The Manuscripts of Shrewsbury and Coventry Corporations [Etc] Fourth Report, Appendix: Part X. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.
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THE MANUSCRIPTS OF J. R. CARR-ELLISON, ESQUIRE, AT DUNSTON HILL, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE.
The papers of J. R. Carr-Ellison, Esq., of Hedgeley, Northumberland, and Dunston Hill, in the county of Durham, and preserved at the latter place, are of interest for the history of the trade of Newcastle-upon-Tyne throughout the last century. One of his ancestors, Ralph Carr, established a large connection with Scotland, Holland, Norway, and North America as a merchant and general shipping agent, to which he subsequently added the business of a banker. All the copy-books of his own business letters (but not the letters of his correspondents) have been preserved, amounting to some sixty or seventy volumes, and from these, which extend from 1737 to about 1783, much may be learned with reference to the commercial and banking transactions of the time. He mentions in one letter the fact that the shipping trade of Newcastle exceeded that of any other provincial port in England. The chief exports to America were coals, crown glass, bottles, lead, iron, and woollen goods; and the chief import appears to have been tar. The American correspondence of 1748–1775 is contained in two separate volumes; earlier letters are scattered through the preceding general volumes, but from the former year the colonial trade began to assume special importance. The letters cease at the beginning of the War of Independence. In one of the earlier letters Carr says to a correspondent, with reference to a young man whom at the latter's request he had sent out to him as a clerk, "There are few in England who have tolerable bread who would hire themselves to go to America." Many of the names of the persons with whom he corresponded may doubtless have interest for families in America at the present day. Some few of these it may be therefore be worth while to mention. At Boston, in 1748 and onwards, Messrs. Wendell, Ralph Inman (who continued a friend and correspondent up to his death), Edmund, Henry, and Josiah Quincy, Thomas Hutchinson (afterwards governor of Massachusetts), William Bowdoin (who arrived at Boston in 1748), Samuel Wentworth, Samuel Douglas, with many others; in 1764 some of the additional names are John Gould, Nath. and George Bethune, Samuel Scollay, hon. Andrew Oliver, James Griffin. At New York, 1749, Robert Commelin, John Bard, Joris Brinkerhoff, Adoniah Schuyler and Henry Cuyler, John Watts, Henry Lane, Philip Livingston; in 1764, Walter and Samuel Franklin, Lodowick Bomper, Thomas Vardill, Jacob Sarly. Mr. Carr naturally in the course of so long and large intercourse met with some dishonest traders; of one house at New York he says, "I have had too many bad chaps [i.e., buyers, chapmen; a term very frequently used by him in this sense] in America, but they are the very worst"; in another, "In truth most of the Americans are too cunning for me." One Mr. William Fletcher, who left Boston for the safer Danish island of St. Eustathia, leaving his debts unpaid, excited special indignation; but in 1763 his character was re-established, a composition was paid, and correspondence resumed.
In Holland there was constant correspondence with the house of Thomas and Adrian Hope, and in Edinburgh with John Coutts, with whom and with the house of Coutts in London Carr was employed in the transmission of money to the army in Scotland in 1745 and in the supply of provisions.
The documents of earlier date than these letter-books are chiefly concerned with the estates and legal affairs of the family of Ellison. Many relate to Jarrow and to the Manor of Hebburne in that parish. But the following are all that need here be noted:—
1617, 5 Oct.—15 Jas. I., Conveyance from William lord Eure to William Mallard, of Studley, esq., Roger Tocketts, John Cholmley, and Robert Gere, and their heirs, of the site of the dissolved cell of Jarrow, with the rectory.
1653, 2 June.—Conveyance from the two daughters and heiresses of Sir Henry Gibb, bart., deceased (viz., Elizabeth, wife of Richard Everard of Waltham, and Frances Gibb) and Edward Gibb to Thomas Bonner, and Robert Ellison of the lordship of Jarrow.
