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One of the most prolific officeholding families in Chester was that of Brerewood: Robert I was sheriff, Robert II mayor three times, his son John sheriff, and the latter's son, Robert III, recorder and alderman. Other members of the rags/riches/rags family included, a Professor of astronomy, a notable fraudster, and two brothers, one of whom married a 14-year old and inherited a vast fortune through her and the other who died impoverished. Their 250-year history left it's mark on the past of Chester.

Robert Brerewood (I)

A "wet glover" and Sheriff of Chester (1531/2). "Wet glovers" made leather gloves after importing their own skins in bulk, as opposed to dry glovers who made gloves up in their own homes and bought skins only in small numbers. See Tanning for further detail on the leather industry in early-modern and later Chester.

Robert Brerewood (II - son of Robert I)

Sheriff of Chester 1566/7. Mayor of Chester 1583/4, 1587/8 and 1600/1 (when he died in office). By the end of his life he was quite weathy owning 148 head of livestock and total goods valued at almost £1,600: he worked as both a glover and a tanner, was (untypically) also a retailer, and also dealt in wool from sheepskins and timber purchased for the bark (used in tanning). Robert Jr married twice. His first wife was Elizabeth Horton (died 1580). His eldest son was Robert. John Brerewood (1560-1599), was another Sheriff of Chester. Their other children were Edward Brerewood (1565-1613), a famous scholar, and antiquary, mathematician and logican; Elizabeth Brerewood (died 1579); and Alice Brerewood (1571-1604).

Myers writes of him:

  • "Robert Brerewood II, was illiterate; when he was Mayor in 1584-85, he made a speech on Christmas Eve, prepared by the Clerk of the Pentice, which he had ‘learned by hart .. for although he could neither write nor read yet was of excellent memory and very brave and gentle otherwise’. This lack of a formal education does not seem to have hampered his trading activities, except that it meant that he had to employ John Houghton, parish clerk of St. Mary on the Hill, to keep his books in order. Robert Brere­wood II died in 1601, an extremely rich man. He combined leather dressing and retailing, owning two shops. He had an extensive business as a timber merchant, buying timber all over North Wales and selling to Chester joiners and carvers. He was a farmer on a considerable scale, owning land at Dodleston and Handbridge. At his death his rural stock consisted of eight oxen, two bullocks, forty-six head of cattle, twenty eight Irish cows, thirteen horses, fifty eight sheep, twenty one lambs and numerous poultry, as well as wheat, barley, oats, rye, beans, peas, vetches, and hay valued at £101. His goods in Chester were valued at £1,600, suggesting that he was nearly three times as rich as any glover. He was also considerably wealthier than nearly all the Chester merchants who traded with the continent during Elizabeth’s reign. He was Mayor of the City three times."

JP Earwaker, in his book on the church of St Mary on the Hill quotes:

  • "At the upper end of the Chappell lye the the body of the late famous Citizen Robert Brerewood Alderman and thrice Mayor of this City, of whom I find no other Monument there, save only his coat, crest and streamer advanced over him, the words thereof are 'Labour prudentra equitale ' which were well fitted to him in whom those virtues were all eminent".

John Brerewood (son of Robert II)

John Brerewood (c.1561–1599), sheriff of Chester 1598/9, married, Mary (d. 1592), daughter of Thomas Parry of Nannerch, Flintshire. His offspring were Robert (III) and John (who married into the Gamuls and also became an alderman). This son John was the relative of Edward Brerewood who triggered his criticism of strict Sabbatarianism against Nicholas Byfield (the noted preacher at St Peter) - he was one of Byfield's catechists, and had been trained by Byfield in strict Sabbatarian habits. When John Jr went to London to serve as an apprentice, he refused to do his master's errands on Sundays, such as fetching wine and feeding a horse, and obeyed only under compulsion. He wrote to Byfield with his case of conscience, and was told to disobey. His uncle, Edward Brerewood, gave him contrary advice, taking the ground that the fourth commandment was laid only upon masters. Brerewood opened a correspondence with Byfield on the subject. The discussion was not published till both Brerewood and Byfield had been long dead.

Edward Brerewood (son of Robert II)

Edward's book, claiming the American "Indians" were the offspring of the Tartars.

