George Biggs Orchard and ‘the blonde in the black dress’

George Biggs Orchard was the second son of Isaac and Ann (see earlier posts) and was born in about 1795. I have the sense that as a young man he followed his father in his religious beliefs, political leaning and profession. They were going to the Bath hustings together in 1832 when Isaac had a heart attack and died in his son’s arms; George was thirty-seven. Father and son had run the family cabinet making business together but their partnership was formally dissolved on the 25th of March 1827 when Isaac retired.

George Biggs Orchard's first three wives were buried in a pyramid grave at Bath's Wesleyan Cemetery

George was very unlucky when it came to his personal life. As a young man of twenty-three, he married his first cousin, Caroline Kane Baker, on the 21st October 1818 – her mother Lydia was Isaac’s sister. The couple had three children together, Lydia Ann, Alfred and George but none of them survived to adulthood and Caroline herself died on August the 17th 1826, aged 33.

George next married Anne Collins, on the 5th March 1829 at Walcot St Swithin’s church. She was a minor and married with the consent of her parents. Sadly, she died at the age of just 21 having been married a few days over nine months. I don’t think there was a child.

Thirdly, on the 27th August 1831, George married Elizabeth Roberts. George and Elizabeth had four children: Caroline Anne (bp. 10th April 1833 at St Michael’s, Bath), Benjamin Guinness (bn. 11th June 1834, at 18 Milsom Street, Bath), Frederick (bn. About 1836) and Elizabeth Jane (bn. 15th September 1837). Tragically, the children’s mother died seven days after her daughter’s birth. How George managed with a newborn baby and three small children one can only speculate but he didn’t re-marry for a few years. Probably, a sister or other female relative from the Orchard or Roberts families helped out. Benjamin and Elizabeth Jane were with their grandmother in April 1841 but they may have been living with her since their mother died.

Grúdlann Gheata Shan Séamuis - St James's Gate Brewery in Dublin

I did a good deal of research into Benjamin’s fascinating and rather sad life (see last blog), occasionally wondering why his middle name was Guinness. I decided to probe further and what I found was quite exciting. The only lead I had was that Jane Roberts was Irish, according to the 1841 census. Then I found a newspaper report in Freemans Journal, dated the 25th May 1869 about Benjamin’s brother, Frederick:

“Court of Probate (before Judge Warren). The Goods of Frederick Orchard – Dr. Darley moved that administration of the goods of Frederick Orchard, supposed to be deceased, be granted to the executor of the late George Biggs Orchard, the father of Frederick Orchard, who was born in 1836, left Liverpool, where his family resided, in 1858 for Melbourne, where he arrived in due course. He sent letters to members of his family till May, 1860. Since that time he had not been heard of. In 1867 his father, Mr George Biggs Orchard, made affadavits to ground an application to the court for administration of his son’s goods, as he should be presumed dead, not having been heard of for seven years previously. Before the matter was heard Mr Orchard died, and rights accruing to his executor, the application was made. Frederick Orchard was entitled to some house property in Stephens-green which had come to his father on marriage. The supposed deceased was unmarried. His last letter in May ’60, was dated from Victoria. Advertisements had been published in the Australian papers to get information of him, but nothing was heard of him. Judge Warren said he observed that Frederick Orchard in his last letter, wrote in desponding terms of his circumstances, and stated he was going to the gold fields. The terms of the letter were such as led him to believe that if the young man had lived he would have communicated with his family. The advertisements published were of a nature to induce him to come forward if he was alive, for they stated that he would hear of something to his advantage. He would grant the application.”

After chasing some red herrings around Victoria, Tasmania and New Zealand, I concluded that poor Frederick probably did indeed perish in Australia; his disappearance must have caused so much distress to his family. Intriguingly though, this article refers to ‘property in St Stephens Green’, which is in Dublin, and the fact that the bequest had arisen as a consequence of George’s marriage. Putting two and two together, I wondered if Frederick’s inheritance had come through Jane Roberts, who was Irish; perhaps she was from Dublin.

Iveagh House, formerly 80 and 81 St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Luckily I found, a newspaper announcement of Elizabeth Orchard’s death: “Elizabeth, wife of Mr Orchard, Milsom Street and daughter of the Rev Thomas Roberts.” Reverend Thomas Roberts was a minister at Westbury-on-Trym, near Bristol and the marriage between Jane and Thomas recorded Jane’s maiden name as LEE. More searches quickly revealed that Jane Lee had two sisters, Anne and Rebecca and that these ladies had married two brothers, respectively, Arthur and Benjamin GUINNESS.

Arthur Guinness junior of Beaumont, Drumcondra, in Dublin was one of the twenty-one children of Arthur Guinness senior, the founder of the famous Guinness brewery. The eldest son of Arthur junior and Anne Lee, born in 1798, was Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness MP, 1st Baronet, owner of the brewery, Lord Mayor of Dublin and benefactor of St Patrick’s Cathedral. In 1865, he bought numbers 80 and 81 St. Stephens Green, and combined them into what is now Iveagh House, the Department of Foreign Affairs. One of these houses had perhaps been left to Frederick Orchard in 1867/8 but I cannot as yet find Benjamin Lee Guinness’ will to prove this one way or the other. So, it seems that Benjamin Guinness Orchard was named after his illustrious and very wealthy relative.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, 1st Baronet (1798–1868)

Going back to George Biggs; he married for the fourth and last time, to Harriet LANGHORNE. Harriet was the daughter of John Theodosius Langhorne and his wife Garthside NORTON. John was the vicar of Harmondsworth and Drayton (now in the London borough of Hillingdon). In the 1841 census, George and Harriet were in St Ives, Cornwall with Caroline Anne (8 years) and Frederick (5 years), Elizabeth’s children. George had changed his occupation from ‘upholsterer, dealer and chapman’ to ‘merchant’. On the 23rd April 1843, he was declared bankrupt in Bath, but it seems that he had already left his old life behind.

In November 1842, George and Harriet had their first child, Henry Langhorne Orchard, who was born in St Ives but baptised in Liverpool. Two more children followed: Ann Mary Garthside (born 4th May 1845) and Isabella Octavia (baptised 3rd November 1847). I have searched the 1851 UK censuses but can find no trace of George, Harriet or any of the children suggesting that they were all together, abroad perhaps. Gore’s Directory of Liverpool for 1853 records George as a commission merchant, living at 6 Prince’s Terrace, Oliver Street, Birkenhead with an office at 29 King Street, Liverpool.

St Andrew's church at Bebington, where George Biggs and Harriet Orchard are buried.

Henry went to Cambridge and Oxford Universities gaining a third class BA and a Masters in ‘mental and moral science’. He became a professor and private tutor, married and had one daughter. His sisters remained as spinsters and left their respective estates to him in their wills.

George Biggs and Harriet were married for twenty years until her death on Christmas Day in 1861. George followed her on the 12th December 1867 and the couple are buried together at St Andrew’s Church, Bebington in The Wirral, Cheshire. Of all his children, George’s son Benjamin was perhaps the most productive in terms of leaving a legacy behind, both with respect to the written word and to his many descendants, some of whom now live in the USA. To them and to you…. Sláinte!

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4 Responses to George Biggs Orchard and ‘the blonde in the black dress’

  1. aar0nn says:

    Hi there,

    bit of a long shot but trying to trace photo archives taken of a Visit of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother when she open the refurbished WRAC Museum at The WRAC Centre Guildford on 4 June 1991.
    Perhaps you could point me in the right direction?

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