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by Jon Malings

The thing about genealogy is that you never know where it will lead…. 

The Deddington Parish Register for February 13th 1822: William Malings of Somerton married Charlotte Bloxham of this Parish, by Banns. Witnessed: William Bloxham, Mary Bloxham. 

William Malings was the nephew of my 4* great grandfather Robert. The witnesses, William and Mary were two of Charlotte Bloxham’s seven siblings. You can read more about the Malings and Bloxham families by following this link.  

At least one person has done so because I received an email, asking for more information, from a descendant of another of Charlotte’s brothers, Edward Bloxham.  He had emigrated to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in the early 1830’s along with his brother Joseph, sister Elizabeth and their spouses and children. 

I knew that, among the Cartwright family papers in the Northampton Records Office, there was a list of people who had left Deddington in 1832, as a group, to start a new life in Quebec, and I expected the Bloxhams to be amongst this party. While I was waiting for a copy of the list I researched the local newspaper, Jackson's Oxford Journal, to try and find any mention of the migrants. 

And there it was, May 12th 1832. “Last week 72 persons, inhabitants of Deddington, in this county, embarked on boats for Liverpool, on their passage to Quebec and Montreal. The expences of their passage &c. were defrayed by subscription, to which many of the land-owners contributed substantially.” 

It's not generally realised that, in the era before railways, canals were not just used for transporting cargo but people too. The Deddington passengers probably "set sail" from Aynho Wharf, just a few miles outside the parish boundary.


On April 26th 1834, the Journal printed an item about the parliamentary report on the working of the Poor Laws by D. O. P. Okeden “Emigration has taken place from a few parishes…... Deddington sent to North America about 50 last year, but their fate was melancholy, and damped the spirit of emigration in the district. They formed a part of the crew of the Brutus, of Liverpool, the major part of whom died of cholera.”

In 1832 the whole of Europe was in the grip of a cholera epidemic. the Lancashire Gazette, June 2, reported 10,429 cases to date across England and Wales with 3,941 deaths. Emigrants carried the disease across the Atlantic as The Morning Post, July 14, confirmed: 

"The advices from Quebec reach to the 19th Ult. inclusive, and have, as naturally may be expected, been read with considerable anxiety. It appears that out of 800 cases of cholera there have been 500 deaths: 200 deaths occurred on the 14th of June. Business is necessarily suspended and the merchants are quitting the town.  On the 2d June there were 5000 emigrants of the lowest description, and of very filthy habits, concentrated in Quebec, in which city the habits of the French inhabitants are excessively dirty.  Many of the letters we have seen attribute the appearance of the disease in Canada to this circumstance.  The Irish have been also indulging in excessive drinking since they have landed...The next accounts are anxiously looked for."      

The dreadful story of the Deddington emigrants is best told by the Liverpool Mercury newspaper, which reveals it in the style and with the detail one would expect of 1830’s journalism.

June 15   

A letter from “An Englishman who "sympathises with all those who feel compelled to quit the Island”, and notes that the Brutus has arrived back in port and that 82 persons aboard died of Cholera.  He suggests setting up a subscription for the relief of the remaining passengers.

The Mercury then carried the story in full. with a list of the dead: SHIP BRUTUS.—AWFUL MORTALITY. This was followed by a report from the Surgeon on board and then a piece hinting at misdeeds by the owners of the vessel : “in our opinion, a full investigation of the circumstances of the case ought to be instituted.”.   

June 22

A letter of thanks from the passengers “To the Worshipful the Mayor and inhabitants of Liverpool.”

An item thanking correspondents who have sent in money, “…we feel at a loss how to dispose of it, or to whom to entrust it. We shall, however, make the requisite inquiry.”

ACCOMMODATION FOR EMIGRANTS—THE AMERICAN LAW MUCH MORE HUMANE THAN THE ENGLISH LAW¾THE SHIP BRUTUSAn article hilighting the number of passengers carried on the Brutus and how this “overcrowding” was conducive to the spread of the Cholera

June 29

A letter to the editor, again calling for a fund to be set up to help the passengers. “We shall feel great pleasure in your acceptance of our mite of ten pounds for their relief”

July 6

The Editor's response to those who had sent money to the Mercury for the relief of the passengers:  “We have done our duty in the affair, and as we have much more of our own business than we can well attend to, we must decline further interference beyond recommending those of the sufferers, who choose to avail themselves of such an accommodation, a temporary refuge in the Night Asylum." 

According to the Liverpool Times of July 10 the city had had 1381 cases of Cholera and 386 deaths since May 12. There appears to have been some attempt to play down the incidence of the disease “to allay the panic which is now doing so much mischief the country.”  The Mercury carried the story: “WAS THE COMPLAINT ON BOARD THE BRUTUS THE CHOLERA?” and also a letter offering a cure for the disease.

The return of the Brutus to Liverpool led to one of the passengers being arrested for murder. Discovery of a Murderer on Board the Ship Brutus also appeared in this edition.


In a scurrilous piece about the Duke of Buckingham the Mercury of July 6th indicates what has happened to at least some of the surviving passengers: “The Duke of Buckingham.—This nobleman, on hearing of the return of the Brutus sent the sum of £10 for the relief of certain Buckinghamshire families who had embarked on board of her,—but it is said that on being informed that the individuals whom he desired to relieve had sailed in another vessel, his Grace directed that the money should be returned to him The report must be a libel on the Noble Duke, for it is impossible that he could have acted so shabbily, when so many necessitous persons stood in need of relief, though they did not happen to be those individuals for whom his bounty was originally intended. “

Follow this link to discover more about the Deddington emigrants. 

I should mention that I am still looking for more about “my” Bloxhams as, fortunately for them, they were not in the party that sailed in the ill-fated Brutus.


The advertisement for S. Hopkins boats is  ©  The British Library Board.  Jackson’s Oxford Journal