Thomas Philipps of Milford: Emigrant Extraordinary


Roland G Thorne. National Library of Wales journal. 1977, Summer Volume XX/1

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of this article (Gareth Hicks May 2003)

IN 1820 Thomas Philipps sailed from Bristol in the 'Kennersley Castle' at the head of a hopeful band of over thirty Pembrokeshire emigrants to the Cape: they were a small contingent of the so called '1820 settlers' who gave South Africa its partly British character. Philipps was destined to become one of the pioneers of that settlement, and as such is commemorated in the South African Dictionary of National Biography. His South African career, as described in his letters to his family in Britain, can be studied in professor Arthur Keppel Jones' edition of this correspondence, published in 1960 under the title 'Philipps, 1820 Settler.' The economic advantages of emigration were a constant theme of Philipps' writings, both public and private. Soon after his arrival at the Cape, he wrote to Rev. Thomas Brigstocke, rector of Walwyn's Castle in his native county:

'... Farmers, carpenters, masons, in short all the country trades in the County of Pembroke will be most amply recompensed by emigrating to this Colony, and will always find employment. £6 a month is the common rate of pay for carpenters and masons. Many of them earn enough for their families, and if saving, to buy a couple of cows every month ...'   1

Such were the prospects for country tradesmen, but what made Thomas Philipps their prospector? The answer may be suggested by tracing the early career of this pioneer who found a degree of fulfilment in the 'heavenly climate'   2  of the Cape that was denied him under the greyer skies of home.

His origins were auspicious. On his father's side he was descended from one of those lost tribes of the ancient Welsh house of Cilsant who as the chieftains of the clan, the Philippses of Picton Castle in Pembrokeshire failed to produce male heirs hovered in the wings with great expectations. In 1776, the year of Thomas Philipps' birth, Sir Richard Philipps, 7th baronet, of Picton achieved his apotheosis as Lord Milford in the Irish peerage: but he had no son to inherit his glory. A son was born to his modest kinsman, Rev. Edward (or 'Ned' as he was known) Philipps, rector of Begelly, who had been presented to that living in 1767 by the gift of Lord Milford's widowed mother. This country clergyman's forebears had long been settled in Lampeter Velfre.   3   His father, Thomas Philipps, who died 1st May 1767 aged 65, was described on his memorial at Lampeter church as 'A kind husband, father and friend.' His wife's name was Dorothy. Rev. Edward Philipps (born 1737) was their youngest child. The eldest, Philipp, an attorney, married in 1759 Anne, daughter and heir of John Smith of Jeffreston, high sheriff in 1753, and left issue who made their home at Jeffreston ; the second son, John Philipps of Begelly died unmarried leaving his property by a will dated 11 April 1777, to his younger brother Edward. A daughter, Cecilia, died unmarried at Tenby in 1805.

Rev. Edward Philipps, a graduate of Pembroke College, Oxford, married, by a licence dated 5 December 1774, Catherine Harries, then of Cardigan, daughter of the late Rev. John Harries of St. Ishmael, Carms., Archdeacon of Cardigan, whose wife Mary Lewis was of a Lampeter Velfre family. Catherine had a brother Rev. Charles Harries, sometime of Panteague, Llandewi Velfre, who died vicar of Llangyfelach, Glam., in 1794, and two sisters Maria Elizabeth and Ann who lived as maiden ladies at Haverfordwest were the recipients of fond letters from their nephew in South Africa until their deaths in 1823 and 1833 respectively.

When Thomas Philipps was two years old, his father who was already a magistrate, was presented by Lord Milford to the rectory of his native Lampeter Velfre. He held this further mark of Picton Castle patronage until his death on 2 April 1793, aged 56. Apart from his eldest son Thomas, and two daughters who died in infancy, he left two sons and three daughters. John Philipps, the second son, settled in London as a merchant and married Lucretia daughter of James Pinnock of Jamaica, by whom he had a daughter Elizabeth, wife firstly of John James Ormsby and secondly of the Marquis de la Pron le Roy. Richard the third son died unmarried. Of the daughters, Mary Dorothea, the eldest, was married in London on 25 February 1796 to Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech, a prosperous former West Indian planter, as his second wife. Her mother, Catherine Philipps, died at Slebech on 6 May 1803, aged 55. The second daughter, Cecilia, became in 1801 the wife of Charles Allen Philipps of St. Brides, while the youngest, Catherine, married in turn Aldborough Richardson, of Wimpole Street, and Lt. Gen. the Hon. Sir Henry King. Unlike her elder sisters she had no children, but she was a devoted genealogist, and the loyal and affectionate champion at home of her brother in South Africa.

