This record is held by East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Record Office (ESBHRO)

Details of SAY
Reference: SAY

It consists mainly of the personal records of individual members of Collier, Sayer and associated families.


The documents as sources for study


Until now the correspondence, which forms roughly two thirds of these papers, has been available to the public in the limited form of extracts from John Collier's correspondence, printed and published in 1907 by Charles Lane Sayer, one of Mr Collier's descendants. These extracts, while having been carefully chosen as containing the most important material of local and of national significance, are by nature of limited value and it is far more satisfactory that the entire material can now be made available for study.




By the time of the 18th century when John Collier came to Hastings the town had already enjoyed centuries of colourful history as a Cinque Port, (For early history of Hastings see principally VCH Sussex Vol 9, pp1-33; Baines, Ch2 and ref throughout; History of Hastings by W G Moss, Chs1-3; Constitutional History of the Cinque Ports by K M E Murray) but had now .... 'degenerated to the level of a small fishing village'. However, through Mr Collier's influence Hastings ... 'received assistance in many ways and thus took on a fresh lease of life as a seaside resort'. (Baines, p5) Indication of the situation is found in the following letter written in 1740 by William Battine (Surveyor-general of the customs for Sussex) to John Collier:


'Some ladies that are related to Mr Commissioner Hill are advised to wash in the sea for the recovery of their health and he has commanded me to enquire of you whether they can have private lodgings and accommodation at your town for that purpose'.


Mr Collier replies offering his own house as the only suitable accommodation available and noting .... 'I wish I could say more to the advantage of this town as to accommodation than it will afford, but you know its situation in all respects'. (HMBCE ref 10556 pp345, 359)


Hastings largely consisted then of two main streets running parallel north-east uphill from the sea, separated by the Bourne stream and flanked on both sides by hills, with the castle standing on the westerly hill. (See map of John Collier's estate, SAY 1415, for a representation of the town 1749-50) All Saints parish on the east of the stream tended to house poorer sections of the community than St Clement's on the west, in which John Collier's house stood. The Bourne stream was the town's chief water supply but was so subject to pollution that Collier and a local doctor attempted to lay pipes in order to convey water to the inhabitants from above the town. (See SAY 20-31; also Baines, p166) The harbour had completely declined by the eighteenth century, although fishing was still the chief trade. After John Collier's death however, when Hastings was being considered as a fashionable resort, harbour plans began again to be contemplated. The town's defences were given more attention, especially on the frequent occasions throughout the century when French invasion was feared.


The Collier papers provide a comprehensive background to any study of eighteenth-century Hastings and, apart from the corporation records, (In Hastings Museum) form the most valuable source. They contain references to almost every public endeavour, such as for example, the provision of a fire-engine in 1750, (SAY 995-1113) and the paving of the streets in 1751. (SAY 38-40) In short, no large scale work on eighteenth-century Hastings can be complete without reference to these documents.


Smuggling in Sussex and Kent (See an interesting article entitled 'Smuggling in Sussex' by W D Cooper, SAC 10, pp69-94


'At no time in English History was smuggling so dominant and carried on so openly as at the close of the first quarter of the eighteenth century'. ('The Economic Policy of Walpole' by N A Brisco, p139)


Export smuggling of wool had been popular as early as the fourteenth century while import smuggling (brandy, tea etc) rose acutely in the reigns of William and Anne during the wars with France, when many new duties were added to an already heavy list, so that by 1721 there were few articles which could be imported (or exported) without paying duty.


The Customs system was organised from 1723 under a central commission, which controlled the officers in the localities through the surveyors appointed for individual counties. In 1725 the powers of the excise officers were greatly increased, (11 Geo I, c30) and in the following year officers' rewards for seizing smuggled goods were extended. (12 Geo I, c28)


This led to tyrannical practices on the part of some officers, and in fact had little effect in checking smuggling organisations such as were rife in south-east England, where smugglers organised themselves into large bands and terrorised the local people. They openly defied opposition from the customs officers and the militia, who were brought in to help them. In 1749 a local man tried to publicise the barbarities which were committed against informers, by an anonymous work, ('Sussex Smugglers' by 'A Gentleman of Chichester') but to little avail. A study of John Collier's papers relating to smuggling clearly reveals the pitch of audacity which the practice had reached both in Sussex and Kent at this time.


