John Brathwaite

(sometimes erroneously mentioned as 'Braithwaite')
1722 - 1800
A member of a well-established planting family of St Philip, Barbados,
and agent for that colony in Great Britain.
Slave owner

His close family group

John Brathwaite was born 25 October 1722 into a family of plantation owners in St Philip, Barbados, and had a sister called Mary. The latter married John Ashley, another planter, in Barbados during 1753: three daughters issued from that union, Mary b. c. 1756, Rebecca b. c 1758 & Brathwaite b. c. 1759.

Mary remained a spinster but Brathwaite married John Henry Warre on 16 November 1786 and Rebecca the Rev John Gibbons on 23 January 1788, both weddings being celebrated at St Marylebone. The Ashleys had been living at New Cavendish Street, Portland Place, and John Brathwaite may have been staying with his nieces but, around this time, he and Mary Ashley turn up at Epsom. In Surrey Archaeological Collections, Vol 51, 1950, Cloudesley S Willis reports that Mr Brathwaite acquired John Riley's freehold premises on Church Street, later to become known as Ashley House when Mary succeeded her uncle as owner. These premises had appeared in the 1795 Land Tax Return described as 'late Colonel Paulett's'.

A lease of the Codrington Estate, 1783

Codrington Theological College, Barbados, from Mission Life, Vol. V (1874), pp. 206-213: -
"By his will, [Christopher Codrington] bequeathed to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, then recently founded, certain estates, to found a college, in which were to be "maintained a convenient number of professors and scholars who should be under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and be obliged to study and practise physick and chirurgery as well as Divinity, that by the apparent usefulness of the former to all men they might both endear themselves to the people and have the better opportunities of doing good to men's souls whilst taking care of their bodies."
After some difficulties the Society obtained possession of the estates in 1712, and in 1714 a college "for the use of the Mission in those parts of the British dominions" (Society's Report, 1714) was commenced amidst many difficulties and discouragements, which arose chiefly from the disputes respecting the property and debt incumbering it, which continued till 1737. The building was completed in 1743; but it was found impossible to do more than begin with a grammar-school (in 1745), 'with twelve scholars for the foundation, to be maintained and instructed at the expense of this Society', with a view of their becoming good and useful Missionaries. From this time to 1780, though a school was kept up, it furnished no Missionaries; and in 1780 came a destructive hurricane, which almost destroyed the college and ruined the estates. The Society had to advance money from its general fund, and to let the estates for a time. Fortunately the lessee [from 1783], John Brathwaite, Esq., was a noble-minded and generous Barbadian, who besides paying a rent of £500 a-year, at the end of ten years gave up the estates into the Society's hands free of debt and with a balance of many thousands of pounds in their favour."
Subsequently, the SPG commissioned a silver gilt cup and cover from Paul Storr for presentation to him. It was inscribed on one side 'Feby 19th 1796 From the Society for the propagation of the Gospel to John Brathwaite Esqr as a permanent mark of their Gratitude & Esteem for his attention in retrieving their Estates in Barbados'; on the opposite side were the arms of Brathwaite (or Brathwayte) : Gu. on a chev. ar. three cross crosslets fitchee sa, surmounted by the crest- a greyhound couchant, ar. collared and lined gu. the collar studded and ringed or. [LINK to Brathwaite cup for the Presidents of the Society of Archbishops by Paul Storr, 1795, at Anglesey Abbey]

Agent of Barbados to Great Britain

During 1785, John Brathwaite, 'a gentleman of the most amiable character and unblemished reputation' had been nominated to the office of colonial agent by the Council of Barbados. He 'generously and disinterestedly exercised the office, with equal diligence and fidelity for several years without enjoying its emoluments'.

