Francis and Fanny Eliza Burleton – A Fresh Start #52Ancestors Week 1

Bristol 1840 (John Chilcott)

On the 6th June 1851, Francis Burleton and his wife Fanny Eliza lived in a small house in Bristol. It was a terrace house in a long row. Not the worst place to live, but a huge change from the rural highlands of Somerset and Wales where each had grown up.

On this date the family consisted of 6 people. There was 36 year old Francis, his 24 year old wife Fanny Eliza and 3 year old Mary Ann at the core. Francis was a corn dealer following in his father’s footsteps. With his uncle Robert’s good training behind him, he had every chance of succeeding where his father had failed.

Seven years ago Francis lost his father in a tragic shipwreck which robbed the family of a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of society. William’s story concludes here.

Six years ago, Fanny Eliza’s father passed away in Bristol. He may have died in the very house they were in for the 1851 census. His story concludes here.

One year ago, Francis and Fanny Eliza buried their son Albert. I’ve written about the event here.

It had been a decade of loss for them both, but as the family grew smaller they grew closer.

On 6th June 1851, they lived at 3 York Street, Bristol. The house is still there.

Photographer’s child taken out of picture. Posted with permission, taken 2014.

With Francis, Fanny Eliza and Mary were three others. Francis’ mother Elizabeth nee Dudden aged 67. his brother William aged 32, and his sister Sarah aged 38.

By June of 1851, plans were already afoot. Perhaps Francis’ father wrote back about great opportunities in the colonies. Maybe it was just a way to escape struggle and death. Whatever the reasons, Francis and Fanny Eliza had made their decision.

Their fresh start was a move to the new improved colony of New South Wales.

It was probably a move of desperation for the Burletons. The British colony was seventy years old. But this was a giant region and the discovery of gold brought swarms upon swarms of hopeful new immigrants to the shores. Whole towns sprang up over night. Existing villages surged to city size. Transport problems, shortage of resources, the absence of law enforcement all culminated in the splitting of one giant colony into two more manageable ones.

On 1st July 1851, Victoria was born. Wealthy from the beginning, it settled down to pass laws, open immigration to those with skills that the colony required, and reap the benefits of their geographic location, the hub between three flourishing colonies with a lot of movement between.

It wasn’t such an easy time for New South Wales. They were in the middle of an economic slump and were losing valuable residents every day to the shiny new lands down south. But in 1852 they were starting to rally. It wasn’t such a bad time to be in Australia.

So it wasn’t only a fresh start for the Burletons. It was a fresh start for the Australian colonies too.

Map of the eastern Australian colonies. Adapted from the map of Australia by NordNordWest [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

They travelled on the Neptune. Francis described himself as a ‘farm manager’ but the immigration records rephrased, presumably in a way that made him the most useful. He is shown as a ‘brewer or farm labourer’. The shipping record confirms the details we have for him. His age, his birthplace, his parents (William and Elizabeth Dodding, a small confusion there as he presumably provided his mother’s maiden name). That his father is dead and his mother residing in Bristol.

Fanny Eliza is likewise confirmed. A house servant born in West Harptree, parents Thomas Wookey and Hannah. Mary aged 4.

I add this detail in their ‘remarks’ section which may be more decipherable to others than to myself. I can see they have five pounds. But there’s more.

Detail from New South Wales Immigration records, ship’s list for the Neptune dated 19th February 1852

Also on board was Francis’ brother William. The two of them were close for their entire lives. William’s details corroborate all other records nicely.

They said goodbye to their mother and sister and boarded the Neptune at one of its British ports.

The journey was recorded in a couple of places:

The Neptune left Deptford on the 9th of September, the Nore on the 10th, and Plymouth on the 26th September. She experienced very heavy weather in lat. 46-46 North long., 10 degrees West. A heavy sea struck her and carried away fore and main topmasts, all three topgallant masts, fore top-gallant yard, and she had to put back to Falmoutb, where several of the emigrants left her.

She resumed her voyage on the 23rd October. She has on board 42 married couples, 56 single men, 70 single women, 31 boys, and 24 girls under 14 years of age, and 10 infants. Seven births occurred during the passage, and eight deaths. Three of the latter were adults.

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Saturday 7 February 1852, page 2

Poor Francis and Fanny must have felt as if everything they touched turned to disaster. But they stuck it out, and they arrived safely at Port Jackson on 19th February 1852.

They came to a country very different to the one they left behind. They arrived in the height of summer. They found mosquitoes, giant spiders and poisonous snakes and the stories of these were brought on board ship before they even set foot on the land.

The Heads, Sydney, picture by David Edwards [CC BY 3.0 (]

I’ll conclude this blog with the announcement of the ship’s arrival, as Francis, Fanny, William and little Mary waited on board to see what the future might hold for them.

Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 – 1875), Thursday 19 February 1852, page 2

Francis and Fanny Eliza Burleton

It’s a busy time of year and I’m cheating a bit. I’m going to publish some flash fiction instead of a something factual. I’m still conflicted about fictionalizing the past. I wish to state very clearly that it might not have happened this way at all.

That said, the facts are verifiable. It’s the conversation and the thoughts and some physical descriptions which are not. We can’t know. But I do have some idea of their personalities and their views on the world. Francis had a strong sense of responsibility and a great deal to prove to himself. Fanny Eliza was a wonderfully strong woman who always found a way forward. Many records still exist about this couple. Their personalities have left a mark.

