Adam Pearson and The Widow's Mites


We shall never know exactly what induced the widowed Mrs Mary Monger to make Ewell saddler Adam Pearson the executor/trustee of her will, but there were probably at least two reasons. Firstly, he was a churchwarden at at St Mary's Church and the Mongers had long been organists there; secondly, he was married to one Emmeline Jolliffe, daughter of local collar maker and property owner John Jolliffe, and Mrs Monger's husband had been a witness to Mr Jolliffe's will. The families were certainly well-acquainted and who better to take charge of your Estate than a pillar of respectability like the churchwarden.

Mrs Emmeline Jolliffe/Pearson was a woman with prospects. Her father, who died in 1820, left his business to his son and several houses to his wife, Ann; on her death the houses were to be sold and the proceeds divided among the surviving children. Some of these houses were the freehold Rose Cottage and five copyhold (leasehold) cottages on Ewell High Street; there were also three houses with barns opposite the Upper Mill, a property (Pedlar's Rest) comprising a house, bakehouse, shop and stable on the Kingston Road and two houses near the future site of West Street School (the copyholds/leases on these two houses had been transferred by Mrs Jolliffe to her son-in law, John Boys, in 1845 but they were subsequently acquired by Pearson).

In 1841 Adam Pearson and his children (Mrs Pearson was away visiting) were living with Mrs Jolliffe, who died on 29 December 1847, aged 82. Adam Pearson bought at least two of the High Street cottages from her executors and, as mentioned, he also acquired the two houses in West Street from John Boys. One assumes that a chunk of the purchase money came from his wife's share of proceeds from the other sales.

Adam Pearson

There was no real wealth in Pearson's own background. His father, also Adam, had been a Paymaster Sergeant in the Royal Waggon Train (an army transport corps which was disbanded in 1833). When he died in 1839 he was living in lodgings in Vauxhall but owned a small cottage in Norwood, which was rented out. Adam Junior inherited the cottage and a share of the rental income went to his sisters. This was a stroke of excellent fortune for Adam Junior, as his mother and elder brother had died just before his father and the will implied that he would not have got the cottage if they had survived.

Mrs Mary Monger

Mary was the widow of schoolmaster William Monger, proprietor of the Ewell Academy at the Old House, who died in 1825. She ran the Academy herself after his death, with her son, William Richard.

The front view of the Old House
The front view of the Old House
photographed in October 1969 by LR James.
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

William Monger Senior was no mug. He appointed two executors/trustees of his Estate (a lesson his widow should have learned) and left his property interests in trust for Mary's lifetime, stipulating that they should be sold on her death and the proceeds split among the children. However, he left to her directly some monetary investments, which appear to have been in Government gilts/consols. It was this money that came under the control of Pearson when Mrs Monger died in 1846.

Mary Monger plainly thought that Pearson was an honest man and she foolishly made him her sole executor/trustee. The gist of her will (although it took several hundred words of legalese to say very little) was that he should re-invest the dividends from the stocks into the same stocks and, on the death of her other son, John (born 1812), the dividends were to be paid over for the maintenance of his children. Mrs Monger was plainly concerned about John's family and I wonder if he was in poor health when she made the will. She probably knew that he would not leave anything substantial to his family, since he was an artist.

John Monger

In 1839 John had married farmer's daughter Harriet Aynscomb (she was variably from Chipstead or Kingswood) and they set up home over a shop at 31 High Street, Ewell: this later became the London & Provincial Bank and is now part of the Star Inn. The children came thick and fast and those born in Ewell were Charles (1840), John (1841-3), Harriet (1843), William John (1844) and Mary (1846). A couple of these births do not seem to have been registered but they are all in the christening records for St Mary's, Ewell, except for Mary, and the reason for that would be that the family moved to Brighton soon after she was born. Another child, John, was born in 1848 in Brighton.

31 High Street
31 High Street
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

I don't know whether they went to Brighton for John's art or his health, but Mrs Monger was right to be worried, for he was dead by 1851. He probably died in 1848 - it's difficult to be sure, as the death records did not give an age at that time. In any event, he was certainly dead by census night, which was 30 March 1851. And towards the end of 1852 Harriet had another child, called Thomas, who obviously did not belong to John. So, in 1851 Harriet was running a lodging house at 47 Over Street, Brighton. This is one of a block of three-storey houses, which were fairly new at that point, and most of them were let out. (For building anoraks, Over Street dwellings were built mainly of local brick, with flint and lime walling - known as Bungaroosh down that way). It's reasonable to assume that she was a tenant herself, as I doubt that the family could have afforded to buy this property. Harriet Monger probably had nothing beyond the dividends from her mother-in-law's investments and anything that she could earn.

