Surgeons, Sailors and Smugglers
This is the story of the Millers, the ancestors of my greatgrandmother Jane Miller. They are the 'posh' branch of my family.
The earliest Miller yet discovered is Morton Miller, born about 1720. In his will of 1787 he is described as ‘Surgeon and Farmer of Great Wakering’. I can find no record of his birth in the area so I assume that he settled here - possibly having been a ship's surgeon. He married Catherine Parsons, the oldest daughter of Christopher Parsons of North Shoebury Hall. They had eight children but only three are mentioned in his will so it is probable that the others died in childhood. The surviving children were his sons Christopher Morton Miller (1755), William Miller (1757) and Thomas Miller (1759 - see below.).
Christopher became a farmer in North Shoebury. He married Sarah Cause of Barling (in 1777) with whom he had a daughter Catherine (who later married William Going of Prittlewell). Within weeks of Sarah’s death in 1804 Christopher married Eleanor Libbard shortly before dying himself in June 1805. In his will he left his lands to his son Christopher Miller alias Libbard ‘by my wife before our marriage.’
William is described in his own will as a mariner and the use of the phrase 'My grandson William Miller (now abroad)' in his grandfather’s implies that he was involved in international rather than the coastal shipping. He married (Hannah) but does not appear to have had any children. William died aged about 40 in late 1796 or early 1797.
Catherine Miller died giving birth to her eighth child, Fanny. She is commemorated at North Shoebury where a large black marble slab in front of the altar reads:
To the memory of Catherine Miller dau of Christopher Parsons Gent.
Wife of Morton Miller Surgeon
Of Great Wakering in Essex
Who died June 26th 1765 aged 30 yrs
and of Catherine the late wife of the above Christopher Parsons
of this parish who died August 5th 1753 aged 42
Also the aforesaid Christopher Parsons
Who died 19 Feb 1787 aged 89.
Morton married again in 1767. His new wife was Eleanor Lodwick from a family which had connections with the Parsons. His first father-in-law obviously approved as he signed the marriage certificate as a witness.
Morton had a further three children with his new wife. Two are known to have died as infants as may the third, Sophia (1771) who is not mentioned in her father’s will. Morton died in 1788 and was buried at Great Wakering. Eleanor appears to have lived on for at least another thirty years.
The Lodwicks were a well-known family in South-East Essex. For some time they had lived at Rochford Hall, the Essex home of Ann Boleyn’s family. They were closely related to another local family, the Kerstemans of Canewdon, some of whom are said to have been numbered among the notorious Canewdon witches.
"Two local witches who achieved prominence were Lady Lodwick and the wife of William Atkinson, the Vicar of Canewdon, The Times correspondent checked the records in St. Nicholas' church and found that Eliza Lodwick and Mary Ann Atkinson were sisters. Their maiden name was Kerstemans, The Kerstemans were "an old family of Flemish extraction which had settled in Canewdon in 1700." These sisters would have been two of the 'Three in silk." There are still some old witch families living in the area. Eliza Lodwick died in 1861 and Mary Ann had predeceased her sister.
Thomas Miller the elder
Morton's youngest surviving son, Thomas followed his father's profession of surgeon. With his wife, Ann he had nine children. The first two, Thomas (1787 - see below) and Christopher Parsons (1788) were born in Leicestershire while their father was working there. The rest were born in Great Wakering, after Thomas had taken over the surgery following his father’s death in 1788. Of these children, four (Ann (1789), Elizabeth (1791), Mary (1799) and Moreton (1801)) died in childhood. Nothing is known of his two other daughters (Catherine (1792) and Eleanor (1794)) beyond the fact of their birth.
Thomas died tragically in 1805 when he was drowned as he returned from Foulness where he had been attending a patient.
"Thomas Miller, surgeon of Great Wakering, son of Morton Miller, of the same place, was likewise lost coming from Foulness, August 21st, 1805, aged 45. He was on horseback, and was discovered swimming in the haven by some men in a barge, who conducted him to Land Wick backgrounds, and it is supposed his horse afterwards threw and kicked him, as a mark of the shoe appeared on his temple.[Benton p.220]"
Thomas Miller the younger
Thomas was the oldest son of Thomas and Ann. He had been born in Waltham on the Wolds, Leicestershire, where his father worked for a while. He was married to Ann Elizabeth. They had a daughter, Matilda Ann (born 1809) and three sons: Thomas (1814), Morton (1816 - see below) and Christopher Henry (1819).