Sussex Gentry, notable persons, social life


The various sections of John Collier's correspondence contain a wealth of reference to social conditions and activities in Sussex in his day, but they are scattered and the collection must be studied as a whole for a proper appraisal of the subject. Many of the letters from his daughters however, are a principal source of information relating to social occasions, (Among SAY 1730-1770 and following) among the gentry. Moreover, John Collier's correspondents include many of the local gentry - John Fuller of Brightling, Sir William Ashburnham of Broomham, Dr Thomas Frewen of Northiam and Sir Godfrey Webster of Battle, to name but a few. The correspondence also contains several references to eighteenth-century Sussex, the roads and agricultural conditions, and many Sussex properties and their tenants are discussed in the section concerned with the management of the Pelham family estates. (SAY 398-590)


Political influence: (The Duke of Newcastle and the Pelham family) (See principally 'The Duke of Newcastle and the Election of 1734' by Basil Williams, EHR 12, p448 following)


Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Henry Pelham, were the elder and younger sons respectively of Thomas Pelham, fourth baronet, first Baron Pelham, by his second wife Lady Grace Holles. (See DNB for brief accounts of their careers) The former became one of the most powerful nobles, using his great resources of private wealth to secure political support which, although nation-wide, was most strongly centred in Sussex where the family estates principally lay. In the 1734 election he influenced the return of nearly all twenty of the county's members, as well as the eight from the Cinque Ports. By 1741 his private secretary, Andrew Stone, and one of his relations, Colonel James Pelham, were returned for Hastings, seats which they both held until 1781. Meanwhile, another relation, William Hay of Glyndebourne, had been member for Seaford from 1734, while the Duke's brother, Henry Pelham, had represented Seaford from 1717 and the county from 1722. A fact which stands distinctly in the Duke's favour is that he spared no expense or time in order to further his election causes, and the following words concerning him seem a fair comment:


I find from everybody his grace shone away in Sussex this year with more than usual splendour and I most heartily wish that in his ministerial capacity, matters bore the same cheerful prospect, for I am with the majority of mankind clearly of opinion that no man wishes better nor with less interested views serves his country'. (SAY 656 Milward Rowe, a Treasury official, to John Collier, 1757)


Although only a mere handful of letters actually penned by the duke survive in the archive, the correspondence concerning his affairs in Sussex is of considerable interest and value.


Henry Pelham, the duke's brother was, for the period in which letters from him survive in this collection, paymaster of the forces (until 1743) and then prime minister (1743-1754). His letters, (See among SAY 389-531) while primarily concerned with estate matters, contain scattered but useful references to current political affairs. Of especial interest is the information concerning Winchelsea elections, references to which occur throughout the correspondence between 1747 and 1754.


Current Affairs


Apart from the material among Henry Pelham's correspondence and among papers relating to his brother the duke's affairs, the chief sources in these documents for reference to current affairs are the letters from John Collier in London to his wife in Hastings, (See among SAY 1458-2208) letters from James Collier in London to his parents in Hastings, (See among SAY 1771-1905) and letters from Milward Rowe, a Treasury official (See among SAY 624-661) and William Cranston, (SAY 723-1273) both in London, to John Collier at Hastings.


In John Collier's letters the information is often little more than a passing remark, but usually not without interest. For example, following Queen Caroline's death in 1737:


'To morrow all this world appear in mourning several mantua makers have more than a hundred women employ'd and work night and day sleeping every 3 hours by turns'. (SAY 1709)


James Collier's letters are frequently full of precise details about debates in parliament, and they also contain a variety of other information relating to his life in London. During the time of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-1746 he reports concerning the city militia:


' six o'clock 100 march with beat of drum and fix their head quarters in St Dunstans vestry room from whence at ten a party of them are detached to take post at Temple Bar, and relieved every two hours. They stand on each side of the way with bayonets fixed challenge every foot passenger and stop every coach and open the doors to see that no arms are concealed'. (SAY 1872)


Milward Rowe's letters are also full of interesting detail. For example, he gives the following account of the Duke of Newcastle's assumption of duties in 1754 as First Lord of the Treasury, following the death of his brother:


' was one of the most moving scenes that could be described; all that vivacity and alertness which always attended his grace in every action was now changed into a slow and solemn gait, with the most expressive countenance of distress, and I think twas the strongest sign of manly fortitude and love of his country that could enable him to take possession of the office and seat of that brother on whom he so much doted, and whom all honest men so sincerely join him in lamenting'. (SAY 636)


William Cranston's letters are written in a less solemn vein and provide a colourful insight into political turmoils of the day. Some of his accounts to John Collier at the time of Sir Robert Walpole's resignation from power in 1742 will serve as an example:


4 Feb 1742 - '....people are pretty much divided whether Mr Pelham will stand or not - the only wager I have laid about the whole affair is one bottle that he will'. (Ibid 766)


6 Feb 1742 - 'Nothing new stirring - no more than notwithstanding the papers say Sir Robert resigned all employ last Wednesday yet he is certainly to this hour in possession of 'em'. (Ibid 767)


11 Mar 1742 - '...there's great convulsions at the helm and can't at all agree who are to be the Outs and the Ins and in all which the late minister [Sir Robert Walpole] is generally allow'd to have a great hand, being at present more in personal favour with his majesty than ever'. (Ibid 769)


In short, John Collier's papers and his correspondence are an interesting source for contemporary comment on all the major events of the day, as well as providing a detailed background to the social activities of his family and friends throughout the greater part of the eighteenth century.




