Henry Brewitt, (variously spelled Brewett and Blewitt), according to the late Local Historian H. E. Priestley, in his ‘History of Modern Times’, (p.78), bought Suttons Farm in 1778. (The farm was also known in earlier centuries as Suddens, or Southdowne. This farm was situated at the bottom of Endway, overlooking St. Mary’s Church, adjoining the land which would later be gifted to become the Downs.
Priestley (p.78), quoting the South Benfleet Manor Court Rolls, says of Suttons in 1751, that it was ‘two fields arable (Rapleys), and 2 acres of close’ i.e. land enclosed for livestock, (Muddefords).
S. Williams painted the view in the 1920s, which I reproduce above.
I also reproduce a line drawing by the Late Will H. Maile, illustrator to H. E. Priestley, which shows where Suttons Farm was situated.
The Jeffery Family Tree on Ancestry.com has both the Spitty land owning family (Great Tarpots Farm, among others), and Brewitt family among their forebears, and the following information is obtained from there, with gratitude.
Henry’s mother and father were Ann (1699-1779) and John Brewitt (1692-1749). Ann was his second wife. Their children were, Henry (born 1732), Elizabeth (born 1733), and Daniel (born 1736). Priestley, quoting from the South Benfleet Manor Court Rolls, in his ‘History of Modern Times’ (p.66), states that in 1738, John Brewitt had a ‘shop built on the Waste’. I should hazard a guess that it was the ‘waste’ at the edge of Anchor Meadows, as that was where the main settlement of houses and shops were situated. The ‘Waste’ was the broad strip of grass verge which was left both sides of the roads for driving cattle, particularly in areas of clay soil, where the middle gravelled strip would quickly have become a quagmire. People often annexed them and built a small cottage. John Brewitt, Priestley says, was ‘a local notable in his day who at some time or other held every parish office, and who as a young man in 1720 and 1721 was Parish Constable; (p.66).
Henry Brewitt married Valentine Parker on 13th August 1759. Her parents were Charles Parker, born 1704, died 1774, and Mary Hansell, died 1760). They were a farming family at Thundersley Hall, Thundersley. Charles Parker was elected to the post of Churchwarden at St. Peter’s, Thundersley, in 1747, aged 43. ‘He served for many years thereafter’ and I attach a copy of a later entry in St. Peter’s Registers, showing him as Churchwarden (again, courtesy of the Jefferys family tree on Ancestry).
When he married, Henry was 27 years old. and Valentine was 34. In 1759, his occupation was listed as ‘Shopkeeper, South Benfleet’.
Henry and Valentine had six children. Mary Ann (1759-1823), John (1764-1784), buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, South Benfleet. Susannah (1765-?), Henry (1769- 18.2.1815), buried at Fobbing. Ann (1771-?), George 1773-1773, buried at St. Mary’s Churchyard, South Benfleet.
By 1768, Henry Brewitt was included in the Poll for the Knights of the Shire for Essex.
Henry was a benefactor, both in London, and South Benfleet. In 1785, he appears on a list of contributors published by the London Hospital. He was also an Annual Governor of the Hospital.
Henry Brewitt had close connections with St. Mary’s Church, South Benfleet, as had his father, John, who had served four times as Church Warden, from 1737-38, 1748-49, 1749-50 and 1753-54. John Brewitt’s wife, Ann, also served as Overseer of the Poor in 1759, and again in 1771. (Priestley, History of Benfleet, Book 2, page 93).
Henry served as Church Warden from 1774-75, 1779-80, 1787-88. I found this information among the Matson Papers, – among interesting snippets taken from the Easter Vestry Meetings Books, 1679 – 1754 and 1755 – 1845, probably hastily written before the registers were sent to be stored in the bowels of the Diocesan Record Office at Chelmsford.
In Priestley’s History of Benfleet, Book Two, Modern times (p.118) I also discovered that Henry Brewitt also signed a Vestry Minute of 1777, agreeing to serve the Office of Overseer ‘for a whole Year for the Future in Consequence of there being so few Persons resident in the Parish fit and liable to serve the said office’. Henry’s co-signatories were Thomas Welch, Richard Cooper, R. Loten, William Wilson and Stephen Foster. As Priestley points out, the job of Overseer of the Poor ‘involved a heavy workload, and since it was considered to be the normal voluntary duty of every vestryman, was unpaid’.
Henry gifted a bell to St. Mary’s Church in 1790, note the alternative spelling of his name engraved on the bell.
Whilst I usually avoid ‘arguments from silence’, I think there is a strong possibility that he also gifted the recently restored weather vane, five years earlier than the bell, in 1785. It clearly has a ‘B’ on the tail, but I wonder whether the ‘N’ was originally an ‘H’. Someone had clearly taken pot shots at the weather vane, probably in the 19th century with a rifled pistol, as shown by the presence of small regular holes at the top arch of the tail, and they may well have shot out the bar of the ‘H’. As there was a Shooting Club next to the Anchor Inn, from the 1900s until the 1950s – it is not impossible that a couple of likely lads decided to have a little target practice!