Edward Brerewood (c. 1565–1613) was the son of Robert, born in Chester and educated there at The King's School. In 1581 he was sent to Brasenose College, Oxford, he graduated B. A. 15 February 1587, M.A. 9 July 1590. Then he migrated to St. Mary Hall, and on 26 September 1592, when Queen Elizabeth was at Oxford, he replied at a disputation in natural philosophy. In March 1596 he was chosen the first Gresham College (the first home of the Royal Society) Professor of Astronomy in London.

His works are:

  • De ponderibus et pretiis veterum nummorum, eorumque cum recentioribus collatione, London, 1614. This was first published by his nephew, and afterwards inserted in the 'Apparatus' of the Biblia Polyglotta, by Brian Walton, and also in the Critici Sacri, vol. viii.
  • Enquiries touching the Diversities of Languages and Religions through the chief parts of the world, London, 1614, 1622, 1635, 1647, &c. This was likewise published by his nephew, and afterwards translated into French by J. de la Montagne, Paris, 1640, and into Latin by John Johnston. Richard Simon made some remarks on Brerewood's work, under the pseudonym of le Sieur de Moni, in a treatise entitled Histoire critique de la créance et des coûtumes des nations du Levant, Frankfort (really printed at Amsterdam), 1684. In 1693 it was reprinted, and again since that date with the following alterations in the title:—Histoire critique des dogmes, des controverses, des coûtumes, et des ceremonies des Chretiens orientaux. Brerewood proposed in it that the Native Americans were descendants of the Tartars; with that, he rejected the theory of Guillaume Postel identifying the Tartars as descending from the Lost Tribes of Israel - in effect he was suggesting that America had been colonised by people crossing a past Siberia-Alaska land bridge (now known to be the case). Influentially, he tried to quantify Christians in the world, giving figures 19 parts heathen, 6 parts Muslim and 5 parts Christian by population, from 30 parts in all. These figures were still being quoted by John Wesley, well over a century later.
  • Elementa Logicæ, in gratiam studiosæ juventutis in academia Oxoniensi, London, 1614, 1615, &c.
  • Tractatus quidam logici de prædicabilibus, et prædicamentis, Oxford, 1628, 1637, &c. This book was first published by Thomas Sixesmith, M. A., fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. A manuscript of it is preserved in Queen's College library in that university. The work is sometimes quoted as 'Brerewood de moribus.'
  • Tractatus duo: quorum primus est de meteoris, secundus de oculo, Oxford, 1631, 1638. These two tracts were also published by Sixesmith.
  • A Treatise of the Sabbath, Oxford, 1630, 1631. This book was written as a letter to Nicholas Byfield, preacher at Chester, having been occasioned by a sermon of his relating to the morality of the Sabbath. Brerewood took up a criticism of strict Sabbatarianism against Nicholas Byfield. According to Christopher Hill, “No one penetrated so deeply into the social issues involved in the Sabbatarian controversy". It is dated from Gresham House 15 July 1611. Richard Byfield, Nicholas's brother, wrote a reply to it.
  • Mr. Byfield's Answer, with Mr. Brerewood's Reply, Oxford, 1631. These were both printed together, with the second edition of the former.
  • A second Treatise of the Sabbath, or an Explication of the Fourth Commandment, Oxford, 1632.
  • Commentarii in Ethica Aristotelis, Oxford, 1640. These commentaries relate only to the first four books, and were published by Sixesmith.
  • A Declaration of the Patriarchal Government of the antient Church, Oxford, 1641, London, 1647, Bremen, 1701. The Oxford edition is subjoined to a treatise called 'The original of Bishops and Metropolitans, briefly laid down by Archbishop Ussher,' &c.

Brerewood, who was a member of the Old Society of Antiquaries, died "of a fever" on 4 November 1613, and was buried in the church of Great St. Helen. His library he bequeathed with his other effects to his nephew Robert Brerewood, a son of his elder brother, John Brerewood.

Sir Robert Brerewood (III - son of John)

Brerewood was the elder son of John Brerewood and was born in 1588. In 1605 Brerewood was sent to Brasenose College, Oxford and was later admitted to Middle Temple, he was called to the bar on 13 November 1615, and practised for twenty-two years.

Clerks of the Pentice seem to have been appointed by the recorder and sheriffs, not the Assembly. In 1587, however, Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham and the earl of Derby, Henry Stanley, blatantly sought the reversion for Peter Proby, a Cestrian lawyer. The interference caused much ill-feeling and the matter was not settled until 1590, when Proby was offered an annuity as a solicitor for the city. When the incumbent died in 1598 the Assembly appointed his successor, but on the latter's death in 1602 the mayor, John Ratcliffe, intruded a nominee of Lord Keeper Sir Thomas Egerton, Robert Whitby, by simply giving him the keys to the Pentice. In retaliation 40 members of the Assembly, including six former mayors, pressed for a free election, though they were not personally hostile to Whitby, whom they elected to the clerkship in the same year.