The correspondence which was found mostly bundled in strict chronological order (The Editor of The Collier Letters published his extracts in strict chronological order and seems also to have been responsible for their physical arrangement.) has been restored to the various departments of John Collier's work in the course of which it was created. The correspondence which is of a purely personal and family nature has been treated separately from that which relates to his business affairs. Some of the extracts in the printed volumes are taken from documents which do not survive in the collection. However, Mr Sayer explains that he gave some away, (Collier Letters Vol 1 prefatory note) and there is also evidence to show that he lent letters to friends and relations, (SAY 3355a-3364 (temp)) which might possibly account for their loss.




Each document has been allocated an individual number; the number of documents to which a catalogue entry relates has been stated only where there are more than one. Entries relating to more than one document have been used where the documents concerned are of the same nature or refer to the same thing, or both. The correspondence forms the main series treated in this way. Individual letters, although usually written in connection with a particular department of work, invariably contain so much varied information that they are impossible to catalogue separately, short of preparing a full calendar. Accordingly, the main topics to which a bundle relates have been summarised in the main catalogue entry. Sepcific references then pick out the interesting points, either connected with the main topics or referring to something quite different. Where specific letters have thus been selected the individual reference numbers have also been noted.




All dates appear in new style as though the year began on 1 January.




Place-names can be assumed to be in Sussex unless otherwise stated. Their form has been modernised, except where it is peculiar and then the modern form has been given in brackets.


Personal names have been given in the form in which they appear in the document, except for members of the Collier family and for famous persons, whose names have been given in the standard form.

Date: 1565 - 1925

The documents have been classified under three main headings, Official, Personal and Posthumous.




Offices of town clerk and mayor of Hastings


1-6 Loyal addresses etc 1712-1745


7-19 Defence, militia and miscellaneous 1707-1750


20-31 Hastings Water Supply Scheme 1732-1742


32-80 Correspondence 1735-1757


Agent for the Duke of Newcastle in Hastings


81-83 The 1734 Election


84-92 The 1745-1746 Jacobite Rebellion


93-96 Deputy Vice Admiral of Sussex 1750-1756


97-251 Correspondence 1739-1758


Attorney and surveyor general of the customs for Kent


252-259 Murder of Gerrard Reeves, Customs officer 1717


260-267 Assault of Customs officers at Lydd, Kent 1721


268-273 Evidence concerning Thomas Darby, smuggler 1734


274-278 Evidence concerning John and Thomas Jordan, Customs officers 1735


279-283 Assault of Customs officers at Stonecrouch, Kent 1735


284-287 Murder of Thomas Peen at Hollington 1735-1736


288-294 Seizure of Contraband at Birchington, Kent 1747


295-327 The Hawkhurst Gang 1747-1748


328-360 Miscellaneous


Usher and crier of the court of Kings Bench 1740-1755




Agent for Pelham family estates and interests in Sussex


369 Authority to hold courts 1733


370-372 Rentals 1745


373-388 Accounts 1735-c1763


389-590 Correspondence 1736-1764


Agent for Ashburnham family estates in Sussex


591-593 Accounts 1736-1743


594-615 Correspondence 1736-1758


Steward of Ore Manor, 1733-1756




Clerk and collector for Hooe Levels, 1748-1762




Miscellaneous, 1626-1754






Business deputised to William Cranston


677-722 Bills and accounts 1728-1755


723-1273 Correspondence 1734-1758


Investment: (money lending and banking)


1274-1335 Case concerning Shelley's Green Farm 1708-1724


1336-1366 Bonds, mortgages, securities, agreements 1713-1757


Management of real estate


1367 Rentals 1758


1368-1375 Accounts 1740-1757


1376-1401 Correspondence (Richard Patrick) 1748-1753


1402-1410 Other correspondence 1750-1751


1411-1417 Miscellaneous


Household and miscellaneous 1723-1758






1458-2208 Correspondence 1716-1760


2209-2211 Death of John Collier junior, 1732-1733


2212-2231 Death of James Collier 1747-1753


2232-2242 General Murray's debts 1752-1757


2243-2268 Trial of Thomas Holman 1740-1751


2269-2270 Miscellaneous




General (family)


2271-2611 Correspondence 1761-1780


2612-2683 Mrs Collier's accounts 1758-1768


2684-2688 Miscellaneous c1700-1765


Executorship of the Collier estates


2689-2690 Wills 1768


2691-2708 Accounts and estimates of estate 1761-1770


2709-2731 Settling of bills etc 1762-1769


2732-2746 Payment of beneficiaries 1763-1769


2747 Miscellaneous (map of Edward Milward's estate) 1766


2748-2756 Henrietta Collier's marriage settlement and subsequent settlements 1771-1823


2757-2981 Unindexed




Title deeds and associated papers


2757-2768 Glasseye Farm, Beckley, and adjacent lands; with lands in Lecklade, Gloucestershire 1565-1790


2769-2775 Miscellaneous, copyholds and freeholds, Hailsham, Ewhurst, Bexhill, Eastbourne 1646-1769


2776-2781 Partition of John Collier's estate and subsequent settlement 1766-1902


2782-2792 Leases of lands in Essex, Kent and Middlesex and Surrey 1764-1841


Cold Norton and Stow-Maries, Essex, 8 Welbeck Street, St Marylebone, Middlesex


Chertsey, Surrey


42 York Street, Portman Square, St Marylebone, Middlesex


Northfleet, Kent


2793-2804 Leases and papers of Crowhurst Place, Battle 1847-1852


2805-2837 Sales particulars of properties not eventually bought by George Gatty 1842-1853


