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Help and advice for Rowland Stephenson at Clovelly 1829

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Mr. Rowland Stephenson

From The Times, 22 Jan 1829, pg.2.

Transcribed by Brian Randell

Stephenson, Rowland (1782-1856), art collector, politician, and bankrupt, was born at sea between Florida and England on 19 May 1782 and baptized at St Andrew's Church, Holborn, London, on 2 August. He was the third surviving son and fifth of eight children of John Stephenson (bap. 1741, d. 1822), merchant and banker, of Great Ormond Street, London, and his wife, Mary (c.1738-1814) . . . He was returned as a tory for Leominster in 1826 after a committee of the House of Commons upheld his claim that the lottery contractor Thomas Bish, who defeated him at the poll, was disqualified, being a government contractor (19 February 1827). Stephenson's parliamentary career was distinguished solely by his manner of leaving it in December 1828, when unsecured advances authorized by his assistant John Henry Lloyd came to light and bankrupted Remington's bank and Stephenson himself. He fled with Lloyd to Savannah, Georgia; rewards were offered for his apprehension, and he was detained in a debtors' prison in New York, but extradition proceedings failed (26 March 1829). He was formally bankrupted under the twelve-month rule on 19 January 1830, and thus forfeited his parliamentary seat. . . From October 1829 until his death on 2 July 1856 Stephenson lived at Farley Hill, a 170 acre estate at Bensalem township near Bristol, Pennsylvania, where he was buried in the churchyard of St James's Episcopal Church. [Dictionary of National Biography]

(From an Evening Paper.)

Stephenson arrived in Bristol seven or eight days before Ledbetter was despatched in pursuit of him. This officer traced him from the Gloucester-hotel at Clifton, to the Lamplighter's-hall at Pill, where Stephenson remained for one night. Whilst there, it was pretended he was in a very delicate state of health, and that, all other remedies having failed, the wretched invalid was recommended to try, as a last resort, a short voyage, in the hope that sea-sickness might afford him some relief. So well was the pretence of illness kept up, that a friend of Stephenson's, who accompanied him from London, played the doctor on the occasion, and now and again would feel his pulse, examine his tongue, and inquire of the patient whether he still felt that excruciating pain in the region of the stomach. The doctor would then give a most mysterious and professional shake of the head, and urged still stronger the necessity of taking the short sea-voyage. Stephenson yielded a reluctant assent, and ultimately the poor infirm man was supported to a boat by Lloyd and his friend, the doctor. The doctor returned to Clifton, where Stephenson's coachman was left. The coachman appears not to have been in the secret, as he, more than once, at the Gloucester-hotel, expressed surprise that his master should have hastened from London under such extraordinary circumstances. At the doctor's return however, the coachman's mouth was stopped. The boat in which Stephenson and Lloyd embarked had not proceeded far from the shore, when Stephenson began to justify the prediction of his physician: the sea-voyage was already working his cure, he raised himself in the boat, and astonished the crew by a sudden accession of health and strength. He soon satisfied the doubts and scruples of the boatmen. They sailed to Lundy Island, and there met the Ranger, of Bideford, on board which Stephenson and Lloyd got. The Ranger beat about the Channel for some time without falling in with a single outward-bound ship. Lee, the captain, being unable to continue any longer at sea, offered to take Stephenson and Lloyd to Clovelly, where his brother, who had a fine pilot-boat (the Sally), lived, and having assured them that Clovelly was a retiring and unfrequented place, they consented to be put on shore there. They landed at Clovelly on the evening of Wednesday, the 31st of December. It was then blowing so hard that the captain of the Sally refused to put to sea, and Stephenson and his companion were obliged to remain for the night at the King's Arms, a miserable little inn, or rather a public-house. Their arrival, and, still more, the circumstances of their having pistols constantly on the table at the inn, excited suspicion; but, as there was nothing to justify an arrest, no attempt was made to detain them. On the following day the Clovelly pilots dined together at the King's Arms, in accordance with a custom which prevails in that little village. The house was so very much crowded that that Stephenson took up his quarters for that day in a cottage belonging to a daughter of the landlady of the King's Arms. In the evening he sent two guineas to the pilots, with a request that they would drink his health. This piece of liberality quite won their hearts, and determined them to do all in their power for a gentleman who had proved himself, as one of them said, "a real genman." On the next day (Friday), a weekly newspaper, the only one that ever makes its way to Clovelly, arrived in due course at the King's Arms, and was instantly given to the two strange gentlemen. The arrival of this solitary newspaper is an event of some considerable moment to the village politicians; and, as is usual on Fridays, the principal inhabitants of Clovelly were soon assembled at the King's Arms. Among others, Lieutenant Jones, who commands the water-guard on the station, was present. This gentleman, from the first announcement of Stephenson's arrival, suspected that he was endeavouring to escape from the country, and consulted with some of his friends as to the propriety of arresting both him and Lloyd. Some were in favour of that measure; but Lieutenant Jones, in the total absence of any sufficient authority, thought the risk too great, and determined not to apprehend them on his own mere suspicion. All was anxiety, as we before stated, to get a glimpse of the newspaper, and the landlady was at length induced to send her compliments to the strange gentlemen to know if they could spare it. On the messenger entering the room, she found Stephenson reading attentively; he told her that he had not half done with the paper. Some further time was suffered to elapse, when the messenger again went with her mistress's compliments for the newspaper - "Don't you see (said Stephenson) that my friend is reading it?" The patience of the company outside became at length exhausted, and having relieved themselves by a plentiful abuse of the two unmannerly news-mongers, they dropped off one by one. Stephenson and Lloyd were still indefatigable in the studying of the newspaper; they kept it entirely to themselves. Towards the evening the Captain of the Sally informed them that the wind had considerably lulled, and in a few minutes everything was got ready for sea. Stephenson paid the bill, giving a very liberal allowance to all the servants; he even thought the charges too moderate. The landlady was quite delighted with his generosity. Stephenson returned her his warmest thanks for her great attention to him, and begged of all things that she should suffer him to take away the newspaper. It contained (he said) something respecting a friend of his, and he was, therefore, very anxious to preserve it. The landlady urged the great disappointment which the loss of their only paper would occasion to all her customers, but Stephenson pressed hard, and the newspaper was given up for a valuable consideration. On reaching the boat, Stephenson thrust the newspaper into the fire, and held it down with a poker until it was entirely consumed. "Now," said he, turning to Lloyd, that can tell no tales." They congratulated each other, and with good reason, on their management respecting the newspaper, for it actually contained (as has since been ascertained), a full account of Mr. Stephenson's absconding, an accurate description of his person, and an offer of a reward for his apprehension. Had Lieut. Jones seen the newspaper, he would have instantly taken them into custody, and it was not a little amusing to observe the effect which was produced by the arrival of the Bow-street officers in Clovelly. Lieutenant Jones and his men seemed to blame themselves as much as if they had actually thrown away 1,000,i>l. Stephenson left at the King's Arms a letter, addressed to a Mr. Thomas, and directed the landlady's daughter to destroy the letter if a gentleman of that name did not call for it within four or five days. The officers ascertained that a person did call for the letter. He was described as being about 45 years of age, of dark complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches high, and not very gentlemanly in his address.

We understand that nothing could be more judicious than the selection of Clovelly as a place of concealment. Its inhabitants had scarcely any intercourse with any other village. It is surrounded, except on the sea side, by steep hills, and the approach to it affords but a dangerous passage even to foot passengers.