DEATHS. On the 10th inst., at his seat , Westcombe park, near Greenwich, THOMAS BROCKELBANK, Esq., Managaing Director of the General Steam Navigation Company. Mr. Brockelbank had been all his life engaged in active business on the river Thames as a lighterman, barge owner, timber merchant, and lastly, as managing director of the General Steam Navigation Company, a situation of responsibility and importance. The General Steam Navigation Company is the largest and most flourishing stem boat company in Europe, and possesses a fleet of steamers more than equal to the steam navy of Great Britain. The deceased gentleman amassed a large fortune, and has left a numerous family to inherit it. He was in his 69th year, and only ten days before his death he was transacting business at the offices of the company in Lombard Street. The flags of the General Steam Navigation Company were hoisted half-mast high on Monday as a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased. The poor watermen and lightermen of the river Thames have been deprived of a staunch friend by the death of Mr. Brockelbank.
Kentish Mercury and Greenwich Gazette (Saturday June 17th 1843)
THE LATE MR. BROCKELBANK
No event that has occurred in the borough of Greenwich during the last 20 years, has occasioned such general and deep regret among all classes of the inhabitants, as the decease of Thomas Brockelbank, Esq., who departed this life on Monday morning last, at his residence, Westcombe park. The loss of such a man, is a public calamity to any district in which it may occur; and a very large portion of the labouring population of Greenwich and Deptford must feel, most sensibly, that they have lost of sincere friend and protector. The extensive influence of Mr. Brockelbank, as managing director of the General Steam Navigation Company, enabled him, in some way or other, to render service to hundreds of persons in the two towns; and his assistance was never sought in vain by those who had the slightest claim to his friendship, or favor. Although the contriver and worker out of his own fortune, he avoided the mistakes into which parties so situated are prone to fall - he was not so far intoxicated with the possession of wealth as to treat with contumety those who were not equally fortunate in its acquirement, nor did he abstain [from?] its due enjoyments from inordinate desire for its unhealthy accumulation. Retaining the primitive habits and manners with which he had fought his way through the world, he seemed indifferent to the case and state which his energies had enabled those around him to enjoy; and up to the last week of his existence, if it had been asked who was the most active and indefatigable man in Greenwich, the answer would have been - Mr. Brockelbank. When a public purpose was to be accomplished, in which his own views and feelings were engaged, no sacrifice of time or money appeared too great for him. In an election he was a hero, and in the celebration of the success a prince. The festivals, at Westcombe Park, that followed the return of Captain Dundas, and subsequently of his more intimate friend, Mr. Attwood, gave a character to the elections for Greenwich, which they may not again be expected to exhibit. In the late contest for the Borough, his exertions and liberality in favour of Sir George Cockburn wewe equally apparent; and his desire to serve those who, on these occasions, were supporters of his own views, was as permanent as his recollection of their services. It would scarcely be reasonable to assert that a man, so constantly mingling in the stirring scenes of life, never made an enemy; but it may, with confidence be stated, that he never lost a friend. Of the most sterling independence himself, he knew how to appreciate that quality in others. In the city his name was as highly respected as it will be long remembered; and his business transactions were always conducted in a way that gave force and respectability to his character as a British merchant. He was gigantic in his conceptions of an undertaking; and he possessed all the energy and perseverance requisite for the execution of whatever measure he had the boldness to contrive. The General Steam Navigation Company, of which he was the projector, and to the successful establishment of which he devoted a considerable portion of his life, remains a splendid monument to his zeal and an honour to his country. The name of Brockelbank, indeed, appears as intimately interwoven with the progress of this important branch of our national power, as the names of Watt and Arkwright with the elements of industry with which they are associated. In the fullest sense of the word his has been a life of usefulness; and he has left a large and excellent family to enjoy his fortune and reap the honours of his reputation. His name will long be affectionately preserved in the memory of all who enjoyed his acquaintance; - his grave will be in the hearts of his family and friends, his epitaph in the tears of the poor, and his history in the grateful remembrance of those whose comforts and advancement in life he had the happiness to promote. Peace to the ashes of Thomas Brockelbank.
The Late Mr. Brockelbank’s Funeral.-
The remains of this lamented gentleman were deposited in their final resting place in the churchyard of St. Mary, this day. The melancholy ceremonial was conducted in a manner befitting the station of the deceased, and the respect in which his memory is held. The body was conveyed in a hearse drawn by six horses; the family and friends of the deceased, followed in nine mourning coaches, each drawn by four horses, richly caparisoned. Several private carriages followed; the horses of those belonging to the family, dressed in sable garniture. A number of parties, dressed in black, closed in procession, three a-breast, and the superintendent of police, W. Mallalieu, Esq., led the mournful cavalcade, on horseback. The line from West Combe Park to St. Mary’s church, was thronged at every corner with persons anxious to pay a last tribute to the remains of this worthy man; and the body, side-aisles, and gallery of the church were filled with the most respectable inhabitants of the town drawn together, by a similar motive. The service was impressively read by the vicar, the Rev. W. A. Soames; and the grave is now closed upon the remains of an individual who was a blessing to his family and an honor to society; and whose memory can only pass away with the present generation of the inhabitants of Greenwich.