Prolonged factional division in Chester's civic life followed. Within five years Whitby had become a common councilman and clerk of the peace for Cheshire, and had his son Thomas elected as joint clerk of the Pentice, a position previously unknown. In 1612 Robert was elected mayor, Thomas became sheriff, and another son, Edward, was appointed recorder. The bishop and dean of Chester, George Lloyd and Thomas Mallory, openly alleged corruption, and during the next five years growing opposition to the Whitbys was orchestrated by Robert Brerewood. The Assembly was divided, and detailed evidence of the Whitbys' misconduct and maladministration was forthcoming in abundance. After the privy council insisted on a local resolution of the matter Robert and Thomas Whitby were examined formally in the inner Pentice in 1618, and the Assembly then dismissed them as joint clerks and appointed Robert Brerewood in their place.

The dispute spilled over into the parliamentary election of 1621, for which Edward Whitby, still recorder, was a candidate; after much intrigue he was returned with Alderman John Ratcliffe, evidently an ally. The recorder remained actively hostile to Brerewood, and in 1627, with the help of Sir Thomas Savage, Mayor Nicholas Ince manipulated the Assembly into suspending Brerewood (the new clerk of the pentice) and appointing an acting clerk.

Arms of Sir Robert Brerewood show the skin of an ermine - a typical heralic reference to his family as "skinners".

Brerewood was the son-in-law of one of Whitby’s staunchest enemies, Sir Randle Mainwaring and a close ally of another of Whitby’s antagonists, Sir Thomas Smith. Mainwaring and Smith had been instrumental in removing Whitby’s father and brother from the clerkship of the pentice, and Whitby sought revenge by petitioning the Privy Council for Brerewood’s dismissal.They then sidestepped any counter-move by Brerewood's supporters, usually a majority in the Assembly, by secretly persuading the privy council to assume jurisdiction. The privy council at first committed the case to four commissioners, but after a disorderly mayoral election instead appointed Savage, one of Brerewood's adversaries, to examine the allegations against him. They included extortion and neglect of duty over three years. Brerewood resigned and was replaced in January 1628 by Savage's nominee.

The rivalry continued through the parliamentary election of 1628, when Recorder Whitby and John Ratcliffe were again returned, but differences were resolved by 1633, when (at the third attempt) Brerewood was made one of the city's counsel. Six years later, on Whitby's death, he was elected recorder.He also published some of the literary works of his uncle Edward Brerewood; in 1637 he was appointed a judge of North Wales and was appointed reader at the Middle Temple in Lent term in 1638. He was chosen Recorder of Chester in 1639.

In April 1640, Brerewood was returned as Member of Parliament for Chester for the Short Parliament. Also in 1640 Brerewood became serjeant-at-law and in 1641 he was appointed king's serjeant, he was knighted in 1643, and raised to the bench as one of the Judges of the Common Pleas. He was sworn in at Oxford where King Charles I then was, and continued to sit until the end of the Civil War but never in Westminster Hall, after the execution of Charles I he retired into private life. After the surrender of the City (1646), the purge of royalists from the corporation was made official in October 1646. No fewer than 14 of the 24 aldermen were displaced, together with four sheriffpeers and three councilmen. Those dismissed became liable to sequestration and fines: Recorder Brerewood was fined £387, Thomas Thropp £177, Richard Broster £170; Sir Thomas Smith compounded at £3,350 and Sir Francis Gamull at £940.

Sir Robert Brerewood was twice married first to Anne daughter of Sir Randle Mainwaringe of OverPever in that county who died in 1630 his second lady was Katherine daughter of Sir Richard Lea of Lea and Dernhall in Cheshire and left several children by each of them. He died in 1654 at Chester aged 67 years and lies buried in St Mary's church there. A funeral inscription, since vanished, is recorded to have read:

