The Seabrooke Family
Norma Leach, October, 2010

The early years
Roger Seabrooke had been a farmer in Buckinghamshire and married Sarah Hoggart at Shadwell, London in 1761, when she was still a minor. Their first child, who they named John, was born the following year and Roger was elected ale-conner (Chief Officer of Customs) in Grays in 1774 – the forerunner of today’s Trading Standards officer. The Seabrooke brewery business was established in Grays about 1800 by Roger’s fourth son Thomas, born in Grays in 1768, one of 13 children. Apart from being a brickmaker, he founded the brewery in the High Street, Grays, near the waterfront. In 1819 Thomas bought premises at the south end of Bridge Road, which provided plenty of room for expansion and further parcels of land were bought.

Thomas and his wife Jane (née Ward) had four children; they had been married at St Clement Danes, Westminster in 1800. Their daughters Susannah Charlotte (1802-1880) and Anna (1806-1837) did not marry. Their elder son William was 43 when he died in 1847. It is not known whether he worked with his father and may have been the William Seabrooke working as a waterman in Grays in 1841. However, their son James was taken into partnership in the brewery. Thomas was still working as a brewer aged 72, but had retired ten years later. He died aged 86 in 1855, his wife having predeceased him five years earlier.

James Seabrooke
Thomas’s son James was born in Grays in 1809 and apart from being a brewer, he also became a maltster, coal and salt merchant, and a wharfinger. He married Sarah Fletcher at Gravesend in 1840 and they had a son Charles and two daughters Jane and Alice, who married brothers Harry and William Emerson Wallis, underwriters; their father was Thomas Wilkinson Wallis, a renowned sculptor in wood. James’ wife Sarah died in 1845 and he married her sister Mary in 1851. This took place in Germany, it being illegal at that time in England to marry one’s deceased wife’s sister. James and Mary then had four children: James Herbert, Thomas William, Jonathan and Mary.

James took his son Charles into the brewery partnership in 1863, two of his other sons Thomas and Jonathan also working alongside their father. James’s daughter Mary married James Brand Pinker, a literary agent, maybe in Constantinople in 1891 (see article in Panorama No.46 by Alan Leyin); she died in Northampton in 1845 at the age of 82.

James died at the age of 79 in 1888, leaving three of his sons to carry on. James had been a trustee of Palmer’s School and in his book “William Palmer and his School” Herbert Brooks remembers him as “a kindly looking, quiet and rather retiring elderly gentleman”.

The original of this portrait of Roger Seabrooke is in the care of Mrs Vivienne Rose (nee Seabrooke) and this copy has kindly been made available by Mr Alan Wallis, fifth generation descendant of Roger Seabroke.

A picture of the brewery that appeared on the cover of Panorama no.46.

James’s sons
James’s eldest son Charles was born in Grays in 1842 and married Eleanor Law at Marylebone, London in 1868. She was the daughter of William, an Inland Revenue Officer. Charles and Eleanor had five children between 1869 and 1875 – four sons and a daughter, their youngest son Edward dying when only a few months old, just six months after his mother. James’s sons Charles Herbert, William Roger and Herbert Cecil joined him in the business, although later Charles bought William a brewery in Brightlingsea; his daughter Eleanor Maude married John George Eve, a North Ockendon farmer.

Their home for many years was The Echoes, built around 1869 at the east end of the High Street at the far end of New Road. Charles remarried in 1877; his new wife was Anne, the daughter of Benjamin Keen, a chemist and druggist. To celebrate the occasion the Seabrooke employees were given a day's outing to Alexandra Palace.
Charles was a Justice of the Peace for Essex and a Grays parish clerk, a position he was to hold for more than 30 years. The 1901 census gives his occupation as Chairman and Managing Director of a brewery company.
When the late Mr Theobald's estates were up for sale, Grays Hall and the manorial rights were acquired by Charles Seabrooke, who held them from about 1898 to about 1912. They later passed to his son Major Charles H. Seabrooke. Charles died in November 1913, aged 71. At least 80 employees from the brewery were present at his funeral at Grays parish church. The streets were lined with people mourning the loss of a great friend. Charles had been well respected in the brewing business. He was formerly the Chairman of the Essex Brewers Association, and amongst many other positions held in public life he, like his father, was one of the governors of Palmer’s School. He left estate to the gross value of ₤31,720. The obituary in the Gazette of 15 November 1913 states that as a young man he was keenly interested in all kinds of sports, and though having a deformity of one hand, he was a very able cricketer. His obituary also states that “he had a kindly and generous heart and was a liberal man in a quiet unostentatious way. Many people in Grays will miss him very much”.

