Thomas Hunt Lawyer

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This page is dedicated to Thomas Hunt, Lawyer (c1723-1789) and his wife – Mary Jacobson (c1737-c1806). As Mary Jacobson was a direct Bankes Descendant, being descended from Mary (Rand) Mitchell, Bankes’s half-sister, I shall outline what we know of her before writing about Thomas. Firstly, however, I shall consider the information that we have gleaned from the records of this couple’s marriage .

If you would like to see an abbreviated family tree for Thomas Hunt, Lawyer (c1723-1789), his wife – Mary Jacobson – and children you can do so by clicking here.

Thomas Hunt, a widower, married Mary Jacobson, the only known surviving daughter of James and Mary (Mitchell) Jacobson, by licence on Tuesday 25 April 1758 at St Botolph, Aldgate. In so doing he became a Bankes Descendant by marriage, and an object of our research.

The marriage entry (1) states that both bride and groom were of the parish of St Christopher le Stocks, London. This entry is interesting in that it bears the signatures of both bride and groom, and two witnesses. Both Thomas and Mary signed in a flowing style, suggesting education and confidence. James Jacobson, father of the bride, was in poor health by the time of his daughter’s marriage, but his signature as a witness proves that he attended the event. The other witness was Ann Hunt. I do not know the identity of this person. Maybe she was Thomas Hunt’s mother.

Reference to the Marriage Licence Allegation (2), signed by Thomas the day before the ceremony, shows that his bride was aged ‘twenty one years & upwards’, so at least we know that she was not a minor at that time. The groom’s age was not stated. As you will see below, I believe that Thomas was born c1723, and that he was about thirty five years old when he married Mary. As I have not yet discovered the date of Mary’s birth, my working assumption is that she was twenty one on her marriage , and was therefore born c1737.

Mary (Jacobson) Hunt
Sources of information about Mary (Jacobson) Hunt are fairly scarce. Such material as I have found consists of the evidence provided by wills in which she featured, and the records of the Court of Chancery. I shall first consider the information gained from the latter of these sources.

Mary was recorded as being a figure involved in the Chancery proceedings Mitchell v Holloway in several of the documents I have seen. A Response by Ann Collyer (a cousin) of 1764 mentions that she had married Thomas Hunt, but gives no other information (3). In a Bill of 1764 Mary was listed as a defendant in the above proceedings (4), and she signed as a Respondent in a document dated 14 May 1767 (5).

In a Decree dated 20 January 1783 (6) Mary’s spouse was granted £75 “… in right of his wife…” in respect of arrears of payments of Bankes annuities. She and her spouse were also granted £1. 10s. 0d costs; a paltry sum today, but not so paltry then!

Between 1789 (after the death of her husband) and 1792, Mary Hunt received several remittances in payment of legal costs incurred in the Chancery proceedings. These costs were awarded under various orders of the court, and totalled £173. 8s. 2d.(7)

Information extracted from the ledgers of the Haberdashers’ Company shows that the company made payments to Mary between 1789 and 1805 in respect of annuities ordered by the Court. These payments totalled £17. 5s. 2d per half-year, which equates to roughly £515 in modern values(8). Half of the value of these annuities was awarded in Mary’s own right, and half as her spouse’s executrix.

The fact that these payments ceased in 1805 gave me a clue as to when to start looking for a record of Mary’s death. I have not succeeded in tracing a relevant burial record, but I have found the probate records regarding her estate (9). The Will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 16 June 1806, and was made on 27 November 1801. As we know that Mary received payment of annuities up to 1805, it is reasonable to assume that her death occurred between 1805 and June 1806 . In the absence of a burial record, this is as close as I can get to pinpointing the date of her decease.

In making her will Mary described her place of residence as “… late of Walthamstow in the County of Essex but now of Winchester Street in the City of London…”

It seems likely that she was living with her daughter and son in law – Ann (Hunt) Stephens and John Stephens – when she wrote her will, as this couple lived at the stated address.

