Sayers of the London Branch

When investigations into the Sayer genealogy were begun some years ago the primary, if not the only, object was to prove a connection between the Sayers of the London branch and the Sayers of Worsall. A great deal has indeed been discovered; the existing accounts of the family at Worsall have been verified, corrected and considerably expanded and various branches that were encountered have been traced in as much detail as possible. But the fifty or sixty years that followed the disappearance of the Sayers of Worsall remain obscure.

Edward Sayer of London who died in 1897 provided two names and two dates that would belong to that period: "James Sayer, living 1680" and "John Sayer of Forest Farm in the parish of Worsall, 1745". The first occurs as an isolated name in a sketch pedigree drawn up by Edward Sayer (view); the second is found in the family bible. Here Edward enters John Sayer of Forest Farm as his great-grandfather and it appears from other indications that he believed that a connection between John Sayer and the old family at Worsall did indeed exist. This belief is quite understandable; considerations of topography tend to support it and it seems a moral certainty that many of the 18th century groups of North Riding Sayers, whatever their status, were descendants of the Sayers of Worsall. It also seems likely that Edward Sayer held the belief that John of Forest Farm was the son of "James Sayer living 1680". Proving it is of course another matter. Nevertheless much additional information has been gained since Edward Sayer's time and a variety of suggestions as to the identity of James Sayer as the putative father of John can be made. In the table opposite (view) four James Sayers are shown, any one of whom may have been the man living in 1680.

James (i) is mentioned in Richard Sayer's will in 1676. No relationship is given but he is assumed to be Richard's son. He may have been the "Mr James Sayer" the burial of whose son is recorded in the Yarm parish registers in 1704. There is no evidence that he was a catholic.

James (ii) is also mentioned in Richard Sayer's will as "my brother". He could have been the "Mr James Sayer" referred to in the previous paragraph. The William Sayer, suggested as his son by a first marriage, was a tenant on the Kirklevington manor in the early 18th Century. This estate which adjoined Worsall, included Forest Farm and it seems possible that William Sayer may have had a young stepbrother named John who ultimately took it over.

James (iii) is hypothetical but Robert Sayer, shown as his brother is known to have been one of a numerous family.

James (iv) is named in the will of his grandfather John Sayer of Rudby in 1686.

A James Sayer who may or may not be identical with any of the foregoing is to be found in the parish registers of Thirsk. These registers contain only six Sayer entries between 1576 and 1708 and the last two, in a section devoted to Papists and Dissenters, are the baptism of "John the son of Mr James Sayer in 1705 and the burial of "James Sair" in 1707/8. It is possible that this man was the Mr James Sayer of Yarm but his appearance at Thirsk at the end of his life is unexplained.

A John Sayer of Thirsk was a factor of the Royal African Company of England in Guinea. He died abroad and his will, dated 1734, was proved in 1738. His mother Elizabeth and his wife Mary are named in it and also his daughter Mary who was then a minor. There is nothing to show that he had, or expected to have, any other child. He may have been the John Sayer who was baptised at Thirsk in 1705 but he clearly was not John Sayer of Forest Farm whose supposed sons were born, as we shall see, between 1735 and 1741.

John Sayer of Forest Farm

Despite the possibilities outlined in the previous section, the parentage of this man remains an enigma. Nothing in fact is known of him. Edward Sayer, as already mentioned, attaches the date 1745 to him but gives no reason for this and no explicit reference to him has been found. One may assume that he would have been born about the turn of the century and would have married about 1734. Proof of this may lurk in the records of some small unsuspected parish in Yorkshire or perhaps in a non-parochial Catholic register but so far nothing has come to light.

No farm in the neighbourhood of Worsall is known today as Forest Farm but there is evidence that in 1873 a holding of that name was included in the northern part of the manor of Kirklevington. That manor was acquired by the Bowes family in the early 18th century and an indenture connected with the marriage settlement between George Bowes and Mary Gilbert mentions property in the High Worsall, Kirklevington and several other parishes on both sides of the Tees. Names of actual holdings are not given but two lists of tenants are included. One of these tenants was William Sayer, a name that occurs in the burial register of Kirklevington in 1749. As suggested earlier, it seems a fair assumption that this man had been the tenant of Forest Farm and furthermore that John Sayer was his successor.

About 1830 the Kirklevington property was divided into two portions; the southern part was bought by the Bates family and the northern came into the hands of Viscount Falkland who sold it to the Richardsons in 1870. A deed of 1873 shows that Forest Farm, in the Richardsons part of the manor, consisted of about 114 acres. There is also a reference to two closes at Far and Little Saltergill "late forming part of Forest Farm". Saltergill is about half a mile to the north of Forrest Lane, the road running westward from Kirklevington village and it would therefore seem that the land lying between that road and Saltergill belonged to Forest Farm.

