Monday, 26 February 2007

Jeremiah Cruse the land surveyor

Considerable progress has been made in the last few weeks with the history of the Cruse family of Rode, Somerset. Russell Cruse has sent me a most fascinating article about the serendipitous finding of Jeremiah Cruse's life insurance certificate. The article, by H S Torrens, is entitled "A family's origins and an incredible coincidence: the Cruse family of Bath, Avon and Warminster, Wiltshire" and was published in the Journal of the Bristol and Avon Family History Society in 1984 (volume 34, pp 14-15). Mr Torrens had no ancestral connections to the Cruse family but was interested in them purely in a professional capacity as a historian of geology because of their work as land surveyors. Jeremiah Cruse (1758-1819) was the first in the family to work as a land surveyor, and Mr Torrens had always been curious to find out more about Jeremiah's origins. In February 1978, on a visit to Cambridge, Mr Torrens acquired a letter on a completely unrelated matter and, while attempting to investigate the date of the postmark on the letter, he discovered that one of his colleagues, Dr. Brian Holdsworth, had a particular interest in pre-1840 postal history. The next day Dr. Holdsworth brought into the office a whole package of 1810-1820 items which he had recently sorted. By comparing the handstamp on Mr Torrens' newly acquired letter with other letters of the period Dr. Holdsworth was able to confirm that the letter was dated 1819. By an astonishing coincidence Mr Torrens noticed that one of the letters in the bundle was addressed to a Mr Cruse of 26 St James' Parade, Bath. The letter was a life insurance policy certificate for none other than Jeremiah Cruse! The contents were very brief but provided confirmation of Jeremiah's baptism in Rode, Somerset, a small village some twelve miles south of Bath. Dr Holdsworth had paid four shillings for the letter when a schoolboy many years before for the sake of its Bath Penny Post handstamp. It was apparently the only item in his collection which was of absolutely no interest to read! Mr Torrens does not tell us if he managed to persuade his colleague to part with the letter and its present whereabouts are unknown.

It is probably now an opportune time to provide some details about Jeremiah Cruse's life. No doubt further information will become available as the research progresses.

Jeremiah Cruse was baptised on 9th July 1758 in Rode, Somerset. He was the son of Jeremiah Cruse and Mary Beman. His father was for many years the parish clerk for Rode. Nothing is known of Jeremiah's education and training. The first record we have is that of his marriage to Mary Macey in 1779. Their first two children, Ann and Jeremiah, junior, were baptised in Rode in 1779 and 1781 respectively. The family then moved to Warminster, Wiltshire, where two more children were born, Mary in 1782 and Henry in 1784. The following year they moved back to Somerset, settling in the market town of Frome which was then an important commercial centre with a thriving wool and cloth trade industry. Three further children were born in Frome, Robson in 1785, Elizabeth in 1787, and John in 1789.

The first record of Jeremiah's professional career dates from his time in Frome. In 1785, in partnership with a Mr Battle, Jeremiah produced a manuscript entitled "A Particular Account of the Number of Families & Inhabitants Within the Town and Parish of Frome Selwood in the County of Somerset". The original manuscript is held by the Somerset Archive and Record Service, but a complete transcription has been published online on the Frome Local and Family History website. The document is in effect an early census of Frome (or Frome Selwood as it was then known) and provides information about the names of the masters or mistresses of each family, their occupation, the names of the owners of the houses, the number of males and females in each family and the number of cows kept by each farmer. In addition information was recorded about the number of scribblers and shearmen employed by each clothier, and the number of looms employed by each weaver. Jeremiah appeared in the census as a land surveyor living at the Horse and Groom. The property was owned by George Rabbits and there were four males and four females in Jeremiah's family.

In about 1792 Jeremiah moved to Warminster to take up employment with the Marquis of Bath. His son, Jeremiah, junior, then aged about 12, was also found employment on the Longleat estate. Jeremiah's plans for Longleat were published in 1792 and that same year he also produced "A Plan of the Division of that part of Road [Rode] Common which lies within the Manor of Road and North Bradley in the Counties of Somerset and Wilts". The original watercolour on parchment map is held by the Somerset Archive and Record Service.

