ALEXANDER BISHOP BUTLER
Appendices: the Spilsbury Family and the Mortimer Gunsmiths
The story of the Butler family in Australia begins with the “great progenitor,” Alexander Bishop Butler. I have a copy of the original marriage entry for Alexander Bishop Butler and Charlotte Selina Mortimer. It was given to me by my aunt, Julia Blake (née Butler), but I have no idea how she came by this document, or when it was copied, but it is possible that it is the original document given to the newly married couple. I viewed the microfilm of the same document, readily identified by a stain on the word Banns, at County Hall, London, in 1981. The certificate reads: “Alexander Bishop Butler of this Parish, Bachelor, and Charlotte Selina Mortimer, of this Parish, Spinster, were married in this Church, by Banns this thirteenth day of September, in the Year One Thousand, Eight Hundred and Twenty-Seven, By me, Samuel Benson, Curate. This marriage was solemnized between us in the Presence of Jackson Mortimer, Ann Eleanor Blanch, John Blanch. The above is a Copy of the Marriage Certificate of the Parish of St Saviour, Southwark in the County of Southwark.” The surnames Butler, Mortimer and Blanch which appear on the certificate spring to life as research shows them to be Charlotte’s father, sister and brother-in-law. Both Blanch and Butler married Mortimer sisters who, with Henry William Mortimer, were the children of Jackson Mortimer, gunsmith, of 21 St James Street, London. Any student of gunmaking in Nineteenth Century London would be familiar with two of those names, for Mortimer and Blanch were “celebrated gunsmiths” of the time.
Our family believed that Alexander Bishop Butler was a London man, for that city appears on several relevant certificates. However, material in Melbourne’s Latrobe Library, confirmed by the International Genealogical Index (IGI), shows that he was born in Birmingham, 3 May 1805, son of Edward Butler and Elizabeth Hammond Bishop. The IGI shows the name as “Elizabeth Ham”, but other documents indicate that the name is “Elizabeth Hammond Bishop”. Alexander Bishop Butler was christened 12 November 1807, in the Non-Conformist Church, Birmingham.
His parents, Edward Butler of St Martin’s Birmingham, and Elizabeth Hammond Bishop, were married at Kempsey, four miles south of Worcester, 28 July 1794. They had six children: Edward, b.2 April 1795, Mary, b.3 April 1800, Henry Bishop, b.25 May 1802, Spilsbury, b.25 June 1803, Alexander Bishop b.3 May 1805, Francis Spilsbury, b.17 March 1807 and Rebecca, b.9 May 1810. They were all registered with the Congregation of Protestant Dissenters, Old Meeting House, Birmingham. Edward Butler, coffin furniture manufacturer, died 14 October 1846, at 39 Summer Row, Ladywood, Birmingham, of natural decay, in the presence of his son Spilsbury.
The name Spilsbury is so unusual and occurs frequently enough to demand attention. The Spilsbury connection is presented in Appendix A to this chapter. In my original research (1984-5) I could not trace my Butler ancestry back beyond Edward Butler and his wife, Elizabeth Hammond Bishop. Since then I have found some ancestors of Edward Butler (b.1766, m.28.7.1794). His father was Edward John Butler (b.1736, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK; d.11.7.1779). He married Mary Austin. Edward John Butler’s father was Joseph Butler (b.4.10.1694) and his mother was Mary Spilsbury (b.23.1.1697). Both Joseph and Mary were born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK, and they were married in Kidderminster, 23.11.1720. Joseph Butler’s parents were Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares who married in 1681. That is as far back as I have traced the Butlers at present.
Of Alexander Bishop Butler’s first twenty years nothing is known. My original information indicated that he was apprenticed to gunsmith Jackson Mortimer in 1820. He may have begun his interest in gunsmithing in Birmingham, the centre of a thriving gunmaking industry at that time, centred on St Mary’s Church and bounded by Slaney, Shadwell, Loveday and Steelhouse Streets. There were other Butlers in the gunmaking trade in Birmingham in the early nineteenth Century, one of whom will turn up in a later chapter, coincidentally, namely Thomas Butler of Darlaston, a town twelve miles north west of Birmingham.
At that time there were three gunmaking firms of the name Mortimer in London. The three Mortimers were brothers: Jackson Mortimer whose shop was in St James Street and who made flintlock muskets under Royal Government contract; Thomas J. Mortimer and Son, Ludgate Hill; and the senior firm of Harvey Walklate Mortimer whose shop was in Fleet Street. At the time of the Lord George Gordon Riots in 1780 when other gunsmiths were sending their weapons to the Tower of London for safe keeping, Harvey Walklate kept his goods in his shop and was “rewarded by disposing of his stocks at high prices”. For a fuller account of the Mortimers, see Appendix B to this chapter.
However, according to the Orphans Register Belonging to the Worshipful Company of Farriers from 24 June 1694 to 18–, Alexander Bishop Butler was apprenticed to Henry William Mortimer, 19 April 1820. Henry William Mortimer was the only son of Jackson Mortimer, and had been in partnership with his father between about 1811 and 1820. The Minute Book of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, London, indicates on the same day that “Justin Butler, son of John Butler of Birmingham, Factor, and Alexander Bishop Butler, son of Edward Butler of Birmingham, Factor, were bound apprentice to the said Henry William Mortimer for seven years from this day” for £63 each. One week before, 12 April 1820, “Henry William Mortimer, [then of 2 Hackney Terrace], formerly of Fleet Street in the City of London, Gun Maker, Citizen and Farrier of London, was made free of the Company of Patrimony.”
Alexander Bishop himself was “admitted and sworn a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers of London by servitude”, 25 February 1828. He was living at 5 Hope Street, Hackney Road. By now Henry William Mortimer had left for Tasmania in 1825, so Alexander Bishop served the remainder of his apprenticeship with John Blanch – his wife’s sister’s husband. However, because he “was not turned over to the said John Blanch in the regular mode”, he could not be admitted to the freedom of the City “without the sanction and authority” of the court. The court ordered “that he be admitted into the freedom of the City by redemption in the Company of Farriers on payment of forty-six shillings and eight pence”.
It was in London that Alexander Bishop met and married his master Jackson Mortimer’s daughter, Charlotte Selina.
