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Elizabeth Cook, Her Will and Her Legatees: Part 2


Captain James Cook died in 1779.  His wife, Elizabeth, survived her husband by some 56 years, passing away on 13 May, 1835, at the age of 93.  In the first part of this article,1 I described how I came to transcribe her Will of over 7,000 words, and to research the legatees of the Will.  These legatees are best described in three groups: James Cook’s family, Elizabeth Cook’s family, and Unrelated Legatees.  As there were so many legatees in Elizabeth Cook’s family, I shall write about them in this, the second part of this article. 


Elizabeth’s father was Samuel Batts who ran the Bell Alehouse at Execution Dock in Wapping.2  None of his relatives appear in the Will.  Her mother was Mary Smith, daughter of Charles, a currier of Bermondsey, London.  Mary had several siblings, one of whom was Charles.  He had married Charity Coleman in 1720, and they had several children.  It was the descendants of the two sons, Charles (1724-1801) and Samuel (1727-1802), who benefited from the Will.  The relationship of these cousins of Elizabeth, and their descendants, proved to be complex to unravel.  I was greatly helped by the book, Coal and Calico,3 which contains the letters and papers of the Bennett and Leach Families of Merton and Wandsworth.


Legatees from cousin Charles Smith’s Family


Elizabeth Cook’s cousin Charles Smith (1724-1801) was a clock and watch maker.  His house and factory were at Bunhill Row, Islington, London.4  He married Hannah Savage, and they had several children who are described below.  One other, Nathaniel Smith (1769-1810), is not included as he was not a legatee of the Will. 


Isaac Smith (1753-1831) was just 13 years old when he sailed as an able seaman (AB) with James Cook in Grenville to Newfoundland.  Isaac then moved with Cook to Endeavour, first as an AB, then as a midshipman, and, in 1771, as a master’s mate.  Isaac went in Resolution on Cook’s Second Voyage, again as a master’s mate.  His career progressed, and by the time he retired in 1804, he was a rear admiral.  He died a bachelor. 


Charles Smith (1755-1827) married Elizabeth Lancaster, but they remained childless.  He was a wholesale clock and watchmaker at Bunhill Row, London, and had a large business.  Charles became the owner of one third of the Merton Abbey estate, and occupied Abbey House, later known as the Merton Gate House.  He also took a 42-year lease on the whole property, which expired in 1843. 


In 1801, Lord Horatio Nelson, and Sir William and Lady Emma Hamilton were living at nearby Merton Place.  This house was purchased by Nelson in 1802.  When he died in 1805, it passed to Emma Hamilton, who lived there until 1808.  The house was sold by her trustees, and demolished.  The site was event­ually purchased by Isaac Smith, who inherited his brother Charles’s property on his death, and the site of Nelson’s House became known as Nelson’s Field. 


Timothy Smith (1757-1817) married Elizabeth Robertson in 1812.  At the time, he was a widower, and she was a widow, her previous husband being a George Robertson.  Timothy died childless.  In his will, signed in 1814,5 Timothy left everything to his wife Elizabeth, and, if she died, to her son James Dempster Robertson.  The executor to Timothy’s will was his brother Isaac Smith, of Clapham.  There is a hint of Timothy’s naval connection in the sale of his household effects in 1818, as among the items was a day and night Telescope by Dolland, and a cask of fine old rum.6  At his death, Timothy was living at White House, Mitcham, Surrey. 


Ann Smith (1760-1797) married William Wilson and had two sons, William and James.  The sons were both bequeathed annuities in the Will, which stated that William was formerly at Rotherhithe.  They were also both beneficiaries in Admiral Isaac Smith’s will.7  Ann Wilson was buried in April 1797 at Bunhill Fields, which lies off Bunhill Row.  She was of the Dissenters faith.  Also, her baby Ann died aged 10 months, and was buried on 31 July, 1796. 


Ursula Smith (1767-1802) married John Cragg in 1787 at Finsbury, London.  He was a beneficiary in the Will.  John was apprenticed to his brother-in-law Charles Smith (1755-1827) in 1780,8 and worked in his firm at Bunhill Row.  John and Ursula Cragg had a large family; their children are described below. 


Legatees from Ursula Cragg’s Family


Mary Cragg (1792-1878) married John Adams FRCS, a surgeon, in 1816.  Of their many children, two sons became surgeons like their father.  The family lived in Finsbury, London.  In the Will, Mary is to inherit the furniture in Elizabeth’s “back Parlour or Drawing room”,9 and the china in her wine cellar.  


