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From time to time I check for newly-digitised material relating to the life of Mary Barker, subject of my 2003 book "Senhora Small Fry". In the spring of 2016, I found her listed in French census returns, with her husband John Slade, whom she had married in the autumn of 1830. I had not previously known his first name, and on investigating further, I was intrigued to discover details of a book called "John Slade of Sherborne: Maltster and Bankrupt" by Robert Nantes (2014). This John Slade had done a moonlight flit on being declared bankrupt at Easter 1830, and Robert confirmed in email correspondence that he was believed to have gone abroad, but nothing was known for certain.
Strictly speaking, that remains the case, but on further investigation I have found that John Slade of Sherborne fits the known information about Mary Barker's husband rather better than I had at first believed. Here, therefore, is a summary of the information I have found about him, filling out details of his life before bankruptcy.

Parish registers of Fisherton Delamere in Wiltshire show that there was a Slade family living in the hamlet of Bapton, at the west end of Fisherton adjoining Stockton, from the late 16th century to the mid 19th century. They appear to have kept their farm intact by allowing no more than two family households to inhabit it, so most offspring in any given generation would be sent away to earn their living elsewhere. Thus the Bapton estate of Christopher Slade (born 1711) passed to his eldest son James (born about 1743, but baptised "privately"- i.e. probably into a non-conformist sect- then re-baptised in the parish church on 21 June 1746), but a younger son, Thomas, baptised 17 January 1756, also spent his life there. James married Mary Larkham of Wincanton, Somerset (baptised 15 April 1750 in the nearby parish of Penselwood) on 27 December 1773 at Kilmington, Somerset (a short distance north of Penselwood, and on the Wiltshire border, being transferred to that county in 1896). Their first child, William, was baptised at Fisherton Delamere on 10 January 1775, followed at neat two-year intervals by Ann, Elizabeth and John (baptised at 24 weeks old on 27 June 1781, but buried on 26 January 1782). The next live birth was Harriot, baptised 26 September 1785, followed by Thomas in 1788 (baptised in June but born about January), Charlotte in 1790, and a second John baptised on 24 June 1793 (apparently the last of the Slade dynasty to be baptised at Fisherton Delamere). Young William seems to have died in 1795 (unless I am confusing generations) and Harriot in 1803.

Meanwhile, on 1 January 1792, John Woolcott, carrier of Crewkerne, Somerset, signed an agreement with Thomas Pittard of Sherborne, Dorset, and William Coy of New Sarum (i.e. Salisbury), Wiltshire, to form a partnership which gave him access to the lucrative London trade [Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, ref. 906/Sal.37] via Pittard's established route from the Swan Inn, Holborn, to Taunton in Somerset [the new partnership had been advertised in the Sherborne Mercury, 21 Feb 1791]. Parish registers of St. Bartholomew's church, Crewkerne give baptism details for children of John and his wife Ann, including Elizabeth (6 Jan 1788), Eliza (25 Dec 1789), John (2 Jan 1793), Matilda and Mary Ann (22 Apr 1796), and Philip (8 Oct 1797). Another son, George William Woolcott, was born at Sherborne, 4 August 1801, and became notable for his Christian piety [Charles H. Mayo "Bibliotheca Dorsetiensis" (1885) p222]

Coy left the partnership in April 1796 [London Gazette, 21 Jun 1796], and Woolcott, who acquired the New Inn at Sherborne that year [Dorset History Centre, ref. D/FFO/22/48], seems to have extended the route westward not long afterwards, to include Exeter in Devon, where he established a warehouse which could be used by other transport businesses [see advert for Allway's Common Stage Fly in Alfred's West of England Journal and General Advertiser, 21 Aug 1821]. His service seems to have been cheap, but often very slow, apparently because he did not have enough waggons to cope with periods of high demand, and because he would not pay the top rates for the best horses [see Dorian Gerhold, "Road Transport Before the Railways: Russell's London Flying Waggons" (1993) pp176-7; note also that Gerhold, p225, reveals the Crewkerne carrying business was run in 1737 by one Anthony Slade, who lived at the nearby village of North Perrott]. However, in 1822 the firm, now known as "John Woolcott and Sons" advertised the addition of LONDON AND EXETER FLY VANS, IN THIRTY-SIX HOURS!, under the name of THE PROTECTOR [in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, 28 Feb 1822, etc.]. The first anniversary of THE PROTECTOR was celebrated with further advertisements, particularly in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal [e.g. 17 February 1823] because it was being managed from the General Van and Waggon Office, Milford-street, Sarum. Also "and Sons" had become "& Son"- namely Philip, who commenced a new partnership agreement with his father this year [draft in the bundle of Woolcott documents in Dorset History Centre, ref. D/FFO/22/48]. It seems to have been soon after this that Woolcott & Son took over another waggon route through the New Inn, John Beale's from Weymouth to Bristol.

James Slade of Bapton was buried at Fisherton Delamere on 12 August 1815, less than a year after his wife (2 December 1814). His executors and residuary legatees were his surviving sons, Thomas and John, but his three surviving daughters each received £300 [will proved in London, 28 Feb 1816; National Archives PCC Wills ref. PROB 11/1577/357]. The main family asset was the copyhold estate at Bapton.