My 3 times great grandparents Francis Burleton and Fanny Eliza Wookey were married in 1844 in East Harptree, Somerset. On 20th March 1850 they lost their son Albert Edward Burleton. I’m hoping to move out of the death theme by Christmas Day with their arrival in Australia, but I like to maintain accurate chronology. Although this is the story of a funeral, it’s the beginning of a new approach. A point at which, I’m fairly sure, they looked at their circumstance and their future and decided that something needed to change.

East Harptree in Somerset England, the ancestral region of the Burletons and Wookeys

A Funeral In East Harptree (March 1850)

On a balmy morning in spring when new leaves budded on the trees, Francis Burleton followed slowly behind a tiny coffin destined for the East Harptree churchyard.

Fanny Eliza, black clad and very contained, walked at his side carrying their daughter. Her haunted poise wrenched the breath from his chest. Mary was settled deep into her mother’s arms, very aware that catastrophe of some sort had struck the family.

At the churchyard he waited with his wife and his brother Will, lost in thought.  Would the sunny girl he had married emerge again?  Or was she now a different creature?

Here was the grave of John Burleton, his grandfather.  He remembered a solid man of stoic demeanor and poker face, the last of the old style of yeoman farmers.  Church warden, local magistrate and of impeccable reputation.  John Burleton had even entertained aristocracy at Eastwood Farm. His excellent husbandry added wealth to local importance. It meant something here in Somerset to be a Burleton.

But Francis also remembered that time when he was just a boy where he had no place to be, overhearing a tirade of abuse hurled at his Papa by this great man. John Burleton with florid cheeks and booming voice in the parlour at Eastwood Farm.  And his own Papa, six inches taller but cowed and silent, accepting the abuse.

“A bankrupt! A Burleton in the bankruptcy courts?  How DARE you show your face on this property now!  I might have known you’d throw it all away, boy,  but I’ll be damned if I’ll permit you to take us with you.”

Even then, afraid to move for fear of being spotted, Francis marvelled at the difference between the two men. Grandpapa so black and stiff. Papa so ethereal, tall and thin with light wispy hair.  His grandpapa with rigid routines and his papa with a new grand scheme every day.  But Francis did not, back then, know what bankruptcy was.

They moved to Wales, escaping whispers and recriminations.  Mamma was staunchly supportive of Papa, as always. The Burletons had not approved of her and she was happier in Wales. Until Papa was transported to the colonies as a common criminal.

It really wasn’t Papa’s fault. Setting the Welsh town against him with his criticism and grand schemes, he upset the natural order of things as he always did. And they’d taken action, got him shipped off.  Exiled for being a fool. And the family was separated forever.

Their uncle called Francis and Will back to Eastwood Farm where they could learn good management. Where any influence of their father could be undone. Uncle Robert was a good man who liked to do right by his family.

Coming back to East Harptree made sense. But it was an uneasy home now. Everybody knew. Nobody said a word, you could imagine the secret had been kept successfully. But the truth was there in the glances, the careful words – they way some families chose not to mix with the returned young men.

But that was in the past. He was married now. He had his own commitments. He understood loss and gain. Had hope for his own future and that of his children.

And now Will was heeding the call for emigrants and leaving them.

Uncle Robert stood alone, solid and poker faced just like the old man. He wasn’t happy with the funeral arrangements.  Little Albert should have been buried in the Burleton plot, but Fanny Eliza had put her foot down and she was a Wollen. 

Wollen. An old name, true aristocracy.  They’d daughtered out now and Fanny’s mother had been one of the last. Francis had married her for herself, not her family name.  Yet she had a power over the Burletons that he could never have imagined and she was not in awe of them at all. 

He watched her move quietly to her mother’s grave and place a finger lightly on the headstone as she always did.  Just a quiet ‘hello Mamma’ to the woman who died to give her birth.  It was Fanny Eliza’s decree that her first born son would be buried here, with his grandmother to watch over him for all eternity. 

The tiny coffin was lowered.  Francis and Fanny Eliza cast the first sod. They watched their cherished son vanish from view forever.  Francis had the distinct impression that Fan was burying her innocence in that little grave with her boy.  When it was done she looked at him. Serene. Peaceful. Determined. Changed.

“Will has the right idea,” she said.  “We have nothing here. Mamma will care for Albert now.”

Francis looked at her in puzzlement. 

Fanny Eliza looked across the churchyard.  “I want to move to the colonies.  This place is not good for children.”

Move to the colonies. Will had suggested it weeks ago and he felt a stirring of curiosity. What might it be like?

But if Fanny Eliza had decided there was no question.

“Yes.” He looked solemnly at her.  “Let’s do that.”

They walked across the churchyard to rejoin the mourners.

William Burleton 1783-1842 :Transportation

These are the final years of William Burleton, my 4x great grandfather, continued from Part II .

William died 177 years ago and we can’t know his true personality, but I’ve always liked him as he presents in the records. It’s clear that people in his own day didn’t know how to take him. Some thought him pompous and entitled, some just thought he was useless. Others seem to have liked him well enough. He was never completely without friends.

I see him as an impractical man, someone unsuited to daily slog. He had grand visions for his own future but was completely unable to manage his finances. That was his greatest downfall. I think he had pride in himself but that pride took a battering as the years passed, as he had more and more need to prove to both himself and others that he could be the man he had always believed he would become.