Isaac Cragg Smith (1793-1831) married Caroline Wyatt in 1822.  She died the following year in childbirth, along with their baby.  Isaac was a chronometer maker, who worked in the firm of his uncle Charles Smith (1755-1827).  Caroline was a member of the famous Wyatt dynasty of artists, architects, and surveyors.  It was Caroline’s brother Richard James Wyatt who sculpted the Smith monument in Merton church.10  This memorial, paid for by Elizabeth Cook, is to four people (left-to-right): Isaac Cragg Smith and his wife Caroline, and to Admiral Isaac Smith and his brother Charles.  Isaac Cragg Smith had been born Isaac Cragg, but went through the process of changing his surname from Smith to Cragg Smith in 1821, at the request of his maternal uncle, Admiral Isaac Smith.  When the Admiral died on 2 July, 1831, Isaac Cragg Smith inherited his uncle Isaac’s property.  This new ownership of Merton proved short lived, as Isaac Cragg Smith passed away later that year on 7 December, 1831, after a short illness.


Isaac Cragg Smith bequeathed Elizabeth Cook an annuity of £500 for her lifetime; his will stipulated that she was to have the use, occupation and enjoyment of the house, gardens and fields within the walls of Merton Abbey, with the use of all the household goods, furniture, books and china for her lifetime.11  He also bequeathed her all the stores of provisions in the house, and all the wines, spirits and beer.  Isaac Cragg Smith left Merton to the eldest son of his sister Ann Mackrell (née Cragg). 


Ann Cragg (1796-1875) married Robert Mackrell, a corn factor of Wiltshire.  It appears that when her sister Maria Cragg married in October 1820, Ann took over from her as companion to Elizabeth Cook, until her own marriage to Robert in December 1820.  Ann was left a widow in 1839, and was a beneficiary in the Will.  She died at Clapham, where she had lived with two of her three children, both of whom were unmarried: John, an attorney and solicitor of Clapham, and Louisa Jane.  Ann’s eldest son Charles Robert Mackrell inherited Merton Abbey from his uncle Isaac Cragg Smith in 1831.  When Charles came of age in 1841, he changed his surname to Smith, whereas his uncle had, in 1821, kept his surname of Cragg, and added Smith after it.  When he died in 1882, the estate passed to his brother John. 


When Charles’s wife Katharine (née Heathcote) died in 1903, Lord Nelson’s valuable walnut cabinet was sold as part of her estate; it had been in the Smith family for 98 years, having been bought by Charles Smith (1755-1827) of Merton Abbey after Nelson’s death in 1805.12


John Mackrell (1824-1909) inherited Merton from his brother Charles Robert Smith (Charles Robert formerly Mackrell) in 1882.  In 1905, on the centenary of Nelson’s death, John gave land to Merton Parish Council, the site of Nelson’s Merton Place, for playing fields.  A memorial stands there today to Nelson, mentioning it is on land given by the great nephew of Rear Admiral Isaac Smith.13  John Mackrell was a bachelor.  He lived at Clapham Common.14


Maria Cragg (1798-1841) married John Leach Bennett (1798-1873) in October 1820.  The couple’s only son, Canon Frederick Bennett (1822-1903), was the family archivist, and passed down a lot of letters and notes about the family.  It seems that Maria spent much time with Elizabeth Cook, and acted as a companion to her.  In May 1820, before her marriage, Maria accompanied Elizabeth, aged 78, to Cheltenham.  In one of Maria’s letters to her future husband, John Leach Bennett, Maria told him Elizabeth had been suffering from a cold, but had accompanied her on shopping trips. 


John Leach Bennett was a Trustee and Executor to Elizabeth’s will.  He possessed a thermometer that was said to have been round the world with Captain Cook, and he presented to Greenwich Hospital the death scene of Cook at Hawai`i painted by Johann Zoffany.15  The painting is now held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.16


Elizabeth Cook took a great interest in John Leach Bennett, a large heavy man with a fine presence.  His family had started the factory system on the river Wandle in Surrey, printing calico, and his business ability and inheritances allowed him time for a public life.  He was kind and loyal to the older residents of his locality, and held the office of Chairman of the Kingston Board of Guardians for eighteen years.17


Both John Leach Bennett and his wife Maria were beneficiaries of the Will, and he inherited the residue of Elizabeth Cook’s estate.  The couple had four children.18  When John Leach Bennett’s parents moved to Merton in 1802, Lord Nelson was their nearest neighbour. 


Jane Cragg (1800-1878) married Rev. John W H Marshall, Rector of Ovingdean in 1826.  Jane was a beneficiary in the Will, receiving one third share of the wines and spirits left in the house of Elizabeth Cook.  John Marshall died in 1841, taking his own life.  After Jane’s sister Maria died (also in 1841), John Marshall’s sister Louisa became the second wife of John Leach Bennett in 1843. 


