Memories of Peter Perchard
Anecdotes of Alderman Peter (Pierre) Perchard, from The Gentleman's Magazine, March, 1832, following a request for information by John Jacob, author of the Annals, and from April, 1834. Guernsey privateers at work, and how to get rich quick.
Peter Perchard was elected Lord Mayor of London in 1804, and died in 1806, at his house at 13, Chatham Place, shortly after leaving office. He was a member of the company of goldsmiths, but his main occupation in London was as 'money-agent' for Guernsey businessmen. He was one of the six children of Daniel Perchard, son of Elie, and Rachel Perchard, daughter of John. For another anecdote about him see Peter Perchard's Sturgeon.
MR. JACOB is extremely welcome to my recollections of the late Peter Perchard of this city.
I think it was in the year 1775 that I was transferred from the grammar school to a desk in his counting-house. He lived all the time I was with him about the middle of Abchurch-lane on the Post Office side, exactly opposite to the great stationers Wright, Gill, and Pettiward. His uncle Matthew Perchard1 was a silversmith in the same lane, a few doors lower down. I always understood that Peter Perchard had been chiefly brought up by this uncle, with whom his sister, an ancient maiden, lived. Peter himself was a freeman and liveryman of the Goldsmiths' Company. His profession was that of a merchant, chiefly on commission for the island of Guernsey, with correspondents in Jersey and Alderney,— the Le Mesuriers, who were endless, the Mourants, the Brocks, and the most flourishing families of those islands. When letters of marque and reprisal were issued by the British Government against the commerce of the allies of America, the islands were instantly converted into the most dangerous of enemies. Little bands of neighbours putting their few hundred pounds together, subscribed sufficient to purchase a lugger, to be fitted out as a privateer. The orders were dispatched to Peter Perchard. Mangles, the ship-chandler, furnished for him. The guns were had from the Carron Company. All ready, and a crew of resolute fellows not to be baffled, and knowing every inch of the French coast, and valuing life hardly at a pin's fee, commanded by a man, too, speaking French usually better than English;—silent and dark as the night, out warped these low but wellfound boats, and the French West Indiamen were the game they chiefly ran down. They lay low in the water, and every shot they fired into vessels heavily laden took effect. They boarded the enemy usually with little loss of life or limb, and in a few weeks we had the papers of the prize transmitted, to apply for her condemnation in the Admiralty Court, and Messrs. Crickitt and Townley were our chief proctors. The profits of these ventures were for the most part invested in the British funds. Mr. Perchard as attorney received the dividends, and became wealthy by the mere accumulation of his commission business. His bankers were Wickenden, Moffatt, Kensington, and Boler, of Lombardstreet, and a special customer he was. When the balance of his cash in their hands was nearing ten thousand pounds, he would say we must discount, and I was ordered to request them to take the interest upon bills of the first order upon great houses, in consequence of this whim to have the best account in Lombard-street. The cashier used to smile at me, when he said, "They shall be done."
He lived well, but with steady plainness, roast and boiled, for he abhorred all trashy entremets and kickshaws; his exterior was handsome, he had a commanding mien, and features repulsive, though prominent and well-turned. Mrs. Perchard² had no idle visitants; it was not the humour of her husband, and they had only female servants.
Perchard kindly gave me the key of his bookcase, though we had little time to read, and I assisted Mrs. Perchard in exploring the library of Vernor and Hood for French romances, for she preferred the French language. One special favourite was Madame the Prince de Beaumont. Paul Le Mesurier was Mrs. Perchard's cousin, and when his fine carriage drove up to her door, and Mr. Perchard from his desk saw the cocked hats and shoulder knots, bouquets, and canes of the footmen, he used to vent his spleen with "Well, for my part, the fellow will certainly come upon the parish!"³ and snatching up his own hat and cane, walk out of the house, that his very soul might not be sickened with the frippery.
While I was with him, one of his daughters,4 a very lovely child, who was at a boarding-school at Stratford by Bow, was seized with an abscess in her side, and he begged that I would go down in a chaise, and, if I thought it advisable, bring her to town with me, that no time might be lost in procuring the best advice. Vehement in every thing, the people seemed monsters for not sooner discerning her malady, for having neglected her after they did know it, and for not sending an express for him the moment she complained. This dear girl grew excessively attached to me, for having been the instrument of her liberation, and in her decline which came rapidly on, was indulged with permission to sit by me, while I invented tales to entertain her, and would rest her faded but beautiful face and its golden locks upon my shoulder, till she at length could no longer be moved from the pillow of death!