2838-2850 Manor of St Leonards next Hollington 1545-1710


Estate accounts and associated papers


2851-2858 Miscellaneous papers concerning estate 1810-1822


2859 Felbridge estate accounts 1855-1859


2860-2890 General estate accounts 1873-1902


2891-2963 Accounts and correspondence: specific properties 1905-1916


Felbridge estate; Glasseye Farm, Beckley; Wellington Road; Holmwood Avenue, Kingston-upon-Thames; Ivychurch and Stonecum-Ebony, Kent; Birmingham mortgage


2964-2965 Cash books 1916-1925


2966-2967 Estate accounts 1919-1925




2968-2972 Early members of the Sayer family 1739-1843


2973-2978 Lane and associated families 1745-1854


2979-2981 Later members of Sayer (and Gatty) families 1880-1900


Family executor and trustee papers


2982-2997 Marriage settlement: Henry Jenkinson Sayer and Elizabeth Lane 1798-1821


2998-3027 Executorship of Mrs Elizabeth Sayer's will; correspondence and estimates of estate 1843-1845


3028-3074 Executorship of Mrs Elizabeth Sayer's will; accounts 1842-1853


3075-3104 Executorship of Miss Katherine Sayer's will 1845


3105-3129 Thynne Trusteeship (Charles Lane Sayer) 1873-1905


3130-3132 Miscellaneous executorship 1861-1865




3133-3148 Jane Lane 1807-1853


3149-3247 Edward Lane Sayer 1819-1865


3248-3267 Frances Gatty (nee Sayer) and family 1823-1849


3268-3273 William Carlisle Sayer Milward 1862-1866, 1910


3274-3387 Charles Lane Sayer 1860-1901


Diaries, travel journals


3388-3392 Katherine Sayer 1788-1844


3393-3404 Frances Gatty (née Sayer) 1817-1859


3405-3410 George Edward Gatty 1846-1852


3411-3418 Charles Henry Gatty 1846-1860


3419-3420 Charles Lane Sayer 1874-1875


Personal miscellanea


3421-3424 Jane Lane: pocket books and miscellaneous 1810-1850


3425-3438 Edward Lane Sayer: clerical and miscellaneous 1829-1864


3439 Henry Collier Sayer Milward 1838


3440 Mary Sayer 1807


3441-3457 Frances Sayer 1820


3458-3460 George Edward Gatty c1825


3461-3489 Charles Lane Sayer 1858-1911


General miscellanea


3490-3492 Miscellanea found with Lane papers 1659-1674


3493-3511 Miscellanea found with Gatty papers 1757-c1900


Family memoranda


(collected by Charles Lane Sayer towards editing the Collier letters)


3512-3522 Collier family


3523-3560 Sayer family


3561-3514 Lane family


3615-3626 Gatty family


3627-3633 Carlisle family


General background material


(used in editing the Collier letters)


3634-3778 Correspondence 1874-1917


3779-3809 Newspaper cuttings 1741, 1885-1909


3810-3831 Notes and miscellaneous c1900


Editing Collier letters


3832-3904 Typescript and drafts of extracts from Collier letters, etc c1900

Related material:

Title deeds and estate records form a very small part of the archive, since the main bulk of such documents, previously deposited by the family in Hastings Museum, were deposited at East Sussex Record Office in August 2000 and listed as MIL.


For a subsequent deposit, largely concerning the Gatty family, see ACC 6871

Held by: East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Record Office (ESBHRO), not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Collier, John, 1685-1760, town clerk and mayor of Hastings

Physical description: 98 Series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The Sayer archive, of which John Collier's papers form part, was deposited with the East Sussex Record Office by R C Sayer esq in August 1965

Publication note:

Chief printed sources for biography of John Collier are Collier Letters vols I and II Charles Lane Sayer (ed), 1907; SAC 45, p62 article by W V Crake, (both based on the documents in this collection) Historic Hastings by John Mainwaring Baines

  • Hastings, Sussex
Administrative / biographical background:

John Collier


John Collier was born on the 1st November 1685, the second son of Peter Collier and Sarah (née Cheapman) both of Eastbourne. (Temp. SAY 3656, 3658) Peter Collier kept the Lamb Inn at Eastbourne, which still stands in the High Street and his will, proved in 1717 (ESRO A49.297 (Lewes Archdeaconry)), shows that he was a man of moderate means but owner of no great fortune such as his son was destined to make, while the will of his father, Richard Collier of Eastbourne, a thatcher, proved in 1690 (ESRO A40.34 (Lewes Archdeaconry)), indicated that the family's means were then quite small. John Collier's elder brother William is mentioned in this will and also in that of his uncle, William Collier of Eastbourne, proved in 1701, but after that no record of him survives and in 1717 John Collier was made heir to all his father's freehold property in Eastbourne and elsewhere. There were also several younger children (See pedigree). Sarah Collier, John Collier's mother, outlived her husband and died in 1734 (SAY 1644).




