Saturday, 22 December 2012

Hoole Gallery 1820

The Chapman, the ship on which the Hoole family travelled from Gravesend to Algoa (Port Elisabeth) in 1819-20
Settlers going ashore in 1820, in rough conditions.  Note the "tented village" on the shore, which awaited the arrival of the first group, from the sailing ship "Chapman."
Chaotic scenes in the tented village on the shore at Algoa, 1820
Grahamstown as it appeared in 1823.  This was the eventual destination of the Hoole family.
Jane Hoole as she appeared in later life

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 5

 The Chapman -- the vessel on which the Hoole family sailed to South Africa in 1819-20.

A romantic painting of the landing by the first settlers in 1820


On 9th August 1819 James went along to a public meeting at the Crown and Anchor tavern on the Strand, at which John Baillie (an ex-naval officer who was now a civil servant) spoke rousingly about his plans to gather a party which might emigrate to South Africa under a new scheme under-written by the Government.  Baillie and many others at the time were working hard to gather together a sizeable number of emigrants who would be given free passage to the Cape of Good Hope -- and also allocations of land when they arrived.  Each of the signatories to the first agreement was to receive a one-acre plot of land in a planned village and a hundred acres of land capable of being farmed.

James was excited, and he was one of 600 people who entered his name as an applicant.  He was even more excited when Baillie selected him as one of a hundred to join his party of skilled tradesmen and professional men, who were intended to create village centres and develop commercial activities in the new settlement of Albany.  Other groups were made up of farmers and labourers, and in Baillie's party there were also a number of minor gentry families and their indentured servants.  We can only assume that Jane was also swept along on a wave of enthusiasm.   It may even be that she was the driving force behind the decision to emigrate -- for the old records suggest that she was very forceful and determined, whereas James was kind, intelligent and affectionate but not particularly decisive or ambitious.

The politicians hoped that the colonists might, by sheer force of numbers, secure the colony of South Africa both from the predations of native tribes and also from the designs of the Dutch and other expansionist European states.  In reality there were huge dangers involved, but the prospective settlers were utterly naive about the dangers they would face in the frontier zone.  From the government's point of view, this frontier needed to be settled and defended at a cost which was manageable -- and settlers were cheaper than military garrisons.  There had already been some settlement by a few hundred men (including time-expired soldiers and sailors) and others from around Edinburgh, in 1817, but those settlers had caused more trouble than they were worth, dispersing into the fledgeling towns of the colony and refusing to move to the frontier zone where life was uncomfortable and dangerous. 

This time, in 1819, things were more organized.  Twenty-six vessels were chartered by the Government.  All the settlers were told was that there was a wonderful climate, with limitless opportunities for occupying land of their own (without cost), and a landscape of lush green meadows and parkland.  James and Jane had nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  They were both orphans, and  in spite of a partial reconciliation with Jane's uncle and aunt, and the presence in London of several of Jane's sisters and her brother, there was nothing to hold them back, and they were still young and energetic.

During the last months of the year 1819 about 90,000 people applied to the Colonial Office for permission to join the emigration, enticed above all else by the offer of free land.  Only 4,000 were given permission, including James and Jane Hoole and their family. (To increase his chances of being selected, James recorded that by profession he was a "harness maker" although he had earlier recorded that he was a "straw plat dyer."  He had obviously calculated that on the South African frontier there would not be a great demand for straw hats....... and that the Colonial Office would be less than impressed by his skills in the matter of lady's fashion.)  At first James tried to organize a party of his own, but when several families dropped out or were refused permission to travel, he and Jane joined Baillie's party, still with James in charge of his own group.  Although he was young and somewhat diffident, he was obviously identified by Baillie as a trustworthy man with considerable leadership qualities.

The families belonging to the Baillie party were allocated to the sailing ship Chapman, with 256 men, women and children on board.  The Hoole family members said their farewells, and the ship sailed from Gravesend on 3rd December 1819.  On 9th December the pilot was dropped off somewhere near Brighton, together with some seasick settlers who had decided that enough was enough..........  and soon the old country was far astern.

