The Recorders of Glastonbury by the Rev. Preb. Grant

THE CHARTER OF INCORPORATION OF GLASTONBURY is dated 'the three and twentieth day of June, 1705.' It was granted by Her Majesty Queen Anne, and by her decreed 'That Glastonbury shall  for ever hereafter be and remaine a town of peace and liberty to the dread and terror of evill men and the reward support and encouragement of good men and also that our peace and other Acts of Justice and good Government may there the better be kept preserved and executed hoping that if the inhabitants of the said Town do by this Our Royal Charter and Letters Patent hold exercise and enjoy large and beneficiall priviledges jurisdictions liberties franchises powera and authorities that they will think themselves obliged more especially to pay and performe their utmost duty and alle-glance to us Our heires and Successors.'

In the Charter it is provided 'That within the said Town of Glastonbury one honest and discreet person learned in the laws of England and shall have been a Barrister by the space of three years who shall be and be called Recorder of the said Town and Wee have nominated ordained constituted and appointed our right trusty and well beloved Peter King to be the first and present Recorder of the said Town.'

Then it is further provided 'That when any vacancy shall arise the Mayor and Burgesses shall meet at some convenient place and shall elect a successor. And there shall also be a Deputy Recorder who shall be an able and discreet person learned in the laws of England and shall have been a Barrister for the space of two years.'

The 'right trusty' Peter King has been already treated. The next name is that of Fortescue Turberville. Of him, however, there is very little that I can tell. The old Municipal minute-books of the period appear to be lost. I have made until his death, March 1st, 1793, aged 84. He was buried at Stapleford Abbas, in Essex, of which parish his brother William was Rector. He left two daughters. The elder, Elizabeth, was married to the Hon. Temple S. Luttrell, M.P., son of the Earl of Carhampton. The second daughter was Honora Margaretta. She was married July 8th, 1782, to Richard, seventh Earl of Cavan, and she carried the estate of Sharpham Park to the Earl of Cavan, and it still remains in possession of that family. His brother, Thomas, Barrister, Bencher of Middle Temple, was appointed Deputy Recorder of Glaston­bury in 1760.

There were three other Recorders of Glastonbury before the office was suppressed by the Municipal Act of Parliament passed in 1835. This Act made many changes in the consti­tution of the Corporation of Glastonbury. These Recorders will be noticed at some future time. I think it is well that some notice should be made of these officials, and of many other points of Municipal interest. They are not recorded in any history of Glastonbury that I am aware of. Warner is altogether silent about the municipal history of Glastonbury. His volume contains much information which is most interest­ing and important on its antiquities and ecclesiastical history and many other subjects, and is thus a most valuable work and one of great authority; but as regards the municipal history of Glastonbury he is very meagre. In a single sen­tence, on page 244, he says that ‘In the reign of Queen Anne, by the interest and exertions of Sir Peter King, who obtained a Charter, it was constituted a Corporation, consisting of a Mayor and eight capital Burgesses.’

Henry Bosanquet was descended from a Huguenot family, who sought refuge in England on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They came from a village of Bosanquet, in the Province of Languedoc, in the South of France. David Bosanquet came to London in the reign of James II and established himself as a Turkey merchant. He was made a free citizen by Royal warrant on December 16th, 1687. He died July 17th, 1732, aged 70 years. His son Jacob was also a Turkey merchant in London, and was head of the India House. He died at Bath on June 9th, 1767, aged 53, and was buried in the Abbey. He married Elizabeth, the daughter of John Hanbury, Esq., of Helmarnock. His third son, Henry, was born September 18th, 1760. He became a barrister. He was director of the French Hospital. This was a large charitable institution founded by wealthy refugees for their distressed fellow countrymen in England. It owed its origin to a French gentleman who had been Master of the Buckhounds to William III. In 1718 George I granted a charter of incor­poration to the Governor and directors. It has been liberally endowed by legacies and donations of wealthy French merchants. A few years ago a new handsome building was erected in Victoria Park which provides accommodation for 40 men and 20 women. His brother Samuel was a director of the Bank of England, and his sister Mary was the wife of the Rev. W. Fletcher, of Madeley, to whom she was married in 1781. In Mr. Serel’s notes I find it stated that on 24th June, 1794, Henry Bosanquet, Esq., of Langford Court, near Bristol, was elected Recorder in the place of Sir Henry Gould, deceased. The new Recorder was sworn in Octobei 6th, 1794.

From the Corporation minute-book I have copied the follow­ing extracts.‘At a meeting of the Mayor, Justices, and Capital and Inferior Burgesses held in the Town-hall, Glastonbury, on the 24th day of June, 1794, they then and there assembled did unanimously elect Henry Bosanquet, Esq., of Langford Court, near Bristol, to be our Recorder in the place and stead of Sir Henry Gould, deceased. At a Con­vocation held on the 6th day of October, 1794, Henry Bosanquet, Esq., of Langford Court, was sworn to serve the office of Recorder for the town and Corporation of Glastonbury, Jacob Underwood being Mayor. He resigned the office in 1800, Jacob Underwood again being Mayor. The minutes do not state who he was, and contain no entries or particulars of any official duties of the Recorder. I can gain no further information than his election in 1794 and his resignation in 1800. In 1815 he was High Sheriff for Hants. He is described as of Glanville Lodge, Hants. He died January 30th, 1817.  He married, May 3rd,  1790, at Walcot Church, Bath, Caroline, the daughter of Christopher Anstey, the poet. Anstey was an M.P., and divided his time between the House of Commons, his home at Trumpington near Cambridge, and Bath. He published a volume of society verse, inspired by society life as it existed in the fashionable city of Bath. A recent critic has said that Anstey’s style was destined to leave its mark on the whole of the nineteenth-century poetry. This grandson, Henry Anstey Bosanquet, Esq., married a daughter of Lieut-0Col. Luttrel, of Kilve, County Somerset. It is a curious coincidence that one of his daughters, a living descen­dant of one Recorder of Glastonbury, is married to the Rev. Prebendary Phelips, Esq., the descendant of Edward Phelps, of Montacute House, another Recorder of Glastonbury. This lady, Mrs. Henry Anstey Bosanquet, is still living at Minehead, and I acknowledge with gratitude the help which she has given me in the preparation of this sketch. Also I am indebted to a full and complete pedigree of the Bosanquet family drawn up with great care by Mrs. Meyer. This I found in the British Museum.