This was the family background of Thomas Philipps. He was evidently intended for the law. His father's death when he was seventeen with younger brothers and sisters to provide for must have been unsettling; and although he was described as of Gray's Inn in 1800, it does not appear that he took up law. On 30 July 1801 he was married at St. Mary's Islington to Charlotte Harriet Arbouin, of Highbury Place, Middlesex: his address was then 'City Chambers', that of his brother John. His bride was the fourth daughter of Matthew Arbouin, merchant of 17 Mincing Lane, son of Francis Arbouin, brandy merchant of the same place. Her father had died in 1792, four years after her mother. Her brothers Samuel and James were London merchants formerly engaged in the Bordeaux wine trade, 4  and her eldest sister Sophia was the wife of another merchant, Roger Harries of Islington, (d. 1839) who seems to have been a relative of Philipps on his mother's side, possibly even her brother. Thomas Philipps remained in touch with these other Harries connexions of his, and in 1830 welcomed their only child, William Mathew Harries and his newly wedded wife, Anna Maria, youngest daughter of Abel Walford Bellairs of Haverfordwest, as emigrants to South Africa.

Thomas Philipps' mercantile connexions by marriage doubtless provided the impetus for his first career as a banker. He is reported to have started in this line...................

.................. in East Anglia, but this has not been confirmed. In fact, in 1802 he and his brother John appears as wine merchants at Old City chambers in the London trade directories, and are listed there until 1804, after which John and John Philipps appear at the same address. Not long after his marriage, Thomas Philips became a partner with his brother in law Charles Allen Philipps of St. Brides Hill in the Milford and Pembrokeshire Bank, with a counting house at Milford. He resided first at Neeston Hall, and then at Gelliswick, nearby. Francis Green in his essay on Early Banks in West Wales   5  stated that it was carried on under the style of 'Charles Philipps, Thomas Philipps & Co.' and reported that the earliest extant note is dated 28 July 1802. He offered an illustration of a bank note signed by Thomas Philipps in 1808. He pointed out that the note bears a heraldic emblem and motto (ducit amor patriae) which derive from the arms of the St. Brides family, but mistakenly supposed that Thomas Philipps was of that clan. The immediate connection was by marriage. Thomas Philipps remained in touch with his erstwhile business partner after his emigration, until Charles Allen Philipps' death in 1827, and subsequently with his daughters.

The Milford and Pembrokeshire Bank, one of several such country banks that sprang up in West Wales in the aftermath of the stoppage of cash payments by the Bank of England in 1797, was at first well supported. Among its capitalist patrons were Samuel Levi Phillips, founder of the Haverfordwest Bank, who held a share of £1,000 in the capital stock of the bank, but the mainstay was Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech, Thomas Philipps' brother in law. While many of these country banks crashed in 1826, the Milford and Pembrokeshire bank had a much shorter career. Its troubles arose partly from Thomas Philipps' incompetence and combination of banking with trading ventures, but were complicated by Pembrokeshire politics, as the Milford Bank papers among the Slebech collection at the National Library of Wales indicate. 6  All went well until 1807, and in that year Nathaniel Phillips strengthened the Bank's resources by offering Henry Leach, collector of the customs at Milford, a security of £2,000 in return for Leach's depositing with the Bank 'all such monies as he can conveniently spare from time to time until 28 July 1811 provided he may withdraw it on demand without abatement'.

Then on 2 Jan., 1808 Thomas Philipps informed Nathaniel Phillips that he had to go to London '... to arrange some pecuniary disappointments which I have lately met with by bills to the amount of £5,000 being dishonoured ... 'evidently by Geddes & Co. With a view to raising £5,000 from the London bank to which the Milford Bank was affiliated, Messrs Bosanquet, Beechcroft and Reeves, he sought and obtained a bond for £5,000 from Nathaniel Phillips as security. His own securities for this include shares of varying proportions in six Milford vessels, the Margaret, the Catherine and Edward, the London Packet, the Ceres, the Morning Sun and the Aurora; and a list of stock including timber, tar, biscuit, rum and other spirits, wine 'at Bristol', cheese, butter and oats. These would be his stock in trade in his mercantile partnership at Milford with his brother John. On 7 January 1808 ...................