The Will contained bequests to Mary’s four children, among whom the Bankes annuity, granted by the Court of Chancery, was to be divided equally. Her eldest son – James Marsom Hunt – was left the interest on £200 worth of 3% Government stocks for the duration of his life, and was also left a bureau, which had been the property of his father.

As the deceased person owned Bank of England Stock, a copy of the will was registered at the Bank of England. An abstract of this can be seen at the library of the Society of Genealogists, London (10).

As you may expect, Mary was a beneficiary in the will of her husband. One bequest that may be of interest was a payment of £50 in respect of a legacy left to her by a certain Mr David Langton deceased. In those days the property of married women belonged to their husbands, and presumably Thomas Hunt had received this money on behalf of his spouse (11).

I have traced several other wills that included references to Mary, including two that relate to some of her Jacobson cousins lived in the Channel Island of Jersey – Magdalen Jacobson(12) and Esther Jacobson(13). Both of them mention Mary as a beneficiary, indicating that the ties of kinship between these people were quite strong.

Thomas Hunt
You may think that as Thomas Hunt was a lawyer his history would be fairly easy to trace. After all, he must have been well educated, and his name may be expected to appear in many legal records. In fact I have traced Thomas in a variety of records, but the essential fact of his parentage has eluded me!

On his Marriage Licence Allegation Thomas stated that he was of the parish of St Christopher le Stocks, London. This information was confirmed by information in the will of James Jacobson, prospective father in law to Thomas, which was made in the same month (14). Alas, this information has not helped me to find a record of Thomas’s birth, and my various attempts have not yet enabled me to find this information.

I have one item of evidence that attests to Thomas Hunt’s approximate date of birth. A report by a Master in the Court of Chancery, dated 1776, states:-

“…I find by the affidavit of William Jacobson and Thomas Hunt and his wife Mary sworn the 2nd day of December 1773 … that the said Thomas Hunt was then of the age of fifty years and upwards or thereabouts…”(15).

Court of Chancery evidence has generally proved reliable in my experience, so I believe that Thomas Hunt was born c1723.

As I mentioned above, Thomas Hunt was a lawyer. I have managed to compile some information about his career, and shall outline this in the following lines.

Until the summer of 2008 I had assumed that Thomas Hunt had been a lawyer for the whole of his working life. However, last June I was shown a quite fascinating document that provided convincing evidence that this was not the case. Follow this link to see a transcription of this document

It appears that after completing his clerkship to an attorney, and thus training as a lawyer, Thomas served from 1748 to c1756 as a Customs Officer in London. In a document dated 1773 Thomas recounts how, in the course of performing his duties, he discovered what can only be described as illegal activities being carried out by the East India Company. It appears that customs duty was being evaded on a grand scale. Hunt put the value of the tax evasion at over one million pounds sterling – a fantastic amount of money in the mid eighteenth century(16).

Thomas then “…ceased to be an Officer of the Customs, with a certificate in writing…”.

The certificate Hunt referred to was a character reference, given to him by his superiors in the Customs. This stated that:

“We do in justice to Mr Hunt, readily certify, that from the experience we have of his conduct, we believe him to be a capable, diligent and honest man.”(17).

The fact that this glowing reference was given to Thomas by senior people in the Customs service leads me to believe that his accusations of malpractices by the East India Company were probably essentially correct. This reference indicates that he left without a stain on his character.

When he left the service of the Customs Thomas Hunt became a lawyer. The dates cited by Thomas Hunt would lead me to believe that this change of career took place around 1756, but in fact the earliest other evidence I have traced about his legal career shows that he was admitted as a solicitor in the Court of Chancery on Tuesday 13 May 1755(18). His address was then recorded as Great Winchester Street, which is in the City of London. He was aged around 32 at this time, and considering that his legal career was only just starting it surprises me that he appears to have started his career at such a senior level.

I know, from a Court of Chancery statement dated March 1760 in the cause Mitchell v Holloway, that Thomas was representing Sarah Holloway, a cousin and Bankes descendent, in this cause (19). I am sure that a painstaking search of Chancery cases in the 1760s would reveal other causes in which Thomas was involved, but this would be an extremely time-consuming enterprise, and is beyond my scope at present.

