The Pursuit of Gentility

 Gent Family Papers 1786-1840

from the marriage of John Gent & Sarah Booth

to the death of John Gent

Part One

•1786 Marriage Settlement of John Gent and Sarah Booth


Joseph Gent father of John Gent on the marriage of his son and in consideration of £400 being secured to John Gent by John Booth father of Sarah Booth as a marriage portion and of John Booth having agreed to settle £200 on the issue of marriage, conveys to Richard Wood and the Reverend Joshua Stonehewer as trustees the farm of Middlehulme, and Acrehead purchased from Thomas Chapman.

Joseph Gent to receive £40 a year for his life out of rental; after his death to reverend Daniel Turner and John Hollins as trustees.

In case Joseph Gent's widow Mary Gent shall declaim her dower she shall receive £10 per annum and the remainder to John Gent for his life. Then his widow Sarah Gent to have £20 per annum for her life. After John Gent's death to Ralph Oakden and John Booth, grazier, as trustees, then to John Gent's son in tail.

Trustees, Turner and Hollins to raise by mortgage £500 after Joseph Gent's death to be applied as he shall direct. John Gent acknowledges receipt of £400 marriage portion of Sarah Booth.

John Hollins prepared John and Sarah Gent's Marriage Settlement 1786 for £10 so he was a lawyer.

• 1787

Agreement 14 May 1787 between John Kent of Moreton yeoman and John Booth the tounger of Congleton yeoman of the one part and William Smith of Congleton gentleman of the other part; sale of property occupied by John Kent to William Smith for 80 years for £140.

• 1789

John Booth, Grandmother's father (who died 18 September 1798) by his will dated 10 June 1789 (Proved 20 June 1799) gives to his son John Booth, John Hollins of Knutsford and William Lowndes of Sandbach £500 on trust to pay the interest to his daughter Ann, widow of John Booth late of Astbury Grazier and then to divide among her issue [three sons and three daughters - one was Mrs Craig] except the son (John Booth also) who shall be entitled to estates in Smallwood and Congleton which were settled by his grandfather Thomas Booth and £400 to pay the interest to Sarah wife of John Gent and also £10 per annum to each of his two daughters from a Chief rent purchased from Samuel Leadbeater also a Chief from Mr Kent of Moreton and legacy to his sister Elizabeth Booth, and to Elizabeth wife of Revd Joshua Stonehewer.

• 1789

John Booth [Grandmother's Father] by will dated 1789 left legacies to son William [!!??] Booth, daughters Ann Booth [widow of John Booth of Astbury] and Sarah Gent. Trustees John Hollins Knutsford and William Lowndes Sandbach.

• Deeds of Middlehulme 1791-1822

1791 Joseph Gent late of Middlehulme now of Springs Leek to Thomas Moult of Mere publican for £500.

1799 Joseph Gent and Thomas Moult to Thomas Hulme Nether Knutsford threadmaker for further £300.

1811 Joseph Gent and John Gent of Spen Green apportionment of £200 part of £500 raisable under trusts of John Gent's marriage settlement from two estates in Leek.

1814 John Gent of the first part Reverend Daniel Turner Norton le Moors second part and John Hollins Knutsford Thomas Hulme Knutsford and Dr Howard Knutsford fourth part William Hollins Knutsford fifth part to secure Thomas Hulme and Dr Howard £1,000.

1820 Thomas Hulme first part Robert and Thomas Thornley and executors of Dr Howard second part John Gent third part William Hollins fourth part Isaac Whittaker Great Warford fifth part Assignment to Whittaker £500.

1822 Joseph Whittaker etc assignment of mortgage of £500 to Miss Mary Gent.

• 1797

John Booth of Astbury [Grandmother's father] by his will 13 May 1797, gave his son John Booth, daughter Ann Booth, and William Preston of Old Rode £800 in trust for his daughter Sarah Gent and her children along with the £200 settled on her at her marriage. [This will seems to have been of a later date and to revoke the wills on p.121 and 109.

• 1799

John Hollins, December 5th 1799, received £600 from John Booth junior which with £400 more to be advanced by him and left by his father to Sarah Gent and her children is about to be put out at interest on security of an estate in Yorkshire. [This would be the thousand pounds settled on Grandmother at her marriage.]

• 1801

Probate Copy

Will of John Leadbeater of Congleton

In the Name of God Amen. I John Leadbeater of Congleton in the Co. of Chester Gentleman being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner following that is to say First I will and direct all my just debts funeral expenses and the charge of the probate of my will to be paid and subject thereto I give devise and bequeath all and every my real and personal estate whatsoever and wheresoever to my son in law John Booth of Congleton Gentleman To hold unto him his heirs executors administrators and assigns for ever according to the nature of the tenure thereof respectively and do nominate the said John Booth sole executor of this my will hereby revoking all former wills.

10 April 1801 John Leadbeater

Witnesses: Francess Gee Elizabeth Booth Richard Malbon

This John Booth was Grandmother Sarah Gent's brother.

• 1818

Agreement 3 August 1818 Between John Gent of Spen Green Astbury Gentleman and Thomas Leadbeater of same place Gentleman for the sale to Thomas Leadbeater of Spen Green for £600 Tenement and two fields etc on north side of road from Congleton to Sandbach.

• Copied from paper written by Aunt Gent

Joshua Stonehewer Vicar of Audley Staffs baptised 1737 died 12 June [or January?] 1790, married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Mary Lowndes, who was baptised May, 1736.

John son of Thomas and Elizabeth Hollins baptised January 13th 1761.

Elizabeth daughter of Reverend Joshua and Elizabeth Stonehewer baptised June 6th 1774. Sponsors: Tollet Esq, Mrs Vaudrey, Miss E. Moreton.

Jane daughter of Joshua and Elizabeth Stonehewer baptised 19th March 1776 (alive 1843). Sponsors: Mr Leadbeater, Miss Sarah Booth [Grandmother], Miss Jane Stonehewer.