...................Thomas Philipps wrote from London to say that he had 'arranged everything satisfactorily', 'a little more frightened than hurt ...' and reviewed the commercial situation:

'It is generally thought that Talleyrand is in Holland for the purpose of negotiating with this country with greater facility. Whether this is true or not it has had a great effect on the funds-omnium to-day is 2 3/4 To-morrow the dividends will be paid which would of itself raise them a little. A great deal of coffee was bought at advanced prices this week by the Dutch merchants. Altogether I find very little fear of Bonaparte's decrees amongst merchants in general ...'

He concludes 'We have such foggy weather that I can scarce see to write.'

This panic over, all went smoothly for a while, though in October 1808, on his way back from killing a few pheasants at his sister's, Mrs Richardson's country lodge near Andover, Philipps was the only injured passenger of fifteen or sixteen, when the coach he was travelling in overturned near Staines; he bled a great deal from the broken window glass, but emerged with only 'a small cut above my right eye.' In the New Year, too, he was prevented from joining the Slebech party in a visit to the Richardsons, not by the snow, but by a man-of-war arriving at Milford and by postal delays affecting his business. A few days later Nathaniel Phillips was pained to discover that Thomas Philipps without consulting him negotiated the removal of the Milford Bank London account from Bosanquet's to Harrison's, using his name as surety; when he informed Thomas' brother in London, John Philipps, about this, the latter made reassuring noises:

'... I can only attribute it', he wrote, 'to his wishing to have two strings to his bow in case Bosanquet & Co should displease him. I am extremely sorry that he should have made use of your name in the improper manner that he has ...'

On 14 January 1809, Thomas Philipps himself wrote to Nathaniel Phillips from Milford, where it had snowed hard that day, that he wished to transfer to Harrisons 'for our present bankers' charges and conduct will never suffer us to get on comfortably, had it not been for the Receiver General going round this month instead of as usual in April, we should have been very flush . . .' He assured his brother in law that his security for £5,000 would suffice for the new account as before, and that the Milford Bank would meet this 'as soon as Geddes pays or as soon as we can change'. The Milford Bank's securities would be Charles Philipps' life insurance policy, as well as the farm mortgaged by Charles Philipps to Nathaniel Phillips, which mortgage he hoped to redeem that year. In conclusion, Thomas Philipps added a hint that things were looking up: 'I have arranged a very good agency at Cardigan with Mr. William Bowen of Llwyngwair. He now resides at Cardigan and has an office as General Distributor of the Stamps for the three counties ...'

Nathaniel Phillips was thus asked to guarantee the new account with Harrison's, as well as that with Bosanquet's: Thomas Philipps' brother john was also enlisted in the same cause: and Thomas Philipps' own list of securities indicates an interest..........

........................in the cargoes of the vessels 'Margaretta', 'Flora', 'Susannah,' 'Catherine and Edward', 'Morning Star', 'Carmarthen,' including butter, cheese and oats, and in certain ships being repaired, namely the 'Mary Hall,' 'The George and Mary', the 'Betsey, the 'Commerce,' the 'William', the 'American Schooner,' the 'Active', the 'Pigeon, 'the St. Patrick', and the 'Alliance'.

In February 1809, Thomas Philipps obtained Nathaniel Phillips' security for £5,000 to transfer the Milford Bank's account with Bosanquet to another bank, again offering Charles Philipps' life insurance of £5,000 at the Provident Life Insurance office and his farms of Windmill Park, Heythog, etc., as securities. Nathaniel obliged, but endorsed the application 'The above security has not been lodged with Mr. N.P.' On 4 October 1809, Nathaniel also obliged, when Thomas Philipps opened up a new account with Messrs. Masterman and Co. '(i.e. Masterman, Peters, Mildred, Scorer and Maud). These changes of account are unexplained, but when the affairs of the Milford Bank next surface in March 1810, they are near shipwreck: one Wednesday that month, Thomas Philipps wrote to Nathaniel from his residence at Gelliswick:

'... I shall be prevented coming home till to morrow evening. I am obliged to be on the spot in consequence of the cruel reports which are extending against the Bank and which occasions a considerable run against us and we have many enemies who do not discourage the rumour although our friends are doing everything in their power --- added to this money is so extremely scarce in town that John says he can hardly raise it on the last Banker's bill---and our payments to Dubuisson (Receiver General for the three counties) and orders on sight in London in consequence of our determination to pay all demands at sight have taken £8,000 hard cash from us. If the rumour does not subside soon I am fearfull of the consequences except we have assistance ...'