Henry Brewitt died on 28th March 1794 in South Benfleet, and was buried 3rd April 1794, in St. Mary’s Church-yard, South Benfleet. Benton’s ‘History of Rochford Hundred’ (footnote to P.67) states that, … ‘Henry Brewitt of South Bemfleet, son of John Brewitt, of the same place, … is buried in a vault in the church-yard with others of the family’. In Benton’s History (published 1867), on page 78, whilst talking about the tombs of the Bell family (of Thundersley Lodge) and the Brewitt family, he says, ‘on the [Brewitts’] tomb, is an in inscription to the memory of John Brewitt, Senior, late of this Parish, who died in 1749 aged 57, also of Mary, his first wife, who died in 1720 and Ann his second, who died in 1779. Likewise of Elizabeth his mother, who died in 1729; and John his son, who died in 1759′.
Henry Brewitt, Gentleman, had his Last Will and Testament published on 10th March 1794 at South Benfleet. He left Suttons Farm to his son, Henry, ‘who was admitted in paying a fine of £39’ (Priestley, ibid). Henry and Valentine had spent their declining years at Suttons Farm, Valentine dying in 1797, three years after Henry.
It is a fascinating Will, and shows a man who cared deeply for his wife, whom he refers to as ‘my dear Wife Valentine’. Henry and Valentine had lost their firstborn son, John, at the young age of 20, and there were obviously reservations about the younger son, Henry’s willingness to provide for his mother.
I provide a transcript of the Will as follows, having kept the idiosyncratic eighteenth century capital letters, and spelling, but adding punctuation for easier reading:
‘This is the Last Will and Testament of me, Henry Brewitt of South Bemfleet in the County of Essex, Gentleman. First, I desire to be buried in the Church Yard of the Parish Church of South Bemfleet, by the side of my Son John, and that my Funeral may be as private and plain as possible. And I desire that it may be attended by six Pall Bearers and that they and the Clergyman and the Clerk of the Parish may be provided with silk hat bands. I desire that my Debts, Funeral Expences [sic] and the charges of proving this my Will may be paid by my Executors hereinafter named as soon as conveniently may be after my Decease. And I do hereby subject and charge all my Estate and Effects real and personal with the payment thereof, and of the Legacies and Annuity hereinafter given and bequeathed by me. And I earnestly desire that my dear Wife Valentine Brewitt and my dear Son Henry Brewitt, will continue to live together and that they reside in the house wherein my Son in Law Thomas Potter now dwells at my Farm called Suttons. (signed: Henry Brewitt)
I confirm the settlement made on my marriage with my dear Wife, and as a further provision for her in addition to the provision thereby made, in case it shall so happen that my dear Wife and my Son Henry shall not continue to live together (but not if they do) I give and bequeath unto my said dear Wife one Annuity or Sum of Twenty Five Pounds a year, for and during the Term of her natural Life, to be paid to her by four equal quarterly payments, and the first payment thereof to commence and be made at the end of three months next after my said dear Wife and my Son Henry shall separate from each other both, which I again earnestly instruct them both may not take place. And this I do hereby authorize and empower my said dear Wife Valentine Brewitt in case of Default shall at any time happen to be made in the regular and functional(?) payment of the said Annuity, or any part thereof, to make notice upon my Farm called Suttons, and all other of my Real Estate or any part thereof. (Signed: Henry Brewitt)
And to make one or more sufficient Distress or Distresses and to proceed therein until hereby or otherwise, the said Annuity and all arrears thereof, and all costs and charges relating to the Recovery thereof, shall be fully paid and satisfied. I also give and bequeath unto my said dear Wife, the furniture of any two rooms in the House wherein we dwell as she shall choose. I give and bequeath unto my daughter Mary Ann Potter, Twenty Five Pounds and five guineas for mourning. To my daughter, Susan Brewitt, One Hundred Pounds and twenty guineas, to appoint her in any Business or Line of Life she may choose and also five guineas for mourning. To my daughter, Nancy Brewitt, One Hundred Pounds, Twenty guineas for an Apprenticeship Fee (unless I shall have paid the same) and five guineas for mourning. I give to the Revd. Robert Pawley and Hannah his Wife, a mourning ring each and to my nephew Thomas a ring. Spitty of Bowers Gifford, Gentleman, cost of any disbursement and costs, and also ten guineas for mourning. The Legacy of twenty-five pounds to my daughter Mary Ann Potter, and the said Legacies of One Hundred Pounds each to my daughters Susan and Nancy Brewitt to be paid at the end of twelve months, and the other Legacies as soon a conveniently may be after’.