By 1836 he was in prison, awaiting transportation to the colonies to complete a seven year sentence. He was an old man now, aged 54, but of general good health and a skilled miller. There’s little doubt that he knew his trade well, it was the one thing that had saved him again and again.

Ship at night, 1854 from Religious Tract Society pamphlet

On 6th April 1836, William Burleton and 324 other male prisoners were loaded onto the ship Lord Lyndoch for its second convict run to Van Diemen’s Land.

Up till this time, William may have hoped for a reprieve; may not have believed it could go this far. He was not the typical convict. He was twice the age of most of his new contemporaries, of good birth and well educated. He was not a Welshman but due to his arrest and trial in Wales his cellmates were all from that country and many still spoke their own language. His differences might have seemed relevant. There was every reason to stay optimistic, but nobody stepped forward to save him from his fate.

The barque Lord Lyndoch was captained on this journey by the experienced John Baker. The surgeon was James Lawrence. It was an East India Company ship, leased to the British Navy in the usual manner. Built in 1815, it was in good repair but not of modern design. It was an experienced convict transport, there was no reason to expect any problems on the voyage.

An outbreak of dysentery while still at Sheerness delayed their departure. The earliest entry in the surgeon’s log is dated 10th April. The first two victims probably brought the sickness on board and both died after a week of treatment. No captain was going to make a long journey with illness on board, so the Lord Lyndoch sat in harbour until the infection was brought under control.

Shipping scene from London Illustrated News Aug 16 1856 p 170

A fortnight after William came on board, they were cleared to leave. The ship departed quietly for Deal off the coast of Kent, its departure scarcely rating a mention in local papers.

Deal – arrived the ‘Lord Lyndoch’, Baker, for Hobart Town …

Globe 20 April 1836 p4 Naval Intelligence

Deal – the ‘Lord Lyndoch’, for Hobart Town, and several others, outward-bound, remain.

Globe 22 April 1836 p4 Naval Intelligence

On 24th April the Lord Lyndoch finally put out to sea. They made good time for an old ship, the whole journey taking 118 days. Conditions on board were stable, a small amount of jaundice and scurvy troubling the prisoners but the surgeon took quick action. William Burleton – recorded in the convict register as William Bourleton – was not treated for any illness on the journey.

There are very few references to the ship as it traveled, but they seem to have taken the usual route down the west coast of Africa, stopping at the Capetown for supplies. The only report is accidental, part of a conversation between rival newspapers in the colonies.

Bent’s News and Tasmanian Three-Penny Register (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1836 – 1837), Saturday 6 August 1836, page 4

The Lord Lyndoch arrived in Hobart Town on 20th August 1836 and the arrival was reported in pretty much every paper in the colony.

Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839), Friday 26 August 1836, page 3

William’s conduct report is very short, but enough detail is given to track his life after arrival.

Conduct report for William Bourleton State Library of Tasmania
CON31-1-3 Image 106 page 154

Transcript of details above: Transported for Larceny,

Gaol Report: Character Bad of Late, formerly good, Connections Respectable, Hulk Report Good, Married, Stated this Offence: Stealing Books & Other Articles, Prosecutor W James of Monmouth, Married 7 Children, Wife Elizabeth at Monmouth, Surgeon’s report Orderly

You don’t often see ‘Connections Respectable’ in these records. You might see ‘good’, or ‘bad’ or often ‘indifferent’. But ‘Respectable’ probably means that William was telling people of his good birth and early prospects. He may have been negotiating for an assignment suitable for his position in society. Of course, position in society was officially gone once one became a convict, but in reality well born convicts still had some influence.

His name often appears beside Jenkin Jenkins’ in nonalphabetized records, so I think the two were friends.

His Description List is as follows:

State Library of Tasmania CON18/1/13 Page 284

The British prison system was tasked with finding any skill that William possessed which could make him a useful resource. I really doubt he called himself a ploughman or a farm labourer. He was a Miller, that’s what he always said. But the colonies needed farm workers so any farm experience made him worthy of transportation. As it turned out, Van Diemen’s Land needed millers as well. William was assigned to settler Andrew Gatenby who had land at the Isis River north of Campbell Town.

State Library of Tasmania, Appropriation Lists of Convicts CON27/1/2
Gatenby’s very large land grant was in the circled region. Public domain map of Van Diemen’s Land 1852

This description of the region was published four years before William’s arrival and references the mill in which William worked.

‘Statistical View of Van Diemen’s Land: Comprising Its Geography, Geology &c Forming A Complete Emigrant’s Guide’ 1832, no author named

We don’t have much detail of William’s daily life here, but the absence of notes in his conduct report suggests that he settled well. He coped with the cold and the bushrangers and the different types of grain. No doubt he wrote letters back to Wales and perhaps to Somerset as well, but if so, none have survived.

Present day Campbell Town, taken 2014

He received a ticket of leave in 1840 and letters written to the Lieutenant Governor in 1842 by Andrew Gatenby and John Gellibrand – two very influential men in Van Diemen’s Land – refer to William Burleton as a man who has contributed to the establishment of the settlement. Both men recommend him for an early pardon and request that he be allowed to return to his family in Wales.

It’s another indication that his inability to handle money was the root of all his troubles. While he was not required to manage finances he achieved very well.

