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…
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:
The 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.
The 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!