A map in Ord's History of Cleveland, published in 1846 shows a small cluster of buildings called "Forest Houses" about a mile and a quarter west of Kirklevington. There are now two farmhouses very close to that point; High Forest House to the south of the road and facing it, on the north or Saltergill side, Low Forest House. The latter has been owned since 1946 by Mr W Graham who farms about 158 acres. The farm was sold to Graham's predecessor by the Richardsons in 1920 but there is no indication when the present house was built or whether there was another one on its site previously.

High Forest House was occupied by the Hodgson family from 1911 until 1968 and Mr J.W. Hodgson, who recently owned it, states that the farm formerly belonged to the Bates family and was never Richardson property. This seems to make it clear that the original Forest Farm lay to the north of the road and that Low Forest House is its successor.

Hutton Bonville - Middleton-on-Leven – London

View Family Tree
View Table based on Rounton, Hutton Bonville Parish Registers

John Sayer of Forest Farm has had to be taken largely on trust but with the next generation – John's children, if we may believe Edward Sayer – we are on firmer ground. Two of the younger sons – James and William, born in 1738 and 1741 respectively – were farmers and millers at Middleton-on-Leven. They both died there in 1815 leaving no heirs, and figure among the last Sayer burials at Hutton Rudby about two miles away. Their eldest brother, John, was born in 1737 according to his gravestone, or 1735 according to the burial register of Hutton Bonville, and married Dorothy Harrison at West Rounton in 1770. He is mysteriously described in the marriage register as "of Worston Co. Durham", but all efforts to identify this place have so far failed*. Land tax records show that he and another brother Michael had a holding at Hutton Bonville between 1781 and 1785. John was the Assessor here in 1781 and 1785 and the Collector in 1784. Later in 1807, according to the Poll Book, he had a freehold at West Rounton and was then living at Loveson Hill in Hutton Bonville parish some four miles north of Northallerton. He and his wife were buried at Hutton Bonville in 1814 and 1826 respectively.

*It may be relevant that a John Sayer occupied land at Whorlton (near Hutton Rudby) in 1781-2-3, paying land tax of £6.7.6.

John and Dorothy had three sons and two daughters. The youngest son, William, baptized at West Rounton in 1779, was the only one to have children. After the death of his two uncles in Middleton-on Leven he took over the mill there and seven years later, in 1822 married Margaret Feetham at Long Newton. She was then thirty four, her husband's junior by eleven years. Her father, John Feetham of Sadberge, Co. Durham, has been described by one of his descendants as "a gentleman of jovial habits"; evidently a little too jovial for he ended his life at the age of seventy six, by being carried home one morning on a gate, having failed to complete his homeward journey the night before.

John Feetham's wife Ann (nee Dobinson) could be considered an ornament to any family tree. She was born in 1744, had eleven children, at least twenty-nine grandchildren and lived to the age of a hundred. In her later years she was always known as Dame Feetham. This venerable lady was the granddaughter of Simon Dobinson of High Coniscliffe who was born in Cromwell's lifetime and she also became the grandmother of John Feetham of Whinfield who was eighty three in 1917. Since Ann Dobinson was born before the death of Simon and was still living when her grandson John was born, their three lives, spanning over 250 years, formed an unbroken link between the Commonwealth and the twentieth century.

The two children of William and Margaret Sayer were Edward, born in 1823, and Elizabeth, born a year later. They were baptized at Middleton which, though once combined with the parish of Hutton Rudby, by this time had its own registers. They were brought up in the Middleton Mill farmhouse and when old enough to go to school rode there together through the fields on a donkey. The farmhouse and mill were demolished comparatively recently and Mr Wood who was farming the land in 1965 said that when ploughing he had found many pieces if brick from the old house which had previously been occupied by his father. The site must have been a very attractive one; in a natural amphitheatre of grassy slopes, bordered in places by woods. On the further bank of the Leven the ground rises steeply to a considerable height and is crowned by Castle Hill, a circular earth-work which was probably a Danish fortified camp.

At the age of ten Edward went to Masham Grammar School as a boarder but as soon as he was fourteen was apprenticed for seven years to his uncle William Feetham who had founded a business in London. Accordingly, young Edward travelling by stage coach duly arrived in London in June 1837 and was thus able to witness the Heralds proclaiming the accession of Queen Victoria at St James's Palace. He has recounted that he then ran all the way to the City to watch the performance being repeated at the Royal Exchange.