Miss Hollins of Knutsford says Elizabeth Lowndes was married to Thomas Hollins of Barthomley who died July 1767 aged 39. She also says Elizabeth Lowndes was half sister to Grandmother Sarah Gent; if so, John Booth, Grandmother's father, must have married her mother Mary after Thomas Lowndes's death. Miss Hollins also says Grandmother Sarah Gent was cousin to the Vaudreys of Millgate, whose daughter Ann married the Reverend James Egerton Mainwaring of Elliston Staffordshire and then of Bodenhall near Keele. This James E. Mainwaring born 1750 died 1808 married Anna only child of Thomas Vaudrey of Middlewich.

Elizabeth daughter of Reverend Joshua Stonehewer appears to have died before 1819 according to a letter of Aunt Mary Gent. Miss Hollins tells me Jane Stonehewer baptised 1776 married a Mr Armitt.

• [Congleton



Captain Gent

The Eagles Inn




Alc[umlow] 29 May [c.1808?]


I am afraid you will be in suspense expecting to see Mr Booth and I. Mr Booth has took such pains on account of this journey as will not be proper to point out till I see you. We could not have set out before the second of June, and as the time is nearly over and I thought you was not very urgent to see us, I went to Mr Booth and told him that something had happened that I could not possibly leave and I think he has also given it up. As to sending you the particulars of our goings on here […] my mind everything goes on extremely well. The timber goes on very well, the cows do very well when they begin to give sufficient of milk. Mrs Goodyar has been here or else there has been nothing in particular. When your father went to Leek he found Mary so much disappointed it almost made her ill after expecting her father and mother. I have likewise heard from John and wrote to him. I am told that Wrexham is the first place anywhere to buy shoes at for you or the children. A man of the name of Scroes [?] is the first person. Pray could you meet with any sheep skins in your journeys I hope you bring us a carpet with you.

Your father has been here every day and is very well. Mrs Furefall [?] and Mrs Horton have been here, my sister Booth drank tea here yesterday was the first time I have seen her she desires her love to you. I am sorry to hear you have not been well, I hope you will take every prudent method to keep your health. I cannot say I have been a day well since you left and the thoughts of this journey has confused me the whole time. The greatest comfort I have had is of Mary Booth being with me a day or two. She is here and gives her love to you. The servants have been remarkably steady. No room to say more till Joseph and Henery join in best love with your affectionate wife

S. Gent


¶ John Gent, 1761-1840, was a Captain in the Cheshire Yeomanry during the period of the Napoleonic Wars. He was known for his drinking, and a story relates how he once tried to ride his horse up the stairs of his home. The reference to Alcumlow Hall suggests an early date. This was the birthplace of Henry Gent, before the family moved to Spen Green. Alcumlow Hall is opposite the famous Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire.


July 24th [c.1811?]


Dear Sir,

The time is arrived when your purchase from Mr Morris must be completed, and you well know what a clamour will be raised by him if you are not ready with your money.

We […] having him over to Þx the abatement to be made for the deÞciency of land, in a few days he will write his report, when it will be necessary to send the papers to Mr Morris's attorney and to have a time appointed for Þnishing the business. The 1,000 guineas intended to be advanced you upon mortgage to ready.

I have time ago reminded you about being ready with the rest, and told you if you thought faceclare [Falkener?] to be unknown but not having since heard from you I have been led to conclude you are fully prepared. However this I must know with certainty before the day of meeting can be named. therefore let me hear from you without delay.

I have made the best terms I could with Mr Vaudrey and Mr Falkener [?] in fact no one else would have purchased. You will have to sign the contract of sale.

Remember me kindly to dear Mrs Gent

Yours sincerely

John […]

¶ This was possibly written by John Hollins, a solicitor and possibly a relation. The letter may refer to the purchase of the Spen Green property.

• To the Young Ladies

at Mrs Roe's

Moody Hall



I flatter myself, dear young ladies, that you will pardon this address and give it a patient consideration, since it is not like the generality of anonymous addresses calculated to make mischief. I have heard that you intend to subscribe in order to buy cakes etc on the anniversary of our revered Sovereign's coronation, notwithstanding your amiable Patroness has promised to treat you with an agreeable refreshment. Is then, the gratification of appetite the most suitable method of shewing heartfelt satisfaction? Is it your greatest enjoyment? I cannot believe it - I am persuaded your intention has not been reflected upon.

Allow me therefore to suggest a more laudable employment of your superfluity. In many towns of Great Britain, with the metropolis at their head, a public dinner and illumination were proposed, but their plans of selfish enjoyment and useless prodigality, have almost universally been given up and the cost of them appropriated to the relief of the wretched: a purpose far more worthy, and far more congenial to the feelings of the benevolent Monarch whose long reign we commemorate!

Will you then, dear young ladies, be less humane, less capable of self-denial, than him, hackneyed in the ways of the world? In this town there are two public charities, one for the instruction of the ignorant, the other for the relief of want and all its train of woes - woes which may you never feel except by sympathy - woes of which they who live in plenty can form no idea. Your subscription to either of these would be gratefully received, and I appeal to your judgement, your reason, your hearts - would not the remembrance of a good action, would not the 'blessing of him who is ready to […]' afford you a more lasting satisfaction than to taste the most exquisite viands? The former is durable, the latter transient - to satiety succeeds disgust - to benevolence and self-denial ineffable delight. Pardon, dear young ladies, the freedom with which I have expressed my sentiments. I have used the privilege of a friend, for such I am, but I presume not to dictate, nor have I the slightest interest in your compliance with my suggestions. Make yourselves happy therefore in your own way. That you may desire to be eternally so, is the fervent wish of your sincere though

Unknown Friend


Congleton, Octr 20th 1809


¶ Presumably this was the school which Mary Gent attended. She was born in 1793, so would have been sisteen years of age at the time this anonymous letter was written. The celebrations were for the Jubilee of King George III.


