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.
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
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.
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
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. The Gateshead Tribune of 2 Jul 1870:
EXTENSIVE EMBEZZLEMENT AT MIDDLESBOROUGH BY A GATESHEAD MAN.
At the Middlesborough Police Court, on Thursday, before the Mayor, H. Thompson, E. Gilkes, W. Fallows, and W. Laws Esqrs., Thomas Brockett, cashier to Messrs Bell, Brothers, of the Port Clarence Ironworks, was brought up for remand, on a charge of embezzling £500, on the 18th of January last, and divers other sums, the property of his employers. Mr R. Stubbs, of the firm of Brewster and Stubbs, appeared to prosecute, but the prisoner was undefended. Mr John Bell was also present during the hearing of the case. The prisoner, a stoutly-built young man, about 23 years of age, and of light complexion, entered the dock with a firm, resolute step, and did not appear at all embarrassed by the position he occupied.
Mr. Stubbs said he appeared on behalf of the prosecutors, Messrs Bell Brothers, whose cashier the prisoner was. It was his duty to make up the books and to receive and pay accounts. He had falsified the accounts considerably, and received several amounts which were not accounted for, and in particular on sum of £500, received in January, this year. At present they only wished to ask for a remand for one week, in order to bring the case more fully before the Bench, as the prisoner was only brought to Middlesborough on Wednesday afternoon. He should only call sufficient evidence to justify a remand.
Mr T.H. Bell, called and examined by Mr Stubbs, said: I am managing partner for Messrs Bell Brothers, and the prisoner is my cashier. I have looked into his books lately, and have found therein a number of false entries, particularly one relating to the sum of £500, on the 18th of January, and he has never accounted for the money.
The prisoner having no questions to ask the witness, he was informed by the Mayor that he was remanded to Northallerton Gaol for one week.
The prisoner: Have you any objections to my staying here, as my friends are all here? I shall be much obliged.
The Mayor (after consulting the other magistrates): We cannot accede to your wishes. We have no place to keep you here.
The prisoner was then removed to the cells.
Brockett, who is 22 years of age, is the son of the Late Mr Brockett, J.P., of the “Gateshead Observer.” For the last three years he has been in the service of Messrs Bell Brothers, ironmasters, as cashier, their works being at Port Clarence, and the offices at the Middlesborough Exchange. For some considerable time he has been living very “fast,” indulging to some extent in betting, and similar practices. He has latterly complained of ill-health, and on that account his attendance at the office has been very irregular of late.
2. The Gateshead Tribune of 13 Aug 1870:
THE TRIAL OF THOMAS BROCKETT FOR EMBEZZLEMENT.
SENTENCE OF FOUR MONTHS’ IMPRISONMENT.
YORK ASSIZES. – CROWN COURT.
Before Lord Chief Baron Kelley.
At the Assizes for the North and East Ridings lately held at York, Thomas Brockett was indicted on several charges of embezzlement from his employers, Messrs Isaac Lowthian Bell and Co. On being arraigned on Saturday, the prisoner pleaded guilty to the following charges, namely, for embezzling, on the 8th March last, the sum of £170, the property of his employers Messrs I.L. Bell and Co. To another indictment for embezzling, on the 18th of the last named month, the sum of £300, the prisoner pleaded not guilty. On the pleas being taken, Mr Maule, Q.C., said he appeared on behalf of the prosecutors – the firm in whose service the prisoner had been engaged – and he had been instructed to lay before his lordship a strong recommendation to mercy. The prisoner was only 23 years of age, and had been in the employment of the same firm from being a boy. They had taken a deep interest in him and in his family, and very greatly regretted that he had been tempted, through large sums of money being entrusted to him, to commit the offence for which he had pleaded guilty. A betting book had been found in his pocket, and would account to a great extent for the conduct he had been pursuing. Taking so deep an interest in the prisoner as they had done, the prosecutors were induced to ask his lordship to give their recommendation his earliest consideration. – His lordship promised to give the recommendation proper consideration. – Mr Shepherd, who appeared on behalf of the defence, observed that it was only just to the prisoner that he should state that the fact of his having pleaded guilty was not due to any advice he (the learned counsel) had given. The course he had adopted was entirely his own act. The learned baron said he would pronounce sentence on Monday. The witnesses were discharged from further attendance, as no evidence will be tendered as to the Â£300. Mr Isaac L. Bell was in court when the case came before his lordship. His Lordship yesterday ordered the prisoner to be imprisoned for four months.
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.
On 17 Mar 1903 Thomas married Mary Lo Dai NUANG in the British Episcopal Church, Foo Chow, China.10 Children:
- 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 died 2 Jul 1974 in Lewisham, aged 85. 3 daughters, 2 sons.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
Signed Thomas Brockett.
Witnesses J.Aylward Churchill. F.W.Shaw
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.
More about Mary to follow.
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
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