We will return to the Mongers in due course.


Just to recap then, at this juncture Pearson was running his saddlery business in Ewell and he had property interests. Now please read this letter (painstakingly transcribed from a poor manuscript copy by our intrepid volunteers), presumably written by the Mongers' solicitors.

(illegible illegible) & Co
1 new (illegible)

5 Martins Lane Cannon Street
London E.C.
9th June 1863

Dear Sirs

Manor of Ewell
Monger & Pearson

The amount claimed by you for the fine appears very large and we think there must be some mistake. We wish the circumstances of the case to be submitted to the Lord of the Manor who will, we feel confident, be disposed to waive a large portion of his rights. The facts of this case are as follows:-

Adam Pearson was the sole (illegible) of Mrs Mary Monger and sole executor under her will of a sum of money invested in the funds for the benefit of Mrs John Monger, a widow, and her three children. In breach of trust Pearson sold out at various times all the stock and with part of the proceeds he purchased the copyhold lately conveyed by him to Monger and Rendell. For many years Pearson paid the interest and no fraud was suspected but a few months ago it was discovered that the whole fund had disappeared and that the widow and her children were deprived of their means of support. Proceedings were commenced and the copyhold property is all that could be saved out of the wreck. It was conveyed to C. Monger & Rendell upon trust for the benefit of the widow and children and is the only property left to them. Already a large proportion of the value has gone in costs and is subject to such a further deduction as claimed by you this balance left for the widow will be trifling indeed.

We are dear sirs,

Yours truly
Head of (illegible)

  1. The copyhold mentioned relates to the dwellings in West Street.
  2. Rendell, a spice merchant, was married to William Richard Monger's sister.
  3. In general, breach of trust is a civil matter, even though in this case it was just as much theft as plain old embezzlement or robbery. Consequently, it would seem that Pearson escaped any criminal sanction for what he did.


You will not be surprised to learn that the Pearsons left town. I don't know the exact dates, but in 1865 Pearson's eldest son, John Adam, was made bankrupt and moved to Birmingham (he had inhabited one of his father's properties in Ewell High Street, so was presumably left without any premises when the fraud was discovered). By 1871 Adam Pearson and his wife were living in Farringdon, London with their two unmarried daughters, who were both working: he was still described as a saddler, so I daresay that they had enough pooled income to put food on the table. Mrs Emmeline Pearson died in 1873 and her husband subsequently moved to Bermondsey: he seems to have died in 1884.

We shall now rejoin Harriet Monger. By 1861 she had moved to Hastings, where her sister lived, with Harriet Junior, Mary and the mysterious Thomas (I assume that William John had died at some point before 1851); John Junior was working as a barman in Hove and Charles cannot be found on the census, although he reappeared later.

By 1871 John was a clerk, married to Lucy (nee Cottee, from Ewell) and living in West Ham. Sadly Lucy died in 1880, aged only 35. Harriet Junior worked at a warehouse in Paddington and Charles, a traveller in the fruit trade, was in Islington, married to Mary Ann. Mary, a mantlemaker, was a lodger in Burnley. I have lost Harriet Senior (temporarily - it's unhelpful when a person changes date and place of birth from census to census and transcribers interpret the name as anything from Manga to Mungo) and Thomas (permanently).

In 1881 Harriet Senior resurfaced, living with son Charles in Islington; in the next census she was with son John in Stepney - she died in 1895. In 1898 Mary, still in Burnley, married widower Mark Duxbury and possibly died in 1919 (she was alive in 1911 anyway). Harriet Junior was married to Henry Lewis Deacon, who died in 1889. She then married (1898) widowed scripture reader Joseph Challis, who was about 75 at the time (she was only 45 according to her 1901 arithmetic, but I have learned to take ladies' census ages with a tub of Saxa) - he only lasted until November 1901 and she might have died in 1906 (but might not, given the age issue). The combined personal estate of both husbands totalled just over 100. I think that Charles Monger died in Islington in 1899 and John Junior in 1914. John never remarried and in 1911 his children were living with him, as was Charles's daughter Lizzie Grace, who had also been there in 1901.

There you have it. John Monger's wife and children were wickedly defrauded and, whilst they mostly had jobs and got by, they did not do nearly as well as they should have done, thanks to Adam Pearson. By contrast, although Pearson was presumably strapped for cash when he was found out, until then he had done very well for himself, thanks to assets merely falling into his lap by fair means and foul. Oh, I nearly forgot this - Mrs Monger added a codicil to her will, leaving Pearson 10 for any trouble he might be put to in carrying out his duties (!). Yes, folks, he even got paid for what he did.

Linda Jackson © 2014

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