Archive for the ‘Chapmen & Packmen’ Category

Back in 2011 and 2012, I posted three articles about ‘Scotch Chapmen’ who settled in the 17th century lace centre of Newport Pagnell, Bucks. Despite knowing that these merchants and dealers travelled throughout England, it came as a surprise to find in an 1872 Trade Directory for my adopted town of Chesterfield this list of Travelling Drapers (grouped separately from Drapers who were clearly non-travelling):

BELL James, 30 Spencer Street
BROWN David, Lordsmill Street
FINDLEY David, 23 & 25 St Mary’s Gate
McKAY Benjamin, 13 Holywell Street
McLACHLAN Hugh, 19 Knifesmithgate
McNAE William, 77 Saltergate
MILLIGAN George, 11 Eyre Street
MULLARKY James, 66 Soresby Street

My immediate thought: those are all Scottish names! Yesterday, I looked for them in the Chesterfield 1871 and 1881 census and found vindication – every one in the list except James MULLARKY was born in Scotland (and he was born in Ireland). I even found an extra one in the 1871 census: Fergus WILLIAMSON, travelling draper born Scotland. There could easily be more.

So, 200 years after the ones I researched in Newport Pagnell, the ‘packmen’ were still on the trudge. These had all married English girls from Chesterfield, Sheffield or Nottingham and had children locally too. It will be interesting later after more research to see if they trudged (or more likely steam-trained) away again, or if they put down permanent roots.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this tradition maintained for so long. Going backwards in time from the 17th century, histories of Scottish trade and economy report that the Scots merchant families were sending their young bucks off peddling throughout Europe, as well as south into England, at least from medieval times. One commentator in 1620 said there were 30,000 Scottish families in Poland. There were also significant Scottish communities in Scandinavia and across the German states. Another historian comments that the 16th century word in German for ‘pedlar’ was ‘Scot’.

At the point of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, nearly three thousand Scottish pedlars were plying a gainful trade over the English counties.

Packman & horse

You might start to think that travelling about to make a buck was built into Scottish DNA. You had to be rough, tough and determined to trudge through all weathers and terrains before roads were invented, often with your shop on your back, or the back of a single packhorse, or (more often than is usually imagined) with a string of up to a hundred horses behind you. So maybe it was the most itchy-footed and enterprising genes that won out over many generations of trudging, and which brought Scottish drapers to Chesterfield.

Sheffield, it turns out, was the bigger hub for packmen, especially in the 18th century at the start of the industrial revolution before roads were turnpiked and canals dug. They provided the essential transportation for raw materials and finished goods to and from the west coast across the Peak, east to river landings for Hull and London and down all routes south. Anyone who enjoys a bevvy after a bracing walk in the Hathersage area will know the Scotsmans Pack public house, a present-day reminder of those lost days in the Derbyshire Peak, and a good study of the county’s tracks has been written by local historian David Hey – Packmen, Carriers & Packhorse Ways, published by Landmark 2004.

As far as I know, however, no-one has researched and written any detailed histories of the Scottish men and women (yes there were packwomen too) who passed through and stayed in Chesterfield… so a new challenge awaits.


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When linen draper David Millagan married his first wife Ann Tompkins in Newton Longville, Bucks on 13 Oct 1706, he was making the decision to settle down close to the heart of the lace trade, and to “go no more a-wandering” between Scotland and England.

When I first discovered him, more experienced researchers gave me the orthodox views about 17th and 18th century Scottish chapmen : they were poor; they didn’t settle down in England; they were little better than vagrants and often in trouble with the law.  I heard that the years prior to Union were very dangerous ones for Scots to be in England, and that dissenters in this period were social outcasts and barred from public offices.

The research of some local historians, like Prof Margaret Spufford, has challenged these views and what we know of David Millagan’s life supports newer theories that dissenters were often tolerated and respected in their village communities, and that many chapmen did settle down eventually with their own shops.