1658, 15 Dec.—To an exemplification in the name of the Protector Richard, of a fine for the Manor of Hebburne, between Robert Ellison and Benjamin Ellison, merchants, plaintiffs, and William Hodshon, esq., and others, deforccants, is attached a very fine and perfect impression of a seal for the county palatine, which is probably, in this state at least, very rare. Obverse: Shield with the arms of the see of Durham, within a fancy border, viz., a cross between 4 lions rampant, "1656. Ad brevia in eodem com. sigilland. deputatum." Rev.: The Protector, on horseback; on the dexter, the same arms.
Notes from Letter-Books referring to the Rebellion of 1745.
1745, Sept. 15.—To Mr. John Coutts. "You may be quite easy about your gold, for shoud the Highlanders come this length 'tis easy put out of the way, but I apprehend they will not be allow'd to cross the Firth, nor have they any encouragement for so doing, as so few are ready to join them."
Sept. 24.—"Ere this you've heard of Sir John Cope's defeat, owing to the scandalous behaviour of the dragoons, who deserted without firing a shot, and got to Berwick." The victory, however, did not cause much alarm at Newcastle, for in a subsequent letter it was remarked that should England be invaded and the town attacked, it could not be taken without a train of artillery, which the enemy did not possess.
In November a ship belonging to Messrs. Hope under one Capt. Sinclair put into the Orkneys for repair being damaged; in April the news came that he had joined the rebels, taking the ship's guns, &c.; finally, the ship was taken by Capt. O'Brien in the Sheerness, one of the King's ships, and treated as a prize.
Notes from the American Letter-Books.
1762.—Some ale shipped in this year gave great dissatisfaction to several buyers, upon which Mr. Carr writes, "In truth the whole malt liquor of England is quite ruined by the last heavy excise, which was laid on to extricate your whole continent from being swallowed by the French; they neither use the quantity of malt nor hops they formerly did, and, what is worse, several unwholesome ingredients are, as it is too much to be fear'd, made use of, so that many parcels which we have ship'd of late have perished in the voyage, and we are resolved to ship no more.
1762, Dec. 17.—"The preliminaries [of peace] were taken into consideration a few days ago by the House of Commons. Mr. Pitt spoke for three hours and a half against many of the articles, and with good reason in our opinion as to some of them, for poor England is always weighed down with her raskally allies. On a division Mr. Pitt headed a poor minority of 65 against 319. In the House of Lords it never came to a division."
1763, Aug. 26.—"Just now eighteen great houses in Amsterdam are fail'd for many millions, also several chief ones at Hamburgh and Stockholm, which it is afraid will affect many more in London, Paris, &c."
Sept. 16.—"We have had prodigious success in our Greenland trade this summer; at first we sold our oil at £15 10 per ton, since which we have got £16 5, and this week for small parcels of five tons £18."
1764, March 6.—"Smith coals are advanced to 13/per chalder, owing to the great scarcity occasioned by the prodigious storms of rain we have had for some months past, which prevented their getting any stocks from the mines." This was followed by a plentiful harvest in Aug. when there is "the finest weather imaginable like yours in America."
1764, Oct. 26.—In a letter to Sam. Wentworth, esq., at Boston (who died in Sept. 1766), mention is made of the return of one son, H. Wentworth, who had been with Messrs. Carr, and given them great satisfaction, and of another son at Eton, who appears to have returned home in May, 1765.
1765, Feb. 2.—"Coals were never known so scarce as at present in the memory of any person living, owing to the prodigious demand for London, and the scarcity of miners here since the last war. Many ships have been waiting here from two to three months for loadings of coals which they have not yet been able to get." In October of this year 500 vessels had been waiting in the harbour for six weeks unable to get any coals on account of a dispute between the coal-owners and pitmen.
A large consignment of American oak could not find a purchaser, not a single bid being made at a public sale. "The fault they find is not only with its quality, having a brown streak running thro' it, which they term the red horse, but also on account of its great breadth and such variety; it is also much curved or bent, so that it will cut to immense waste, and runs much narrower at one end than the other. All the English and Dantzig plank is first squared in the tree in the exactest manner to about 12 inches, which is the proper breadth, and requires neither hewing nor waste of wood. We imagine if yours had been cut so, there would have been less objection to it." It was sold at last in Nov. 1766.
