Just an Apprentice

A will is often all one has to go on to build a picture of the past. But wills are powerful documents — take that of Richard Crossley who died in 1815 leaving 15½ pages of closely written text(1)

Crossley was a wealthy man with no surviving offspring, as his tombstone records (see the previous newsletter entitled “Richard Crossley”) ‘who by persevering Industry with the strictest integrity realised considerable property’. His first wife died in childbirth in 1780 followed by their only child in 1794 so this property was ‘bequeathed among his collateral relations’, predominantly siblings, nephews and nieces.

For instance, one of Crossley’s nephews was John Kerschner, the silversmith. An ex-apprentice of Crossley’s, he was left £1000.

Among Crossley’s many other bequests, there is an intriguing one to ‘John Doughty … journeyman silversmith at present employed by Messrs Eley, Fearn and Chawner silversmiths’. £2000 is to be invested for him and he is to receive the same in ‘even and equal weekly payments unto & for the support & Maintenance of John Doughty during the term of his natural life for his own personal benefit’. There is a proviso that he cannot borrow against this money and that any money not spent in his lifetime would be used to support his children. In the absence of any children, or in the event of their deaths, the money reverts to Richard Crossley’s estate.

Who was John Doughty, that he should be treated so generously? According to Doughty’s apprenticeship, in the records of the Goldsmiths’ Company, he was ‘son of John Doughty late of the parish of St. Bartholomew, London, Labourer deceased’(2) and began his apprenticeship to Richard Crossley on 5th January 1803. Unusually Crossley charged Doughty no apprenticeship fee: apart from members of his immediate family this is the only instance of his having waived that right.

John Doughty’s christening was at St. Bartholomew the Great, London on 17 th December 1786 and he is recorded as the son of John Doughty and Sarah(3). Sadly it has not proved possible to find any further details about this couple.

Whatever the exact relationship was between Richard Crossley and the younger John Doughty, it was clearly important to Crossley — he not only left him a significant sum of money but one could imagine that he had also arranged the position with Eley, Fearn and Chawner (a firm with which Crossley had strong historic links).

In considering the relationship between Crossley and Doughty, it is interesting to note the extremely close proximity of Giltspur Street, where Crossley’s workshop was located in 1786 and the parish of St. Bartholomew the Great, where the Doughty family lived and John was christened.

Luke Schrager

(1) Public Record Office, Kew: PROB11/1568

(2) Goldsmiths’ Hall, London: Goldsmiths’ Company Apprenticeship Book xxx: Folio xxx.

(3) International Genealogy Index.

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