  • "Here lies the body of Sur Robert Brerewood, Knight, one of the Justices of the Court of King's Bench, son and heir of a John Brerewood of the city of Chester, gentleman, who - the same Robert Brerewood - at about the age of 17 years in the year of our Lord 1605, entered Brasenose College in the University of Oxford, and after a stay there if two years left the said University, and in the month of Ictober in the year of our Lord 1607 was admitted to the Middle Temple Inn, London, and after being there for just about the space of the next following seven years was called to the Bar, and further in the beginning of the month of December in the year of our Lord 1637 was appointed one of our Lord King's Justices for the Counties of Anglesey, Carbarvin, and Merioneth, and in the Lent following was in his turn Reader at the Middle Temple Inn, aforesaid and further in the week after the festival of Easter in the year of our Lord 1639 was chosen to the office of Recorder of the said city of Chester, and further in Trinity Term in the year of our Lord 1640, at the meeting then held if Sergeants-at-Law was made a Sergeant-at-Law and afterwards in Hilary Term in the year of our Lord 1641 was, by Letters Patent of Our Lady the Queen appointed Sergeant-at-Law to our said Lady the Queen, and further on the 5th day of December the year of our Lord 1643 was Knighted and then the Letters Patent of our Lord King Charles, bearing the date the 31st day of January in the 18th year of the King's reign, and in the year of our Lord 1643, was appointed one of the Justices of the Court of King's Bench and was sworn in to his office aforesaid in full Court in Hilary Term on the 6th day of February at Oxford, and died on the 8th day of September in the year 1654 in the 67th year of his age. In his time he had two wives namely Anne Mainwaring, daughter of Sir Randle Mainwaring of Peever in the County of Chester, knight, as his first wife and Katherine Lee, daughter of Sir Richard Lee of Lee in the County of Chester, knight, as his second wife, by which wives he had and left separate issue both sons and daughters."

Lady B survived him thirty seven years. From his will it is clear he was a wealthy landowner whose rents at the time of his death amounted to some £8,000 a year, an enormous sum at the time. He left the income of these rents to his lineal male descendants.

Henry Brerewood (son of Robert III)

Curate at Sandbach 1672-1677, vicar of Threekingham, Lincs. 1677-1703 (when he died).

Thomas Brerewood Snr (son of Henry)

Thomas Brerewood (c.1670 - 22 December 1746), was a 'Gentleman, Entrepreneur & Fraudster'. He was the son of a vicar and a grandson of Sir Robert Brerewood. He was deeply involved in the "Pitkin Affair" of 1705, a bankruptcy fraud that was only surpassed in scale by the South Sea Bubble of 1720. Despite the disgrace which followed, Brerewood was eventually pardoned and was able to rebuild his fortune, ending his career in Maryland (US) as a respected man of substance and importance. In 1741, Brerewood became clerk of Baltimore County, a well-remunerated position which he held until his death on December 22, 1746.

Early wealth

Thomas was apprenticed to his uncle, Francis Brerewood (1641 - 1704), Treasurer of Christ's Hospital, London in June 1686 and admitted to the Fishmongers' Company in 1699. This was one of the most prestigious of the Livery Companies and, by this time, the interests of its members were not necessarily limited to the fishing industry. Indeed it was common for members to practise another trade entirely. By 1705, when he was in his mid-thirties, Brerewood was already a man of considerable personal fortune. Having trained as a linen draper, or cloth merchant, he followed the money into cloth brokering and international trade.

As early as 1700 he had established himself as an army regimental agent, the civilian employed by the colonel in charge of each regiment to act as paymaster and to provide uniforms. An agent earned a few hundred pounds a year in standard allowances but made his real money selling the army his cloth and lending money to officers at exorbitant rates. A single clothing assignment to a regiment might bring Brerewood thousands of pounds, and he loaned money with one hundred percent penalties for late repayment. In the years before the Pitkin Affair broke, Brerewood served as an agent to some of the leading army commanders of the day. He was the paymaster for the Duke of Marlborough’s battalion in England while Marlborough was the commander-in-chief of the English army fighting in the Netherlands against the French during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1712). He also acted as agent for the regiments of the Duke of Schombergh; of Colonel Cadogen, the commander of a cavalry company; of Lieutenant-Colonel John Bristow of the First Foot Guards; and of the Duke of Northumberland, who would become Brerewood’s particular patron.

Obtaining agencies of such prominence required Brerewood to have the patronage of men of the highest rank and to have the wherewithal to bear the cost of clothing assignments for the years it took to recoup the investment from the soldiers’ off-reckonings, or the amount deducted from their pay for uniforms and equipment.

Coming from a prominent family, Brerewood did not lack for either connections or wealth. He had apprenticed with his prosperous uncle, a linen draper in London. He had two houses in London: one in town and another in the village of Turnham Green on the western outskirts of the city. He also held a number of properties in Chester, including two shops in the Rows. He engaged in trade to continental Europe and the American colonies, and he had at least some stock investments.

