The case of The Clockhouse Jowetts concerns a complicated tale of wills and inheritances, farmers and lawyers and a one legged clothier and is well established in the folklore of Yorkshire. The Clockhouse is the name of a house in Manningham, Bradford which was bought by one Samuel Jowett in 1743. Samuel was a wealthy clothes merchant (with only one leg) who died without issue so on his death in 1774 his estate passed on to his nephew Nathan Jowett. It then passed through a series of descendant until it came into the hands of Samuel's great great nephew George Baron. Being either lazy or mischievous (or both), George left an ambiguous will which delighted the lawyers no end!

Eventually the Clockhouse passed into the hands of Bradford Grammer School, but is now rather run down (does anyone have a picture?)

So, if you have a spare half hour, make yourself a hot drink, pull up a comfy chair and off we go.

If life is passing and you need a quicker synopsis, or if your drink has now gone cold and you still do not fully comprehend the plot, I have laid it out in simpler terms.

If you still have not got it, here's a picture!

The Clockhouse Jowetts - long version!

"The Milkman" from H L Gee's "Tales they tell in Yorkshire"

'WELL,' retorted Mrs. Brearley of Bradford, tossing her head as she looked scornfully at her husband's brother's second wife, 'we may be poor, Eunice. I've never denied it. But, at any rate, we've the richest milkman in England !

What annoyed Eunice was that, however much she disliked it, it was true.

We shall be a long time, however, before we come to the milkman; and quite probably we shall never discover how and why he comes into the story at all, for nobody (we venture to think) has ever told this tedious tale without becoming confused as to who was who, much as the lawyers kept losing themselves in complexities of pedigrees, while the cheery milkman went on his round, the milk cans clinking musically as he treated every customer to what he called 'an extra splash' for luck.

Well then, if you will persist in hearing the story of Nathan Atkinson Jowett's great grandmother, you must undertake not to interrupt, for if we mistake one generation for another, why, the chances are the milkman will be lost in Chancery, and never come into his own at all.

Anyone rash enough to begin this story—and there are still in Yorkshire some who are, valiantly hoping they will be able to stumble on towards the end— must of necessity start with Clockhouse, a seventeenth century mansion on the road from Bradford to Shipley. Clockhouse was bought in 1743 by a one; legged man, Samuel Jowett, who had made a fortune as a clothier. He had three sisters and a brother, Nathan, who had a son also called Nathan. Of the three sisters, two died without children, but Susanna married John Atkinson of Shipley in 1725, and had two children. Now Samuel Jowett of Clockhouse died a bachelor at eighty one, so he left his house and estate and all that he had to his brother's son, the second Nathan Jowett. This Nathan had four children, namely: Mary Ann and Samuel who never married; Sarah, who married George Baron, a Leeds draper, who was very well to do; and Nathan, who married Sarah Hodgson and had an only child, Sarah, who became sole heir to Clockhouse at her father's death in 1816, being (as the lawyers put it) tenant in fee simple in possession.

All this is anything but exciting. It is admittedly tortuous, but there is worse to come. Let us, however, pause a moment at Sarah Jowett, for everyone declares that she was lovely as any flower, gracious withal, sweet in disposition and exceedingly wealthy. She was only a schoolgirl when she became mistress of Clockhouse, but three generations of shrewd Jowetts had succeeded in multiplying and increasing the Clockhouse estates. When Sarah grew to womanhood she delighted to do good. She was a Lady Bountiful in and around Bradford. She was greatly admired. Her suitors were many. But—alas that such perversity should be found in woman—she refused to marry, and died a spinster in 1840, leaving (by her will dated 16th December 1833) legacies amounting to 30,000, and bequeathing her manors, messuages, cottages, buildings, farms, lands, tenements, hereditaments and real estate whatsoever and wheresoever to her cousin, George Baron, his heirs and assigns for ever.

