Nathaniel Alexander And Family

The Alexander family grave in St Martin's Churchyard, Epsom.
The Alexander family grave in St Martin's Churchyard, Epsom.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2013

I need to guess when Nathaniel and Sophia Charlotte came to Epsom so I will go for 1840, which is as near as makes no difference. They were married on 2 February 1821 at Calcutta Cathedral. Sophia was born in 1801, the daughter of Noah Hickey and Sophia Blaney/Sutherland and in 1818, in Calcutta, she married Robert Rayner Young (born 1788), who died in 1819. Both Nathaniel and Sophia were originally from Ireland and had lived in Calcutta for some years, where he was an East India merchant.

St John's Cathedral, Calcutta
St John's Cathedral, Calcutta (erected by the East India Company and
modelled on St Martin-in-the Fields, London), where the Alexanders were
married. This building was downgraded to a church in 1847 when the new
and grander St Paul's Cathedral was built.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Alexander family had made a fortune in India, trading as Alexander & Co, merchants, bankers and agents. Partners came and went, but there was a continuity of Alexanders in the firm. Nathaniel joined in 1822 and was one of those who presided over its demise in 1832. All of the major Calcutta trading houses went down in about a five-year period from 1829, for a total of approximately £15m, with Alexander & Co responsible for around £3.5m of this. A commentator at the time put the blame on a system whereby new partners went out to India every two or three years, made a fortune and brought it back to England - in other words they slowly but surely starved to death the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Europeans being entertained in an Indian house in Calcutta 1830s/40s
Europeans being entertained in an Indian house in Calcutta 1830s/40s,
by William Prinsep. Prinsep was a merchant with Palmer & Co, the first
of the major Calcutta firms to fail.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Nathaniel was born on 6 December 1796 in Armagh. His parents were the Right Honourable and Right Reverend Nathaniel Alexander PC (1760-1840) and Anne Jackson (died 1837), daughter of the Right Honourable Richard Jackson, MP for Coleraine. Nathaniel Senior was wealthy but had a day job as a Protestant clergyman and held several very senior positions - he was latterly the Bishop of Meath. Nathaniel Senior was a nephew of James Alexander, 1st Earl of Caledon (see, the man who founded the family fortune by spending most of his life in the service of the East India Company and acquiring considerable estates in Ireland, among them Portglenone in Antrim (Portglenone House is now the site of Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey). If you follow the line down to the 4th Earl, one of his sons was Field-Marshal Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis.

Nathaniel Junior stayed on in India after Alexander & Co went bankrupt and it is clear from subsequent proceedings in the London courts that he and his partners were working to clear the debts - indeed, they were still paying dividends to creditors many years later. One would imagine that after this experience he would steer clear of East India trading, but no. At some point, presumably after he had extricated himself from the Calcutta mess, he set up the firm of Alexander, Cullen & Co at 28, Great Winchester Street, London, which was a warehouse with a house above it (the firm also had an operation in Calcutta known as Cullen, Muir & Co). His eldest son, Nathaniel Combermere Alexander, was a partner in this venture, which was dissolved at the end of 1854.

The next enterprise was N Alexander, Son & Co, which comprised both Nathaniels, a Mr Brice Hugh Pearse (from a landed family of Woodford, Essex) and one Alexander Collie. It appears that the Alexanders and Collie would have provided the business expertise, with Mr Pearse chipping in some funds. Whether or not this enterprise might have succeeded in the long term without Alexander Collie is debatable but it was certainly not going to flourish with him, since he was a crook. Nathaniel Combermere Alexander died in 1864 and fortunately did not witness what happened to the firm.

Collie had another mercantile firm, known as Alexander Collie & Co of London and Manchester: this was a partnership with his brother William. In mid-1875 the business went bust to the tune of £3.4m, the main creditor being the London & Westminster Bank. The Collies were then charged with obtaining money by false pretences from this bank and others and made several appearances at Guildhall Police Court - or rather, William Collie did. Once Alexander Collie got bail and the police stopped watching him, he disappeared, abandoning his wife and children and leaving his probably less culpable brother to face the music alone. Nathaniel Alexander's firm went down at around the same time, which predicament was blamed on the disastrous business ventures of Alexander Collie. According to reports at the time, Collie had made his reputation by acting big - and the more he swaggered the more people trusted him in business dealings. There was nothing very substantial behind the act but it worked.