David Millagan paid tax on five acres of land in Newton Longville 1706-1721.  In 1728, he was parish constable and in 1715-1729, he witnessed the Wills of  five local residents, all of which indicates some status in his community.  He also had a shop in the village, later run by his widow, second wife Ann Barrett, and we have a delightful picture of her from the diary of Rev William Cole, vicar of nearby Bletchley:

“Sat 22 Nov 1766 – Mrs. Meligan was buried on Thursday at Newton… she died in Clerkenwell Workhouse & was brought down in an Herse, to be buried by her first Husband in Newton Churchyard: her 2nd Husband is a  Baronet of the Name of Yeomans… but he using her ill & having no Estate, she would never go by his Name…  I have heard Mr Tho: Willis & others say, that when she kept a good Shop in this Town, his Mother, (Mr Brown Willis’s Wife), used to pawn her Cloaths to her & borrow Money of her at an exorbitant use: when I first came here, she lived in this Parish, where she has still an House: was a tall strapping Woman & several Times within these 6 or 7 years used to walk on Foot from London to Blecheley in a Day[1].  She was between 80 & 90 at her Death”.

As Mrs Ann Yeomans, she gave evidence at the inquest into the death of Andrew Millagan in Kings Bench Prison on 8 May 1750, suggesting strongly that Andrew and David were brothers, especially as Andrew was buried back in Newton Longville.  He was described as a chapman of Newton Longville on his marriage in 1711 to Mary Woodbridge of Weston Turville and, in 1750 he was no doubt in prison for debt.

A James Milligan (note the middle I rather than A) was also buried at Newton Longville.  He was almost certainly the James Milligan linen draper and innkeeper of The Ram in Newport Pagnell and their burial together strongly suggests David, Andrew and James were brothers.  As previous articles explained, James Milligan was a respected member of the Newport Pagnell Independent Meeting, trustee of their meeting house for about twenty years.  In 1728, he married Margaret Roy, daughter of Patrick and Sarah Roy (another Scottish surname), previous innkeepers and co-owners of the Ram.  But in 1760, James Milligan was declared bankrupt.  A 1769 newspaper advertisement shows us the type of stock he had in his shop:

For SALE The remaining part of the stock in trade of Mr. JAMES MILLIGAN, shopkeeper, late of Newport Pagnell, Bucks, assigned over for the benefit of his creditors; consisting as follows:-

60 pieces camblets and flubbs   |   70 pieces checks

50 Norwich crapes & persians    |   1-0 pieces Irish & long lawns

60 dozen silk handkerchiefs & cravats  |  40 —- broad cloths

54 —- soosee and linen        |        250 —? sewings & bergam

40 pieces satins, mantuas, & ducapes |  70 pieces ribbon

60 — jeans, buckrams, Silefias & Dowlas | 60 cloaks and cardinals

150 worsted & silk breeches pieces

Likewise suit cloth, brown Scotch, dyed sheetings, diapers, Irish and Russia sheetings, -ulix hollands, gauze, lawns, muslins, Welch cottons, coloured Li-e thread, gloves, shirt buttons, womens hats, blond Lace, worsted hose, silk mits, shoes, boots, &c.

Unsurprisingly, neither bankrupt James nor debtor Andrew left Wills and David’s Will of 1737 makes no mention of Scotland, so the origins of the migrating Millagan family remain unknown.

This is also true for the Crosby, Hanney and Irving families who settled in Bucks at the same time.  They either left no Wills or did not mention Scotland.  I believe these were travelling Scottish chapmen, perhaps working for wealthier merchants like the Maxwells, Hamiltons and Crichtons.  Holding no land or property themselves in Scotland, they had no reason to mention it in their Wills, or were not wealthy enough to leave one.

