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Friday 1 January 2010


I came across one of those meaningless flukes of genealogy a few years ago, one of those entirely coincidental little loops of history which show just what a small world it is (although you wouldn’t want to have to serve writs on, or wine to, everyone in it). Now pay attention.

Eustace Barham (whose 4x great aunt Rebecca Delap is my 5x great grandmother) was in the early 1850s a business partner of my 3x great uncle Charles Castle, in the Bristol legal firm of Castle, Henderson and Barham. Castle and Barham were not otherwise related, but Charles’ nephew William Henry Castle would later marry Eleanor Wilhelmina Sadleir, a great great granddaughter of Rebecca Delap by another route.

Is that clear?! No, of course not - but what I'm trying to say is that both men are related to me, by quite different and circuitous lineages although both are descended from Rebecca Delap. And by coincidence they ended up working in the same law firm together for a while. It really is that trivial.

Henderson and Barham were connected by marriage, having married the sisters Arabella and Ellen Hore in the 1840s; and by business, having formed the firm of Henderson and Barham in 1852. A year later they admitted Charles Castle as a partner, but it was a short-lived and unhappy partnership.

Castle, whose father Thomas was a distiller and merchant in the important Bristol spirits industry, had from the start expressed a desire to move into the business of wine-importing; and it was understood (at least by his legal colleagues) that he would withdraw from the partnership if and when that happened. When it did happen, and to the dismay of Barham in particular, Castle showed no sign at all of withdrawing, but rather of sitting tight and continuing to draw a third share of the legal firm’s profits.

There followed a delightful correspondence of veiled, restrained anger between Castle and a very unhappy Henderson acting on behalf of Barham. In a series of letters, all sides expressed their “disappointment” in the other party’s position, and their failure to comprehend the other party’s “disappointment”.

Under duress, Castle offered to repay part of his share of the profits in recognition of his lesser part in the business of the firm; but he made the offer with such bad grace that both Henderson and Barham withdrew their acceptance of it. In November 1854, the partnership was formally dissolved, although not until 1857 and following further bitter exchanges between Barham and Castle would the latter’s financial settlement from the firm be settled finally. (Castle had taken part of his share in the form of a client’s mortgage debt, on which I think the client had subsequently defaulted just when Castle most needed a further injection of capital in his wine business.)

Barham continued with Henderson for a while before setting up in business for himself as Barham and Co, later Carslake and Barham and later still as Barham and Barham (Eustace with his son Thomas).

I’m not sure what happened to Henderson. Charles Castle, many of whose letters I inherited, seems to have tried his hand at many things in his life – mini careers in the law and as a vintner sit alongside periods of political activity and military service. Without a doubt, more from him in future posts!

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