Search into the origins of the Lovelace Trust

By Michael Lovelace Browning (1937-2006)

Without having any say in the matter, I was baptised with the middle name of LOVELACE. It was not exactly a very manly name for a boy and was the cause of some teasing at school. However, there were compensations: my father received a small amount of money towards my schooling from something called the LOVELACE TRUST. Later I was to learn that someone named John LOVELACE had left money for the education of his poor male relatives, but how I was related and who he was I did not know, nor could my family give me a satisfactory answer. There was talk of a vicar of Aylesbeare, a clockmaker and Spain but how they fitted together was a mystery, and at the time, I little cared.

I read an article by W.G.N. (Bill) GORFIN published in the Exmouth Journal on 15 March 1969, which dealt with the closure of the Salterton Road brickworks. It appeared to give a lot of information about my family:
"The story of the CARTER family is a tremendous romance on its own. They appear to have originated in Yorkshire, whence some of them migrated to Ireland, and one branch, which is supposed to have hailed from Ireland, settled in Honiton... There is an intriguing touch about the name LOVELACE. It is borne by many members of the CARTER family and their associates, and it came from an old clockmaker of Honiton, Mr LOVELACE, who left about £10,000 - a fortune in those days - to provide education for his male descendants and a marriage portion for the girls. At one time, Mr John CARTER, the Exmouth chemist, put in a claim for the lot as sole descendant, but there arrived from Ireland a regular avalanche of claimants, and the matter went into the hands of trustees, who now administer a capital fund of about £2,000."

In the late 1960s/early 1970s, my mother started to take an interest in family history. It was assumed that Bill GORFIN must have got the information for his article from someone in the family, but no one alive would own up to it. For a few years, my mother wasted much time trying to verify the facts in the article, but it transpired that almost everything concerning the family history was false. Research into Jacob LOVELACE also threw up much contradictory and wrong information about him, which had been published in books.

When I first took over my mother's family history search, it occurred to me that I could get a flying start on my family history if I could contact whoever ran the LOVELACE Trust. The trustees must have known who I was and how I was related to John LOVELACE; otherwise, they would not have given my father a grant for my education. I was told that a solicitor named JACKSON ran the trust and had an office in Exeter. Unfortunately, no such firm now existed. Months later, I decided to try again, so I telephoned three or four firms of solicitors in Exeter until I found someone who could tell me what had become of the firm. Eventually, I found someone who not only knew JACKSON and had heard of the LOVELACE Trust but knew that a Mr EDWARDS now looked after the trust. I made an appointment to see Dick EDWARDS, who had been clerk of the trust for many years and JACKSON's assistant for years before that. He told me that there had once been an extensive family tree in existence and many old records, which could have helped me, but everything had been destroyed in the Exeter blitz of 1942 when the office received a direct hit. All that had survived was a Cash Book going back to 1934, a piece of double foolscap paper, on which was recorded details of claimants since 1926 and a couple of case files, which Dick EDWARDS had taken home to work on.

I enquired how he dealt with applications and knew that claimants were related to John LOVELACE. He produced a questionnaire form, which he sent to all new grant applicants, asking them for the names of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (if they knew them) and any of their relatives who had previously claimed on the trust. If he saw a name that he recognised, that was regarded as sufficient substantiation of a relationship with the founder of the trust.

Dick EDWARDS had not seen a copy of John LOVELACE's Will, under which the trust was supposed to have originated, but he was able to produce various updated versions of the Scheme, which set out how the trust should operate. For his own benefit and use, Dick had drawn up a number of short trees for certain branches of the family, based on the completed questionnaires he had in his possession. He allowed me to see his trees and questionnaires, which I found useful, but they did not go back more than 100 years and did not help with people who had not claimed on the trust.

I learnt that the trust's income was between £200 and £300 p.a. and that the capital was only worth about £6,000. A relative later told me that the capital had once been many times this, but a dishonest lawyer had embezzled the money. This proved to be as untrue as Bill GORFIN's article.