The indenture whereby Edward Sayer was bound apprentice to William Feetham, Citizen and Upholder of London, still exists. He is enjoined therein not to commit Fornication nor to contract Matrimony; he is not to play at Cards, Dice or Tables, nor to haunt Taverns or Playhouses, nor to absent himself from his Master's Service day or night unlawfully. His master, in consideration of (in this case) the sum of five shillings, undertakes to teach and instruct his apprentice in his Art and Mystery and to provide him with Meat, Drink, Apparel, Lodging and all other Necessaries.

During his apprenticeship Edward sent to his mother in Yorkshire a small portrait of himself painted in oils by a friend. It is a competent piece of work and, so far as can be judged, an excellent likeness. The painting is now in the possession of Ms Jane Bartlett, one of Edward's great-granddaughters.

Edward figured briefly as a Special Constable in 1848. During a renewed outburst of the Chartist movement, which advocated vote by ballot, manhood suffrage, annual parliaments and other political reforms, a monster meeting had been planned to gather at Kennington. Chartists in their thousands were then to march to Westminster to present a petition which was claimed to carry 5,000,000 signatures. Great numbers of Special Constables were enrolled and the Duke of Wellington took charge of the military arrangements. The march was abandoned, however, and the great petition was ignominiously carried to the House of Commons in three hackney cabs. Edward's truncheon still remains in the family, at the Devonshire home of his grandson Admiral Sir Guy Sayer.

It was at Stainton, in 1849, that Edward Sayer married Emma, one of the daughters of John Pearson of Ingleby Barwick, a few miles from Middleton-on-Leven. John Pearson's wife was Mary daughter of Arthur Mowbray, a Darlington banker. The farmhouse at Ingleby Barwick is still standing and has changed very little since Edward made a sketch of it, probably shortly before his marriage.

Elizabeth Sayer, Edward's sister, married James Coates of Helperby near Boroughbridge in 1852. Their eldest son, Edward Feetham Coates, became a Member of Parliament and in 1911 received a baronetcy. His son Clive married Celia daughter of the Marquess of Crewe. The Coates were a Yorkshire family whose pedigree has been traced back to the middle of the 16th century.

Edward Sayer's father, described as a corn-miller and bleacher, gave up the mill at Middleton about 1838 and moved to Yarm where in 1848 William Sayer, gentleman is listed as the owner of a house, garden and orchard and eight acres of land. He died in 1858 and his wife Margaret in 1862. Both are buried at Yarm and are commemorated by a plaque on the wall of the south aisle of the church.

Mark Feetham & Co.

This firm became so closely bound up with Edward Sayer and his family that some account of its development seems called for. William Feetham, its founder, was born in 1769, it is not known when he came to London or started his business there but in Holden's Directory of 1805 he may be found trading as a Furnishing Ironmonger at 296 Oxford Street. In 1812 he is described as a Stove and Grate Maker with premises at 9 Ludgate Hill in addition to those in Oxford Street. His youngest brother Mark became his apprentice in 1821 for a term of five years and subsequently had a partnership in the business.

In 1828 William Feetham took premises in the West End, off Bond Street; at 9 Clifford Street. This large Georgian House, previously the residence of the Marquess of Thomond, is still standing; it has a pedimented doorway flanked by wrought iron lamp standards and in its entrance hall a massive carved stairway divides into two branches before reaching the first floor. The Feethams adapted the house to form an office and a range of showrooms with living accommodation above. This included, on the second floor, an elegantly furnished dining room for the partners which remained in use until 1896. On the top floor were the housekeeper's quarters and, in later years, a metal workshop. Marble masons worked at the back of the house, where another floor had been added to the original stabling and the yard, opening into a mews, had been roofed over. In 1884 the house was valued at £18,000.

The firm had a factory in the purlieus of Soho Square where the smell of hot metal and oil competed with invigorating wafts from Messrs Cross and Blackwell's pickles next door. The factory was given up about 1907 when Messrs Robbins, ironfounders of Dudley, took over Feethams manufacturing requirements. A house adjoining the factory at 17 Soho Square, was also occupied by Feethams. It was used partly as offices and Michael and William Sayer, two of Edward's sons, lived in the second floor rooms during their bachelor days. After 1896, when Feethams ceased to use the house, another son, Charles, practised there as an architect.

William Feetham died in 1849 and the firm came under his brother's control, trading as Mark Feetham & Co., Stove and Grate Manufacturers and Hot Water Engineers.