David Millagan was best buddies with James Crosby, described as a “Scotch lacebuyer” when he married Millicent Daniel in Bletchley in 1700.  James and Millicent had only one child Mary, born and died in 1701, but in 1716, James was up at Quarter Sessions, agreeing to support a child Richard Crosby, born to Jane Cooke, and David Millagan was his surety.  In his Will, James left the property he had acquired in Bletchley to a kinsman, another James Crosby of Saffron Walden; he also gave £5 to Robert Crichton, lace merchant of Newport Pagnell and 2 guineas to his friend David Millagan.  Later, this friendship brought David to grief.  In a Chancery case in the 1720s, he testified that his friend’s heir, James Crosby junior of Saffron Walden falsely arrested and jailed him on charges of non-payment of debt.  The truth, David asserted, was that the heir owed him money, repayment of a bond he had honoured on behalf of James senior when he failed to repay a loan before his death.

Incidents like these lead us to wonder if the Scottish chapmen lived up to the reputations the prejudiced English had about them, or whether they were picked on deliberately.  Further south in Bucks, William Irving of Great Marlow appeared several times at quarter sessions in 1709-10 indicted as a “disturber of the peace” and as a “common barrator”.  Like the Millagans and Crosbys, the Irvings settled down, married well and acquired property in their adopted county, but still found themselves in trouble with the law.  Similarly also, they left few Wills and those they did make no mention of Scotland.

Though Scottish roots for the Hanney family of Buckingham also cannot be proved, once again the weight of evidence suggests it.  In 1710 in Buckingham, a James Milligan of Tingewick, Bucks married Sarah Hanney of Finmere, Oxfordshire.  Sarah was either the daughter or widow of Patrick Hanney, lacebuyer of Buckingham whose Will of 1693 names eleven children by two wives named Sarah, but once again makes no mention of Scotland.  The Buckingham registers tell us that Robert, John and Andrew Hanney were also baptising babies at the same time as Patrick and the names point to Scottish origins.

It is just possible that James Milligan and Sarah Hanney were the parents of David, Andrew and James Millagan who were all buried in Newton Longville.  There was certainly an older James Milligan living and going bankrupt in Newport Pagnell when James Milligan, the draper and innkeeper of the Ram was there.  The latter took out an advert in the national newspapers in 1739 to protest that the James Milligan of Newport Pagnell lately bankrupt was not he at the Ram and he was doing nicely thank you.  In his own bankruptcy proceedings in the 1760s, he is referred to twice as James Milligan of Newport Pagnell junior.  But, as so often, these relationships remain only conjecture.

Though, as we have seen, many of the wealthier expat lace merchants left Wills that tell us about their roots and relatives in Scotland, for their less wealthy compatriots like the Millagans, Hanneys, Roys, Crosbys and Irvings, and many others not mentioned here, the trail is harder to follow.  We are left with occasional clues, mainly in parish registers, court records, newspapers and property dealings, and with the ‘weight of evidence’ from given names, surnames and connections with families that are known to be Scottish.

Though it may seem like slender evidence, when all the families discovered in these ways are added up, it is clear that there was significant movement of Scots to the lace counties of England after the Restoration, a part of the Scottish diaspora that so far has received very little attention.


[1] that’s 43 miles!

This article is based on one first published by Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society in 2009.

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History books give few references to the elusive Scottish chapmen, pedlars, lacemen and drapers who travelled and settled in England after the Restoration.  Occasionally, however, there’s a gem.  In 1842, Joseph Staines wrote a history of his native Newport Pagnell in Bucks and he tells us:

“Mr. Gainsborough [Minister of Newport Pagnell Independent Chapel 1743-7 and brother of the famous artist Gainsborough] was succeeded by Mr. Afflick, and Mr. Fordyce… these gentlemen were both Scotchmen, and it was probably this circumstance, which induced the Scotch Packmen, who came to this Town to attend at the Chapel; the lodging house of these men was the Chequers, and when they attended Chapel they were in the habit of sitting in the front pew of the middle gallery.  This gallery having at that time only a railed front, these Scotchmen had it panelled at their own expense, and for many years afterwards the pew went by the name of the Scotchmen’s pew.”