We know little of the voyage except that two ships, the Chapman and the Nautilus, were sailing together.  On board the Chapman there was considerable friction, not just because of the cramped conditions and illness on board, but also because of Baillie's authoritarian manner, which did not go down well with the gentry families.  In addition, there was a greater social mix on this ship than on any of the others, and the gentry were not used to living cheek by jowl with skilled tradesmen, merchants, farmers and labourers.   In the middle of January the ship passed through the Cape Verde Islands, and on 17th March it anchored in Table Bay.  It was immediately placed under quarantine, because there had been a whooping cough epidemic on board during the voyage which claimed the lives of six small children -- including Jane Hoole, who was just one year old, on 28th February 1820.

Then the ship moved on to Algoa Bay or Port Elisabeth, arriving there on 9th April.  Again the Chapman was ahead of the Nautilus, and on that day James and Jane, and their surviving children (Abel, aged 8, and James, aged 4) stepped ashore as members of the first party of settlers who would face the rigours -- and the endless possibilities -- of their new homeland.

To be continued........

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole - Chapter 4


James was wandering across London Bridge, contemplating suicide, when his attention was attracted by a strange-looking man with wild eyes who was walking straight towards him.  The fellow was deathly pale, and he looked more like a ghost than a man made of flesh and blood.  But he was alive all right, for he stopped in front of James, looked him directly in the eye for what seemed like an eternity, and said gravely: "You, sir, are the man who came to me in my dreams."

James was greatly taken aback, but the pale man explained everything.  It transpired that he was in the business of making straw bonnets, and that he had invented a shiny glaze which was currently all the rage, so that the business was thriving.  He was making a good living, he said, but his health was declining fast and he could not see how he could carry on with running the business single-handed.  He said he did not want to sell or give away the secret of his invention, for that was the source of his wealth.  He decided that he should find somebody whom he could trust, to join him in the business.  But who should that person be, and how might he be found?  He had worried about this for days and weeks, but then he dreamed on three successive nights that a man came to him and told him that he could be trusted;  the face of the man was that of James Hoole.

James did not know how to respond to this turn of events, but before he could say anything the sick man told him that on the strength of the dream he would take James into his confidence, take him into his business as a partner, and --if all worked out well -- pass the business on to the young man when he died.  No investment or other commitment was required on James's part.

This was manna from Heaven as far as James was concerned, and since he had no other prospects he joined the sick man (we do not know his name) in the business enterprise.  He brought his own talents to the business, including youthful enthusiasm and a good knowledge of  book-keeping.  The partners did very well indeed for a few years, as long as the craze for glazed straw bonnets continued.  But then the sick businessman died, leaving his fortune of a few hundred pounds to James.  The family was now secure, if not very wealthy.  But the economy the nation was still precarious, following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, with ex-soldiers and naval personnel swelling the ranks of the unemployed, and with thousands of retired officers struggling to find positions in business, particularly in London.

Then, in the year 1819, with another baby on the way and with Jane and James facing more financial insecurity, James heard that the Colonial Office was thinking about a settlement programme in South Africa.  The Times trumpeted:  "Our noble station at the Cape of Good Hope has the finest spoil and climate in the world; it is the centre of both hemispheres -- it commands the commerce of the globe -- it produces in unparalleled abundance all the necessities of life."  It sounded like paradise.  Then James saw a notice which announced that Lieutenant John Baillie RN was thinking of assembling a party of emigrants, and that a meeting would be held quite close to the place where the Hoole family was then living.  James decided to go along to the meeting.........

To be continued.......

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Sad Tale of GGG Grandpa Hoole -- Chapter Three

 The old London Bridge, painted by Turner in 1794.  By this date the old buildings which ran across the length of the bridge had all been demolished, for safety reasons.


