A line of Meaburns appeared abruptly at Boston in Lincolnshire from 1778 with the family of James Meaburn (c1750-1823) and Amy Ambler. James became a prominent ship-owner but his origins are uncertain. There was a James Meburn born at Sunderland in 1750. Since Sunderland was a major port and shipbuilding centre that James could easily have become a seafarer and moved south, but there is no proof of it.
James Meaburn (c1750-1823) of Boston
James Meaburn c1750-1823
James Meaburn married Amy Ambler in 1770 at Skirbeck, Lincolnshire. Skirbeck is today a suburb of Boston close by the Haven where in those days all the boat traffic would have been. The Ambler name has been used several times since as a given name. They had three children Amey Ambler, Ann and John Ambler.
James is listed in Pigot's Directory, 1822, at Boston as a ship owner living at High Street.
Amey Ambler Meaburn 1778-1857
Amey was baptized on the 29th April 1778 at Boston. She married James Staniland, a ropemaker, in 1797 also at Boston. The Staniland name too has since been used from time to time as a given name.
Amey and James both died at Boston in 1857 and 1841 respectively but had moved around earlier. The first three of their four children were born at Thorne in Yorkshire while the fourth was at Stepney.
Ann Meaburn 1779
Ann was baptized on the 13th October 1779 but then disappears from the records so may have died in infancy.
John Ambler Meaburn 1782-1835
John was baptised on the 19th June 1782 at Boston. As the only son, descent proceeds from him. He married Desdemona Neave of Ashby-by-Partney, Lincolnshire probably around 1808, though no record has been found, and they had seven children between 1810 and 1820 at Hackney. That move to the Thames must have been to exploit the greater trading opportunities there.
As a businessman trading in the world of shipping he needed premises and warehousing and there is evidence of this from a number of insurance policies taken out with the Royal and Sun Alliance.
This all suggests he started as a sailmaker then branched out into chandlery and into shipowning. John’s own house insurance appears a couple of times while he lived near the Hackney Road (just 2 or 3 miles from Limehouse. Narrow Street, where the business premises were, is still there running alongside the river with, appropriately, Ropemaker’s Fields leading off it.
A little more about his business interests is illustrated in The London Gazette. On the 16th March 1816 there is a notice announcing the end of a partnership in the ship Wilding, of and from London to Antigua. This was between John Shelly, David Johnson, John A. Meaburn, Geo. White and Thomas Smith (who made his mark). All debts due from the ship were to be paid by Captain David Johnson on application at the Jamaica Coffee House on Cornhill.
Much later, on the 1st May 1829, the Gazette has entries for two business partnership changes (due to a retiral). John took over as sole owner of the former Johnson and Meaburn sail-makers and ship-owners at Narrow-street, Limehouse. He was also identified as a partner in Johnston, Anderson & Co rope-makers in White-Horse-lane, Mile-end Old Town.
The Electoral Rolls also have entries for him as follows: 1832 and 1833 – house and warehouse, Narrow Street, Ratcliff, Tower Hamlets 1834 – house at White Horse Lane, Mile End Old Town, Tower Hamlets.
John died in 1835 and his will indicated he was a wealthy man. His wife received £200 and the right to live on in their house. Daughters Amy Ambler Bright and Elizabeth Ann Phillips got £1200 each, and Ann Meaburn £1650. The will also states that they might get more when the ship Venolia returned with whale oil from southern seas. He estimates that as worth “fourteen thousand pounds or upwards” – perhaps £16 million! Sons John James and James were to share the rest (though how much is unspecified) including 30 acres at Saltfleetly and properties at Limehouse, Ratcliffe and Hackney. The economic status of Ann’s inheritance on its own equates to around £2 million.
By the time of the census of 1851 Desdemona was staying with her son James in Greenwich - but was listed as Mary. She lived on until 1859 dying at 2 Grove Hill, Camberwell. There is no trace of a will for her.
Oddly, there is little trace of wealth in the family beyond John’s time. Perhaps the Venolia did not return?
Amey Ambler Meaburn 1810-1883
Amey Ambler was baptized on the 24th April 1810 at Hackney. She married a doctor, Richard Bright in 1830 at Chigwell. They had five children in London before emigrating to Tasmania in 1842 – encouraged perhaps by her brother, John James’s presence there. A daughter, Fanny Oceania, was born on the voyage and a final child in Hobart.