• This is the last Will and Testament of me Joseph Gent of Liverpool in the County of Lancaster Landing waiter in his Majesty's Customs first I order and direct the payment of all my just debts funeral expenses and the charges of the Probate of this my Will Then I give devise and bequeath All that my Leasehold Messuage or Dwellinghouse and Premises with the appurtenances wherein I now dwell together with all my household goods and furniture as also all the residue and remainder of my estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever unto my dear Wife Ann Gent for and during the term of her natural life or so long as she shall continue my widow and no longer for her own use and disposal to bring up and educate my four youngest children and from and immediately after her death or second marriage which shall first happen then I give devise and bequeath the same and every part unto my executors hereinafter named upon trust for my infant children until the four youngest shall attain their respective ages of twenty one years and then to be divided between them and my two other children Randle Gent and James Gent share and share alike first reserving unto my dear wife her third part thereof I hereby nominate constitute and appoint my Brother John Gent of Spen Green in the County of Chester Farmer and Eli Harrison of Liverpool aforesaid gentleman Executors of this my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former and other Will and Wills by me heretofore made and I declare this to be my last Will In Witness whereof I the said testator have hereunto set my hand and seal the second day of February one thousand eight hundred and eleven.

J. Gent L. S.

Signed sealed published and declared by the said Testator as and for his last Will and testament in the presence of us who at his request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses.

H. Blackhurst Richard Kent Edwd Dod


¶ Joseph Gent was the younger brother of John Gent. Born in 1765, he was the most intelligent of the family, almost certainly educated by his Turner uncles or cousins, and received a university education. He married Ann Harrison on 21st February 1792, when he was twenty-five, and she was already expecting their first child, Randle, who was baptised on the 25th of September that same year. His early death in 1811 left his wife with six children, of whom only the youngest was to marry and leave descendants.


• [An Account of Mr John Gent with the Representatives of the late Mr John Booth Deceased]



• John Gent esq

[Alcu] Spen Green

near Congleton



Liverpool March 1811


Dear Uncle,

We had the pleasure of hearing from my Cousin Mary today, who I find is at Knutsford, and has been since she left Liverpool. I am sorry we had such disagreeable weather whilst you were here, as it made L'pool so very dull and dirty, for my Cousin had no pleasure, as the weather would not admit me to show her the Town, and shipping etc.

My brother James is going in the Progress for Quebec, and will sail in the course of a week or fortnight. The Captain seems quite fond of him, and I have no doubt but he will be his friend, if he conducts himself as he ought to do. I see by Mary's letter Henry would not like to be a sailor, I suppose you are too much afraid of him, but I would by all means put him to what his inclination leads him to. I wish we were settled, as I have not the least doubt, but what I could make him very comfortable with me (that is if you should wish him to go into an office in this Town: I think he is very active and likewise well calculated for a Merchant or Broker. I wish very much I had time to come to see you, but we are so busy about our new habitation that I cannot possibly leave home. My Mother, I am happy to say, meets with a number of Friends, and I have no doubt but she will come on very well in the business she's going to undertake. I should like to see Henry in L'pool and if you can possibly spare him, I wish you would let him come; then I can have some conversation with him, and he will be company for James before he goes to sea. I hope my Grandfather and Grandmother are well, for they are both very old, and I am afraid the unhappy news of my Father's death has hurt them very much. Please to tell them that they shall have a letter from me in a day or two, and please to plead an excuse for my Mother and Mary Green not writing as they are so very busy looking after the new house which is fitting up for us; it is situated in Price's Street near the Custom House which is a very desirable situation. Mary Green has sent some things directed to my Cousin Mary to be left at my Aunt Clowes's, who I suppose will forward them to your house immediately. I shall always be very happy to hear from you, or any of my cousins, and I wish very much to be friends with my Aunt Harrison as it pains me very much to think she is so deserted; if you see her in company I would be glad if you would break the ice for me and say we were making every enquiry about her. After we are settled we shall be glad to see any of you and we will make you as comfortable as possible. They all join me in love and respects to you all

Friends and believe me

Yours truly

Randle Gent

P. S. If you wish Henry to go into an office I know I can fix him very comfortable and after we are fixed he can live with us, but let him come and see.


¶ His grandfather Joseph Gent died at Middlehulme 27th October 1811. His grandmother Mary, née Turner died 5th November 1815. 'Aunt Clowes' was Ellen Gent, his father's eldest sister, who married Robert Clowes on 24th of June 1777, when she was eighteen. James presumably was seeking his fortune at sea - he was the second of Joseph and Ann's children.

• [Ship Fletcher]


Doctor Gent



Liverpool 26th Nov 1812




By the request of your Father I have this day sent a box for you per the ship Fletcher which I hope you will get safe. I am informed it's been a long time, of which I was sorry to hear, as most likely you must be in great wants of it; the above mentioned vessel is the first that's gone from this, since I knew of it. I saw a friend of yours from Congleton the other day who informed me that all at your house and neighbourhood were very well - Cousin Gents here are but indifferent. I am sorry to say poor Randle gone on board a Man of War. In hopes that you will have your health and prosper in your present undertakings. I remain

Sir, Your ever Wellwisher

James Turner


¶ This letter is written to Dr John Gent of Tortola, West Indies, by his cousin James Turner, brother or nephew of John Turner of Nile St, Liverpool (brother of Mary Turner, whom my great grandfather Joseph married, and who lived a bachelor with a manservant Birtles), and son of Daniel and Elizabeth Turner of Meerbrook. FTG

I do not know what became of Randle Gent. He was presumably taken by a press gang during the Napoleonic wars. The history of this branch of the family is of interest, and there is an account of a meeting with one of its descendants almost a hundred years later.


¶ Actually, except for lumber, the British at first saw little value in owning the Virgin Islands. They discouraged settlement, and it was not until 1680 that a sizeable group of English planters from Anguilla set up a permanent colony on Virgin Gorda. A deputy governor and council were appointed, and Virgin Gorda be-came the first capital of the British Virgin islands, which it remained until 1742, when the seat of government was trans-ferred to Tortola.

