Robert Curling (churchwarden 1792) and family - additional information

Subscription for the Capture of French Privateers, Armed Vessels, &c.
Merchant Seamen's Office, Feb. 20, 1800.

At a General Meeting of the Subscribers, held here this day, Sir Richard Neave, Bart., in the chair, the following statement of the accounts was laid before the meeting : —
Sums subscribed ...
Expended in acknowledgments of plate to several officers of His Majesty's Navy, for their very meritorious services in the protection of the trade of this country
: — £2,432.14.11
Gratuities in money to wounded and other seamen, who have exerted themselves in defending and protecting their vessels against the enemy
: —  £1,007.7.10
: — £333.16. 3
Stationery and other incidental charges
: — £235
The corporation, for the relief of Seamen in the Merchant's Service
: —  £17.1.9
: — £4026.18.0
It is with the greatest satisfaction the Committee can acquaint the subscribers, that in the numerous instances wherein they have been able to pay a tribute of distinction to those meritorious officers in His Majesty's Navy, who have more particularly signalized themselves in protecting the commerce of the country, the notice of the committee had been universally received with expressions of the utmost sensibility; and that the sums of money presented to the officers and crews of other vessels, had been acknowledged with the sincerest gratitude, perfectly according with the original intention of the institution, and confirming its objects. That they have only to regret that the meritorious services of many brave men must already unavoidably have escaped their notice; and that the abilities of the fund did not afford the means of testifying their sense of the distinguished actions which were daily claiming their regards.
Richard Neave, Beeston Long, Wm. Manning, Thomas Beddington, Alex. Champion, Robert Curling

Society of Ship Owners of Great Britain
The Society was formed in 1802 In order more effectually, at this alarming crisis, to promote and protect the Shipping Interest of Great-Britain, and to prevent any further infringements of the Navigation Laws; and also for the purpose of taking, not only such measures for the preservation of the rights which the Legislature has in its wisdom conferred on the Owners of British Ships, but likewise to relieve them from various extortions and inconveniences to which they were then or may hereafter be liable...
At a meeting of the committee of ship-owners for the port of London, held the 1st November, 1803, Robert Curling, Esq. in the Chair:
Resolved, That the secretary be requested to apply to Mr. Marsham for copies of all the orders made and published by the directors of the West-India dock company, in order that the ship-owners in the West-India trade may be apprised of them, and give the necessary instructions ta their respective masters.
(Signed) Robert Curling, Chairman

At a general meeting of the society of ship-owners of Great Britain, held at the London Tavern, on Thursday, the 22d day of March, 1804, Robert Curling, Esq. in the Chair:
The secretary read the report of the committee, stating that the committee deemed it necessary to request the attention of the meeting to the several objects which had been noticed by them since their appointment.
The society, it was to be observed, was instituted in 1802, in consequence of the depreciated state of the shipping interest, and the various inconveniences to which shipowners were then liable Their first and most important object had been to endeavour to convince the king's ministers of the impolicy of imposing any direct tax on shipping: and they are satisfied, that in case an investigation into the actual state of the navigation of the country had taken place, and which was so earnestly desired by them, much of the distress which is continued to be felt by the shipping interest would have been avoided; their statements would have been found correct, and not fallacious or exaggerated, as they were so industriously represented to be; and the country would not at the present time have had to regret the injurious operation of the application of so new a principle of taxation in a maritime country, the continued suspension of the Navigation Act, and the emigration of many brave native seamen, who are either now in the employment of America, or in the service of the enemy. This object the committee had not been able completely to attain: they, however, hope, that the frequent recurrence to these points, and the repeated intimations which have been given to many of the members of the legislature on the subject, will occasion, at no distant day, a parliamentary inquiry into the actual state of the navigation of Great Britain. The committee forbear at present commenting further on these most important objects to the country, or to expatiate more fully on the present depressed state of the shipping interest and the causes which have occasioned it; they are too obvious to need enumeration, and the ultimate ruinous consequences to be expected from them can only be averted by a strict adherence to the provisions of the Navigation Act, which our ancestors considered so essentially requisite to the glory and welfare of the empire, and by affording to British ship-owners such facilities as will at least enable them to navigate their ships upon an equal footing with foreigners.