John Collier moved to Hastings while a young man and was appointed town clerk in 1706. He held the office continuously until 1749 (Baines p377 note), broken only by his years of mayoralty in 1719 (Having become a jurat in 1718, a necessary qualification for the mayoralty), 1722, 1730, 1737 and 1741. In 1708 he was chosen by the Commissioners of Sewers to be clerk and sole collector of Hooe, Barnhorne, Cowding and East Levels, at an annual salary of £12 0s 0d (ESRO Levels accounts. Ref RF/9/10 (temp)) and he seems still to have been carrying out this office in the last few years of his life, between 1750 and 1760. (See SAY 634-661) In his early years he also practised, both in London and in Hastings, as a solicitor, and his letters written from London to his wife Mary, (SAY 1458-1545) speak of business which seems to be of a legal nature, while there also survive among his papers documents created in the course of prosecutions which he undertook against smugglers. (SAY 252-360) Moreover, in 1714 he was appointed with John Collinson to be joint solicitor of the Cinque Ports at the coronation of George I, (SAC 46, p68) and he again held this honour at the coronation of George II. (SAY 1509, 1540, 1543) He evidently continued with legal work in later life, as these words of H Simon, solicitor at the Custom House, London, indicate in a letter to John Collier of the 15 December, 1744:


'Whenever you decline these prosecutions the Crown loses a very good solicitor, and the solicitor's office here a very kind and able assistant'. (HMBCE ref 10566, pp 632-633)


In November 1733 John Collier obtained through Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Newcastle-under-Lyme, the post of Surveyor-General of the Riding Officers of the Customs for the County of Kent. His agent and brother-in-law's accounts indicate that John Collier's half-annual salary tended to vary but was frequently above £100. (MIL 7/3) His duties involved the inspection of customs officers at Rye and at the chief ports in Kent, and the examination of their books, followed by an annual report to the Commissioners of Customs. He seems to have worked diligently and fairly, reprimanding where necessary, but drawing attention to obvious deficiencies in the management of customs affairs. For example, concerning a Canterbury officer in 1738, he reports (his duty is) 'to patrol all the high ways and avenues leading to this city and towards Hern and Whitstable. I believe he is diligent but as there are so many ways to the city and as its the centre of all the smuggling in these parts I am humbly of opinion that one riding officer is not sufficient' (HMBCE ref 10558. 1738 Report) His work also included collecting evidence of smuggling activities in his area and keeping the Commissioners informed of this. He resigned from the post in 1756, whereupon his son-in-law Edward Milward was successful in obtaining it. (SAY 231, 232)


In 1734 John Collier purchased the post of Usher and Cryer of the court of Kings Bench, again it seems through the Duke of Newcastle, but he himself did very little work in this connection. William Cranston, his brother-in-law and agent, acted as his deputy and reported proceedings by correspondence with John Collier. (SAY 723-1273) He still held the office at his death and bequeathed the profits in trust for his daughters, with power of sale. (SAY 2689, 13)


At the time of the 1734 election the Duke of Newcastle turned to John Collier for assistance with his campaign. The latter's position and influence in this sphere is ideally expressed by Henry Pelham in a letter written to his brother, the Duke, at this time: 'As to Collyer you can't do too much for if I judge that town [Hastings] absolutely depends on him and perhaps if he were cool would leave you. I desire therefore you will from me tell Sir Robert Walpole if he has a mind to have two Whigs chosen at Hastings he must provide handsomely for Collyer' (BM AMS 32688 fo 307. Quoted in EHR vol 12 p477 'The Duke of Newcastle and the 1734 Election' by Basil Williams) Thereafter he became the duke's regular agent in Hastings, promoting his political influence, preventing Jacobitism, and carrying out his instructions with regard to the defence of the town. (See SAY 81-251) He also acted as the Duke's Deputy Vice-Admiral for Sussex (See SAY 93) but little evidence survives as to the extent of his duties.


In 1733 John Collier received a deputation from Henry Pelham to hold all his manorial courts in Sussex (SAY 369) and from about this time he seems to have become agent for all the Pelham family estates in the county, collecting rents, holding courts and assessing necessary repairs. He also did a certain amount of work toward fostering Pelham political influence in the county, especially with regard to Winchelsea where, through him, land was acquired for the Nesbitt family, a representative of whom was later returned as member of parliament for the borough under Treasury patronage. (See SAY 450-522)


John Collier also undertook estate agency for other notable Sussex families. Documents survive to show that he was agent for the Earl of Ashburnham's Sussex estates and that he was steward for Edward Caryll, lord of Ore manor.


He virtually retired from public life in 1758. He suffered very badly from gout and could hardly write. His family speak of his critical state of health during 1759 (SAY 2134-2143) and in December 1760 (See Collier Letters, vol II, p293) he died, aged seventy-five.