Then on 21 March Thomas Philipps wrote again from Milford:

'Yesterday and to day I have been harrassed to death with people coming in for payment of our notes---in your hands our fate now lies and you must either support us or ourselves and families are for ever ruined---about 15,000 in our Banker's hands in town will save us for ever. The cry against us [is] from Lord Cawdor's tenants and had not my friends Mr [Henry] Leach, Mr. Shaw [of Milford] etc convinced the people of the falsity, we could not have got over the day. [Samuel] Levi [Phillips] and [John] Bateman [of Haverfordwest, bankers] continue our friends but the large sums I am hourly obliged to draw, will alarm the Bankers in town. You will however save us if you will write to our Bankers in town to-night or by to morrow's post --- to say you will be ready to be security as far as 5 or 10,000 £ as soon as you can get to town. It is the opinion of all our friends that if we can get over this that our fortunes will be made. Your decision will either plunge me into despair or elevate to the highest pitch of happiness and gratitude to you

(PS) If you could show yourself at Haverfordwest to morrow and talk to a few tradesmen it will have an excellent effect.'

Later the same day Philipps wrote again:

'With the assistance of the Banks of Haverfordwest and the noble and liberal spirit of my friends here I have got through to day with credit and paid above 50 people. Some are gone home with our own notes satisfied and all quite (?) riled that they had been duped. I have been obliged to draw so largely to Mr. Thomas Bowen (of Haverfordwest, Banker) and Levi (Phillips) for their notes that I nust have some credit in London or we must be ruined. I hope my Dear Sir you will support us. Mr. Leach, Mr. Shaw and Mr Bowling of Pembroke stood behind the desk with us assisting in counting out our bills. I hope to hear from you to morrow'.

At this point, some explanation of the run on the Milford Bank by 'Lord Cawdor's tenants' is called for. Nathaniel Phillips had aspired as early as 1806 to the parliamentary seat for Haverfordwest, then occupied by Lord Kensington, and in 1809 had subscribed handsomely to an association to secure the independence of Haverfordwest from the Blue party who controlled the corporation under the aegis of Lord Milford of Picton Castle and Lord Kensington. Nathaniel Phillips' party sported the orange colours, which were those of John Owen of Orielton who hoped to snatch the county seat from Lord Milford and the Blues. Owen himself subscribed towards the independent club at Haverfordwest and early in 1810 this Orange league were busily harrassing the Blue Corporation. Lord Cawdor, who had an eye to the county seat for his son, was able to embarrass the Orange cause by hitting at their financial credit: he knew that the Milford Bank was virtually Nathaniel Phillips' creature, and that Thomas Philipps, despite his connexion with the Picton Castle family, was drawn by his brother in law of Slebech into the Orange orbit: he and other Blues therefore had no hesitation in assisting in the run on the Milford Bank. The Banks at Haverfordwest referred to were those of Samuel Levi Phillips and Co. (the Haverfordwest Bank, founded in 1783 and collapsed in the country bank crash of 1826) and the Union Bank, a consortium founded in 1802 which included amongst its partners John Bateman, attorney, of Haverfordwest John Marten of Laugharne, and Thomas Waters and Herbert Lloyd, of Carmarthen, as well as Thomas Bowen, and later, John Mathias of Haverfordwest. The Union Bank, doomed to collapse in 1814, was also orientated towards the Orange Party and it is the less surprising that it did what it could to save the Milford Bank; while Samuel Levi Phillips had also had a financial stake in the latter.

Meanwhile, rapid action being called for to save the Bank, the seventy eight year old Nathaniel Phillips reluctantly gave an assurance, 23 March, which was published in the 'Cambrian' newspaper, the Swansea paper that then served the whole of West Wales, that he would be accountable for the notes of the Milford Bank. The bank partners, who wished Phillips to be answerable for up to £3,000 also made a bid to raise credit to the same amount in the trade by offering as security to their guarantor 'all and singular our property real and personal' as well as Col. Charles Allen Philipps' life insurance of £10,000, he being fifty years of ....................

................age, plus bills for £30,000 drawn on and accepted by John and John Philipps at twelve months' (i.e. Thomas Philipps brother's firm in London). It subsequently transpired that John Philipps had hastily signed an agreement to answer for £30,000 in this way without realising what it was, and 'not having access to the books', knew nothing of the plight of the bank.