The first census was taken in 1717. It showed 317 whites and 303 Negroes on Virgin Gorda, and 159 whites and 176 Negroes on Tortola. Three years later, a second census recorded a combined popu-lation of 1,122 whites and 1,509 Negroes for the two islands.

Missionaries &emdash; Quakers, Anglicans, and Methodists &emdash; were among the first arrivals. They established schools and provided religious instruction. Anglicans were cautious about Christianizing slaves, but Methodists went straight to the fields.

Quaker influence was strong in the B.V.I. The first mission was established in 1727. Prominent local Quakers included John Pickering, first native-born lieutenant-governor; Dr. John Coakley Lettsom, founder of the London Medical Society; and William Thorton, designer of the United States Capitol and first U.S. Commissioner of Patents.

During the early years, agricultural production consisted mainly of small quantities of sugar, molasses, and cotton, which planters traded with neighboring islands. Good years were rare, and most families struggled to survive. Growth was also hindered by frequent raids from Spanish and French privateers.

In contrast, the eighteenth century marked a period of unprecedented growth. While European wars sparked hostilities on neighboring islands, the Virgin Islands went relatively unscathed, leaving planters free to grow and market crops at inflated wartime prices. Exports of sugar and cotton increased dramatically. By 1751 annual production reached a million pounds of cotton and a thousand casks of sugar; in 1752 the Virgin Islands became England's major West Indian supplier of cotton. A mail packet-station was established in Road Town, and scheduled convoys escorted produce to European markets.

Rapid growth and the remote location of the islands bred a general lawlessness in the B.V.I. The Leeward Islands government showed little interest in local affairs, and courts were dominated by a small group of self-serving planters. Conditions improved somewhat when King George granted the Virgin Islands constitutional government in 1773, but disputes over land rights prevented full-scale court re-forms until 1785.

Smuggling and privateering also flourished. At the start of the Seven Years War, a vice-admiralty court was estab-lished in Road Town. The generosity of the court in awarding spoils to privateers encouraged many islanders to join the hunt for "enemy" vessels.

Although laws against smuggling were strict, tons of Danish and French sugar was passed through Road Town en route to England as "British" merchandise. To reduce smuggling, Road Town was declared a free port in 1802.

Trade between North America and the Virgin Islands was brisk. In exchange for molasses, planters received lumber, staves, dried fish, and livestock. The North American-West Indian alliance became known as the Triangle Trade. After reaching North America, West Indian molasses was processed into rum, and then shipped to Africa. In Africa, rum was traded for slaves, who were piled into dark holds and carried to West Indian plantations. Living conditions on slavers were extremely poor; on each crossing, nearly one third of the captives perished.

Surprisingly enough, the British Virgin Islands remained loyal to the Crown during the American War of Independence (1775-83). This was partly because sugar acts, which Yankees found so offensive, worked to the benefit of West Indian colonies.

The booming prosperity of the eighteenth century was based on the assurance of a steady supply of free labor. Following the Peace of Paris (1815), the future appeared uncertain for planters. The slave trade had been abolished in 1808, and English demand for West Indian sugar and cotton declined. To make matters worse, a series of natural disasters early in the century caused extensive property and crop damage.

Planters repeatedly appealed for help, but none came. Mercantilistic attitudes toward overseas possessions were begin-ning to change. Some planters became discouraged, shut down their estates and went home. Many stayed on, however, hoping conditions would improve. But when Parliament freed the slaves in 1834, the prospect for reversal seemed hopeless.

Opposition to slavery was openly expressed in the Virgin islands long before emancipation. In 1766 John Lcttsom freed his slaves on Jost Van Dyke; in 1778 Samuel Nottingham of Tortola gave his slaves title to Estate Long Look.

An ugly incident on Tortola in 1811 signaled changing B.V.I. attitudes toward the Negro. A slave named Prosper was brutally beaten by Arthur William Hodge, a white plantation owner. Prosper died from wounds inflicted by Hodge, and the plantation owner was tried and convicted of the crime. Hodge was hanged behind the jail in Road Town.

Planters lived in constant fear of slave revolts-and for good reason. In 1790 there was an insurrection at the Pickering Estate on Tortola, and in 1831 Tortola slaves "formed a plot to murder the white males, plunder the island, seize the vessels, and then, carrying off the wives of their former masters, proceed to Haiti." The plan collapsed when the Danish warship St. Jan arrived at Tortola.

An apprenticeship system was established following emancipation. It lasted until 1838, when slaves were finally granted full freedom. Many slaves left the hated plantations. Those remaining demanded higher wages than planters could pay.

An 1834 visitor paints a bleak picture of the island: "Commerce no longer appears to exist, save only by the two or three ships which visit the harbour [Road Town] annually to carry away the scanty produce of the island's impoverished soil. And the four and a half percent duty, an impost, which appears to have been very unfairly saddled on several West Indian colonies, together with the variable and fluctuating returns from this description of property, have necessarily led to the abandonment of many estates."

In 1853 peasants went on a rampage following a rumor a white man had in-jured a Negro. Cane fields were set ablaze, sugar mills were destroyed; every white person who could escape, fled for his life. The plantation system was dead; the islands reverted to "de bush."

With the departure of planters, no one remained with adequate training to govern the islands.

Nail Bay Ruins

The Nail Bay ruins consist of several easily located plantation buildings, including a small stone structure to the right of the trail, probably the overseer's cottage; the crumbling remains of a sugar factory, where visitors can still see the boiling bench and holes where coppers once stood; a stone horsemill on the north side of the sugar factory; and a small auxiliary building just south of the factory.

Imagine the slopes above you covered with cane. With a short-handled knife, slaves cut cane, stripped off the leaves, and tied the stalks into bundles. Then, after loading the bundles on a mule or cart, they hauled cane to this site for processing.

Stalks were first crushed on the circular horsemill behind the factory. Here mules, oxen, or horses, harnessed to poles, plodded the circular course, turning a set of upright rollers in the center of the platform. Slaves passed cane between the rollers, which crushed the stalks and pressed out the juice.

A long trough carried the juice down to the boiling bench in the factory building and into the first of several large copper kettles. Fires fed with dried cane stalks heated the coppers from beneath.