Newport Pagnell was a hotbed of dissent during the Civil War and afterwards dissenters in Newport, Olney, Northampton, Wellingborough, Bedford, Cranfield and other nearby villages were tightly linked, along with groups in Hunts, Cambs, Berks, Herts, Northants and London.  They were like family: helping and supporting each other, sharing doctrine and ministers, and frequently falling out, with door-slamming arguments, split-ups, reconciliations and re-groupings.  They offered welcome to mobile Scots looking for something akin to their native Presbyterianism; they gave safe havens and ‘passports’ of recommendation during times of persecution.  It is also likely that the Scots who travelled by trade were ready-made disseminators of non-conformist materials and ideas.

Wealthy Scots who settled down in England were closely involved in early dissenter meetings, sometimes as full members, more often as trustees and owners of meeting house leases and land.  Their Wills are full of links both to other Scottish lace and linen merchants and to English dissenters, all based in ‘hotspots’ where the lace trade, travellers’ inns and dissenting communities coincided.


Margaret Hamilton, born 1706 in Newport Pagnell, lived in Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire with husband George Whigham; their son Robert of Hallidayhill was Provost of Sanquhar 1772-88.  Margaret’s brother William also lived in Sanquhar.  It was their brother John, lace merchant and business partner with Walter Beaty, who had the closest links with Newport Pagnell.  John married Sarah Abbott from Lavendon near Olney, daughter of a local lace merchant – this Sarah and daughter Ann were admitted to full membership of Newport Pagnell Independents in 1768 and 1784 respectively.  In 1788, Ann married dissenting minister Rev Samuel Greatheed, an amazing chap with close links to the first Congregational Church at St John, Newfoundland.   Amongst other things, he was a founding director of the London Missionary Society, established in 1795.

After a dissolute early life while a military engineer in Canada, Samuel saw the light, attended the Dissenting Academy in Newport Pagnell, became assistant tutor to Rev William BULL and then minister to the Independent Church at Woburn, Beds.  Through his wife, he inherited the Hamilton fortune; and he was an intimate friend of the poet Cowper, who lived in Olney and wrote the tombstone epitaph for Samuel’s brother-in-law Thomas Abbott Hamilton in 1788.

Samuel and Ann were childless so their fortune passed next to Ann’s first cousin Robert, son of William Hamilton in Sanquhar.  This family is well-documented in the ‘Annals of Sanquhar’ and ‘Memorials of Sanquhar Churchyard’ by Tom Wilson.   Robert married Janet Witherington and their three surviving children were next co-inheritors of the Hamilton wealth: William, Mary [who married a Macmillan] and James Abbott Hamilton, all of Sanquhar.   James Abbott and his wife Jean Thomson made a visit to Newport Pagnell to visit relatives after their marriage in 1792.   Their son John married a Marion Crichton, who was possibly connected to the Crichtons of Newport Pagnell…


If only I could reach across the centuries and kiss the cheek of Robert Crichton.  He died in Newport Pagnell about 1749 and was the first Bucks person I researched to state clearly in his Will that he came from Scotland, reassuring me that I wasn’t imagining the connection.  In his Will, he left £100 to the Ministers and Elders of the Church of Glencairn “where I was born”.    He was the son of John and Jane CRICHTON of St Albans, Herts.  In 1749, Jane was still living there, a three-times widow of (1) John Coxe, gent of St Albans; (2) John Chrichton, laceman of Newport Pagnell and (3) James Welch, draper of St Albans.  Robert names 6 brothers and sisters in wills and deeds:

  • John who married Lydia Latimer in London 1703, and had a daughter Jane
  • William
  • Marron who married Robert Dickson, with 4 children: Robert jnr [woollen draper of Newport Pagnell], William [lacebuyer of Newport Pagnell], Jane and Mary
  • James, draper of Newport Pagnell, died 1722, with a son John
  • Charles, lace merchant of Newport Pagnell, died 1733 who married Sarah Latimer of Newport Pagnell in 1716 in London
  • Isabel who was of Kircudbright in 1733 and had at least 7 children [married name unknown]