Mr and Mrs Fitz were Jane's adoptive parents, and Mr Fitz was James's employer.  Research has revealed that the banns for James and Jane were read out at St Mary Abbots Church for the three weeks prior to the wedding date, 25th November 1810.  It is something of a mystery that Mr and Mrs Fitz did not get to know of that;  we can only assume that they were not regular churchgoers and that they did not know any members of the congregation.  We can imagine that the young couple must have been on tenterhooks, for fear of somebody or other saying: "Ah, my dear Mr and Mrs Fitz, we hear that your delightful niece is about to be married!"

Following the secret marriage of the unhappy couple, the young man was packed off to Paris by his employer.  Legend has it that he travelled on the same day as the wedding, but somehow or other the marriage was consummated, for on 26th August 1811 (exactly nine months after the wedding) Jane gave birth to her first son, named Abel Worth Hoole, in Margate.  One wonders whether the couple had made love on the night before the wedding, or even before that.  One also wonders whether that is what precipitated the decision to be wed in secret -- but we will never know the truth on that score.  Also, one wonders why the birth happened in Margate...... but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

With James out of the way in France,  Mr and Mrs Fitz resumed their attempts to get Jane to marry the chosen army officer, whose name we do not know.  Jane, now that she was married, resisted this pressure even more vehemently than before -- and although she loved her uncle and aunt dearly relations became very strained.  The situation grew more and more embarrassing, and at last Jane could stand the deceit no longer.  She pulled out the wedding ring on its silk thread and told them the truth.  Here uncle and aunt were furious -- far more angry than Jane had expected.  James was immediately called back from Paris and sacked from his job, and he was forced to take Jane away and to set up home with her somewhere else in London. 

How they survived is not known -- but Jane might have had some money of her own put away, and it may be that her brother Edward (who lived in Hart Street, Bloomsbury Square) helped out in some way.  She also had eight sisters, some of whom lived in London, and maybe there was also sympathy and support from them and their husbands.  We assume that James might have found other work as a secretary, and we also assume that the couple and their small child did not sink into abject poverty.  Did they live in Margate at some stage?  It's quite possible.  The only address we have for them is Selby Place, New Road, London -- the address recorded  on the date of their departure for South Africa on December 3rd, 1819.    After some years there was a partial reconciliation with Mr and Mrs Fitz, although Jane claimed to the end of her life that they never really forgave her for marrying James.  In due course another baby arrived.  He was christened James Cotterell Hoole, and he was probably born in London on 18 May 1816.  At some stage during these dark years, James was swept along by the spirit of one of the many religious revivals of the early nineteenth century, and became a Methodist.  Jane said she "did hope that he would get over it" -- but he never did, and he remained a staunch Methodist for the rest of his life.  Indeed, Jane herself became a Methodist too, some time before their move to South Africa.

James was always liable to sink into black depression, and he always blamed himself for taking his wife away from what might have been a life of comfort and wealth.  Their marriage was a very happy one, but that was no great consolation to him.  One day, his fortunes were at a very low ebb.  We have to assume that he had lost his job, or that the couple had spent all of their savings.  At any rate, James was penniless and very miserable indeed.  He had no idea how he was going to keep his young family above the bread line.  He walked down to London Bridge -- was he so depressed that he was contemplating suicide by flinging himself into the Thames?  But then something strange happened........

To be continued.....

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Sad Tale of Great Great Great Grandpa Hoole

Jane Hoole (nee Cotterell), born 1788, married 1810, died 1853 in Grahamstown

 The marriage certificate of James Hoole and Jane Cotterell, November 25th 1810

 The Church of St Mary Abbot on Kensington High Street, London, where James and Jane were secretly married in 1810.  The church was demolished in 1869.

An unutterably sad tale...........
Read on only if you have the tissues handy.


I discovered that my Great Great Great Grandpa James Hoole (the one who emigrated to South Africa with his wife Jane) came originally from quite a wealthy family in the Chester area. In 1794, when he was 5 years old, his nursemaid took him and his little sister (who was 3 years old) out for a walk. The nursemaid realized that she had forgotten something in the house, and so she ran back to fetch it, telling the children to wait in the lane until she got back to them. When she returned, she found James weeping bitterly, and the little sister gone. All James would say was that a lady in a shawl had taken her away.