Jeremiah was by now moving in influential circles and his status was no doubt boosted by his membership of the freemasons. He was admitted to the Royal Clarence Lodge in Frome on 7th September 1792. By this time he was described as a "gent".

In 1802 Jeremiah went into partnership with William Smith in a land surveying business called Smith and Cruse. William Smith (1769-1839) is often named as the Father of English Geology. Smith and Cruse were based at 2 Trim Bridge, Bath. The original premises still exist today and the shop is now a Grade II listed building. There is a photograph of the shop on English Heritage's Images of England website.

In 1803 Jeremiah was commissioned to produce a "Plan of Part of the Turnpike Road leading from Wells towards Bristol and also of a proposed New Road leading through Walcoomb and through the Lands of P. Sherston & C. Tudway Esquires to unite with the Present Road near the 2.d Mile Stone". This plan also survives in the collections of the Somerset and Archive Record Service.

In 1810 tragedy struck when Jeremiah's wife died at the relatively young age of 50. His period of mourning was however short-lived and on 1st January 1811 Jeremiah married Mary Portus in what was no doubt a very grand ceremony at Bath Abbey.

In 1812 Jeremiah produced a large plan of the Somerset Coal Canal. This fine example of his work is today preserved in Bath Reference Library.

In 1813 Jeremiah compiled a detailed map and survey of landholdings in the parish of Frome, Somerset, with the names of the owners and occupiers of the various properties. A full transcription of the survey together with a high-resolution image of Jeremiah's map can be found on the Frome Family and Local History website in the section on property.

1813 was a busy year for Jeremiah also drew a map of the manor of Buckland Dinham, which was then the undivided property of Sir Henry Strachey Baronet and Sir Charles Warwick Bampfylde Baronet. Jeremiah also worked on a survey and valuation of Sparkford, in collaboration with John Davidge of Castle Cary, in preparation for the making of a poor rate in July 1813. In 1815 Jeremiah was commissioned by Sir Henry Strachey to produce a map of the manor of Elm, and in 1818 he produced "A map of the parishes of Berkley and Standerwick in the county of Somerset on which are delineated the Allotments of the Open and Commonable Lands and Exchanges made under the act of parliament by me Jeremiah Cruse, the Commissioner". All four maps are preserved in the collections of the Somerset and Archive Record Service.

There are no doubt many other examples of Jeremiah's work which are held in private collections or public archives elsewhere.

Jeremiah died on 11th December 1819 at his house at 26 St James's Parade, Bath. He was buried on 16th December at St James's Church, Bath. An obituary was published in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal on 20th December 1819.
On the 11th inst. died at his house in Bath. Mr. Jeremiah Cruse, landsurveyor, aged 61: he will be long and sincerely lamented; he was for years the highly respectable head of the Frome Lodge of Freemasons, and was present at a late masonic festival, attended by his five sons.
Jeremiah's fifth son is at present a mystery as no record of his birth has yet been found. He was probably born in Bath and was the product of Jeremiah's second marriage to Mary Portus. Many of Jeremiah's children also had very distinguished careers. Jeremiah junior served for more than 67 years as a faithful clerk, conveyancer and accountant in the stewardship of the Longleat Estate. Henry became an accountant and served as the parish clerk for the parish of Frome. Robson was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. John became an attorney's clerk. Jeremiah's youngest daughter Marie Antoinette was a schoolmistress. Jeremiah, junior, Henry and John all became freemasons and, like their father, were members of the Royal Clarence Lodge in Frome. We will no doubt be returning to learn more of this illustrious family in the near future.


Anonymous said...

I am researching the life of my great-grandfather,Henry Smith,who was born in 1785 at Bath.His family
owned both mills at Midford where William Smith,the father of English
geology,lived c1800-1820. When Henry married in 1817 he was still called a "mealman" (miller) but later was active as a Land Surveyor
around Bath and beyond. I am very
intrigued as to how this occupation
transition happened and wonder if he was influenced by,or a pupil of,
either William Smith or Jeremiah Cruse. Incidentally Henry's father was also William Smith,but not the same one although they both lived at Midford around the same time

Nat A said...

This is exciting indeed. Jeremiah Cruse is my 6 x great-grandfather . Thank you for posting

Debbie Kennett said...

Glad to be of help. Let me know if you want any further information.