By March 1773 Thomas Hunt had been representing Bankes descendants in the various Court of Chancery proceedings relating to John Bankes’s Estate for at least thirteen years, and he was thoroughly disillusioned at the way in which the causes were proceeding. In writing his document Truth Faileth so that Equity Cannot Enter he gave expression to the frustration and disgust that he felt in relation to these matters, at the same time asserting his own good character and conduct. Hunt derived the title of this document from a quotation from the Old Testament of the Bible – Isiah 59:14:

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

After recounting the relevant bequests in John Bankes’s will, Thomas Hunt outlined what he saw as incorrect transactions that had taken place in the way in the winding up of Bankes’s estate, and dubious decisions that had been made by the Masters in Chancery who had dealt with the cause – Robert Holford and his son Peter Holford. For example, according to Thomas, John Bankes’s stock, which had been recorded as being worth £1316, had not been included in the calculations made in relation to the estate. Furthermore, Thomas pointed to several payments that took place between Bankes’s executors that had not been recorded properly, misdemeanours by the trustees of the Bankes Trust, and misappropriations of funds:

“Many thousands pounds have been, by some persons, converted to their own use.”(20)

The end result of all this, Thomas claimed, was that:

“… the suitors of the said Court, and the said seventy poor persons, have been wronged of Seven Hundred Pounds a Year, for upwards of Thirty Years, in manifest Violation and Contempt of the said Decree and of all laws human and Divine.”

Truth Faileth so that Equity Cannot Enter is a most remarkable document, which gives a fascinating insight into the character of Thomas Hunt, and also into the Court of Chancery proceedings. Of course, by its nature, it is a biased account of the court proceedings and the way in which the Bankes Trust was handled. However, the character reference that was given to Thomas by his superiors in the Customs speaks volumes for his honesty, and it seems likely that his protests at the injustices of the court proceedings had substance. He comes across as a man of great principle, who was appalled by what he saw as the injustices that had been wrought on the intended beneficiaries of the Bankes will.

Further evidence of the professional activities of Thomas Hunt are the copies of Browne’s Law Lists that survive from that period. Compilation of these annual lists started in the second half of the eighteenth century, and the copies that have been available to me yielded the following information (21):-

Date Address Court in which Active (if stated)
1779 Bread Street
1780 Beard St (?misprint), Cheapside
1782 Hunt & Massy, 43 Threadneedle St
1787 Threadneedle Street, 45 King’s Bench & Court of Common Pleas
1790 Allhallows-Court, Gracechurch-Street King’s Bench

I assume that the 1779 and 1780 entries both refer to the same address.

The 1782 address was for a legal firm named Hunt & Massy. Given that its address was similar to that given for Thomas Hunt in 1787, I assume that the ‘Hunt’ in this entry was ‘our’ Thomas.

It will be noted that all the addresses stated above were in the City of London, and very close to one another. I assume that they were all business addresses, and that Thomas and his family probably lived elsewhere. When he made his will, in 1788(22), his place of residence was stated as follows “…late of the parish of St.John, Hackney, Middx, but now of St.Mary, Walthamstow.” However, recollection of the above reference to his residence in 1758 in the parish of St Christopher le Stocks, suggests that Thomas Hunt probably lived in the city of London earlier in his life.

It is interesting to note that the area where Thomas worked was the focus of much concern during 1780, when the Gordon Riots – a Protestant protest against the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 – took place. The Bank of England, situated in Threadneedle Street, came under severe attack, and had to be defended by soldiers, some of whom were garrisoned in the church of St Christopher le Stocks(23). Roy Porter describes the scene as fires raged and property was destroyed across the metropolis(24). We can only speculate what impact these events had on the everyday life of Thomas Hunt, lawyer, but surely they must have caused him some concern.