There was a frantic search, but several days had passed when they at last found the little girl, quite naked and battered and bruised, under a hedge. Apparently the gypsies had taken her, just to steal her clothes and the coral necklace she had around her neck. The parents took her home, where apparently "she cried for three days without stopping and then died." The shock and horror of this episode caused the poor mother to die shortly afterwards, and then the father died too, leaving James an orphan. There were no relatives to take care of him, and so the nursemaid took him away across the border to her home in Wales, where she raised him as her own son -- in conditions of great poverty and with no education at all until a local clergyman took him in and taught him how to read and write.


Having received a modest education in the household of that kind clergyman (whose name is unknown) James was sent to London (around 1805?) to see if he could make something of his life. He was not very ambitious, but he was bright enough, with an honest face, and he obtained a position as a secretary with a blind gentleman named Mr Fitz. The employer was quite wealthy, with business interests in London and Paris.

The Fitzes had one natural daughter and an adopted daughter called Jane Cotterell, who was actually their neice.  She was, like James, an orphan.  She had experienced a very unhappy childhood with parents who seem to have been unable to look after a family consisting of one son and "many daughters". When Jane was ten, her parents had died within a year of one another, and her mother had dropped dead (presumably from a heart attack) right before Jane's eyes.  She later admitted that her overwhelming emotion at the time was not sadness, but relief that she would no longer be beaten. The family was split up, with Jane being sent to London to be adopted by Mr and Mrs Fitz.

When James arrived to take up his position, he and Jane got on very well, and eventually they started to fall in love. They were both orphans who had suffered a great deal of trauma in their young lives, and they were about the same age.  Jane was not particularly beautiful, but she was bright, intelligent and strong-willed.  James was amiable, gentle and kind hearted.  He was also a very handsome fellow, and he retained his good looks throughout his life.  They were still very young, and Jane's uncle and aunt were concerned when they saw what was happening. They had plans for Jane to marry a young officer, but she was not at all interested in the idea. At last, in the year 1810, in an attempt to force the young people apart, Mr Fitz announced that he would send James off to work in his Paris office, and that the young man would set off for France the very next day.

But Jane and James were made of stern stuff, and they knew their hearts and their rights, and early next morning, while Mary the cook was making breakfast, Jane appeared and convinced her to go with James and herself down the road to Kensington Parish Church.  (This was the church of St Mary Abbot, on Kensington High Street, which was demolished in 1869.)  They were married there without further ado, with Mary as witness, on 25th November. The cook was sworn to secrecy, and Jane determined that she would keep the wedding ring on a silk thread around her neck, under her clothes. Then James was packed off to Paris, to the relief of Mr and Mrs Fitz.

There were bound to be repercussions, and indeed there were........
To be continued!


May Bell  "They came from a Far Land"  Maskew Miller, 1963

WE and RJ Hoole  "Descendants of James and Jane Hoole -- an 1820 settler family".  Privately published, Pietermaritzburg, Natal, South Africa, 1993

Friday, 7 December 2012

Signing Session in Haverfordwest

Tomorrow (Sat 8th December) I will be in Haverfordwest for a signing session and "meet the author" session in Victoria Bookshop, between 11 am and 2 pm.  Should be fun!
The bookshop always puts on a good show.  It's one of the few bookshops to take signing sessions seriously, which means that they put adverts in the press, posters in the window, and give the author a good prominent position in the window -- so that people can look in from the street and see that there is something exciting going on!

So let's hope for good crowds and sales to match.........  the focus of attention will of course be my new book of ghostly tales -- but the 8 novels of the Angel Mountain saga will also be much in evidence.

There was a prominent write-up for the new book in this month's "Pembrokeshire Life" magazine, so with a bit of luck almost everybody in Pembrokeshire will now know that the book is out and selling fast!