The treatment of slaves on the island of Barbados

Slavery on British West Indies Plantations in the Eighteenth Century, by Frank Wesley Pitman, Journal of Negro History, Volume Number: 11 Issue Number: 4, October 1926, contained Extracts from Evidence of John Brathwaite, Agent of Barbados, before Lords of the Privy Council, 21 February, 1788: -
"The movement, which ultimately bore fruit in the abolition of the slave trade and emancipation, reached its culmination in the eighteenth century in the inquiry on slavery by a committee of the Privy Council in 1788. Several planters and absentee proprietors testified on the conditions of life and labor in the West Indies. John Braithwaite, proprietor of estates in Barbadoes and agent for the island, stated that prior to about 1768 the treatment of slaves was marked by much more cruelty than since that date. The wanton killing of a slave in Barbadoes remained nevertheless, by law of August 8, 1788, punishable by a fine of 15 Pounds Sterling only. It was not uncommon, he said, for slaves to suffer for food when corn [bread stuff] was high or a sugar crop failed. Industrious Negroes, of course, raised some provisions, hogs, and poultry about their own huts or on allotments. Even so, he thought a slave was as well off as a free Negro- and better than an English labourer with a family. The usual allowance of a waistcoat, Osnaburg breeches, and a cotton or woollen vest left the slave under-clothed. The annual expense of supporting a slave was computed by some at 4 Pounds Sterling, or two days' labour out of six. Many slaves were let out to hire. The only instance of task work that Braithwaite was aware of was where hired slaves were paid by the acre for holing; for this their owners were paid 3 Pounds Sterling or 3.10 Pounds Sterling currency per acre; they were fed by the person who hired them; working tools were supplied by the slave's owner. The Negroes had to themselves Sundays, holidays, the day after Christmas or 'boxing day' in England, and Good Friday; other authorities include Saturday afternoon. Slaves usually worked "from sun to sun," allowing for breakfast and two hours at noon. After six o'clock they were at liberty. In sickness they were given great care....

'I have known Negro Women', said John Braithwaite, a Barbadoes planter, 'have eight, nine, or ten children but that is not common: They begin breeding earlier, but do not continue to breed so long as women in this country'. He attributed the low birth rate to promiscuity and overwork."

His demise

Mr Brathwaite died at Epsom 'suddenly, much lamented' on 21 September 1800 and was buried in a 'faculty vault' at St Martin's Church, the following 30 September.

An account book of John Flaxman, RA, indicates that the memorial commissioned by his unmarried niece was an expensive item -
'Ashley, Epsom. Recd 60 Guineas on Acc' of 180 Guineas for a Monument to John Brathwaite Esqre. to be erected in Epsom Church in June 1801 exclusive of setting up & Basement erected - 189 Packing Cases 6 Bricklayer 1 Carpenter ...'
C J Swete in A Handbook of Epsom, 1860, remarks on St Martin's parish Church: -
"Flaxman's hand has been at work on these walls, illustrating the sorrows of the family of John Henry Warre, Esq., and his wife, in the removal of their parents to another sphere.

And also the same artist has sculptured, to the memory of John Braithwaite, Esq., a whole figure of a woman in full relief, her right arm resting on a pillar, very pretty in itself but spoiled by a perfectly unmeaning, I.H.S. surmounted by the cross and encircled by a wreath of stars."
As shown by the following modern photograph, however, the cross and wreath have been removed!

The Brathwaite Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The Brathwaite Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2013
"Sacred to the Memory of JOHN BRATHWAITE ESQ., the course of whose whole life exhibited a singular and uniform pattern of universal benevolence for his only object was to do good. The rectitude of his mind corresponded with the purity of his heart; correct in the conception of every religious and moral duty, he was steady in the practice of them. In every situation and under all circumstances he was invariably the same man, an affectionate relation, a sincere friend, a pious Christian, mild in judging, just and generous to all, moderate only in those gratifications which respected himself. The virtuous energies of his mind comprehended all those humanities and sympathies of which our nature in its best state is susceptible. Born in the island of Barbadoes, he was warmly attached to that island, which he served in a public character, and which he loved as a father. He lived, beloved and respected, revered.
He died the 21st of September, 1800, in the 78th year of his age, lamented by all who had the advantage and happiness of knowing him. Such was the man whose virtues this marble attempts thus imperfectly to record. It was erected by the directions of three nieces as a tribute to the memory of a most dear relation, whose living they loved and honoured, and whose death they will never cease to deplore, consoling themselves at the same time with the full assurance that he is removed to a blessed immortality where righteousness will have its reward.(Flaxman)"
The History of Barbados by John Poyer, 1808, recorded: -
Being informed of the death of their late valuable agent, Mr John Brathwaite, [The Barbados Council] appointed a committee to erect a monument to the memory of that exalted man and faithful representative of the colony, and soon after passed an act to pay the expense of this tribute of their esteem out of the public coffers.'
This memorial, also by Flaxman, is in St. Michael's Cathedral, Bridgetown, Barbados - http://cdm.reed.edu A Medallion of head and a woman seated below with inscription : -
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF JOHN BRATHWAITE ESQ OF THREE HOUSES IN THE PARISH OF ST PHILIP / MANY YEARS AGENT FOR THIS COLONY IN GREAT BRITAIN / WHOSE COMPREHENSIVE VIEWS AND CONSUMATE KNOWLEDGE OF ITS VARIOUS INTERESTS WERE ONLY TO BE EQUALLED BY THE MASTERLY ADDRESS WITH WHICH HE CONDUCTED AND THE INFLEXIBLE PERSEVERANCE WITH WHICH HE PURSUED THEM / THE LEGISLATUBE OF BARBADOS ERECT THIS MONUMENT, ANXIOUS THAT POSTERITY SHOULD KNOW HOW HIGH HE STOOD THROUGH HIS DISTINGUISHED SERVICES IN THE ESTIMATION OF HIS COUNTRY / HE WAS BORN IN THIS ISLAND ON THE 25th OF OCTOBER 1722 AND DEPARTED THIS LIFE IN GREAT BRITAIN ON THE 21st OF SEPTEMBER 1800 AT EPSOM IN THE COUNTY OF SURRY WHERE HIS REMAINS ARE INTERRED.