Thomas Philipps did not succeed in finding fresh capital security, though in June a new London bank, Messrs W. F. Hubbard & Co. offered to introduce him to 'two young men of respectability and capital' to join him in a banking venture without reference to previous liabilities of course.' Nathaniel Phillips inevitably bore the brunt: Messrs Stratton, Gibson and Fuller of Great St. Helens in the City informed him:

'From the present state of Messrs T. Philipps & Co and J. & J. Philipps & Co's affairs we must withdraw their bills from the Bank ... Will you have the goodness to accept the £20,000 payable at two months and so renew the amount every two months till your original acceptance will become due ... We have spoken to the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank who conceive this would be the better way of settling this truly unpleasant business ...'

Meanwhile Thomas Philipps informed John Philipps from Milford, 2 July 1810:

'... Owing to the kindness of Mr. T(homas) Bowen (of the Union Bank) I was enabled to go on paying but I can do so no longer than to-morrow or next day at the very furthest; I have a continued crowd at my door. Brown (accountant of the Milford Bank) says not a word of Masterman. He must know that Lloyd's bill not being accepted would occasion most likely my instant arrest and I know not if I shall be a free agent to morrow to sign any agreement . . . The only plan is to make us bankrupts and commence a new firm with N(athaniel) P(hillips.) It would save him from any advance for ever and put money in his pocket. All my friends are calling and writing to me on the subject. Mr. P(hillips) would have saved many thousands had he acted with decision'.

So in July 1810 the Milford Bank collapsed, and the business of winding up commenced. The accountant John Brown, assisted by Thomas Philipps's brother in law Roger Harries of Islington, went through the books, and on 23 July Brown informed Nathaniel Phillips that the number of outstanding notes issued by the Bank amounted to £22,289, not about £17,000 as he at first thought at a guess. Roger Harries established that Thomas Philipps' own commercial concerns seemed to lie 'in so narrow a compass that it will not be so difficult as matter as I imagined it would prove to ascertain the debts and effects belonging to him'. The Bank's general statement indicated that they had in all issued £52,717, of which £8,417 had been cancelled and burnt, and £22,011 had been discharged and were in their possession or at Masterman's bank.

Winding up Thomas Philipps' affairs took longer than expected. Roger Harries found that there were 'still five months transactions to post in the ledger,................

.......................now being done by the clerk 'who appears to be very conversant in book keeping'. Walters' absence at this time is unlucky and proves another obstacle in our way as various explanations are wanting which he alone can give . . .' So he informed John Philipps on 25 July, adding that Thomas Philipps, who had been assisting them at his counting house, and himself had gone to a late dinner at St. Brides Hill the day before and stayed overnight. He reported 'Your sister supports her spirits admirably. She already is prepared for a great reverse but Mr C(harles) P(hilipps) means only to let her know the full extent of the mischief gradually ...'

Charles Philipps, the drowsiest of all sleeping partners, had himself been startled to learn of his plight the previous month, when the necessity of his going to London to assist in the dissolution of the bank had brought it home to him. Thomas Philipps' wife, according to Roger Harries, was in 'very tolerable spirits at Gellyswick', while the man himself was irrepressible:

'T. P. is now full of expectation of getting a large sum in damages from Mr. Higgon of Haverfordwest, who was heard by witnesses (ready to come forward) to say when Mr. Phillips' promise to the note-holders was mentioned at the Reading Room that the whole was a swin[dlin]g transaction. He talks seriously of commencing a prosecution . . .

The day before, Nathaniel Phillips had received a letter from John Brown at Milford, dated 21 July, saying that while he was trying to placate the noteholders, others were taking advantage of their plight:

'... I have the most unquestionable authority (even of the parties themselves) when I say that Mr. Philip Phillips, Mr. Francis Rotch, and Mr. Samuel Starbuck have formed the necessary arrangements in order to their establishing a bank here, as soon as they know that you determine to give up that idea ...'

He added that, to his embarrassment, they had offered him the management of the Bank. Philip Phillips was a son of Samuel Levi Phillips of the Haverfordwest Bank, while Francis Rotch and Samuel Starbuck were prominent members of the Quaker community of American origin settled at Milford, who had not always seen eye to eye with Thomas Philipps. This was the coup de grace, and even friendly observers like Thomas Bowers of the Union Bank urged that the only creditable step remaining for the Milford Bank, or more realistically for Nathaniel Phillips, was to relieve the poorer noteholders who had held on to their paper currency on Nathaniel Phillips' word. On 27th July 1810 Thomas Philipps, realising that the game was up as far as he was concerned, wrote to his sister of Slebech:

'... I take this opportunity of begging you to assure Mr. Phillips that I lament the loss he will sustain from me and that I hope he will not continue to judge so harshly of my conduct as I am informed from Mr. Brown he does. I hope he will take into his consideration that when I solicited his assistance it was not done with any selfish view of continuing in a state of extravagance as to personal gratification for that fault cannot...................

