About Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett
The Barrett Family in Jamaica
By F.J. duQuesnay
The first member of this famous family who came to Jamaica was Hersey Barrett. This pioneer was one of the number in the army of occupation under Penn and Venables. He was the great-great-great-great grandfather of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poetess of 50, Wimpole Street in London.
The first recorded land patent in the Barrett name was recorded in 1663 in Spanish Town, given and granted by King Charles II to Hersey Barrett and his heirs for encouragement to continue in the Island of Jamaica. This patent is signed by Sir Thomas Modyford, governor, and close friend of Henry Morgan. This is to this present time, a Barrett Street in Spanish Town, and it is probably that the land granted to the family in 1663 was situated in this area of the town.
Hersey Barrett had to sons: Hersey born in 1650 in England, and Samuel born in Jamaica in 1662. He also had a property in Vere between Carlisle Bay and Milk River called “Withywood”, Hersey the pioneer died in 1685. His wife, circa 1670, and his son Hersey in 1726 aged 76. He is buried in the Cathedral in Spanish Town and his tombstone can still be seen there.
Samuel Barrett died in the French invasion at Carlisle Bay age 32, leaving three children, Richard, Samuel and Anne.
Samuel Jnr. acquired land on the Northcoast in St. James called “Cornwall”. He married Elizabeth Wisdom. The Wisdoms were early settlers of the North Coast and owned land near Martha Brae in St. James. Samuel married Elizabeth circa 1721. In 1834 Edward Barrett, their fourth son was born. They eventually had 15 children.
Cinnamon Hill Great House was started by Samuel and finished by his son Edward. Samuel died in 1760 at Cinnamon Hill and was buried in the graveyard there. Edward married Judith Goodin of Spring Estate a few miles west of Rose Hall in 1760. Their daughter Elizabeth married Charles Moulton in 1781, and from this union sprang the Moulton-Barrett family.
Charles Moulton’s father was supposed to be in command of a man-of-war stationed in the West Indies. He was from Norfolk, and the family held lands in Shipden and Ormsby overlooking the North Sea from 1450.
The first child of the union Sarah Goodin Moulton born 1783 at Cinnamon Hill, immortalized by the famous portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence, “Pinkie”, painted when she was 12 years old. She died shortly afterwards in 1795.
Edward Barrett Moulton, the second child, was born in 1785, also at Cinnamon Hill, and was later to become the father of Elizabeth Barrett of Wimpole Street, wife of Robert Browning.
Edward Barrett Moulton took the name and arms of Barrett by license in 1798, becoming known as Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett.
Both Sarah and Edward left Jamaica at an early age to be educated in England, and never again did they return to the island of their birth.
About Edward, Robert Browning, later to become his son-in-law, tells us that ‘on the early death of his father, he was brought from Jamaica to England, as a ward to Chief Baron Lord Abinger.’ He attending school at Harrow. In 1805 he married Mary Clarke of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Their first child Elizabeth (the poetess), was born in March 1806. There were ten more children later from this union.
On the death of his grandfather Edward Barrett, he became heir to the Jamaican properties in 1798. As far as his properties in Jamaica were concerned he was always an absentee proprietor. His only brother Samuel ran Cinnamon Hill and Cornwall properties for many years, also Retreat in St. Ann where he was Custos.
Samuel had also gone to England for his education. He died in 1837, at which time Samuel, Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett’s own son, was sent to the island to manage affairs. He did not live long, for three years later the Cinnamon Hill graveyard had claimed him. Charles John Moulton-Barrett (‘Stormie’) and Septimus (‘Sette’), two younger sons of Edward then took over the estates.
Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett’s wife Mary died in 1828. The year 1840 had been a hard year for the family. Samuel, Edward’s son had died in Jamaica in February, and in July Edward (‘Bro’) another son, died tragically in England. Elizabeth, their sister, had a special fondness for ‘Bro’ and had been most thankful for his safe return to England after he had visited the Jamaican properties in 1835, only to suffer the sorrow of his death by drowning in 1840.
With the loss of her mother and two brothers, life at 50 Wimpole Street, where she had been an invalid for years, became darker than ever, - but this gloom was not to last for ever. In 1845 Robert Browning wrote: “I love your verses with all my heart dear Miss Barrett,” and this first of a host of letters was to bring her out of despair to a life of happiness and restored health.
Their love affair together was one of the most sweeping romances of all time. Their meetings, when he visited her in her father’s absence at 50 Wimpole Street; their talks together when he gave her new incentives to live; her gradual recovery under the strong influence of love; their secret marriage, when she left the house early one morning, accompanied by Wilson her faithful maid, to be wed in a little church in London with the barest number of witnesses, her final elopement a few days later, and her escape to happiness with her Robert to Italy in September, 1846.
One may ask why this secret? It is impossible to doubt the fact that the alliance of Elizabeth with Robert Browning would not have met with the approval of her parent, since her father amongst other things, did not consider Browning to be of the same social standing, else she, who was the most sincere and devoted person would not have had to resort to deception of any kind. She saw her only chance for happiness and took it.
Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett died in 1857 and at his death his son Charles John took up the inheritance. Unfortunately, he disliked estate work, and retired to Retreat Pen in St. Ann. His brother Septimus became attorney for his estate. Septimus was the last of the family to reside at Cinnamon Hill. He died in 1870, and is interred in the property graveyard. Charles John married Anne Young of Jamaica at Brown’s Town in 1865. He died at Clifton, Trelawny, in 1905 and was buried at Retreat, St. Ann.
It was not the end of the family in Jamaica. Amongst the sons of Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett was Alfred, born in 1820. In 1855 he his cousin Georgiana, daughter of George Goodin Barrett. They had four children. Their eldest son, Colonel Edward Alfred Moulton-Barrett, C.M.G., whose name is so well known to us here in this present century, came to Jamaica and lived at Albion, St. Ann. -------------------- Edward Barrett Moulton took the name and arms of Barrett by license in 1798, becoming known as Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett. Both Edward and his sister Sarah left Jamaica at an early age to be educated in England, and never again did they return to the island of their birth. About Edward, Robert Browning, later to become his son-in-law, tells us that on the early death of his father, he was brought from Jamaica to England, as a ward to Chief Baron Lord Abinger. He attended school at Harrow. In 1805 he married Mary Clarke of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Their first child Elizabeth (the poetess), was born in March 1806. There were ten more children later from this union.