But this economic success did not satisfy Brerewood. From what we know about his activities in the years before the Pitkin Affair, he moved from scam to scam, perhaps because, as counsel for Pitkin’s creditors opined in testimony before the House of Lords, he “thought he was not rich enough.”

Sir Francis Child took over most of the assets of Coggs & Dann a goldsmith banker "at the sign of the Kings Head in the Strand, over against St. Clement Danes Church", after the bank became insolvent in 1710 due to a massive fraud, orchestrated by gentleman frauster Thomas Brerewood, which became known as the Pitkin Affair. After Child died in 1713, his three sons ran the business, and during this time, the business transformed from a "goldsmith's bank" to a fully fledged bank. The bank claims it was the first to introduce a pre-printed cheque form, prior to which customers simply wrote a letter to their bank but sent it to their creditor who presented it for payment. Its first bank note was issued in 1729. Child & Co. is the oldest bank in the UK, and the third oldest bank in the world.


Although Pitkin was the face of the scandal, contemporaries believed that Brerewood had masterminded the scheme in which he involved Pitkin as an effective, but perhaps not particularly enthusiastic, dupe.The fraud itself, to the extent it can be deduced, appears to have been relatively simple. Pitkin, using at least in part money provided for the purpose by Brerewood, paid off some of his existing creditors early, giving the impression that he was flush with cash in the wake of his recent profitable marriage. Having acquired the reputation for wealth, Pitkin proceeded, on Brerewood’s instructions, to amass a huge quantity of merchandise on credit. Estimates of his debts ranged from £50,000 to as high as £100,000. To give some sense of how large a sum that was, consider that a wealthy merchant of the time would have had an annual income of between about £400 and £600 on a capitalisation of between £8,000 and £12,000. As he acquired the goods, Pitkin secretly passed them on to Brerewood. A surving note by a judge in the form of the "Information of Jonathan Brittell of Long Lane near west Smithfield, taken upon Oath this third day of March Anno Dm 1704", records as follows:

  • "The Informt. Deposeth that for about seven yeares since he has be [..] as a Porter by Mr Thomas Pitkin of King Street London Lynnen draper , And that Within the to three months last past he has altesided severall Cart: loads of goods, in all about twenty or thirty wch were sent by the Sd Mr Pitkin to ye house and [..] Warehouse of Mr Thomas Brerewood in or near Norfolke Street in the Strand and also that he this Informt. carry about her [..] Burthery of goods by the said Pilkins directions [..] ye sd Mr brerewoods house and Warehouse, All which nobbs consistes of Lynnen and Woolen cloth, except two of the Burthens wch this Informt carryed, which consisted wholly of Gold and Silver Orrice Lane of a considerable weight And further they Informt sayeth that on or about the thirtyeth day of January last past he this Informt with another Porter carryed Forty two Burthens of goods consisting of Lynnen [..] cloths by ye sd Pitkins Order from his the said Pilkins house to the house of one Mr Job Williams in New Court in Swilling Lane near Lombard Street , great part of which goods he this Informant saw within three days after at the house of [..] Mr Brerewood, wch makes this Informt believe that there was a clandeshire dealing carryed on by a conspiracy and combination between the sd Mr Pitkins and Mr Brerewood to defraud Severall persons of great quantityes of goods."

In addition, prior to absconding, Pitkin transferred his entire estate to Brerewood so that when his creditors realised that he had fled and tried to use bankruptcy to recuperate their money, they would find nothing left to go after. The plan apparently envisioned that Brerewood, who actually held all the goods, would step forward and graciously offer to buy the debts of Pitkin’s creditors for about eight shillings, six pence in the pound.

The conspirators assumed that the creditors would be anxious to get something and would agree to the deal. Presumably, after quietly selling off the merchandise Pitkin had accumulated and repaying himself, Brerewood would split the remainder with Pitkin, who would be able to return to England free of liability or risk of bankruptcy.

The plan did not work out quite as intended. Pitkin’s creditors learned of his absence immediately and became suspicious. When Pitkin did not return promptly, the creditors took out a commission of bankrupt, and, given the extent of the fraud and the number of creditors (later estimated to be over 140), on February 20, 1705, they also petitioned the House of Commons for a public act condemning Pitkin.