John Blanch, one of those who witnessed Alexander Bishop’s marriage, has a significant part in this history. His father, also John Blanch, was a shoemaker and his son John, the gunmaker, was born about 1786; he married Ann Eleanor Mortimer (Charlotte Selina’s older sister) in 1809. Their children were: John b.1810 d. young; John b.1812, m. Sarah 1833; Eliza b.1814 d. young; Henry William b.c.1816; Henry Mortimer b.1817, m. Mary Barton 1839 (they had 13 children); Eliza b.1819; William b.1822, m. Elizabeth (they had 8 children); and Christiana Maria b.1830.
A descendant of John the gunmaker, H.J. Blanch, in his book A Century of Guns, says that, as a lad, John Blanch was apprenticed to “the well-known gunsmith Jackson Mortimer”, whose firm began in 1790, of 21 St James Street, and “like the proverbial good apprentice, he married his master’s daughter”, Ann Eleanor, at Stepney Spitalfields Christ Church, 2 December, 1809 (IGI). He served for three years with John Manton (1752-1834), “the leading gunsmith of the time”. Having learnt the trade of gunsmithing “under two such competent instructors”, John Blanch started for himself in the city in 1809 at 39 Fish Street which then led down to Old London Bridge, close to the Monument. Blanch and Jackson Mortimer were partners for several years (1811-12). In 1826 he removed his business, when the New London Bridge was a-building, to 29 Gracechurch Street, where it was still functioning in 1909. In 1833 his eldest son John (1812-1839) had set up a gunsmith’s shop in Hull, Yorkshire, and in 1836 he went to Australia where we will meet him again later in tragic circumstances. In 1848 John Blanch senior took his third son, William, into partnership. In 1909 only three of the gunsmiths’ names from the 1812 London Post Office Directory still appeared as such: Barnet, Blanch and Wilkinson. Today, Blanch has disappeared.
Charlotte Selina Mortimer, the younger sister of her sister Ann Eleanor (b.1789) and her brother Henry William (b.1792), was the daughter of Jackson Mortimer and Elizabeth Vaughan and was born in London in 1800. Her parents had been married at Spitalfields Christ Church, Stepney, London 6 December 1788. Her father, Jackson Mortimer, was born 22 October 1762, the son of Samuel Mortimer and Eleanor Jackson, who married in 1752. Jackson himself had three children by this first marriage. Later he was to marry Mary Ellerby, spinster, 16 September 1809, at Christchurch Spitalfields.
In my original account of the Mortimer family I wrote: “Jackson’s father Samuel, born at Warwick, was the youngest of twenty-one children born to his father, Edward Mortimer. Edward Mortimer himself was born (year unknown) at Newcastle-under-Lyme some 30 miles NW of Birmingham, had eleven children from his first marriage and ten from his second, and was an army captain at the time of King Charles I (d.1649). This phenomenal effort is recorded in an article by James Arthur Guns Review July 1978.”
However, in 2008 I had some professional research done on Edward Mortimer. The results provided no further information on him, but the researcher made some pertinent suggestions concerning the relationship between Edward Mortimer and his putative son, Samuel. At the same time I received an email from Alan Ingram who suggested that the relationship might not be as clear as the above comments suggest. Consequently I offer the following reflections on the supposed relationship.
Alan Ingram wrote, 27 October 2008 (I summarise): “My interest is in the family of Jackson Mortimer born 1762 and his five children: Ann Eleanor, Henry William and Caroline [Charlotte] Selina by first marriage to Elizabeth Vaughan; Mary Emma and Jane by his second marriage to Mary Etherley. Mary Emma Mortimer was my great-great grandmother. It is clear from the records of St Philip’s Birmingham that Jackson Mortimer was christened 5 November 1762, his parents being Samuel and Eleanor, and that Samuel Mortimer married Eleanor Jackson 4 May 1852. But who were Samuel’s parents and where was he born?”
Ingram continues: “On a visit to the British Library, I saw the article by James Arthur (Guns Review, July 1978), but unfortunately he gives no indication of how he arrives at this information, so I can only approach this information with a good deal of caution. The Guns Review has now ceased publication so I wondered whether you had had an opportunity of finding out his sources. It would be good to know if there is any way that this information can be confirmed.”
Genealogical researcher Val Atkinson carried out the research I requested about Edward Mortimer and reported as follows: “Research was carried out at the Staffordshire County Record Office Eastgate Stafford for 2 hours. The Parish Registers of St Giles, Newcastle under Lyme are held here on microfiche. Originally I was given a possible birth range of 1615-1625 for Edward Mortimer in Newcastle but in the second communication it was stated that his son Samuel married in 1752. There is a huge gap between 1625 and 1752. Even if Samuel were the youngest son and older when he married I would expect a birth date for his father Edward to be 1660-1680 which would be after the beheading of Charles I.
“Information provided: Edward MORTIMER born c.1615-1625 [guestimate by A.M. Butler], son Samuel MORTIMER born Warwick, youngest of 21 children of Edward Samuel MORTIMER, married Eleanor JACKSON 4 Apr 1752, son Jackson MORTIMER born 22 Oct 1762.
“QUESTION: Could there be a generation missing? There are 127 years from the birth of Edward to the marriage of his son Samuel. [In a later communication (25 October 2008), the researcher wrote: If there is a relationship between Samuel MORTIMER and Edward the Civil War army captain, it can’t be father and son no matter what the various claims are. We know for a fact that Samuel married in 1752 which is over a hundred years after the birth of Edward.]
“Bearing this anomaly in mind, I examined the Registers in the 1st volume of St Giles which covered 1615-1621. Dates searched were 1563-1705. There was no sign of a Baptism for Edward or indeed of anyone with the Mortimer name. 1621-1627 are missing entries. 1628-1653 no Mortimer mentioned. 1653-1712 no Mortimer mentioned.
“I had time to check as far as 1712 but with the same result. All Baptisms, Marriages and Burials were covered. Some entries are very faded or difficult to read and I had to rely heavily on the transcripts in many instances but nevertheless there were no MORTIMER entries that I could see. St Giles was the only Anglican Parish Church in operation in the town of Newcastle until into the 1800s.”