Robert Crichton himself first shows up as a lace merchant in Hatfield, Herts in 1707 and the family had reached Newport Pagnell by at least 1714; he married Mary [niece of linen draper Samuel Carlile of Newport Pagnell] and had five known children.  The eldest child Jane married James Buchanan in Dunstable, Beds in 1733, one of the Drumhead Buchanans and merchant of London trading in tobacco with the Americas- he was a founder of the Buchanan Society and their daughter Jane married Sir John Riddell 6th Baronet of Riddell.  Samuel the youngest of Robert Chrichton’s family baptised three children in Newport Pagnell with wife Jane.

Beyond these bare details, there is a shortage of hard data for the Newport Pagnell Crichtons, but we do know that John, the linen draper of Newport Pagnell who married Lydia Latimer, caused rather a crisis for the Independents in 1740.

Robert Brittan snr vested the new chapel in the hands of trustees in 1702 but failed to transfer the ground on which it stood.  This passed through the Latimer family to John Crichton who wished to sell it in 1740.  Rev Phillip Dodderidge, eminent dissenting minister at Northampton’s Castle Hill Meeting, saved the day by purchasing the premises and vesting them in new trustees including Scots Robert Crichton, Robert Dickson and James Milligan.  In 1760, when James Milligan and others resigned from trusteeship, Scots Walter Beaty gent and John Hamilton lacebuyer joined up.  So the Scots continued for decades to be very involved in the dissenting community of Newport.


Charlotte Beaty, who died unmarried in 1850, inherited the accumulated wealth of three Walter Beatys, lace merchants of Newport Pagnell.  In her Will she spread the fortune round liberally, for charitable causes and the Independent Church in Newportand to family and friends in various parts of Scotland and England.

She named her cousin William Beaty and his father Walter, both farmers in Becks, Langholm Parish, Dumfriesshire.  William’s daughter Charlotte, aged 10 in the 1851 census for Langholm, was born in Newport Pagnell and in the 1841 English census, we find her, aged 3 months, with her parents living with their ageing relative Charlotte in Newport Pagnell.  This is an astonishing testimony to the way the family branches stayed close over more than 100 years, despite the geographical distances.

Details of the first Beatys to settle in England are not clear, though they probably hailed from the Langholm area.  Walter Beaty I (died 1749, first of three Newport Pagnell lace merchants and partner to John Hamilton) was the son of a William Beaty who outlived him, and had sibs named Simon, John, William and Margaret (she married a Bryden), all of whom had issue.  Walter I, dying unmarried, left his estate to nephew Walter II, son of brother Simon; Walter II married Ann Little (daughter of Ninian) in Wimborne Minster, Dorset in 1755, thereby acquiring property in the south-west ofEngland.

They had four children, one of whom died as a baby.  The eldest, Walter III, lace merchant like his dad, died unmarried in 1801, leaving all his estate to sister Charlotte.  Their sister Amelia Anne Beaty married Thomas Higgins [member of the Turvey Abbey family of Beds] and died a wealthy, though childless, widow in St Luke, Old Street, London in 1834, also leaving much property to her sister Charlotte, on whose death the Beaty name died out in Newport Pagnell.

But the family story didn’t quite end there.  Her younger namesake, Charlotte daughter of William of Langholm, married a Newport Pagnell man, Charles Osborn Rogers in London in 1870 and they started life together in Newport.  By 1881, they were in Reading, Berks with a bunch of children but after that, disappear, perhaps abroad.  It seems a shame that the family didn’t continue in the town where they made their mark and their wealth, but the almshouses that Charlotte endowed are still in use today.