Workers added lime and brought the juice to a boil, evaporating some of the water. After skimming off impurities, they ladled the juice from one copper to the next for further purification. From the last and smallest copper they poured the concentrated and purified juice into flat wooden pans to cool, dry, and crystallize. Once crystals had formed, the sugar was placed in large wooden barrels (called hogsheads) to be thoroughly dried and eventually stored. Drippings from hogs-heads were collected and used to make rum.

It took nearly five years for cane to reach maturity. Once cane was cut, the sugar factory had to operate around the clock to process the cane before it spoiled.

The men tending the boiling bench held positions of great responsibility. It was their task to determine when the juice was ready to be ladled from one copper to the next. "Many of the Negro boilers," writes an eighteenth-century historian, "guess solely by the eye, judging by the appearance of the gain on the back of the ladle; but the practice most in use is to judge by what is called 'the touch': i.e., taking up with the thumb a small portion of the hot liquor from the ladle; and, as the heat diminishes, drawing with the forefinger the liquid into a thread. This thread will suddenly break, and shrink from the thumb to the suspended finger, in different lengths, according as the liquor is more or less boiled. The proper length for strong muscovado sugar is generally determined by a thread of a quarter of an inch long."

The Nail Bay slave village was probably located somewhere on the slope below the factory building. Most slave villages con-sisted of varying numbers of cottages grouped closely together, generally about twenty feet long. They were constructed of wattle and plasters, supported by several hard wood posts driven into the ground. Floors were earthen, and roofs were thatched with palm leaves. Cooking was done outside the cottages over open fires.

Virgin Islands planters and their families lived in greathouses, which were usually modest affairs consisting of three compartments &emdash; two bedrooms and a combination drawing and dining room-built on hillsides to take advantage of prevailing trade winds.

• [watermark 1812]


John Gent Esq M. D.

Virgin Islands


West Indies


My Dearest John,

I hope you will receive your brother with all the affection and tenderness of a parent he has refused a gentlemanly good opertunityes of fixing himselfe to some to you and I am afraid you will find very deficient in his learning but in that respect you ought to have compassion for him as you know what opertunities he has had and how he has been imployed at home ever since he came from Liverpool and he has added very much to the agreeableness of our family while we have had him with us you will consider he is grown a man and you must not keep him at a distance as though he was a boy I don't doubt but you will be very happy together and you will find his wonderous worth for he is an exelent youth but if he does not keep his health I hope you will send him home in time. I have just found in the news paper and copy for your inspection

Dr Smith who is at the head of the vaccine inoculation of Maryland is said to have discovered that Kine pox is a compleat cure for the King's Evil or Scurfula even in its most inoderate form and its latest stages.

Now if you don't treat Henry well and respect and make him comfortable it will be very disgracefull in you it is by you he must learn his buisness and no other he was considered as a treasure at Mr Vaux's [?] school Mr Hollins's at Liverpool and at home where he will always be regretted.

Your father is gone for Mary from Knutsford to see Henry as he is to leave in a day or two we have write for Brian to come so I shall refer you to them for all the particulars and to poor Henry likewise who I hope will render your life there more comfortable and I hope through the will of heaven you will be very happy together You will have my daily prayers and best wishes for your health prosperity and happiness as time is very precious I must beg leave to conclude so god bless you and believe me

to be your ever affectionate Mother

S. Gent



¶ From the letter sent to her on June 8th, 1813 by her son John, we can guess that this letter must date from the summer of 1813. It is clear that Sarah Gent née Booth had only a limited education, though she appears to have brought a considerable dowry from her wealthy father, which enabled her to marry a man ten years her junior, when she was already thirty-five years old.

• February 12th 1813



Dear Sir

I have sent this by Mrs Ensor and hope you have before this come to hand have received the letter with the Bill of Callow If you have not I herewith enclose you with another, Pray let me hear whether you have got the Instruments for I am anxious to know as I am fearful you cannot do anything without them, you have inform me some time ago that you will s[h]ortly write to the old ladys one of them is dead which is Mrs Green own sister she as left the house as taken a very genteel lodging in Blackfriars road she as call upon me enquire very particular how you did she desires her love to you. I am extremely sorry to say that Lady Granard is now in the Bench this being her second time in Confinements As to Mr Gilmour he is married he desires his best respects to you Mrs Gilmour told my Mother that Dr Eyre was no more since that he heard that he still living. As for Mr King he been here two or three times but still look so mean and so shabby. That is all the Person that I know who you are acquainted with. Mrs Gilmour is certainly is a very pretty woman (I believe of no fortune, she has a very good husband) though he was so very wild before. You will I hope make yourself happy in your mind, my Mother has paid everything for you, and soon it was brought home.

I have been to Drury Lane Theatre about two months ago was perform high life below stairs, I cant say I like the entertainments at all, the House is uncommonly elegant, but the performers is not so good nor genteel as Covent Garden. The house has been so full with Lodger so I had scarcely and opportunity of filling it up so I am force to make out so many bills for my Mother as we are in expectation of a gentleman is going every minutes to joins his Regiment to Portsmouth.

I hope you will excuse this horrid writing for I am quite ashamed. Since I've wrote my Mother cough is getting quite reestablished will shortly intend to give up the Coffee room. As to my sending you something down I did not know whether was Pocket Book for this year or something that you want. tell me what to be got in Abroad then I should know what to send you.

P. S. My mother join with sincere loves to you wish you many a happy new year etc etc and said was a most ridiculous thing of being abroad well I cant say any more of what passes

I remain Dear Sir

Yours ever Affectionately

E. A. Grimaldi

Pray excuse this Scrawl as the pen is so bad.


¶ Mrs Grimaldi appears to have provided accommodation for members of the Gent family over the years, including John and Henry during their medical studies, and later for Mary on a visit to London.