The other subjects which had come before the committee were the following, viz.
1st. The serious inconvenience many ship-owners have felt, and still continue to feel, from being obliged to take out licences and give bonds to the commissioners of his majesty's customs, from the particular construction and build of their ships. The subject was considered of so much consequence, that it had been referred to a sub-committee to take the same into their consideration, and point out not only the several inconveniences resulting from the regulation, but the means by which they might be remedied, without any injury whatever to the revenue; and to report the same to the committee: accordingly a memorial had been presented to {he lords committee of trade on the subject; but the committee are sorry to observe, that their lordships have refused to make any alteration in the regulations of the commissioners of the customs.
2dly. The next subject which had been submitted to the consideration of the committee, was the claim recently set up by the trustees of Ramsgate harbour for payment of the harbour dues on colliers returning in ballast coastwise, and from Guernsey or Jersey: and the committee had, at the request of the ship-owners at Sunderland and Scarborough, taken the opinion of a very eminent lawyer on the subject; and it appeared by that opinion, that the trustees were not warranted by the act in demanding the harbour dues on colliers returning in ballast coastwise, or from Guernsey or Jersey, as before stated. In consequence of that opinion, a case had been by consent submitted to the consideration of two of the judges, and which remained for a second argument.

The Elligood
The ship Elligood, 327 tons, was built at River Kennebecacias, New Brunswick, in 1793. On 27 March 1795 she was registered at London, Entry 42, as the Ellegood [sic] of London. She had two decks, three masts; measured 103 feet x 27 feet ten inches x 6 feet five inches between decks; square stern with quarter deck, no galleries, man's head. Her owners were William Liddell, Burr Street Aldgate; Stephen Holman, Lambeth, merchant; Francis Holman, Ramsgate, mariner; Robert Curling, Torrington Street, St. George's in the East, merchant. The masters were: on registration, Francis Holman; 9 January 1796 Robert Richardson, who made a voyage to Martinique; 27 September 1796, Francis Holman, who made a voyage to the East Indies, returning at the end of 1797.

Under the command of Master Christopher Dixson, the ship sailed from London in 1800 and arrived in Cape Town on 5 May 1800 and then later King George Sound in Western Australia on 27 August 1800. The ship returned to Cape Town in May 1801 under the command of Job Anthony as it had been reported that both Dixson and nine crew had died of scurvy. Captain Matthew Flinders, cartographer of Australia, found a plot of ground at entrance to Oyster Harbour six or eight feet square, dug up and trimmed like a garden. On it lay a copper sheet with the inscription: 'August 27, 1800. Chr. Dixson - ship Elligood' (text in A Voyage to Terra Australis). However, there was no trace of this garden in an 1818 expedition - it had presumably become overgrown.

The later history of the ship is unclear. J. S. Cumpston suggested that the ship was wrecked on King Island, Tasmania in 1801 and the wreck was found by William Campbell, the Master of the Brig Harrington on 18 March 1802. However, Charles Bateson states that he has found evidence that the ship was described in London in 1803. Its later history is unknown. See further J.S. Cumptson and Lyndon Rose Kangaroo Island 1800-1836 (Roebuck Society 1974).

Limehouse Dockyard

In 1800 Batson's yard was transferred to Cox, Curling & Company, shipbuilders, previously based at Duke Shore, Limehouse, and across the river. They enlarged the dry docks and demolished the house. (In 1864 the dry docks were measured at 240' by 48' and 240' by 40'.) From c1820 the firm was known as Curling, Young & Company. The yard became known as Limehouse Dockyard, and the management as Young, Son & Magnay from about 1855, by which time at least one of the slips was covered with open-sided shedding. The firm continued to build large timber ships, but this was a declining section of the shipbuilding industry.

