The Ledeatts of Antigua

Louisa Manning Heath née Ledeatt married George Francis Carew Peter of Harlyn, Cornwall. Their daughter,  Eliza Mary Monica Peter, married Oliver Nugent MBE of Antigua in 1876
Louisa Manning Heath née Ledeatt married George Francis Carew Peter of Harlyn, Cornwall. Their daughter, Eliza Mary Monica Peter, married Oliver Nugent MBE of Antigua in 1876
When Oliver Nugent MBE married Eliza Mary Monica Peter at All Saints Church, Antigua, in 1876 a West India Committee circular described it as “the union of two historic Antiguan families”.  Monica’s mother was born a Ledeatt and had married as her third husband George Francis Carew Peter, a Cornishman from Harlyn, so the families being referred to – and being united – were the Nugents and the Ledeatts.  The Ledeatts, also spelt as Liddiatt and Ledeatte and other variants, feature with their family pedigree in V L Oliver’s History of Antigua, though less is known of them than of the Nugents.

European settlers first arrived in Antigua around 1632, having moved on from the island of Barbados, and from St Kitts after it suffered an onslaught from the Spanish in September 1629. The first mention of the Ledeatt family comes some forty years later when it is recorded one Thomas Lyddiat of Antigua, Planter, “leased 12 acres of land to John Cable”.

In the early 19th century, the Ledeatts occupied Fort St James with its commanding position over the entrance to St John's harbour
In the early 19th century, the Ledeatts occupied Fort St James with its commanding position over the entrance to St John's harbour
The Pedigree of the Ledeatt family in Oliver’s ‘The History of Antigua’ begins with Thomas Lydeatt – another spelling variation – who lived in Antigua between 1673-78, and is doubtless the planter referred to above. His son, Joseph Ledeatt, served as a Church Warden at St Phillip’s along with William Steele and Benjamin Wickham, among others. However, there is no information on the exact link between Thomas and the John Ledeatt below.

John Ledeatt, it is believed, was married twice. His first wife was Frances (surname unknown) with whom he had five children: Joshua, Thomas – both baptised in April 1755 – John, Sarah and, the youngest, Charles Manning Ledeatt, born in 1772, who became heir to a family friend, Charles Manning, which was probably why he was so named.(Compare Robert Nugent who added Dunbar to his name, becoming Robert Nugent-Dunbar, in order to inherit his mother’s estates in Scotland: see ‘Early Antiguan Nugents’ .)

Harlyn House in Cornwall, thought to be the home of Louisa Ledeatt after she married George Peter
Harlyn House in Cornwall, thought to be the home of Louisa Ledeatt after she married George Peter
John’s second marriage, on 18 June 1779 at St Philip’s, was to Esther Mayer, née Wickham, a widow. The Wickham family had moved from Barbados to Antigua in 1679, and claim descent from William of Wykekham, the Bishop of Winchester, who founded Winchester College in 1382. Esther inherited from her father, Joseph Wickham of Belfast, Antigua (who is mentioned as being an executor of the will of a Mary Ledeatt in 1761) a plantation of 179 acres in St Philips Parish, known as Parson Mawles, which was passed down to her eldest son, George Wickham Washington Ledeatt, upon her death in 1801.

John and Esther had two daughters, Eliza and Esther, as well as a younger son, William Eales Ledeatt. Just as John’s youngest son from his first marriage, Charles Manning Ledeatt, had become the heir to Charles Manning Esq, so William Eales Ledeatt, the youngest son of his second marriage, also inherited a plantation of 173 acres known as Mannings.

Warning shots were fired from Fort St James towards ships entering St John's harbour which did not pay their dues
Warning shots were fired from Fort St James towards ships entering St John's harbour which did not pay their dues

The marriage of William Eales Ledeatt of Mannings, Member of the Assembly, to Eliza, daughter of Samuel Sedgwick, took place on 5 May, 1818 at St Peter’s and was formally announced in the July 1818 issue of ‘The European Magazine and London Review’. (Eliza’s grandfather, Samuel, the son of a planter, was a merchant, who owned 113 acres of land in St Paul’s and 35 acres in St Mary’s.) When William was appointed Captain of Fort James – which had originally been built in the 18th century to protect St John’s Harbour – it seems that the family moved into the Fort, where it had been the custom for the Captain to receive a fee of eighteen shillings from each passing vessel and, if the fee was not forthcoming, a swift reminder would be fired across the bow of the ship from one of the cannon on the ramparts, many of which are still in situ today.

William and Eliza had at least eight children. They were: Dr William E. Ledeatt, MD; Charles Sedgwick; Frederick Heath, b. 1839; Eliza – who died as an infant in 1819; Louisa Manning; Georgina Ellen, b. 1823; Selina Maria, b. circa 1831 (who married Captain Clayton Samuel Hext Hingston, 3rd West India Regt); and Eliza Adelaide, b. 1836. V L Oliver mentions the baptism of another son in 1823, William Manning Ledeatt, who does not appear on the family tree, but whose name is included in the 1853 List of Fellows and Members of the Royal College of Physicians; he may possibly be one and the same as the William E. Ledeatt, MD who trained at King’s College London and who is shown on the tree.

Fort St James today
Fort St James today
William and Eliza Ledeatt continued to live at Fort James up until the time of the infamous hurricane of 21/22 August, 1872, when the Fort was so badly damaged that they were forced to move out because “there was not a room in it habitable”. The following January William wrote to his grandson in India, Lieut. Clayton W.J. Hingston, telling him how much they missed the ‘old fort’, but said there were some compensations as they were now living in St John’s, close to their daughter, Georgina, and her husband, William Henry Edwards Esq, Member of the Council, and were thus able to see much more of their grandchildren and great grandchildren. He mentioned that the sugar crop was expected to do well that year, and particularly Lower Freeman’s. After the Freeman family married into the Wickham family, the plantation named Wickham became known as Freeman’s.

For further reading on the heirs of Selina Ledeatt turn to ‘The Fishing Fleet – Husband Hunting in the Raj’ which tells the story of young women who went out to India during the Raj with a chapter on Selina’s great granddaughter,Sheila Hingston: http://www.annedecourcy.com/publications/the-fishing-fleet-husband-hunting-in-the-raj/ 

 

Helene Reade, July 2013

 

(Sources: Oliver, Vere Langford: ‘History of the Island of Antigua.’ Vols I, II and III”. Mitchell and Hughes, London, 1899. Sheridan, R.B.: ‘The Rise of a Colonial Gentry: A Case Study of Antigua, 1730-1775.’ The Economic History Review, 13 (1961). Anonymous (but thought to be by Mrs Langley): ‘Antigua and the Antiguans: A Full Account of the Colony and Its Inhabitants.’ 2 Vols. Saunders and Otley, London 1844. ‘A Chronological History of Betty’s Hope.’ Museum of Antigua & Barbuda. 9.2.2005 http://antiguahistory.net/Museum/bettyshoperesearch.htm Headlam, Cecil (Editor) ‘Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Vol. 30 1717-1718.’ Institute of Historical Research.1930 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=74047&strquery=Ledeatt Map from Journal of a Lady of Quality (Yale University Press, 1923) contributed by Jan Augustin; Louisa portrait from Nugent archives.)