Edward Sayer, as we have seen, arrived as an apprentice in 1837. In the course of time his sound technical training, coupled with his outstanding talent as a draughtsman and a marked flair for period design, became of immense value to the firm and enabled it finally to take its place among those old established family firms that have found the climate of London's West End so congenial. Feethams became Royal Tradesmen and could pride themselves on producing the finest - and the most expensive – chimney pieces and grates in the country. They came to have a reputation, both at home and abroad, as the recognised experts in that line, and, whether applied to a period fireplace for his lordship's drawing room or to a vast kitchen range for his lordship's chef, Feetham's designs and workmanship were undeniably of the highest order.

A specimen of Feethams work can be seen today in the great kitchen of Holkham Hall , Norfolk. An elaborate system of shafts and cog wheels, originally driven by the heat ascending through a fan in the flue, rotates spits in front of the open fire. The mechanism is in excellent condition and perfect working order.

When Edward Sayer retired in 1896, twenty-six years after Mark Feetham's death, he was succeeded by three of his sons; William, Michael and John, and at least up to 1914 the firm was able to maintain its old standards and continued to flourish. But thenceforward it became increasingly difficult for an old-fashioned firm engaged in an expensive luxury trade to prosper and in the mid-1930s when, of the three partners, only John survived, Feetham's closed its doors. 9 Clifford Street was dismantled and the highly prized Feetham stock and patterns were acquired by Messrs. Bratt Colbran of Mortimer Street. The house incidentally yielded up many interesting "bygones" including an 18th century sword, bunches of man-traps , Mark Feetham's flint lock gun and various pieces of ironmongery the very purpose of which had been well nigh forgotten.

East Finchley and Plaish Hall

It was probably soon after his marriage and William Feetham's death that Edward Sayer became a partner in the firm. He and his wife made their home over the business in Clifford Street, where their daughter Mary and five of their sons were born. It is said that their first baby, William, was admired during an airing in Hyde Park by no less a person than the aged Duke of Wellington, although in Edward's version of the story it was the young mother pushing the baby-carriage rather than the infant occupying it that aroused his Grace's interest.

About 1862 Edward Sayer, following in the trend of those times, moved his family out of London to the semi-rural district of Finchley. There, he bought Oak Lodge, a plain, four-square house, probably late Georgian, standing about half a mile from the Great North Road at the upper end of Oak Lane. Substantial additions were made at each end of the house and the garden elevation at the back was also augmented. Although the building thereby lost much of its original character the result was dignified, even imposing, and it undoubtedly made a very comfortable and spacious home.

The grounds were fairly extensive and the adjoining property known as the Grange was also acquired, as well as the land bordering the whole southern side of Oak Lane. Here Edward caused a number of houses to be built, six of which were typical Victorian villas complete with stabling and basement kitchens. He named some of these houses after places well-known to him in his Yorkshire days; such as Middleton, Hilton, Crathorne, and Cleveland. In one case, however, - Bourchier House - he used the name of a family without any justification; the Sayers of Essex did indeed own Bourchier Hall near Colchester from 1577 until the early 18th century but the Yorkshire Sayers were never connected with the Bourchier family by marriage or in any other way. Bourchier House in Oak Lane was of a later vintage than its neighbours, having been designed by Edward's son, Charles, the architect. There is a legend – and it sounds quite in character – that Edward, having brought a Queen Anne staircase, said in effect: "here you are Charlie – build a house around that." A smaller house next door to it, called Mowbray Cottage, was also designed by Charles and it was here that the eldest son William and his wife Edith began their married life. Later, they moved to Bourchier House.

In the garden of Hilton House near the corner where Oak Lane meets the main road there grew, or at least protruded, the hollow trunk and three or four lopped boughs of a very large oak tree. Local tradition was emphatic that this was "Dick Turpin's oak". It was asserted that Turpin and Tom King hid behind this tree when waiting to rob the Mail in 1724 and it would certainly have been a very convenient stance for highwaymen, on the very verge of the coaching road as it crossed Finchley Common. Doubtless, both the Lane and, in course of time, Oak Lodge, derived their names from the old tree and in later years the Trustees of the Sayer estate did their best to preserve this relic but there is now no sign of it.

Sometime between 1881 and 1884 Edward Sayer acquired Plaish Hall, a fine Tudor house under Wenlock Edge in Shropshire. The estate was something over 1600 acres, half pasture and half arable land and with it went the advowson of the church at Cardington.