Cousin George now comes into the picture. He was, of course, the son of that George Baron, the prosperous Leeds draper, who (as you may remember) married Sarah Jowett, one of the four children of the second Nathan Jowett, son of the first Nathan Jowett, who was brother to Samuel Jowett, the onelegged purchaser of Clockhouse. George Baron was rich to begin with. He lived at Drewton, near North Cave in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and was esteemed by all as an admirable squire, devoting much of his time to intellectual pursuits, and giving generously to the poor. By inheriting the Clockhouse estates from his cousin, Sarah Jowett, he became fabulously rich in 1840; but for all that, he saw no sense or reason in leaving his well trimmed lawns and his comfortable residence and going to live at Clockhouse. And who can blame him ? The Wolds were spacious and the air pure, whereas factories and warehouses had sprung up all around Clockhouse, and of green pastures there were none. So George Baron remained at Drewton till he died on the 29th of July 1854.

Thus far the milkman, though not forgotten, has played no part in the story; and it is to be regretted that we must be encumbered with yet more pedigrees before we make his acquaintance, and all because Squire George Baron of Drewton, who died a bachelor, had a single blot on his 'scutcheon. He was somewhat indolent. No doubt he had heard from his mother some details of the Jowetts of Clockhouse. He and Sarah Jowett, his cousin, may have occasionally discussed their respective forbears. But, if so, Squire Baron had been more polite than attentive. His interests were elsewhere; and thus, when it came to the matter of making a will, he discovered that he was in something of a dilemma. Had he exerted himself only a little, he could easily have saved others no end of trouble—though at the same time robbing many lawyers of handsome fees. He put off making his will. The years went by. Having no son or daughter and no near relative, he was somewhat exercised in his mind as to whom he should leave his wealth. Let this be said for him: Though he was of the House of Baron, he never forgot that much more than half his wealth came to him from the Jowetts. It seemed to him, therefore, only right and proper that at his death his fortune should, in the main, go to the Jowetts, if there were any, or their descendants. He ought to have made inquiries, and perhaps he intended doing so; but the fact is that when at last he came to make his will he could do no more than remember vaguely some story about one of Samuel Jowett's sisters marrying an Atkinson and having, he rather thought, two sons, but whether their descendants were living in or near Bradford, or elsewhere, George Baron could not say. Hence, with the help of his East Riding solicitors, Squire Baron of Drewton, after naming certain legatees, was content to devise his real estate to his trustees upon trust for such person as at the time of the testator's decease should answer to the description of heir male of Nathan Atkinson, formerly of Bolton near Bradford, whose mother was a Jowett of Clockhouse; and in case there should be no person answering to that description, the estates were to go to such person as should answer to the description of heir male to Samuel Atkinson, formerly of Shipley, who was brother to the said Nathan Atkinson; and in the event of there being no person answering to that description, to such person as at the time of the testator's decease answered to the description of heir general to the testator's deceased uncle, Nathan Jowett, late of Clockhouse aforesaid . . .

All this must be conceded as a lazy man's sincere attempt to do what he felt to be right, and how the lawyers loved him for it, and what money he put into their pockets before the litigation was over. It was the lawyers' privilege to seek out and discover the rightful heir to the Clockhouse estates, comprising no less than 140 farms and tenements in Bradford, Idle, Manningham, Horton, Bingley, Hipperholme, Keighley, Giggleswick, North and South Cave, and elsewhere, the total annual income being about eight thousand pounds. An income of eight thousand a year was truly a tidy sum a century ago when eggs were twenty a shilling!

Well, Squire Baron had started a fox, and the lawyers, sounding a tally ho, went hunting across the broad acres of Yorkshire. They examined pedigrees. They read correspondence. They prosecuted inquiries with commendable persistence and a magnificent disregard for expense. And they succeeded! They found—so they were convinced, one and all— the rightful heir; and if our minds are as acute as theirs we may, perhaps, follow their reasoning. But this compels us to take yet another dose of genealogy.

