By Richard Shiell

According to Bourke’s Peerage and Irish Family Records the Blake family is descended from Richard Caddell who took the name "Niger" ( or the English translation "Black") in 1278.

The West Indies branch descends from John Blake, (Mayor of Galway in 1646). In 1670 his 2nd son, Henry, migrated to Montserrat. Henry later sold his Montserrat estates to his older brother John.

This John Blake died in 1692 leaving issue that including a daughter Catherine, who married Nicholas Lynch of Antigua.

Other members of the family later associated with the West Indies were-

Patrick Blake of St. Kitts (died 7-March 1744). He married Mary Ann, the daughter of Andrew Bodkin of Montserrat and left one surviving son Martin Blake of St Kitts. This Martin married Sarah, daughter of Dominick Trant.

An Andrew Blake of St Kitts married Marcella French and died in London around 1760 leaving issue.

Sir Patrick Blake married Annabella, daughter of Sir William Bunbury and had 1 daughter and 2 sons.

Another Sir Patrick Blake, probably the son of the above of Montserrat and Langham, Co Suffolk (and an officer in the 10th Dragoons), married Maria Charlotte Phipps on 12th August 1789. He died on 27th July 1818 without issue. The Phipps family was very prominent on St Kitts and in England.

Sir James Henry Blake, brother of Patrick described above, married Louisa Elizabeth, daughter of General Hon. Thomas Gage (a celebrated officer from the American War) and had four sons. Henry Charles (who later inherited his father’s knighthood) Patrick John, Rev William Robert, and James Bunbury.

At the time of slave compensation in 1836 a number of Blakes were noted as receiving compensation. Elizabeth Burt Blake received £75-18-9, Elizabeth Blake £97-11-2, Susannah Blake £45-12-2, Isabella Blake £70-19-8, Henry Blake £321-18-7, Henry Blake and William Harnett £283-18-4, John Blake £68-9-0, Mary Browne Blake £83-13-2 and Martha Blake £34-4-2. It is not known if these Bakes were white or colored but they were certainly ’middle-class’ enough to each own a number of slaves.

In a property survey dated 1846. Henry Blake, probably colored, had 2 properties in the town of Plymouth valued at £300 and £50 and John Blake had a Provision property valued at £150. The big estate known as Sir Patrick Blake’s and valued (optimistically) at £2000 was still in the ownership of a Sir Patrick Blake but was managed by the lessee William Shiell. Another Estate known as "Blakes" and also valued at £2000, was owned by John P. Trott. He appears to have been one of the few owners still in residence on the island.

Matthew Dowdy Shiell (1825-1888) married Priscilla Anne Blake (1828-190?), somewhere around 1846. She was the daughter of William Blake and his wife Sarah (nee Harman). Her father or grandfather had possibly once been a Blake family slave. The absence of Priscilla’s father William from the list of those compensated possibly indicates that the family were either too poor to own a slave or had been liberated so recently themselves that they did not consider slave ownership a proper thing.


By Richard Shiell

a. The name Dowdy was to be found early on Montserrat and Sargant Daniel Dowdy, Dermond Dowdy and John Dowdy junior were recorded on a census record of 1677-8 (Caribbeana,Vol 2, p.316).

b. The name is also found on St Kitts in the mid 18th century. Isaac the son of John Dowdy and his wife Ann was born on 22 January and baptised 13th February 1757. On Feb.16th, 1758 John, the son of John Dowdy junior and Elizabeth, was buried. Thomas, the son of John and Mary Dowdy was born at Palmeto Point and baptised on June 23rd, 1765. (Suppliment to Caribbeana).

c. A Peter Dowdy was one of the owners of the 75 ton brig Peggy registered in Montserrat in 1784 and which put in at St Kitts in June 1784 and January and Apri9l 1785. Peter and John Dowdy owned the 15 ton schooner True Blue and Peter Dowdy was also part owner of the 100 ton brig Grace during the same period (CO 243 1).

d. The minutes of the Montserrat Council for 1787 contain a reference to a Nathaniel Dowdy and also to "Mrs Crosby having represented to the Board, the great difficulty she labours under from subsidising three destitute orphans, the children of the late James Dowdy" (CO 152 66).

e. A 1799 inventory of the personal estate of Matthew Dowdy junior appears on page 178 of "Ireland’s Only Colony; Records of Montserrat" by T. Savage English. A 220 page typescript held by the Library of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London.

f. In 1823, two brothers foreclosed a mortgage on the property of Sarah Dowdy. She had put it up as security for a loan from the Sempers to one of her relatives, who was also kin to the Sempers. When the loan was not paid, the Sempers claimed Dowdy’s property. Fearing destitution and arrest, she fled with her 20 slaves on an uncleared vessel to the Dutch island of St Eustatius pursued by Dudley Semper. Mrs Dowdy was defying the laws abolishing the transportation of slaves between islands but the Sempers appear to have conspired with their common kinsman to do her out of her property (from the White Minority and Emancipation in Montserrat page 277 by Riva Berleant-Schiller

g. References to Shiell and Dowdy and runaway slaves in 1824 (CUST 34 502). (see Appendices I, II and II in biography of James Phipps Shiell)


By Richard Shiell

Sir William Phipps (born 1651), son of James Phipps. William was the inventor of the diving bell and had salvaged a famous sunken Spanish treasure ship off the coast of Haiti on 1687. He was handsomely rewarded by Queen Mary II and was the first native born American to be so knighted. He was appointed Governor of Massachusetts in 1690 and died in 1695.

The Phipps family was very prominent on St Kitts and in England. Many members were knighted and Sir Constantine Phipps (1655-1723 became Lord Chancellor for Ireland (1710-14).

Maria Charlotte Phipps married Sir Patrick Blake, of Montserrat and Langham, Co Suffolk on 12th August 1789 (Caribbeana, page 68 and 74). They had no children.


By Richard Shiell

1672. Will on Nevis of one Clement Harman (H of A, Vol 2)

1673. Sir John Harman, member of Nevis Administration (H of A, Vol 2)

1665. Rear Admiral Sir John Harman Kt- his expedition to the West Indies. (Samuel Pepy’s Diary.)

1836 Antigua slave compensation payments No. 646 William Wickham Harman- 10 slaves, £133-11-9 No. 819 Martha Maria Harman-5 slaves, £81-16-2

Copyright 2005 By Richard Shiell
Used with permission of the author.
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