Consequently, until further information comes to light, it would be wise to regard the supposed relationship between Edward and Samuel Mortimer (father and son) as suspect.
The details of Charlotte Selina’s meeting with and marrying Alexander Bishop are not known, but we do know that Alexander Bishop followed the example of John Blanch and he too “like the proverbial good apprentice married his master’s daughter.” Whatever the case, when he was barely twenty and she was twenty-seven, they were married, 13 September 1827, in the parish church of St Saviour, Southwark, in the County of Surrey. This church is now the Cathedral Church of St Saviour and St Mary Ovarie, on the south side of the River Thames. It is diagonally opposite the Tower of London and not far down the river from the site of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The church contains a memorial to William Shakespeare, “for several years an inhabitant of this parish”, and is the burial place of William Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund. It also contains memorials to John Harvard, founder of the famous American University, and to Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (d.1626).
The newly-weds, Alexander Bishop and Charlotte Selina Butler, must have stayed in London for about two years. Their first child, Alexander Edward, was born 12 July 1828 and christened 15 February 1829 in St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, London. Later in 1829 Alexander Bishop Butler was practising as a gunsmith in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, where his second son, William Mortimer, was born in 1830.
Other children followed. From Charlotte Selina’s death certificate we learn that Alfred Blanch was born in 1832 in Cheltenham, Mary Anne in 1834 and Spilsbury in 1836, both in Bradford.
The family left Bradford and, departing from London 22 September 1837, arrived in Tasmania per the Derwent, 9 January 1838 with four sons and two daughters, Selina Eliza being born either on board or soon after their arrival in Tasmania.
The Butler family did not arrive amongst total strangers. Charlotte’s brother, Henry William Mortimer, had settled in Tasmania in 1825, and their nephew John Blanch, eldest son of their brother-in-law John, had migrated there with his wife Sarah in 1836. The Blanches moved to Port Phillip soon after – The Port Phillip Gazette of 27 October 1838, advertises J. Blanch, gunmaker and ironmonger, as selling port wine.
Henry William Mortimer is worth a book of his own, and there is material abundant for it. He was born in about 1792 in London and died in Melbourne in 1887. He married Mary Addis, with whom there were ten children. Before arriving in Tasmania he practised as a gunmaker at 2 Hackney Terrace (1820) and then at 4 East Street, Hoxton (1823). He was at one stage gunmaker to HRH The Prince Regent. He arrived with his wife in Tasmania per Elizabeth, 21 April 1825. Amongst his many occupations in Tasmania he was gunsmith, constable, York District Pound keeper, secretary and treasurer of the Tasmanian Game Association; he also held a lease for a whaling station. In late 1839 he chartered a vessel and moved to the infant Port Phillip settlement; there he moved into public life as an auctioneer, butcher and town councillor (one of the “first Aldermanic Quartette”).
He set up several companies, and became the first Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for Fitzroy and Collingwood; he was an active supporter of the Baptist Church, being responsible for securing the services of Melbourne’s first ordained Baptist minister, Mr Ham of Birmingham. Mortimer himself was an Independent but showed great “energy and liberality on behalf of the early Baptists.
Mortimer’s favourite pursuit, according to his obituary in The Australian, 23 July 1887, was ship-owning: among other vessels, he owned the first vessel built on the banks of the Yarra and he was the owner of the barque Favourite built for him by Mr Birnie in Launceston. He set up a lucrative trade in fruit with the South Seas Islands, and with his sons he opened the sugar trade with Mauritius. In Melbourne he commenced a butcher’s business which he carried on successfully for many years.
The following is the full text of his obituary:
DEATH OF ONE OF THE FIRST ALDERMEN OF MELBOURNE
We have to record the death of Mr Henry William Mortimer, in his ninety-first year. He is the last of twelve councillors who formed the first council of the corporation of the City of Melbourne, elected in 1842, in December of which year he was elected by the council alderman for Lonsdale ward, but in consequence of ill health he resigned his position in the corporation in the December following. Mr Mortimer was a very old colonist, having arrived in Tasmania in 1825. He was among the first of the free settlers, who were induced to settle in that colony by the home government offering grants of land under land warrants. [A document from the Colonial Office dated Downing Street, 25 September 1824, states: “Sir, The Bearer, Mr H.W. Mortimer, having been strongly recommended to Lord Bathurst, I am directed by his Lordship to recommend him to your protection and good offices and to request that he may receive a Grant of Land proportioned to his means of bringing it into cultivation.” It is addressed to Lieut. Gov. Arthur and signed “D.W. Norton”. He received a grant of 1000 acres.] This inducement, and symptoms of decline, prompted his desire for colonial life. He took up his grant and remained in Tasmania until December 1839 when he removed to Melbourne. He had landed but a day or two when his nephew, Mr John Blanch, gunmaker, and his wife, were killed by an explosion in Market Street, just below the present Union Club Hotel. Mr Mortimer was an energetic and enterprising colonist; in everything he put out all his powers, and his avocations were very various. Originally a gunmaker, and a member of the very old firm in London of Mortimer and Blanch, Gracechurch Street, gunmakers and armourers, on his arrival in the colonies he entered into farming, whaling and trading out of Hobart and along the coast … Unhappily the last years of Mr Mortimer’s life were clouded by loss of sight. For nearly 15 years he was quite blind, and thus was shut out from the active life to which he was accustomed. He retained his mental powers until within a few days of his death, which occurred on July 21st at the residence of his son-in-law, Mr J.R. Brennand, JP, Toorak Road, South Yarra.
Garryowen sums him up as “intelligent and conscientious, but having a precise and pragmatical [sic] mannerism which prevented him from becoming popular”.
At the moment nothing is known about the Butlers’ sojourn in Tasmania. We know that their sixth child, Selina Elizabeth was born there or on board ship in 1838, and that they left Tasmania in December 1839. At that time, Henry Mortimer chartered the brig Caroline to take his family and building materials to Port Phillip. Also on the Caroline were Miss Knox, the Mortimer children’s governess, and Mr and Mrs Butler and family, Mrs Butler being near her time with their seventh child. The ship, of 156 tons, set out from Hobart Town under her Master, Captain Wordin, on 4 December 1839 with “timber, sundries, passengers”. The following laconic comment occurs in Syme’s Shipping Arrivals and Departures. Victorian Ports: “driven ashore on Swan Reef, Van Dieman’s Land, en route, unloaded and salvaged; resumed voyage”. The Port Phillip Gazette, 18 December 1839, is equally laconic: “On Monday last [arrived] from Hobart Town the ship Caroline, Wordin, with timber and sundries”.