In their petition they explained that they had been unable to locate any of Pitkin’s assets and that if none were located, many creditors would be ruined. They wanted Parliament to address the problem that “the Laws, now in force, have not provided sufficient Remedies for the Discovery of Frauds of this Kind.” The law needed to be able to force the bankrupt to disclose and deliver his assets to his creditors. The Commons responded by creating a committee “to consider some Means to prevent the Prejudice, that happens to Trade by the fraudulent breaking of Traders, and for punishing the same.”

The resulting statute, entitled “An Act for the Relief of the Creditors of Thomas Pitkin, a Bankrupt, and for the Apprehending of him, and the Discovery of the Effects of the said Thomas Pitkin and his Accomplices,” became law on March 14, 1705. Among other provisions, it threatened Pitkin with life imprisonment and standing in the pillory three times a year if he did not return to London and cooperate with his creditors. Pitkin surfaced in Holland, where he was going by the name of Smith. Lucy, one of Pitkin’s creditors, found him in Amsterdam. According to Lucy (but not according to Pitkin—believe whom you will), Pitkin offered him 10,000 £ to let him escape, but Lucy refused, locked him up in the house of friends, and returned to England. There he met with Pitkins’ other creditors and basically blackmailed them into paying him a £1400 reward before he would bring Pitkin back to England.

In the end, Pitkin was extradited back to London, where he told his creditors all, laying the blame squarely on Brerewood. Other than spending some time in prison while assisting his creditors in fingering his partner, Pitkin never seems to have made any restitution, and at some point he was able to move to Belchamp Otten, a small village in East Anglia. Brerewood did not give up so easily. Although the creditors identified him as an accomplice and the House of Lords ordered him taken into custody in early March 1705, he still managed to salvage part of the original scam by hiring an attorney, George Wilcocks, to negotiate a composition with Pitkin’s creditors. Wilcocks assured the creditors “that 8 [shillings] 6 [pence] in the Pound (£) was the utmost that Brerewood’s Estate would reach to pay,” and thereby convinced them all to sign a composition in September 1705. But the creditors eventually got wind of the fact that Brerewood held much more of the stolen assets than he had let on, and they obtained a parliamentary act against him in April 1707, making, despite the previous composition, his entire estate liable to Pitkin’s debts on pain of life imprisonment and pillorying three times a year.

Fled, returned

That was not the end of the story. Brerewood fled to Livorno, Italy, where his creditors found him in December 1707 and at great expense hauled him back to London to stand trial. He was convicted in the London criminal court in March 1709 of “Defrauding Mr. Pitkins Creditors, and Abscond[ing] contrary to an Act of Parli[a]ment made on his Account” and sentenced as the statute against him required. The sentence included:

  • "That he is to be Imprisoned during Life, and stand in the Pillory 3 times a Year, viz. the first Tuesday in Easter Term, the first Tuesday in Michaelmas Term, and the first Tuesday in Hillary Term between the Hours of 11 and 3 of the same Days at Temple Bar, and the Royal Exchange, as long as he live."

This was potentially a slow death-sentence, as some members of the general populace did not pelt those in the pillory with "rotten eggs" but used rocks and stones to inflict serious injury.

Yet by November he had been freed on a royal pardon after having compounded with Pitkin’s creditors to pay an extra one shilling six pence in the pound over the original agreement. The London Gazette, 3 November 1709, announced a composition with Pitkin creditors, who petitioned for the Pardon of Thomas Brerewood (1709) requesting the pardon be granted by Queen Anne in exchange for additional payment by Brerewood.

This was still not the end of the story, for Brerewood had cleverly contracted with his bankers, Coggs and Dann, to pay the debt. Pitkin’s creditors then went against the bankers, who ended up ruined. John Coggs and John Dann were goldsmiths, and, like many London goldsmiths of the early eighteenth century, they also functioned as bankers. Coggs had, by the time of the Pitkin Affair, been a banker of prominence in the City for over forty years, during which time he had developed a reputation for reliability and caution. In 1699, his partner dying, and being himself elderly and unwell, Coggs through Huguenot connections took John Dann into the business. Around 1700, Brerewood began keeping a running account with Coggs and Dann, whose shop in the Strand was near his house on Norfolk Street. Several pieces of evidence suggest that Brerewood interacted primarily with the less experienced Dann, which might help explain how the firm became so involved in the disadvantageous process of bailing him out. The problem was that Brerewood, over £49,000, in debt to his bankers, not only owed more money to Coggs and Dann than he owed to all of the Pitkin creditors combined but also owed them more money than he could pay. They realised they could not save their business, on January 12, 1710, the bankers gave notice in the newspaper to their creditors that they had become insolvent and would stop all payments.