1768, Apr. 29.—Mr. Ralph Inman is requested to make quest for "a very unfortunate poor lady at Roxbury," Lady Hesilrige, wife of the son [Robert] of Sir Arthur Hesilrige, who is enquired for by Mr. Jonathan Ormston, Sir Arthur's trustee, and who must make proof of her marriage. Also to interest himself on behalf of a poor woman of Newcastle, Hannah Nicholson, who has never received a legacy of £200 left her in 1763 by her son Edward Nicholson in Virginia and retained by one James Hunter there; "we are determined to be at any expense or trouble in order to procure her justice."
1768, Nov. 18.—Letter to Lady Hesilrige at Boston: 120l. to be paid to her as the interest due on the 500l. legacy from the death of her father[in-law], Sir Arthur Hesilrige, and 20l. annually. "I most sincerely lament that your unhappy situation and worth were not known before the death of Sir Arthur; sure I am you and yours would have been provided for, but it is the hand of Providence, which is still able to conduct and assist you. No doubt you heard that Sir Arthur left his estate to the youngest of five sons, and even thought him very unworthy of it, and [I] doubt he has not been mistaken by the accounts I have of him. He is not yet of age; when he is I pray God he may have an inclination equal to his ability to assist you. For your son, as he will have the title, ought to have the estate likewise. I had much talk with Mr. Ormston as to paying you in the 500l., but this he apprehends cannot be done till your children are of age, but when they get an estate in this neighbourhood sold for the payment of legacies and the other sons' fortunes, he will consult the nobleman [lord Maynard] who was left joint trustee with him."
1768, Nov. 18.—"It is a most lamentable consideration to this kingdom that there should be almost open war between one part and another. The colonists object to every mode of taxation, without ever proposing how much they will raise in their own way toward the millions of debt England is loaded with, and taxed to the very teeth to pay the interest of, and which was actually expended in the sole defence and support of the colonies."
1770, July 2.—Letter to James Hunter, Fredericksburgh, Virginia, demanding in the strongest terms payment of the legacy (mentioned under 1768) of which he has defrauded Hannah Nicholson. [Other letters follow on the subject; Hunter remitted money by instalments].
Same date.—Letter to Lady Hesilrige, urging her to send her eldest son over to England; he hopes the sight of him would warm lord Maynard (who is 80 years old) into compassion for the unmerited loss of his birthright.
1771, Apr. 4.—Letter to Lady Hesilrige, congratulating her on the reception her son has met with from lord Maynard, who in letters to Mr. Ormston "expresses more of a parental fondness for him than my most sanguine wishes could even hope for." Enclosing a copy of a letter of thanks to lord Maynard, dated 30 March. [It is subsequently mentioned that the latter sent his young relation to school at Chiswick, and in April 1773 sent him to Calcutta. He died in the East Indies in 1805. Several original letters from Lady Hesilrige are preserved.]
1772, Feb. 12.—The river at Newcastle is closed with ice, putting a stop to all trade; "this, added to the misfortune of our bridge being carried away, which has stood for many hundred years, causes the greatest distress to this country, besides many hundred thousand pounds' loss by that unparallelled flood."
The last letter to Boston (about the despatch of coals, to be landed at Salem, in consequence of the closing of the port of Boston), is dated 16 September 1775. Four letters follow written to Robert Harvey, esq., at Grenada in 1775–8.
Original Miscellaneous Letters.
In the years 1708–10 there are letters to Robert Ellison respecting the sale of some land to him from Thomas Forster and Jane Fenwick, wife of lieut. Michael Fenwick of Hebborne. The former may no doubt be identified with the commander of the Chevalier's army in the insurrection of 1715. A letter from A[nne] Widdrington to Mrs. Carr at Bath, without date of year, is from the wife of the eldest son of the lord Widdrington who was attainted for his share in the same rising. The letter shows that in spite of forfeiture the son used his father's title; the writer (who dates from Bond Street, Saturday, 7 Jan., possibly 1749) sends an invitation to a concert which "my lord" has fixed for Monday, "23rd of thiss inst."; he "hass invited all the company, and engagd the musical people; it will begin at twelve a clock . . . . It is to be at Turnbam Green, having no convinence for any sutch thing in Bond Street."
