Entries in Leggatt (1)


Reverend Alfred John Sandilands and Anna Maria Bethune SMALL STEP TO EQUALITY

Reverend Alfred John Sandilands (c1803 - 1862) and Anna Maria Bethune (c1800 - 1880)

I wrote recently about John Phillips, whose few years as a soldier had been hidden in the space between the parish records. Another reminder, of how much of a person’s life is often beneath the surface of the local records, has been brought to my attention. It concerns Alfred John Sandilands who was Vicar of the joint parish of Denford with Ringstead from 1854 until his death in 1862.

In writing about the long list of rectors, vicars and curates that were incumbents during the nineteenth century I tried not to stray too far from their time in the parish. In the case of Alfred this meant that I missed his extraordinary behaviour and its consequences in the period just before he took up the Denford with Ringstead post.

I wrote, “He had just married a widow, Ann Maria Leggatt, on 11th April 1850 in Brighton and they came to Denford four years later”. I was wrong because “they” never came. Anna Maria (there are various spellings) Bethune, the daughter of the Reverend G.M. Bethune, the vicar of Worth in Sussex, was born in 1800. On 6th September 1821 she married Horatio Leggatt , some twenty years her senior. Horatio, from the Norfolk gentry, had been indentured to Attorney, George Whemer at Reepham in Norfolk in 1793 and in 1800 he had gained a post in the Office of Taxes. In 1820, he had become Solicitor to the Board of Taxes. He had a salary of £1500 a year, an official residence in Royal Terrace, Adelphi so that, with other “perks”, his income was equivalent to some £3,000 a year. Then, in 1833 his department was merged with another and Horatio was made redundant with a pension of £1,300 a year. All his furniture in Adelphi Terrace, together with his paintings and fine china and wines were sold by auction. The sudden reduction in his income together with his loss of position drove Horatio into a deep depression with terrible consequences. The Leicestershire Mercury of 29th December 1838 reported:

SUICIDE. – Horatio Leggatt, Esq. late solicitor to the Commissioners of Taxes, cut his throat at Morley’s Hotel, London, last week. The deceased was 65 years of age, was pensioned off in 1833, on a large allowance, and was constantly saying that he was the most wretched man in existence, for want of active employment.

The couple had had eight children, of whom two girls did not survive infancy and Anna Maria was left with six children under 18. A report in the Newcastle Journal of 7th March 1840 reported on a Parliamentary debate on another call for a pension for someone leaving office. In the debate the case of Anna Maria was raised. Horatio’s pension had finished with his death and she was left with a “jointure” [provision made by a husband at marriage, for his wife after his death] of £300 a year for the support of herself and her six children, aged from 17 to 2 years of age. In recognition of his 34 year’s unblemished service she had “memorialised” first the Lord Chancellor and then the First Lord of the Treasury for a pension to relieve her state of destitution but had been refused as her case was not covered by the rules laid down by the House of Commons. On the 26th July 1841, the Sussex Advertiser carried details of Leggatt’s house, called Oakfield Lodge in Worth, with its ten acres of land including gardens, orchards and a pair of cottages, which was to be auctioned under an order of the High Court of Chancery. On 10th February of the previous year the Court of Chancery had asked for all creditors of Horatio to come forward to prove their debts so perhaps the sale of the house was partly to clear these debts and the death duties.

Hugo Leggatt has kindly sent me a transcript of the Will of Horatio’s brother, the Reverend Samuel Leggatt, made in 1841. In this he leaves bequests to pay Miss Gwynn £50 and £30 to the Miss Millers, who ran an academy in Brighton, to cover debts left by Horatio. In an 1847 codicil he revokes these bequests because Anna Maria had paid them. Samuel also left the considerable sum of £500 pounds to Elizabeth Simpson, a widow, “but if not then surviving the said sum of five hundred pounds to be equally divided between the several illegitimate children of my late brother, Horatio Leggatt or between their personal representatives.” It is not clear but it seems that Elizabeth Simpson was his mistress, living in Gloucester Place in New Road, Marylebone and the children were hers. Unfortunately I have not been able to find her in the Censuses. It seems likely that Horatio’s, rather profligate, life unravelled when he lost his post with the Government and this led to his depression and death.

After Horatio's death, Anna Maria probably had gone to live with her father George Maximilian Bethune who was Rector of Worth and then, when he died, in December 1840, with her brother George Bethune who took over from his father as Rector. Certainly, she is there in Rectory House in the 1841 Census along with her widowed mother, also Anna. Her two youngest children Catherine (8) and George (4) are still at home with her. There were six servants for the small household. Her two older girls, Anna (15) and Georgiana (12) were in a small private school run by a woman with the Dickensian name of Susannah Grimley in Vassall Road in Lambeth. [Georgiana was wrongly named as Georgina Mary Bethune Leggatt in the Parish Register when she was christened at St. Martin in the Fields in Westminster even though the service was conducted by her uncle, George Bethune.]

