Rise and Fall of a Victorian Solicitor
Jacob Howell Pattisson (1803-1874)
Jacob Howell Pattisson was born on 9 March 1803 in Witham House, Witham, Essex, and was the
younger of two sons of William Henry Ebenezer Pattisson 1st of
Witham HouseFT, Witham, Essex (1775-1848) and Hannah
The Pattisson family were entrenched dissenters, as they did not align
themselves with the Church of England, at least not until much later that century. Jacob's father,
a successful barrister, was one of the three intellectual reformers who corresponded with one
another about their radical political and religious opinions during the late 1790s; the other two
members of this letter-writing circle were Thomas Amyot and the diarist Henry Crabb
Robinson. Known as the Triumvirate, all three correspondents were born in 1775 and all
were articled clerks (trainee lawyers). William Pattisson had met Henry Crabb Robinson at a wedding
linking their two families, became good friends and both wrote articles in The Cabinet, a
radical political journal.1
The two brothers
Jacob Pattisson and his elder brother William Henry Ebenezer Pattisson 2nd followed in
their father's footsteps by studying law at Cambridge. Although both did well academically -
William with flying colours - William's conscience, or perhaps an imbued sense of nonconformity,
prevented him from signing up to the 39 Articles of Faith of the Established Church (C
of E), which the University had made a condition of being awarded a university degree. This meant
that despite his meriting one, William was never awarded a degree, whereas when Jacob's turn came,
he took a more pragmatic approach and signed up to the 39 Articles without compunction. As a
result, Jacob was awarded a Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB).2
Gentleman solicitor devoted to family
In those days, attorneys advised parties in lawsuits, while solicitors dealt with landed
estates. Jacob did both in Witham. The upwardly mobile Jacob Pattisson became a 'gentleman'
after marrying into the Luard family of Witham Lodge
in 1836. His wife,
Charlotte Garnham Luard
, was 14 years his junior and the sister of Bixby Garnham Luard
, one of the 'Zimapanners' who
loaned barrister and old-Tonbridgian Charles A.V. Conybeare
money in 1891.
Charlotte bore Jacob 16 children
: 10 sons and six daughters, one of whom
died in infancy. Jacob practiced law on premises next door to Witham House
Newland Street, Witham. In 1846, Jacob had a heraldic coat of arms depicting a pelican,
alluding to the bird devoted to family, approved by the College of Arms.3
Photo: Jacob Howell
Pattisson, solicitor & attorney
Courtesy of F.D (David) Pattisson
Substantial owner of property
Jacob's elder brother, William Henry Ebenezer Pattisson 2nd, died in a tragic drowning
accident with his new bride, Sarah Frances Thomas4,
in a mountain lake (Lac du Gauve) in the French Pyrenees in 1832, making Jacob principal
heir to their father's estate in 1848. Jacob inherited a large sum of money from his father which
positioned him firmly among the ranks of the prosperous middle classes. His extensive property
portfolio ranged from various freehold houses, land, pastureland, fields and forecrops, mainly in
Essex and Suffolk, and included:
- The Newlands Estate
- Witham House, the family mansion with 35 acres of park-like grounds at 57 Newland
Street, Witham, Essex
- Dewlands Farm & estate in Black Notley, nr. Braintree,
- Pelican House, 113, Newland Street, Witham
- Garlands Farm, Great Totham, Maldon, Essex
- The Spotted Dog, a public house in Great Totham
Although most of these properties were owned by Jacob Pattisson, some were either
mortgaged or held by him as trustee under a will. Another of those properties, Felsham
Hall & estate, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, he acquired from his father-in-law
LuardFT in 1848.6
Witham in 1851
In 1851, Witham was a small town in Essex situated 14 miles south west of Colchester and 37
miles from London, on the old coach road from Colchester to London. Witham had a population
then of 3,128, of whom 660 (21%) of were children attending various schools.