1758, Feb. 6.—A letter from Mr. Matthew Bell without address, to someone then in London, relates to one of the first issue of bank notes by the bank established by Mr. Carr and his partners. "I was desir'd to send you the enclosed to have a plate cut, for twenty shillings notes; one pound in the body of the note, and the twenty shillings at bottom, are both intended to be in the like hand that the sum is wrote in in the notes of the Bank of England, and a scrawel [scroll ?] on the left hand, You will hear of the man who cut the plate for the other notes at Vere's; he lives in Wine Licence Court in Fleet Street . . . . You must also provide a large quantity of a strong tough paper for these notes."
1759.—A copy of an express sent from the Admiralty on 30 Nov. to Lord Ravensworth, giving an account of Lord Hawke's victory at Belleisle on 20 Nov., is communicated to Mr. Carr by one Nicholas Walton.
1760, Apr. 22, London.—A letter from Thomas Coutts, the banker, informs Mr. Carr that the business at Edinburgh will now go on, in consequence of the death of a partner, in the name of his brother James Coutts alone, who "is connected with some of the best families in England." In another letter in Feb. 1787 he says that he is the last of his family, so that the very name is likely to be no more, four sons having died in infancy, while three daughters survive. "Coutts brothers & Co" write from Edinburgh in 1762 to introduce Francis Garden [lord Gardenstone], the King's Solicitor for Scotland.
1761.—Lord Ravensworth on 28 March writes to communicate to Mr. Carr that he has great reason to believe that there is prospect of peace; he feels how tender the point is, and therefore only mentions it as a hint, supposing that in the course of Carr's great traffic abroad the conclusion of the war may make great alterations. He begs that not a word may be intimated as coming from him.
[1761, Oct.]—Edward Mosley [town-clerk of Newcastle] to Ralph Carr; not dated. "London is in a ferment about the resignation of Mr. Pitt and Lord Ansoa, but its thought those gentlemen will be soon reinstated. It is said the difference has arisen from some haughty memorial presented by the Spanish ambassador, recommending our Court to accept the proposals of France towards a peace, which being couch'd rather too insolently for Mr. Pitt's approbation, he was for having war declared against Spain forthwith; in consequence of which great debates arose, and the duke of Bedford handled Pitt a little unbecoming a gentleman of his station."
1763.—A letter from a lady at Bath named A. Hollier to Mrs. Carr, dated 31 Jan. 1763, gives an account of a scene in an assembly room there which, although little creditable to those concerned, would seem of a kind which at that time was not infrequent. "They say Bath hath been very full this winter, but we have kept snug to our private parties, and gone very little to the rooms. Indeed, my sister went to the Queen's birthday ball at Wiltshire's rooms, which was in general esteemed a very good one; but at the close of it they cooked up a little sort of a riot: for the candles went out before twelve o'clock, the music went off in the middle of a dance, and left the company in the dark, who could by no means get the music again or a replenish of candles, or even a little negus to drink, tho' they could prove the rooms cleared five and forty guineas by the subscription. Upon which one of the gentlemen said, he remembered upon such affronts as these it used to be custom to break the lustres and glasses; upon which hint there was negus produced in plenty, and the gentlemen threw it all over the room, broke eight bowls, and went off in a rage, swearing there should never be another ball at those rooms; but Wiltshire having made proper submissions they have passed it by, and the balls go on there as usual. Collet had carried himself off before upon some affront he had received, of which he has had plenty this winter, and since that night hath resigned his office to one Derrick, a little Irishman, to whom they say the rooms are to allow fifty pounds a year. If that is the case, it is no hard matter to prognosticate what authority he will gain, and how far it will be attended to."
1769–1771.—Three letters on matters of business from Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, the well-known foundress of the Blue Stocking Club. In one of them she remarks, "The town is in great impatience for the meeting of the Parliament. My great comfort is that we live in God's world, and not in one governed by ministers or their opposers . . . . . Most busy and zealous people in politicks mean either to keep a place or to get one."