Perhaps it was at Worth that she met another cleric, Alfred John Sandilands, for on 11th April 1850 she married him, just down the road, in Brighton. Alfred had been born in 1803 in the Hanover Square area of Westminster and he too, like most of the clergy, was linked to the gentry. Alfred Sandilands had been ordained on 13th October 1827 and became a stipendary curate at Heydon bridge Chapel and then, in 1829, at Bishopwearmouth in Durham. In the 1841 Census he is shown as 25 and still living at the Green, In 1845 moved to the vicarage of Darley in Derbyshire and in the 1851 Census for Cross Green in Wensley and Snitterton in South Darley Alfred (48) is with his new wife Anna M. (49) and his step daughter Georgiana (21) together with two servants. There is also a mysterious figure, Jane L. Watson (29) the house keeper, born in Rothbury in Northumberland, who appears regularly throughout the history of the family. Rothbury was not far from where Alfred had spent some time as a curate but this was some five years after her birth.

Unlike the poor of the nineteenth century, Anna Maria may not have had the imperative of desperate need, to marry but perhaps she needed security and did not want to be dependent on the goodwill of others: to be mistress of her own house again. Whatever the reasons, she soon regretted her decision and any happiness seems to have been very short lived.

The newspaper reports on a case heard in the Queen’s Bench on June 11th 1852 give some insight into what happened. It was considering a case, R. v. Horatio Leggatt, originally heard in a lower court. Alfred Sandilands had brought an action of habeas corpus against Anna’s son for withholding her from him. In the lower court this writ had been granted but the Queen’s Bench judges confirmed that because she was living with her son of her own free will:

            “This court has no power to order a wife to be restored to her husband.”

This was one of a number of important cases that established that a husband could not compel his wife to live with him, although he still retained the right to this power over their children.

The report of the case gives the bare bones of an unhappy wife desperately wishing to live apart from her husband. Hugo Leggatt, a descendant of Horatio, has written to me about the case and the light thrown on it by a letter sent to his father in 1957. The writer was Mary Nix who was 89 years old at the time. She had a note written by the wife of Anna Maria’s brother (George Cuddington Bethune) which stated:

She (Anna-Maria) married secondly the Rev. Sandilands, curate of Worth, and they went to the west of England where he ill-treated her by locking her up in his house until she should make a will in his favour.

She wrote this in her blood on a handkerchief, & dropped it out of her window, asking the finder to convey it to her father, then Rector of Worth, Sussex.

The gardener picked up the handkerchief and took it to the Rector – who thereon took a trusty friend and a horsewhip & went to the rescue. He brought home Anna-Maria to Worth, where she eventually died. There is no further mention of the Rev. Sandilands.

This sounds like an episode from one of the gothic novels that were popular in the first half of the nineteenth century. There appears to be some discrepancies and the reports on the court case describes what happened more prosaically:

Letters had been conveyed to the family, and her brother and son went to the husband’s house in Derbyshire. They saw her and she left her husband’s house with them. . .

Alfred was the vicar of Darley in Derbyshire at this time which is hardly the “west of England”.  How far would the messenger gardener have had to travel? Further, the possibility of writing a letter in your blood on a handkerchief seems unlikely. Nevertheless, the essentials of the story appear to be true.

I had wrongly assumed that the couple came to Denford and Ringstead in 1854, but Alfred came alone, or at least without his wife. By 1861 we see Alfred in his house in Woodford (near Denford) with his stepdaughters Georgiana (31) and Catherine (28). There are also three servants and Jane Louisa Watson (39) is a visitor. We know from the local newspapers that Alfred laid belligerently into the local gentry about the state of Ringstead Church and the Denford Rectory. Much needed work had started on the repair of the church when he died suddenly on 22nd September 1862. The summary of the probate on 4th November reveals that he had “effects under £3000”, a reasonably large but not huge sum. His executors were his brother Richard Samuel Butler Sandilands and Jane Louisa Watson, a spinster of Park Square in Middlesex.

Anna Maria used the surname Sandilands all her life (although she is shown as just Anna Maria, relict of Horatio Leggatt on his memorial in Worth Church) and in 1861 is living with her sister Catherine and her barrister husband in Slaugham in Sussex and in 1871 with her son Horace (Horatio) in Titchfield in Hampshire.



Anna Maria remembered on memorial to her first husband in St Nicholas Church, Worth.

With the kind permission of Charles Sale. ( Photograph by Steve Lockwood.

There is another twist to the story for when Anna Maria died, aged 80, on 12th October 1880 at Brownwich in Titchfield, she left in her Will a personal estate of “under £10,000”. She seems to have recovered from her “destitution” although much of this may have been from legacies from her parents. She bequeathed money to her children Horatio, Samuel and Anna Maria (Mence) but not to Georgiana, Catherine and George because she stated that they had “behaved to me most undutifully and improperly” She later, in a codicil, did leave something to George provided “he does not look like going bankrupt”.

Can we infer that three children sided with Alfred? Life is rarely as clear cut as we would like it to be. A brief look at their lives may give us some clues as to why they were cut out of her Will.

George became a curate at Ilkeston and married Ellen Matthews, the daughter of a Farm Bailiff from Waltham in Leicestershire at St Marylebone Parish Church on 1st June 1867. In 1871 he is living with his in-laws and John Matthews describes himself as “formerly a farm labourer”. In 1901 George and Ellen are together at Short Street in Rearsby in Leicestershire and writtten beside the entry for George there is a note, “paralysis”. Ellen died in 1902 and George in 1904 in Essex.

