The curious case of Joseph Valentine Grimstead

A man of substance and principle

Joseph Valentine Grimstead
Joseph Valentine Grimstead
Joseph Valentine Grimstead
From a private collection, dated circa 1788 and possibly a marriage portrait

Eleanor, youngest daughter and coheir of Joseph Creswick and Elizabeth Laujol, married Thomas Grimstead of Leatherhead, Surrey. Their only son, Joseph Valentine Grimstead, was born on 5 July 1757. Thomas was buried on 7 September 1780, and his heir then came into property including a half share of Iwood, otherwise Ewood Park, Newdigate.

Joseph Valentine Grimstead married Charlotte Sarah Jane Walsh on 13 August 1788.

Before 1814, the Grimsteads had established themselves in Epsom, renting copyhold estates on the south side of Clay Hill (Lehmann 1C3) and on Church Street (Lehmann 7C3). The family seem to have removed to Merry Hall, Lower Ashtead, however, in the summer of 1820.

Thomas George, Lord Glamis, was born on 6 February 1801 and married Charlotte, daughter of Joseph Valentine Grimstead, on the 21 December 1820. Lord Glamis died on the 27 January 1834, leaving his widow and issue. Charlotte herself died on 19 January 1881 at Redbourne, Herts.

In March 1821, Edward Howard and James Gibbs, trading as Messrs Howard & Gibbs at Cork Street, Burlington Gardens, London, money scriveners and annuity brokers, had been declared bankrupt. They were accused of 'lending money to prodigals at illegal rates of interest' and many annuitant clients became impoverished. J V Grimstead, in particular, had advanced substantial sums of money to the firm - apparently in excess of £60,000 (£32,000 being used to purchase of annuities and £30,000 left on deposit). His claim for £47,000 in the proceedings was refused because it had been loaned on usurious terms (with interest payable above 5%) and could not stand under the bankruptcy laws. A subsequent case in Chancery (Howard & Gibbs Bankruptcy, ex parte Grimstead) lasted until July 1826. At some stage Grimstead was confined for contempt of Court and he subsequently remained in The Fleet Prison for the rest of his life, apparently because he declined to settle debts owing to his own creditors.

The raquet ground of the Fleet Prison by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson
The raquet ground of the Fleet Prison
by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson

His extended incarceration features in Scenes and stories: by a clergyman in debt. Written during his confinement in The Fleet Prison by Frederic William Naylor Bayle, 1835: -
"One of the longest residents in the prison, and certainly one of its leading characters, was an elderly gentleman of miserly, but unobtrusive habits, who seemed to look upon it as his home. His name was Grimstead; he bore the character of being extremely rich, and was a man of high respectability, and a magistrate in the county in which he lived previous to his imprisonment. One of his daughters a short time back married a nobleman, and we believe had a handsome portion from her father, who, mixing in no society, and yet wanting no comfort, allows his capital to gather a giant load of interest, and clings with a wonderful pertinacity to a dwelling from which the majority of its other inmates would give their birthright to be free. He is a person of information, experience, and quiet gentlemanly manners; his debts we believe are large and, his wealth, like all rich men, he denies, probably because he feels a disinclination to pay them. If this be the case, then is his wilful incarceration a gross and lamentable perversion of human judgement and intellect, and a satire upon that honesty, which a magistrate is morally bound to the public to encourage and uphold. We are, however, among those who hope and believe better things of Mr. Grimstead."
His will drawn up at Ashtead, 16 February 1821, was supplemented with a codicil in The Fleet Prison on 8 December 1834 [SHCOL_181/19/11]. He was then close to death and is recorded to have been buried at St Bride's, Fleet Street, on the following 22 December, aged 77 [Will proved 3 February 1835 - PROB 11/1842].

The relict, Charlotte, survived until 23 November 1848 before dying, at Redbourne, Herts, at the age of 81. Joseph Valentine Grimstead's main claim to fame is that he was the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother's great great grandfather.



Brian Bouchard
January 2013


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