Samuel Boddington

The monument to Samuel Boddington memorialises the second son of Benjamin Boddington and Benjamin’s first wife, Sarah, who are both memorialised on the Boddington family monument in St Andrews.

The decision not to include Samuel within the list of Benjamin’s family on the Boddington family monument, fits with the focus of that monument on Benjamin’s three wives and those of Samuel’s brothers and sisters who died before or close to their fifth birthday.

However, both of Samuel’s sons, Benjamin’s grandsons, are recorded on the family monument, even though Samuel’s second son, Samuel Sidney Boddington, the last person to be added to the family monument in 1828, died much later in life then his siblings who are recorded alongside him.

The inclusion of Samuel Sidney on the Boddington family monument and the absence of any grandsons of Thomas Boddington, reflects the family dynamics within the wider Boddington family at that time. A dynamic which is more clearly seen in the absence on Samuel’s monument of any mention of his wife Grace – even though this monument was commissioned by Samuel and Grace’s only daughter and only surviving child, also called Grace.

Contemporary accounts tell us that Grace senior eloped with Samuel’s cousin and business partner Benjamin – only son of the same Benjamin Boddington senior, memorialised alongside his brother and Samuel junior’s father Thomas, on the Boddington family monument. We are told that this ended in a highly acrimonious divorce in 1798 and the whole affair was seen, at the time, as highly scandalous.

It was seen as scandalous not just because it was opposed to the Christian teaching of its day but also because it was viewed as an example of how divorce threatened the economic stability of the country.

‘Women were not their own person. In the law’s eye, they were property that was transferred from fathers to husbands. Legally, a woman’s function was to keep house and raise children. By having a wife, a man did not have to pay another woman to do these things, so getting married and giving room and board to a woman could be considered an investment. Break the continuity of that transfer, and chaos in the economic stability of England is not far behind… And, of course, a woman who carries on with a man who is not her husband might have children from that other man. This calls the line of inheritance into question, another economic consideration. Even rumours could cause big problems.’

This is therefore the context that we observe the absence of any mention of Benjamin junior or Samuel’s wife Grace, including Benjamin and Grace’s children – Thomas Boddington’s only grandchildren by a male heir – from both the Boddington family monument and the monument to Samuel Boddington.

Samuel’s response to Grace’s actions was to sue his cousin and in doing so, essentially ruin both his cousin and his ex-wife. Because women were seen as the property of their husband, the husband could sue the other man in a civil court and Samuel sued Benjamin for his inheritance. However, Benjamin and Grace, who subsequently married, went on to have seven children together before Grace died at the early age of 37 in 1812. Benjamin lived for another 41 years but never remarried.

The fact that ‘your’ wife was seen in law as an economic asset and you were therefore subject to redress if they were ‘freed’ had, at its root, the same view of ‘…some classes of people were considered as property and, therefore, sub-human’ that resulted in the British Government granting £39,712, or 2.5 million pounds in today’s money, to Samuel Boddington ‘…in compensation for 2100 enslaved people in Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Vincent and Jamaica.’

‘When slavery was abolished in parts of the British Empire in 1833, it was the slave owners who were compensated by the government for the loss of their “property”. The total sum given to them was £20 million, which was 40% of the national budget, equivalent to some £300 billion today. The British taxpayer helped to pay back the loan required for this – a debt that was only settled in 2015.’