James’s second son James Herbert , born in 1852 did not join the family brewery business; he was a clerk in the India Office and married Clara Norris, daughter of John, a Victoria Dock agent, at Gravesend in 1877. They had three children and lived in Chiswick for many years. He had entered the India Office in 1876 and was awarded K.C.I.E. (Knight Commander, one of the ranks of the Order of the India Empire) in 1919, later becoming an assistant secretary in the Revenue Department. He died in Marylebone in 1933 at the age of 81, his wife having died two years previously.

Like many Seabrooke sons before him, James’s third son Thomas William was baptised at St Peter & St Paul, Grays, in 1854. He joined his father in the brewery business and the family were living at Brooksea House, Grays in 1881, when Thomas is shown in the census as the manager of a brewery. In 1885 he married Fanny Iliffe, daughter of Thomas, a druggist and chemist, at Bromley, Kent. Their marriage was not blessed with children and Thomas was only 44 when he died in 1898, Fanny surviving him by 23 years.

Jonathan was James’s youngest son, born 24 October 1856. After leaving school he joined his father in the family business and married Fanny Agnes Sturgeon, daughter of Alfred, a local farmer, at Grays in October 1881. He and Fanny had three sons: Frank Gordon, who was elected as Managing Director of Seabrooke's in 1913, Alexander Stanger, who was only 30 years old when he was killed in action in Mesopotamia [now Iraq] on 1 July 1916 (a hospital cot in Guy's hospital, London was dedicated in his memory by his relations and friends) and Geoffrey Stanford, born in 1888. Jonathan and his family were living at The Elms in Dell Road, Grays in 1901, Jonathan being described in the census as a brewer and wine and spirit merchant. The Elms was built about 1850 in 'a fairy land, with its deep and picturesque ravine'. It had been demolished by 1979, when the site was occupied by Treetops school.

Jonathan died in 1917, his wife dying in the Chelmsford area in 1941.

The end
In a surprise move, the Seabrooke brewery and its surrounding land occupying 6½ acres was sold to Messrs Charrington and Co. in 1929, when Charringtons promptly closed the Thurrock brewery. In a letter written in January 1930 by Herbert Cecil Seabrooke (son of James) to a cousin in California he stated ‘little birds in their nest did not agree’, giving an inkling of the reasons for the sale. The brewery was again sold in 1932, this time to the Grays Co-operative Society. By this time Frank Gordon Seabrooke, Jonathan’s son, had already left the town, moving to Writtle in 1930. After Charles Seabrooke died in 1913 his widow Anne continued to live in The Echoes. She was still living there in 1940 when she died aged 90 and is also buried in the parish churchyard.

By 1965 The Echoes had been derelict for several years and was bought by Thurrock Council, with plans to build multi-storey flats on the site. By then the grounds were overgrown, but still showed signs of their former beauty with their trees and the old pineapple pits. There had also been a croquet lawn and conservatories on either side of the house. The Echoes was demolished by the Leyton Demolition Company in 1966. Nowadays the only reminders of the Seabrooke family and their considerable brewery business in Grays are a plaque in the parish church, crumbling headstones in the churchyard and the street name of Seabrooke Rise.


An article on the Seabrooke family appeared in Panorama No.24, followed by a portrait of Roger Seabrooke in Panorama No.39 and a picture of the brewery on the cover of Panorama No.46.
Grays Museum Factfiles
Grays & Tilbury Gazette
William Palmer and his School by Herbert E. Brooks
A History of the County of Essex, Volume 8 (1983)
Thurrock in the Thirties by Terry Carney
Family papers of Alan Wallis

free counter statistics