The final part of his conduct report (above) states:

“The Lieut Governor has been pleased to remit the unexpired portion of this man’s sentence in order that he may leave the colony to proceed to England”

Conduct report for William Bourleton State Library of Tasmania
CON31-1-3 Image 106 page 154

It must have been a great moment for William. Finally he had the respect of some capable men – Gatenby and Gellibrand – and he might have learned some practicality during his time in the colony. But he was now aged 60 and clearly just wanted to go home to his family.

He booked onto a ship called the Normuhul, a small vessel leaving from Launceston for London on 20 April 1842.

The northern Tasmania coast in the rain. Taken 2015

Exactly six years earlier he had stood on the deck of the Lord Lyndoch as it waited at Deal, had probably looked across to the British shoreline and wondered if he would ever see it again. Now, no doubt, he stood on the deck of the Normuhul and looked at the forests along the Van Diemen’s Land coast. Probably, he was promising himself that he would never return. But maybe he intended to fetch his family and bring them back? Many did exactly that.

I haven’t found a picture of the Normuhul, but I like to think it was a pleasant boat since it was part of William’s almost triumphant return. He was the recipient of a full pardon, he was still a legitimate British citizen and he was going home at last.

It seems absolutely tragic that he didn’t get there. He’d probably written a letter telling Elizabeth that he was coming back. But it just wasn’t to be, the William Burleton streak of bad luck had returned.

It took me years to find William’s death. I knew that Elizabeth called herself a widow in the 1851 British census, but I never could find when he actually passed away.

Here it is in a section titled ‘Shipwrecks and Casualties at Sea’

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), Saturday 13 May 1843

The wreck was never recovered so we don’t know exactly where they went down. This was a misfortune entirely outside of his control for a man who always tried so very hard and failed so often. But he died with a clear record and at long last, leaving a good reputation behind him in Van Diemen’s Land.

Some of his family remained in Monmouth and their descendants are still there today. The rest returned to Somerset.

William Burleton 1783-1842 – Convicted Felon

This post continues the trials and tribulations of William Burleton, my 4 x great grandfather,  which began here.  

William Burleton’s home by 1833.- view is of nearby Crickhowell from Llangattock in Monmouthshire

Starting this post where the last one ended,  William was a man in his forties who now needed to claw his way back from bankruptcy.  He had some skills as a miller, he was quite well educated and he still had the basic support of his now-distant family.  Moving to the rainy County of Brecknock in Wales was probably not what he wanted, but it was a fair move to make at this juncture.

A most interesting book ‘A practical treatise on the Bankrupt Law, as amended by the new Act of the 6 Geo IV c 16‘ ( the Hon Robert Henry Eden 1825) tells us that even in 1825, five years was the period set in which a bankrupt cannot own property or borrow money.  William was declared bankrupt in 1826 so by 1831 he was considered solvent again. In 1833 he moved to Llangattock where he became the employee of local miller John James. 


Llangattock seems to be dismissively covered in many books of the time as the place that had ‘nothing of interest’.  Perhaps so, but there is enough written about it to get a decent picture of life there in the 1830s.

The story of Llangattock is tied up with nearby Crickhowell, to the extend that the two villages are occasionally referred to as one, much like William’s home villages of East and West Harptree in Somerset. He and Elizabeth may have felt comfortable with that.  The two Welsh villages were on opposite sides of the River Usk and connected by a bridge.

Both William’s old home and the new had extensive cave systems which locals liked to explore.  Wales lacked the documented antiquity for which Somerset was known, where visitors to the caves could find Roman or Pagan artefacts as a keepsake and it was easy to identify them as such.  The history of Wales was oral only, with just a few early scholars writing up their suppositions.

That said, here is the report of one 1810s scholar:

A History of the County of Brecknockshire by Theophilus Jones 1809 page 425

The church of Llangattock was supposedly one of many founded in Wales by Cattwyg of the Court of Arthur.  As a pastoral region the area was too sandy to give anything beyond the comfortable support of a hardworking family, so it took the discovery of iron to bring it out of obscurity and into the modern world of 1800.  

A History of the County of Brecknockshire by Theophilus Jones 1809 page 491

I’ve included that image from Mr Jones’ very detailed book for two reasons.  One is to fill out the world of Llangattock at that time. The other is for the reference to Mr Butler, since William’s mother was a Butler by birth.  More research will be undertaken to see if there was a connection.

If I were researching a different man I’d think that employment at the mines could have brought him to Breconshire.  But not William Burleton. He would never had coped with such heavy, mindless, undignified work as mining.  I really don’t see him as an arrogant, evil overlord. I think he was a creative, unwordly man with no capacity to adapt to his circumstances.  He was probably spoiled as a child and he always had assumed his future was secure.  But I cannot imagine him coping with heavy work like mining. He was trained as a miller and he stuck to that because that’s what he knew and that’s what he could do.

Another view from Llangattock

A History of the County of Brecknockshire by Theophilus Jones 1809 page 464

In all of my recent research into Llangattock, I haven’t found any reference to a mill.  I do know it was there because William Burleton became an employee at it in 1833.  It was owned by a Mr John James and was intended to be passed on to his eldest son, John James the younger.

But I do have a little bit about fairs which might be relevant, to finish off my village description:

A History of the County of Brecknockshire by Theophilus Jones 1809 page 464

William and Elizabeth Burleton moved to Llangattock by 1833 with probably six of their ten children, being Sarah (20), Elizabeth (17), George (13), John (12), Robert (10) and Eliza (9).  I’m quite sure that the girls went with them, but not so sure about the boys since they have proven hard to research.  I know for sure that Francis and Will – then aged 18 and 15 – remained in Somerset with their uncle Robert at Eastwood Manor Farm.

