Wealthy Hat Manufacturer

When Robert Heath stood in front of the altar with Jane Jeffcoat at Islington Parish Church on 12th April 1849, his life became inextricably linked with the wider Jeffcoat family. In fact, in life and in death the impression is that the Jeffcoat family was taken into his heart and often his home, while his involvement with his large Heath family was not as great.

Indeed, the witnesses of his marriage were Daniel Jeffcoat, Jane’s father, and Susannah Randolph, Jane’s cousin on her mother’s side. Robert’s father is given as ‘Henry Heath, Gentleman’. No mention is given of Robert’s profession on his marriage certificate, just ‘Gentleman’ as well.

Robert Heath was the fourth son of Henry Heath, a hat manufacturer of some repute with premises at 393 Oxford Street (close to Bond Street). Henry Heath had eleven children of whom I am aware, from two marriages.

Robert himself was born on 18th January 1827 and was christened on 9th February 1827 at St Anne’s, Soho (IGI). The next time we glimpse him, aged 14, is on the 1841 census, when he is at boarding school at St Margaret At Cliffe, near Dover, Kent, where Henry Heath sent several of his children for their education.

Robert Heath – Hat Manufacturer

We do not know how Robert Heath was occupied during the 1840s, but I would imagine that he was learning the trade of the hatter and hat manufacturer. I would be intrigued to know how he met Jane Jeffcoat, and thus become so involved in my family’s history. However, by the time of his marriage in 1849, Robert was already living at St George’s Place, Hyde Park. From my research I know that he established his hat business in the year of his marriage – 1849. I would assume that his father, Henry Heath, assisted him in setting up in business. It is noticeable that Robert did not join the family business, but set up by himself. Some of his siblings took over the family business in Oxford Street when his father died in 1877. I have located Henry’s will, but at the time of writing I have had not had time to purchase it.

The Jeffcoat ties

Jane Jeffcoat was nearly seven years older than Robert Heath. They are both given as being ‘of full age’ on their marriage certificate, but Robert was only 22 and Jane nearly 29. She was born on 20th April 1820 at Upper Winchendon in Buckinghamshire, the daughter of Daniel Jeffcoat and his wife Anne (my 3x great grandparents). Daniel had been raised as a Quaker, but was christened on his wedding day to Anne Parrot in 1815. In 1827 Daniel moved his family from Winchendon and settled firstly in Greenford, where he farmed, and then, ten years later, in Islington.

On the 1841 Census, Jane is a Milliner, and one would assume it was this trade which led to her meeting Robert Heath. I wonder if in fact she worked for Henry Heath, and the young Robert was taken with her. Certainly, he was not discouraged by the age gap between them.

The ties between the Heath and Jeffcoat families were further strengthened when, on 11th April 1858, Robert Heath’s younger sister, Emily Heath, married Joseph Jeffcoat, Jane’s youngest sibling. Emily was born in 1836 and Joseph in 1828, the only Jeffcoat child to be born in Greenford.

The overall impression is that Joseph Jeffcoat and Robert Heath were good friends. It can be no coincidence that by 1851 Joseph Jeffcoat was established as a brush maker in the Brompton Road, not far from his sister and future brother-in-law. Later on, I will demonstrate that they were also close in death.

Family Life

Robert and Jane enjoyed a long married life, but it was beset by much sadness. They had six children, and only the eldest child, Jessy Jane Heath, survived her parents.

Jessy Jane Heath was born on 10th February 1850. She appears with her parents on the 1851 census at 18 St George’s Place. The prosperity of Robert Heath is already evident, as at the tender age of 24 Robert already had two servants.

The 1850s saw the Heath family grow, and by the 1861 census Robert and Jane’s family was complete.

10 Feb 1850 Jessy Jane Heath born
Sep qtr 1851 Robert Walton Heath and Louisa Annie Heath born*
Louisa Annie Heath died
Dec qtr 1854 Tom Jeffcoat Heath born
Mar qtr 1857 Arthur Charles Heath born
Jun qtr 1859 Minnie Anne Heath born

* I have made an assumption of a twin birth here, although I do not yet have the certificates.