A surgeon at this time was rather like a modern G.P.: an agreement made between Thomas’ brother Charles and the local Guardians of the Poor indicate that the work involved delivering babies, setting bones, bleeding and otherwise attending the sick. It could also be quite adventurous – a distant relative, Dr Jonas Asplin of Little Wakering describes in his diary of 1826-8 how, with the aid of Charles Miller and others, he had carried out a mastectomy on a patient suffering from breast cancer.
Thomas was declared bankrupt in 1815. He died in 1822, aged 35. Jonas Asplin recorded attending the funeral of ‘Thomas Miller, late surgeon of Great Wakering’ who had ‘taken every pain in his power to kill himself by hard drinking’.
His son Thomas lived in Rayleigh in 1841 with his wife Charlotte. He worked as a tailor along with a Henry Miller (who may have been his brother Christopher Henry). By 1851, Thomas had changed employment and was the station master at Brandon in Norfolk. After a spell in Lakenheath, Suffolk, he returned to Southend and in 1871 was working as a railway clerk, presumably in the companies offices. By 1881 he had retired from the railway and was employed as ‘Poor and Local Rate collector’. He had a large family and may have been married twice.
Nothing more is known of Christopher Henry or his sister Matilda
Morton Miller the younger
Morton was born in Great Wakering in 1816, the second son of Thomas and Ann Elizabeth. In 1841 he was a draper’s shopman (assistant), living in his employer’s household in Rochford. By 1849 he was a draper working on his own account in Rochford. In that year, the following news was carried by the Chelmsford Chronicle
UTTERING BASE COIN
Ann Griffiths, aged 25, singlewoman, was charged with unlawfully uttering a counterfeit half-crown. Mr. Chambers for the prosecution. Peter Wright, landlord of the Crown public-house at Rochford, said that he was in his room on Saturday night, Nov. 25th, when the prisoner came in, and offered half-a-crown in payment for a pint and a half of beer, and received change. Directly she went away witness examined the coin, and found it was base. Thomas Scott, shopman to Mr. Miller, draper, of Rochford, said that on Saturday evening, the 18th of November, prisoner came into their shop, asking for a pair of white cotton stockings, price 6d. which were served to her, and she gave a half-crown in payment; witness instantly saw it was bad, and bent it on the counter, on which prisoner said, "Don't bend it, I took it of Mr. Johnson;" witness therefore straightened it and gave it her back.— Sarah Ann Harvey said, her father kept a shop at Rochford and sold flour. On Saturday evening, November 25, prisoner came into the shop at nine in the evening, and asked for a quarter of a peck of flour. Witness served her with it; it came to 7 1/2d. Prisoner gave her a bad half-crown, but witness told her it was bad, whereupon she said her mate took it of Charley May, and she then paid a good one in its place. Superintendent Low produced the coins, and proved that when he apprehended prisoner, she said she did not know whether the half-crown was bad or not. he found upon her two half-crowns, six shillings, five sixpences, and two penny-pieces, good money. Edward J. Powell, inspector of coins to her Majesty's mint, declared the coin to be counterfeit.— The chairman briefly summed up, and the jury with little hesitation, returned a verdict of guilty . Six months' imprisonment with hard labour.
Morton married and had four children. The oldest child was Morton William, born in Stepney in 1844 (see below). A daughter, Christina Charlotte (generally known and recorded as Charlotte), born at Rochford in 1847 was brought up by relations. In 1851, aged 4, she was boarding with William May, Scrivener in North Street (close to her parents’ home. May’s daughters were both recorded in the census as ‘Instructress’ so maybe they ran a school). In 1861 she was living with William and Mercy Sheehy and in 1871 with Charlotte and John Rumble. In 1876 she married the Rev. Thomas W Herbert, an Irishman, who was vicar of St John’s, Southend until the early 20th century. She died on 4th May, 1936 and is buried at St Johns.
