52 Ancestors: Unexpected

So this week’s 52 Ancestors post – on the theme of Unexpected – is a bit of a three-for-one special.

Yes, it’s a 52 Ancestors post. It’s also a sort of … Ethelbert Update post (which doubles the unexpected side of things as I didn’t have any intention of doing another one – despite what some people might tell you …!). And it’s also part of the nascent Holborow in America series.

That’s a lot for one post. Oh, and there’s also some timely discomfort. Let’s get to it …

When you’re particularly interested in one particular surname, you tend to search all record sets for it, and sometimes you get a bit of a surprise. A few yars ago, when searching the 1911 census I came across one such surprise:

Frank Holborow, retired sugar planter, and his wife Maud, two children and a domestic servant. I wasn’t sure at the time where this Frank fit in with my Holborows, and I certainly had never come across a connection with Antigua, as stated where his wife and children had been born.

A quick Google brought me to a book snappily entitled ‘Plantations of Antigua: the Sweet Success of Sugar: A Biography of the Historic Plantations Which Made Antigua a Major Source of the World’s Early Sugar Supply’ written by Agnes C. Meeker MBE and published in 2018. It contains a couple of interesting nuggets regarding George:

George Holborow represented all of the Codrington Estates from before 1872 until his death in August 1891, succeeded by his son, Frank, who married Maude Maginley on May 16, 1893.

She also states that George served on the Legislative Council from 1872 to 1877. Unfortunately earlier in the book she also states that James Maginley (who came to Antigua in 1891) had two daughters and it was Annie Letitia who married Mr. Holborow so perhaps some fact-checking was in order!

Then two other publications caught my eye. The first is ‘The History of the Island of Antigua’ by Vere Langford Oliver, published in three volumes between 1894 and 1899. Vere was a British surgeon and genealogist which possibly explains a lot. However, the first volume contains a couple of Holborow mentions. In a list of the 1885 Colonial Office List, George Holborow is mentioned as a member of the Executive Council (Local) as an Elected Member. Then in a pedigree of the Foote family, an Elizabeth Holborow is shown marrying John Freeland (whose grandmother was a Foote). He lists her as “only child of the late George Holborow, Esq., Member of the Legislative Council“. The likelihood of there being two George Holborows being members of the council, one with a daughter and one with a son, seems very slim to me, so either Vere or Agnes are mistaken in their assertions.

The second publication is from a journal article published in 1978: ‘The failure of agricultural development in post-emancipation Barbuda: a study of social and economic continuity in a West Indian community’ appeared in the Boletín de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe and was authored by Riva Berleant-Schiller, currently a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. In the article, George is named as the manager for William Codrington on Antigua by 1860.

Now, I could write any number of posts about the Codrington family and Antigua … An old Gloucestershire family, the Codringtons had been in the Caribbean profiting primarily from the slave trade from the early 1600s and the family pioneered large-scale sugar plantations across the Leeward Islands and in Barbados. They later inherited Dodington Park in Gloucestershire (which remained in the family until the early 1980s and is now owned by all-round asshat James Dyson). There are two different Codrington Baronetcies still in existence today, and in 1834 when slavery was abolished, Christopher Bethell Codrington was awarded £30,000 compensation for the almost 2000 enslaved people he owned on Barbuda, on five estates on Antigua, and two on Tobago. If taken at economic share equivalent, that equates to over £144 million in today’s monetary value. That bought a lot of art for Dodington Park.

However. One of the estates that the Codrington family owned was named Betty’s Hope which they had been granted in 1674. It remained owned by them until 1944 when it was sold to Antigua Sugar Estates Ltd. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the estate is an open-air museum, with the primary draw being the remaining large windmills (cover image) which had been used to crush the sugar cane, extracting the juice primarily for use in rum production.

But what of George?

There is a collection of letters in the Gloucester Archives which includes correspondence between George and his Codrington employers (the Codringtons moved back to England and left the running of their estates to managers or attorneys). It goes without saying that I’ll be taking a look at these when things get back to normal!