• Mrs Gent

Spen Green




near Leek


Tortola June 8th 1813


My Dear Mother

An opportunity at this moment offering of writing by a vessel bound to England from a neighbouring Island induces me to scribble over a few lines in a careless manner which I have no doubt you will excuse. I wrote you by the last Packet fully about Henry's coming out I hope by this time he is on his way, it shall be my study to make him as pleasant as possible and have not a doubt but he will not considerably improvement. I hope you will not be so remiss in writing as what you have heretofore been as you have an opportunity of writing me every month a [?] calls [?] I shall be very happy to hear how you like Middle-hulme I hope you will form a pleasant genteel society in the neighbourhood If my Father does not purchase the farm adjoining it is my intent so to do I trust to fully inform'd on that subject when you write and I wish the greatest secrecy may be observed on your part on that subject. I should feel happy in corresponding with Mr Hollins, Request Mary to let me know how she is coming on in Botany as I am paying a little attention to it myself. I hope you will send me out some P[…] and P[…] when Henry comes as well as my Letters [?] etc. and a good Chair if you can spare one. I have no news worth communicating, you told me some time ago that my Aunt Booth of Belle-Vue was going to visit in Liverpool but […] know if she is gone or not. Let me know how Allen comes on and all my other Friends. Your letters which I receive are in general very short. We had a very […] Earthquake last night which lasted for near two minutes It was the longest one I ever felt but they are very frequent here. I conceive they must proceed from the Islands abounding with Volcanic Matter acted upon in a great measure by the long continued heat. You will look upon this as a most wretched scrawl but I have only this instant heard of the opportunity I am writing in the house of a most respectable Family in whose company I have been dining and in whose house I am staying tonight. It is now blowing gale of […] past eleven o' clock, excuse this […] and believe me to be Dear Mother

Your ever affectionate

J. Gent M. D.


I wonder […]

I believe his attentions proceeded from a […]

in Congleton. Remember me to my brothers Father and all my Friends.


J. G.


• 1814 John Gent of the first part Reverend Daniel Turner of Norton le Moors of the second part [……?] and John Hollins, Knutsford fourth part, William Hollins Knutsford 5th part, to secure Thomas Hulme and Doctor Howard £1,000


[Postmark: 2/3 Tortola 22 Aug 15]


Mrs Gent


Near Leek



My Dear Mother,

I have this instant received your welcome letter dated April 23rd - I am extremely sorry to hear of Mary being gone to London as I don't conceive the slight acquaintance she had with Mrs G, authoris'd a visit of this sort nor can Mrs G. introduce her to any Family who I conceive proper acquaintance. Mary has had a genteel education and ought to make good use of it and when once she lowers herself in the opinion of her friends it would have been better had that expense been saved. I am astonished you would trust her in a place like London under the protection of people you are not in the least acquainted with - Remember the hints I gave you of a certain French relation of ours who was in London.

I have not received any letter from Mr Hollins nor do I believe he has wrote me for it is a most uncommon thing for a letter to miscarry. I have about a thousand pounds laying without interest a part of which is in the hands of a Merchant who I do not consider safe. This circumstance induced me to address Mr Hollins. If my Father has any wish to make a purchase it shall be forthcoming.

Our worthy old Judge is returned. He informs me he has been very ill while in England which induced him to return much sooner than what he intended; he passed through Knutsford and Congleton in the night; he has placed his children in London. I would advise you to send my poor deceased Uncle's son to school and let him learn everything that Mr Turner can teach him. Henry gave me such an unfavourable account of his Mother and Family that has induced me to act as cautiously as possible. I have more to relate which is as well not mentioned. By this time Henry must have received the letter I last wrote him; he will therefore be at no less how to proceed. I hope and trust my Father won't occasion him the least delay and when I hear how he is coming on I will send him what I promised in my last letter. Had he not been neglected he would have done well and no doubt he will yet.

The Collector of this place is a Brother of Mrs Ford's the lady of Colonel Ford near Sandbach; he is a neighbour of mine and we commonly spend our evenings together. He is well acquainted with Mr Wilbraham and all the Families in the neighbourhood.

I am sorry you did not rent my Aunt Booth's place. I should like to hear from Brian, I would write to him but don't know his address. If Joseph would like to come out don't on any account send him until you have informed me as I would procure him a situation in some other Island. In a while I sincerely hope it may be in my power to come home next year. I have as much practice now as I can attend to with comfort and as long as I keep my health I don't want to sacrifice it. I beg you will write the moment you receive this I am very anxious to hear about Brian. Adieu for the present, God bless you all and believe me

Your affectionate son

J. Gent


August 22nd 1815

• [Postmark: Falmouth 3/]


Mrs Gent


near Leek



Tortola November 27th 181[5?]


My Dear Mother,

It gives me peculiar pleasure in finding that Henry by this time is in London. By the last Packet I enclos'd him a Bill of Exchange for one hundred pounds Sterling which sum with what he expected from his Father would be amply sufficient (with economy) to give him a Degree in Physic in Edinburg and as that gives a Man a little more consequence particularly in this part of the world it would certainly be more desirable to attain it. In my first letter to him I desired him to go to Edinburgh in preference provided he was not gone to London as he would be able to live and get his education cheaper. I could be of more service to him in Edinburgh in consequence of some of my Friends in this Island shipping their produce to some of the principle Merchants residing in Glasgow which is very near to Edinburgh.

I never hear from Mary of late and when she does write her letters are generally very short. I have not comply'd with my promise yet but if she will write me a short Thesis on Botany (choosing any subject she pleases) in French I will immediately comply. I hope she does not neglect her education as perhaps sooner or later she may move in a different society to what she now does, therefore you are well aware the more refin'd her mind is the more pleasing will be her company. I wish you would write me longer letters; give me every information of your neighbourhood. Henry speaks wretchedly of it. I wish my Father would send me a map of the state (I mean Middlehulme) very neatly done. If the neighbouring Farm is to be sold reasonable I can at any time send you from five hundred to a Thousand pounds for the purpose.