Briefly, then, old Samuel Jowett, who took his wooden leg to the grave in 1774 had, as we have seen, a brother and three sisters. It was to his brother's son that Samuel left Clockhouse, and from him was descended Sarah Jowett, who left all her money to George Baron. As both died childless, the pedigrees of the Barons, as of the Jowetts directly descended from Nathan, were extinct. But Susanna, one of Samuel Jowett's sisters, had married a John Atkinson, and their two children were Nathan Atkinson of Bolton, and Samuel Atkinson of Shipley. Samuel had no children; but the lawyers discovered that Nathan Atkinson had married Mary Oliver; that their son, James, had married Mary Jobson, and that James's son, Nathan Atkinson, of Bolton near Bradford, was alive! Very good. What was it the will stated ? That the estates should go to such person as was the heir male of Nathan Atkinson, of Bolton, whose mother was a Jowett of Clockhouse.

The finding of Nathan Atkinson, grandson of the first Nathan Atkinson, solved the problem, and the astute lawyers were congratulating themselves on their success when up popped a man in Leeds. He hawked blacking. His name was Joseph Jowett, and he had scarcely a penny to bless himself with. In 1855, somewhat to his consternation, he suddenly discovered that he had many 'friends', all eager to lend him thousands of pounds in order that he might go to law against the newly-found Nathan Atkinson, of Bolton. For his 'friends' pointed out that while this Nathan Atkinson could rightly claim that his great-grandmother was indubitably Sarah Jowett, she was not (as the will required) a Jowett of Clockhouse. Her brother Samuel had owned Clockhouse, and had stumped about it with his wooden leg. She herself had visited Clockhouse, and had admired it. She was, they repeated, a Jowett, but not 'of Clockhouse'. As for the hawker of blacking, he resolutely maintained (after the idea had been put into his head) that he himself was the heir-at-law of Nathan Jowett, the testator's uncle, and that as the other two pedigrees were extinct, he fulfilled the last clause of Squire Baron's will, and the estates were his.

This was an altogether unlooked-for development, but it meant more fun for the lawyers, and it gave all Yorkshire something to talk about and speculate on from 1855 when, on the 21st of April, the claims of Nathan Atkinson, of Bolton near Bradford, were narrowly examined in court. Eventually an order of the Court of Chancery was made in his favour. But Joseph Jowett, of Leeds, was not to be put off. He appealed against the decision and, in December 1857, the case came before Lord Cranworth and the Lords Justices. Joseph's lawyers (as somebody observed at the time) flogged Nathan Atkinson's great-grandmother to death, and the whole case turned on the question as to whether or not that lady, Susanna Jowett, was in addition to being a Jowett, a Jowett “of Clockhouse”. Queen's Counsel were two a penny in the legal wranglings, but the Lord Chancellor had the last word, and gave it as his opinion that all the bickering about “of Clockhouse” amounted to nothing. He concluded: 'The doubt attempted to be raised is this: That the testator adds: “whose mother was a Jowett of Clockhouse”. The mother of the first Nathan Atkinson, of Bolton near Bradford, and of Samuel Atkinson, of Shipley, was a Jowett. Her brother was of Clockhouse—being the purchaser thereof. It is true that in one sense she was not properly of Clockhouse, because it was her brother who bought the property, and not her father. But can anyone doubt what the deceased meant ? He gave the mother's right name. He gave her son's right names. His only error—if it is an error—is that he described the mother as being “of Clockhouse”, when in truth she never was, though her brother was. All the testator means by saying, “who was a Jowett of Clockhouse”, is that “Jowett of Clockhouse” is to be read under a vinculum as “family of Clockhouse”, and she was of that family.'

Well, there the matter should have ended, but Joseph Jowett of Leeds, backed by his supporters, scorned the summing up of the Lord Chancellor, and carried his claims to the House of Lords. There, in March l860, six years after Squire Baron's death, the Clockhouse case was fought all over again before Lord Campbell, with the result that Joseph Jowett went back to his blacking, and the living Nathan Atkinson (who had by this time changed his name to Nathan Atkinson Jowett) was deemed the lawful heir to George Baron's and the Jowett estates. He must, surely, have sighed with relief when he came at last into undisputed possession of his immense fortune.