They arrived in Port Phillip, Monday 16 December, and no sooner had they arrived than tragedy struck. John Blanch, son of Ann Eleanor, sister of Henry William Mortimer and Charlotte Selina Butler, had been established as a gunsmith in Melbourne since mid-1838. He had been a signatory of the 7 October 1839 letter of welcome to Governor LaTrobe in The Port Phillip Patriot. On Tuesday 17 December, the day after the Butlers and Mortimers arrived, John, aged 26, and his wife Sarah, aged 22, were the victims of an explosion in his Market Street gunsmith’s shop.
The Port Philip Gazette reported:
“About four in the afternoon of Tuesday the shop and warehouse of Mr Blanch, the gunmaker, blew up from the ignition of a large quantity of powder, causing the total destruction of the building itself and involving, in one horrible scene of death and anguish, the unfortunate inmates of the house. Two passengers, lately arrived by the Westminster, in passing Mr Blanch’s Emporium, dropped in with the usual design of customers, one holding a gun in his hand imprudently fired off a cap; the gun was loaded and discharged itself into a quantity of powder lying loose in the shop; above was a large square box filled with the same destructive material. After a few moments there was the deep sound of a distant storm as the expanding air struggled into the lower apartments – another minute and it burst through the upper story, and with a crash equal to the loudest thunder, carried away in a huge mass of smoke and fragments the roof, rafters and walls. Hundreds of persons immediately rushed to the scene while a few dragged from amidst the charred and smoking ruins the body of a female; her whole form, scorched and withered, was denuded of every particle of clothing except the fragment of a shoe that remained on the right foot. The parties were bearing the mangled figure over to the house of Dr Cussens, but seeing life became extinct after a slight convulsion of the limbs, it was carried to Mr Lilly’s rooms. Mr Blanch himself was taken to Mr Cotter’s surgery, where after lingering in great torture, but sensible to the last, he died at 10 this morning [Wednesday 18 December]. Of the surviving two, neither it is expected will survive the injuries received; their names are Henry Griffin and Charles Deering. Dr Cotter, the medical attendant, reports however that both are better this morning than was expected. Mr McEchnie, the Tobacconist, whose premises adjoin those of Mr Blanch has also been severely scorched. The funeral of Mr and Mrs Blanch will take place this afternoon at four o’clock when all persons are invited to attend the remains to their last melancholy home.”
As The Port Phillip Patriot, Thursday 19 December 1839, adds some other details, it is worth quoting in full:
On Tuesday last, about four o’clock pm, the whole town was alarmed by a tremendous shock, which caused the houses to rock to and fro, and a low but heavy sound as of thunder was heard. We will give the account in the words of our informant:-
“I heard a sound resembling thunder, immediately I perceived through my window, the roof of the house open, and a dense volume of smoke, with flashes of flame issuing out, and a second and third shock took the smoke up an immense height. It then appeared to descend and enter the adjacent parts of the town. I said to my friends near me, let us hasten down, Mr Blanch’s house is on fire. The men and myself proceeded instantly to the spot, and used every endeavour to rescue the people from the ruins, and save what property could be got out, and whilst thus engaged canisters of gunpowder frequently exploded amongst us. It then came out the house had been blown up with gunpowder. Two young men, passengers per Westminster, were found, then Mr MacNechie, who attended in the cigar shop, and next Mrs Blanch, the men were alive, more or less burnt, but unfortunately Mrs Blanch was dead, and burnt in a most horrible manner, Mr Blanch was still in the ruins, crying for help, and the parties in attempting to extricate him tore the burnt skin from his feet; he was much burnt and dreadfully cut in the head, yet he was sensible, and named a place where certain articles might be found. I noticed, as most active in my sight, Captains Smith and Smythe, with the printers, and other young men of Mr J. E. Fawkner’s Establishment; together with Mr Field and many others. Captain Smith placed a cordon of armed sentinels around the buildings and goods to preserve them, who were assisted by the Chief Constable and his band.
Further particulars. – When the accident happened there were eight persons in the house. Mrs. Jackson, who resided in the back rooms, as also 3 workmen, escaped unhurt, the partition not having given way, the other five, as described, were all seriously burnt. The accident occurred thus, as we hear:- A gentleman, one of those injured, and who now lies in a very dangerous state, snapped a gun in the shop, which went off and set fire to a large quantity of gunpowder, which first explosion caused a second – some say a third, for the powder was not all in one room.
Further Particulars. – Two men were detected stealing from the ruins, and taken to gaol. Fortunately two of Mr Blanch’s children were at school, and the third out with the nurse.
Wednesday Morning, Nine O’Clock. – Mr Blanch has yielded up his life.
We learn that Drs Cropper and Ewing paid every attention to the unfortunate sufferers.
Our proprietor has suffered a great loss by this accident, to the tune of £104/-, a year, the premises being insured to him by Mr Blanch, the Insurance Office refusing to grant a policy, on account of the powder.
We also learn that the Government are to blame in this matter, application having been made to the authorities for a place to store the powder. Had this been done, the property would have been saved, and the lives of Her Majesty[’s] subjects spared. It is fortunate for the town that more damage was not done.
The immediate reaction, then as now, was to take up a collection for “the purpose of relieving the consequent distress”. The Port Phillip Gazette reported that same day:
“At a meeting held at the British Hotel of several owners and masters of vessels now living in the Port of Melbourne, who witnessed the melancholy accident of Mr Blanch the Gunsmith. It was unanimously resolved that a subscription should be entered into for the purpose of relieving the distress consequent upon the dreadful catastrophe.”
A list of subscribers follows, with the amounts contributed, ranging from one to five pounds: J.D. Nichols, J. Moses, B. Barnett, M. Abrahams, A. Friend, W. O’Connor.