I bought a small Island the other night containing about twenty acres of land. It belonged to a poor Man whose property was levied upon and sold at Marshall's sale. It is of no use to me in consequence of it be[ing] situated too far off and I can give no reason for purchasing it but happened to make a foolish bid and it was knocked down to me; it is called Necker Island. I will send you a plan of it by the first vessel for Liverpool. If Mr Turner would ask permission at the Custom for a B[]ll of Sugar to be sent for a Friend it could be sent or otherwise it would certainly be seized. I feel a good deal fatigued having sat up a great part of last night at an old lady's in the Country whose sons performed the Play of the Orphan; I took the part of Castalis.

I have wrote myself to a stand still; you must excuse this scrawl for I have not time to be more particular.

Your ever affectionate Son

J. Gent

remember me to my Father and all Friends.


¶ I would surmise that this was in fact written in 1815, and that Henry would have served some sort of apprenticeship with his brother John for a period of two years before returning to England to study and qualify in London in 1816.

• In the Name of God, Amen. I John Gent of Tortola one of the Virgin Islands Practitioner in Physic and Surgery formerly of the County Palatine of Chester in Great Britain being somewhat indisposed of body but of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding, do make this my last Will and testament as follows first I commend my Soul to God and my body to the earth for decent interment and as to my worldly property I direct that all I may die possessed be vested in the funds or on landed property the rents issues interests dividends profits and emoluments to arise or be made annually therefrom and as the same shall arise or become due I give devise and bequeath to my dear Mother Sarah Gent of Spend Green near Congleton to and for her sole separate and absolute use and behoof without being in any wise subject to the controul debts Acts or engagements of her husband my esteemed father for and during the term of her natural life, and in case my said father should survive my said Mother then I give devise and bequeath to him for and during the remainder of the term of his natural life the said rents issues dividends profits and emoluments to arise and be made annually from thence and as the same shall arise and become due, and immediately thereafter or in the case of the decease of my father in the lifetime of my Mother, then immediately after the decease of my Mother I give devise and bequeath one half my whole Property real and personal to my beloved Sister (residing with my Mother) of the name of Mary Gent her Heirs and Assigns for ever, and the other half of the said property I give devise and bequeath to my dear Brothers Joseph, Brian and Henry Gent of Chester aforesaid, their Heirs and Assigns for ever. And lastly, I do hereby nominate and appoint my said brother Henry Gent and my friends James Robertson, Mark Dyer French, and Richard King, of Tortola, esquires, executors of this my last Will and Testament, and it is my wish and desire that my Brother Henry be wrote to, to come to this Country to make out and settle my Accounts, and as an inducement to him to do so and exert himself therein I give him further an allowance of twenty per centum on the amount of all balances of Account he may so settle and collect in, or enable any other of my executors so to do. In witness thereof I have to this my last Will and testament set my hand and Seal at Tortola the 23rd day of September 1816 - in case my brother does not come out I give Mr King ten per centum on all Monies received collected and transmitted to England.

John Gent


Signed Sealed Published and declared by the Testator John Gent to be his last Will and testament in the presence of us who at his request, in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto set our names.

F. Ingram

William Davies

Wm Jn Mackenzie


Will proved 28th September 1816


¶ Dr John Gent was but twenty-nine years old when he died in Tortola, unmarried.


• To Mr Bringale



Dear Sir,

You having failed calling on Mr Robertson respecting the pony which has caused me some censure I am now under the painful necessity of sending for him and remain

Your obedient Servant

Henry Gent


Tortola 11th June 1817



• To Surgeons etc


A young Medical practitioner a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons who has spent some time in attending an Hospital wishes for a partnership or respectable employment; the most satisfactory testimonies of regular habits and Medical and Surgical knowledge can be produced. Apply by Letter post paid etc.



Left Tortola 7th September 1817 in a boat; became becalmed on the West end by Doctor Donovan's and remained so untill Sunday 8th; at two o' clock that day made Mr Hill's bay; went ashore and remained untill a signal was hoisted in the boat; the next day got to St Thomas's, that night slept at the Inn; the victuals was dirty and the bed swarmed with bugs.




• [Leeward Island

24 Oct





Mrs Gent


Near Congleton


p. Packet Osborne


Tortola 12th September 1817


My Dear Mother,

No doubt you will be much surprised to hear of my going to America. I thought of going to the southern states but my health will not allow me at present; for these last four months I have been in this state but not until lately has it been requisite for me to make a change. I intend going to N. or S. Carolina after some time's stay in a colder part, the practice there, should there be an opening, I am told is desirable.

The most accomplished and finest young lady in this Island I hear is just dead; she has been sick, I am told, about one day. The society will be very poor in this Island; two or three of the most respectable families are lately left, it is supposed that that family will now leave for Trinidad.

I am come to St Thomas to sail for America; there are two vessels sailing tomorrow, one sails to Norfolk in N. Carolina the other to Alexandria in Virginia; I intend to go in the first vessel that sails. I shall write you on my arrival there what prospects I am likely to meet with. The sea air appears to have a wonderful good effect upon me already. I shall go from one burning part to another to endeavour to obtain a living and endeavour to save something. The Dolphin came in St Thomas's harbour last night, I received a letter from Brian and the Power of Attorney. I wrote to you merely to send a letter to the Executors authorising them to sell but it appears to me that one for his own interest persuades my Father when he delivers his account I would allow him to sue he will be obliged to prove every item or to lose that part of the account or to have his bill docked by one of the Judges. But you will be the best judge to know what to do. I am much afraid that a power will not answer the Judge who ordered me to write to the Executors. A letter was to be sent out giving all your sanctions. I think you might have trusted his opinion who has been engaged in the law for thirty years in this Country and was Attorney General for some years in the southern States of America - he quitted on account of the war. I was disappointed I did not receive a letter from you by the same conveyance. I have this morning been on board the Dolphin and got the case of instruments sent me by Mrs Grimaldi, very neatly packed up and in good order. The mail boat came in here yesterday and brought the Tortola letters down here. After looking over the letters very attentive I was disappointed to find there was none for me.