I have searched the relevant records of the King’s Bench(25), but although they contain several references to people named Thomas Hunt, I have not been able to identify ‘my man’. There are other sources I can use in my pursuit of more information, but that will require further research. One such source is the Affidavits of Articles for Kings Bench lawyers. I understand that in making these affidavits, people newly admitted to King’s Bench often stated details of their legal training(26).

It is also possible that a search of the records of the Court of Common Pleas may enable me to discover more about the career of Thomas Hunt, but I have not yet been able to undertake this.

Among other references to Thomas Hunt in the records of the Court of Chancery, there were several awards of payment of annuities, arrears of annuities, or legal costs:

5 January 1771
‘…To the said Thomas Hunt in Right of the said Mary his wife the sum of seventy five pounds..(27)’

18 December 1776
‘ … To the said Thomas Hunt the yearly sum of One pound ten shillings …(28)’

20th January 1783
Thomas Hunt was granted £75 “ right of his wife..” in respect of arrears of annuity payments. He and his spouse were also granted £1.10.0 in respect of their costs(29).

Thomas Hunt’s status as a lawyer meant that he was cited as an executor, or received administration grants, in the wills of several of his kinsmen. Those that I have traced in the records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury were as follows:

  • James Jacobson (father in law), probate 20th June 1759(30).
  • Mary (Mitchell) Jacobson (mother in law), probate July 1771(31).
  • Mary Mitchell (spouse’s grandmother), probate May 1773(32).
  • Magdalen Jacobson (spouse’s cousin), probate June 1781(33).
  • Esther Jacobson (spouse’s cousin), probate 7th July 1789(34).

Thomas died in January 1789, and was buried on 18 January in that year at New Independent Burying Ground, Marsh Street, Walthamstow(35). His will was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 23 January 1789(36),and contained a number of bequests, including the following:

  • £1000 was left in Trust, to be used for the benefit of James Marsom Hunt, eldest son of Thomas and Mary Hunt. James Marsom Hunt was to have no control over this bequest. In the event of the death of James Marsom Hunt, the above amount was to be transferred to Thomas Hunt’s other children – Mary Hunt, Thomas Hunt, William Hunt and Ann Hunt in equal shares, so long as they had reached the age of 21 years. If any of these children predeceased James Marsom Hunt, their share of this benefit was to be divided among the surviving children.
  • £700 worth of three per cent Bank Consolidated Annuities were bequeathed to each of the following of to Thomas Hunt’s children: Mary Hunt, Thomas Hunt, William Hunt and Ann Hunt, providing that they had reached 21 years of age. In the case of any of these children not having reached 21 years of age, the annuities were to be invested on their behalf until they reached 21 years of age.
  • £1000 worth of three per cent Bank Consolidated annuities were bequeathed in trust, the “interest dividends and proceeds” to be used for the benefit of Thomas’s wife, Mary Hunt. On her death, the investment was to be transferred to Mary Hunt, Thomas Hunt, William Hunt and Ann Hunt, children of the testator, so long as they have attained the age of 21 years. Each of these children was to receive equal shares. If any of these children had not attained the age of 21, the proceeds of this investment was to be used for their maintenance or benefit until they reached the age of 21 years.
  • The remainder of the testator’s real or personal estate, after payment of his debts, funeral expenses etc., was bequeathed to his spouse – Mary Hunt.

The value of the bequests left by Thomas Hunt was considerable, as can be appreciated when one considers that according to Bank of England estimates £1,000 in 1790 was worth approximately £51,000 in today’s money values(37).

The reader will no doubt appreciate that there are many gaps in our knowledge of Thomas Hunt, Lawyer. The fact that we live in the Midlands and most of the sources that would be most likely to yield information about this man are in London means that any progress we make in this research is bound to be slow. However, we are pleased to have discovered as much about this man as we have.

One of the children of Thomas and Mary Hunt was Rev Thomas Hunt, Baptist Minister (1762-1844). Click here to see material about him.

G M Culshaw December 2005
Updated January 2009
Reviewed January 2011

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  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.