There were three Blanch children: John, William Harnett and Ann Eleanor. According to the Port Phillip Patriot, two of the children were at school, the other out with the nurse. The other paper says they were all out walking with the nurse. There is no mention of their recently arrived relatives. Henry William Mortimer had intended that his wife and younger children should stay with the already established Blanch family, but their deaths put paid to that idea. Instead, Mortimer moved into Flinders Lane and reared the three Blanch children with his own. In April 1841, John and William Harnett Blanch were on their way to England, Henry William Mortimer having advertised in The Port Phillip Gazette, 3 March 1841, for passengers to England willing to take care of two “stout and healthy boys”, who were only six and five years old.
Young John Blanch, who was born in 1835, never married. He became a sea captain and died at sea. William Harnett Blanch, born 1836 at sea on the voyage to Australia, married Clarissa Little and had four children. The family remained in England. Ann Eleanor Blanch, born in Hobart in 1838, married Edmund L’Anson. They had five children and lived in South America.
Another Blanch was to arrive in Melbourne some years later – Henry Mortimer Blanch, the Melbourne merchant referred to in Leslie Arthur Schumer’s 1975 Henry Dendy and his Emigrants. He is another son of John Blanch senior, hence a brother of the John Blanch who died in the Melbourne explosion. He was born in 1817, was apprenticed to his father in 1827 and migrated to Australia in 1843. Henry Mortimer Blanch was noted in 1846 as a settler of Bourke Street Melbourne, and of Brighton. In 1850 he is recorded as a wholesale hardware man of 117 Collins Street Melbourne. He married Mary Harriet (1839) and they had at least two children: Ann Eleanor born 1854, and William Septimus, born 1856.
Let us return to Alexander Bishop and Charlotte Selina Butler.
Ten days after their arrival in Port Phillip, Charlotte Selina Butler gave birth to her seventh child, a son, Phillip Henry, 29 December 1839, baptised in the Independent Church 9 February 1840.
In 1840, Alexander Bishop Butler was running a store in Queen Street, Melbourne, and moved in 1841 to Collins Street where he remained in 1842. The Port Phillip Directory for 1841 has Alexander Butler in a general store in Queen Street.
In my original account (1986) I wrote:
“After that, Alexander Bishop Butler effectively disappears from our knowledge: Directories and Electoral Rolls reveal no trace of him, though his sons appear regularly for at least another fifty years until 1895, after which I have not checked. Microfiche records of Deaths have no mention of him and searches through Hall’s records of miscellaneous deaths and burials bring no bones to the light of day. There are no references to him in any of the standard texts of the early history of Port Phillip, though his second son, William Mortimer Butler, does achieve the distinction of a paragraph in Victoria and its Metropolis Past and Present, vol. II. Nor could I find any notice of an inquest or a will.
“The last record, to my knowledge at this date, is in the 1841 Census: A.B. Butler, Township of Melbourne, No. of persons – 9. He is, however, advertising, in The Port Phillip Gazette, 30 January 1841, the sale of ‘greengages, damsons and apples’ from his general store in Queen Street.
“That he predeceased his wife we know from the following obituary in The Argus, Wednesday 24 October, 1860: ‘On the 15th inst. at her residence, Union Street, Richmond, after a long and painful illness, in the 60th year of her age, Charlotte Selina, relict of the late Alexander Bishop Butler, and sister of W.H. Mortimer of this city.’
“In the 27 August 1893 issue of the Tatler magazine there is a photograph of ‘Bishop Butler, an Old Colonist of Victoria’. It is a reasonable assumption that this is Alexander Bishop Butler, and as the photograph reveals quite a mature man of some 50 years of age, it is further assumed he died not long before his wife. She was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery. He may have accompanied his sons to the goldfields at Bendigo in the mid-fifties and died there. All is assumption.”
Since then I have discovered the following information: Alexander Bishop Butler died Hobart, 30 September 1846, Gunmaker, aged 40, of consumption. Informant: James Billing, undertaker, Liverpool St, Hobart. Certificate No: 1177. Tombstone reads: “Alexander Bishop Butler, of this city who departed this life Septr. 30, 1846; aged 40 years. After so many years of severe suffering, borne with exemplary Christian resignation, leaving a wife and seven children to lament their loss.” It seems that he had left his wife, indeed, in Melbourne (unless she went with him to Tasmania and returned to Melbourne later.)
Alexander Bishop and Charlotte Selina Butler had seven children. The eldest son, Alexander Edward, my great-grandfather, was born in London. Of him, more later in his own chapter.
William Mortimer Butler, the second son, was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in 1830, when Alexander Bishop was following his trade as gunsmith. After arriving in Port Phillip, he lived at Richmond; in 1846 he was in Geelong; in 1851 he was at Fryers Creek; between 1852 and 1881 he is listed as a grocer at Castlemaine. At the age of 26 he married Harriet Dunkinson of Narre Warren, 23 December 1856. At that time he was a butcher in Richmond Road, Richmond, as is seen from the 1856-7 Victorian Electoral Roll. He did well enough in public life to warrant mention in Sutherland’s Victoria and its Metropolis Past and Present, Melbourne 1883, vol. II:
“Butler, William Mortimer. Castlemaine; arrived in Victoria in 1839 and was apprenticed to Mr George Board of Melbourne with whom he remained for twelve months when he went to Castlemaine in 1852. After trying his fortune as a miner at Eaglehawk, Bendigo, etc., he was next at Richmond for ten years and then travelled for several firms for about sixteen years. In 1881 he bought his present business of a wine and spirit merchant at Castlemaine and has carried it on since with success. He is also connected with several quartz and reef mines and has been auditor for the New Era and Barfold Range mines for ten years, and for some others.”
William Mortimer, one of the signatories of the 1867 Loyal Address to the Duke of Edinburgh, died 2 March 1919 at Castlemaine. His children included Selina Jane b.1858, Alfred Edward b.1860 (both died pre-1864), William Mortimer b.1861, and Christina Harriet b.18 June, 1884, who married David Forbes, 26 July 1893, in Richmond Victoria.
Alfred Blanch, the third son of Alexander Bishop and Charlotte Selina Butler, born 1832, was a seaman, b.1832, Cheltenham. He married Elizabeth Walker Morris, 16 November1869 and they had nine children, all born in Victoria. He died 3 June 1896, Abbotsford, Victoria aged 64, his occupation given as carpenter.