Things did not go well for Richard. He was declared insolvent in 1849, after which his life became increasingly chaotic, he was unable to practice and turned to working as an apothecary.
In 1861 Amy petitioned for judicial separation and in 1862 Richard took his own life by drinking prussic acid.
Full details can be found at - a fine website.
Amy, herself, lived on in Hobart until 1883.
James Neave Meaburn 1811-1815
James was born at Hackney in 1811 and died young.
John Ambler Meaburn 1812-1815
John was born at Hackney in 1812 and he too died young.
Elizabeth Ann Meaburn 1815-?
Elizabeth Ann was baptized at Hackney on the 23rd September 1815. She married Charles Phillips, a merchant, in 1832 at Chigwell and received a substantial bequest in her father’s will in 1835.
She died aged 68 at 2 Montpelier Villas, Brighton (handsome white-stuccoed houses) in 1882 with a personal estate of £895.
John James Meaburn 1816-1880
This was an unusual and determined form of naming when John and Desdemona had already lost a John and a James. John James was baptized on the 11th July 1816 at Hackney. Evidently keen on adventure he emigrated to Australia, ending up at Tasmania on the 5th Feb 1837 aboard the 'Francis Freeling' out from Sydney [listed as JT Meaburn]. He was married there, at Hamilton, in 1838 to Amelia Ann Bilton and by 1855 they had had eight children.
John James was described as a merchant but it seems he teamed up with less scrupulous business partners. The Victoria Police Gazette for January 10 1856, p.18 describes a warrant for the arrest of Frederick Clay, late clerk in the Union Bank, for forging a cheque for £500. Clay was last seen on the mail from Melbourne to the Ovens with J.J. Meaburn!
John James managed to keep a step ahead of the law largely by disappearing to the United States. He was listed as a salesman at Treadwell & Co in Sacramento in 1866 then registered as a voter in San Francisco from 1868 to 1875 and listed as a bookkeeper in 1871 and 1872.
However, local newspaper evidence shown on indicates that he was at least a scoundrel and maybe a con-man, certainly involved in highly suspect banking ventures.
Back in Tasmania Amelia Ann died in 1872 at Glenorchy. John James then married Augusta Pauline Weske in 1873 at San Francisco. He died of “softening of brain” at Petaluma, Sonoma over on the other side of the Bay in 1880. Augusta can still be found listed in the San Francisco Directory for 1914 as "Meaburn, Augusta (wid John J)”. Her death, though, has not been traced.
Descendants of John James still live in Tasmania.
James Meaburn 1818-1864
John and Desdemonas’s youngest son was baptized James on the 27th August 1818 at Hackney St John. James showed more interest in the ships than in the trading side of the family’s fortunes and went to sea.
On the 19th Apr 1849 he was Gazetted as gaining his second class navigator certificate from Trinity House after serving as mate on the Seringapatan. Then on the 8th Mar 1851 at London he received his Grant of Certificate of Competency as Master, Certificate No 1555.
James married Hester Oxborough at Paddington in 1853. Hester had been born at Calcutta according to the censuses. The East India Register has a birth to a Mrs W Oxborough of a daughter on 29 Aug 1824. That could be her.
What is apparent at the time of the marriage is that James was now Harbour Master at Greenwich. He is later listed in the 1856 Post Office Official Directory for London as 'City Officer' and then appears in the Poll Book for 1858 living at Ballast Quay, Greenwich.
James and Hester had four children with daughter Georgiana and son James Staniland surviving to adulthood.
James Staniland emigrated, landing at New York in 1876 from the Canada. He was listed as a clerk in 1881 then in the 1886 voter register for San Francisco he was living at 603 Chestnut. James was naturalised 06 Feb 1882. His death has not been found nor details of his marriage. However, between 1914-1948 the San Francisco City Directory has entries for "Meaburn, Laura F (wid Jas S)". Whether they had children is unknown so whether this was the end of that particular line requires further investigation.
Ann Meaburn 1820-?
Ann was baptized on the 9th June 1820 at Hackney St John to her ship-owner father. As a minor she benefited particularly in his will of 1835. In 1847 she married The Reverend Hugh Stewart, grandly titled Rector of Klieloran, County of Wexford, and Chancellor of Ferns, at St Peter Port on Guernsey. Her life subsequently has yet to be traced.