A wild goose is stalked

I can’t help it.

I must find Philip Robinson (1746) and I have a straw to which to cling. There remains the slight (and I mean slight) possibility that he worked in the Royal Dockyard at Chatham as a rigger, at least if this letter is about him and not some other Philip. While I have nothing directly to link my ancestor to the miscreant in the letter, equally nothing I have found so far explicitly rules this out. As a bonus, and if I’m going to chase this wild goose to its full extent, he may have even worked on HMS Victory – built at Chatham and launched in 1765 when Philip would have been about 18.

It seems there are employment records for Chatham at Kew (ADM 42) so there may be more to find, hopefully leading to more information about his background. A visit to Chatham Historic Dockyard itself may also be in order. Of course, I’m fully aware that I must link any new clues directly to what is known or it will remain mere speculation for ever more but nothing ventured…


Frustrated and a bit disappointed

The trip to Kew turned up very little at all.

The day started brimming with hope even through the remnants of the rush hour traffic. I arrived at 10am, registered for my readers card and started searching. I had a number of references to look at prepared in advance but as you’ll see below they were frustratingly unrevealing. It was also a very long wait for document retrieval, which I wasn’t prepared for. I ended up leaving just after 6pm not much the wiser. It’s a lovely place though, and everyone was very helpful.

I found no sign of Philip Joseph Robinson’s court martial. I looked through four thick ledgers of handwritten records and found nothing. There were also two ledgers in the catalogue listed as “wanting”, meaning they were supposed to be in the archive but somehow hadn’t arrived from the originating body. This didn’t help the growing sense of frustration. Could he have been in them? Probably never know.

There was no sign of Ralph’s East African birth either. If he was born there it was not registered with the British authorities, which still leaves the possibility of PJR being some part, albeit temporary, of the post-war Afrikaner migration and therefore of a Dutch Reformed Church baptism coming to light. More work needs to be done on this.

I could find nothing to add to James Edwards’ met police record. Too much of this record set is missing – there are very few complete service records available and I couldn’t find any correspondence relating to his dismissal.

One of the things I managed to find was the Will of William Robinson. The reason I was looking relates to the 1820 migration to the Cape. Before some of the parties of 1820 Settlers left England bound for South Africa they would meet up, presumably for updates and questions. The Erith Party, of which Robert Robinson was a member, met on Newington Causeway above the Crown and Anchor public house. Another group, curiously, met at Robinson’s Tobacconist on nearby George Street, which has niggled away as possibly being of importance but of which I can find no trace. There was, however, a Robinson’s Tobacconist on Tooley Street, just round the corner, but I now know at least that this was nothing to do with us, which I suppose is a positive of sorts. It’s proprietor was this William Robinson whose only son it turns out was Thomas. Not a Philip to be seen.

The day’s only faint sliver of hope was a letter


Coming out of Chatham Dockyard on 15th November 1783 it says:

 “We beg leave to acquaint you that we have this day discharged John Brooks and Philip Robinson, Riggers belonging to this yard, for attempting to embezzle the articles mentioned on the otherside [of the letter] out of the Success [a ship], but it is not in our power to place three times the value thereof against their wages agreeable to your warrant of 24th October 1783 by reason that both of them sell(?) their pay…”

Which allows the ever so slight possibility that if this is our Philip (born c.1747), known to be resident in the Chatham area at that time, he may have come to Kent from elsewhere, perhaps even through the Navy. Not that it is possible to prove any link yet, there is no clue as to who his parents were as they are not mentioned on anything yet found. But it’s something and it means the day was not a complete washout.

Ancestor hunting in Devon

Going to Devon to hunt ancestors was an expedition long needed. I had two principal aims; to dig further back in time and discover the earliest generations of Ellicotts that I could, and to discover what happened to A& J Ellicott’s drapers shop in Torquay. We planned an itinerary that would allow a day at the Devon Heritage Centre and a few days exploring the area, including a visit to Farlecombe and Sampford Courtenay.

So, day one:
heritage centreThe heritage centre had plenty of parish records to trawl both in transcript and on microfiche, and I was fairly successful; adding three generations to what I knew and can now look back to the 1660s and a certain James Ellacott in Zeal Monachorum.
There weren’t, however, as many trade directories or business records available as I’d hoped and I was only able to narrow down the timeframe in which to look further. Interestingly, A&J Ellicott became, in about 1925, Ellicott & Son. – interesting because by this time Alfred’s sons were largely elsewhere. Edgar was in the Seychelles, Stan was engineering and heading for Sierra Leone, which leaves William. William got married in Gloucestershire in 1929 and soon after moved to Woolwich, so if he is the “& son” his removal would go some way to explain the business’s disappearance from the 1929 edition. I fear/suspect a trip to Torquay may be required!
All of which leaves a few loose ends but at least I feel that I’ve made good progress and I’ve still got a good amount of fragmentary data to go through.

signThe next day we went to Newton Abbott market and then tracked down Farlecombe, Uncle Stan’s old farm. The narrow tracks became more recognisable and as we drew up to the farmhouse it was immediately familiar. Thankfully the current occupant was in the yard with her horse and she remembered “Old Mr Ellicott” so we were able to have a quick look round, which was most enjoyable.

On the third afternoon we arrived in Sampford Courtenay, the centre of the area the Ellicott/Ellacott family lived before moving to Torquay. It is a charming village with lots of thatch and picturesque cottages. We found St Andrew’s church and started clambering among the gravestones looking for any Ellacotts we could, uncertain if there were any to find. About half way round, success! there was the grave of Susan, William and their daughter Susan Snell Ellacott. The gravestone was crisp and legible and as far as you can jump for joy in a graveyard, I did. We also spent an interesting few minutes in the church itself, which was an education learning about the Prayerbook Rebellion of 1542.

After all that excitement, I’m working out which part of the country to visit next – possibly the Medway Towns to look for the original Philip!