A Memorial to My Childhood

A question prompted by The Brothers Cortis (last month) sent me to Ashby Cum Fenby in Lincolnshire over the weekend, to see if I could find more information about the parents of Richard Cortis, the brothers’ father. At the moment “John & Elizth” are on the FamilySearch Shared Tree with Richard and eight other children, none of whom are yet connected to each other.

“Elizth” seems to be Elizabeth SMITH. A February 1765 marriage in Ashby is well-timed for the couple’s first child, Ann, christened in January 1766 and buried two months later. The Ashby Parish register can be found at Lincolshire Archives. The ink has faded but most of the Cortis events can be discerned. John first appears in Ashby in 1761 (as far as I can tell) and is intermittently the churchwarden over the next three decades. At most of his own events he is referred to as “John junr.” His father would, therefore, seem to be John senior whose origins are obscure to me but who dies at the end of the year in which John and Elizabeth marry.

Reading the register carefully, I found all the Cortis children on the Shared Tree and several more. I also noticed that there was a second John Cortis, referred to as “John of Laceby”. This is all well and good – until the entry in December 1791 for the burial of John Cortis, aged 0, son of John junr and Elizabeth of Laceby. A John Cortis married Elizabeth BASNIP of Laceby in February 1791 but without seeing the death of Elizabeth nee Smith recorded some doubt remains. (In 1799 there is a list in a newspaper of subscribers to the Caistor Association in which John and William Cortis of Laceby AND John Cortis of Ashby appear.)

Elizabeth Basnip has issues of her own and it was a relief to be distracted by intriguing entries in the register that cried out to be investigated.

1753 David Langley, a stranger killed by a Fall from a Sycamore Tree as he was taking Rook nests, May 7th buried.

1796 Aug 25th buried Edward Condock aged 14 years. The above Edward Condock received his death by an accidental shot from a Gun in Mr Scrivener’s House. [A Thomas Scrivener shared churchwarden duties with John Cortis.]

And the entry that took me back to my childhood?

The Number 30 bus in Hull used to go to and from Stoneferry along New Cleveland Street, and maybe still does. I was always particularly drawn to the mysterious (in name and nature) Marble and Stone Merchants, Anselm Odling and Sons. One had only the merest glimpse of what went on behind the tall fence but it was the name that fascinated me. And here, perhaps 150 years before the company set up a branch in Hull, I find the forebears (surely) in a small Lincolnshire village. Thanks to the Interweb, I now know it was a large company of diverse activities – and it is still trading on New Cleveland Street, but disappointingly just as “Odlings”.

Another name in the Ashby register that caught my attention – Hewson. The Hewsons may have been the preeminent family in the village and in Louth in 1862 John and Elizabeth’s grandson, William Smithson Cortis, widower, married Susanna of that ilk.

Flight of Fancy 26 · Emoji

Filey seawall

The Worthy Doctor of Filey

William Smithson CORTIS, firstborn son of Richard (Thursday’s post) and Jane SMITHSON, married Mary Jane GREEN in Wintringham in June 1843 when he was 23 years-old. Their first child, Jane Maria, was born in Filey about eighteen months later. I don’t know what accidents or designs brought him to this small and undistinguished town but he didn’t just look after the health of its people – he saw a bigger picture. He took a deep interest in the history of the area and, perhaps not surprisingly for the son of a master mariner, did all he could to better the lot of local fishermen and all who sailed the dangerous waters off the Yorkshire coast.

In Scarborough Town Hall in November 1857 he read a paper about the recent discovery of Roman artifacts on “Car-Naese” and in the same year began to campaign for the building of a Harbour of Refuge in Filey Bay. This appeared in the Scarborough Mercury on 22 October 1859: –

The Cortis Testimonial.

FILEY.