Mary Anne, the first daughter, born in England in 1834, married a Mr Dunkinson of Narre Warren, presumably Harriet’s brother.
Spilsbury, born in England in 1836, married Louisa Barrett. He was living in Union Street, Richmond, in 1860, undoubtedly looking after his mother as suggested by her death certificate. Both he and Philip Henry signed the Loyal Address to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867. In 1883 or 1884 Spilsbury was living at Aberdeen Street, Prahan, and moved to Bent Street, Malvern, in 1890. By 1895 Philip Henry joins him in the Sands Directory, but I did not trace them any further.
Selina Elizabeth, born in Tasmania in 1838, was to marry her cousin, Richard Mortimer, who was born in Tasmania in 1834. Her mother and Richard’s father were sister and brother.
Philip Henry was born 29 December 1839 a few days after the family arrived in Port Phillip: his cousin, John Blanch, left the world just before Philip Henry entered it. He was baptised 9 February 1840. Philip was to marry Sarah Ruth O’Brien and one of their children, named Charlotte Selina after her grandmother, born 20 March 1898, married Charles Ernest Blake according to Leask – the only member of the family, to my knowledge, to be accorded an entry in Leask.
And so the history of this particular branch of the multitudinous Butler family begins in Australia in 1837 in Tasmania, establishing itself in Port Phillip in 1839, where it made no little impact on public life and commerce. The family has since spread to New South Wales and elsewhere – but the elsewhere must be left to another researcher.
The Spilsbury Family
My great grandfather Alexander Edward Butler (b.1828, d.1899) had a brother named Spilsbury (b.1836) and a son named Charles Spilsbury (b.1865, d.1876). It never occurred to me to question the origin of the unusual name, Spilsbury. So, it was with some surprise that I received an email in May 2009 from Joanne Sholes (California USA) entitled “Butler and Spilsbury connections question”.
This Appendix sketches the story of the Spilsbury family in so far as it is relevant to the Butlers. My information is gleaned from several sources. I am primarily indebted to Joanne Sholes who provided the information that allowed me to trace the Butlers back to Edward Butler who married Deborah Vicares in 1681. Their son Joseph married Mary Spilsbury (1720).
Edward Butler (b.1766) married Elizabeth Hammond Bishop 28 July 1794). His father was Edward John Butler (b.1736, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK; d.11.7.1779) who married Mary Austin. Edward John Butler’s parents were Joseph Butler (b.4.10.1694) and Mary Spilsbury (b.23.1.1697). Both Joseph and Mary were born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK, and they were married in Kidderminster, 23.11.1720. Joseph Butler’s parents were Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares who married in 1681. And that is as far back as I can trace the Butlers at present.
So it is that we turn to the Spilsburys, their connection to the Arden family and, by a circuitous route, to William Shakespeare. This information has been corroborated and developed from two sources: Stirnet.com, and the website of John Spilsbury of Wolverhampton UK, rootsweb.ancestry.com.
It must be said that tracing families back to the distant past is fraught with dangers and it is easy to assume connections where none exist. Because I have not undertaken any research for this article myself, I am relying on the information of others. Sometimes the details about a particular ancestor available from the several researchers do not coincide, so I have tried to give both accounts.
According to John Spilsbury’s researches, the earliest authenticated Spilsbury in the family relevant to this story is Thomas (b.1520, Rock, Worcestershire UK; d.1574, Worcestershire UK). He married Isobel [?] (b.1520, Worcestershire UK). They had five children, all born in Rock, Worcestershire: Thomas (b.1546), Richard (b.28.4.1550), John (b.4.1.1553), Robert (b.13.3.1553) and Edward (b.21.9.1555).
Richard (b.28.4.1550). His wife’s name is presently unknown. There were seven children, all born in Rock, Worcestershire: Joyce (b.31.8.1589), Thomas (b.8.12.1590), Margaret (23.9.1592); William (b.1.4.1594), Anne (b.20.4.1596), Richard (b.21.9.1598) and John (b.14.11.1600).
William (b.1.4.1594, d.27.11.1672, buried Ribbesford Church, North Bewdley, Worcestershire) married Ann [?] (b.15.10.1600). There were seven children, all born in Ribbesford: Mary (b.6.6 1623), Sarah (b.5.3.1625), John (b.25.5.1628), Anne (b.28.12.1630), Susanne (29.9.1633), Elizabeth (b.26.2.1636), and James (b.24.11.1639). Sholes writes: “William Spilsbury of Bewdley (d. 1673) and wife Anne (d. 1664) are buried in the churchyard of St Leonard’s in the hamlet of Ribbesford.”
It is the descendants of John and James that concern us here: John’s granddaughter Mary married Joseph Butler (23.11.1720), and James’s great grandson Benjamin married Anne Arden (no date currently available). John and James are of further interest because they became prominent as Dissenting Ministers.
John (b.25.5.1628, d. 10.6.1699) married Hanna Hall (b.c.1630) in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. They had one child, John (b.1667, Worcester). “John is often referenced in association with the Particular Baptist movement. He obtained his MA from Magdalen in 1652 and afterward held a fellowship there for two years. He married Hannah Hall 5.6.1661. John was imprisoned in Worcester because of his dissenting views. The three years he spent incarcerated took a toll on his health. He continued his ministry privately to believers. He and Hannah had one child, John, born 1667. This branch of the Spilsbury family has long been referred to as the ‘Dissenting Ministers’ as several of John’s descendants continued to pursue the ministry. Several early references list his death as 1669, but transcription of a copy of a funeral sermon for John Spilsbury delivered by John Eccles and dated 1699 suggest he lived several years several years past 1667.”
John (b.1667, d.31.1.1727) married, 26.10.1693, Mary Bridges (b.1672, Worcester).
John Spilsbury and Mary Bridges Spilsbury
There were eight children, all born in Kidderminster except Francis, who was born in Bromsgrove: William (b.?), John (b.11.1.1694), Hannah (b.1.5.1696), Mary (b.23.1.1697), Hester (b.2.1.1698), Hall (b.18.11.1701), Elizabeth (b.22.4.1704), and Francis (b.1706). “Like his father, John went into the ministry, becoming pastor for a congregation of Dissenters in Kidderminster. His marriage to Mary Bridges (1672-1759) was recorded 26 Oct 1693. A portrait of Mary Bridges Spilsbury survives in the Baxter United Reformed Church of Kidderminster, a church built on the site of the original meeting house. It was John and Mary’s daughter Mary who married Joseph Butler.” John Spilsbury and his wife Mary Bridges are my g.g.g.g.g.g. grandparents.