Witham's gas-lit streets illuminated at least seven public houses, a library, a police
station, two churches, a mineral spring known as Witham Spa, a local newspaper
The Globe, two banks, a gas works, a Union Workhouse (b. 1838) and a lunatic asylum
Witham was home to almost every kind of tradesmen a small town would have needed, including
a tailor, a cooper, a beer retailer, a haberdasher, a saddler, a butcher, builders and
bricklayers, a veterinary surgeon, a stonemason, a draper-tailor-grocer-undertaker
(William Butler), a corn merchant/dealer (Henry Lawshall White), a corn
miller (Robert Walker Dixon, a grandfather of a Zimapanner) and, surprisingly,
various solicitors among whom Jacob Pattisson. Surprisingly, because solicitors and
attorneys were really professional people as distinguished from tradesmen or artisans.
Landed gentry listed under traders
Jacob Pattisson was also listed under the heading Gentry with the suffix Esq.
after his name. Although Jacob and his cousin Joseph Howell Blood Esq.
(registrar, magistrate's clerk and Jacob's cousin) were both officially members of the
landed gentry, they clearly wished to show that they worked for a
living, and so their Esq. suffixes were dropped from their names in their listing under
Witham House in 1851
was - and still is - a grand, substantial eighteenth century town
house built by Jacob's great-grandfather Robert Pattisson
(1694-1738). It is
situated at 57 Newland Street, Witham. The house still exists today and is largely unaltered.
It is now the premises of the HSBC Bank. On Census Day in 1851 (30 March), Jacob and Charlotte
were living in Witham House
with several of their children. The household was being
run by nine servants, among whom were a cook, laundry-, kitchen- and housemaids, a footman and
Painting of Witham
House from the Pattisson Collection.
Jacob's eldest son, William Henry Luard Pattisson, was 13 years old and
attending school but at home with four of his brothers and five sisters. Harriett Board, a
22-year-old unmarried governess from Devon, was charged with educating the four eldest girls and
five-year-old John Robert Ebenezer Pattisson.8 Besides his work as a solicitor, Jacob was also the
Commissioner of Assessed Taxes for Witham and Chipping Hill at that time.9
Financial collapse precipitates disappearance (1859)
On 10 June 1859, Jacob Pattisson suddenly disappeared without any money or means of identification.
A notice in The Times carried his description, offering a reward to anyone who knew of
his whereabouts. It turned out that Jacob Pattisson, by then 56, had suffered a "traumatic
A local Witham doctor, Henry Dixon, knew that Jacob Pattisson had run into
financial difficulties and was in debt with his various estates. He also knew that he owed a
sizeable mortgage debt and that a large sum of money entrusted to him by Widows & Orphans was
probably irrecoverable. A letter written by Joseph Howell Blood (a cousin) to Crabb
Robinson in July 1859, confirmed that Jacob's debts amounted to £60,00010, equivalent to £2,589,600 in today's money.11
Apparently, by 1848, the year his father died, Jacob already had debts amounting
to £25,000 [± £1,463,250]. Jacob's eldest son and 'Zimapanner', William Henry Luard Pattisson, was badly
affected by bouts of "nervous anxiety" brought on by his father's financial difficulties. This
in turn adversely affected William's academic performance at St John's College, Cambridge.
Consequently, he failed to sit his examinations in December 1858 and June 1859, and was
withdrawn from the University in April of that fateful year.12
Charlotte moves family to Tonbridge
Charlotte Pattisson, believing herself to be widowed, took matters into her own hands. In Jacob's
absence, and with an independent income of £300-400 per annum, she moved her remaining children to
a large Georgian town house called Graylings (she regarded it as
'small') at 214 High Street, Tonbridge, Kent.13 There, her school-age sons attended Tonbridge
School - a famous public school right next door to Graylings - as day boys
Charlotte had the presence of mind to remove a number of prize family
possessions before leaving Witham - as well as the Pattisson family letters - before
the trustees could sequester them. Among those possessions were:
- a family portrait of the two brothers, William and Jacob Pattisson, called Rural
Amusement painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA in 1811
- a family portrait of her father-in-law, William Pattisson, by Sir Martin Archer Shee
- a large painting of Venice by Turner
Jacob Pattisson reappears two months later
Jacob eventually reappeared in London two months following his disappearance, unaware that
Charlotte and family had moved to Tonbridge. Charlotte had been devastated by Jacob's disappearance
and the ensuing scandal, and later by the scale of her husband's financial problems (about which he
had never talked), when Jacob eventually plucked up the courage to tell her. Jacob did not let on
where he had been during those two months, but appreciated coming home to a supportive family after
an absence that he said was "no longer endurable".14
Compositions in C19th
In the nineteenth century, to avoid a formal declaration of bankruptcy, protracted and costly
bankruptcy proceedings and the social stigma surrounding bankruptcy, it was common practice for
those who owed money to enter into a private agreement with their creditors. Such agreements, known
as 'compositions', had to be agreed to by all the creditors and required full disclosure of
liabilities. There were 10,000-12,000 compositions in Britain each year at that
Two trustees appointed to settle debts
A composition was arranged for Jacob through an advert in the London Gazette in
September 1859, and as a result, Jacob managed to avoid becoming technically bankrupt by placing
all his property with trustees who were then responsible for paying off all his debts. Two of Jacob
Pattisson's biggest creditors were William Butler, a grocer and draper, and Henry
Lawshall White, a corn merchant, both trading in Witham, Essex.
