Robert Bastard Morgan was born in 1796 and baptised in Bigbury in Devon on the 3rd February. His parents were Amos Morgan and Mary Ann Bastard who had married in Charleton, Mary Ann's home parish, on the 20th July 1781. Amos had been born in North Huish in 1758, and his parents, confusingly also Amos Morgan, a yeoman, and Mary Ann Bastard, who had married there in 1757, moved from North Huish to Foxhole near Bigbury between the births of their last two children in 1772 and 1774. He married Leah Cox in Chichester on the 12th April 1827. Robert was a cordwainer, or shoemaker by trade and they returned to Leah’s home county of Dorset where their first son, Robert William Morgan was born on the 4th of November that year. He was baptised on the 4th December in the Wesleyan Chapel in Poole, when their residence is given as Lytchett Matravers. Robert and Leah Morgan's oldest son Robert William who had been born in Dorset in 1827 led a very different life to his brothers’, whether due to character, circumstances or just plain luck. From Highweek near Newton Abbot where he is living with his father, a journeyman cordwainer in Exeter Road in 1841, he had moved to Totnes by 1851 where he had taken the lease on a glass and chinaware shop in Fore Street. He had married Elizabeth Barnes from Rattery in Totnes register office on the 24th February 1850, and in 1851 they have six month old twin boys Robert John and John Robert, while Elizabeth's sister Rebecca - one of the witnesses at their marriage - is living with them as a servant. They had a further five children born in the next decade and three of these survived to the 1861 census; two more children were born in 1861 and 1863. Although the family address remains Totnes, after 1854 the children were all baptised - or buried - across the river Dart in Bridgetown; Robert William's occupation changes from Glass and china dealer to silversmith in 1863. He appears a couple of times in the local newspapers: in 1854 he charged a pedlar’s wife with hawking goods without a licence. The case was dismissed as there was no proof of offering goods for sale; and “From Mr. Morgan’s own statement, he had informed against the woman out of revenge, because, as he alleged, her husband owed him some money.” In 1858 he was himself charged on four counts: for two assaults; for using violent threatening language; and for being drunk. This all arose from an incident at the Queen’s Arms public house - “a respectable, well-conducted, road-side Inn, about a mile from Totnes” - on the way to Dartington. There was obviously history between Robert and the man he challenged to a fight, a Captain Alsop, with Robert taunting him with “having thrashed him and split his head some years ago, and said he would do it again”. Captain Alsop rose to the challenge, and it was a case of coats off and outside now. When one of the other drinkers, a Mr Harris, tried to stop them, Robert felled him with a blow to the head, and he also hit out at the landlord, Mr Whiteway. Fortunately P.C. Marks was passing at the time and between them they managed to remove Robert from the premises, but not before “he with a brutal oath aimed a blow at Whiteway, which fortunately missed him, and struck down the plastering on the wall”. Once outside he stayed there for over an hour, “using the most profane language, and threatening he would do for Whiteway, Harris and Alsop, if it was not for 7, 14, or 21 years, and if he got to lie in a thorn bush to accomplish it.” When this came before the magistrates Robert claimed the assault took place in a “moment of excitement” and that he had been “very ill-used”. For the assault on the landlord he was fined £3 and “in default of payment two months’ imprisonment, without labour.” Sentencing for the second assault on Mr Harris proved problematic as he could not be bound to keep the peace and fined for the assault as well. They settled on two sureties in £20 each and himself [Robert] in £40 to keep the peace for the next year. He was fined 5s. plus expenses for being drunk. “After some difficulty Morgan succeeded in getting Mr. J. Bearne and Mr. Jeffery as his bondsmen”. This final sentence from the report in the Western Times of the 1st of May 1858 suggests that Robert had a reputation as an awkward character, to put it mildly. The Western Morning News in May and June 1865 carried an advertisement placed by R.W. Morgan, Silversmith, Totnes and addressed to China Dealers and others. This was a “First-class and Rare Opportunity” to purchase “An excellent business, established 18 years [..] with immediate possession, the proprietor being about to retire from the above trade.” Not that retirement was his intention for by the time of the 1871 census the family are all living in Cowick Street in Exeter; Robert is a Silversmith, and of his twin sons, Robert John is a tailor and John Robert a watchmaker. This may have been a not very discreet withdrawal from Totnes public life, for the following year (1866) saw the appointment of a Royal Commission to enquire into the existence of corrupt election practices, and corruption was considered widespread in Totnes. Robert was summoned from Exeter to give evidence. Robert Morgan stated that young Mr. Heath had offered him money, and witness taking the offer as an insult ordered him off his premises. That was at the election of 1865. In 1862 witness received £40 for voting for Dent, and in 1859 he had £60 for voting for Dunn. Received the £60 from Frederick Evans. The reason he did not feel insulted in 1859 was that he was in want of money then, and thought that he would rather take it from the opposite side than from his own party, he being a liberal. London Daily News 1 November 1866 Robert Morgan said: I had £40 in 1852, and £60 in Dunn’s election. I had nothing after. I voted for the Conservatives first, but when Mr. Michelmore fitted up a house for me, I thought that in common gratitude I ought to vote his side. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 2 November 1866 He had, however already been mentioned at the enquiry by witnesses less sympathetic to his cause: Robert Morgan, a china merchant and silversmith, received £60 to vote for Dunn, and I asked him if the same consideration would induce him to come over to us again, but he was above the figure - (laughter). Western Times 31 August 1866 I got hold of Robert Morgan in 1859. He was considered to be staunch and true, but wanted a ‘consideration’. How much did he get for his ‘faithfulness’? - £60. That was a large sum, considering he was ‘staunch and true’. - He was a large man - (laughter). You mean he had a large mouth - (renewed laughter). Well, he wanted a large price. Western Times 4 September 1866 Of course it wasn’t just him; as one of the witnesses agreed “the borough was a perfect chaos of corruption” , with not many “pure electors”. Robert William Morgan was described as a jeweller of Exeter when he appeared before the Commission in November and he was established as a watch maker and goldsmith at 189 High Street, Exeter by Christmas 1866 when his first advertisements appear in the Western Times. He sold this business and all its stock in 1868 and relocated to 151 Fore Street, where with his son John Robert he continued trading as R.W. Morgan & Son, Practical Watch Makers, Gold & Silver Smiths. In the light of this sale and move it’s not surprising that rumours of bankruptcy emerged in 1876, which Robert declared to be a “GROSS LIBEL” on his character, while offering a reward of £10 for information on its inventor. Bankruptcy did however afflict his watchmaker son, John Robert Morgan - though with a confusion over his name (Robert’s fault for naming his twins Robert John and John Robert). He is nearly consistently named in the newspaper reports as Robert John Morgan, though his brother with this name was working as a tailor. Did this annoy his brother - or had the twins always enjoyed confusing and misleading people, and getting out of difficult situations by blaming each other? Robert William Morgan’s wife, Elizabeth, died in Exeter in 1899 and she was buried at St Olave on the 29th September from 30 Bartholomew Street. They had been living in Bartholomew Street since before 1891and it was there that he died on the 1st February 1903.
Murray families: Cox & Morgan Leah Cox and her children - Robert William Morgan
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