I became fascinated with the trust and rashly told Dick EDWARDS that I would acquire a copy of John LOVELACE's Will and trace all his descendants down to the present day and make good the old family trees that had been destroyed.

Getting a copy of John LOVELACE's Will should have been easy. I knew that he had died in 1803, and his Will should have been proved at the P.C.C. (Prerogative Court of Canterbury). However, despite searching in 1803, 1804 and 1805, I found nothing. A year later I tried again and found it in 1806. The Will showed that he had died in Malaga, Spain and wanted his affairs to be dealt with extrajudicially. Very helpfully, the Will stated his exact date and place of birth, namely 5 November 1743, Aylesbeare. It also seemed pretty clear that he didn't have a wife or children. How could I, and many others, be his relatives?

By now, I had researched my mother's CARTER line back to Aylesbeare, expecting to find that one of them had married a LOVELACE, but I was disappointed. During my research into the Aylesbeare records, I discovered that Rev. John LOVELACE, the father of the John LOVELACE of Spain and my ancestor John CARTER had married two LOCKE sisters, so were brothers-in-law. And that was as near as my relationship got to John LOVELACE. Hundreds of CARTER descendants have used the middle name LOVELACE from the early 19th Century onwards, yet none had a drop of LOVELACE blood in their veins!

Research into the LOVELACE line revealed that John LOVELACE of Spain was an only child. His father, John, the vicar of Aylesbeare, was one of seven children of Jacob LOVELACE, the famous Exeter clockmaker. Of Jacob's seven children, only Rev. John and his younger brother William had any children. Thus, the nearest relatives of John LOVELACE of Spain were the descendants of his paternal uncle William LOVELACE and the descendants of his maternal aunt Caroline CARTER (nee LOCKE).

During my efforts to trace all the descendants of John CARTER of Aylesbeare and William LOVELACE of London, I wrote and received hundreds of letters and came into contact with scores and scores of distant relatives that I'd never heard of before. I also spent nearly thirty years ploughing through official records, and my trees grew and grew. Apart from being short of information on the last generation or two on certain lines, I have accounted for the vast majority of descendants, who are now spread worldwide.

Knowing of my self-imposed "quest", the clerk of the LOVELACE Trust sought my assistance on various occasions in the 1980s in establishing the relationship of new applicants, and we became friendly. By the early 1990s, the trust was at a low ebb; the trustees and the clerk were very elderly, there were very few new claimants who were given little encouragement to pursue their claims, and there were long gaps between trustees' meetings. Following deaths and resignations, it became difficult to find new trustees. Because of my past help to the clerk, I was invited to become a trustee in 1993 and readily accepted. When I came on the scene, I found that the trustees were considering "winding up" the trust and handing over the capital to the Charity Commissioners to be added to a general trust with broadly similar objects. I'm pleased to say that I was able to steer the trustees away from this course of action. Within two years, all the other trustees and the clerk retired, and I became chairman and clerk. More trustees were appointed, a new Scheme, which reflected John LOVELACE's wishes, was approved in 1995, and a single charity, called the LOVELACE Trust, was registered. This replaced LOVELACE's Charity, which had once handled the payment of dowries and the LOVELACE Educational Foundation, which paid educational grants. For a very long time, these two charities had operated as one, under the unofficial name of the LOVELACE Trust. The LOVELACE Trust has operated in accordance with the 1995 Scheme ever since, and meetings are held regularly every six months.

Taking over the records of the trust, albeit only from 1940 onwards, added nothing to my knowledge of the trust and little to my knowledge of my "relatives" since the former clerk sent all the non-current applicants' files and records for pulping to "save me storage space". There were still unanswered questions. Why did John LOVELACE end up in Spain, what did he do for a living, how did he make his money (family legends ranged from owning a silver mine to dealing in slaves) and could I find out about the first 80 years of the LOVELACE Trust?