The disappearance of Alexander Collie became something like that of Lord Lucan: he was sighted everywhere. He had a bounty of £1,000 on his head and was supposed to have been seen on a small yacht in the Channel, aiming to pick up a merchant ship; a decomposing body on Putney Heath was erroneously thought to be him, he was spotted in Norway and Spain etc etc. He ended up in New York, living under an assumed name, and died there in 1895, friendless and impoverished. For an excellent account of the life of Alexander Collie, including his earlier trading enterprises with the Confederacy during the American Civil War, I can recommend

Back in London Nathaniel Alexander and Brice Pearse were in a horrible predicament, but they set to work and gradually paid off the creditors. Nathaniel received his discharge from bankruptcy in 1879, the year before he died. It seems that he spent his entire working life in the mercantile trade and that most of his endeavours went to pay off huge debts; his personal estate when he died on 14 October 1880 was just £665. As detailed in the article on Hylands House, which had been owned by the Alexanders, Nathaniel's daughter, Henrietta Scott, bought the property following his bankruptcy and the family was able to remain. Sophia died there on 29 April 1883.

Memorial inscription to Nathaniel and Sophia Charlotte on the family grave.
Memorial inscription to Nathaniel and Sophia Charlotte on the family grave.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2013


I believe that there were nine children, but it is difficult to be sure as most of them were born outside England and I may have missed one or two who died in infancy. Anyway, these are the nine who survived.

Name Born Married Died
Sophia Charlotte c.1825 Calcutta Charles Rae Hay 14.7.1911 Somerset
Annie Isabella 1826 Calcutta - 24.4.1908 Epsom(lived Waterloo Road)
Nathaniel Combermere 1828 Calcutta - 24.7.1864 Epsom
Mary Eliza c.1830 Calcutta Arthur Kelly Thompson 18.3.1907 Reigate district
Robert Hugh 1832 Calcutta - 16.6.1856 Noakholly, Bengal, India*
Henrietta Frances 1833 Calcutta Robert James Scott 6.1.1899 Chelsea (funeral held at Epsom)
William James 1836 Ardbracan, Ireland Ann Amelia Kate Fay? 1.2.1885 Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
John Henry 1839 Calcutta Katharine Mary Francis 3.2.1900 Essex
George Caledon 1842 Epsom - 8.4.1913 London

*Robert was a writer in the East India Company Civil Service

Nathaniel Combermere Alexander

I think that the second forename must have been given in recognition of Viscount Combermere (better known as Field Marshal Stapleton Cotton - see, who served in Ireland and India, and he may well have been a customer of Nathaniel Senior in Calcutta, since his name appears as a creditor in the 1833 bankruptcy proceedings. Nathaniel had been an Ensign in the 8th Surrey Rifle Volunteers, but resigned his commission, which he had held for little more than a year, in 1861.

Memorial inscription to Nathaniel Combermere on the family grave.
Memorial inscription to Nathaniel Combermere on the family grave.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2013

Sophia Charlotte Alexander

Sophia Charlotte, who later reversed her forenames, married clergyman Charles Rae Hay (born 1818 Bengal) in 1850 at St Martin's, Epsom. Their 'postings' can largely be deduced from the birthplaces of their children (apart from Epsom, which is a red herring in that context), shown below. From 1858 until his death Charles was the Rector of Ridlington in Rutland; he died at Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire on 14 May 1870. It does not look as if the family was particularly well-off after that (Charles left effects valued at under £300) and Sophia moved around with several of her adult children, finally ending up in the Frome area of Somerset, where she died on 14 July 1911.

Mary Stewart Hay Born 1851 Thundridge, Herts; died 1905 Frome district. Unmarried.
Charlotte Jane Hay Born 1852 Thundridge, died 1926 Cheltenham, Gloucs. Unmarried.
Clementina Sophia Hay Born c.1854 Thundridge, died 1921 Bristol. Unmarried.
Charles Peter Hay Born c.1855 Thundridge, died 1909 Frome district. Probably unmarried.
Annie Hay Born 1856 Epsom, possibly died 1943 Cheltenham
George Alexander Hay Born 1857 Kirkby Moorside, Yorks, died 1889 Dorking district (?)
Nathaniel Alexander Hay Born 1859 Ridlington, died 1927 Weston-Super-Mare (lived Cheltenham). Married Elizabeth Maria Lorenza Carmina Swan 1901. Civil servant in naval stores.