According to a local newspaper, William was empoyed from December 1833 till October 1834 when he took over as Manager of the mill, in the employ of John James.  It all fell apart on 7th April 1835.

It’s pretty clear that William was once more in financial difficulties.  The story as told in the papers is as follows:

“The prosecutor (John James Esq) left property in the mill-house, locked up in a room. On the 7th April was at the mill and saw the property safe.; was at the mill about the beginning of June, and found some panes of glass broken in the window; met the prisoner near the house; when he returned to the house found the door forced; did not miss the pistols till a black trunk, in which they were locked, was found in a wood; in the second week of July saw them in the possession of a person of the name of Thomas, a  pawn broker, in Bristol.”  (Brecon Gazette)

The story was written up in great detail probably because John James was such an influential local man.  And my William went to a lot of trouble to take the stolen goods all the way to Bristol.  If only he hadn’t dumped that trunk in the forest!  But the dumping of the trunk changed his likely motives.  Were he trying to overcome a temporary embarrassment and had intended to retrieve  the pistols, he would have kept the trunk to replace. 

“The pawnbroker identified the prisoner as the man who pledged the property, giving his name William Butler of Dundry, near Bristol.  The pistols were then produced and identified.”

William Burleton was found guilty.  As this was a first offence he was sentenced to a short term of imprisonment.  

Which is where it all gets suspicious.  A first offence under a certain value led to imprisonment.  If the value of the stolen items was less than five pounds, transportation was a sentence that could only be applied to repeat offenders.

Cruet stand.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art [Public domain]

The Brecon Gazette continued the story:

The prisoner was then tried on the other indictment, for stealing a cruet stand and three bottles, and other articles; but as the property was taken at the same time and from the same place as that laid in the former indictment, and as the evidence adduced was the same, it is unnecessary to give it in detail. The prisoner was found guilty on the second indictment, and sentenced to seven years transportation.

The reason given by the James family for the two indictments was that some of the property (the pistols) belonged to John James Senior while the cruet stand belonged to John James Junior.  But had they tried such a thing in a busy court like Birmingham or Surrey it would have been treated with utmost contempt. It was a clear manipulation of the law to remove William Burleton for good.  William Burleton’s lawyer, Mr Lee, apparently gave a good defense but they were no match for the influence of the wealthy and well connected John James.  And perhaps, knowing William as we do, Mr James had correctly identified that William would not learn his lesson and would remain an ever growing problem for Llangattock.

William was incarcerated in the Monmouth jail for a few days more, then shipped off to Sheerness to the hulk Ganymede along with fellow prisoners  Jenkin Jenkins and William Richards.

‘Day 159 Stormy III’ by Craig Holgate 
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) No changes made.

On 6th April 1836, just a few months before John James Junior entered holy matrimony with Margaret Davies back in Llangattock, my William Burleton along with Jenkin Jenkins and William Richards were loaded on board the Lord Lyndoch, ready for transportation to Van Diemen’s Land and a future that none could predict.

Story of William continues here.


  • Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette 15 August 1835
  • A History of the County of Brecknockshire by Theophilus Jones 1809
  • A practical treatise on the Bankrupt Law, as amended by the new Act of the 6 Geo IV c 16 by Robert Henley Eden Baron Henley 1829
  • Monmouthshire Merlin 22 August 1835

William Burleton 1783-1842 – The Pride Before the Fall

Farmland at East Harptree

East Harptree in Somerset England, the ancestral region of the Burletons and Wookeys

William strikes me as a sort of tragic character.  He could have been the most illustrious of his family.  I’m willing to bet that was his intention. His ambitions might have been realized had he lived just forty years earlier before the industrial revolution really kicked off.  Large scale manufacture swept the rug from under William’s feet just as he risked all of his family’s wealth in one massive business speculation.  With the failure of that business, he lost almost everything – his wealth, his home, the respect of his neighbours, the support of his extended family and we can’t know for sure, but he probably also lost the trust of his immediate family, his wife and children.

It was going to happen to the family anyway – the industrial revolution was very tough on provincial yeomen who were not placed to take on the hard nosed role of factory or franchise owner.  There wasn’t much call for that in the isolated central regions of Somerset in England.  The outside world was still passing these people by.  They were a step back in time, living by rules which had ceased to apply in most of England by the turn of the 19th century.  But though with hindsight we know that it was probably going to happen – at the time, it all looked like the fault of William Burleton, eldest son and heir to a moderate but sufficient livelihood built up by the generations before him.


Flour Mill Equipment

William was baptised on 25 Dec 1783 at East Harptree, Somersetshire, the eldest known son of John Burleton and Sarah Butler.  He had two elder sisters, Elizabeth and Ann.  There is room for another child between the two girls but no more records have been found.

Both of his parents came from yeomen families.  John Burleton’s father was a Burleton of Motcombe, Dorset, a family who had owned land there for generations.  John’s wife Sarah was a Butler from Witham Friary.  They and their relatives were local magistrates, church wardens and large scale benefactors of local charities.  Their credit was good, their standing was very good.  William was born into a world of advantage.

