Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Geoffs Genealogy Update 29 July 2008

As I write this entry the rain is beating down outside my house with extreme force, accompanied by the repeated cracks of thunder and lightning. A really spectacular storm is signalling the end of the five days spell of gorgeous, summery weather that we have enjoyed in the UK. The rain is much needed, however - at least the garden won't need watering for a few days.

The open air performance of Shakespear's Hamlet that we attended at Stafford Castle a couple of weeks ago was absolutely great. Amazingly, given the prevailing weather at the time, the evening was dry - so the cast did not get a soaking. However, it was very cold. Jan and I felt so cold that we were shivering - in July!

The play itself was performed superbly, by a fine cast of professional actors and actresses. The director has proved in previous years that he has a genius for extracting the maximum comedy from Shakespeare, and after being brought up on the 1940s Olivier film of Hamlet, it was a revelation to me to see how much humour is actually present in such a tragedy.

Our next open air event is Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival near Bangor in North Wales. We are going to the Opera Gala on 23 August, and hoping for a warm, balmy evening to match what will undoubtedly be a spectacular event. It always is!

On to treeing matters.

Anybody who has followed my family history interests will know that the Haberdashers' Company is central to my research. John Bankes was Master of that company, and the company administers the Bankes Trust, from which many Bankes descendants have benefitted over the nearly 300 years since Bankes died. In fact, I recently found out that even today there is at least one Bankes descendant now living who is a Freeman of the company.

In 2002 the Company moved from its old Hall in Staining lane in the City of London to a newly build Hall near St Barts Hospital. Although I had visited Staining Lane on a number of occasions, and in so doing enjoyed the benefit of using the Company's archives, I have never yet managed to visit the new Hall. Hopefully I shall be able to rectify this omission on the weekend of 20-21 September, when the Company has an open weekend. I shall certainly do my best to get there, and enjoy a tour of the new hall. I can see from the pictures on the Company's website (see above link) that it is a magnificent building.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering, the Haberdashers' Company has handed over pretty well all its records to the Guildhall Library, so if you want to research them that's the place to go to.

In my last entry I told you briefly of our visit a few weeks ago to meet Hugh and Judy. What I didn't mention was the wonderful source that Hugh showed me. It is a document written by Thomas Hunt the Lawyer (c1723-1789) entitled Truth Faileth so that Equality Cannot Enter: Exemplified from a short Abstract of the Proceedings in a Cause in the High Court of Chancery.

This document is a polemic, clearly intended to expose what Hunt saw as corruption that he had encountered in representing Bankes descendants in the Court of Chancery proceedings that concerned the Bankes Trust, and showing how his attempts to obtain just settlements for the people he represented were being thwarted at a very high level.In making his case, Hunt recounts certain experiences he had when serving as a Customs Officer in London between 1748 and 1757. Evidently after serving an apprenticeship as a lawyer he became a customs officer, and he only started to practice as a lawyer after he had left the service of the customs. He claimed that whilst he was a customs officer he had uncovered irregularities in the trading activities of the East India Company, involving gross avoidance of customs duties. He had left the service with a glowing testament as to his honesty and integrity from the then commissioners.

This is fascinating stuff, and provides great scope for further research. I shall be trying to follow up on this information when I next go to The National Archives, Kew.

This is a printed document, clearly intended to show its author as an honest, upright citizen, and a number of eminent people he had encountered as corrupt. Thomas Hunt was, in the words of the old analogy, "banging his head against a brick wall" I wonder what he really hoped to gain from the exercise of printing and distributing it and, indeed , to whom it was distributed.

Having read this document, and also read the material outlined on my website relating to Thomas Hunt Baptist Minister, I think I can see certain similarities in the characters of this father and son. Both seem to have been unswerving in pursuit of what they saw as the truth, and very strong characters. Fascinating stuff.

That's it for now. Happy treeing to you all.

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