Why was William of Swinbrook so important?

William 1


William Ivens, born in 1778, was the grandson of a Robard Eyvens who turned up in Swinbrook, near Burford, Oxfordshire around 1720. He (Robard) married a local girl (so he was probably in his mid 20’s then) and they had 7 children. The sons were timber dealers, weavers, builders, butchers and cattle dealers.

The sixth son was Robert (b.1739) who was a builder. In 1770 he married Elizabeth Breakespeare.

Breakespeare is a not uncommon name around the Cotswolds, and some years ago I happened to rent some retail premises from one of that family in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. What I found interesting was that they had the same family anecdote: i.e. “That we are related to the only English Pope: Nicholas Breakspear who became Pope Adrian IV in 1154.”. In truth, it is unlikely as Nicholas was born in Abbots Langley, near St Albans.

Robert and Elizabeth had 8 children, and William was the 5th.

There is some evidence that Robert worked for the local Squire: The Fettiplace family, and through that service William was sponsored by Squire Fettiplace to go to Christs Hospital (Bluecoat’s) School in Burford.

I will explore the connection with the Fettiplace family in another slot elsewhere.

After Christs Hospital, William gets a job in London as a clerk to a Merchant: William Hadfield, and it there that William meets his lifelong friend William Burnett. At some point around 1800, the two are sent off to St Michael, the largest of the Azores, to start a branch of William Hadfield’s business exporting citrus fruits.

They do well and William becomes prosperous. By 1816 William applies for, and is granted the family Coat of Arms (which you will note carries an orange tree in recognition of the business) with the motto ‘SPES ALIT AUDACES’ or ‘Hope Nourishes the Brave’.

COA colour

Soon after arrival in the Azores, in fact in 1805, William marries Elizabeth Flora Hickling, daughter of the then Vice Consul, Thomas Hickling. (Thomas Hickling’s story is interesting in itself, but I will save that for another day.) [See post Hickling – US Vice Consul, Ponta Delgarda, Azores]

Not only that, but William Burnett marries Elizabeth’s twin sister Sarah Clarissa Hickling. There is a charming story attached to the lads’ arrival in St Michael. It is said that William had a dream on the journey out in which he saw an island with two damsels on it waving to him. He took the two subsequent marriages to be an interpretation of the dream. William and Elizabeth were married three times: 1st on board L’Egyptienne by the Lord Chief Baron of Scotland; then repeated in 1808 in the parish church in Streatham; then, ‘just to make things secure’, and because Elizabeth was Roman Catholic, by a Roman Catholic priest in Ely Chapel, Holborn

William and Elizabeth go on to have 6 children:-

  • William Hadfield Ivens
  • Elizabeth Maria Ivens
  • Thomas Edward Ivens
  • Arthur Hickling Ivens
  • Edward Burnett Ivens
  • Charles Fettiplace Ivens
  • Robert Breakespeare Ivens

(You can see how each of the boys got their middle name, except Thomas. I’m not yet sure where the name Edward arose from.)

All’s well until 1832 when Elizabeth dies. Robert, their youngest would have been 10 years old and his mother just 49. It wasn’t long before William re-married, this time to Elizabeth’s younger sister, Mary Anne Hickling. They had four daughters, the 2nd of which, Catherine Prescott Ivens was born in 1836. Catherine was to grow up and marry  Snr. Ricardo Julio FERRAZ, and start the notable Ferraz-Ivens family. More on that another time.

Meanwhile, business is prospering for William, and his sons are entering business. The eldest, William Hadfield Ivens into the Ship Insurance brokerage business, in the City of London. However, one of his investment schemes (some say an invention) went badly wrong, and, with 12 children of which 5 had died young, he was close to bankruptcy so much so that his father had to try and bail him out.

Unfortunately, this came at the same time as The Orange Disease’ hit the Azores in 1851 and badly damaged William’s own business. William had to surrender his life insurance policies and sell most of his assets which left the family in serious difficulties. William died six years later in 1857 of, some say, apoplexy, or a stroke as we know it today.


9 responses to “Why was William of Swinbrook so important?

  1. Pingback: Coat of Arms – granted 200 years ago | All about Ivens·

  2. Really interesting, David. Can I add a footnote?

    It looks as though his father was unsuccessful in forestalling William’s bankruptcy. Apparently William Hadfiled Ivens was declared bankrupt when he was in partnership in London with his brother-in-law William Shelton Burnett; both of them were described as “Merchants” at the time although by the time of his death in 1862 he is described as “Ship and Insurance broker”.
    Listed under “Bankrupts” in the 6 June 1826 edition of the Edinburgh Advertiser: “William Ivens of Torrington Square, Middlesex, late of the Island of St Michael’s, Merchant and late in partnership with William Shelton Burnett of New London Street, London, Merchant.”


    • Hi Henry,
      That’s an interesting addition which I wasn’t aware of, and thanks for taking the trouble to pen it.
      I have not visited ‘Bankrupts’, but have just joined the British newspaper Archives which might start to give more useful details.
      Up until now, I have depended on FindMyPast, Ancestry, and the many snippets from personal family trees sent to me from all over the world. Plus of course, my own family’s papers.
      It never ends (this jigsaw) but one has to extract every ounce of detail from every possible source document.

      Again, my thanks,
      David Ivens

      Please feel free to add any family stories you have uncovered, and if it is something you like doing I’ll link you as a contributor / editor.


  3. Hi David, I would imagine that you may be aware of Roberto Ivens b 1850 to Robert Breakspear Ivens and Margarida Branco who was a explorer from Portugal. This info passed on from a Ivens family member.


  4. As you are no doubt aware my relationship with the Ivens is nill but the interest comes via my cousin’s work collegue who is an Ivens. I believe his interest in the Ivens ancestry is weeks old. The best idea is for me to get him to contact you via this format and then you wont have to go through a 3rd person. I will keep in touch if other interest’s appear.


  5. If your contact wants to contact me directly, my email is david.ivens@wild-duck.co.uk. I have been studying this family for many a year now and in that time have built up quite large file on the various branches. As I said earlier, I’m always interested in adding family memories and anecdotes which shed a light on the families’ lives.Keep in touch, Peter, if you find any of this interesting. Cheers, David Ivens


  6. Hi David, sorry for the delay but for some unknown reason my Ivens contact all of a sudden said “thank you” my dad and I have got enough information. The only thing I can think they have a skeleton in the cupboard as my information I gave them was minimal.
    Maybe they will make contact.


    • Hi Peter, Thanks for getting in touch, and like you, I’m a little surprised. But this ancestry stuff is full of forgotten secrets – which in their day were swept under the carpet. I have a few of those myself – one Eric LLewellyn Ivens who, whenever my father was asked about him, replied “We don’t talk about Eric”. That went on for years. I now know all the details! Ooh Err!. But this site is not judgemental and only interested in making the connections in that great jigsaw. Shame they couldn’t see the benefit of sharing their knowledge. None so strange as folk!


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