Catherine Leggatt never married and became a governess in Mr. Tait’s orphanage in Fulham and in 1911, aged 78 is a sister in the Community of St Peter in St Peter’s House of Rest in Woolverstone, near Ipswich. Woolverstone House was designed in 1901 by "arts and crafts" architect Sir Edwin Lutyens , and had gardens designed by Gerturde Jekyll. It was built for Mrs C. Berners, a lay-sister of the East End Sisters of Mercy. Catherine died at St. Peter’s House in Mortimer Road, Kilburn on 2nd April 1918, and her executor was solicitor Gerald Esdaile Winter. She left £326. 5s.

Georgiana in 1881 was an “annuitant”, aged 52, living with Jane L. Watson (55 – her age varies from Census to Census) who “derives her income from property and dividends”. They are living at 65 Blackett Street, St Andrews, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Georgiana’s place of birth is shown as Crawley not St. Martin in the Fields as we would expect. But, in a previous Census, she had used Worth as her birth place and Crawley was then a village in the very large parish of Worth, although it has now become the major settlement. It seems too much of a coincidence not to be the same person. Surprisingly, Georgiana is shown as Jane's half-sister so there must be a family connection of some sort.

Even more confusingly Georgiana had married widower Robert Young Rowley, butcher then cattle salesman, on February 14th 1873, at the Parish Church of St Peter in Newcastle. He is 45 years old, a widower and the son of Robert, a cork cutter. Georgina [sic] Mary Bethune Leggatt is 39 and the daughter of Horace Leggatt, a clerk in the Admiralty which is all almost correct - but not quite. Robert Rowley, at least from 1881 until his death on 28th November 1904, (a Newcastle Evening Chronicle transcription has death as 83 which seems wrong but his age too varies between Censuses), was living at 20 Eldon Place (or Street) and in 1891 Jane L. Watson is living just two doors away from him. But in 1891 Georgiana M.B. Rowley, “wife of R.Y. Rowley” aged 62 and born in St. Martin in the Fields is in the Union Workhouse in Newcastle.

A few months later, on 2nd June 1891, Georgiana Leggatt Rowley, aged 59 died in the Newcastle Registration District. The Death Certificate has the death as 28th May, aged 62, and her name as Georgina Matilda Bethune Rowley and confirms that she died in Newcastle Union Workhouse. It seems inconceivable that this is not the same person. She died of “General debility, Diarrhoea and Exhaustion” Robert Young Rowley is shown as a retired butcher and his address is shown on the certificate as 31 Ryehill, Newcastle, (although he is shown as living at 20 Eldon Street or Place in the 1891 and 1901 Censuses and in his probate summary. There is a widower, John Scott, umbrella maker, living with his widowed daughter and other family at 31 Ryehill in 1891). There is much still that needs explanation but I suspect that much of the confusion is down to clerical errors. 

So was it her three children's life choices or their attitude to her split with Alfred Sandilands which so angered Anna Maria?

Finally, looking at Jane Louisa Watson, there is another possibility for her connection to Georgiana which needs to be explored. Robert Young Rowley’s first wife was Ann Watson who died in 1864. In the 1851 census Robert and his wife were living in the Cloth Market in Newcastle. He was a butcher aged 28 and in a part of the same house is a widow, Jane Watson aged 65, also a butcher born in Harbottle in Northumberland. It seems likely that she is Robert Rowley’s mother-in-law and possibly that Jane Louisa Watson was Robert’s wife’s sister. It is in this sense that Jane and Georgiana are "half sisters". At the moment this is just a possibility and more work is needed.

As we have said, Jane Louisa Watson is shown in the 1891 Census living at 18 Eldon Street, St Andrews, Newcastle, with a domestic servant. She is an accountant which would have been unusual for a woman at this time. I think that she may have died on 31st December 1899 while living at Willow House, Longbenton in Northumberland but there are other possibilities. If this is the correct person, she left £5,938 7s. 5d. in her Will and her executors were Joseph Watson, brass finisher (and possibly Jane's nephew) and Isaac Freeman, collector of taxes. She seems to have been an independent, self-made woman who showed another side of the women’s movement for equality.



My thanks to Hugo Leggatt who sent me the fascinating information about the breakup of the Sandilands marriage and the Leggatt ancestry. Of course, any errors or assertions in the text are my responsibility.

Censuses and Parish Registers ( and

England and Wales Probate Calendar (

Death Certificate of Georgina Matilda Bethune Rowley [sic] Registered 30th May 1891.

Marriage Certificate of Georgina Mary Bethune Leggatt and Robert Young Rowley 14th February 1873.

Morning Post 8th September 1821; Morning Advertiser 15th August 1831; Leicestershire Mercury 29th December 1838; Sussex Advertiser 10th February 1840, 26th July 1841; Newcastle Journal 7th March 1840; Evening Mail June 11th- 14th 1852; Morning Chronicle 12th June 1852.