Neil Rhind in his impressively detailed book Blackheath Village and Environs vol. 2 (1790-1970) - unfortunately now out of print - includes fascinating information about the lives and residences of members of the Brockelbank family. I cannot, however, agree with his assertion that “Brockelbank’s origins lay in Westmorland, where his grandfather, Daniel (1702-1773) had been Vicar of Morland. His son, also Daniel (1741-1801) had, jointly with his three brothers, founded the Brocklebank Shipping Line which operated eventually in London.” However convenient this assumption may be, there is unfortunately no evidence for it. Indeed, it seems almost certain that Thomas’s father was a Londoner, John Brockelbank. Thomas’s mother we know for certain was born Mary Liddard and left a lengthy will at her death in 1823. The history of the Brocklebank family of Westmorland and Liverpool, although also concerned with the shipping industry, seems to be quite different; their descendants are now baronets. It may still be the case, however, that many years ago the two families did share a common origin.
The Rev. Richard Newbon
I have unearthed through the Internet a reference in the book Memorials of Cambridge (vol. ii) by Charles Henry Cooper (published in 1861) which states that ‘among the numerous coats of arms in the windows of the hall of Trinity College, Cambridge’ are those of ‘Richard Newbon BD, senior fellow’. I am hoping to be able to follow this up with Trinity College and with the College of Arms.
I have received the following reply from the Library and Museum and Freemasonry concerning James Shelton Newbon and his sons. Many of the members of the United Wards’ Club (founded by Joseph Newbon in 1877) were freemasons, but it seems that the Newbon family were not among them:
Further to your enquiry, we have checked our records for the name Newbon from 1830-1900 in London without success. Please note that, for certain periods, our records are incomplete. It may be that they were freemasons but without a lodge name or number we cannot locate them in our records.
Trinity College, Cambridge
I have received the following very interesting information from Trinity College, Cambridge, where several members of the Newbon family studied. This information is in addition to that included in Alumni Cantabrigiensis, which is given in detail on this website:
Richard Newbon was admitted a subsizar (not a sizar) and was assigned Mr [John] Wilson as his tutor. He became a sizar in 1742 and was re-admitted as a pensioner on 31 Oct. 1743. [The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary states that a subsizar is: ‘at Cambridge University, an undergraduate receiving financial assistance from his or her college and ranking below a sizar’; a sizar is: ‘at Cambridge University, and at Trinity College, Dublin, an undergraduate receiving an allowance from the college to enable him or her to study and formerly required to perform certain menial duties’; and that a pensioner is: ‘at Cambridge University, an undergraduate without financial support from his or her college, a student without a college scholarship.’] He was the College's junior dean from 1760 to 1767.
C. E. Newbon was assigned Mr [William Collings] Mathison as his tutor on admission, and he was elected a member of the First Trinity Boat Club on 22 Oct. 1857.
S. B. Newbon was, before coming to Trinity, a pupil of Monsieur E. R. de Lervarte at Paris. His tutor at Trinity was, like his brother, Mr Mathison. He was elected a member of the First Trinity Boat Club on 9 Nov. 1864 and was listed as an 'honorary non-rowing member'.
The Brockelbank family
When James Shelton Newbon married Ann Brockelbank in 1831 he became part of an extensive and distinguished family. Ann’s father Thomas Brockelbank owned property in Wardrobe Place in Blackfriars, although his main home was in Greenwich; the Newbon law firm was based very close to Wardrobe Place at this time and it was probably this connection that led to James and Ann meeting, either by chance in the City or at Greenwich if James had become an acquaintance of his future father-in-law.
James became close to his in-laws and was clearly respected by them - for example, he was the recipient of Wardrobe Place by his father-in-law’s will. Only a limited amount can be deduced about how close Ann Newbon was to her brothers and sisters. She mentions her younger brothers Lemuel and George in her own will of 1866, and her son Charles Evans Newbon went on to marry George’s daughter Florence Madeline Brockelbank; Joseph Newbon is also mentioned in his uncle Lemuel’s will of 1869. Little can be gleaned about Ann’s relationships with her elder siblings, however. The only direct reference is through the family of her elder sister Lucretia, who was the wife of Robert Wilcoxon. Robert’s father Arthur lists James Shelton Newbon as a trustee of his estate in his will of 1842. This may well suggest a close bond between the two sisters and certainly shows the esteem in which James Shelton Newbon was held.