Family members re-united in death, joining Miss Belfield who does not appear to have been a relative

Further memorial inscriptions appeared in St Martins parish church: -
The Eleanor Belfield Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The Eleanor Belfield Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2013

In Memory of MISS ELEANOR BELFIELD daughter of the Rev. FINNEY BELFIELD of Primley Hill, Devonshire who departed this life at Lambeth on the 31st March, 1802 Aged 15 years and is interred in the vault of JOHN BRATHWAITE Esq. Weepest thou fond parents, etc. etc.
The Rebecca Gibbons Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The Rebecca Gibbons Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2013

In Memory of REBECCA Wife of the REVD. JOHN GIBBONS Rector of Brasted in Kent She departed this life at Epsom on the fifth of July 1815 in the 59th year of her age. And her earthly remains are interred in the vault of her uncle JOHN BRATHWAITE, ESQRE.
The Susan Warre Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The Susan Warre Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2013

Sacred to the memory of SUSAN, the wife of JOHN ASHLEY WARRE Esqr. whose earthly remains are deposited in the vault of John Brathwaite, Esq. She was endeared to her family and friends by the many virtues which adorned her amiable and affectionate disposition and bore the protracted illness which terminated her mortal existence with exemplary patience and resignation.
She expired on the 4th July, 1820, in the 24th year of her age, expressing her firm confidence in the mercies of God her saviour. Cheered by the hope which Christ alone can give To feeble mortals at the hour of death; she left the world in him again to live, his aid invoking with her parting breath.
In the same vault are interred the mortal remains of JOHN BRATHWAITE,the infant son and only child of JOHN ASHLEY and SUSAN WARRE / who died on the 2nd February, 1821, Aged one year and three weeks.
(Chantrey Sc 1821)

The John Warre Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The John Warre Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2013

Sacred to the Memory of JOHN HENRY WARRE, ESQ., who died at Belmont Lodge, Hertfordshire, on the 15th of June, 1801 / in the 52nd year of his age.
He was the second son of WILLIAM WARRE, Esq., of the ancient family of Warre of Westercome in the County of Somerset. This Monument was erected by the direction of his Widow, relatives and friends.
Sacred also to the Memory of MRS BRATHWAITE WARRE, Widow of JOHN HENRY WARRE, Esq., who departed this life at West Cliff, Ramsgate, January the 7th, 1824, in the 66th year of her age and whose earthly remains are interred with those of her husband in the vault of her uncle, John Brathwaite, Esq.
The Mary Ashley Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
The Mary Ashley Memorial in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of .........

Sacred to the beloved memory of MARY ASHLEY whose mortal remains repose in the adjoining vault by the side of her uncle the late JOHN BRATHWAITE, Esqre, and of her two sisters.
She died at Epsom on the 25th April 1845 in the 90th year of her Age, Closing a long life of faith and good work by a most peaceful death full of the hope of immortality, Thanks be to God as the Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

This Tablet is erected in grateful and affectionate remembrance by her Nephew, JOHN ASHLEY WARRE.
The entrance to the Tomb of John Braithwaite
The entrance to the Tomb of John Braithwaite in St Martin's Church, Epsom
Image courtesy of .........

"The entrance to the Tomb of John Braithwaite (1800), which was in the South Aisle of the old Church, was filled in. It lies just nine feet west of the second pillar of the enlargement. The Tomb, in which interments took place in 1820, 1824 and 1845 (Ashley), as shown on the Monuments, extends northward nearly to the central passage, and is undisturbed. It is evident that the Tomb was built under the original Chancel, the entrance being outside the then existing building."
W. BAINBRIDGE-BELL, Vicar

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