Category Archives: Suffolk

Catherine Jacomb

The wedding of Catherine Jacomb and Theodore Eccleston in April 1746 was a fine occasion.  Widely reported in the papers, here is the account from the London Evening Post:

Theodore Eccleston, of Crowfield in the County of Suffolk, Esq; was marry’d at Mortlake, to Miss Kitty Jacomb, of Ipswich, a Lady of great Merit, and a handsome Fortune.  The Ceremony was perform’d by the Rev. Mr. Arnold, and the Bride was led to Church by John Anstis, Esq; Garter Principal King at Arms, attended by several Gentlemen and Ladies.

A son, named Theodore, was born in 1747 and the family doubtless held out hope for a great future.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Catherine died in 1748; her young son followed in 1751, and Theodore Eccleston died in January 1753.

Catherine Jacomb was the daughter of Samuel Jacomb (1685—1757) and Flora Green (1683—1765).  Samuel and Flora appear to have had at least four children, but the others all vanish without trace and it is possible that Catherine was the only one to survive to adulthood.  Her father was a younger son of a large and flourishing London family of merchants and bankers – one brother was an MP and close to Sir Robert Walpole. Samuel Jacomb was a long-time Collector of Customs in Ipswich as well as a wine merchant (one feels these two activities may have gone well together), having before been Collector of Customs at Wisbech and Great Yarmouth. As well as collecting customs, Samuel Jacomb was an enthusiastic collector of books, and among them he subscribed to the first edition of Joshua Kirby’s Method of Perspective.

Henry Stebbing

The Rev. Henry Stebbing (1716—1787), FRS, FSA, seems to have been as mild and pleasant a man as he is said by his son to have been. His personality may have been influenced by that of his father, Rev. Henry Stebbing (1687—1763), who was anything but. Henry Stebbing the elder was a tireless champion of what he considered to be religious orthodoxy and an inveterate challenger of those with whom he disagreed. He took on Methodists, Quakers, Bishop Hoadly, James Foster and William Warburton. The usually sober DNB characterizes these pamphleteering spats as “entertainingly vituperative” and notes that some of the best bits were reprinted in the Gentleman’s Magazine. Stebbing’s staunch defense of the Anglican hierarchy, and the Bishop of London in particular, did nothing to harm his career. He was appointed rector of a variety of parishes in Norfolk and Suffolk, most notably Garboldisham, and in 1731 was appointed preacher to Gray’s Inn in London. The next year he was appointed a Chaplain in Ordinary to the king, becoming archdeacon of Wiltshire in 1735, and Chancellor of Sarum in 1739. He died at Gray’s Inn in 1763, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.

Henry Stebbing the elder married Sarah Camell of the extensive Suffolk and Norfolk Camell family and together they had five children of whom Henry was the second child and eldest son. Henry was borh in 1716 in Rickinghall, Suffolk, where his father was the rector at the time. In due course Henry followed his father to St. Catherine’s College in Cambridge, taking his BA in 1738 and becoming a fellow of the college in 1739. He was ordained deacon in 1739 and priest in 1741; his first appointment was vicar of Coton in Cambridgeshire before he was appointed rector of Gimingham and Trunch, Norfolk in 1748, a post he held until his death, although he does not seem to have been resident. Following his father, he was appointed preacher at Gray’s Inn in 1749 and was also a Chaplain in Ordinary to the king. Henry’s brother, Robert, also entered the clergy and was a long-time rector of Beaconsfield, where his gravestone records that he was “for a period of thirty-one years the assiduous and constantly residing Rector of this Church”. Meanwhile, Henry lived at Gray’s Inn.

Continue reading

Thomas Anguish

Thomas Anguish (1724—1785) FRS was a barrister who rose to become Accountant-General to the Court of Chancery. Originally from Beccles in Suffolk he was the only son of Thomas Anguish and Mary Elmy. His great-grandfather had married into the Allin family and Thomas had hopes that his eldest son, also Thomas, would one day inherit the estate of Somerleyton from the Allins.

Thomas Anguish’s will discusses various contingencies of bequests depending on when or if his son inherited, which he did in 1794 after the last Allin died. However, the younger Thomas Anguish never married and, according to Venn, ‘died a lunatic’ in 1810, whereupon the estate passed to his brother Rev. George.