Ursula Cragg (1802-1854) married James Jew, a silversmith of Gloucester, in 1821, at Merton.  He took his own life in 1835.  In 1843, Ursula married George Lind, a master mariner, at Brighton.  Ursula was a beneficiary in the Will.  When she passed away in 1854, she was buried at Merton.  It is thought she did not have any children. 


Legatees from cousin Samuel Smith’s Family


Elizabeth Cook’s cousin Samuel Smith (1727-1802) was baptised in February 1727, at a time when Britain was using the Julian calendar, so 1728 did not begin until 25 March.  Samuel had several sons, including Charles Smith (1749-1825), Tobias Smith (1759-?), and John Smith.  


Charles Smith (1749-1825) had several children, some of whom were beneficiaries of the Will. 


Charles Smith (1781-1833) was a ship’s agent at Camberwell.  He married Frances (maiden name unknown), who lived at Brunswick Place, Bowyer Lane, Lambeth.  She became a beneficiary in the Will.  Elizabeth Cook also left a sum in trust for Frances’s three children: Marian Ellen Smith, born 1812; Charles James Smith, born 1814; and Frances Smith, born 1816.  According to the census records of 1861 and of 1871, the girls were spinsters, living with their Uncle John Smith, in Lancashire. 


Ann Smith (1782-1865) married her cousin Captain John Smith (1782-1836) of the Honourable East India Company Service (HEICS) in 1809.  According to the Will Ann lived at Grove Road, Mile End, and inherited all Elizabeth’s wearing apparel, household linen, china and ornaments, as well as everything in Elizabeth’s front parlour. 


In 1860 Ann subscribed to the “Captain Cook’s National Monument Testimonial Fund”,19 after a Provisional Committee had been established to raise a UK Memorial to her famous relative.  The Committee included two of her sons: Charles Cook Smith, born 1820, and Isaac Bressey Smith, born 1824.20  It is not known what happened to the fund.  Possibly it led to the national monument proposed in 1908 by Joseph Carruthers KCMG (former Prime Minister of New South Wales), which resulted in a Captain Cook statue being placed in The Mall, London.21


James Smith (1786-1849) joined the HEICS rising to Colonel by the time he is mentioned in the Will.  He was bequeathed one third of the wines and spiritous liquors in Elizabeth Cook’s house.  In 1836 he was described as “Lieut. Colonel James Smith, late of the Madras Cavalry” in the will of his brother-in-law John Smith, husband of James’s sister Ann.  James died in Torquay.22 


Winifred Smith (1788-1862) married Joseph Newcombe (1786-1849), a victualler, in 1810.  In the Will she is living at Little New Street, New Fetter Lane, London.  In the 1861 census she was a widow, and a House Proprietor, living in Islington. 


Catherine Hammond Smith (1791-1833) mar­ried William Henry Newcombe (1786-1829), a goldsmith in 1812, at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney.  He was a brother of Joseph Newcombe who had married Winifred Smith.  Elizabeth Cook left money in trust for Catherine’s children: Katherine, born 1814; Louise Ann, born 1816; Ann Sophia, born 1820; William Charles, born 1827; and Jane Greig, born 1828. 


Robert Smith (1796-?) married Elizabeth Maria Jack in 1825 in London.  She was born at the Cape of Good Hope.  Robert was a Custom House Agent.  He was left a bequest in the Will, as were his children: Robert Anderson, born 1828; Elizabeth Maria, born 1830; Alfred Charles, born 1831; and Alexander James, born 1833. 


John Smith (1799-?) was living near Havre, France, at the time he became a beneficiary in the Will.  In the 1851 and 1861 census returns he was living near Liverpool, Lancashire, with the daugh­ters of his late brother Charles Smith (1781-1833).  He was a Commission Agent, and Broker. 


Another legatee from Samuel Smith’s Family


John Smith (1782-1836) was the son of either Tobias Smith (1759-?) or his brother John.  After being left an orphan when very young, his extended family provide for his education, after which he was bound apprentice.  However, he left without permis­sion, and joined the navy via the Marine Society, London, in 1798.  He rose from ship’s boy to midshipman, becoming a master’s mate in 1801.  He was involved in a great deal of action, such as the 1803 bombardment of Granville, Normandy, France, as part of the squadron under Sir James Saumarez. 