I sail for Alexandria in Virginia in a Brig by the name of Virginia tomorrow morning. I am in great hopes of meeting with an opening. Should I not even be able to become an assistant I then shall be obliged to return to England. If it is the case I must endeavour to get into the Packet or east India Service as I have no great taste now for Congleton. Remember me to relations and give my love to my Father, Mary, Joseph and my Stonehewer and others. I must conclude and remain

Your Affectionate Son

Hy Gent


• [Brian Gent Esqr

Spen Green

near Congleton


P. Brig Fairfield via Liverpool 1/3]


Richard King Esq

Tortola 16th May 1818



Dear Sir,

I have perused Mr Bryan Gent's letter addressed to you on the 21st January last, on the subject of the late Dr Gent's concerns in this country, and as I have acted as Agent for his brother Dr Henry Gent, the acting Executor, I shall give you such information as will enable the Family in England to form a just conception of the state of those affairs.

On the 12th of January last I transmitted Dr Henry Gent a full statement of the Accounts which, after debiting him with £437 1s 8 1/4d amount of his private account for monies paid over to him left £257 11s […] being […] of the Estate that is not yet in Cash, but will be in time to take up the second Instalment and Interest due to you as Executor of Mr Shearer for the House. As the Courts have now commenced I have great prospects of making large collections as I shall not feel justified in granting indulgence to any one; the greatest difficulty exists in the recovery of the medical accounts which are very considerable as to amounts but, as you well know, extremely uncertain as we cannot venture to submit them to a Court and Jury having no evidence whatever to support the demands, for which reason I have, with the approbation of all the Executors, taken some Notes, now becoming due for such reasonable sums as the parties were inclined to pay, preferring that mode to running the risk of losing the whole by suing the accounts.

You are well aware of the exertions that have been used to dispose of the house and sea lot, and of their failure. I have now seven or eight tenements, large and small, which are not half tenanted and cannot procure a purchaser for any. At the close of the courts I shall make up a particular statement of the whole of the concerns from the commencement, and deliver it to you to be forwarded to Mr Bryan Gent when I trust the measures I mean to take will raise Funds to make a Remittance home besides providing for the late Mr Shearer's claim.

I am Dear Sir

Your most Obedient Servant

Arthur Belisario


Dear Sir,

Your brother left here some time in September last for St Thomas where he was to take passage for some of the Southern States of America, since which I had not the pleasure of hearing from him. Before his departure he appointed Mr Belisario his Agent, to whom I sent your letter: the foregoing is his reply which I hope will be satisfactory to you and your friends.

I am Dear Sir

Your Obedient Servant

Richard King


Tortola 16th May 1816

Brian Gent Esqr


The Hanging of Arthur Hodge-A Caribbean Anti-Slavery Milestone - is a study of slavery in the British West Indies during the half-century before Parliament´s 1834 decision to emancipate the slaves. Its focus is on the crimes, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge, a prominent Virgin Islands planter and politician whose unprecedented hanging for the murder of Prosper, one of his own slaves, was to rouse the British anti-slavery movement from the contentment it was enjoying following the abolition of the slave trade and help direct its efforts toward the ultimate emancipation of the slaves throughout the British Empire. The life, trial and execution of Arthur Hodge is a story of great interest in its own right, but that story is also important because it was truly a milestone on the road to the end of slavery in the British Empire.

Arthur Hodge was a dominant figure in the Virgin Islands in the early 1800s. Born in the islands, he studied at Oxford and later served in the British army. His wife was a sister-in-law of the Marquess of Exeter. He was described as a man of great accomplishments and elegant manners. But evidence presented during his trial revealed another side of his character. Between 1803 and 1808 Hodge had murdered as many as sixty - or one-half - of the slaves who labored on his Tortola plantation. They died by whipping, scalding and having boiling water poured down their throats.

Although Hodge´s treatment of his slaves was common knowledge, he was only brought to trial several years after the killings as a consequence of a political and personal dispute. Hodge was found guilty of murder by a local jury and - when the Governor of the Leeward Islands chose to ignore the jury´s recommendation of leniency -became the only slave owner in the history of the British West Indies to be executed for the murder of one of his own slaves.

Hodge´s character contrasted sharply with that of his chief prosecutor, Governor Hugh Elliot, a noted diplomat and a supporter of the anti-slavery forces in Great Britain whose brother, the Earl of Minto, was currently Viceroy of India and whose brother-in-law, Lord Auckland, had - four years before - carried the bill ending the slave trade in the House of Lords.

The hanging of Arthur Hodge caused a sensation and transcripts of his trial were published in both Great Britain and the United States. The news helped to revitalize the anti-slavery forces, playing an important role in the debates leading to the establishment of slave registries and the accountability they implied throughout the Caribbean colonies.

After a brief introduction which concludes with the language of the indictment issued against Hodge and his counsel´s response that "A Negro being property, it was no greater offense for his master to kill him than it would be to kill his dog," the book opens with a short history of the settlement of the Virgin Islands and descriptions - from contemporary sources - of the lives of plantation owners and of their slaves. Included are personal descriptions of enslavement in Africa, the Middle Passage, the work and recreation of the slaves, their religious beliefs and the brutalities which some of them endured. The following chapters contain biographies of Hodge and Elliot and a recapitulation of the events which led to Hodges indictment and trial. Original transcripts and reports were used as the basis for the report of the trial and execution. The book concludes with a discussion of the effects of the Hodge affair on the anti-slavery movement and capsule descriptions of the subsequent careers some of those involved. (Governor Elliot later served in India as Governor of Madras and is buried in Westminster Abbey).

The work is based upon original and other contemporary sources, including both the published and official manuscript transcripts of Hodge´s trial and Governor Elliot´s official and private correspondence. It offers the reader firsthand insight into events which deserve to be much better known than they are today.

• Agreement 3rd August 1818 between John Gent of Spen Green, Astbury, gentleman and Thomas Leadbeater of the same place gentleman for the sale to Thomas Leadbeater of Spen Green for £66, the tenement and two fields etc on the north side of the road from Congleton to Sandbach.


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