Thomas Anguish was the chief of the Commissioners of the Public Accounts and wrote all of their reports except the last, which appeared after he died. The Commissioners of the Public Accounts were effectively the government’s first thorough auditors. Their reports focused on one area of public expenditure after another and were incredibly thorough and, remarkably, unbiased. Every parliamentary bill drawn up as a result of their recommendations passed into law.

Thomas Anguish was elected to the Royal Society in 1766, the citation on his election certificate reading:

Thomas Anguish Esquire of Great Russel Street Bloomsbury Accomptant General to the High Court of Chancery, a Gentleman very conversant in most branches of natural knowledge being desirous of the honour of election into the Royal Society, we upon our Personal knowledge do recommend him as a Gentleman likely to be a usefull member of the Society

Once elected, Thomas Anguish went about supporting other candidacies, including that of Joshua Kirby the following year. Perhaps Anguish’s Suffolk background explains his support of Kirby, although I do not think we should read too much into it: Anguish supported no fewer than 33 candidates.

Thomas Anguish was active until his death 31 December 1785, reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine as being, ‘of indigestion, occasioned by eating a quantity of cold oysters for supper’.

Thomas Forster

A certain amount of mystery and confusion surrounds the Rev. Thomas Forster (?—1785), Rector of Halesworth in Suffolk. Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses has him born around 1708, coming from Durham, attending Queens’ College, ordained priest in 1735, and “perhaps” Vicar of Tunstead and Rector of Halesworth. The CCED is more cautious, listing two Thomas Forster’s as Rector of Halesworth, but noting that they are possibly not the same. In fact, the Durham Thomas Forster was the son of Rev. Joseph Forster of Norton in County Durham and died in 1743 at the age of 35.

Our Thomas Forster must be the other one (CCED #125060), about whom less is known. Although the CCED doesn’t give a Venn reference for this chap, he is presumably the Thomas born around 1722 who was son of George Forster (or Foster) of Barbados and one of three sons sent to Cambridge. This 1722 Thomas was ordained priest in 1746 and promptly appointed Vicar of Tunstead and, later the same year, Rector of Halesworth.

Thomas held Tunstead for thirty years before turning it over to his son Samuel, and was Rector of Halesworth until he died. I think. One complication is an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal for 10 August 1765 for an auction of “All the entire Houshold Furniture, and other valuable Effects of the Rev. Mr. Forster, at the Rectory in Halesworth…” We shall cheerfully assume he sold off all his belongings, including “a vertical Harpsicord of curious Construction, a reflecting and refracting Telescope, a Wilson microscope” etc. on a whim and press on.

Thomas Forster married Elizabeth Thompson of Southwold and they had at least four children who survived to adulthood. The eldest, Thompson Forster was an “eminent surgeon”. Samuel was the second son and went on to be Headmaster of Norwich Grammar School as well as Rector of Shotley. The third son, John, was also a clergyman. A daughter, Elizabeth, married Edward Berry in 1766 in London. Berry was apparently a merchant who generated a large family and then promptly died leaving a poor widow and numerous progeny. Their son, Edward Berry, joined the Navy and rose to become an admiral, being captain of Nelson’s flagship, the Vanguard, at the Battle of the Nile. Beforehand, he had recently married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Samuel Forster.

Thomas Forster wrote a couple of tracts on religious doctrine and had a collection of sermons published. In 1766, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the citation reading,

Thomas Forster Clerk, Rector of Halesworth in the County of Suffolk, being desirous of the Honor of Election into the Royal Society: We the underwritten recommend him on our personal knowledge, as a Gentleman well versed in several Branches of Literature, likely to be a useful member of the Society, & deserving that Honor,

although he does not appear to have done anything very noteworthy at the Society. In 1767, he was one of the proposers for Joshua Kirby’s election.

Trading Livings

Advowson and presentation was the right to nominate a person to a vacancy in a parish in England, subject to the approval of the bishop. Appointment as a vicar, deacon, or curate, could be for life and could be a valuable position. The resources available to such livings varied enormously, but many clergy could live quite comfortably off their parish lands. The right of advowson was tradable and was often bought by someone with a son who needed a living.

In the Ipswich Journal of June 15 1850 appeared the following announcement.

The incumbent was William Kirby, and he died on July 4 1850.

I do not know how much the advowson went for, but the next rector was John Schreiber, son of William F. Schreiber of Ipswich, on presentation by his father in September 1850.

