the Darrawella Club including an image of Nicholas II Emperor of Russia visiting the Club in 1881.
The photos of the Rowsell bros. are all of the Up-Country rugby team, which they both played for. Eustace had played for Blackheath 1st XV in England in 1891 (see first image) and was playing for the Up Country 11 in 1894, with his big brother Norman as Captain (see 2nd image)
The following year, it seems Norman was no longer on the squad. Maybe he wasn’t as good as his little brother? In any case, they were both playing in the 1897 Dickoya vs Maskeliya & Bogawantalawa game. For some reason Eustace’s nickname is written this year as “Family” Rowsell.
Colombo vs Up-Country 1895
Dickoya vs Maskeliya & Bogawantalawa 1897
That’s the last year they are photographed together, but Norman reappears in 1902 as the referee for the Up-Country vs Colombo game.
Up-Country vs Colombo 1902 – Norman is the ref on the left
Norman as a referee
There is also this photo below of the Darawella club from way back in 1885, a time when Norman was definitely there and one of the guys looks like him.