So the long and (as we admitted) tedious tale of the Clockhouse estates ends.

But the milkman ? We had very nearly made a serious omission, for it is highly desirable to add that Nathan Atkinson Jowett, heir to all this wealth, was an elderly farmer of Bolton near Bradford—a cheery, hard working, humorous, steady, humble fellow who, as sure as the sun rose, drove his milk cart every morning into Bradford, delivering milk in cans that clinked musically. Yes, you could be sure that the milkman always added a splash over the pint; and, as Mrs. Brearley had declared so proudly and so truly, he was in very truth (once the litigation was ended) the richest milkman in England!

The Clockhouse Jowetts - short version!

First Generation

Click the links to follow the plot!

1. Nathan Jowett, identity of wife unknown, was known to be of Bradford, probably the Yeoman of Eccleshill who was buried at Bradford 26 Feb 1740. From the IGI we know of five children:

Second Generation

3. Nathan Jowett jr. was born 1684, and baptised 11 Oct 1684, Bradford. He was buried at Bradford 6 May 1734 as Nathan Jowett jr of Eccleshill. We know of one child:

  • +7. Nathan Jowett.

4. Susanna Jowett was born 1690, baptised 6 Aug 1690 at Bradford. She married John Atkinson 6 Jul 1725 at Bradford. They had two children:

  • +8. Nathan Atkinson born 1726.
  • 9. Samuel Atkinson born 1729, baptised 20 Jul 1729 at Bradford. Known to be of Shipley, Samuel died without issue.

Third Generation

7. Nathan Jowett III, son of Nathan jr. and nephew of the one legged clothier Samuel inherited the Clockhouse estate from his uncle Samuel Jowett in Samuel's Will dated 1790. He died in 1789 and was buried 16 Dec 1789 at Bradford. He left the estate to his son Nathan Jowett. I do not know who he married, but Nathan III had four children.

  • 10. Samuel Jowett born 1761, baptised 6 Oct 1761 at Bradford. Did not marry
  • +11. Sarah Jowett born 1766.
  • 12. Mary Ann Jowett was baptised 26 Feb 1773 at Bradford and buried 22 Jan 1813, also at Bradford. She did not marry and left a Will dated May 1813.
  • +13. Nathan Jowett born 1776.

8. Nathan Atkinson was baptised 12 Oct 1726 at Bradford and married 8 Aug 1765 in Calverley to Mary Oliver. He was known to be of Bolton near Bradford. They had one child:

  • +14. James Atkinson born 1766.

Fourth Generation

11. Sarah Jowett was baptised 3 Mar 1766 at Bradford, and married 25 Jan 1791 at Bradford to George Baron, (born 1767?, baptised ?15 Feb 1767, Great Driffield?), a Draper of Leeds. George lived at Drewton, North Cave in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Their children were:

13. Nathan Jowett was baptised 19 Apr 1776 at Bradford and married Sarah Hodgson Aug 1801 at Bradford . Nathan died in 1816 and was buried 6 Dec 1816 at Bradford. He Inherited the Clockhouse estates from his father and in his Will of 1817 left the estate to his only daughter Sarah:

14. James Atkinson born 1766, baptised 1 Jun 1766 at either Calverley or Idle. Married Mary Jobson 15 May 1786 in Calverley.

Their son was Nathan Atkinson, the final recipient of the estate:

One final footnote: The Times 4 February 1871 p.5 runs the following story:

FATAL BOILER EXPLOSION: Yesterday Mr Bairstow, Deputy Coroner, Bradford, held an inquest on a James Atkinson Jowett  killed on Wednesday in an explosion of a 3 horse (sic) steam boiler at Clockhouse (sic) Farm.

This must be our James Atkinson Jowett?!

Copyright S D Jowitt