These two families were prominent in Wellingborough’s Cheese Lane Independent Church, the Corries being the only expat family to have been thoroughly researched already.  A summary of the family’s story is given in “Art Trade or Mystery – Lace & Lacemaking in Northamptonshire” by Pat Rowley:

“The Corries were from Terregles and Clunie, Dumfries.  James Corrie came to Wellingborough in the 1730s to set up business as a trader.  He was followed by his nephew William who is recorded as being a lace merchant in Wellingborough.  William was later described as a ‘Scots Trade’ merchant, employing scores of carriers to convey cotton textiles to Scotland and returning with ‘all goods  manufactured in Glasgow’, mainly whisky and salt.  William’s nephews, Richard, Adam, Andrew, Robert and William all moved from Scotland to Wellingborough and also became lace merchants.  Robert became a lace dealer in Cranfield, Beds, before emigrating to Illinois, USA.”

The Rodicks appear to have arrived in Wellingborough around the same time, one of the earliest being John Rodick, lace merchant and gent, who was living in Northampton  when he married his first wife, widow Sarah Brown, in 1737.   In his Will of 1779, John names William and Robert Corrie among the trustees for the fund he set up to give an income to the dissenting ministers of Cheese Lane Independent.

Amongst many other bequests to family around England and Scotland, he also mentions  Johnstone kin in Tundergarth and his nephew William Rodick in Hoddam, Annandale.  His nephew Archibald Rodick and great-nephew John Tole Rodick were his main beneficiaries, the Tole name coming from Bedfordshire.  The Rodicks also had close links with London, several of their marriages happening there, and Ann Rodick settled down in St Matthew Friday Street with husband James Corbett after their marriage in 1784.

Drawing together the threads between Bucks and Wellingborough, John Atchison, lace merchant of Olney, in his Will of 1771 names Walter Beaty of Newport Pagnell with John Rodick and William Corrie of Wellingborough as trustees and executors.  He also lists relatives named Atchison, Dobie, Johnston, Jackson, Murray, Holliday, Jardine and Mundell in Lochmaben, Dryfesdale, Crathets, Aughenstock and Tundergarth and mentions the two dissenting congregations in Olney.

The five families featured in this article are just a few examples of the Scottish lace merchants who settled in England after the Restoration, but they show clearly that, while keeping close links with folk back home, they settled in England for good, supported and helped each other and played a major part in English non-conformist congregations.

The third part of this story will soon be posted, throwing light on some of the less well-off families in the Scottish migration to Bucks, including the MILLAGANs, CROSBYs, HANNEYs and ROYs.

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On 20 Aug 1807, Catherine MILLAGAN married my 5xgreat-uncle William NELSON.  Both were born in Buckingham (county town of Buckinghamshire, England).  How, I wondered, did a name like MILLAGAN arrive in the small English town that was Buckingham?

I discovered that Catherine was the great-grand-daughter of David MILLAGAN, a linen draper who married and settled in Newton Longville, Bucks in 1706.  He was one of five MILLAGANs who arrived in Bucks about 1690 : a James MILLAGAN with James, Andrew, Mary and David who were probably his adult children.  There was also a  John MILLIGAN in Norfolk with Newport Pagnell connections.

In hunting them down, I found to my surprise many other Scottish-sounding names in 17th and 18th century Newport Pagnell, Buckingham, Olney and nearby Bucks villages, with links to other counties in England.  The names identified so far include:


Clearly, this was a considerable community and not just a stray Scot hitching up with a local girl and settling down, but when I asked local and family historians about it, no-one could tell me more.  It turns out this is largely uncharted territory.

It is not hard to understand why.  These folk were dissenters in England when dissent was illegal or barely tolerated, so records are in short supply; they were Scots migrating from parishes that may not have started registers until after they left; they were travellers whose activities may be recorded anywhere in England or Scotland, or not at all; they were lowland Scots whose names seldom start with ‘Mac’ and so can be mistaken as English – and they were heavily involved in the lace trade, the history of which has received amazingly little attention.  They also seem to fall between two stools of history: local historians of England haven’t focused on them because they are Scots and Scottish historians haven’t tracked them into England.  On every count, they are hard to hunt.