Butler and White were appointed as trustees to collect and repay Jacob's debts
on his behalf, each creditor being repaid monies owing in some proportion to the amount owed. Jacob
and Charlotte were compelled to sell off much of the 'family silver', usually by court order, so
his debts could be settled, or, as happened later, simply to generate liquidity. As a result, many
of Jacob's properties were auctioned off in 1859, including the Newlands Estate (£14,000),
Dewlands Farm & estate (£1,650) and Witham House with 35 acres
A number of lawsuits were taken out against Jacob, many of which involved one or more members of
the Pattisson family. There were five principal lawsuits that involved Jacob and his creditors,
three of which are outlined below. The first of the lawsuits (Brightwell) was
one of two that helped trigger Jacob Pattisson's financial crisis; the other two cases were heard
following his financial crisis and disappearance.
1. The case of Charity Osborne's
Brightwell et al v. Pattisson et al (1859)
The case concerned Jacob Pattisson's stewardship of the estate of the late Charity Osborne,
for which Jacob had been appointed executor and trustee. Jacob was responsible for administering
the entire Osborne estate which included the payment of Charity Osborne's
legacies, debts and funeral costs. Delays in the payment of the legacies prompted the legatees,
Ann and Charles Brightwell, to have the matter resolved by a Chancery court.
Jacob lost the case and his reputation was damaged by suggestions of
maladministration and abuse of trust. As a result, the contents of Witham House had to
be auctioned off, including two pianofortes, several horses and carriages, Turkey & Brussels
carpets, a small cellar of wine, silver plate (1,000 ounces), 2,000 books from Jacob's library, and
various farming implements. (auction value not known).
2. The case of Elizabeth Bixby's legatees
Bixby Garnham Luard v.
Pattisson et al (1860-61)
This case concerned the payment of 10 legatees under the will of the late Elizabeth
BixbyFT who died in 1834. She had bequeathed her
personal estate to be divided equally between the 10 children of her older half-sister,
Charlotte Luard (née Garnham; 1789-1875), Jacob's mother-in-law.
Bixby Garnham Luard was one of Elizabeth Bixby's 10
half-nephews & nieces (and one of the legatees). On her death, Elizabeth Bixby's real estate
passed to her brother-in-law William Wright Luard, who asked that the property, principally
Felsham Hall & estate, be sold off and the proceeds divided equally between the 10
legatees. As it turned out, Felsham Hall was eventually bought by Jacob Pattisson in
1848, but he had omitted to pay the purchase price. Since Jacob refused to hand over the property
deeds, the Reverend Bixby Garnham Luard was left with no option but to take out a Chancery suit
against four members of his own family, namely:
- Jacob Howell Pattisson (B's brother-in-law; main target of litigation)
- Charlotte Luard (née Garnham; B's mother; 1789-1875)
- William Garnham Luard (B's elder brother)
- Thomas Garnham Luard (B's elder brother)
The court ruled that Felsham Hall should be sold and that the proceeds of the sale
(£5,020) of the property plus the interest (± £8) less legal costs (£491), be divided into 10 equal
parts and paid to the legatees, thereby giving them each around £453. According to Penelope
Corfield, the judge in the case "did not directly blame Pattisson, but removed the disputed
property from his control".
3. The case of Charlotte Garnham's marriage settlement
Charlotte Garnham Luard et al v. Pattisson et al (1861-62)
The case concerned the marriage settlement made prior to Charlotte Garnham Luard's marriage
(10 Oct 1815) to William Wright Luard (1786-1857).