Edmund Griffith was the next Recorder. Of this gentleman I can obtain no information beyond what is supplied by entries in the minute books. There I find that ‘at a general convocation held on the 10th day of September, 1809, Edmund Griffith, Esquire, was unanimously elected Recorder of this Corporation in the room of Henry Bosanquet, Esq., resigned.’

According to a minute of the 30th day of April, 1821, it was resolved ‘That the thanks of the Corporation be forwarded to Edmund Griffith, Esq., for the very handsome and polite manner in which he has resigned his office of their Recorder for the purpose of enabling them to obtain the assistance of a gentleman in the neighbourhood, and for his past services and kind offer of future assistance.’ Was he of a kindly, generous disposition that it led him to act so graciously? Perhaps the office was not a very profitable one. There were no railways in those days, and if he lived at some distance the cost of coach-hire would amount to more than the fees of the office. Perhaps the Corporation were not satisfied at the way that the duties were discharged.    However, no complaints are entered. Mr. Griffiths is courteously thanked for the handsome and polite manner of his retirement. He was made a Justice of the Peace for the County in 1787. But the Clerk of the Peace can give no information about him. Leland in his Itinerary of Somerset states that at Wike ‘There is a large Manor Place, where of most Parte was builded by Newton chief Judge of Englande. His Lordship was the Lord Chedders, and then Newtons, whose ii. daughters were married, the one onto Griffith of Braybrooke and the other onto Syr Giles Capelle. And again Syr Giles Capelle and Syr Griffith of Braybrooke Castelle in Northamptonshire maried the daughters and heyres of Newton of Wike in Somersetshir.’ I find that in the latter half of the seven­teenth century one Edward Griffith married Barbara Jennings, sister of the famous Sarah Jennings who became Duchess of Marlborough.

William Dickinson was the eldest son of William Dickinson, Esq., of Kingweston. He was born November 1st, 1771. Educated at Oxford, where he took the degree of M.A. at Christ Church College in 1795, and proceeded to that of B.C.L. at All Souls in 1799, he was called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn, February 6th, 1796, and the same year was returned Member of Parliament for Ilchester. In 1802 he was returned for Lostwithiel, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Col. Hans Sloane. When Mr. Pitt returned to office in May, 1804, Mr. Dickinson was nominated one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and was again returned for Lostwithiel. He succeeded his father in the Kingweston estates in 1806, and was chosen one of the Knights of the Shire for Somerset. He continued to sit for the county through successive Parliaments until 1831, but failed to secure his re-election in 1832, on account of his disapproving of the Reform Bill. He was elected Recorder of Glastonbury in succession to Edmund Griffith, Esq., who resigned in 1821, and was sworn into office on the 9th of Nov. in the same year.

The following extracts from the Corporation minute-books are interesting:—A minute states that at a meeting on Monday, 21st July,  1821,  William Dickinson, Esq., of Kingweston, Member for the County, was unanimously elected Recorder of the said town in the room of Edmund Griffith, Esq.,  resigned.’                                                         

On the 13th October, 1821, it was resolved: ‘That William Dickinson, Esq., the Recorder, be invited to dine with the Corporation on the 9th of November next. Be it remembered that on Friday, the 9th day of November, in the second year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Fourth, William Dickinson, Esq., did truly make, take, and subscribe the oaths of office of a justice of the peace and of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration as Recorder of the said town before.—Thomas Roach, I do swear that as justice of the peace in the town of Glastonbury, in the co. of Somerset, in all articles by the charter of the said town directed, I will do equal right to the poor and to the rich, after my cunning wit and power and after the laws and customs of the realm and statutes thereof made; that I will not be of counsel of any quarrel hanging before me; that I will hold the sessions as by the said charter is directed, and after the form of the statutes thereof made that the issues, fines, and amerciaments which shall happen to be made, and all forfeitures which shall fall before me, I shall cause to be entered without any concealment or embezzling, and truly send them to the King's exchequer;  that I will not let for gift or other cause, but well and truly I will do my office of justice of the peace in that behalf; that I will take nothing for my office of justice of the peace to be done but of the King and fees accustomed and costs limited by the statute; and that I will not direct, or cause to be directed, any warrant by me to be made to the parties, but will direct them to the sergeants-at-mace of the said town, or the constables or tything-men there, or other of the King's officers and ministers, or other indifferent persons, to do execution thereof. So help me God.—W. Dickinson, as Recorder.’

He was for many years chairman of Quarter Sessions. He held the office of Recorder of Glastonbury until the passing of the Municipal Act of 1835, which changed the constitution of the Corporation and put an end to the office. He died at Naples on 19th January, 1837, in the 68th year of his age, having married Sophia, the daughter of Samuel Smith, Esq., of Woodhall, in Hertfordshire. He left two sons and two daughters—Francis Henry, the celebrated and learned anti­quarian, who married Caroline, daughter of Lieut.-General Carey; and Edmund, who married a daughter of the Right Hon. and Right Rev. Baron Auckland, Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1854 to 1869.

All images and text © Glastonbury Antiquarian Society 2021

Site Map