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Friday, October 31, 2014

John Highlord Bland in "London Silver-hilted Swords"

The reference book London Silver-hilted Swords:  their makers, suppliers and allied traders, with directory by Leslie Southwick (Royal Armouries, 2001, Leeds, UK) contains an entry on John Highlord Bland, Stephen Bland's brother, and his partner Robert Foster.

"Bland/Bland & Foster/Foster
John Highlord Bland (died 1791) was a royal sword cutler and belt maker to George III, of 68 St. James Street, parish of St. James, Piccadilly, Westminster.  The building was on the west side of St. James Street 'situated at the Corner of Catharine Wheel Yard, near St. James's Place in St. James's Street'. 

Bland succeeded the royal cutler and belt maker Mrs. Anne Becket (widow of John Becket, died 1767) the above location in the spring of 1768 and he is recorded being there in the poor-rate book dated 19 April 1768.  A Sun insurance policy (no. 390917) was taken out by Bland on the property on 18 October 1777.  Following the death of Anne Becket he was appointed Beltmaker and Sword Cutler in Ordinary to George III in Anne's place on 26 February 1782.  Following this appointment Bland...undertook the annual supply of swords and belts for the yeoman guards and warders at the Tower.

The partnership of John Bland and Robert Foster was established by 1787.  Robert Foster (1758-98) the son of the sword cutler and hilt maker Thomas Foster...was indentured as an apprentice sword cutler to Bland on 24 September 1772....

There is no doubt that Foster worked under Bland until their partnership was formed.  The union was established certainly by 1787, if not just before.  The joint names are found on an invoice dated 25 March 1787, which relates to work undertaken for the Prince of Wales between January and March 1787....However, only Bland is listed in the rate books until 1789.  

John Bland died on 3 August 1791....His will, proved on 4 August 1792, left his estate in part to his wife, Harriet, and to his brother (PROB 11/1207, f350).  However, the testament was disputed by Foster because of the arrangements made for their business.  The will was proved a second time two years later on 4 August 1794, a tribunal finding in Foster's favour...

Following Bland's death, Foster succeeded to the business of being royal sword cutler and belt maker (see PRO LC9/399, no. 50).  Seven years later, in March 1798, 'Robert Foster of Barleyford in the Parish of St. Nicholas, Shepperton, Middlesex' died aged 39 and was buried at the church of St. Nicholas on 18 March 1798 ..."
There are two other Blands listed as silver-hilted sword cutlers in Southwick's directory:  one, Cornelius Bland, comes from Oxfordshire and is probably not related.  The second, Edward Bland, might be Ann's brother. Here is his entry:

"Edward Bland was a sword cutler and a freeman of the Weavers' Company.  'Son of Stephen Bland of Hammersmith, a Gardner', he was indentured to Thomas Foster for seven years on 5 November 1770...and sworn free of servitude of the Weavers' Company 23 years later on 5 March 1793, giving his address as 63 Fetter Lane, Holborn, the house next door to Foster's then location.  Clearly, Bland had worked with Foster as a journeyman long after his 'time' had finished.  His name does not appear as being at the above address in the land-tax assessment books in this period."

Notice that Edward's master was Thomas Foster;  Thomas was the father of Robert Foster, John Highlord Bland's apprentice and eventual partner.  (Thomas also had a son named John Foster who began life as a leather-seller and ended up succeeding his father as a sword cutler in Fetter Lane, so sword-making seems to have been a family occupation.) 

Now, our Stephen Bland, Ann (Bland) Elliot's father,  lived in Hammersmith, but I thought he was a cutler, not a gardener.  However, when I go over my notes, I can't see any documentation for this.  Did I just imagine it?  Stephen definitely had a son named Edward Bland, as evidenced by Stephen's  will, and the timing would be about right.

