Letter from Thomas Hamilton Ayliffe to Fanny de Courtenay: 1830
Brit Nicholson

Congratulations, Brit, on these wonderful articles about the correspondence that you recently reviewed England. As a descendant of Thomas Hamilton Ayliffe, I was very interested to read the articles. I am descended from Thomas’s son Thomas (Frances’s brother), of whom his father said in one of the letters that you reviewed: ‘I think [he] will make a good Farmer, his genious turns that way’. Whilst his father and brothers were medical men, Thomas (junior) did indeed become a farmer, in South Australia, after working for a short time as a carpenter on ships.

You note that Thomas’s 1830 letter refers to ‘the Martins’ (‘Martin, his Wife & three children’), who were at that time living with and being supported by Thomas and his wife Hester. I am fairly confident that ‘the Martins’ were Thomas’s daughter Cecilia Marten, her husband John Marten (a drawing master), and their three children. When Thomas and his wife and three sons left for Australia in 1838, Cecilia and her children remained in Devonshire and were said to be ‘suffering extreme hardships’. Their story is a sad one. John Marten died in Canterbury in 1836. Their daughter Fanny died in 1834 at the age of 5, and their daughter Cecilia died in Canterbury in 1837 at the age of 10. Cecilia seems to have been recorded as a ‘professor of drawing’ in Brighton in the 1841 census, but died in Brighton on Christmas Day 1845. Two daughters of John and Cecilia Marten survived into adulthood, Augusta and Sophia (both of whom were born in the early 1830s and later went to Australia; Sophia died in New Zealand).

You say that the 1830 letter from Thomas Hamilton Ayliffe was presumably sent from Paignton. I think it is possible that the letter was sent from nearby Bovey Tracey, where the Ayliffes were established by 1833. In 1825 (shortly after he moved to Devonshire from London), Thomas was recorded as ‘late of Compton’, which was north of Paignton. Thomas’s daughter Cecilia Marten was baptised as an adult at the Independent Church in Paignton in 1833. Her address was given as ‘Paignton & Bovey Tracey’ in the baptism records. This suggests to me that the Martens may have had a residence in Paignton, as well as residing with the Ayliffes (as recorded in Thomas’s letter).

Well done again on your excellent research.