However, it is unfortunate that I have been unable to locate the 1861 census records for Robert and Jane. I assume that they are amongst the missing census forms. Tantalisingly, we do catch a glimpse of the two youngest children Arthur and Minnie. At the tender ages of 4 and 2 respectively, they are boarding with a woman called Jemima E Rogers at Twickenham.

I can only speculate as to why Robert and Jane felt it necessary to send them away from home at such a young age. It might have been to avoid disease. The Heaths had good reason to be fearful – in 1854 Anne Jeffcoat, Jane’s mother, succumbed to the cholera epidemic at 18, St George’s Place, the home of Robert and Jane Heath. Daniel Jeffcoat died just six weeks later of ‘Anaemia’, at 9 Middle Buildings, Brompton, which I believe to be the home of Joseph, his son, who would marry Emily Heath in 1858. The Heaths must have been concerned then with two young children at home and another child due to be born at the end of 1854.

As I have no census records, it would be easy to miss the short life of Tom Jeffcoat Heath, who died on 4th August 1863. However, when I was researching the Heaths it was obvious to me that little Tom was the son of Robert and Jane, with the distinctive ‘Jeffcoat’ second name. His death certificate arrived this morning, and he died, aged 8, from ‘Valvular disease of the Heart Anaemia’.

By 1871, the family were living at St John’s Lodge, Clapham Road, Wandsworth, which was to be their long-term family home. Visiting them was Eliza Jeffcoat, 18, Jane’s niece from Lancashire, the daughter of her eldest sibling, John Daniel Jeffcoat. More about her later!

The family are at this residence again in 1881. By this time Jessy Jane had married Arthur William Dear, but the two sons, Robert and Arthur, and Minnie were with them. Also staying with them was Wilhelmina Schultz, entered as ‘Housekeeper’, who was yet another Jeffcoat relative. The sister of Susannah Randolph, one of the witnesses at Robert and Jane’s marriage, was Jane Randolph, who married Charles Frederick John Schultz. Wilhelmina was their daughter.

The Heaths must have hoped that the four remaining children would have survived to outlive them. Indeed, for over twenty years they might have thought that they had been spared their remaining children.

However, the late 1880s was a time of very mixed fortunes for the Heaths. On 5th August 1887, Arthur Charles Heath died, aged 30. His death certificate tells a tragic tale. He died at his parents’ home from an ‘Overdose of Chloroform inhaled – Accidental Death – Found dead in bed’. The certificate was received from Samuel F Langham, Coroner for the Duchy of Lancaster in the County of Surrey, and an inquest was held on 8th August 1887. The details are tantalisingly brief, but the grief felt by Robert and Jane must have been horrendous.

However, nearly a year later, their only remaining son, Robert Walton Heath, was married to Bessie Crimp on 21st July 1888 at North Huish Parish Church in South Devon. The announcement appeared in ‘The Times’. On the 6th June 1889, Robert proudly announced the arrival of a daughter, Beatrice Stella Victoria, two days earlier in ‘The Times’. Life must have looked good. However, within a year, on 18th May 1890, Robert Walton Heath died. His death certificate states that he had suffered from epilepsy and cerebral paralysis for eight months. So just three months after the birth of his first child, Robert was severely ill. Despite his illness, another daughter was born, posthumously, to him and Bessie. Jennie Walton Heath was born in December quarter 1890, and is found with her mother and sister on the 1891 census.

Of the six children of Robert and Jane Heath, only Jessy Jane, now Jessy Jane Dear, and Minnie Anne Heath were alive. Minnie married William James Thody at St Etheldreda’s, Hatfield, on 12th July 1890, nearly two months after her brother’s death. William was 14 years her senior, and they did not have children. But Minnie was not to survive her parents, either. She died in the Autumn of 1899, aged 40.

In the midst of this turbulence, at the time of the 1891 census Robert was at St John’s Lodge in Wandsworth with two of his grandchildren, Robert and Alexander Dear (Robert Dear is wrongly named as ‘Arthur’). Meanwhile, Jane Heath was with the Dear parents, Arthur and Jessie Jane, and their two daughters, Dorothy and Gwendoline, at Bognor in Sussex. Also visiting were Minnie Thody (neé Heath) and her new husband, William.