Mary Spilsbury (b.23.1.1697) married (23.11.1720) Joseph Butler (b.8.5.1692) in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. There seems to be some difference of opinion about the number of children. Joanne Sholes lists five children, all born in Kidderminster: Mary (b.24.2.1728); Deborah, named after her grandmother (b.31.7.1730); Edward who was born 5.3.1734 and died aged 13 months, 4.4.1735; Edward John (b.1736) who married Mary Austin; and John (b.13.3.1738). John Spilsbury lists seven: Hanna (b.?), Mary (b.24.2.1728), Deborah (b.31.7.1730); Edward (b.5.3.1734), Sarah (b.13.3.1743); Edward John (b.13.3.1737) who married Mary Austin, and Joseph (b.-.5.1746).
As I wrote above, Joseph Butler’s parents were Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares who married in 1681. The descendants of Edward Butler and Deborah Vicares relevant to this account are Joseph Butler who married Mary Spilsbury (23.11.1720), their son Edward Butler who married Mary Austin (m.1761), their son Edward Butler who married Elizabeth Hammond Bishop (m.28.7.1794), their son Alexander Bishop Butler who married Charlotte Selina Mortimer of the prominent Mortimer gunsmith family in London (m.13.9.1827), their son Alexander Butler who married Eliza Helyar (m.8.4.1852), their son Edward William Butler who married Lilian McLean (m.29.12.1897), and their son Malcolm George Butler who married Honor Whittaker (m.26.9.1936), who are my parents.
So we now turn to the Dissenting Minister James Spilsbury (brother of John Spilsbury), for it is his great grandson Benjamin who married into the Arden line. The following is a very brief account of the Spilsbury-Shakespeare connection.
James was born 24 November 1639 and married Ann [?] (b.1650). Their first son James (b.3.2.1682, d.1740) married thrice. His second wife was Elizabeth Lucas (m.1.7.1712) with whom there were six children, all born in Alcester, Warwickshire. Their second child, Lucas, concerns us. Lucas Spilsbury (b.7.1.1714, d.14.7.1764) married (26.1.1741) Dorothy Ward (b.1720, Willington, Derbyshire). There were seven children, all born in Willington. It was their fourth child, Benjamin Spilsbury (b.1746, d.-.8.1818) who married into the Arden line in the person of Anne (b.19.5.1750, Yoxall, Staffordshire; d.31.12.1829). No date is currently available for their marriage.
If we work a long way back through Anne Arden’s illustrious ancestry we come to William Shakespeare, through his mother, Mary Arden.
The Arden family is one of only three families in England that can trace its lineage in the male line back to Anglo-Saxon times, beginning with Alwin (d. c.1083). We begin our story with Walter de Arden, the thirteenth in the line of the Ardens, and the g.g.g.g.g.g.g.g grandfather Anne, as above. Walter was the father of John and Thomas. Thomas’s son Robert was the father of Mary Arden who married John Shakespeare. Their eldest surviving child was William.
There are no direct descendants of William Shakespeare living today. Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway had three children: Susanna, who was born in 1583 and twins Judith and Hamnet, who were born in 1585. The boy Hamnet died in 1596 aged 11 years. Susanna married John Hall in 1607 and had one child, Elizabeth, in 1608. Elizabeth married twice (in 1626 to Thomas Nash and in 1649 to John Bernard), but she never had any children. Judith married Thomas Quiney in 1616 and had three sons, one of whom died in infancy. The other two sons both died unmarried in 1639.
So while this branch of the Butler family cannot claim any direct connection with the Ardens, let alone William Shakespeare, there is a happy if somewhat circuitous connection which has some delight if not much import. My sonnet is a bold effort.
To thee, my cousin Shakespeare, this poor verse
I dedicate in honour of thy name.
I draw a rather long bow, or much worse,
When distant kinship I with thee proclaim.
Much have I admired thy wondrous power and sway
And worship thee “this side idolatry”
(As once thy rival Jonson dared to say),
For I, in sooth, love thy sweet harmony.
The road that lies betwixt my name and thine
Is long indeed and truly sinuate;
The links, as in a golden chain, are fine,
That golden road a maze to navigate.
But, oh, fair coz, what pleasure ’tis to me,
To find I am related so to thee.
This Appendix written 25 May 2010. Revised August 2013.
The Mortimer Family of Gunmakers
The gunmaking firm of Mortimer was established during the reign of King George I (1714-1727), in 1720, at Ludgate Hill in London, though the actual founder of the firm is not known. The first known gunmaker of the family was Harvey Walklate Mortimer, b.19 April 1753 at Newcastle-under-Lyme, the eldest of a family of eleven children of whom five were sons. His father was Samuel Mortimer, a victualler. He is supposed to have been the youngest of twenty-one sons born from two marriages to Edward Mortimer, an Army Captain in the time of Charles I (d.1649), but as we have seen, this is unlikely. Harvey Walklate was a gunmaker at 89 Fleet St London from about 1780-82 and from at least 1789 was described as Gunmaker to George III. Married three times, he had five sons and two daughters, two of the sons becoming ministers of religion. One of his sons, also Harvey, continued his father’s business from about 1815.
Harvey Walklate Mortimer (1753-1819), born at Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, was converted by the preaching of the Wesleyan itinerant John Hilton in 1770 and moved to London soon after. Mortimer went on to occupy some of the most responsible lay positions in the London Society, including steward, chapel trustee and treasurer. He became a close friend of John Wesley, who regarded him as a shining example of what a lay official should be like. Mortimer’s second wife was the prominent female Methodist Elizabeth Ritchie. He was a leading supporter of the link with the Church of England and it was no coincidence that it was shortly after he died, that Methodist itinerants were permitted to read the prayers at City Road Chapel.