Stephen also had a son named James.  And here is a document from the database "London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925", dated October 7, 1789, that records a James Bland, "Son of  Stephen Bland of Hammersmith in the County of Middx Gardener" apprenticing himself to "John Foster of Fetter Lane London Sword Cutler"

All of these professional connections between the Bland and Foster families make it seem more likely that Edward and James, son of Stephen Bland of Hammersmith, Gardener, are indeed John Highlord Bland's nephews and Ann Bland's brothers.  

By the way, here's another record from the same database, showing that the profession went down in the family for at least one more generation:

"This Indenture Witnesseth, That Stephen John Highlord Bland Son of Edward Bland of Cow Cross Street Est Smithfield Sword Cutler doth put himself Apprentice to Charles Matthews of Kings Head Court Shoe Lane Cutler a Citizen and Goldsmith of London, to learn his Art of a Cutler....the...Second day of the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and Seventeen." 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Birth Family of Stephen Bland

Stephen Bland is the father of our ancestress Ann Bland, who married Robert Elliot and moved to Canada.  He was also father to Harriot Bland, wife of Daniel Pontifex, and a sword cutler in London, England.  Who were his family?

Stephen's brother, John Highlord Bland, also a cutler, left a will which names many relatives, and which is a good place to begin our information gathering.  John Highlord died before his brother Stephen did:  his will was proved in London, August 4, 1792.

"I John Highlord Bland of St. James Street in the parish of St. James and city of Westminster sword cutler do make this my will and testament in manner following..."

John Highlord Bland leaves bequests to
  • "my wife Harriet Bland" 
  • "My brother Stephen Bland of Hammersmith"
  • "Edward Bland the son of the said Stephen" (he also refers, elsewhere in the will,  to Edward as Stephen's eldest son):  to Edward  he leaves a bequest of two hundred pounds
  •  more of Stephen's children: "his [Stephen's] two daughters Ann and Harriet Bland" get a bequest of one hundred and fifty pounds each, "his son Thomas Bland" gets a bequest of sixty pounds and "his son James Bland" gets a bequest of forty pounds
  •  "to my Sister in Law Mrs. Gwyn Bland"  (amount is illegible)
  • "to her daughter Gwyn ten pounds (?) and to her other two daughters five pounds each"
  • "my nephew Thomas Bland the son of the said Gwyn Bland I totally disinherit and put him off with a shilling" 
 He appoints his "friend and partner Robert Forster" sole executor of his will.

Thomas Bland obviously did something to irk his uncle!  I wonder what it was?

John Highlord Bland's will not only establishes that he is the brother of our ancestor Stephen and the uncle of our ancestress Ann, but also names all of Stephen's children and gives good clues to finding another sibling.  Now we have to search for a Bland man who married a woman named Gwyn and had children named Gwyn and Thomas, as well as two other girls.   I propose the best candidate is Thomas Bland, married to a Gwyn, last name unknown, who had four girls baptized in the parish of St. Dunstan in the West, London.

Gwyn Dau of Thomas & Gwyn Bland B. July 31st Whites Alley. Baptized August 5, 1764.

Sarah Daughter of Thomas & Gwen Bland Born Jan 27th Whites Alley.  Baptized February 9th, 1766.

Mary Dr. of Thomas & Gwen Bland Born April 13, Whites Alley.  Baptized April 19, 1767.

Elizabeth Catherine Dr of Thomas & Gwen Bland Born March 18, Whites Alley.  Baptized March 27, 1769.


Sadly, Elizabeth Catherine died at two years of age, which may be why John Highlord Bland indicated in his will that this family had three daughters.

Elizth Catherine Bland, buried Fetter Lane, from Whites Alley.  May 21, 1771. 

There is an additional birth record for a son:                                                                                            

John Son of Thomas & Anne Gwenn Bland born Nov. 14. Whites Alley.  Baptized Nov. 25, 1770.

This record is especially interesting because it gives an additional name for the mother;  rather than Gwen, she is referred to as "Anne Gwenn". I still don't see any sign of a Thomas Bland.

Now all I have to do is find a couple named Bland who not only had a son named Stephen but also one called Thomas and one called John Highlord.  Shouldn't be too hard, right?