The Brockelbank family
I have made some interesting discoveries about the Brockelbank family. James Shelton Newbon’s father-in-law, Thomas Brockelbank, was clearly a very important citizen of Greenwich. The following obituary was printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1843:
June 10. At Westcombe Park, Greenwich, aged 68, Thomas Brockelbank, esq. He had been all his life engaged in the active business of a lighterman, barge-owner, timber-merchant, and lastly, as managing director of the General Steam Navigation Company, a situation of great responsibility. His practical knowledge of the river, and of everything connected with nautical matters, was of great service to the Company, and he saved them many thousands in avoiding litigation. He had amassed a large fortune, and has left a numerous family to inherit it.
Ann Newbon was his youngest daughter and several of her sisters also married men of some position. Peter Rolt, husband of Mary Brockelbank, for example, was MP for Greenwich between 1852 and 1857 and both he and Robert Wilcoxon, husband of Lucretia Brockelbank, were directors of The National Mercantile Life Asnsurance Society, as revealed by Jenkin Jones’s book What is Life Assurance? of 1847. Robert Wilcoxon was in fact chairman of the board of directors. Peter Rolt was listed as being of the firm of Brockelbank and Rolt, which seems to have been the firm of timber merchants mentioned in Thomas Brockelbank’s obituary.
Some further information on Thomas Brockelbank is included on the website http://website.lineone.net/~tom_lee/gbook.htm.
The web page http://www.firstworldwar.bham.ac.uk/donkey/rolt.htm contains some fascinating information on Peter Rolt’s son Stuart Peter Rolt, who was born around 1852, which would suggest his mother was his father’s second wife, since Mary Rolt died in 1845.
The London Gazette is now available online via the website listed above and is well worth a visit. It contains a large number of references to the surname Newbon for various reasons. Activities of professional members of the family in London are often noted - the law in particular receives considerable coverage, partnerships are listed and so on. Court cases are also listed in detail.
Although I had found a number of years ago some details of the trial of John Newbon, who was imprisoned for debt in 1844, I had no way of knowing that there were several other references to his plight in The London Gazette prior to being able to search digitally - apart from a painstaking trawl of every edition. The website brought up two further entries of 1844 and 1845 which give rather more detail of John Newbon’s domestic arrangements, for example the following from November 29th 1844:
WHEREAS a Petition of John Newbon, at present, and for five months past, residing at No. 34, Commercial Road,Lambeth, in the parish of Saint Mary, Lambeth, in the county of Surrey, carrying on business of a Tailor there, and for nine mouths previous thereto residing and carrying on business as a Tailor at No. 12, Basing-lane, in the parish of Saint Mary, Aldermary, in the city of London, and for four years and a half previous to such last-mentioned period residing and carrying on business as a Tailor at No. 41, Sutton-street, York-road, Lambeth, in the said parish of Saint Mary, Lambeth, having been filed in the Court of Bankruptcy, and the interim order for protection from process having been given to the said John Newbon, under the provisions of the Statutes in that case made and provided, the said John Newbon is hereby required to appear in Court before Edward Holroyd, Esq. the Commissioner acting in the matter of the said Petition, on the 12th of December next, at twelve at noon precisely, at the Court of Bankruptcy, in Basinghall-street, in the city of London, for his first examination touching his debts, estate, and effects, and to be further dealt with according to the provisions of the said Statutes; and the choice of the creditors' assignees is to take place at the time so appointed. All persons indebted to the said John Newbon, or that have any of his effects, are not to pay or deliver the same but to Mr. James Foster Groom, No. 12, Abchurch-lane, Lombard-street, the Official Assignee, nominated in that behalf by the Commissioner acting in the matter of the said Petition.
An entry from 24th December 1844 shows that John was then in the ‘Gaol of Horsemonger Lane’. One other entry of several years previously (January 19th 1841) states the following:
NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Charles Newbon and John Newbon, Tailors and Drapers, carrying on business at No. 94, Dorset-street, Salisbury-square, in the city of London, under the firm of C. Newbon and Son, has been dissolved, by mutual consent, on the 31st. day of December last,—Dated this 18th day of January 1841.
This is particularly interesting - I had always assumed that ‘C. Newbon & Son’ was a partnership between Charles and his younger son Walter Henry Newbon - John already had a family of his own by this stage and can be traced to various other addresses, as stated above, at this time, and it was Walter who was eventually to take over the business. This entry reveals that Charles and John had clearly worked together for some time, but that they went their separate ways professionally in 1841, when John would have been 28 - either friction had arisen or John simply wanted to set up on his own. It is tempting to read into this that 1841 marked the beginning of John’s troubles, although strictly there is insufficient evidence to do so.