We are indebted to the Rev John Brigg, former Vicar of Hepworth, who in 1898 published the memorials of his family. These writings include notes of his connection with the SHRAPNELL family of Trowbridge. He quoted extracts from a journal that was written in 1725 by JAMES SHRAPNELL of London.
JAMES, however, was born in Trowbridge in 1683, working the family mill with his younger brother EDWARD. He moved to London in 1718 to sell the cloth manufactured in the mill at Trowbridge. He wrote of the many dangers he encountered on his numerous journeys between London and Trowbridge and thanked God for his preservation.
That was the time when Trowbridge was much afflicted by smallpox from which there were many deaths. JAMES wrote thankfully of the recovery from sickness of himself, his wife (HESTER REDDISH, of Maiden Bradley) and of his brother EDWARD's escape from drowning in the River Avon. Trade troubles were rife, with the uprising of the weavers in great numbers in Trowbridge and Bradford (Wilts) doing much damage and being troublesome.
On the death of his brother EDWARD in 1732 who worked the fine cloth mill at Trowbridge, JAMES bought the remainder of the mill at valuation. He put his two sons, another JAMES and EDWARD in to manage it.
After his brother EDWARD's funeral JAMES said:
The management of the funeral was by his will left to his wife and me, and was done in the following manner. I invited most of the gentlemen and middling men of the town, which in general came; invited also the near relations of both sides; were treated with beer, red and white wine was given to all. The six underbearers had good silk hatbands and gloves, the six pallbearers very good silk hatbands, rings of a guinea price, gloves and scarves. Two Clergymen had the same: two Dissenting Ministers the same except scarves at which distinction they were both very much offended!'
EDWARD's only son and one daughter were carried off by smallpox two years later and JAMES's daughter MARGARET died at the age of 27.
We are told that in May 1736 a baited bull rushed into the kitchen at Trowbridge followed by 'ye doggs after him but by a kind Providence no one was there'.
In 1740 matrimonial negotiations took place when JAMES offered £1000 (a great sum in those days) as a wedding gift to JAMES, junior but the father of the bride to be became 'obdurate' and the wedding fell through. JAMES, junior, undaunted went on to marry the grand daughter of SIR JOSEPH TILEY, M.P. for Exeter. Their daughter in due course was to marry the Rev JAMES BOWDEN. He was the son of a clothier and member of the Common Close Church at Warminster (Wilts) and was active at the time of John Wesley's visit to the town.
JAMES SHRAPNELL, senior, lived in London for more or less 23 years but returned to Trowbridge for good in 1741.
The journal or diaries of JAMES SHRAPNELL, referred to above, covered the period from 1725 to at least 1740. It is known to have still existed in the early 1900s when it was in the hands of the wife of the Rev John Brigg. I have written numerous letters to various archives trying to trace this manuscript but without success.
(Trowbridge & London) - 1683 to 1757