.............be laid to my charge even by my enemies, but I fondly hoped with every assistance I received I should be enabled to continue in a business which was daily improving, and which if it had been carried on would have enabled me in time to have paid everyone. In this I have been mistaken, and I am prepared to undergo the dreadfull alternative. One shock might yet be spared me and if it could by your intercession with Mr. Phillips who has it in his power to prevent it, I will bear all with fortitude although the very bed we sleep on must and will be sold by auction if as I expect the firm of Thomas Philipps become bankrupts. The first wish of my heart therefore is to prevent Charles Philipps etc being bankrupts. They may deliver up all their effects without being gazetted---the effect will be the same, but the manner will be different, all our property in the latter case will be obliged to be sold by auction. When I contemplate my poor sister's situation I had rather die a thousand deaths than that she should suffer such a mortification. I repeat that I am willing to have everything of mine sold in any way. Mr. P(hillips) will alone prevent this by showing even an inclination to pay our bills at some future time even. I will not enter into detail of the matters alledged against me but my future efforts will be used to rectify the evils occasioned, my prospects for a sinking man are not discouraging and I will make a solemn vow to Heaven that Mr (Philips) of Hill shall have half of any halfpenny I can get. I care not now for any mortification which I may receive. Could I but hear that my dear sister of Hill would be saved further trouble. She has suffered for the last few months perhaps as much real sorrow as ever fell to the lot of a mother and her behaviour has so astonished me that I cannot express how very superior a woman I consider her ...'

While Thomas Philipps wrote this pathetic letter to his sister, his mind was still working on a face-saving solution. On 28 July Roger Harries, writing to Nathaniel Phillips, reported that the Milford Bank's debt was in fact reducible to £20,000, and that at Thomas Philipps' request he enclosed a plan to deal with this, which was that the firm should resume business under the title of Charles Philipps & Co., under John Brown's management, with Roger Harries acting as overseer and recommending their London bankers. Thomas Philipps was to have no concern whatever in it, a point that was emphazised as if it were a recipe for success in business without really trying. The issue of notes was not to exceed £20,000. All current customers could be kept, 'excepting the Custom House, Mr. Leach having been obliged to fix with the new firm about to be established'. Nathaniel Phillips was to be a partner 'without advancing a single penny'; it was in fact an expedient to keep Charles Philipps afloat, with the additional enticement of a fund to liquidate the debt due to Nathaniel Phillips from his hapless proteges.

Nathaniel Phillips' decision was now awaited. As early as 17 July it had been to him that the Swansea Quaker bankers, Gibbins, Eaton and Gibbins, signing themselves 'Thy Friends' had applied for the redemption of about £70 of Milford Bank notes: they were to play principal creditors in the liquidation of the Union Bank five years later. At this juncture, however, the Union Bank, too, pressed Nathaniel Phillips for satisfaction: they held a considerable number of Milford ...................

.......................Bank Notes, so Thomas Bowen informed Roger Harries on 14 August 1810. Relaying this demand to Nathaniel Phillips on 17 August, Harries advised him not to resist payment, as it would enable him to name his own terms. He added that John Brown had refuted on oath a malicious paragraph in the London papers exaggerating the liabilities of the Milford Bank: but he too was anxious for a decision, as his future career was in the balance. There was some uncertainty as to what Nathaniel Phillips would do. Thomas Philipps feared the worst, as Phillips had not acknowledged his plan to save Charles Philipps' reputation, and on 10 August wrote to Phillips that while he understood that he was reluctant to pay up, he feared that Phillips had compromised himself by past assurances. He was himself threatened with arrest in consequence of Phillips' having put it on record that he guaranteed the Bank £30,000. As bait, Philipps added:

'Levi Phillips has had such excessive run against him in consequence of connecting himself with Ro(t)ch and Starbuck that he was obliged to have several remittances from London. They have not yet started and it is now doubted if they will seeing the country so much against them. I wish you could be induced to establish a Bank and I assure you my sole motive is that it might be an income to Mr. P(hilipps) of Hill and a saving of advance to you'.

