Broket Immigrants to China - The Broket Archive

The Brocketts of Foochow China

Two Brockett emigrants to China are known: Thomas and George Trotter Brockett, the 2nd and 6th son respectively of the Gateshead newspaper owner William Henry Brockett.1 Much is also known about Mary, Thomas’ wife and their children who spread to Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, Australia then again to the United Kingdom.

1. Thomas Brockett
2. Mary Brockett
3. George Trotter Brockett

In 1872 or 73 aged 24 or 25, Thomas arrived in Foo Chow (Fuzhou), capital of Fujian province, and stayed for the rest of his life, apparently returning to visit England only once in 1898-9. His signature in 1906:2

Thomas Brockett signature 1906

He married locally and they had 4 daughters and 3 sons. His brother George joined him in Foochow in 1876, aged 21. He married English women twice but had no children. George stayed till 1890, after which he travelled back and forth to England until he died there in 1896 aged 40. Thomas died in Foo Chow 17 Oct 1908, aged 60, apparently of cholera.3

They led a relatively affluent expatriate life in Foochow in, or running, various businesses including a small hotel. Thomas’ children continued to live in, or visit, Foochow, the last one leaving in the 1940s. Among Thomas’ descendants now are wealthy SE Asian businessmen and other professionals and families in Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia.

1. Thomas Brockett

Thomas Brockett was born 15 Jul 1848 in King James St, Gateshead.4 In 1867 Thomas commenced employment as a cashier with Messrs Isaac Lowthian Bell and Company, Port Clarence Ironmasters with offices at the Middlesbrough Exchange. His salary was apparently £100 p.a. As a son of a prominent Gateshead businessman and former Mayor, Thomas grew up in well-to-do surroundings as a younger member of local high society. On 31 Jan 1868 he attended the Mayor of Newcastle’s Grand Ball in the Assembly Rooms.5

Thomas Brockett of China

Thomas Brockett c 1900?

1.1. The court case 1870

His time in Gateshead came to an end when in 1870 he embezzled money from his employer. On 28 June was arrested at the Shades at the West End of London, while playing billiards.6 Three days later on 1 July he was brought before Middlesbrough magistrates and charged with embezzling £500 from his employers.

Probably because his father was a prominent citizen, Thomas’ indiscretion received a lot of attention in the local newspapers. The initial news reports exaggerated the sums involved as well as the general events. The York Herald on 2 July 18707 reported the sum involved “is upwards of 2,600”. It also reported that within the previous weeks Thomas had been in Paris, which was untrue. Another paper wrote that Thomas at the time of his arrest was a flight risk to the United States.

The failed application made by Thomas’ counsel to determine the locale of his detention appears not unreasonable in the light of his circumstances.
Newspaper reports about the embezzlement case:   Read more

1.2. Work in China

On 2 April the following year, 1871, aged 22, Thomas was in London staying in ‘The Norfolk’, a family hotel at 30, Surrey St, St Clement Danes, recorded as unemployed.8 The next record of him is two years later in China, where under ‘Foreigners in Foochow’9 he was recorded as: “T. Brockett, Clerk, Robertson & Co,” Ship Chandlers.

1.3. Family

On 17 Mar 1903 Thomas married Mary Lo Dai NUANG in the British Episcopal Church, Foo Chow, China.10 Children:

  1. Katherine “Katie” Elizabeth, b 10 May 1889, Foo Chow; d 2 Jul 1974. 12 Aug 1912 Katie B (23) departs London 2nd Class on the ‘Nankin’ bound for Hong Kong.11 Only 2 of Thomas’ daughters would qualify:Katie & Emily, and it was Katie who was 23 in 1912. Emily was 19. Katie is on her way back from London. Married Charles Edward FRITH;12 resided: Foo Chow, Hong Kong and in 1922 settled in UK.
    Katie Brockett's Wedding Foo Chow China c 1917?
    Katie died 2 Jul 1974 in Lewisham, aged 85. 3 daughters, 2 sons.
  2. John Alfred, b 7 Feb 1896, Foo Chow; m Isabella FARQUARSON, Shanghai; resided Foo Chow and then settled in Australia. He died 1969 in Lewisham, London, aged 73.13 Isabella died 8 Dec 1996 Lewisham, aged 88, born 28 Oct 1908,14 residing 4 Holmhurst, 21 Beacon Rd, Lewisham, London SE13, Will proved Winchester 24 Dec, estate not exceeding £180,000.15 No children.
  3. Emily, b 17 Oct 1896, Foo Chow; d 20 May 1963. 2 Nov 1912 Emily B (19) departs London 2nd Class on the ‘Novara’ bound for Hong Kong. She is listed as “Mrs. elligble maid, Brockett Miss M” – “Nurse”.16. We have 2 Brockett females leaving London in 1912. Both travelling 2nd Class. One on 12 Aug 1912 the other on 2nd November 1912. Its unlikely they are the same individual due to the short time frame between sailings. The first was Katie so the second must be Emily who would have been 19 yrs. The notation says ‘Nurse’. I know that Emily worked as a governess (they said to the children of the Bishop of Hongkong.17 so this would have been her. Married Dr Edward Tiang Earn CHEAH 12 Nov 1919 in Foochow (SCMP); resided Johor Bahru. 3 daughters, 1 son.
  4. George Edward, b 25 Jun 1897, Foo Chow, bap 30 Jul 1911 St Peter’s, Victoria, Hong Kong, residing Hong Kong, occupation Clerk.18 Fought in the trenches in World War 1. Joined up in the 3rd Batn of the East Surrey Regiment on 6 April 1916 in Wimbledon, aged 19 Years 0 Months, height 5ft 8.25in, weight 130 pounds, chest size 36 inches, residing 15 Courthope Rd Wimbledon.19 Married Jessie DAVY at the British Consulate General, Shanghai 5 Sep 1925.20 1 daughter. They resided Foo Chow and had considerable difficulty obtaining British nationality.21 He and Jessie and their daughter eventually settled in the UK. No record of him or her in the GRO or LPR has so far been found up to 2005. George Edward Brockett’s signature 1938:22 +George Edward Brockett's signature 1938
  5. Ellen Mary “Nellie”, b 17 Jun 1901, Foo Chow. Married Patrick PACKWOOD 1936 in Shanghai, he a Dispensary Pharmacist;23 resided Foo Chow and then Hong Kong. Divorced and in 1950 he went to S Africa. Nellie died 30 Sep 1981 in Singapore, aged 80. No children.
  6. Margaret “Maggie” Amy, b 23 Dec 1903, Foo Chow. Married Charles Gower JACKSON; resided Foo Chow and then settled in UK. She died 1956. No children.
  7. William Henry, b 7 Feb 1906, Foo Chow; d 9 Nov 1982, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Married Emily Lidia BATEMAN 27 Dec 1937 in Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Singapore. She was born 9 Sep 1905 in Kuching, Sarawak,24 and died 23 Jul 2000 in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. His occupation: Town Superintendant, Johor Bahru. 2 sons, I daughter.

1.4. Will

Thomas made his Will 30 Oct 1906. It was proved at His Britannic Majesty’s Consular Court at Foochow 3 March 1909,25 sworn at £750 and that the testator died on or about the 19th October 1908. The following transliteration is from the official court transcript:+Read more

Notes on the Will:

Thomas left his real property to his two infant daughters Nellie (5 years old at the time) and Margaret (not quite 3). He also bequeathed his foreign coins and otherwise unbequeathed jewelley to these two. His wife Mary was only left a half-share residuary-estate bequest, the remainder of which was again left to Nellie and Margaret in equal share.

Reading between the lines of Wills is problematic when it isn’t known what other arrangements the testator may have already made, but it seems strange to leave real property to infants. The older girls Katie (17 years) and Emily (13) were not mentioned, nor his infant son William Henry (7 months old). The two older sons, John and George, were given bequests of a gold watch each, and the two nephews, Hubert, the 12 year-old only child of his eldest brother John, and Ainsley, the 10 year-old only child of his younger brother Henry, were given a gold watch and a gold ring respectively. His other nephew and niece, children of his deceased older sister Emily POTTS were not mentioned; if still alive they would have been 36 and 33 years old respectively.

His executor/trustee, George Lewis Shaw, was the brother of Captain Samuel Lewis Shaw of Pagoda Anchorage, Foochow. Thomas worked with Samuel at Pagoda Anchorage and he wrote Samuel’s obituary in the Foochow Echo when he died a few years earlier.

2. Mary Brockett

More about Mary to follow.

3. George Trotter Brockett

George Trotter, born 1855 Gateshead,26 bap 26 Jul 1855 Gateshead.27 In 1876 George, aged 21, joined Thomas in Foochow, where he was recorded as an Assistant at Robertson & Co28 Foochow1877.29 George has not been traced in the 1881 or 91 censuses for England. Married 28 Aug 1888 at St Mark’s Church, Lewisham, Katharine PYE, b 1865, third daughter of the late Frank Pye, of Camden House, Lewisham.30 Katharine died in Shanghai, China, aged 25 on 25 Aug 1890.31 George and Katharine had no surviving children. Katherine’s remains were buried in Lewisham cemetery with others of the Pye family.32 George married second Olga CONRADI 1893 Gateshead.33 Olga had been baptised 26 Jul 1869, c 14 years after George. The London Probate Directory’s entries said that George Trotter Brockett died 8 Apr 1896 at home in 7 Prospero Rd, Upper Holloway, Middx34 aged 40. He was also described as ‘of Foo Chow, China’. His Will was proved 12 May 1896, Olga executrix. The estate was valued at £1768 10s 5d. Olga died 28 Dec 1911 [aged c 41] in Highgate, London and her estate, valued at £1062 5s went to 3 Conradi spinsters.35 George and Olga had no surviving children.
This was his 18ct Half Hunter gold pocket watch, engraved with his initials:36
George Trotter Brockett's watch and initials - courtesy of Richard Brocket