But domestic calamity, like this even, broke but little upon Mr. Perchard's habits of business. He was at his desk before nine o'clock, and in the summer wrote much in his own room above. On foreign post nights he wrote his letters as late as twelve o'clock, and we paid many sixpences for such as could not be copied and closed by that hour. Among those whom he chose to know, he bore the character of a proud but a good man; and one morning, while I was sitting with him, upon a messenger's entering, and rather suddenly announcing to me the death of my mother, whom I had left the day before in the happiest health,—he burst out with a most furious "Well, for my part! and who the d—l may you be, to dare to break such news to the poor youth, with so little preparation?" At such an age I may be excused for not seeing what was latent in so severe a character. He was offended when I left him; said, and probably with truth, "that he would have made my fortune," and never forgave the ingratitude, as he called it, of seeking a more agreeable occupation.
The privy counsellor was certainly his ancestor, with perhaps one remove. I incline to think from a vague recollection of something dropt by Mrs. P. that his father5 had either been improvident or unfortunate, or both. I never heard him mentioned by his son. His sister whom I have before noticed, came sometimes to the house; but the wife and she did not agree, and there was not uncommonly some Norman ill blood between them, not apt to be sweetened, when the ear of Mr. P. admonished him to go up and compose the strife. The great theme of hope with Peter, was that he would send for his near connexion Mr. Dobrée6, and make him his partner. This he subsequently did. I dare say he often wondered when he saw himself in Chatham-place, and gave his cousin Paul an opportunity of surveying, but without pain, a rival establishment of bays and bouquets!
I have only to add, that on the 9th of November, 1804, I happened to be in Westminster Hall, when my old master with his train borne, and the mace before him, came to invite the Judges to partake his custard at Guildhall. I smiled and exclaimed, 'Thou hast it now, all that the weird woman promised!'
Mr. JACOB, author of the Annals of the British Norman Isles, inquires for particulars concerning the family of Perchard, who are descended from one of the worthies of Guernsey. In the country parish of St. Pierre du Bois, there is a marble monument in the Church, placed there by its former inhabitants, but without a date, 'To the honour of James Perchard, esq. a privy counsellor during the reigns of Queen Anne and King George I.' It appears on the same tablet (the whole inscription being in French) that his grandfather, the Rev. John Perchard, was Rector of the same parish for 47 years, and died at the age of 72 in 1653. Also, that his 'father John Perchard was a Captain in the Island Militia; he died on 22d January, 1697, aged 78 years.' Upon this monument it is stated that the said James Perchard had given a thousand pounds sterling (ayant fait un don) to the funds of the poor of the parish; but when it was given, whether in his life-time, or by his will, is not stated. Now in the Town Hospital, among the list of benefactions and legacies for the year 1750, they have a James Perchard, a gentleman of the most Hon. Privy Council, 'one thousand pounds.' Is this a second £1000, or is it the above-mentioned don or gift to the country parish? No mention is made of the death, or will, or burial of the said Privy Councillor. There is also a monument in the Town Church of St. Pierre Port, for Peter Perchard, esq. and his late wife Martha (daughter of late Henry Le Mesurier, esq.) both of whom with four of their daughters lie buried in the same grave, in the parish of St. Mary Abchurch, London. It is stated on this Guernsey monument, 'that he was a native of this island; that he was elected Sheriff of that great city in 1793, and invested with the high and honourable office of Lord Mayor on the 9th of November 1804. When he had executed this last great trust, reposed in him in so upright a manner as to demand the thanks of all his fellow citizens, Heaven was pleased that his mortal course should end. He survived his Mayoralty but ten weeks, and died on the 31st of Jan. 1806, in the 77th year of his age.' Query, was this Peter descended from the above James the Privy Counsellor? When Martha the above died in 1787, she left two daughters alive. Are there any descendants from these? What are the arms the Perchards bore? Any particulars respecting the above will be thankfully received and noticed in the second part of the Annals.7
For more details see T. F. Priaulx, 'Peter Perchard, Lord Mayor of London', The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, XVII (2) Summer 1961, pp. 29-30; 'The Installation of a Guernseyman as Lord Mayor of London', ibid. LVII (2) Summer 1996, pp. 36 ff.; H. H. P. Le Mesurier, 'Notes on the Armorial China of some of the Guernsey Families', Report and Trans. of the Société Guernesiaise, XII (3) 1935, pp. 283 ff. (Perchard and Le Mesurier). John Jacob, Annals of some of the British Norman isles constituting the bailiwick of Guernsey: as collected from private manuscripts, public documents and former historians, Vol. I: Paris, 1830.