(Signed: Henry Brewitt)
[On] my Decease, I Give, devise and bequeath all that my Mesuages [sic] Tenement or Farm called Suttons with the Freehold and Copyhold Land and Premises thereunto belonging, and all that piece of land called Longcroft otherwise Little Kersey together with the Barns, Stables, Buildings and appurtances [sic] thereunto belonging. And also the lease of my Farm called The Hill Farm and the lease of my Farm called Kersey Farm, and all other [of] my Estate & Effects real and personal whatsoever & wheresoin & of what nature or kind so ever, unto my dear Son Henry Brewitt, his Heirs, Executors Administrators and Assigns, to and for his and their own use and benefit, subject nevertheless to the payments of the aforesaid Debts, Legacies and Annuity. And I constitute and appoint the said Thomas Spitty [Editor’s Note: Thomas Spitty was Henry Brewitt’s Nephew, see Foot Note 1] and my Son Henry Brewitt, Executors of this my Last Will and Testament, and I do hereby revoke all former and other Wills by me at any time heretofore made, and declare this only to be and contain my Last Will and Testaments. In Witness thereof I have to the three first-sides set my Hand, and the fourth and last side of this sheet of paper set my Hand and Seal this Fourth day of March of the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety Four.
Signed and Sealed Published and Declared by the said Henry Brewitt as and for his Last Will & Testament in the Presence of Us, who in his Presence and at his request have subscribed our names as Witnesses. (Seal)
Robert Powley [Editor’s Note: Rector of Bowers Gifford]
F. H. Nash
Stephen Foster [Editor’s Note: Stephen Foster was the Parish Clerk] (The Matson Papers refer)
‘Will and Codicil. Brewitt, Henry’
Late of the Parish of South Benfleet
Proved the 20th May 1794
This is a Codicil to be added to and taken as part of the Last Will and Testament of me, Henry Brewitt of South Bemfleet in the County of Essex, Gentleman. I nominate constitute and appoint Stephen Spencer of Nevendon in the County of Essex, Gentleman, Executor of my said Will, jointly with my nephew Thomas Spitty and my Son Henry Brewitt, and I give and bequeath unto the said Stephen Spencer, a Ring of one guinea value and also the sum of Ten Guineas for mourning. In Witness whereof I have here unto set my Hand and Seal this Twentieth Day of March in the year of our Lord God one thousand and seven hundred and ninety four.
Signed Sealed Published and Declared by the said Henry Brewitt as and for a Codicil to his Last Will and Testament, in the presence of us, who in his presence and at his Request have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses:
12th May 1794
Thomas Spitty, Henry Brewitt, Son of the Deceased and Stephen Spencer the Executors named in the Will and Codicil hereto annexed, were sworn to the Truth, and due performance thereof, and that (unreadable word) of the Deceased’s Goods, Chattles [sic] and Credits do assent to the Best of their Knowledge and Belief amount to the sum of One Thousand Pounds.
Testator died in South } before me
Benfleet the twenty-eighth of } Robert Savingates
Proved with a Codicil amended on the 12th day of May in the year of Our Lord 1794 before the Reverend Thomas Roberts, Clerk Surrogate and pending the Episcopal Visitation/ by the oaths of Thomas Spitty, Henry Brewitt, Son of the Deceased, and Stephen Spencer the Executors to who administration was granted they being first sworn duly to administer.
Priestley (ibid., p.78), recounts that Henry Brewitt (Junior), mortgaged Suttons to his cousin, Thomas Spitty, Gentleman, of Billericay, and John Bailey, a butcher, of Gravesend, for £1,000. This was in 1804 (ten years after he inherited it).
Henry Brewitt (Junior) died in Fobbing, Essex of consumption in 1815. The Jefferey Family Tree, quoting from a book entitled The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer’ states that he, ‘possibly fell on hard times prior to his death, as there is a record of Henry Brewitt being resettled from Fobbing to South Benfleet for poor relief’.
- Thomas Spitty (Benton, History of Rochford Hundred, p67), built Sadlers in Bowers Gifford, moved to Billericay, where he died about 1824. His father, also called Thomas, had died in 1779, and his widow, Hannah Parker, of Thundersley Hall, Thundersley, daughter of Charles Parker, then married the Revd. Robert Powley, Rector of Bowers Gifford.
An interesting sequel: In October 2023, a descendant of Henry Brewitt, still living in Benfleet, came to one of our Library displays, and provided more information. Henry Brewitt’s grand-daughter, Mary Brewitt, (nee Brazier) was the subject of an £100 Court Order in August 1821, binding her to marry William Ling, an agricultural labourer working on her father’s farm, by whom she was pregnant. They went on to have fifteen children, so there may be a number of descendants who may get in touch in the future!