Whalebone trader
Curling dealt in whale fins, on one occasion purchasing 50 bundles (1 ton) of 'British taken' fins. This trade was regulated, as this 1812 note reports:
The practice of the Customs in the entry, examination, and delivery of goods and merchandise, usually imported from foreign parts, showing the tares and allowances on each article, and describing the peculiar character and properties thereof:

While Fins are always weighed net: no allowance is made for the gum which adheres to them; but it may be cleared off, before they are brought to the scale.
What it called Whalebone adheres to the upper jaw of the whale, and is formed of thin parallel lamina; some of them four yards in length. Of these there are commonly between 3 and 400 on each side; but, in very old fish, more. About 500 of them are of a length fit for use; the others are too short. Whalebone, cut, may not be imported other than in fins only.
9 and 10 Wm. III. c. 23, s. 12.

Offley Holes estate
Gentleman's Magazine 1810 p307

Mr. URBAN, Blackheath, March 23.
A REFLECTION having been cast on the character of my late respected father, in your Obituary, vol. LXX1X. p. l086, by insinuating that he had, by force and operation of Law, possessed himself of the Offley Holes Estate in Hertfordshire, and had thereby obtained properly worth £12,000, on a mortgage of £4000, I must beg of you to insert the accompanying statement, which I have called upon Messrs. Dennetts and Greaves, the Solicitors in this case, to make; with a view that the publick may see the transaction in its true light, and that the memory of departed worth may no longer be assailed by the pen of anonymous calumny.

It is far from my wish to become the public eulogist of a parent, whose integrity, through a course of 69 years, had secured him the respect and confidence of the Mercantile world, in which he lived and died a distinguished member, or to be the promulgator of this fact, that the handsome property which he left behind him was the produce of praiseworthy exertions and honest industry; nor is it my desire to dwell on that uniform kindness and uudeviating rectitude, which claimed the admiration and love of his numerous family; they knew his virtues, and they mourn his loss. But it is my anxiety as his son and as his executor, an anxiety which arises not only from the knowledge of the uprightness of the conduct of my deceased parent on this occasion, but on every other, that urges me to rescue his character from the insidious attack that has been made on it; not by declaiming on his many and valuable qualities; not by arguing on the policy of the advance on the estate, either with a view to present or future advantage, but by simply stating the truth, and deducing those inferences which every impartial mind must draw from the statement of Messrs. Dennetts and Greaves, which accompanies this.

I anticipate with confidence and satisfaction the conclusion which every honest and unprejudiced mind will form, in comparing these authentic documents, attested by such respectability, with the bare assertions of an anonymous author of the paragraph alluded to, to whom both time and opportunity has been afforded, to preserve himself from that odium which must henceforth attach lo him.

I look with gratification to the impressions which the manly and generous conduct of my lamented father towards the daughter of Mr. Rose Beckford will create on the public mind. On him she had no claim; from him she had no right to look for such support; nor, in her situation of life, was it ever likely that she could have known the particulars of her own history: yet did he cherish and protect her; yet did he expand her mind, by affording her the advantages of education; yet did he place her beyond the reach of want by making her independent, and lived to see himself rewarded by the gratitude and good conduct of a promising and amiable female, who is now received into the bosom and affection of that family, which lives to revere his virtues, to venerate his memory, and to deplore his loss.

This transaction, honourable as it was, would never have met the public eye, had it not been called forth as a debt due to departed integrity; nor could the delicacy which I feel as a son, in disclosing these admirable traits in the disposition of a respected and lamented parent, have been superseded, but by the imperious necessity of doing justice to his memory, which rises paramount to every other consideration. I shall conclude these observations with the language of an eminent Divine, which is too applicable lo be omitted: "Reputation, next to a good conscience, is the most valuable, from which indeed it naturally springs, and to which it of right belongs; the root lies out of the reach of injury; but the fruit so fair, so fragrant, and so beauteous, that, alas! hangs exposed to the assault of every psssenger. The meanest, as he passes along, may throw a stone upwards, and laugh to see the prize fall, though lie cannot gather it."
Edward Spencer Curling.