On the 1901 census, Jane Heath is 80 and Robert 74. They have three servants, and still manage to have a young family member with them – their ‘niece’ Elsie Sharp, 21, an assistant schoolmistress. Elsie was in fact the granddaughter of my great great grandmother, Eliza neé Jeffcoat. Eliza had married James Penfold Brewer and had three children with him, but he died only aged 30. Elsie was the oldest child of their daughter, Eliza Ann Sharp. My great great grandmother, Eliza, married Henry William Bond in 1859, and their daughter, another Jessie Jane, was my great grandmother.

In 1900 the life of my great great grandmother, Eliza Bond, came to an end, suddenly, on 21st July at the St John’s Lodge, Clapham Road, the home of her sister and brother-in-law. It must have been a hot summer’s day as the cause of her death was ‘Heat Apoplexy 8 hours’. The informant of her death was Robert Heath, her brother-in-law.

To see the family tree: The Heath/Jeffcoat Family
Robert Heath’s Will

When we purchased Robert Heath’s will a couple of months ago, it was out of idle curiosity. However, it contained incredible detail. Firstly, it shows the wealth that Robert had amassed. Secondly, it clearly illustrated his Jeffcoat loyalties. He left £ 196,902 13s 5d gross and £ 199,511 1s 10d net.

Robert Heath died on 7th January 1903. After the death of all his children except for Jessy Jane Dear, the wife of Arthur William Dear, he drew up a (probably revised) will on 4th March 1901. The main beneficiary was Jane, who was already in her 80s by the time of the 1901 census. Then Jessy Jane Dear and her children were provided for.

Jane Heath:
£1000 immediately
St Johns Lodge 386 Clapham Road (leasehold) and fixtures, fittings, etc.
Freehold of: Craven House, Northumberland Avenue (after her death to go into his residuary estate)

Jessy Jane Dear:
Shares in Alexandra Hotel Company St George’s Place Hyde Park Corner
£7,500 to be invested in Consols for the children of Jessy Jane Dear that are alive 10 years after his death
“always excepting her daughter Gwendoline Emily if she shall before the expiration of the said term have married a Roman Catholic”.

In the June quarter of 1901 Gwendoline Emily Dear married James Quinn, apparently just a short time after her grandfather drew up his will. I assume that this was the marriage to which Robert Heath was opposed, as the surname ‘Quinn’ would suggest a Catholic. Thus Gwendoline would not benefit from the money invested on behalf of her siblings and herself.

Jessy Jane Jeffcoat – daughter of Joseph and Emily Jeffcoat (Robert’s niece through his sister and his wife)
Trustees to collect rents and profits from 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 Garrick Street, Covent Garden (freehold) – upon Trust for Jessy for the term of her natural life and premises to be held upon trust for her children until they are 21. In absence of children to form part of the residuary estate

Legacies to various employees of his business
Robert also provided for several of his staff.

Bessie Heath – widow of Robert Walton Heath
Bessie was to receive an annuity of £200 pa – half charged on the freehold of 40 Pall Mall and half on the freehold of 41 Pall Mall. This was to be paid for the term of her natural life or until she married.

The will is complicated for a layman, but it seems that Beatrice, Bessie’s daughter, was to be paid the rents and profits from 40 Pall Mall. Such payments would stop when she reached 25 or if she married or if Bessie Heath were to marry either George Dear Thody or William James Thody. But if Beatrice were to reach 25 or marry before Bessie married either of the above two men, the freehold would pass to Beatrice absolutely. However, if Bessie were to marry either George Dear Thody or William James Thody, the trustees would stand possessed of the premises and include it in the residuary estate. The same conditions were specified for 41 Pall Mall with respect to Jennie Walton Heath.

It appears that Robert Heath was worried that either George Dear Thody or William James Thody would attempt to marry Bessie Heath. William Thody was the widower of Robert’s daughter Minnie. George was his brother. It would be intriguing to know whether they were related to Arthur Dear, Robert’s son-in-law and husband of Jessy. In the event, neither of them married Bessie, and on the 1911 census she and Beatrice and Jennie are together. I do not know whether Bessie ever remarried. Jennie was the first to marry, on 19th April 1911. She was 20 years old. Beatrice married the following year, in the September quarter. She was 23. The girls got their inheritance, as Robert probably planned.