On 20 January 1820, Elizabeth Woolcott married her almost exact contemporary Thomas Slade of Bapton, by licence at Sherborne (official documents referring to the couple, including this marriage licence, tend to have the right birthplaces but take 2 years off their ages; however, newspaper reports are helpful in confirming their identities):
Salisbury and Winchester Journal, Monday, January 24, 1820; p4:
On Thursday last was married at Sherborne, Dorset, by the Rev. Mr. Parsons, Mr. Thomas Slade, of Wily, Wilts, to Miss Woolcott, daughter of Mr. Woolcot, of Sherborne ["... of Mr. J. Woolcott ..." in Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday, January 29, 1820].
So Elizabeth joined Thomas in Wylye, the next village to the east of Bapton, before moving to Stockton, the next village to the west of Bapton, about 1823 (where they set up a malting and brewing business). The oldest Slade sister, Ann married one William Pitterow. Thomas's other older sister Elizabeth (known to her family as Betty), who had moved to Fisherton Anger, the western suburb of Salisbury, married Thomas Whittle of that place on 28 August 1805. It may well be significant that there was a Whittle family in the Bapton area, and Elizabeth Slade's husband could have been "Thoms Whittle" son of Edmond & Ann, who was baptised at Fisherton Delamere on 1 October 1775. We ought also, perhaps, to note that Pigot's Directory for 1823 names the landlord and brewer at the Plume of Feathers in Halfmoon Street, Sherborne, as Abel Whittle.

Philip Woolcott, shortly after the expansion of his role in the family business, was married at Yetminster (a few km south-west of Sherborne) on 1 July 1823, to Martha Matthews of Chetnole (whose father, the late John Matthews, had been a witness to John Woolcott's will in 1818) [see also marriage announcement in Bath Chronicle, 10 Jul 1823]. On 6 April 1825, John Woolcott handed full control of the business to Philip "in consequence of his ill state of health" [advert in Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, 21 Apr 1825]; by the end of June he was dead [Bath Chronicle, 30 Jun 1825]. His will gave his sons the option to continue his business, or allow his trustees to sell it and each take a share of the proceeds; either way, the estate as a whole, which included land in both Dorset and Somerset, was to be divided equally between his children (his wife had died a few months earlier [Bath Chronicle, 30 Dec 1824]) [will dated 26 Sep 1816, re-signed with new witnesses, 22 Dec 1818, proved 13 Mar 1826; National Archives PCC Wills ref. PROB. 11/1710]. Also possibly relevant: John's will was witnessed both in 1816 and 1818 by Lawrence King of Sherborne, and the London Gazette of 6 July 1830 records the dissolution of a partnership between John Woolcott [i.e. presumably the son] and Lawrence King as common carriers from London to Exeter.

One unexpected result of this will seems to have been that Mrs Thomas Slade inherited the waggon route from Bristol to Weymouth via Sherborne. Her husband (possibly also benefiting from the death at 70 of his uncle, Mr Thomas Slade of Bapton, buried at Fisherton Delamere on 14 Oct 1825 ["after a long affliction" according to the Salisbury & Winchester Journal, 17 Oct 1825]) opted not to leave Stockton, and brought in his younger brother, John Slade, to run the route from Sherborne. This was advertised in the Dorset County Chronicle on 4 May 1826, then as far afield as Birmingham [Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 12 Jun 1826], by "THOMAS and JOHN SLADE (Successors to John Beale and Philip Woolcott)".

Both brothers also ran malting businesses, John's being at Market Street, Sherborne. The Dorset County Chronicle, 27 March 1828, and the Exeter Weekly Times, 5 April 1828, record that "At a meeting of the Magistrates for the Sherborne division, held on Thursday last, Mr John Slade, maltster of that town, was charged with sprinkling a quantity of grain making into malt. ..." (sprinkling water on barley being turned into malt increases the eventual alcohol yield; hence the process was regulated by law, and was supposed to be overseen by Excise officers). He was acquitted, because when the magistrates consulted the relevant Act of Parliament to establish the correct penalty for the offence, they found that it used the phrase "maker of salt" instead of "maker of malt"- the same mistake occurring in every copy they could find. It seems likely that this widely-reported incident provided the initial impetus for the dissolution of the partnership between Thomas and John, which they announced on 31 October that year. From then on, John seems to have struggled- but it wasn't necessarily all his fault. The London Gazette of 24 November 1829 lists him and another Sherborne maltster, John Withye snr., among the creditors and assignees of Isaac Bishop of the White Hart on Cheap Street [see also documents in Dorset History Centre, ref. D/FFO/12/87]. Still, three months later, he had to place an advert in the Sherborne Mercury (1 March 1830) reassuring customers that his waggons were still running, and that he intended "starting an EXTRA WAGGON for the conveyance of LIGHT GOODS".

This web page is now starting to overlap very substantially with the work of Robert Nantes, so I'll simply note that his narrative consists largely of a flashback from Easter Monday 1830, showing why John, hounded by creditors including his own sister Mrs Whittle, loaded his most prized possessions on a cart and disappeared from Sherborne forever in the small hours of that morning. Eventually, we may establish whether this 36-year-old John Slade was the same John Slade (aka Slade-Smith, probably aged 35 or under) who married Miss Mary Barker a few months later. So far the only evidence we have is a comparison of signatures, as shown here (by courtesy of Sherborne Museum and Jim Schofield).
John Slade signatures comparison
Although the signature on the 1830 marriage to Mary Barker is within the range of the earlier signatures from Sherborne (and differences can be explained by the need to fit between ruled lines), I would not wish to base the case for identity on, in effect, a single comparison. I hope that French archives will eventually reveal more relevant documents.
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