Thomas Nye Brittain: Debt and Insolvency

Since my last post about Thomas Nye Brittain  and his children I’ve been digging around trying to find out why he gave up the china dealing business and went back to shoemaking.   I was sure that something must have happened which had affected the whole family and possibly sent his son John back to the north of England.

A random internet search provided the answer.  In 1857, Thomas was obviously in serious financial difficulties.  He’s listed in The London Gazette as appearing before Mr Commissioner Murphy at 10 o’clock on Thursday 17th September and it would seem, from an earlier notice on 4th August 1857,  that he had been committed to the London and Middlesex Debtors’ Prison.  The details of his businesses make interesting reading – clearly he had been trying his luck at a range of  opportunities but had fallen into debt and couldn’t pay his creditors.  Could there be a hint of desperation in the number of things he was involved in?

From the London Gazette August 4th 1857:

Thomas Brittain the elder, late of No. 19, Skinner-street,
Somers Town, Middlesex, Chinaman. In the Debtors’
Prison for London and Middlesex.

From The London Gazette page 2994 of Issue 22036 September 1st 1857

“Thomas Brittain the elder (sued and committed and detained
as Thomas Britton), formerly of No. 6 Charlotte Place
Fitzroy-square, and of No. 19, Skinner-street,
Somer’s Town, both in Middlesex, Wholesale and Retail
Glass and China Dealer, carrying on business under the
style, firm, or description of T. N. Brittain and Co., at
the last-named place, and underletting the former, also
Coal Dealer, and occasionally letting lodgings, having
stables for part of the above period, first at Isaac’s-place
Wellesley Street, then of Bull Yard and Mary’s-place
Brewer-street, and then in Perry-street, all in Somer’s
Town, Middlesex, and for two years while at Skinner Street
aforesaid, Foreman to a Wholesale China Dealer,
and next and late of No. 19, Skinner-street, Somer’s
Town aforesaid, out of business and employ, during the
whole of the above period, Secretary to the Loyal Britons’
Pride Lodge of the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows, held
at the Rose and Crown, in Tottenham-court-road, Middlesex” 

Knowing this detail about Thomas Nye Brittain has made him “come alive” for me.  I have a number of addresses to research, and I want to find out more about the London and Middlesex Debtors’ Prison which I assume is the one in Whitecross Street. There’s also lots to learn about insolvency in 1857.

Does the reference to the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows mean that Thomas was the secretary to that particular lodge – and if so why was this relevant to his insolvency?  I need to find out about this society and whether any records exist.

I can imagine how much of a blow this insolvency and imprisonment must have been to the family.  Having left Birmingham with, presumably, high hopes for a prosperous future in London, they must have been bitterly disappointed and possibly ashamed that things hadn’t worked out.


About familyhistoryfootsteps

I'm enjoying early retirement! I have been researching my ancestry for several years and am interested in all aspects of family history especially local and social history.
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