In the last post I wrote about the connections between the family of my 8 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest, a haberdasher at Tower Hill, London, and the Boulton family. Both families originated in rural Worcestershire, and both had members who moved to London in the middle of the turbulent seventeenth century. Thomas Forrest’s sister Alice married gunmaker William Boulton, and they made their home in the streets around the church of All Hallows Barking, not far from Thomas’ home at Tower Hill.
In the next few posts I want to write about the children and grandchildren of William and Alice Boulton, a number of whom had illustrious careers as seafarers, shipbuilders and politicians. In this post, I’ll begin by exploring the life of Major Peter Boulton. Born in about 1665, Peter may have been the oldest son of the family, since he followed in his father’s footsteps, working as a gunsmith, and almost certainly inherited the family business.
18th century flintlock pistols (via icollector.com)
According to H.L.Blackmore’s Dictionary of London Gunmakers (1986), Peter was apprenticed to his father William in 1680, when he would have been fifteen years old, and was made free by patrimony four years later, at the age of nineteen. In 1687 Peter Boulton, citizen and gunmaker, took on an apprentice of his own, by the name of Edmund Castle or Castell, ‘son of Robert Castle of Churchill in the County of Oxford, yeoman’.
Peter Boulton seems to have possessed a fiery temperament. In 1700 he was fined by the Gunmakers’ Company for using ‘opprobrious words’ to the Master of Company and ‘threatening to Post him up a Coward at the Exchange if he did not fight him,’ and he was fined once again in 1702 for actually assaulting the Master. However, Peter clearly had other qualities that led to these incidents being overlooked, since he was elected first as Assistant and then Master of the Company in 1710.
The same source informs us that Peter Boulton worked as gunmaker to the Ordnance from 1688 to 1715. The Office of Ordnance, which supplied arms and munitions to the Army and Navy, was based at the Tower of London, conveniently close to Peter Boulton’s home. We also learn that Peter was in the employ of the East India Company from 1698 to 1721. As we shall see in later posts, his brother Richard also worked for the company, first as a sea captain and then as a director.
On 26th June 1691, when he was about 26 years old, Peter Boulton married Elizabeth Bushell at the church of St James, Westminster. Elizabeth, who was twenty-one years old, was from Fladbury, the same Worcestershire village where Peter’s mother’s family, the Forrests, originated. The only clue we have about Elizabeth Bushell’s family background comes in the will of one Samuel Bushell, a gentleman of Bath, who died in 1696, in which he describes Peter Boulton as his brother-in-law. As we shall see, the Bushell family had a number of members in Bath, as well as in rural Worcestershire.
We know from contemporary records that Peter and Elizabeth Boulton had two daughters, Alice and Elizabeth. The next definite record that we have for Peter Boulton is from the list of ‘London inhabitants within the walls’ drawn up in 1695, when Peter would have been about thirty years old and had been married for four years. Under ‘Boulton’, the record includes an entry for ‘Peter; Eliz, w[ife]; Alice, d[aughter]; Eliz, d[aughter].’ It was in the following year that Samuel Bushell of Bath left money in his will to ‘my cosen Alice Boulton daughter of my brother-in-law Peter Boulton’ and in 1698 that William Forrest of Badsey, Worcestershire, Peter’s uncle and the brother of his mother Alice, made a bequest in his will to ‘my Cozen Alice Bolton daughter of Peter Bolton’. In both cases the word ‘cousin’ is being used in a generic sense, to mean any close relation: in fact Alice was niece to both Samuel Bushell and William Forrest. The fact that neither Samuel nor William make any mention in their wills of the other Boulton daughter Elizabeth suggests that she died in infancy.
The marriage of Peter Boulton and Elizabeth Bushell was cut short by Elizabeth’s own untimely death, possibly in childbirth, some time between 1695 and 1699. Peter married for a second time on 31st December 1699, in a ceremony at Bath Abbey. His second wife was twenty-three year old Posthuma Landick. She was the daughter of David Landick ,‘late deceased’ (hence her unusual first name?) and his wife Elizabeth, who seems to have been born a Bushell, suggesting that Peter may have met his second wife through the family of his first. It’s possible that it was as a result of his marriage to Posthuma that Peter Boulton came into the possession of property in Bath, or alternatively that his marriage led to him buying a second home close to his wife’s family.
Peter and Posthuma Boulton certainly retained a home in London for the first twenty years or so of their marriage. On 5th May 1703 they had a son named Edward baptised at the parish church of All Hallows, Barking. It’s possible that the child was named after Edward Bushell, Posthuma’s maternal grandfather, who had died two years earlier. We can also conclude from later records that they had a son Peter some five years later, in about 1708.
The church of All Hallows, Barking
It is in 1703 that Peter Boulton first appears in the extant London land tax records, when a Captain Peter Boulton can be found living in Black Raven Court, close to Chitterling Alley where his parents were residing a few years earlier. Peter was at the same address in 1706, though by now he was accorded the rank of major. How do we account for these military titles, given that (as far as we know) Peter Boulton worked as a master gunsmith in the City of London, and did not join the army, or even the East India Company like his brother Captain Richard Boulton?