Harry Jeffcoat

The bequest to Harry Jeffcoat was the surprise of the will! Robert Heath owned premises at 61 and 63 Victoria Street Westminster. The rents and profits were to be used “for the education advancement and preferment in life of the lad known as Harry Jeffcoat (otherwise Clarke) stated to be the natural child of Jane Jeffcoat daughter of the late John Daniel Jeffcoat by my deceased son Arthur Charles Heath” until he was 30, and then the freehold and premises would go to him absolutely.

This is somewhat of a puzzle as John Daniel Jeffcoat did not have a daughter with the first name of Jane. However, he did have a daughter Eliza Jane, who was staying with the Heaths in the 1871 census. Eliza was born in 1853 and Arthur Heath in 1857. Harry Jeffcoat appears to have been born in Buxton (Chapel en le Frith) district in June quarter 1886, a year before the death of his alleged father. It is not easy to find Harry on the census returns, but he does appear with his adoptive mother Sarah A Clark in the 1891 Census.

I have not had time to research Harry further, but I would love to know what happened to him and how his grandfather’s legacy helped him.

The rest of Robert’s estate went into residuary trust moneys and equal shares were given to:

a) Beatrice and Jenny Heath
b) Children of John Daniel Jeffcoat (but not the son Robert otherwise known as Roby Jeffcoat) (probably seven) (Note: Robert Jeffcoat had been convicted of larceny in 1889)
c) Children of Alfred Jeffcoat (there were three)
d) Jessy Jane Jeffcoat – one of Emily and Joseph Jeffcoat’s children
e) Daughters of Eliza Bond – Jessy Purkis and Eliza Sharp (Jessy Purkis is my great grandmother)
f) Mrs Louisa Decelia Champion (daughter of Anne and William Rickatson – Anne was one of Jane Heath’s sister)
Louisa Champion was also entrusted with helping the trustees with the maintenance and education of Harry Jeffcoat.

Robert Heath’s business

With no sons left to carry on the family business, under clause 23 of the will Robert directed the executors and trustees “to sell or realise my business of a Hat Manufacturer or Hatter so soon as conveniently be within reason after my decease”. Should Robert and/or Arthur have lived, I would speculate that he would not have given such an instruction.

United in Death

At some time in the 1860s, Robert Heath must have decided to purchase a large plot in the Brompton Cemetery, for here many of the family are laid to rest.

The first to be buried was little Tom Jeffcoat Heath, in 1863, and his brother Arthur Charles Heath joined him in the same grave in 1887.

However, the real statement of affluence and family solidarity is truly expressed by the three graves together.  Here, side by side, we have Arthur William Dear and his wife Jessy Jane Dear, eldest child of Robert and Jane Heath, then Robert Walton Heath, and finally Robert Heath and his wife Jane together.

The three graves, with the grave of Tom Jeffcoat Heath and Arthur Charles Heath in the foreground.

In another section of the Brompton Cemetery are found the graves of Joseph Jeffcoat and his wife Emily, Robert’s sister. With them is Phoebe, their infant daughter.

Their eldest child is also here. Emily Anne Jeffcoat married Thomas George Smith in 1882. She gave birth to two children, but sadly died on 12th March 1886. After she died, her widower Thomas Smith married her younger sister, Mary Louisa Jeffcoat. As it was illegal to marry one’s sister-in-law, the couple married in Christiana (Oslo), Norway!

Finally, Jessy Jane Jeffcoat is also buried in this grave. This is Jessy Jane Jeffcoat who, according to Robert Heath’s will, was in his employ in this hat manufacturing business, and to whom he left rents and profits from his houses in Garrick Street. Jessy did not marry, so upon her death the properties would have reverted to the residuary estate.

    I particularly like the epitaph to Jane Heath: “ONE OF EARTH’S GENTLEST, KINDLIEST SOULS”.  
My daughter, who took these photos, was particularly affected by this grave.

This is where I shall conclude this complex tale, with the Heaths and Jeffcoats united in death in Brompton Cemetery. However, the lives of the beneficiaries of Robert Heath’s will and wealth lived on. I suspect that it helped my great-grandparents Joseph Thomas and Jessie Jane Purkis to provide a university education for their second son, Kenneth Purkis, who trained at Guy’s Hospital to become a doctor.

Elizabeth Herts

© Elizabeth Herts 2009