Ridlington Church
Ridlington Church.
Image © Copyright Tim Heaton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Mary Eliza Alexander

Mary Eliza married West India merchant Arthur Kelly Thompson (born c.1834 Muckamore, Antrim) at St Martin's, Epsom on 6 December 1866. Arthur's father was Samuel Thompson, who had an extensive estate at Muckamore Abbey. Latterly the couple lived at Redhill, Surrey. Arthur died on 4 May 1915. The children were Barbara Charlotte (born 1869 Epsom, died 15 July 1924 Worthing; unmarried) and Arthur (born 1872 Epsom) Arthur was a doctor and married Lilian Mary Critchley Salmonson; their children were Patrick Arthur Godfrey Hume (1903) and Betty Violet Caledon (1911).

Henrietta Frances Alexander

Henrietta Frances married Robert James Scott (born 1 November 1822 Dover) on 20 April 1854 at St Martin's; he was the son of Colonel (later General) Henry Alexander Scott of the Royal Artillery and worked for the Bengal Civil Service. Robert died at Epsom on 20 October 1864.

The Scott children were as follows.

Name Born Married Died
Sophia Annie 23 Jan 1855 Epsom See below 27 Feb 1943 Dorset
Henry Hodgson 2 Oct 1856 Bengal - In childhood
Robert Alexander 21 Jan 1858 Calcutta - 27 Dec 1887 London (solicitor)
Mary Evonna 29 Aug 1859 Bengal - In childhood
James Alexander Sutherland 4 Nov 1860 Bengal - 13 April 1861 Bengal
George Alexander 14 May 1862 Chinsurah, Bengal See below 29 Mar 1933 Paddington

Sophia Annie Scott married Lionel Eldred Pottinger Smith-Gordon (1857-1933) at Epsom in 1883; he was the 3rd Baronet Smith-Gordon of Jamaica, the title having been created in 1838 for Lionel Smith, Governor of Jamaica and Mauritius - see,_1st_Baronet. There was one son (1889-1976), with the identical name to that of his father, who became the 4th Baronet.

George Alexander Scott was educated at Repton School and Pembroke College, Cambridge; he became a barrister and in 1920 was appointed Official Referee of the Supreme Court of Judicature. His first wife was Alice Flavie Blanche Faucon, who had a rather rich love life. According to an account on a family history website, she was born in Paris in 1869 and came to work in England as governess to the children of Georgiana Austen, sister of married stockbroker Godfrey Robarts Pearse. Apparently she already had an American boyfriend but fell in love with Mr Pearse, took work as a needlework teacher in Salisbury and almost immediately became pregnant. It seems that she unsuccessfully tried to procure an abortion. Mr Pearse never acknowledged his son, Godfrey, born in 1892 (died 1957).

In 1893 Mademoiselle Faucon married George Alexander Scott and her son then became known as Godfrey Scott-Pearse. The couple had their own son, George Robert, in 1894. At some point during the marriage Alice returned to Paris and began a liaison with one Monsieur Gary, for which George divorced her in 1906; she died in 1926 at Biarritz. George Alexander Scott married Florence Sybil Williams in 1907.

Memorial inscription to Robert James, Robert Alexander and Henrietta Frances Scott on the family grave.
Memorial inscription to Robert James, Robert Alexander and
Henrietta Frances Scott on the family grave.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2013

William James Alexander

I believe that William James was a civil servant in the India Office and think that he married Ann Amelia Kate Fay, who predeceased him in 1881. According to an internet source he was married to a Lucy Gray, but I can find nothing to substantiate this.

Memorial inscription to Robert Hugh, William James and Annie Isabella Alexander on the family grave.
Memorial inscription to Robert Hugh, William James and
Annie Isabella Alexander on the family grave.
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert ©2013

John Henry Alexander

John Henry was a Colonel in the Royal Artillery and served in Bengal. He and his wife Katharine (married 1880) had three daughters, who were Dorothy Katharine (1888-9), Nora Katharine (1891-1983, unmarried) and Enid Rosamond (1893-1978). Katharine died on 10 January 1924.

Enid married Francis Brough Maltby and one of their children, Lt Ralph Alexander Maltby, was killed in action at Arnhem on 17 September 1944, aged 26, whilst piloting a glider. Ralph's cousin, David Maltby, was one of the pilots in the 'Dambusters' raid in 1943 (he returned safely but was killed just a few months later when his aircraft went down in the North Sea).

George Caledon Alexander

George was educated at Christ Church and Oriel Colleges, Oxford, and was a barrister and cricketer.

Linda Jackson
April 2013

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