Elizabeth Ritchie (1754-c.1835) was born in Otley, Yorkshire, the daughter of a naval surgeon. Her parents were Methodists and John Wesley often stayed at their home. As a young woman, Ritchie attended her local parish church and regarded Methodism with some hostility. Converted in 1772, she was appointed a class leader and became influential in the Otley Methodist society as a teacher and spiritual advisor. After 1780 she travelled quite extensively and corresponded with many leading evangelicals especially John Wesley, who summoned her to his side during his final illness. She was a close friend of the preacher Sarah Crosby. In 1801 she married Harvey Walklate Mortimer and settled in London where she resumed her role as a class leader.
Thomas Mortimer was Samuel’s second son, born Birmingham, 18 July 1755. He too became a gunmaker, being apprenticed to his father in 1772. Originally in partnership with his brother Harvey, he moved in 1807 to 44 Ludgate Hill, and became the first of four successive generations of family gunmakers, spanning some 150 years.
The sixth child and third son, Jackson, also became a gunmaker. He was born 22 October 1762 and married twice. He was apprenticed to his father in 1777 as well as to Thomas Allport in Birmingham. He was in partnership with his son-in-law, John Blanch, in 1811-12; then as Jackson Mortimer and Son he was appointed Gunmaker Extraordinary to the Prince of Wales in 1811. It seems that his son Henry William Mortimer was in partnership with him for some years after this, either until 1820 or until he left for Tasmania in 1825. His other two children, daughters, Ann Eleanor and Charlotte Selina, who married John Blanch and Alexander Bishop Butler respectively. By 1817 Jackson Mortimer has his own business at 21 James Street, but by 1819 the business was under the name of his nephew Thomas (son of Jackson’s brother Thomas). By 1835, Thomas had set up in Edinburgh where the business survived with a Mortimer connection until 1938.
Summary of Dates
1649 Mortimer, Edward, Army Captain (Charles I)
There seems to be some gap at this point and no current evidence to fill it.
1752 Mortimer, Samuel married Elizabeth Jackson
1762, 22 October Mortimer, Jackson born
1786 Blanch, John (gunmaker), born
1788, 6 December Mortimer, Jackson married Elizabeth Vaughan, London
1794, 28 July Butler, Edward married Elizabeth Hammond Bishop
1800 Mortimer, Charlotte Selina, born, London
1805, 3 May Butler, Alexander Bishop, born, Birmingham
1807, 12 November Butler, Alexander Bishop, christened, Birmingham
1809 Blanch, John married Ann Eleanor Mortimer
1820, 19 April Butler, Alexander Bishop, apprenticed
1825 Mortimer, Henry William, leaves for Tasmania
1827, 13 September Butler, Alexander Bishop m. Charlotte Selina Mortimer
1828, 25 February Butler, Alexander Bishop, Freeman
1828, 12 July Butler, Alexander Edward born, London
1829 Butler, Alexander Bishop, gunsmith, Cheltenham
1832 Butler, Alexander Bishop, gunsmith, Cheltenham
1834-7 Butler, Alexander Bishop, gunsmith, Bradford
1837, 22 September Butler, Alexander Bishop and family leave London
1838, 9 January Butler, Alexander Bishop and family arrive Tasmania
1839, 16 December Butler, Alexander Bishop and family arrive Melbourne
1846, 30 September Butler, Alexander Bishop died Hobart
1846, 14 October Butler, Edward (Alexander Bishop Butler’s father) died
Originally written 1985, revised 1998; more information added March 2014; revised February 2017.
Brother Tony Butler
 The parish church of St Saviour, Southwark, in the County of Surrey.
 The word is almost obscured.
 Read H. Lee Munson The Mortimer Gunmakers 1753-1923, 1992.
 Blanch, H.J. A Century of Guns 1909. Republished 1976.
 “Austen” according to H. Lee Munson The Mortimer Gunmakers 1753-1923, 1992, p.81.
 Lee Munson (H. Lee Munson The Mortimer Gunmakers 1753-1923, 1992) wrote to me, 23 January 2005: “The family tree that was used in James Arthur’s article in Guns Review was original compiled by Robert Mortimer in 1930 and has some mistakes in it. Arthur used it without crediting Robert Mortimer … but I have a copy of the original as well as a copy of the Guns Review article. I did not carry my research back to Edward Mortimer because it was the gunmaking Mortimers which held my interest.”
 Bailey De Witt and D.A Nie, English Gunmakers: Birmingham and Provincial Gun Trade in the 18th and 19th Century 1978.
 Notes from the Latrobe Library Melbourne.
 Garryowen, Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1888.
 Garryowen, Vol.I, p.170
 I wonder whether this was the Favourite on which another ancestor William Dedicoat travelled from Williamstown (Melbourne) to Sydney, August 1851.
 The shop was about 200m. from the river, near the corner of Collins street and Market Street. The site is now the entrance to an underground car park
 Vol.I. p 314
 Wednesday 18 December 1839.
 An interesting name.
 Thursday 19 December 1839
 Pp.48, 53, 56
 This information was provided by Mrs Sandy Sellars.
 Latrobe notes.
 Alexander Sutherland, 1888.
 It must be admitted that the identity of the man in the photo is by no means certain.
 Courtesy Valda Strauss January 1987. Valda is a Helyar descendant and has been of invaluable help to me in compiling my family history, both the Helyars and the Butlers. Valda was a faithful correspondent until 2010 after which Valda and husband George entered a Nursing Home.
 From Inscriptions in Stone, Richard Lord, compiled from headstones, St David’s Churchyard. Courtesy Sandy Sellars, 1989.
 His great-great grand-daughter, Jacqueline Kelly, has researched this branch of the family.
 Sandra Sellars, a great grand-daughter of Spilsbury, has researched this branch of the family.
 B. Chalmers Leask, Genealogical Guide to Some Australian Families, 1979.
 Rock, Ribbesford and Bewdley are west of Kidderminster, near Stourport (Map 29, A33, Collins Road Atlas, Britain 1985)
 Joanna Sholes.
 I am indebted to H Lee Munson’s The Mortimer Gunmakers 1753-1923 (1992) for much of the information contained in this Appendix.
 Stevenson, George J. City Road Chapel, London, and its Associations 1872, pp. 153 and 554-555.
 Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995) and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)