Blackheath, March 21, 1810.


The author of the paragraph inserted in the Obituary of the Gentleman's Magazine for November last, respecting the mode by which the possession of the Offley Holes Estate in Hertfordshire came to my late father, having declined to afford any explanation whatever, although he has been repeatedly applied to for that purpose; and, as the perusal of the article, in the manner in which it is worded, must necessarily induce impressions unfavourable to the memory of my lamented parent, and distressing to the feelings of his family; I feel it my duly to call upon you to state most fully all the particulars regarding the possesion of the Estate alluded to, and of the subsequent conduct of my father, in the disposal of the residue of its value.
I am, Gentlemen, your obedient and very humble servant,
Edward Spencer Curling.

To Messrs. Dennetts and Greaves, King's Arm's Yard, Coleman Street.

King's Arms Yard, March 22, 1810.

Dear Sir,
In compliance with your request, we beg to state lo you the particulars you require, respecting the Offley Holes Estate; the manner in which your late worthy father became possessed of it, his conduct after the death of Mr. Rose Beckford; and to pledge ourselves for the authenticity of the statement.

The late Mr. Rose Beckford, one of the illegitimate children of Alderman Beckford, borrowed, about the year 1795, of your father Mr. Robert Curling, the sum of £4000. on a mortgage of the Offley Holes Estate, which was then considered to he worth about £7000. About six years after this transaction, Mr. Rose Beckford died intestate. A question then arose, upon which the opinions of Ihe Solicitor of the Treasury and some of the most eminent legal advisers of that time were taken, whether, by Mr. Beckford's death, he being illegitimate, a bachelor, and dying intestate, the Estate did not escheat to the Crown? After considerable trouble and expence, it was at length decided, that the Estate was not escheated to the Crown, but became legally, though not "by force of law", the property of Mr. Curling. These are the particulars as to the mode by which your late father became possessed of the Offley Holes Eslale; and we proceed to add such information, on the disposal of the residue of it, after the death of Mr. Beckford, as came within our knowledge.

Mr. Curling having heard that Mr. Rose Beckford had left an illegilimate daughter, of about seven Years of age, immediately took the necessary measures to ascertain the fact: and, after diligent search, discovered her in a remote village in Bedfordshire, unprotected and totally unprovided for: whereupon Mr. Curling committed her to the care of a respectable person; and also had the Offley Holes Estate valued, in order to make some arrangement for her future advantage. The value being fixed, Mr. Curling, after deducting the principal and interest due to him, and the expences [sic] that had been incurred in the improvement of the Estate, invested the surplus in the Public Funds in the names of Trustees, for the benefit of the said child, who has ever since that period been at a respectable boarding-school, deriving the advantages of a liberal education, and receiving the countenance and protection of the various branches of Mr. Curling's family. To these facls we, can speak with accuracy; and have a sincere gratification in communicating them to you.

We remain, Dear Sir, very respectfully, your obedient humble servants,
Dennetts And Greaves.

To Edw. Curling, Esq. Blackheath.

Other family members
Robert's son
William (c1770-1853) became a merchant and owner, trading from 26 Princes Street Rotherhithe, insuring in 1802 the brig Perseverance (commander Walter Sky), the ship Enterprize (master James Ferguson) and the ship Resolution (master Nathaniel Demett) at Limehouse Hole. He became active in Cox, Curling & Co. (see above).