Nathaniel Philipps remained immovable.

On 25 August, Roger Harries wrote to him to say that he concluded that Phillips would not commit himself in writing, and commiserating with him in the losses suffered 'from the late disastrous failure of the three houses' added that even so 'the share which falls to the lot of Mr. Charles Philipps render(s) the others comparatively light,' and that he feared his mind might sink under it. The bankruptcy was gazetted that evening. Thomas Philipps' mercantile partnership at Milford with his brother John and the latter's London firm had met the same fate ten days before.'

Letters from distressed noteholders poured in. Richard Charles Fenton of Glynamel wrote stoutly to Nathaniel Phillips, 28 August, that his mother who had already applied to him for the purpose was a victim of Phillips' assurance published in The Cambrian: 'I really think you are liable, nay bound in justice to the public to cash the notes of the Milford Bank'. His mother held £9. 3s. William Cozens of Sandy Haven, who wrote the same day held £171. 2s, and had 'immediate occasion' for the cash, and E. James of Pembroke held 'near £200' and wanted the money 'as soon as possible'. W. Hawkins and Co of Swansea Old Bank held £212, and requested payment.

After the liquidation in September and October 1810, when their creditors met at the Guildhall, London but did not complete their business until 30 July 1811, Thomas Philipps set about redeeming his name as a trader under the bankruptcy laws at Milford. He was bent on political revenge on the Blues, and a letter of his to Nathaniel Phillips, the last in the Slebech papers, dated 22 February 1811 shows him eager to secure the election of Orange councillors to the Corporation of...........

...........Haverfordwest, and still prepared to advise Phillips how to spend his money for this purpose. In fact, Phillips was no longer prepared to trust him with the purse strings, though he was prepared to trust his cousin Thomas Philipps of Jeffreston (now of Haverfordwest). Nathaniel Phillips, candidature for Haverfordwest at the general electiou of 1812 was thwarted by Blue solidarity, and he conceded defeat. When he died in 1814, Thomas Philipps and his affairs received no mention in his will, though Roger Harries was one of the trustees, and his family went abroad.

Philipps wrote plaintively from Gelliswick to a member of the government, Williain Huskisson, on 29 December 1814.   8


Presuming that the consideration of the finances of the country will be in a great measure confided to your care, I take the liberty, altho' a perfect stranger to you, to offer you some ideas on the provincial paper currency of the Kingdom, a subject which from its extreme delicacy is seldom publicly agitated or indeed separated from the general or Bank of England paper currency: the former is greatly depreciated whatever the latter may be.

I was engaged in a Bank at this place some years ago which unfortunately failed and involved my partner and self in ruin, since which engaged as a merchant I have had more leisure to contemplate the consequences of indiscriminate issues of provincial paper and am lead to make the following conclusions.

A Country Bank, established by men of real property and money and none of the Partners engaged in hazardous trades, who prudently lent their notes to industrious farmers or tradesmen, was during the late war a blessing to its neighbourhood and most undoubtedly contributed in a great measure to aid the Government in the collection of the heavy burdens unavoidably levied on the Country. If it was possible by any regulation to confine the issuing of paper to such men, the evil would not be great, but even if the legislature was to interfere, the steps to be taken must be very gradual and liable to constant evasion. Many plans have been suggested, but in my opinion nothing short of weaning the country altogether from provincial paper, will restore the true value of paper curreney. I do not mean that country banks should be prohibited but that they should not be suffered after a time to issue smaller notes than £5 --- reverting to their establishment previous to their circulating £1 and £2. I date the depreciation of country paper from that period and you will find the number of Banks increasing tenfold, encouraged by the avidity with which local notes were received and the totally withdrawing of gold and Bank of England paper, the latter under the propagated idea that they might be forged, were brought in, gladly exchanged, and remitted off to London.

It will be quite unnecessary to enlarge on this evil, to you, it must be well known to be so; it will be prudent to commence the remedy with delicacy and secresy and the first step I should propose, should be that all payments which come out of the public purse should be made with Bank of England paper sent from London for the purpose. For example there are two Government establishments at this port, namely, the Royal Dockyard and the Custom House, these draw about £80,000 in bills at sight on the Commissioners of the Navy and the Commissioners of the Customs. These bills are passed through a country bank who give in exchange their own £1 and £2 notes, which are immediately paid away to the officers, workmen, etc, etc. It is a known fact that there are not only douceurs, but even regular salaries allowed to those who draw on Government and take local notes in exchange, and I can state as a positive fact that a Bank has been formed at Pembroke solely on the promise of paying the Dock Yard men. How easy would it be for the proper officers in London, to transmit, in the Post Office bags per mail coach Bank of England notes of £1 and £2 to the different stations where..................