I have found no records regarding their education, but the children all reached adulthood with the ability to read and do accounts, even the girls which was not always the case in those years.  After William came Robert, Joseph, Sarah and John. (There is a slight discrepancy in John’s records, he may have been older).

He reached adulthood without entering into any official record and became a miller and dealer in meal.


Church of St Margaret at Hinton Blewett By Rodw [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons . No changes made.

William married Elizabeth Dudden at St Margaret’s in Hinton Blewitt, Somerset on 18th June 1807.

For years, I had the wrong Elizabeth Dudden.  There were two and they were second cousins.  I thought he had married the daughter of Parsons Dudden who was born in 1788.  It turns out he married the daughter of George Dudden who was born in 1784.

Which is the first indication, really, that William was headstrong and that he lacked the conservative practicality of his family.

It’s the reason I hit on the wrong Elizabeth.  The Duddens were yeomen of the past. By 1800 most of them were struggling labourers but with a few lines of descent which held on to small properties and local prestige.  Parsons Dudden was one of those. George Dudden was not. It made perfect economic sense that a Burleton would marry a daughter of Parsons Dudden.  But he married the daughter of George.


Chew Magna, the home of Elizabeth Dudden’s mother Mary. By Robert Cutts from Bristol, England, UK (St Andrew’s Church, Chew Magna, Somerset) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Not that I wish to denigrate George and his family. They were honest hardworking folk as far as I can tell. But they were landless labourers and Elizabeth made a startlingly good marriage, in the Jane Austin sense.  I have a feeling she must have been very pretty.

The comparison to the Bennett girls of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ can be taken further, though this family was in a different social sphere entirely.  Elizabeth Dudden was the daughter of George Dudden and Mary Harvey.  George was from the less successful branch of a respectable Dudden family – admittedly a surname which only had meaning in the highlands of Somerset – while Mary Harvey was a girl from a labouring family.  At the marriage of George and Mary, he signed the register while she marked with an ‘X’.  What she was able to teach her daughter about good household management and the dull, self-important world of respectable yeomanry is uncertain.

So Mary had made a good marriage by uniting herself with George Dudden, and Elizabeth then made a good marriage by uniting with William Burleton – which brings us back to William himself.

The marriage record is in the name of William Burlington.


William Burlington and Elizabeth Dudden, both of this parish, were married in this Church by Banns this Eighteenth day of June in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seven by me, Hugh Lewis, Curate.

This marriage was solemnized between Us :

William Burleton (signed his name as Burleton)

Elizabeth Dudden (signed her name)

In the presence of Samuel Hand and Hester Lewis.

They became the parents of a large family:

William 19 Apr 1809 Hinton Blewett
Eliza 01 Jul 1810 Hinton Blewett
Sarah 17 May 1812 Litton
Francis 31 Jul 1814 Litton
Elizabeth 30 May 1816 Litton
William 19 Jul 1818 Chewton Mendip
George 6 Jan 1820 Chewton Mendip
John 4 Oct 1821 Chewton Mendip
Robert 1 Dec 1823 Chewton Mendip
Eliza 13 Sep 1824 Chewton Mendip

It was in Litton that William made the mistake which changed the whole course of his life.

On his own land, William built a brand new flour mill, putting himself into debt with the expectation that the business would prosper and enable him to pay back the money. He built the finest mill that he could, filled with new equipment. Litton was very proud of it.


Litton in Somerset

With the benefit of hindsight, the first indication of financial trouble appeared in 1815 with a notice in the Bath Chronicle (1):


TO be LET, in the parish of LITTON near Chewton-Mendip, for one year, five or seven and entered upon at Lady Day next, a New-built and Well-accustomed WATER GRIST-MILL, working two pair of stones together, adjoining with a neat Dwelling-house, Bake-house, two Gardens, large Orchard, barns, stables, pig-houses, and all other offices, suitable for any respectable person who wishes to enter into the Meal and Baking business – for a view of the premises apply to Mr Wm Burleton, the proprietor, of Litton aforesaid.

The notice reappeared in the Bath chronicle in September 1816 in almost identical words.

Another notice appeared in the Bristol Mirror in 1820:


TO be SOLD by Private Contract, with immediate possession, a newly-erected FLOUR MILL, called Litton Mill, working two pair of Stones; with a good substantial DWELLING HOUSE, Bake-house, Barn, Stable, and other Outhouses, Gardens and Orchard adjoining; situate at LITTON near Chewton-Mendip, in the county of Somerset; distant from Wells 6 miles, Shepton-Mallet 7 miles, and Bristol 13 miles.

The above Premises are part of the Manor of Litton, and held by Copy of Court Toll for three young healthy lives.

For further particulars, and to treat for the purchase, apply to Mr WILLIAM BURLETON, of Chewton-Mendip, or to Mr DOWLING, Solicitor, Chew-Magna.

N.B. If the above Premises are not sold before the 1st of May, the same will be then to be Let. (2)

In 1823, William’s eldest daughter Eliza died at the age of thirteen. Her cause of death is not known. It must have added to an already troubled time for the family.

family scene 1826

Scene of family from ‘The Fairchild Family’ by Mrs Sherwood, 1826 edition.

A further notice in the Bristol Mirror in 1824 for the sale of a property belonging to William Burleton.


On MONDAY NEXT, the 12th day of January, at the Mitre Inn, WELLS, at five o’clock in the afternoon, (unless in the meantime disposed of by Private Contract).