William Kirby of Barham

William Kirby (1759—1850) was a long-time rector of Barham in Suffolk and a famous entomologist. He was the son of Lucy Meadows of Witnesham and William Kirby, Joshua Kirby’s brother.

William went to school in Ipswich and then up to Cambridge before taking orders. He soon landed a ‘snug berth’ as curate, and later rector of Barham, a position he held until his death. “I walked over one evening from my father’s house carrying my own bundle and here I have been ever since and a nice snug berth it was for a young fellow to step into.”

Kirby’s interest in the natural world was sparked by his mother, and having exhausted local plants, he turned to insects. He came to entomology at a fortunate time. Few humans had ever paid much attention to bugs and the field was wide open. William Kirby was a patient, detailed observer, carefully seeking out the defining characteristics of his specimens. His first major work, Monographia Apum Angliae, was published in 1802, detailed and related some 200 species of English bees, about 90% of which he had caught in and around his own parish. This book was followed by the monumental multi-volume Introduction to Entomology, written with his long-time collaborator, William Spence. Kirby and Spence became a classic work, on the shelves of all with an interest in insects.

As his fame grew, fellow collectors sent him specimens from all over the world, but most of his own collecting was done quite locally. He would go out and, quite literally, “beat the bushes” with his walking-stick, catching falling insects on a sheet of newspaper.

Kirby brought a deeply religious humility to his studies. Firmly convinced that his research was uncovering God’s intricate design, his belief in the fallibility of imperfect human reasoning made him cautious about sweeping generalizations. He was aware of how little was known.

Two quotes from his obituary in the Gentlemen’s Magazine sum up both his achievements and his character:

Rev William Kirby FRS

July 4. At Barham, Suffolk, in his 92nd year, the Rev. William Kirby, M.A. Rector of that place, Rural Dean of the of Claydon, and an Hon. Canon of Norwich; Honorary President of the Entomological Society of London, President of the Ipswich Museum, Fellow of the Royal, Linnean, Zoological, and Geological Societies, and an honorary member of several foreign societies.

The true secret of his passing through a long life, extending to nearly 92 years, with so much esteem and regard, and of his passing to another world with so much love and affection clinging to his memory, was that he endeavoured to live by the precepts of the Gospel, and to adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things.

Speaking without tongues

Henry Baker became interested in the case of Margaret Cutting who could speak clearly despite having no tongue, and he reported on the case in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Apparently, she had a cancer of the tongue as a young child, which caused her tongue to fall out when she was about four years old. Despite this loss, she was able to talk fluently, and sing with a good voice.

Baker first heard about her from a Benjamin Boddington, Turkey Merchant of Ipswich (about whom I know nothing else). Intrigued, Baker had Boddington, accompanied by the Rev. William Notcutt, and William Hammond, apothecary of Ipswich, go to Wickham Market (about twelve miles from Ipswich) to investigate. He sent them with a list of sounds and words with which to test her. She passed all the tests and submitted to a detailed inspection of her mouth that showed indeed she had no tongue. She could also eat and drink just as normal.

In her affidavit, Margaret Cutting said she did not know exactly how old she was, but estimated around twenty-four in 1742. This would make her very close in age to Joshua Kirby, who also grew up in Wickham Market.

After the report to the Royal Society and publication in the Philosophical Transactions, the case was reported in the London newspapers, and an extract from one of the reports was reprinted in the Ipswich Journal of 15 Jan 1743.

Five years later, after lingering doubts of the truthfulness of the case were expressed by some Fellows, they had her come up to London to the Royal Society where she was subjected to a closer analysis by Dr. Milward and Dr. James Parsons MD, FRS, who related the particulars and gave a physiological explanation of why she could still talk in the Philosophical Transactions.


Baker, H., 1742. ‘An Account of Margaret Cutting, a Young Woman, Now Living at Wickham Market in Suffolk, Who Speaks Readily and Intelligibly, Though She Has Lost Her Tongue’, Phil. Trans. 42, 143—152.

Parsons, J., 1747. ‘A Physiological Account of the Case of Margaret Cutting, Who Speaks Distinctly, Tho’ She Has Lost the Apex and Body of Her Tongue: Addressed to the Royal Society, by James Parsons M. D. F. R. S.Phil. Trans.
44, 621—626.