It will be in the recollection of most of our readers, that during the inquiry before the Royal Commission appointed to obtain evidence as to the best site for a National Harbour of Refuge, on the North East Coast of England, Dr. W. S. Cortis, of Filey, displayed considerable talent and persevering energy during a period of eighteen months, in searching out and obtaining information to lay before the Commissioners relative to the advantages possessed by Filey Bay for such a Harbour. Dr. Cortis had also during the sitting of the Parliamentary Committee on Harbours of Refuge in 1857-8, rendered much service by developing the merits of Filey Bay, and, in consequence, rendered himself deserving the esteem of a large circle of friends and those who are intimately concerned in the Shipping interest. To shew their gratitude for this persevering labour, on the part of a private individual, a public meeting was called at Foord’s Hotel, Filey, some time back, when a number of gentlemen were appointed to receive subscriptions for the purpose of presenting Dr. Cortis with a suitable Testimonial. The committee for carrying out this object, have so far succeeded as to be enabled to purchase a very handsome and richly chased silver breakfast service, consisting of kettle and stand, with lamp, a coffee-pot, tea-pot, sugar-basin, and cream ewer, all en suite, and which are to be presented by the inhabitants of Filey to the worthy Doctor, on Friday next, the 28th instant. The testimonial bears the following somewhat lengthy but appropriate inscription:-“Presented with-guineas, to W. S. Cortis, Esq., M.D., by the inhabitants of Filey and the neighbourhood, as a testimonial of their appreciation of the services which he rendered to the maritime interests of the coasts, and to the cause of humanity, in advancing the claims of Filey Bay as the site of a National Harbour of Refuge, by the able manner in which he searched out evidence and laid it before the parliamentary committee, by the clear and lucid way in which he developed its advantages before her Majesty’s commissioners, and by the talent, energy, and perseverance with which he conducted the whole case.

October, 1859.”

The blank left in the inscription will, we believe, be filled up with the amount of money intended to be given with the Testimonial-the sum, we understand, will be between 159 and 200 guineas. A large number of merchants, and shipowners, in Hull, have also testified their appreciation of Dr. Cortis’s labours in bringing to a successful issue a question of such vast importance; they have therefore purchased a large massive salver, twenty inches in diameter, to be presented at the same time, on which is a faithful and well executed engraving of the beautiful Bay of Filey, shewing the long projection of rocks, called the “Brig,” as well as the handsome buildings which characterise the improvements on the South Cliffs. Under the view is the following inscription:-“Presented to William S. Cortis, Esq., M.D., Filey, by his friends in Hull, as a token of their recognition of the services rendered by him to the commerce of the east coast of England, by his indefatigable advocacy of the formation of a National Harbour of Refuge in Filey Bay. October, 1859.”

The whole of these exquisite pieces of workmanship have been entrusted to the skill of Messrs. Jacobs and Lucas, silversmiths, of Hull, and are now being exhibited at Mr. Suggitt’s, grocer, Filey, previous to the presentation. We understand that a public dinner will be given after the presentation, at five o’clock.

The effort to make the harbour of refuge a reality continued for many years and ultimately failed, but reprint copies of William’s book, Losses of Ships and Lives on the North-East Coast of England, and How to Prevent Them can still be purchased online.

William Smithson Cortis, no date, Sawyer, Bird & Foxlee, 87 Regent Street,
courtesy H F Morrice Collection

William is remembered on the stone marking the grave of his wife and their infant son Henry Liddell in St Oswald’s churchyard.

Also, WILLIAM S. CORTIS M.D., husband of the above, died at Manly N.S.W., 15 Sep. 1906, aged 86 years.

Mary Jane died in the summer of 1858 aged 36. Four years later William married Susanna HEWSON in Louth, Lincolnshire. In 1878 their names appear on the Victoria Inward Passenger List of the vessel Hankow, their final destination Sydney.

The Will of Dr Cortis can be found online and the codicil caught my eye.

It is dated 1901 and I need to go back to my notes to see if there are reasons for William Richard losing the silver. (He outlived his father by just over two years.)

Measure of Man 42 ·Evron Centre

I wonder what William Smithson would have made of SARS-CoV-2. I think he would have lined up with the good doctors.