The explanation is provided by ‘A List of the Principal Officers of the Trained Bands of London’, published in 1704, in which a Peter Boulton features as one of the captains of the Blue Regiment under Colonel Sir Thomas Cooke. The latter was a London alderman and (interestingly) a governor of the East India Company, which Peter’s brother Richard would later serve as a director. The trained bands were local militia regiments organised on a county basis and membership was open to freeholders and householders. In every year from 1707 to 1716 Major Peter Boulton could be found living in Priest Alley, which was also close to Chitterling Alley; it’s unclear whether this represented a change of address, or a renaming of the same location.
We know that Peter Boulton was still working as a London gunsmith in 1717, because of the account given in 1747 by Samuel Hullock, a convicted murderer, shortly before his execution at Newgate, in which he states that at the age of fourteen his parents ‘bound him out to the Trade of a Gunsmith’ and that having spent short periods as an apprentice to two other masters, ‘I came to Major Peter Boulton, a Gunsmith in Tower-street, and was turned over to him in October, 1717, whom I served to his Satisfaction the Remainder of my Time, and 3 Months over; having before I became his Servant scarce served a Year.’ Hullock then relates how he began to ‘take Delight in the Female Sex, in going Abroad with them’ and how ‘some of those I was acquainted with lived in the Mint, and they wanted me to rob my Master if I cou’d lay Hands convenently on Plate, or any thing else worth while.’ Hullock claims that he refused and ‘forsook this Company’ for a time. He continues:
At this Time I took it into my Head to stay at Home with the Servants of my Master’s House, which displeased my Master and Mistress [presumably Peter and Posthuma Boulton] greatly; insomuch that they gave themselves a deal of Trouble to talk to me. But I being too fond of the Sex to listen to any Body’s Advice, took no Notice of what they said, at least it made no Impression.
For immediately upon that I went over Tower-Hill that Night, where I met a Woman for my Purpose, and being concern’d with her, she gave me the Foul Disease, of which I took proper Care in Time.
However our Foreman wrote to my Master then at Bath, who having receiv’d an Account of my Behaviour, immediately ordered me to be turned away.
But I made a great Hurry about it, and the Alderman’s Beadle was sent for to keep Peace, for fear of my being Angry, and abusing him that sent my Master Word of what I had done, and what had happen’d, so he seems always to have been a passionate and vicious Fellow.
Nevertheless having been out of my Time about a Year and a half, and being hired to work by the Year, I insisted on having a Month’s Warning.
In that Time I sent to my Master, who returned me for Answer, that I might stay as long as I pleased. But when the Month was up, I packed up my Alls, and away I went, and fixed on a Lodging where I became first acquainted with my Wife that now is, with whom I had lived some Years, and had two Children, tho’ not yet married.
This account, as well as giving us a fascinating insight into the life of the Boulton household, confirms that the family maintained a house in Bath as well as their London property. The Tower Street address need not concern us: Priest Alley may have been encompassed in the general Tower Street area. The Boultons were still in Priest Alley in 1718 and 1720, and also between 1722 and 1728. The land tax record for 1728 is the last that I can find for Peter Boulton, which may mean that after this he and Posthuma retired to their house in Bath. Peter would have been about 62 years old at this time.
What became of Peter Boulton’s children? I’ve already suggested that Elizabeth, Peter’s daughter from his first marriage to Elizabeth Bushell, must have died in infancy. As for Alice, his other daughter from the same marriage, we know that in 1720 she married shipowner Richard Gosfright, a retired East India Company captain and a business partner of Peter’s brother Richard. Gosfright was a wealthy man who owned Langtons, a manor house in Hornchurch, Essex. Richard and Alice had a daughter Mary, probably born in the following year, but it seems that Alice died shortly aferwards, perhaps in childbirth, and certainly before 1729 when her husband remarried. Mary would eventually marry Walter Gibbs, an apothecary in Bath; it’s possible that she was introduced to him by her maternal grandparents. Walter Gibbs seems to have died some time after 1740 when Mary married for a second time to an Irish-born clergyman by the name of Robert Clarke.
Langtons House, Hornchurch, now a Registry Office
As for Peter’s two sons from his second marriage to Posthuma Landick, I can find no trace of Edward Boulton after his baptism in 1703, so we should probably conclude that he died in infancy. Peter Boulton the younger, on the other hand, matriculated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford in 1723 or 1724 at the age of 15, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1727 and a Masters in 1730, when he would have been 21 years old. However, I’ve found no more references to him in the records and his absence from his father’s will suggests that he must have died as a young man.
Having retired to Bath, Peter Boulton made his will on 19th October 1740, leaving ‘all my Messuage or Tenement with all appurts thereto belonging in the parish of St Mary Axe in the City of London’ to ‘my granddaughter Mary Gibbs the wife of Walter Gibbs in the said City of Bath Apothecary’. The remainder of his property he bequeathed to his wife Posthuma, whom he made sole executrix of the will.
Peter Boulton’s will was proved in London on 9th July 1743. He would have been about 78 years old when he died.