Place House as drawn by Francis Brerewood. Perhaps some of the characters shown are the Brerewoods.

The identity of the creditors of the bank gives a vivid sense of how significant the bank’s failure was: Lord Fitzwilliams was owed £999 and his wife £675; Sir John Holt (Lord Chief Justice) of King’s Bench, was owed £500; Viscount Lanesborough was owed £2,100; Earl Lorraine was owed £5,919; the Duke of Marlborough was owed £1,268; the Duke of Norfolk was owed £872; the Duke of Newcastle was owed £1,570, and the list of proved debts goes on, running to 217 names and totalling £54,079. A broken man, John Coggs died shortly afterwards. John Dann was astute enough to cooperate with the bank’s trustees over the years in liquidating the bank’s assets. For this he and family received small payments from time to time from the estate. He died in 1722. Sir Francis Child, (1642–1713) of the bankers Messrs. Child & Co. with whom Coggs & Dann kept a clearing account, took over most of the business.


Never having actually turned over quite all of his assets, Brerewood continued to lease his St. James’s Square house until 1726, despite the fact that since at least 1710 the owner, Lord Ossulstone, had been trying to eject him. By 1731, he was living in Horton, Buckinghamshire, presumably in Place House, the grand home of his son, Thomas Jr. and his wife. Brerewood had been fully discharged by the 1709 composition, and he was thus permitted to rebuild his fortunes. This he seems to have done. In 1713, he is listed as a subscriber, alongside many noble and prominent men, to a two-volume work of Latin poetry. He seems to have educated his two sons like gentlemen and, in 1716, he married his daughter, Henrietta, to the theatre impresario John Rich (producer), the “originator of English Pantomime.” Neither son proved able to manage his affairs, however, in September 1716, Thomas Jr., then in his early twenties, married Charlotte Calvert, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the fourth Lord Baltimore, Benedict Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore. In July 1731, Charlotte inherited 10,000 acres in northern Maryland called My Lady's Manor. The following month, Charlotte and her husband deeded the land to Brerewood with the intent that he would use the property to pay off Thomas Jr.’s creditors, of whom Brerewood was likely the largest. In order to better organise the property, Brerewood, by then in his early sixties, went to Maryland, where he would spend the rest of his life.

He is believed to have been an innovative and successful land manager, dividing the property into lots, obtaining tenants, (whom he insisted pay their debts), and founding a short-lived town called Charlotte Town on the site of the present Monkton, Maryland. Completing his resurrection as a man of importance, in 1741, Brerewood became clerk of Baltimore County, a well-remunerated position he held until his death on December 22, 1746.

His will reads as follows:

  • Extrs: in England, my dau., the Honorable Charlotte Brerewood, & in Maryland, my grdson Wm. Brerewood, Esq. To s dau., My Lord Baltimores Gift, alias My Ladys Manor, 10,000a in Baltimore Co., which on 30 Aug. 1730 she conveyed to me. My extrs are not to molest Mrs. Elinor Turner in a settlement I made her 4 April 1740, witnd. by Mr. Peele & Dolphin. My e. in Chester, Old England, may go as it is settled, & my s grdson is to transmit the deeds & a copy of this will to England. To my s grdson, negroes Daniel, Jenny, & Hannah, a girl, all improvements & stock , on a quarter of 413a which he has settled. Witn: J. S. Bordley, Thomas White, Geo. Buchanan. Codicil. As s grdson is d., I appt. Mr. William Dallam, mercht. of Joppa, to replace him. Witn: Geo. Buchanan, N. Rigbe, Jr., William Caswell. 10 Feb. 1746, sworn to by Mr. William Dallam.

Strangely this will makes no mention of son Francis. We might presume that Daniel and co., passed on like so much property, were slaves.

Benedict Leonard Calvert painted by Francis Brerewood at the Calvert home of Woodcote Park, Surrey, c1726.

