Global Battcock Family Tree

Just another weblog

Thomas Battcock (1781-1845), corn and coal in Chelsea

Thomas William Battcock was baptized in 1781 at St Mary Abbots in Kensington.  He became a corn and coal merchant.

Coals from Newcastle 

With the rapid industrial revolution in London, coal was the business to be in.  Business was booming.  Britain had the best environment for businessmen in the world with the largest common market, few taxes and severe restrictions under the Combination Acts on any form of trade unions.  Adam Smith could not hold back his praise: “the security which laws in Great Britain give to every man that he shall enjoy the fruits of his own labour, is alone sufficient to make any country flourish”.  Much of this business required coal.  The trade in coal in London had grown wildly from 800,000 tons in 1700 to two and a half million tons by the end of the century.    Thomas owned a wharf known as Battcock’s Wharf, where the coal would have been unloaded. 

The trade in coal was severely regulated in London.  Within 24 hours of any ship with a cargo of coal reaching Blackwell, the captain had to have sent to the Clerk of the Coal Market a copy of the certificate of shipment.  The original certificate had to be sent to the Coquet Office of the lord Mayor.  The Clerk of the Market exhibits the certificate to denote the cargo is for sale.  The Coal Factor was in charge of selling the coal to the merchants.  Coal was allowed to be sold on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between twelve and two as set out in the “Sale of Coal Act”.  The books are shut at two and the Factors have to get the contracts by three to the Clerks who receive one penny.  The coal was heaved out of the ships by “whippers” into lighters under the “inspection of a Meter” appointed by the Corporation of the City of London.   The Meter was paid three shillings a day and the Captain usually invited him for dinner aswell.  The “whippers” could only be employed by “undertakers” who had to have a license from the Corporation.  Undertakers were not allowed to be publicans but this ruling was regularly evaded.  The lighter would take the coal to the merchant’s wharf such as Battcock’s Wharf in Chelsea.  At the wharf, the coal was now under the control of the “Land Meter” who assessed how much coal was unloaded. 

Corn, middlemen and merchants

Thomas was also a corn merchant.  Corn and coal often went together.  It was an interesting if dangerous time to be a corn merchant. With the introduction of the Corn Laws in 1804-13, which imposed heavy tariffs on imported corn, the price for bread was kept high.  The trade in corn was dependant on the quality of the harvest in England and the prices varied widely depending on the weather.  As is often the case, people would blame high prices on the merchants.  There had many riots and disturbances with crowds attacking and looting stores and trying to lynch corn merchants.  The riots were followed by a flurry of pamphlets defending and attacking the merchants. Adam Smith’s defense was often quoted: “the interests of the inland dealer and that of the great body of the people, how opposite soever at first they appear, are even in years of scarcity exactly the same”. Sir Thomas Turton investigated if there was any hoarding or whether merchants were involved in anti-competitive cabals.  He found no evidence of hoarding and did not feel that the merchants could control the market. 

Thomas would have negotiated the purchase of corn at the Corn Exchange or more likely at the two coffee houses just outside and the corn would have been delivered to his wharf.  He would have sold his corn onto “jobbers” who would then sell the corn onto the millers and bakers across London. 

Thomas must have been considerably successful as he bought two houses in Cheyne Walk in 1821.  He lived at number 1 and had his business at number 2.  Mick Jagger lived at number 3 in the 1960s. The houses in Cheyne Walk were traditional 18th century merchant’s town houses with back rooms with small “powdering-closets”.  Thomas also owned the wharf down on the river called Battcock’s Wharf and other properties called Battcock’s Cottages in Queen Street (now called Flood Street), where is brother William lived. 

He married Elizabeth Rubergall in Deptford by special license.  Elizabeth was born in 1781 in Chelsea.  Thomas and Elizabeth had five children: Thomas, Frederick, George, Henry and Frank.  Thomas Smith Battcock was born in 1813.  He took over the family corn and coal business.  He married Catherine Walker Taylor and died of pneumonia at the age of 34.  Their oldest son Frederick Walker Battcock traveled around the world leaving and ended up in New Zealand where he married Elizabeth Fremlin.  There are many of their descendants across New Zealand.[i]   

George Battcock was born in 1815 and became a wine and spirit merchant.  He married Jane King.  His son George Arthur Battcock was director of the Mutual Life Assurance Society and donated the clocks for the Clock Tower in Maidenhead built as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. George’s grandson George fought in the First World War and there is a very good book about his regiment in the war[ii].  Frederick Battcock was born in 1817 and worked in the family coal business.  He married Fanny Drouet who ran the business after he died.  Henry Battcock was born in 1820 and married Jeannette Gertrude Spence.  He started work as a grocer but then emigrated to Argentina.  Frank Battcock was born in 1823.

After Elizabeth died in 1838, Thomas bought the Ashford Manor House.  He died there in 1847.

[i] I am in contact with Lynn who is Frederick Walker’s great grand daughter.

[ii] There is an excellent book about his regiment.


January 5, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hello, my grandmother was Henry Battcock’s, Thomas and Elizabeth’s son, granddaughter:

    Thomas / Henry (and Jannette Spence) / Thomas (and Susanna Hart) / Beatrice Mae Battcock my paternal grandmother.

    She married Stanley Jennens Davenport and emigrated to New York in 1911. Their two sons are dead but four grandchildren and two great grandchildren still live in the US.

    Recently I discovered the South America Battcocks, descendents of her family, and was directed to this website. Thank you!

    Comment by Sue (Battcock) Davenport | September 30, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi,
    I’m the gt gt grand-daughter of Frederick Walker BATTCOCK. He did come to NZ, but it was Agnes Ellen Clementina FREMLIN he lived with (can’t find a marriage), and they had 8 children. He had previously married Harriet SKUSE on 10 Mar 1862 in Hanover Square, London, England, and is said to have come to NZ as a ‘remittance man’. I’m picking Harriet was still alive, so he felt unable to mary Agnes??

    Great site! Lots of interesting information, congratulations, and thank you!

    Comment by Bev Randall | November 22, 2010 | Reply

  3. My paternal great-grandmother, Margaret, was the daughter of Thomas Smith Battcock (the eldest son of Thomas William Battcock). My late father vaguely recalled visiting some of his ‘Battcock’ cousins as a boy, sometime during the 1920s; but, he was unsure as to whereabouts exactly that may have been. He thought it could have been somewhere near Stoke Poges or Slough, Bucks.

    I’ve been trying to find out a bit more about John Rubergall – Elizabeth’s father – he is thought to have been of French origin and is mentioned in various articles as being a market gardener. If anyone is able to confirm or corroborate this, then I would be very interested to hear from them. Thank you.

    With kind regards,

    Anthony Looker

    Comment by Anthony Looker | September 29, 2011 | Reply

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