A COMPACT FARM,consisting of Five Closes of Arable and Pasture Land, adjoining each other, containing together 105 Acres (more or less), situate on MENDIP, near Green Ore Farm, in the parish of St. Cuthbert, Wells, near the turnpike road, and adjoining lands of John Davis and Edward Tuson, Esquires.

Of the above Premises, 74A. 3R. 24P. are held by lease, under the Bishop of Bath and Wells, for three lives; and the Residue is Freehold.

There is a good Limekiln and an excellent Spring of Water on the Freehold part of the Premises, which abound with Limestone and Stone for Building.

N.B. The above Premises, if not sold, will be to be LET.

For a view of the Premises, apply to Mr. William Burleton, Chewton-Mendip, and for further particulars, and to treat by Private Contract, to Messrs DOWLING AND MARSHALL, solicitors, Chew-Magna. (3)

It all came to a head in 1826.  A  suspicion of mine is that William’s creditors were assuming that he would inherit from the estate of his very elderly father.  John Burleton was almost forty at the time of William’s birth.  Now he was about to turn eighty and was probably ailing.  But at John’s death in November 1825, his property – Eastwood in East Harptree – was left to his second son Robert, skipping over the elder William.

The family probably knew more about William’s character than we can deduce today through the records.  The creditors waited no longer. It was game over for William Burleton.



W. Burleton, Litton, Somersetshire, mealman (4)


Landscape around Monmouthshire. Public Domain photograph.

There was something of a rift within the family from this point.  Whether it was William removing himself from them or vice versa is unclear.  William’s brother Robert – a highly responsible, sensible, solid chip off the old block if ever there was one – rendered assistance to the family by taking Joseph and Francis under his employ.  Looking at the generations ahead, this was something we can be very grateful for. But it probably didn’t feel like much to William.

William and the rest of his family moved to Monmouthshire.  Two children – William and Eliza – were deceased.  Joseph and Francis stayed in Somerset.  The other seven went to Monmouthshire with their parents.

Maybe there was family there that I haven’t discovered. Maybe they just got the hell out of the home town with its pity and recriminations and sideways glances and memories.  Perhaps Monmouthshire seemed like the place for a new beginning where nobody knew them.  Perhaps it was brother Robert’s doing.

William took employment at a country mill, working for a Mr John James.  It was a chance for a new start – not easy for a man in his forties who until now had had all the luxuries and conveniences that he could desire.

But at least he had a fresh beginning and he still had his family.  Perhaps it wasn’t game over after all.

Story of William continues here.

    1. ‘SOMERSET’,Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 23 November 1815 p.3
    1. TO MILLERS AND BAKERS, The Bristol Mirror 15 Apr 1820 p.1
    2. ‘TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION’, The Bristol Mirror 10 January 1824 p.1
  1. ‘BANKRUPTS FROM THE LONDON GAZETTE’, The Caledonian Mercury 25 Sep 1826, p6

A Genealogical Road Trip Part Seven – Moving on from Mannus

Main street of Tumbarumba Dec 2014 about 7AM

Main street of Tumbarumba Dec 2014 about 7AM

We arrived in Tumbarumba on Sunday evening and stayed only two nights and the intervening full day.  It’s hard to believe, given the amount we fitted into that flying visit.

As usual, we camped at the local caravan park in our tent.  We found the place full of blueberry pickers, seasonal workers who were doing exactly what my great grandfather did all those years ago.  Going to sleep on our first night, we could as easily have been in an overseas country, which was a nice touch.  I don’t think there was an English speaker amongst them, but most shared a language.

In some ways it was problematic though, as the pickers did not share the usual tourist ethos of using facilities and quickly as possible and freeing them for the next camper.  These guys were living there and spent all night in the camp kitchen playing rap music and having huge cookups with the single camp stove. Our phone batteries went flat and we ended up eating at a cafe down the street which was an expense I hadn’t budgeted for.  A few fellow tourists were quite disgruntled and cut short their stay in the town.  Due to language barriers we had little success if we asked to use the electric jug or a powerpoint.  Many of the pickers were sleeping in their cars and the campsite looked a bit like a carpark at times.  But they were very friendly and there was certainly no alternative venue for them to sleep in.

Apart from our visit to three families of relatives and the exploration of the house and farms, here’s a summary.

We were given copies of some photographs and I used my camera to obtain more.

Copies of pictures from Mannus

Copies of pictures from Mannus

We visited the cemetery,

Graves in the Tumbarumba Cemetery

Graves in the Tumbarumba Cemetery (click to enlarge)

and we went to look at the memorial plaques on the property.

Memorial Plaques on the Mannus property

Memorial Plaques on the Mannus property

It was a very full day which went from about 5AM till 10PM, but on Tuesday morning we packed up our tent, loaded the car and headed out of town.  I very much hope it is not another five years before I can return.

The Snowy Mountains was our furthest point from home.  From here we were on the way back.  The plan on this Tuesday was to return to family at Wangaratta, an easy drive of 220km.  Having left Tumbarumba by 8AM, we had a whole day to fill in.  So, I pondered, what was on that route that we could go visit?



Bowna, New South Wales

By 1861, my great great great grandfather Francis Burleton was a member of the School Board at Bowna, so at that time it was big enough to have a school. It had it’s own cricket team. There was a tennis court and the residents held balls and concerts.  This was a properly settled place and must have had a cemetery and a church too.  This is where his daughter Mary Ann Burleton was living when she met immigrant John Peard.  They were the parents of Burleton Herbert Peard my great grandfather.