Thomas Brerewood Jr (son of Thomas Snr)

In 1716, Thomas, then in his early twenties, made a highly advantageous marriage to Charlotte Calvert, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the fourth Lord Baltimore, Benedict Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore. The marriage may not have been sanctioned by her family, for the couple had a clandestine wedding in the Fleet Prison - a so-called "Fleet Marriage" - which was not publicly announced until February of the following year. The Marriage Duty Act 1695 had put an end to irregular marriages at parochial churches by penalizing clergymen who married couples without banns or licence. But, by a legal quirk, clergymen operating in the Fleet could not effectively be proceeded against, and the clandestine marriage business there carried on. During the 1740s, up to 6,000 marriages a year were taking place in the Fleet area, compared with 47,000 in England as a whole. One estimate suggests that there were between 70 and 100 clergymen working in the Fleet area between 1700 and 1753. It was not merely a marriage centre for criminals and the poor, however: both rich and poor availed themselves of the opportunity to marry quickly or in secret.

Fourteen might seem a remarkably early age to marry: the Statute of Westminster 1275, made it a misdemeanour to "ravish" a "maiden within age", whether with or without her consent. The phrase "within age" was interpreted by jurist Sir Edward Coke as meaning the age of marriage, which at the time was 12 years. There are recorded marriages of 2 and 3 year olds: in 1564, a three year old named John was married to a two year old named Jane in the Bishop's Court in Chester.

He led the life of a country gentleman at Horton, and died in 1748. Some pieces of poetry by him were printed in the earlier numbers of the 'Gentleman's Magazine;' after his death there appeared a work by him in rhymed verse of little merit (with a eulogistic preface by an anonymous editor), entitled 'Galfred and Juetta, or the Road of Nature, a Tale in three cantos,' London, 1772

By 1728 Thomas Jr. was in financial difficulty. Fortunately, in July 1731 Thomas's wife Charlotte inherited 10,000 acres in northern Maryland (US) known as My Lady's Manor, the following month, the couple deeded the land to the elder Thomas Brerewood in order that he might pay off Thomas Jr.’s creditors, of whom the senior Brerewood was likely the largest. The latter sailed to Maryland, by now in his sixties, where he became a successful land manager

Francis Brerewood (son of Thomas Snr)

Francis Brerewood (1694-1781), the son of Thomas Brerewood, was an English painter, translator and architect. He was born in Chester. He enjoyed the patronage of Benedict Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore, painting portraits of Lord Baltimore's son Benedict, and decorating the apartments of the Calvert family seat at Woodcote Park. He became embroiled in unsuccessful litigation in 1746 following his father's death, and he died in poverty in 1781.

Francis and his brother Thomas Jr both went into the arts. Thomas is remembered as a minor poet; Francis, as a minor artist and architect. Both sons patronized the composer George Frideric Handel; Thomas Jr. even translated his aria "Son Confusa Pastorella" into English.

Francis Brerewood benefited from the patronage of the Calvert family, and painted a number of portraits of British aristocrats including that of Benedict Leonard Calvert, the younger son of Benedict Calvert, 4th Baron Baltimore., which hangs in the Baltimore Museum of Art. He also had a hand in decorating the apartments at the Calvert family seat of Woodcote Park, Surrey.

Francis evidently was a skilled linguist; in 1716 he translated a work by Abbe Jean Terrasson, A Discourse on Ancient and Modern Learning, into English. Later, he translated A Critical Dissertation on Homer's Iliad by the same author, publishing the result in two volumes from 1723-5.

Upon his death of his father in 1746, Francis found himself embroiled in litigation with his half-sister over his father's estate, which had been entailed in the male line by Sir Robert Brerewood. With the death of his father, the half-sister claimed the male line to be extinct, grabbed the assets and quickly alienated the rents. The story was recounted by the author and historian James Gill in 1852:

  • "Francis, the second son of Thomas Brerewood, was now involved in lawsuits in quest of his rights, and that he had right on his side, and the magic of being in the right, is evinced by the statements made in courts of law, and the answers received by the best legal judgments:- but equity failed him, and by destiny he was wedded to calamity, like others who had been in fortune's high lap fed....he it was who was forced from home and all its pleasures, to lodge for fifteen years obscurely in The Strand, and was beset by carking care and biting penury."

In 1791 The Gentleman's Magazine published an account of the family's fortune, and of the straightened circumstances in which Brerewood found himself. Francis Brerewood died penurious in 1781, having lived in serious financial straits for at least thirty years. In his will, dated 7 July 1781, in which he styled himself as being "of St George The Martyr, London", he left what remained of his possessions to his widow Mary.

Maybe his most poignant work is an engraving of "Place House" - the lavish home of brother Thomas and possibly featuring some of the Brerewoods: skinners, to "Sir" and then to "skint" in a few generations.

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