"A sum of £22,00017 was
settled upon Charlotte and her offspring". Jacob Howell Pattisson, Charlotte's son-in-law, became
the new executive trustee of Charlotte's settlement fund, which included some later bequests in
1852. Charlotte Garnham (1789-1875), William Wright Luard's widow, together with her daughters
Jane, Mary and Helen Pattisson, took out a suit against 21 defendants, the
principal one being Jacob Howell Pattisson, after he refused to step down from his trusteeship of
Among the defendants were William Henry Luard Pattisson (Jacob's
eldest son) who, it was proposed, should take over the trusteeship from his father, and Jacob
Howell Blood, Jacob's cousin.
In court, Jacob was once again accused of malpractice, of abusing his position of trust and of
appropriating a large sum of money from the marriage settlement for his own purposes. In his
defence, Jacob claimed that the marriage settlement had been "well managed" and that his assets
were "sufficient not only to pay all his creditors but to leave him a considerable surplus".
However, the carpet was effectively pulled from under Jacob's defence as the
relevant documentation had gone missing during his disappearance (purportedly removed by the
Luards), thereby preventing him from substantiating his claim. Penelope Corfield concluded that
"this case also showed that Jacob Pattisson had not only lost his fortune and professional status
in 1859, but also his personal status within the Luard family of Witham Lodge".
Return to respectable prosperity
According to Penelope Corfield, the move to Tonbridge turned out "eminently successful" for the
Pattisson family. A number of paintings from Jacob's collection which Charlotte had taken with her
from Witham to Tonbridge in 1859 were sold in 1860, including a view of Venice which
went for £252 (240 guineas) and a painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence of Jacob and William Pattisson
when they were boys (aka Rural Amusement) which was snapped up for a mere £210 (200
guineas).19 This enabled the Pattissons to
become "stabilised into respectable prosperity" once again.
On 5 August 1860, one year after Jacob had returned from his walkabout,
Charlotte, aged 43, gave birth to her 16th child and 10th son, whom they named Richard Murrills
Pattisson, after Charlotte's great-great grandfather.
Having fallen from the "apex of Witham society", and realising that none of his political friends
would employ him as a lawyer because he had been "too independent", Jacob withdrew from public life
and became a "family hermit". Jacob shares his sense of indecision about his public life in letters
to his friend Crabb Robinson, about whether or not he should terminate his membership of the
Athenaeum Club in London. Crabb Robinson advises him to do the decent thing, writing "I
should have reminded you of the propriety of announcing your intention to
Just two years after moving to Tonbridge following his near-miss with
bankruptcy, Jacob still officially regarded himself as a practising solicitor because on 7 April
1861, Jacob is described as a "solicitor at Cambridge" when he and his 14-year-old
daughter, Rachel, were visiting his 71-year-old solicitor-friend Thomas
Brookbank at 11 Bentick Terrace, London W1.21 As he was living with Charlotte in Tonbridge, Kent at that
time, it seems highly improbable and impractical that he would have practised law 83 miles away in
Ten years later, in 1871, Jacob's occupation was "Master of Law, Cantab,
attorney",22 which is puzzling as Jacob
had only been awarded a Bachelor's degree (LLB) at Cambridge, whereas now he was claiming he had an
In 1874, Kelly's Directory listed Jacob as a "solicitor and perpetual
commissioner" [ed. of taxes].