John Collier's first wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Elphick of Willingdon. (ESRO B 14.77 (Lewes Archdeaconry Administration)) He married her in May 1706 (SRS 6, p194 (Sussex Marriage Licences - Lewes Archdeaconry)) and they had six children before her death in 1714. Records survive only of the eldest child, Elizabeth, who married George Worge, (Son of Thomas Worge of Eastbourne and Mary (née Alchorne); see W Berry Sussex Genealogies pp 274, 275 for a Worge pedigree) a Battle solicitor, in 1730 and who died childless in 1766 at the age of fifty-nine. It has been suggested that the Sarah Collier of Eastbourne, who married Roger Mortimer also of Eastbourne in 1729 (SRS 6, p265 (Sussex Marriage Licences - Lewes Archdeaconry). See also W Budgen Old Eastbourne, p258), was another of John Collier's daughters by his first marriage, but there is no evidence among the records to support this. It seems more likely that she was one of his brother's daughters or perhaps even his younger sister Sarah, who would no doubt still have been living in Eastbourne.


In August 1717 John Collier married again, this time to Mary, daughter of the Rev James Cranston, vicar of St Clement and All Saints parishes, Hastings. He was then 32 while his bride was 21 years of age. They had eighteen children, nine of whom were sons but only two of the sons survived infancy and neither of them outlived their father. John, the elder, died from smallpox in 1732 at the age of twelve years, to the bitter grief of his father, whose letters to his wife at this time frequently lament the boy's death: '(I) have often thought and wish'd to have done with London journeys and plague of busines and entirely to enjoy your company till it pleases God to send us to meet and enjoy poor dear Jacky he knows we love and lament him and dont doubt but we have now his assistance for to be sure he was the best of children'. (SAY 1628)


James, who was a year younger than John, seems at first to have been less of a favourite with his father. John Collier's letters to him contain more frequent reprimands for not attending to studies and his writing and for getting into scrapes. However, after Jacky's death, Collier pinned all hopes on James and watched his studies carefully, frequently reporting to his wife their son's progress at Westminster School - 'he is brisk and well but (I) dont perceive he is in any way altered as to gentility but I find he learns very well and is uppermost of the fourth form'.


Upon leaving Westminster in 1738 James Collier was admitted as a fellow commoner to Clare College, Cambridge, where he seems to have taken a lively interest in politics. It is recorded (J A Venn. Alumni Cantabrigienses) that he then entered the Middle Temple in 1742. The editor of The Collier Letters investigated this point and noted, 'they have at the college no record of his having taken a degree - at least my informant Mr J R Wardale has no entry to that effect against his name in his copy of the college admission book'. It is evident from the correspondence however that he was up at Cambridge as late as 7 May 1742. (SAY 3678/4 temp) Be that as it may he had certainly entered the Middle Temple by October 1742 and encountered a little difficulty as to the amount of his allowance, his uncle William Cranston negotiating with Mr Collier for £200 a year for him, with the rent of his chambers paid on top of that. (SAY 779) An agreement was no doubt reached in the end.


In 1745 James Collier was mayor of Hastings, but his promising career was sadly terminated by his death in the summer of 1747 at the age of 26. No family correspondence survives at all for the period of his death, but the effect it had on John Collier is evident by the tone of his brother-in-law, William Cranston's letters of the following autumn:


'I am sorry to hear that you think of drooping again - rouse up all your spirits and be but determined to think the best of everything and I dare say the winter may be happily and cheerfully got through........ Come to town with my sister etc ......... some coffeehouse chatt - a play - an opera - a levee - a cheerful bottle at Fletchers - the House of Commons - Lords - cum multis aliis etc would greatly contribute and infallibly do the business - pray consider yourself and if that won't do, consider your family - your daughters'. (SAY 901)


The five daughters, apart from Mrs Worge, who were living at the time of James Collier's death became John Collier's joint heiresses. They were widely separated in years. Cordelia, the eldest, was then 25, Mary 22, Jane 20, Sarah 8 and Henrietta 6. They were all educated at Mrs Thorpe's at Battle and then at Mrs Russell's at Hampstead, and from an early age they mixed in the politest circles in London and at Battle. Their letters to their parents speak almost exclusively of fashions, balls, dinners and dishes of tea shared with various members of the Sussex gentry. Sarah Collier seems to have been a particularly bright child, though she probably enjoyed special attention being the first of John Collier's children to survive infancy after so many years. She is described variously as 'superior to all of her age', - 'a most ingagin little creature', 'the life of us all', and 'a great Favourit at the Abby'. (Battle Abbey, home of the Websters, a notable Sussex family (SAY 1912, 1919, 2025)) Moreover, her own early letters betray a good deal of alertness and wit.