Many years ago, I visited the London Metropolitan Archives and stumbled across some letters written by James Bowden LOVELACE to his wife in 1802. James was living in Malaga with John LOVELACE at that time, and he made various observations in his letters about John's immense wealth and his house being like a castle etc. I also found references in 18th-century London Directories to a firm of merchants called TULK & LOVELACE. Later I discovered, in what was then the Public Record Office, some documents relating to a dispute involving Love Stuart TULK, who claimed that John LOVELACE of Spain owed her late brother's estate a very large sum of money.

The information I had on the trust was virtually non-existent except for copies of Schemes from 1887, which referred back to earlier schemes and Chancery Court hearings. In 2004 I visited the National Archives at Kew. There I found even more documents relating to the affair of TULK v LOVELACE, which dragged on for many years and involved both Rev. John LOVELACE's executrix and John LOVELACE of Malaga's executors. Some of the documents contained transcriptions of letters from England to John LOVELACE, relating to his father's death and other interesting items.

On another visit in 2005, I was thrilled to locate two boxes of documents relating to LOVELACE's Charity. The contents consisted of a lot of rather untidy bundles of papers, in no particular order, which the Chancery Court had deposited. They covered the period from 1829 to around 1887 and consisted of the setting up of a charitable trust in the 1830s, the appointment of trustees and details of applicants for grants etc. From these, I learnt that John LOVELACE's Will, which was written in Spanish, had been poorly worded, and various points were open to more than one interpretation. In particular, did grants for the education of poor "youths" cover girls as well as boys? Also, what constituted his relatives? To ascertain the latter, lawyers were ordered to produce details of living descendants of John LOVELACE's aunt and uncle, with records of births, baptisms, etc. I noted that the last male LOVELACE in the family in England died in 1843.

It was not until 1836 that the Chancery Court agreed on the first Scheme for administering LOVELACE's Charity. Grant applications were longwinded, and the utmost detail had to be produced and submitted to the Court before any grants could be awarded. The bureaucracy in administering the trust under the auspices of the Chancery Court was enormous but has left much information relating to applicants and would-be trustees amongst the pages of repetitive dross. I copied and transcribed almost all of these papers, letters, drafts and final legal documents. In 1885, an application was made for the trust to be administered by the Charity Commission. In 1887 this was approved together with a new Scheme. This resulted in a significant saving in the amount of bureaucracy. The trust was subsequently operated under two charities, LOVELACE's Charity and the LOVELACE Educational Foundation. The records of the Charity Commission are not available to the public and accordingly few records exist between 1887 and the Exeter blitz in 1942. The next question was why, if John LOVELACE died in 1803, was there no record of the trust until 1829?

Amongst the early Chancery papers, I noticed the word compensation when a large sum of money was received in 1829. With no great expectations of an answer, I asked a very helpful assistant at the National Archives what one should receive compensation for in the 1820s and received a most enthusiastic response to "the most interesting enquiry of the week". It transpired that the compensation related to assets sequestered by the Spanish Government in 1804. I ordered a large box containing over a hundred bundles of compensation claims made by English people living or trading in Spain. One bundle was several times larger than the next largest and had the word LOVELACE on the outside. The seal on the bundle appeared to have remained intact for some 170 years, and it seemed a shame to break it. To my great disappointment, everything inside was written in Spanish apart from half a dozen letters, which had English translations. The largest document of all, which ran to over 100 pages, contained many figures and seemed to be the most important. I photocopied the main items and catalogued the rest and, with the aid of a Spanish friend, made some sense of the contents.

My quest was complete. It was possible to see how an estate, worth almost certainly in excess of £30,000 in 1803, had come to be worth less than £5,000 by 1963 due to a combination of Spanish assets being sequestered or disappearing, being forced to agree claim values less than their true worth, receiving compensation of less than the claim losses, considerable legal fees, dowries being paid out of capital and the inability of trustees to invest in anything other than government securities, which halved in value. When inflation is considered, what should have been worth millions today is a very modest sum.

Details of my research into the LOVELACE Trust and transcription of documents appear on this website. Family trees and names of John LOVELACE's relatives beyond the first three generations are not included. Today there are several thousand relatives.

Michael Lovelace BROWNING February 2006
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Bright living room with modern inventory
Bright living room with modern inventory