The manor of Plaish, or Plashe, once belonged to the Sprenghoses and when the last of them, Fulk Sprenghose, died in 1447 one of his four daughters by her marriage brought the property into the Leighton family. The licence for building the manor house is dated 1520 but most of the existing house is probably due to William Leighton, Chief Justice of North Wales, who died in 1606. it had the usual Tudor H-shaped plan of two gabled wings connected by a lofty hall with a screen and minstrels' gallery. The chimneys are magnificent specimens of moulded brickwork and the craftsman who built them is supposed to have been a convict whom Judge Leighton had condemned to death. This unfortunate man probably hoped for some mitigation of his sentence as a reward but on the contrary the Judge had him hanged – so it is said – in one of his own chimneys as soon as the work was finished.

Another story is that a murder had once been committed on one of the bedrooms leaving bloodstains on the door which could never be washed out or obliterated. It has in fact been recounted that this door was repainted in 1895 during the Sayers' ownership and that the stain reappeared in 1896. A more circumstantial version would have us believe that while a party of clergymen were playing cards in the upper room one Sunday evening the door suddenly flew open, despite its bolts, and the Devil appeared. All the players fled in panic from the house excepting the host "and none ever saw that wretched man again, alive or dead. Only a great stain of blood shaped like a human form was found on the floor of the room… Ever since then a ghostly troop of horsemen rides through the house at midnight with such a noise that none can sleep".*

*Burne, 'Shropshire Folklore'.

It seems that the Sayers were not perturbed by these sensational events, indeed one feels that Edward is likely to have taken great delight in relating them. He and Emma spent as much time as they could at Plaish; Charles designed a small extension at the rear for a gunroom and capped the twin spiral stairways with Tudor style cupolas; his brothers enjoyed the shooting and country life and their wives and young families had unforgettable holidays there.

The purchase of Plaish was made possible by a legacy Edward received from one Alexander Roos, an Italian architect long resident in London and a well-known landscape garden designer. He appears to have been a bachelor. His will, proved in 1881, refers to Edward as "my dear and valued friend" and makes him sole executor and residuary legatee. Roos's estate totalled £27,663 so that Edward probably benefited by about £20,000.

In 1884 Plaish was valued at £42,000. It is not known exactly when, or for how much, it was finally sold by Edward's sons but it may be mentioned that subsequently the old house was grievously tampered with by a later owner. The Great Hall for instance has been divided latterly to form two storeys.

Edward and Emma Sayer

None of the grandchildren of Edward and Emma Sayer now surviving was born early enough to remember them and the following notes are based on information gathered in past years from various members of the family who are no longer living.

Basically Edward appears to have been a vigorous, down-to-earth North countryman, autocratic indeed but not without a certain robust humour. His speech had become that of a southerner although occasionally he liked to revert to a broad Yorkshire accent. He must have had considerable business acumen and, combined with it, a high degree of artistic feeling.

Emma Sayer died in 1892 at the age of seventy. This precipitated the marriage of her son John to Ella Dixey, for within two months they were installed at Oak Lodge so that Ella could act as hostess and run the house for her father-in-law. This arrangement worked very successfully for four years until, much to the dismay of his family, the old gentleman remarried. The new wife's name was Mary Lucy Watkins. She had been employed as a governess in the household of William and Edith Sayer but was dismissed after being discovered on the knee of her employer's elderly father.

Edward Sayer's descendants

There exists a photograph of a group of sixteen people posed in front of the big cedar tree in the garden of Oak Lodge. It was taken by John Sayer and is endorsed in his writing:  "The last tennis party at Oak Lodge, 1897."  Edward Sayer in his grey, flat-topped bowler and holding his silver knobbed stick is seated in the middle with John's wife Ella next to him. Her brother Gilbert Dixey stands behind her. Michael Sayer and his wife Mary are there and also Charles Sayer. A youngish woman is probably Edward's second wife and next to her is seated Mrs Perrot, an ample and dressy matron from one of the Oak Lane houses.

Emma and Edward Sayer had seven sons, one of whom, Edward Arthur, died in 1868 at the age of four. Their only daughter, Mary Mowbray, became the wife of Percival Hart and had one child, Ethel Mary. Details of Edward Sayer's six sons, and some of their descendants, are included on the page relating to the recent generations of this line. This page was originally held back from internet publication in the interests of the privacy of living family members, but has now been included here at the behest of J.P.Sayer's daughter Gill Ward, one of the current representatives of the family. 

Edward and Emma Sayer had eight grandsons and ten granddaughters. In the next generation there were eleven great-grandsons (of whom eight are still living) and twelve great-granddaughters. Today (1973), in the youngest generation of all (great-great-grandchildren) there are eight male Sayers who may carry on the name among Edward's descendants.

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