In December 1748, (See SAY 1911) Cordelia married Captain James Murray, (See DNB) whom she had met while he was stationed at Hastings. He was the fifth son of Alexander Murray, Lord Elibank. The match was opposed on both sides - by John Collier because of Murray's poor financial position, and by the Murrays because he was marrying below his rank. However, although unwilling at first, John Collier eventually lent Murray a considerable amount of money, (See SAY 1906-1942 and 2232-2242) and helped him to obtain the rank of Major. Cordelia's letters written from Ireland in the first few years of their marriage certainly do not imply poverty, rather the reverse. (SAY 1960-1979) The Murrays remained in Ireland until 1754, after which they returned to England and lived in the West Country. In 1757 Murray went to America but Cordelia did not go with him, it seems for health reasons. He was successful abroad and is famed for the part he played in the siege of Quebec under General Wolfe. In 1760 he became Governor-General of Quebec and was promoted to the rank of Major-General. Cordelia still did not join him and by 1763 she and her husband seem to be so much at variance that Murray's brother Gideon wrote to John Cranston, the family solicitor, entreating him to persuade Cordelia to join her husband in Quebec. (SAY 2316) At last, in January 1764, she made preparations for the journey but changed her mind in February and failed to go. In 1766 he was recalled from Canada and on his return concerned himself with the partition of John Collier's estate. (See SAY 2486-2537) He seems to have been reconciled with his wife and they lived at his new house 'Beauport' (For Beauport, see AMS 5609 and ACC 5046.) near Battle. He held office at Hastings during these years as he had done before going to Canada. (See SAY 1243; also Baines pp39-40)


In 1772 Murray became Lieutenant-General and in 1774 obtained the post of Governor of Minorca. He met considerable military difficulties and though acting honourably returned to England in 1782 to a court martial, charged with misappropriation of public money, among other offences, of which he was acquitted. Earlier, while he was still in Minorca, Cordelia, in spite of ill health, had determined to join him there but had to be sent home and arrived at Beauport only a few hours before her death in 1779. (SAY 3650 (temp) - Family Memoirs by Frances Sayer. The reliability of all the information given is questionable but I think this much is true. Cordelia Murray was Frances Sayer's great-aunt) She was fifty-five and without heir, consequently her share of John Collier's estate reverted to her four sisters.


Mary Collier, the second surviving daughter of John Collier, married in May 1754 at the age of 28 (SAY 2082) Edward Milward, an influential Hastings man. He had already approached her younger sister Jane but had been refused. (SAY 2016) The match was encouraged by John Collier, no doubt because Milward was already a man of good standing in Hastings. He was born in 1723, the son of Edward Milward of Hastings and Elizabeth Shirley of Chiddingly Place, a widow. (SAY 3657 (temp)) His father had been mayor of Hastings in 1721, an office which the son first filled in 1750. Thereafter he held it every alternate year from 1753 to 1801, from 1785 with Edward Milward the younger, his only son by Mary Collier. At the coronation of George III he was one of the canopy-bearers over the king, attending as a baron of the Cinque Ports.


Edward Milward's letters bespeak a man of serious nature, inclined to be thorough and precise. He certainly spared no pains to become the most eminent man in Hastings, after John Collier, and it is significant that in 1756 he succeeded him as surveyor-general of the customs for Kent, (SAY 231, 232) an office obtained through the Duke of Newcastle and bestowing a good deal of influence upon its holder. In 1760 he became the duke's agent in Hastings on John Collier's death. ('Hastings' by L P Saltzman, p79) When Mrs Collier died in 1768 Edward Milward was anxious to own Old Hastings House, the family residence in Hastings. Bitter quarrels arose between the heirs and devisees of John Collier on this and other matters, (SAY 2486 - 2611) but the Milwards finally obtained the house on Cordelia Murray's death. It had fallen to her lot in the division of the estates of 1766 and now reverted to the other four daughters and their husbands. Henry and Sarah Sayer, to whom it fell this second time, and who lived in London, did not feel inclined to take on another house and so sold it to the Milwards, at a low price, to keep it in the family. (SAY 3650 (temp); MIL 1/1/15 (conveyance 28, 29 Oct 1796))


The accounts of Edward Milward's character which survive in the archive do not show him in a favourable light but they cannot be regarded as unbiased criticism. He certainly let nothing oppose him and it has been noted that he was often at variance with his town clerk, (Baines p65) and that in 1775, following a dispute with his brother-in-law General Murray, then a jurat, he caused him not to be returned to this office. (Baines pp39-40) Moreover, according to family tradition, he refused to let his son Edward marry his cousin Cordelia Sayer, because she was heir to no great fortune. (SAY 3650 (temp)) Be that as it may, he provided his children with unrivalled local standing and he certainly spared no personal expense for the sake of his town. (Baines pp28-29)


The Milwards had five daughters, three of whom died young. (See pedigree) Edward Milward the younger, their only son, married in 1817 Sarah, daughter of the Rev William Wheatear of Hastings, but the marriage was childless. Sarah outlived her husband and on her death in 1873 (See GEC Complete Peerage - under Waldegrave, p314) a large part of the estates which had been handed down from John Collier passed to the Sayer family, (as also had happened on the death of Edward's sister Maria in 1832, a year before his own).