Jacob Pattisson's household in 187123
On 2 April 1871, eight of Jacob and Charlotte's children were living at
- James Jollie (20), undergraduate at Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge
- Walter Badely (16), scholar
- Pierre Bouillier (14), scholar
- Frederick Luard (12), scholar
- Richard Murrills (10), scholar
- Sarah Jane Garnham (29), an unmarried governess
- Rachel A.W (24), unmarried
- Mary Turton (21), unmarried
Two domestic servants helped run the household.To help pay the bills, Jacob and Charlotte had
two Tonbridge School boarders from Lancashire paying for their board and lodging at
- Lawrence P. Andrews (13), scholar
- Willoughby Andrews (10), scholar
Jacob died three years later in High Street (ed. Graylings), Tonbridge,
Kent, on 19 August 1874, aged 71. Jacob, whose profession is recorded as 'solicitor', died of
cystitis in the presence of Henry Bishop whose residence is given as the same as
Sons at Tonbridge
In Kent, the
lives of the sons of the Pattisson, Luard and Conybeare families all
intersected at Tonbridge School, forging new
relationships and auguring future commercial ones. And Richard M. Pattisson eventually became
Head Boy at the School. Of Jacob's 10 sons, five joined the professions,25 two became colonial farmers, one became an
administrator,26 one joined the Essex
Constabulary but later became a director of a brewery,27 and another joined the Colonial police.28
By 1871, Jacob's
eldest daughter, Charlotte Hannah Pattisson, had married the Reverend Newell Vicary
Fowler, Vicar of Ulting and were living in The Vicarage in Ulting, Essex, with
their two children, Robert C. Fowler (3) and Violet Fowler (1).29 In 1901, Jacob's four other daughters -Elizabeth, Sarah,
Rachel and Mary Turton - were still living at home with their widowed mother at Graylings.
None of the four were married.30 One of the
boys, James Jollie, died at Graylings on 14 May 1903.
Charlotte Garnham Luard
Charlotte Garnham Luard died on 23 November 1904, surviving Jacob by a full 30
Photo: "The Five Aunts" (Jacob's five daughters)
at Graylings, Tonbridge, Kent, ca
L to R:
Back row: Sarah J.G.
Pattisson; Rachel A.W. Pattisson; Mary Turton Pattisson (d. 1935
Front row: Charlotte H.
Fowler (née Pattisson, marr. to vicar); Elizabeth B. Pattisson
and Revolution in the 1790s, Pattisson family letters
edited by Penelope Corfield and Chris Evans, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, Stroud, 1996.
2. John Harmer Pattisson, the great-grandson of Jacob Howell
3. See f/n 1.
4. Sarah Thomas was the daughter of the Reverend Goring Thomas, vicar
of Tooting, south London where he was Lord of the Manor. She was therefore a considerable heiress
in her own right. See f/n 2.
5. The house dates back to 1567 and was the former home of
6. Reputation & Loss in a
Victorian Family: The Pattissons of Witham in 1859. A
special report commissioned by the Pattisson Family, authored by Professor Penelope Corfield, with
research contributions from Mary Clayton and Janet Gyford, 15 April 1997.
7. The Post Office Directory for 1851.
8. The England Census of 1851.
9. See f/n 7.
10. See f/n 6.
11. The National Archive's currency converter.
12. WHLP's exam results, Paul Everest, Biographical Office of St
John's College's Library, Cambridge, 2009.
13. Address of Graylings, Tonbridge Historical Society.
The house later became part of Tonbridge School (post-1935).
14. See f/n 6.
15. See f/n 6.
16. See f/n 6.
17. See f/n 6.
18. Equivalent to ± £835,000 in today's money; The National Archive's
19. See f/n 6. This source refers to the selling price as 2,400
guineas, but this was in fact a typo. The actual selling price was confirmed as 240 guineas by J.H.
Pattisson in 2010. In fact, the title "Rural Amusement" only refers to a popular engraving made by
J.Bromley in 1834 based on Lawrence's painting; referred to in White's Directory of 1848 as "Rural
20. See f/n 6.
21. The England Census of 1861.
22. The England Census of 1871.
23. The England Census of 1871.
24. (i) The Pattisson
Pedigree - original bound album recorded in
manuscript, showing much of the BMD data of Jacob Howell Pattisson's and Charlotte Garnham Luard's
antecedents and descendents. Loaned to the author by J.H. Pattisson, 2010. (ii) Death certificate,
25. James Jollie
Pattisson, teacher, (Zimapanner).
26. Jacob Luard
27. William Henry Luard Pattisson (Zimapanner).
28. Arthur Joseph Todd Pattisson was a colonial commissariat in South
Africa, in charge of an army department responsible for providing food and other supplies to the
29. The England Census of 1871.
30. The England Census of 1901.
31. See f/n 24.
32. Photograph of JHP's five daughters, courtesy of F.D (David)
Pattisson, great-grandson of JHP, who recalls meeting his "formidable aunts"
at Graylings as a small boy.