All we found was a single sign.  Not a house, not a person, not a single lone chimney in a paddock.  I can only assume that in the years the road has diverted and this sign refers to the district of Bowna.  At two points we could see the odd roof across the paddocks but no way of reaching them.  Somewhere in this area is undoubtedly a small cluster of old trees and dwellings.  For us, this detour was a bust.


Scrolling through old newspapers, I had recently found a reference to Mrs Peard,the teacher at Moorwatha.  My own family of Peards were the only ones I had ever seen reference to, and I wondered if this might be my Mary Ann Peard nee Burleton, in this little community some 80km from where I expected to find her.

As it turns out, this was Mrs Elizabeth Peard and I have absolutely no idea who she was.  I have not properly researched my Peard 4th and 5th cousins and had better do so.  Some of my unidentified DNA matches might come from this line!

Our journey to Moorwatha was very enjoyable.  I’m going to give it its own blog post for the sake of others who might have ancestors there.

This post brings our journey to lunchtime on the sixth day.

Heading south on the Hume Freeway

Heading south on the Hume Freeway at the New South Wales – Victoria border.

John Burleton of East Harptree

In an earlier post I wrote about my maternal grandfather’s family, the Dunstalls.  My maternal grandfather married a girl from the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales.  Her father was Burleton Herbert Wookey Peard and I met him when I was quite young. My mother was quite attached to him and he died when I was five years old, only a year after I met him.  We lived interstate and when I was aged four we went on long visit, staying on their property at Mannus.  My mother’s pleasure at my spending time with him was still fresh in my young mind when he passed away the following year, and I remember my mother’s sorrow equally well. It was one of those pivotal moments which gelled my understanding of family, and also my awareness that the elderly would not be with us forever.

The family property at Mannus where this family have lived for several generations now.

The family property at Mannus where this family have lived for several generations now. Picture taken circa 1954

To me, Burleton Herbert Wookey Peard was known as Pa.  I never knew his full name until our next interstate visit when I was ten years old and we went to visit his grave.  He had been a successful farmer and had a green thumb like no one else around.  There was a plaque in Mannus commemorating his efforts at eradicating St John’s Wort (calling him Burleigh Peard) and a whole series of prizes from agricultural shows and produce fairs.

This visit to the property of Orana at Mannus was the one which turned me into a genealogist.  At the age of ten, I wanted to know all about Pa, about how he got that crazy name, about where he learned everything he knew.  His wife Stella (Ma) was tickled pink, and brought out the family bible.  I diligently copied all the entries into an exercise book.  I was shown Boer War medals, photographs, doilies embroidered by long deceased aunts and uncles, and I heard a multitude of stories.  I was also promised the family bible when Ma passed on, but a promise to a 10 year old girl can’t be expected to be kept.  I have no idea what happened to the family bible and the medals, but at least I have my transcription.

I learned that Burleton was named for his mother’s family.  His mother was Mary Ann Burleton and she had been born in East Harptree in Somerset.  Her parents were Francis Burleton and Fanny Eliza Wookey, both of East Harptree.   His name was the surname of each maternal grandparent.  I’m not sure about ‘Herbert’.

Francis was the son of William Burleton and Elizabeth Dudden and to date I have only located three children in this family.  William was a merchant who fell on hard times, he was forced to bankruptcy in 1824.  William’s father, John Burleton born 1744, was a man of standing in his community who had a successful farm called Eastwood.  John Burleton in 1777 married Sarah Fry, a girl of a very good family from Witham Friary in Somerset.  Her family posted announcements in all the Gentleman’s Magazines around.  She came with some money of her own, and John Burleton it seems came with some very good farm management skills.  Together they made Eastwood a place of local importance.  Seventy five years later, John and Sarah’s grandson Robert entertained his neighbours the Earl and Countess of Waldegrave at Eastwood.  It was a big event and a story which came all the way to Australia.

I had been quite unable to get any earlier than John Burleton and had only found his marriage through the family he married into.  However, looking through my DNA 4th-Remote cousin matches I found someone with the surname Burlington in Somerset amongst their ancestors.  No gedcom was provided but an extensive surname list.  I spotted no Wookeys, Duddens or Frys, but I did wonder of Burleton and Burlington might be connected.  So I wrote an email, giving the details I had.

It took about three emails back and forth, but finally I had a confirmed cousin.  It seems Elizabeth Burlington from the other tree was the daughter of Joseph Burlington born in 1738.  Joseph’s name had undergone a change.  He was the son of John Burleton born 1700.  A burial existed for John Burleton senior and his wife Elizabeth is believed to have been Elizabeth Lush but another verification of this would be nice.

John Burleton born 1700 died 1775 in Witham Friary had several children and my cousin had viewed the baptisms for them all.  Amongst the children were a son John Burleton born 23 Dec 1744.  All the family names were amongst them and witnesses and sponsors show that my John belongs amongst them.  After comparing all our documents, my distant cousin and I agreed that we had the same family.

I had a confirmed 6th cousin!  I had also added a few details to my family tree.

The other very nice thing about this was that I had verified a branch.  The thought had honestly flitted across my mind that maybe I was adopted and that was why I was finding no matches (apologies to my parents, I now have ample evidence to the contrary).  I also have an example of how DNA matching can work.  It’s quite straightforward when the pieces fall into place.