Further History

Caversham Court in the 17th & 18th Centuries

Black History

Reading's early black history (Reading Museum blog in March 2021 https://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/blog/reading-early-black-history) sparked a great deal of interest amongst members of the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens. The blog mentions Dorothy Blake, a black nurse whose portrait hung in the Rectory (as Caversham Court used to be known) in the 18th century. This was the period when the Loveday family lived in the house. The portrait of Dorothy is mentioned in the family diaries, 'though we have no further evidence that she lived in Caversham.

Dorothy was said to have been originally "given to one of John Loveday's aunts by a Guinea Captain"., presumably the captain of a ship trading with West Africa. We know that the aunt, Lady Ann Hopkins, left a legacy to provide for the nurse, who died in 1780. Dorothy must have been the same black servant who was recorded as being baptised in 1728 at St Mary's Church, Leyton, and who was listed as maid servant to Sir Richard Hopkins of Lea Hall, off Capworth Street.

Sir Richard Hopkins was governor of Royal Exchange Assurance and a sub-governer of the South Sea Company after the 'bubble' burst. Whig Member of parliament for the City of London in 1724-27, Hopkins died in 1736, an immensely wealthy man with extensive property interests in England.

The Loveday family of Caversham

The Loveday family of Caversham lived a much more modest lifestyle to Sir Richard Hopkins. Thomas Loveday, goldsmith, banker and Freeman of the City of London, left the capital in 1665 to escape the plague. He rented a substantial, 'though not particularly grand, house and estate in Caversham, at that time in Oxfordshire. The Caversham Rectory would be the family home for over a century.

When Thomas died in 1681, the probate documents listed all the contents of the house, garden and workshop and also listed his many debtors and creditors. Among the former were ships' captains and owners, to whom Loveday lent money on security of a part of the ship's cargo: men such as Benjamin Simonds who in 1664 borrowed £130 on security of a quarter of the ship 'Affrican Frigott". Captain Simonds belonged to the Royal African Company, which was set up in 1660 and was granted a monopoly over English trade with the west coast of Africa. Originally intended to exploit the gold fields of the Gambia River, the company later became involved in what was known as the triangular trade: arms, textiles and wine were shipped from Europe to Africa, slaves from Africa to the Americas, and sugar, coffee and tobacco from the Americas to Europe. Thanks to the banking activities, Thomas Loveday left his family financially secure: his widow Mary (Thomas' third wife) made a good living out of property rents and selling the produce of the Caversham estate, including fruit grown in the kitchen garden and orchard. We know that Mary Loveday lived in the main Caversham house and rented out another, and that in 1702 her income from the estate was £24 per annum, including £10 or £12 from the sale of fruit from her 60 apricot trees. (Estmating the modern day equivalent is notoriously tricky: the Measuring Wealth website puts the relative income value of £24 in 2020 at around £60,000 while the National Archives' currency converter gives the purchasing power of the sum of £2,567.60).

Thomas Loveday's Srs. son, also Thomas, made an advantageous match, marrying Sarah Lethieullier, the daughter of a wealthy family of merchants trading with the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. Sarah's sister, Ann, was married to Sir Richard Hopkins, the city merchan to whom Dorothy Blake was maid servant. the son of Thomas Jnr. and Sarah , John Loveday (1711- 1789) was an aniquarian scholar who enthusiastically toured the landed estates of Britain over the course of decades, noting in his extensive diaries details of art works in the owners' collections. The Loveday family left The Rectory for Williamscote in Oxfordshire at the very end of the 18th century, in 1799.

The Simonds family

In the 19th century, the family who lived in The Old Rectory, the Simonds family, established their wealth, again, through banking and through brewing. In 1813 Simonds brewery won an important contract to supply beer to The Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Simonds were a pioneer of pale ale in the 1830s, exporting India pale ale to the British Army in India. When the British Army moved to Aldershot, Simonds again gained the contract in 1882. Overseas branches were formed to deal with the army's needs in such places as Malta and Gibraltar, parts of the expanding British Empire.

The Loveday and Simonds families were part of the economy of England in the 17th to 19th centuries, an economy based upon wealth originally created by trade, some of it to the slave trade, with lands in what was to become the British Empire, and elsewhere around the globe.


The Gazebo and Caversham Court, Reading by Sarah Markham and H Godwin Arnold

Caversham Court Gardens: A Heritage Guide, Friends of Caversham Court Gardens.

I**nventory, Thomas Loveday 1682 London Metropolitan Archive

Personal communications with descendants of the Loveday family.

John Kennedy, A history of the Parish of Leyton, Essex, Phelps Brothers, Leyton 1894 , pp 118. In: Lea Hall, Capworth Street and the Forger Joseph Hunton by David Ian Chapman of the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical society 2015.

Brian Rotheray A History of Caversham Park, BBC Monitoring.

Simonds Family Website https://simondsfamily.me.uk/https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs. UCL Centre for the study of the Legacies of British Slavery.


John Loveday of Caversham

A paper on John Loveday was published in the Berkshire Family Historian, the Journal of the Berkshire Family History Society Volume 41, September 2017. It remains copyright of the Society and thanks are given to the editor for the permission to reproduce it. In the paper, Dr Gillian Clark takes a look at the notable Caversham resident John Loveday. The paper can be accesses from the link to the John Loveday website below

Loveday Family Documents

Mr and Mrs John Markham, descendants of the Loveday family, presented several family documents and letters to County Archivist Mark Stevens of the Berkshire Records Office in April. Once the documents are catalogued The Friends will be able to view them and also see them online.

The Markhams also presented the original of the Barbara Seton drawing of the 'Striped House' to Elaine Blake, Exhibitions Curator at Reading Museum. The Friends will be welcome to view the drawing at the museum once it has been cleaned and curated.

Cavershan Court time line 7 February 2022)