So for the benefit of others who find themselves fishing in these difficult waters, here are some of my discoveries.

Why did they migrate?

William PATERSON, we are told, was a farmer’s son from Dumfriesshire who left after the Restoration to escape religious persecution.  With the traditional Scots pedlar’s pack on his back, he made his way south and, amongst other achievements, established the Bank of England – which started out in Lothbury, London, where the First Scotch Church worshipped.

This little legend gives several important clues: 

  • being a pedlar or chapman was a traditional job for Scots.  In fact, there were thousands of them walking or riding the main trade routes of England (and Europe) in the 16th and 17th centuries (in fact from Medieval times).  For example, 134 chapmen, predominantly Scottish, were registered in Tetbury, Gloucestershire in 1697/8.  Many settled down, briefly or for good, in the towns and villages along their regular routes.  If successful, they became drapers, merchants or gents.  So we should not be surprised to find Scots settling in England at early dates and the trade routes of England are good places to look for them. 
  • post-Restoration, there were religious persecutions to escape.  Charles II promised not to force bishops and Anglicanism back down Presbyterian Scottish throats but that’s what happened in the 1670s and 1680s.  Unsurprising then that travelling Scots might decide to stay in England where the persecution, though still severe, was slightly less so, especially if they could make a home with welcoming dissenter communities like those in Newport Pagnell, Bucks, Reading, Berkshire and, of course, London.   
  • the words ‘pedlar’ and ‘chapman’ do not necessarily mean ‘poor’.  Probate inventories of travelling pedlars and chapmen and those who settled as drapers show they carried goods of considerable value.  Those who engaged more fully in the lace trade could become immensely wealthy lace merchants [though also bankrupt during periods when lace was not fashionable].  And it looks like they were often members of well-heeled, landed and merchant families in Scotland.

Early examples : MAXWELLs and BLACKLOCKs
William MAXWELL, gent of Newport Pagnell, Bucks wrote his Will on 15 Jan 1718, describing property he owned there and in Cranfield, Bedforshire.  He also left his son George his estate in New Abbey, Kirkcudbright (Scotland) “commonly called by the name of Nethergate Annat Land and Barbeth… also that croft of land commonly called the Fryeryard”.  He names sisters Agnes, Jean, Nicholas, Margaret and Catherine, presumably resident in Scotland, wife Sarah and children Robert, George and Magdalen [the latter married Ambrose GREGORY of Newport Pagnell].  His will witnesses were Robert and Martha BRITTAN.

This William MAXWELL was one of the earliest Scottish arrivals in Newport – he started producing babies there in 1679, appears in a property deed dated 1684 and by 1702 he is one of the five trustees of the brand new Independent Meeting house [built by Robert BRITTAN snr], along with Robert BRITTAN jnr, Thomas RIDER, Thomas SMITH and John BLACKLOCK.  BLACKLOCK is another Scottish name and all five trustees were involved in the lace trade.  In 1705, William MAXWELL was the assignee in a commission of bankruptcy against John MILLAGAN of Watton, Norfolk.  He was the overseer of the Will of James BRITTAN, lace merchant of Newport Pagnell in 1694, executor for John BLACKLOCK in 1709 and overseer for Nelson BLACKLOCK’s Will in 1711.  The BRITTANs were not Scottish but an eminent dissenter family in Newport and Bedfordshire. 

I haven’t tracked down William’s exact origins in Scotland but a MAXWELL researcher says he was most likely part of the Kirkhouse MAXWELLs who held the lands of Upper and Lower Barbeth.  They were Presbyterian, substantial landowners and Scots gentry.  Most sons were well-educated and some attended university so William would have arrived in England with both money and a good education.  Proof of this lies in a funeral sermon preached by Newport Pagnell’s first Independent Minister Rev John GIBBS on 11 Apr 1697 “On the Occasion of the Sudden Death of William MAXWELL, A Pious and Hopeful Young Scholar, belonging to Harvard Colledge, in Cambridge, New-England.” 