The UK National Archives holds documents concerning the formation, sale and winding up of Brockett & Co of which Olga Brockett was the Director.37 The Company, trading in import and export goods and in the hotel business was formed 18 Jan 1909 in London with share capital of £1500. Olga was then residing at 13 Linden Mansions, Highgate, Middlesex. Later in 1909 she sold her interest in it to Brockett & Co of Foo Chow, China. Her interest was described as a store and boarding house in Foo Chow, plus rent for premises. The sale comprised her 1498 shares @ £1 plus 30,396 Mexican Dollars. She used a lawyer in Paris as attorney. Connected with a petition by Olga’s executors—3 Conradi spinsters and Brita Collingwood—the Company was wound up 25 Jul 1913.

1909 2 Feb: Olga departs Southampton 1st Class on the ‘Gunz Lundwig’ bound for Hong Kong.38 The only “Ms Brockett” it could be travelling 1st Class in Feb 1909 was Olga, George Trotter’s wife.

1909 27 Feb: Brockett & Company Limited is registered.

1913 30 Jul: Olga’s executors obtain a Court order winding up Brockett & Company Limited. Olga’s executors are her sisters Thyra, Nora & …

1914: Eldest son John Brockett takes over the Brockett Family Boarding House and General Store in Foochow.

1919 14 Feb: Brockett & Company Limited is wound up by notice published in the London Gazette.

Page Last Updated: November 8, 2023


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] It has been a huge pleasure over the years to correspond with Richard Brockett, advocate of Johor Bahru and now of Melbourne, Australia, about his family. It isn't possible to always be sure which of us came up with which piece of evidence in this story of the Brocketts of China, but there's no doubt that the great majority has come from Richard and I am grateful for his permission to publish our findings here. The images have definitely been supplied by him 2001-15.

[2] On the birth record of son William Henry (TNA FO 665/4 Foo Chow.

[3] Gateshead Tracts n d p 4; noted in the A-C Herald and S.C. & C. Gazette Oct 31, 1908; GRO Consular Death indices 1849-1965; Letter to Shanghai Consul General 31 Dec 1938 (TNA FO 671/466).

[4] GRO Q3.

[5] The Northern Echo. Image below kindly supplied by Richard Brockett.

[6] source

[7] p 7

[8] census

[9] The China Directory of 1873, PRO Hongkong

[10] Letter to Shanghai Consul General 31 Dec 1938 (TNA FO 671/466).

[11] Passenger lists 40610_B000771 -00081: Miss, to Hongkong 1912, aged 23.

[12] Image below kindly supplied by Richard Brockett.

[13] GRO Q1

[14] GRO Q4; LPR

[15] LPR

[16] Passenger lists 40610_B000774 -00085 Miss M Hong Kong 1912

[17] Source: Joan Moore

[18] Letter to Shanghai Consul General 31 Dec 1938 (TNA FO 671/466); Baptismal certificate.

[19] Service number 10786, Surrey Recruitment Registers 1908-1933, reference 2496 / 11.

[20] Letter to Shanghai Consul General 31 Dec 1938 (TNA FO 671/466).

[21] Ladds 2016.

[22] Letter to Shanghai Consul General 31 Dec 1938 (TNA FO 671/466).

[23] Consular Returns 1931-1935 in Overseas Marriages Vol 27 p 92 1936

[24] BC

[25] Supreme Court of HongKong, Probate No 104 of 1909, Will No 60 of 1909. Copy kept at the Hong Kong Public Record Office, reference HKRS 1444-2197

[26] GRO Q2

[27] IGI

[28] The Chronicle & Directory for China, Japan and Philippines 1874

[29] The Carl Smith Collection #96585

[30] GRO Q3; The Morning Post, London, 31 Aug 1888; Frank Pye was an Indian Rubber Merchant—information supplied by R Brockett 2011

[31] Deaths notice in the North China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, Vol KLV No.1204, Shanghai, 29 Aug 1890—information supplied by R Brockett 2011

[32] Ref.3681

[33] GRO Q3

[34] GRO Q2

[35] LPR

[36] Image kindly supplied by Richard Brockett.

[37] TNA BT31/18686/ 101151.

[38] Passenger List 40610_B000636 -00042 Mrs Hongkong 1909

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