1772, March 9, London.—L. Dutens to Mr. Carr. "One should not allow one's friends to be led astray by a dirty set of news writers, for which reason I set down to assure you that it is not true that the Queen of Denmark has undergone a tryall. Nothing in all this is certain but the cruelties exerced (sic) against the physician and his brother. The King of Denmark himself is looked upon as a prisonner, and he is under a strong guard by way of doing him honor; he is really supposed to be weak in his mind, and as the Queen Dowager and Prince Frederick are at the head of affairs it is thought he will be aside soon . . . . . . I was at a rout last Friday at Northumberland House; Miss Surtees was the prettiest figure there. I said we had two dozen such at Newcastle, to justify my stay there."
1773, Aug. 10, London.—David Brown, Governor General of the Danish Settlements in India, to Ralph Carr, requesting the loan of 2,000l. or 3,000l. for three or four years at 6 per cent. [There is a letter from John Brown, dated 21 Apr. 1772, proposing to Carr to invest in "our" Danish East India Company, for which a new charter had just been signed by the King of Denmark.]
1774, July 2, Parliament Street, London.—Letter from Governor Hutchinson to Ralph Carr, esq. "Sir, Soon after the recipt of your last letter I received the King's leave to come to England, but the state of my government obliged me to defer my voyage from time to time. I intended immediately to desire you to give your order upon me for the sum you proposed, and whenever you think fit to draw for thirty-five pounds, your draught shall be answered.
"After the most cruel calumnies and slanders I am happy in receiving from the King as full and explicit an approbation of every part of my conduct as perhaps has ever been given to any servant of the Crown. I am, Sir, your most obedient humble servant, Tho. Hutchinson."
Hutchinson had been a frequent business-correspondent with Mr. Carr up to 1763, but then their correspondence ceased in consequence of a dispute respecting some bullion-glass sent out by the latter; it was slightly renewed in 1768, and in 1773 Carr proposed a compromise which in this letter is accepted. In his reply, dated 8 July (of which the draft remains), Carr congratulates him on his safe arrival from a place where even his life was in eminent hazard; "the highest approbation of his Majesty must be thought by every man in old England no more than what your uniform conduct highly merited, and am glad to see so great a number of the most respectable and dispassionate in New England are of the same sentiments, which is a great consolation, tho' I hope the gratitude of the nation will not stop there."
1786, Aug. 13, Mountclare.—Sir John Dick, bart., Comptroller of the army accounts, to Mr. Carr. "The horrid attempt on the King's life gave every one the sensation of infinite surprise and alarm: that there should be in this kingdom one found to be so insane even to compass and imagine the death of the present King, and much more to make an attempt on his life, is matter of the highest astonishment. For altho' there may be much difference of opinion touching many of the political measures of his ministers, yet if ever there was a prince sans reproche in all his conduct and actions towards his people, he is the man; for he certainly never injoured (sic) one of them in his family, his property, or his persuasion in religion. Now as madness always acts from some impression of the mind and the impulse of some dominating idea, it seems unaccountable what idea could have instigated Margaret Nicholson. If the refusal to grant the prayers of petitions and memorials of grievances and distress be conceiv'd to be a just cause of assassination, not only kings but their ministers, their boards, and even their commissioners, will be of all men the most misarable (sic); but I hope there is not an other person like this diabolical woman suffer'd to go loose. His Majesty's presence of mind and composure were noble and striking; he enter'd the levée room a few minutes after, and no one present had the least suspision (sic) from his appearance that any thing extraordinary had happen'd . . . . . . I hope you will have as plentifull a harvest in the north as we have here. The prices of the stocks will show you that money is also plenty here, except in the pocketts of the fashionable people, they take care never to have plenty of anything but debts. If we can but preserve the peace for fifteen or twenty years, our successors will have the satisfaction of seeing this country in a happy situation; but to do this we must keep pace with the French, who are very busy in augmenting their navy."