William Green, the husband of John Collier's third surviving daughter Jane, came to Hastings as an engineer, commissioned by the Board of Ordnance to build the battery there, a project which he finished in 1759. (For Green, see J H Farrant 'The Making of Francis Grose's Antiquities: Evidence from Sussex' (SAC 131 (1993) 152-8); Green was one of Grose's informants.) In 1762, at the age of 25, Jane eloped with him and they married in London. The match had been suggested in the previous year but was opposed by her mother Mrs Collier (John Collier was dead). (SAY 2276) However, the scandal eventually died down and Jane continued writing to her mother until her death, apparently reconciled. The Greens lived in Lewes and paid frequent visits to Brighton where they seem to have enjoyed a gay social life. (See among SAY 2297-2547) Mrs Green had several miscarriages (See among SAY 2297-2547) and died childless, leaving the greater part of her property to be divided between the children of Edward and Mary Milward and Henry and Sarah Sayer.


Sarah, John Collier's fourth daughter, married with her mother's consent on the 8 December 1763 Henry Sayer, attorney-at-law of Lincoln's Inn, youngest son of John Sayer, a barrister-at-law, and Katherine his wife, a daughter of Admiral Robert Hughes. Family memoranda recalls that he met Sarah while visiting a friend of his, John Bishop, at Sedlescombe. (A Mr Bishop stood god-parent, with Sir Charles Jenkinson and Henrietta Collier, to the Sayers' son, Henry Jenkinson Sayer.) His fortune was small but he saved money with which to furnish a house at Red Lion Square, London, where he and Sarah lived until 1767, when he was made registrar-general of the Charterhouse, an office which he held until 1789. (SAY 3310 (temp) ... taken from Charterhouse records. (See also SAY 2523)) The marriage seems to have been a happy one and they had several children. (See pedigree) Their son, Henry Jenkinson Sayer, who was born in December 1767 was admitted a scholar of the Charterhouse in 1778 and in 1807 was appointed auditor of the Charterhouse. (SAY 3310c (temp)) Sarah Sayer died in 1822 at the age of 83, outliving her son by two years. Thereupon his children became heirs to all her share of the Collier estates, now augmented by the legacies from Mrs Murray, Mrs Green and Mrs Jackson. (See below)


John Collier's youngest daughter, Henrietta, married in 1771 Henry Jackson of the Middle Temple, eldest son of Thomas Jackson of Ifield (SAY 2749) an heir to a fairly large estate in Surrey. (SAY 2750) The couple lived in Hastings. By family tradition Mr Jackson was unfaithful to his wife and a sworn enemy of Edward Milward whom on one occasion he fought in the Town Hall and gave a black eye. (SAY 3690 (temp)) Mrs Jackson apparently suffered from a disease of the womb for five years before her death in 1794 at the age of 53. By her will the greater part of her estate passed to the Sayer and the Milward heirs.




One of the methods by which John Collier amassed his fortune is adequately expressed by his great grand-daughter:


'There being at that time no banks, all the people round who had money brought it to him to take care of, being quite sure of having it again when they required it, this however gave him command of much ready money and allowed him to purchase any land in the neighbourhood cheap whenever any was to be sold'. (SAY 3650 (temp))


He also lent money, for which there is ample evidence in the documents, (SAY 1274-1366; MIL 7/1) making a regular income out of the interest. John Collier's principal employees were his brother-in-law William Cranston and Richard Patrick, a lawyer. The latter mainly managed Mr Collier's real estate while the former dealt with his current household and personal expenditure, acted as his attorney in all sorts of business in London, especially in the court of Kings Bench, and generally managed his affairs. Collier describes his brother-in-law as:


'my correspondent in all respects ..... in whom I have the greatest confidence'. (SAY 1898)


Cranston's letters, which are couched in a neat literary style, betray a man who cares to be precise, with a marked sense of humour and a kindly heart, able to size up a question fairly. For example, with regard to the death sentence conferred upon Admiral Byng in 1757 he says:


'In short we are all in a sad puzzle in this affair and in a sad flame too, so hard is it to put a man of quality to death be his crime what it will - for as to his guilt - it is notorious. (SAY 1251)


Cranston's own accounts (MIL 7/3) show that he acted as solicitor and agent in a similar way for several local persons, though not to such a great extent as he did for John Collier.


Patrick's character cannot be so clearly determined from the records but he seems to have been a thorough and industrious man. He was town clerk of Hastings in 1741 and from 1750 to 1762.


By the time of Mrs Collier's death in 1768, eight years after that of her husband, the family fortune had already been settled upon their daughters. The deed of partition of 1766 (MIL 12/64) reveals that John Collier owned extensive land in Sussex, Surrey and Kent to the value of £30,866. 5s 2d, and the abstract of title to the estate of 1761 indicates that he purchased the greater part of it in his life-time. His personal estate was also considerable. (See among SAY 2691-2708) The task of executorship fell to John Cranston, one of William Cranston's sons, in whom John Collier's heirs had great confidence and to whom they ultimately and inevitably turned in order to settle their disputes. (See among SAY 2271-2611. He built and resided in East Court, East Grinstead, a man of considerable local standing, and Assistant Warden of Sackville College in 1767 and 1769. SAC vol 20, p166)

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