James Clitherow

Extensive records provide valuable insight

An Occasional History of Brentford

James Clitherow
Portrait of James Clitherow (1731-1805) from a painting by G. Romney (taken from an art catalogue)

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Brentford's 50 Pubs in Verse

A Brief History of Brentford Library

Visit Gunnersbury Park Museum

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Boston Manor Park Opens

Depredations of Youths in Boston Manor Park

The Royal Courts of Brentford

Brentford Baths

Visit Boston Manor House

Local Names for Local Buildings

Brentford Elections In The Past

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Brentford Pubs and Middlesex Coats of Arms

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Johann Zoffany (1733-1810)

Brentford Electric Theatre, as was

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A Brief History Of The Q Theatre

Meet Edward Turner, One Of Brentford's Many Heroes

A new acquisition at Boston Manor House

Historical Brentford in photos 

If you have any historical images of Brentford to share, please email them to editor@brentfordtw8.com so they can be added to the photo album. Ownership and copyright will be credited where applicable.

Historical Links

Local history enquiries to localstudies-hct@laing.com

For more local history articles and books see
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society www.brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk
Brentford town and family history www.bhsproject.co.uk
and Friends of Boston Manor www.fobm.org.uk

Diana Willment, A Life in Brentford

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James Clitherow (1731 – 1805) was the fourth Clitherow to own the Manor of Boston in Brentford and the third one called James. He inherited on the death of his father and wrote two years later - ‘On my father’s death May 3rd 1752 I found myself then above 20years old in possession as it appeared to me to be a plentiful estate in land and on first view of things a large sum of ready money, but happily for me I had the prudence to make a thorough inspection into the whole before I settled the future plan of my life, happily I say for had I not done so in all probability great hardship, mortifications if not utter ruin had been my lot’.

He found he was responsible for debts, repairs, taxes and legacies ‘a sum much beyond what I can ever hope to discharge without a large increase in fortune’ he wrote and therefore resolved ‘to pursue my journey in life guided by Integrity, Honour and Prudence’ and described how he proposed to set out his accounts following the example of his grandfather, Christopher.

The majority of the family papers in the London Metropolitan Archives that cover over 300 years history have more documents, records, leases, account books and letters from the period of this James’s ownership than any other and give fascinating glimpses of life in the 18th century.

They also give rise to many questions.

His book that details the household expenses covers the period from 1757 when, as he says ‘I married and started housekeeping’ to 1804 when his handwriting deteriorated shortly before his death. James married Ann Kemeys of Bartholey in Monmouthshire on January 28th 1757. His expenses that year showed he had paid £24.7.6d for his Monmouthshire journey and later 15/- for a ‘new side and glass for the post chaise’. I wonder if it was damaged on the trip. Certainly he recorded buying a coach and gelding from Mr Greening presumably to provide them with more comfortable travel.

On June 13th 1759 Ann had a new gown that cost £10.10.0.
There was work paid for at the bottom of the garden when the river Brent was widened and repaired. Willows were lopped, hedges clipped and drains were cut and opened. A punt was also bought for £3.9.0 as it was useful for work when cleaning the river.   Was all this work in preparation for having their portrait painted by Arthur Devis that year?

The sepia copy of this picture in the 1920s sale catalogue shows them on the west bank of the river Brent with the house visible through a break in the trees to the east.
James is described as wearing a plum coloured suit and Ann a blue dress. Might the small weir on the river be what he describes as a cascade in 1763 as ‘work at ye Cascade & in ye River £4.13.6’?

Over 30 years later another cascade is mentioned after the building of the Grand Junction Canal in 1794. That was probably what is now the weir where the river Brent curves off the canal and bye passes what is now Clitheroe Lock.      
This curve in the river was marked on an old estate map as Botany Bay. It’s likely that it acquired the name after James’ friend Sir Joseph Banks named Botany Bay on his voyage with Captain Cook.

James and Ann had two daughters born in 1760 after which Ann was ill and James records the cost of the doctor, surgeon, apothocary and midwife ‘attending my dearest during her long illness’. Ringers at the church were paid after the birth of the eldest daughter but not, it seems the following three or the two after the son and heir, another James who was born in 1766.

Then, as well as the nurse and midwife, the minister and clerk, ringers were paid and £5 was ‘given ye poor in meat and money ye day my Boy was christened’. 

In 1778 a harpsichord was bought that cost £54.1.6 but as a gift of £21 had been received from his aunt this was noted as being deducted from the cost. An entry the following year ‘pd my wife ye Dancing master 4 Girls £21’ with a week later ‘Musick master 2 eldest £29’ followed by ‘Writing master 3 Girls 1 year £13.3.0’. Later the cost of ‘picture frames for my girls drawings £1.18.6’ was recorded.

In 1773 son James went away to school. It’s recorded as ‘pd Entrance for my Dear Boy at Mr Longmore’s school at Kensington £6.6.0’ and his school fees appear regularly until the cost of setting up his accommodation at Christ Church, Oxford.

In 1784 ‘Mr Romney’ was paid £21 for painting ‘my Son’s Picture, a Present to Dr Heath’. The frame cost £2.10.0 and a copy that cost £24 was paid for the following year. A later descendent has made a note in the book that the second picture was the one hanging in the house at the time he was writing early in the 20th century but who was Dr Heath and is the one now in the house the first or second picture?

There was continuous work in the house and on the estate.

Furniture for the family and the servants was bought. New carriages and repairs were recorded as well as men’s wages and repairs to their clothes and their new uniforms.

Mr Jullion whose clock is still on the Magistrates Court in Brent ford was employed to look after the clocks at Boston House. Mr Norbury in the High Street was paid for the newspapers. Mr West at the Three Pigeons was paid for ‘coach stand on Sundays’ and workmen were regularly employed building, painting and glazing melon frames. (more people/jobs??)

The gardens on early maps seem to have been formally laid out but as years went by James seems to have followed the fashion and the grounds became more landscaped. For the 50 years of his running of the estate he was buying plants and seeds from the local family of Ronalds who also rented some land from him. Did they provide him with the seeds when he wrote ‘NB 31May 1754 I sowd ye Seeds that produced ye Cedar I now have & in 1782 I cut down two & sawd them into Boards & made several Boxes, some of ye Center Boards were from 13 to 15 In: wide’. I like to think that the tree still growing on the lawn behind the house is one from James’s original planting and that the seeds were supplied by Hugh Ronalds.

Janet McNamara

October 26, 2012

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