Several generations bore the forename Jesse. Captain Jesse Curling was active in the 1770s; the family home was at 6 Jamaica Row, Rotherhithe [later 1 Jamaica Road, Bermondsey], insured by 'Jesse Curling gent' (born c1774) in 1802. Which of these two was involved in a complex King' s Bench law case of 1794? In Curling v. Innes (1794) 2 H. Bl. 373, Curling sued Innes on a bond conditioned for the payment of such a sum of money as Curling should recover against Beckford [see above for 'Alderman' Beckford]. Innes, who was under terms to plead issuably, admitting that judgment had been obtained against Beckford for the sum claimed, pleaded that error was pending on the judgment. A rule was granted to shew cause why the plea should not be withdrawn, as being no issuable plea, but was afterwards discharged, on the ground that the surety could not be liable till the money was actually recovered against the principal in the former action, and that, while the writ of error was depending, the money was not actually recovered. Is that clear?

In 1814 'Jesse Curling junior' (whose wife Harriet bore him five children) was Vice-President of the Southwark Association of the Church Missionary Society (originally the Society for Missions to Africa and the East), and in 1827 a committee member of the British and Foreign Bible Society.
In 1847 he was treasurer of  the Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford Turnpike Trust, and by the 1850s was a magistrate for the County of Surrey. He and T.B. Curling [what relation?] were directors of the Sea Bathing Infirmary [right] based in Margate. (The family had its origins thereabouts: Robert owned a copy of a History of the Curlings of the Isle of Thanet , on which he based his Memorial records of the Curlings of the Isle of Thanet, which explores the family name, and includes a chapter 'Some Interesting Passages in the Life of John Curling, Esq., J.P., of Offley Holes and Gosmore, Herts' in which he recounts young ship apprentice John’s capture by pirates, escape in South America and eventual return to England. See here for a churchwarden who had sketched bathing machines in Margate in the 1730s.) He owned a collection of paintings by George Morland - some of them seascapes - which was sold in 1856 on his death. Jesse, Alexander (?) and his daughter Mary Ann (born 1805) were listed as book collectors.

By the 1870s George (who was a druggist) and Jesse Curling were living at Elgin House, Addiscombe - in 1874 they were elected as members of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society. George was a 'druggist'. It was presumably the Jesse of the next generation who was party to a well-publicised action in 1897 for breach of promise of marriage. Such actions are no longer possible in English law, but stemmed from the fact that 'engagement' - consent to marry - created a legally-binding commitment in advance of the wedding. The plot of Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury (1875) turned on such an action, which was not uncommon in Victorian times. A particular feature of this case is that the plaintiff - the model Katherine Fitzpatrick - was seven years older than her suitor, reversing the normal assumptions about a naïve bride-to-be lured into wedlock. (See further Ginger S. Frost Promises Broken (University of Virginia Press 1995). Here is one summary of the case of
Fitzpatrick v Curling:
The toast of Bohemian London, whom artists such as Lord Leighton and Sir L. Alma-Tadema had been proud to paint, she had been wooed and courted by men in high places and of fabulous wealth. Her choice fell upon Jesse Curling, himself a strikingly handsome young man, who was a sleeping partner in a big West End tailoring firm.They met and, after a short courtship, became engaged. Then, with dramatic suddenness, the engagement was broken off, and she brought an action for breach against her wealthy lover. For the model, there appeared in the King's Bench Court the late Lord Carson (then Sir Edward Carson, Q.C., for the trial was in Victoria's time). I can well imagine the resonant voice of this great advocate as he drew a picture of his client's rise from obscurity to fame as a leading London beauty, and then went on to impress the jury as he denounced the suggestions made against her ... But they will be refuted by evidence which will convince you that Katherine Fitzpatrick is a grossly wronged woman to whom signal reparation is due. Katie went into the witness box and told her story. Jesse Curling did likewise. Counsel made their closing speeches, and the Lord Chief Justice, who was presiding, summed up. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and awarded her £150 damages. Not a very large sum for a broken heart, perhaps, and that is the reason I have quoted this case; for it was only sixteen years later, in 1913, that the highest amount ever known in connection with a breach of promise case [£50,000] was received by Daisy Markham, the the actress, against the Marquis of Northampton, then aged 28 and a Lieutenant in the Royal Horse Guards ...

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