In 1867 he appears in the London Evening Standard amongst a list of subscribers to a fund offering support to the residents of Basseterre on the island of St Kitts following a devastating fire of 3 July that destroyed the town. In the subscriber’s list he is listed as “Geo. Holborow Esq., of Antigua”, and he donated £1 – approximately worth £2,200 today.

He appears in a few passenger lists – sometimes with his wife who only ever gets called “Mrs Holborow” – and sometimes alone. Then on Saturday 22 August 1891 in the Colonies and India newspaper, a small notice was placed:

Both Ancestry and FamilySearch do have Caribbean records amongst their collections, but none of them hold any records of marriages for George, nor any Holborow births, which means that his wife is so far unnamed. It is my belief that he married her in Antigua as all George Holborow England marriages I can tie up to other people. I did stumble across the Caribbean Family History website which brought up two hits for Holborows – but both monumental inscriptions for George.

1891 minus 54 gives us a date of birth of around 1837, and clearly the area around Chipping Sodbury is key. the “residence of 28 years” gives a year of 1863. Perhaps he wasn’t permanent on Antigua until then?

You might remember Ethelbert Holborow, the cheesemonger. Amongst his children there was an Ethelbert as well as a George, who was baptised in 1837 in Old Sodbury (less than 2 miles from Chipping Sodbury and, as it happens, only 1.5 miles from Dodington Park). In the 1851 census, George is found living in Merton, Surrey, a pupil at Morden Hall Academy for Boys.

Morden Hall. Photo courtesy of Merton Photographic Archive

Morden Hall – the current house was built in 1770 and set in 125 acres – opened as an academy for “young gentlemen” in the 1830s and taught a range of subjects to the sons of the gentry and wealthy businessmen. The school lasted for around 40 years, closing around 1870. I don’t know what happened between this time and him arriving in Antigua around 1860, but from his obituary it appears that he certainly made the best of whatever opportunities presented themselves to him.

And Frank … the only Frank (or Francis) Holborow that is born in the early 1860s anywhere near Ealing is the son of Ethelbert and therefore would be the nephew of the George in Antigua and not his son (thank you, Agnes).

He first appears on a passenger list entering Plymouth on 30 July 1891 having come back from Antigua aged 29. (This was less than 2 months before his uncle died – could the journey be connected to this?) His occupation is recorded as a planter. It is doubtful that he would have been the one who literally planted the sugar cane or harvested the plants, but would have been an owner or – much more likely – a manager on a plantation.

We have his name on a shipping order form from 1892, stating that the ship (the Emilie, captained by Finn Torp) held twenty hogsheads and 300 bags of muscovado sugar bound for England via Delaware.

The following year, Frank would marry Isabella Maud Maginley. No mention is made in any article of Frank’s family connections, only that he lives at Betty’s Hope. The family appear on several more passenger lists – one that seems to list Frank as “Staff Sergeant” – before what is probably their final journeys back to England in 1908.

Frank, Isabella (as Mrs M. Holborow), George and May arrive in Southampton in the February of 1908 aboard the Tagus. Frank apparently goes back to Antigua for a short time as he arrives back in Southampton in the October aboard the Orinoco.

The Tagus, a steel screw steamer owned by Royal Mail Steam Packet Co Ltd

For Isabella, who had been born and raised on the island of Antigua, adjusting to a new life in England must have been something. She died a widow, and a resident of Oxford, in January 1926. Frank predeceased her by six years, dying in Hastings.

So I think I managed to touch all three of the subjects:

  • Unexpected find – check
  • Holborow in America – check (if we stretch America to mean the Americas including the Caribbean)
  • Ethelbert-related family – check (and double unexpected points as I didn’t think I’d do any more!)

And I didn’t even share some of George’s questionable comments about the workers on the plantation! Result!

For more information on Betty’s Hope, you can visit the Betty’s Hope Restoration Trust site or our friend Wikipedia.


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