Nothing is yet known of the youngest daughter Jane Patmore (1849). A son, Philip Patmore (1851), lived only a few months. It is possible that there were other children.
Morton went bankrupt in 1853. The Times of 7th April carries a notice to his creditors and names his brother-in-law Philip Patmore as one of the trustees of his goods, transferred to be held on behalf of the creditors.
Christiana died in 1854 'after a long affliction'. She was only 33. Her long illness and early death explain why her children all seem to have been brought up by relatives.
After his bankruptcy and his wife's death, Morton appears to have been unable to pick himself up. He does not seem to have played any further part in caring for his children (who were divided out amongst relatives at the time of the 1861 census). Possibly, like his father before him, he turned to drink. He took work as a draper's assistent, as a waiter in a lodging-house and then as keeper of the lodging-house. On 24th October, 1860, the East London Observer carried a long report of a law case Miller v. The Commercial Gas Company
... Morton Miller, a lodging-house keeper, of No. 50, High-street, Poplar ... charged the company with wilfully failing, for seven days after being thereunto required in writing by the said Morton Miller, to provide and lay on all proper and sufficient communication, service, and other pipes to the house 50, High-street, Poplar, and to furnish a supply of gas.
The case appears to have been the first brought under a new law which made it illegal for gas companies to refuse to supply the new tenant of a property until they had paid off any arrears left by former tenants. The gas company successfully argued that Miller had previously worked for the previous tenants (also called Miller) and was now colluding with them to get their arrears written off.
During the hearing, Miller confirmed that he 'was formerly a draper in the country' and that he had 'failed as a draper'. It was claimed that the seventy bed lodging-house for the poor was unlicensed and illegal. Several members of the previous Miller family are named, but I have not been able to identify any of them as relations of Morton.
A few months later, in the 1861 census, Morton is recorded as keeper of the same lodging-house. His place of birth is correctly recorded but he has reduced his age by eight years. He is probably the Morton Miller(now born Rochford, abt 1827) who was a servant in a boarding house in Whitechapel in 1871, and the Morton Miller age 70 (born abt 1818) who died in Bethnal Green RD in 1888.
Morton William Miller
Morton William, Morton the younger's oldest son was only 10 when his mother died and his family fell apart. In 1861, still a 'scholar' at 16, he was living with his Uncle Philip Patmore and Aunt Jane at White House, Creeksea, Essex. He became a merchant seaman, possibly working for his Uncle who is described as a ship owner in the 1861 census. Later he became a Captain working for the Persian Gulf Steam Ship Company. He was Master on many of this company's voyages to the East Indies and elsewhere.
Morton William married Mary Jane Harraden in Canterbury, Kent in 1866. Their first child, also Morton William, was born in Canterbury soon after. In 1871 Mary Jane and her son were living with her parents in Wanstead, Essex while Morton was at sea, on a voyage to the Cape as master of the Wistaria. The following year he does not seem to have gone to sea and was probably at home when his daughter Christina was born. In 1875 the birth of his son, Philip Patmore, seems to have marked the beginning of a bad period for the couple. Over the next two years Morton had several accidents at sea, possibly because he was distracted by events at home. His wife gave birth to his youngest daughter Jane Patmore and soon afterwards was confined in Wandsworth Lunatic Asylum. Unlike the three older children, Jane's birth does not seem to have been registered - maybe a clue that all was not well at home.
I do not know the details of Mary's mental illness or who took the lead in certifying her insane. The Asylum authorities were not aware of Morton's profession when they registered Mary Jane's death, so it is possible that he was not directly involved - possibly at sea when it happened.
Morton William remarried bigamously in 1885. Soon after Mary Jane’s death in September, 1887, Morton and Florence Lillian Ray were married for a second time. They had two daughters, Ruby Lilian (born 1891) and Elsie B. In 1901 they were living in Stepney where Florence had a public house (the Conant Arms). They were still at this address when Morton William died on 3rd June, 1906. Florence married George Hall on 5th June, 1907.