1 1702-1777; son of John Perchard of Guernsey. He was a jeweller in Hatton Gardens, and Prime Warden of the Goldsmith's Company. Peter's mother Rachel Perchard, b. 1690, was his sister. Peter 'came early to London and was under the patronage of his wealthy uncle.' [Annual Register of World Events, Vol. 148.] Edith Carey, in Report and Trans. of the Soc. Guernesiaise, VIII (1) 1917, pp. 55ff., tells us that when Matthew died he left
'about £30,000 to be divided among his three nephews, Peter Perchard son of Peter, John Perchard son of John, and Peter Perchard son of Daniel, and their descendants.' Peter Perchard was firstly partner of his cousin, also Peter Perchard, in the firm of Peter & Peter Perchard, goldsmiths, jewellers, and banking agents, of 15 Abchurch-Street. 'The business of silversmith was kept up both by James Perchard of Clerkenwell and Peter Perchard, afterwards Lord Mayor, who subsequently went into business with Mr William Brock in Hatton Garden, both as a silversmith and as a banking agent' (that firm being 'Brock & Le Mesurier'). That Matthew also undertook to be a banking agent, at any rate so far as the Channel Islands are concerned, is proved by a letter which I have in my possession, addressed to Mr John Mauger, Merchant in Guernsey: London, 31st January, 1760. 'SIR: [....] having received from Mr Thomas Brown of Gumvollo, by order of Captain Nicholas Le Cheminant, on you account a bill of £50 drawn by Pascoe Grenfell and George Grenfell, which is accepted and shall when paid be placed to your credit. I salute you with all due regard, Sir, Your very humble servant, Matthew PERCHARD.'
Zephaniah Job, the smuggler, used as London agents first William de Jersey and then Perchard, Brock & Co., as well as Paul & Havilland Le Mesurier. See Perrycoste, Frank H., Gleanings from the records of Zephaniah Job of Polperro, 2007. For the development of Perchard's firm in London, see Hocart, R., De Beauvoir letters &c, 1982, in the De Beauvoir file in the Library.
The Library has a transcript of a 1699 Royal Court case in which Marie de la Marche, the mother and guardian (tutrice) of James Perchard, challenged Pierre Perchard over the distribution of the inheritance in property of Jean Perchard Senior ('two houses and orchards near the Towne of St Peter Port'), James' grandfather, which had come through James' father, John Perchard Junior, his own father's principal heir. James Perchard was acting on behalf of absent co-heirs and Henry de Zouches, who was married to his aunt; Thomas Le Messurier was also involved. Marie de la Marche was given leave to appeal to the Privy Council at her expense, which she does in 1702. The transcription of the judgment is also available; the Privy Council reversed the decision, coming down in favour of Marie. This was a rich family and litigious; other quarrels about money can be followed by consulting the Library's Family File. For example, John Perchard of Homerton in Hackney died intestate in 1783, and was buried in St Mary Abchurch; John Bouillon Perchard's claim to inherit was contested; Peter Perchard was the executor. Copies of the wills of Matthew Perchard and Peter Perchard can be found in Wilfred Carey's Perchard Wills Notebook (82C in the Library).
At the same period (1709-1759) Helier Perchard of Jersey worked out of Cannon Street in London as a well-known pewterer and retailer (Universal Pocket Companion, 1767). Elias Perchard is named as a Channel Island agent c. 1732 living 'at the corner of Cannon-Street and Abchurch-Street' (see Stevens Cox, Guernsey merchants and their world, p. 92). William de Jersey, a pewterer of St Mary Abchurch, was married into the Perchard family and appeared as a witness 'who had known Peter Perchard for thirty years' in a legal matter concerning a will in 1777. See also Some Perchard memorial inscriptions.
2 Martha Le Mesurier (d. 1787), daughter of Henry Le Mesurier and Mary Dobrée; they married at St Martin's Church in Guernsey on 6 July 1768. It was common in Guernsey to have only or mainly female household servants.
3 For a comprehensive biography of Paul Le Mesurier (1755-1805), also Lord Mayor (in 1793) see Meyer, W. R., in Report and Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise, XXI (V) 1985, pp. 701 ff. who says of him 'In an age of affectation and excess, Le Mesurier was a sober man of business.' His brother Havilland would not have agreed with that opinion; in his letters to his wife, held in the Library, he frequently describes Paul—his former business partner—as a show-off and a spendthrift.
4 Possibly Martha (1770-1780). A second Martha was born to the couple in that same year, and she went on to marry Lieut.-Colonel John Le Mesurier, the last hereditary Governor of Alderney (Paul and Havilland's nephew).
5 Daniel son of Elie. His sister was also Martha.
6 His wife's mother was Marie Dobrée.
7 As they were, after John Jacob's death in 1840, in Sequel to the Annals; this consists of genealogical material intended for the second volume he had not yet collected, or never published, in the 1830 Annals of Guernsey. A contemporary list of the original donors to the St Peter Port Town Hospital is held at the Library.