In 1805 John sat his lieutenant’s examination for which he needed testimonials from captains he had served under.  He received one from Philip Carteret (later Sir Philip Carteret Silvester), son of the circumnavigator Philip Carteret, who wrote of John’s zeal, merit, and enterprising character.  On signing it Captain Carteret handed it to John personally at Sheerness.  John was nearly crushed to death in 1813 when he was struck by a main boom in a ship, and spent more than a month in bed recovering.  However, he did, and carried on with his illustrious naval service.  In 1812 he was promoted to commander, and in 1822 he was made post captain.23 


Eventually, John was entrusted by Elizabeth Cook with Captain Cook’s books, charts and instruments that had remained in her possession.  When John died in 1836, his address was Grove Road, Mile End, London.  In his own will he bequeathed to his son Charles Cook Smith “3 sets of books, formerly belonging to Captain James Cook, and some of the charts and instruments also once the property of Captain Cook”.  To his eldest son James he be­queathed “three sets of books to be chosen by himself, and all the books of charts in the Chart chest below the stairs, some of which are very valuable”.24  Charts at this time belonged to the military or naval surveyor who drew them during the course of his duties, which meant that Captain Cook had been allowed to either keep some of his charts or sell them for his private profit.25


John Smith married his first cousin Ann Smith (above).  He was a beneficiary in the Will, and also inherited one third of the wines and spirits in Elizabeth Cook’s house on her decease. 


Other Information


Elizabeth Cook bequeathed a total of £6,900 to her husband’s family, including £3,700 in trust.  To her cousin Charles Smith’s family she left a total of £8,000, including £250 in trust.  To her cousin Samuel Smith’s family she left a total of £22,100, of which £12,800 was in trust.  The residuary heir was named as John Leach Bennett, i.e. he was left everything else after the specific gifts had been distributed. 


Canon Frederick Bennett, was possibly the last person to have a personal recollection of Elizabeth Cook—he was thirteen years of age when she died.  He communicated with two of Captain Cook’s biographers, Arthur Kitson and Sir Walter Besant, loaning them documents, and passing on his memories of her.  Canon Bennett recalled that no private papers of any value were left by Mrs Cook.  She had, apparently, destroyed them all, as she held them too sacred to be seen by any other person than herself.  Bennett described her as a well-educated, handsome and venerable lady, of good manners and full of dignity.  She wore a ring containing some of her husband’s hair, and like many widows of sailors, could never sleep when there was a high wind.  She always referred to her husband as “Mr Cook”, and always wore a dress of black satin.  She kept four days of solemn fasting each year, when she stayed in her own room, in prayer, on the anniversaries of the death of her husband and their three boys.  On Thursdays she served dinner to her friends, always at 3 o’clock.  Her house was filled with relics and collections from Cook’s voyages, as well as drawings and maps.26  The drawings and charts had been returned to her by the Government after they had been published. 


On Elizabeth Cook’s death, her total property was said to be just under £60,000.27 

Wendy Wales


  1. Cook’s Log.  2020.  Vol. 43, no. 3.  Pages 38-40
  2. Cook’s Log.  2007.  Vol. 30, no. 4.  Pages 37-38. 
  3. Goodman, Judith.Coal and Calico: Letters and papers of the Bennett and Leach families of Merton and Wandsworth.Merton Historical Society. 2008.
  4. Besant, Walter.Captain Cook. Macmillan. 1890.
  5. PROB 11/1600. Held at The National Archives (TNA) Kew.
  6. Morning Chronicle.  9 March, 1818.  Page 4. 
  7. PROB 11/1788. Held at TNA.
  8. UK Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures. 23 February, 1780. Derived from Board of Stamps: Apprenticeship Books, Series IR 1. Held at TNA.
  9. Cook’s Log.  2002.  Vol 25, no. 2.  Page 1940. 
  10. Cook’s Log.  2011.  Vol. 34, no. 1.  Pages 31-34. 
  11. PROB 11/1794. Held at TNA.
  12. Norwich Mercury.  19 July, 1903.  Page 8. 
  13. Surrey Comet.  28 October, 1905.  Page 5. 
  14. Cook’s Log.  2005.  Vol. 28, no. 3.  Page 27. 
  15. Surrey Comet.  31 August, 1907.  Page 7. 
  16. collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/11916.html
  17. Surrey Comet.  22 December, 1906.  Page 7. 
  18. Cook’s Log.  2012.  Vol. 35, no. 4.  Page 21. 
  19. Cook’s Log.  2014.  Vol. 37, no. 1.  Page 23. 
  20. East London Observer. 29 September, 1860.  Page 1. 
  21. Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph.  3 April, 1909.  Page 6. 
  22. Cook’s Log.  2009.  Vol. 32, no. 1.  Pages 3-7.
  23. Marshall, John. “John Smith” in volume 12 of Royal Naval Biography.12 volumes.London: 1823-35 (pp. 407-418).
  24. PROB 11/1863. Held at TNA.
  25. Taylor, E.G.R. The Mathematical Practitioners of Hanoverian England. 1714-1840. Cambridge University Press for the Institute of Navigation. 1966.
  26. Surrey Comet.  31 August, 1907.  Page 7. 
  27. ibid

    Originally published in Cook's Log, page 12, volume 43, number 4 (2020).

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