This young scholar was the son of William MAXWELL senior and Sarah nee STANKLIFF, daughter of Martha GIBBS previously BARNES and STANKLIFF, whose third husband was the said preacher Rev John GIBBS.  William MAXWELL senior’s other son George died unmarried in Newport Pagnell in 1732/3, taking the name with him, and leaving all his property to his uncle BARNES and two kinsmen from prominent dissenter families, Gresham HAKEWILL and Thomas TRAVELL. 

So the MAXWELLs were clearly well-off before they arrived in Newport and were deeply connected with local dissenter families, so closely that William MAXWELL senior and wife Sarah were buried in the same tomb in Newport Pagnell churchyard with Rev John and Martha GIBBS. 

The BLACKLOCKs on the other hand seem to have been somewhat less well-off and I suspect that William MAXWELL, who executed and oversaw two of their Wills, was one of their main goods suppliers since, in the sole article I’ve found about Scottish chapmen, Roger Leitch states: “It is known that certain chapmen travelled for particular merchants”.  The BLACKLOCKs were widely spread in England – so far I’ve found linked ones in Newport Pagnell Bucks, St Ives Huntingdonshire and Fulbourn Cambridgeshire.  They are probably connected also to Thomas BLACKLOCK, linen draper of Reading, Berkshire who had family and business connections in Carlisle, Cumberland. 

John BLACKLOCK, laceman of Newport Pagnell, married Mary NELSON in next-door Willen in 1683 and had four sons: William, Andrew, Nelson and James.  Like William MAXWELL, he was one of the original trustees of the Independent Meeting House in 1702.  In his Will of 1709, John left money for the dissenting minister to preach his funeral sermon and named John HARKNESS gent of St Ives, Huntingdonshire and John PATTERSON gent of Cambridge as his executors alongside William MAXWELL.  From his Will of 1732, we know that John PATTERSON was leaseholder for the Independent Meeting House in Green Street, Cambridge and had a stall at Stourbridge Fair in Cambridgeshire.

Nelson BLACKLOCK, son of John and himself a lace merchant of Newport, died aged 21 in 1711, naming William MAXWELL as overseer, leaving his property to his brothers and stepmother Frances.  Brother Andrew was then a linen draper in St Ives, Huntingdonshire but when he died in 1717, he was a chapman of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire and one of his executors was William JARDINE, linen draper of Cambridge. 

Andrew BLACKLOCK’s son Nelson jnr provides an interesting footnote to the family story. It seems he was a naughty boy, forging a Fulbourn property deed, then escaping into the Navy under the false name of Robert SMITH and dying on board the ship ‘Deptford’ in 1736.  Sadly, the origins of these BLACKLOCKs in Scotland or Cumbria have yet to be found. 

Brain-cracking inter-connections

The MAXWELLs and BLACKLOCKs give just a small taste of the complexity of marriage, religious and business connections amongst Scottish expat families and English dissenters from the 1670s.  Tracking down the names and places they mention in Wills and property deeds leads to yet more networks, some of which I will describe in the next article, featuring the wealthy HAMILTONs, CRICHTONs, BEATYs, CORRIEs and RODICKs.

 Useful reading

The Scots Kirk in London, by George C Cameron (1979)
The Great Reclothing of Rural England – Petty Chapmen & their Wares in the Seventeenth Century, by Margaret Spufford [Hambledon 1984]
‘Here Chapman billies tak their stand’: a pilot study of Scottish chapmen, packmen and pedlars’ by Roger Leitch, in Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 120 (1990), 173-188 

This is an amended version of an article first published in the Journal of Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society, July 2008. 

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