..................Government payments were to be made. By this means sterling paper would reappear in the country and everything else would soon find its medium. Bank of England paper in reference to provincial is at this time at a premium of 5 per ct. lt is true every bank would exchange their notes gratis---still whoever makes such a demand is looked upon as an enemy. There is another reason why Government should pay in Bank of England notes.

The Kingdom keeps their banking account with the Bank of England. The latter frequently assists the former and in return they ought not to make their payments in any other Bankers notes, but should assist their circulation. It is true the one pays a duty and of course aids the Revenue of the country, but this should not weigh on such a momentous question as the improvenent of the currency of the Nation.
I have conscientiously given you my opinion and in some measure against my inmediate welfare. If it will at all aid you in your difficult task it will answer the purpose of


                                                        Your obedient and humble servant

                                                                                Thomas Philipps

After this philosophical gloss on his failure Thomas Philipps turned his back on his banking career. Family tradition makes a political quarrel with Lord Milford the motive for his emigration. No clear cut evidence survives on this, though it is true that Philipps had been drawn by his brother in law of Slebech into the opposite camp in politics, and thereby prejudiced any standing he may have had with the ageing peer. Professional failure was the heart of the matter: and the disapproval of Nathaniel Phillips of Slebech and embarrassment of his other brother in law at Hill had consequences sufficient to drive his restless spirit to pastures new.




According to E. Morse Jones' 'Roll of British Settlers in South Africa (1971) the list of Philipps' contingent of emigrants was as follows: Thomas Philipps banker aged 44 (leader); Charlotte his wife aged 43; Catherine their daughter 17; Edward their son 16; Charlotte their daughter 14; Sophia their daughter 17; Frederick 9; Emma 6; and John 4.

The others were: Richard Butler aged 19; John Davis aged 38 and his son William aged 13; John Davis aged 23; William Davis aged 21; William Estment aged 16; Joshua Few, mason, aged 30 ;John Gittins aged 23 ; Benjamin James aged 27; David James aged 18 ; John James aged 21; Ann John aged 25 (with the leader) ; Charles Jones, joiner aged 21; William Jones aged 26 ; Robert Larkum aged 18; John Mack aged 19; Thomas Matthias aged 22; Mary Owen aged 20 (with the leader); Robert Owen aged 23; Jolm Phelps aged 25, mason; Henry Phillip aged 25; James Phillip aged 23; William Phillip aged 21; John Prout aged 23; David Pugh aged 23; John Rhenish aged 30; wife Catherine 30; son William 10; James Richards aged 22; Phillip Richards aged 25 and his wife Mary aged 22; William Rickards aged 21; George Shellard aged 25; John Stratton aged 25; wife Jane 22; Elizabeth (da) 2; Martha Thomas aged 18 (with the leader); Samuel Whareham 18 and wife Elizbeth 26; Peter Williams aged 25.

The 'Kennersley Castle' sailed from Bristol in December 1819, reaching Table Bay in March 1820 and Algoa Bay in April. The Pembrokeshire immigrants settled on an arm of the Bush River, at a place which Philipps named Lampeter. By 1825 the other settlers had dispersed leaving Philipps and his family at Lampeter. It is now (wrongly) called New Bristol.



1. A Keppel Jones ' Philipps, 1820 Settler', Pietermaritzburg 1960, page 78. The original letters in 5 volumes are preserved in the Cory library, Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

2. Ibid., p. 212.

3.  In view of the difficulties of ascertaining their pedigree, kindly pointed out to me by my friend Major Francis Jones, I go back no farther than Thomas Philipps.

4. PRO, Chatham mss 30/8/108 f147, Samuel Arbouin to W. Pitt 25 Feb. 1799.

5. West Wales Recs vi. 159.

6. What follows draws on N.L.W. Slebech MSS 9503-9552.

7. Gazette (1810) p. 1280, 1295; Times, 15, 27 Aug; 3, 5 Oct; 5 Nov 1810; 30 July 1811

8. BM, Huskisson MSS, Add. 38739 f. 327.