1788.—A letter from Capt. W. Skerrett of the 19th Foot to Mr. Ralph Carr, dated at Lucea, Jamaica, 24 June, 1788, is worth quoting for the remarks made on the condition of the slaves in Jamaica. "Our situation here has been critical. We are not without our fears of an insurrection among the negroes. The extreme absurdity of your people at home has occasioned all this. The pious bishop of London [Porteous] and Mr. Wilberforce, with others, have laid the seeds of discontent, and flattered these unfortunate people with a prospect of emancipation. If ever this takes place, adieu to your West India islands. It is a pity that the original rights of mankind cannot be made the standard of government. It is a sad misfortune we can only justify by policy what morality condemns. The Legislature may soften the situation of this unfortunate race of human beings. The planters should be compelled to treat with attention the young, the aged, and the infirm; the woman who has brought the planter six children should have her freedom. Slaves who have been remarkable for their fidelity in giving information or suppressing of rebellion, the same indulgence should be extended to. The French treat their slaves much better than we do. They endeavour to soften their situation, are much kinder to them, and speak to them with mildness, and the negroes are found to be less stupid among the French. John Bull does not endeavour to conciliate their affections. He sees that they are well fed, but then he sometimes exercises those cruelties at which human nature no less recoils. I do believe it is tyranny that plunges them in that profound stupidity which we always see in a Jamaica negro." Capt. Skerrett encloses a copy of a memorial which he addressed to Sir George Yonge, Secretary at War, on 24 Aug. 1787, setting forth his claims, by service, to a majority by purchase, but complains of injury done him by Gen. Græme. He had been 29 years in the army, serving at Belleisle and Gibraltar, and in America and the West Indies. He quotes a letter recommending him for promotion which was written by Gen. Gould, the Commanderin-Chief in Carolina, to Sir Henry Clinton, after an action at Shewbrick's Plantation on 17 July, 1781, in which the General says that Capt. Skerrett received six balls, that his humanity to the wounded after the action was as conspicuous as his conduct, and "that he is this day one of the strongest instances of neglected merit that I ever was acquainted with in the service." Skerrett's memorial was presented to the King, whose gracious and flattering answer was, that he should be provided for.
In the same year Sir John Dick writes from the Horse Guards to Mr. Carr, strongly urging his assisting Capt. Skerrett to purchase his majority on the ground that "in times of peace, when past services are forgotten, and ministers are under the necessity of attending to political applications," there was little chance of his otherwise obtaining it. He would have to pay an advanced price over and above the King's regulation; "indeed, at present there are few purchases made at the regulation price."
1796.—A petition from the debtors confined in Durham Gaol on 11 Jan. illustrates the description of that prison and the condition of its inmates given by Howard, who says he found some there whose sole food was bread boiled in water; they beg Mr. Carr to assist them "at this extreme time of need, being shutt up in this gloomy prision, and confined with the refuse and most abandond of mankind."
1798.—To Will. Seward's Biographiana, published with the date of 1799, is prefixed an allegorical frontispiece by Miss Harriet Carr, to whom the book is dedicated. The following letter to Mr. Carr, dated at Richmond 9 Nov. 1798, shows that the issue of the book had then already taken place. "Dear Sir, By the favour of your son I have the honour of your letter. I'm very glad that my compilations have amused you. No one knows better than myself their defects. Biography is however always read with ardour, and I fear your candour has in the subject overlooked the execution, the manner in the matter. Miss Harriet's frontispiece will very much promote the diffusion of the Biographiana. She has appended an exquisite Corinthian portico to a heap of ruins. I hear that she is about to change her situation to the entire satisfaction of those who know her and who love her best. I sincerely wish her in her new distinction as happy as they can wish her, and as happy as her talents and virtues entitle her to be. I am much obliged to you for your kind wishes to me, and have only to wish that I deserved the benedictions of worth and of virtue like yours. My kind wishes in return can only be directed to your cheerfullness and freedom from pain in the present state of your existence. The unmarred tenor of your valuable and excellent life has secured you every beatitude of eternity." (!)
1801.—The cruelty of the old press-gang system is exhibited in a piteous letter from one Edward Dodd, dated at Ponteland 20 June, appealing for help on behalf of a son, who had been taken when sent to sea for a trial-voyage to London; "in the Nore he was impress'd, and dragged away by oppression's savage grasp, and sent to Egypt or elsewhere to be butcher'd . . . . Oh, Sir, could you in mercy to the afflicted hit upon a plan to procure his liberation, I may say redemption, and restore a dearly beloved son to the arms of a fond father, you would do one of the most merciful and kindest actions a man ever did."