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Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

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Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby JGeber » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:26 pm

Thomas was my 4x great-grandfather. I have been researching this question for decades but it remains my ‘brick wall’. I would be thrilled and enormously grateful if forum members could help break it down for me.

I know that he was born sometime between 1745 and 1748. Thomas Wade West, comedian of the parish of Wolverhampton, married Margaretta Shepherd on 30 Sep 1774 at St Peter’s Collegiate Church Wolverhampton. She was the daughter of an Irish theatre manager, Charles Shepherd (c.1727-1768), and Sarah Martin (died Birmingham c.1816). Thomas and Margaretta had about 16-18 children, (many of whom did not survive), born at various locations as they toured the provinces, between 1774 and 1788.

The couple also performed on the London stage at the Haymarket and China Hall theatres from 1775 to 1778. Having had nearly thirty years’ experience of theatres in England, they then emigrated to the United States in about 1788/1790 and became naturalised citizens in 1792. They established and built the first theatres in a number of towns in Virginia and in North and South Carolina between 1788 and 1799. Thomas was also a prominent Freemason, particularly at Alexandria, Virginia. In 1799 they lived in Norfolk, Virginia.

On 28 July 1799, whilst building the theatre at Alexandria, Thomas fell to his death from the gallery above the stage. He was buried with Masonic honours at Christchurch, Alexandria. His tombstone in the churchyard gave his age as 54 years.

He did not leave a will, but his letter of intention was accepted and his family was able to inherit his property for some years afterward. Margaretta and some of her family continued to manage theatres until her death in Norfolk in 1810.

Their son William Wade West wrote a brief family history in which he says virtually nothing about his father except that he was ‘of the city of Bath’ and died in Virginia about 1800. But he wrote at some length about his Shepherd family. A family story persists that Thomas was somehow connected to the West family, Earls De La Warr, but I have found no evidence to confirm this. William’s silence on the West family and my inability to find Thomas’s parents, leads me to wonder if Thomas was illegitimate.

The only tantalising connection I have discovered is that West Digges (1725-1786), who performed with Thomas and Margaretta at the Haymarket on 17 Sep 1778, was the best known provincial actor of his generation. He scandalised his aristocratic family by selling his commission in the army to become an actor on the stage and in her will, his mother threatened to disinherit him unless he give up acting and the theatre. He was often bankrupt and was many times pursued for debt. Digges had a string of relationships with actresses and apparently many illegitimate children. West Digges was the eldest son of Lady Elizabeth West (1692-1762) and Colonel Thomas Digges. Elizabeth was the daughter of Lord John West, 6th Baron De La Warr (1663-1723). It is tantalising to think that Thomas Wade West may have been Digges' illegitimate son from one of his many relationships in the theatre.

I have researched the family in depth using many sources and have amassed a large amount of information, but I am stuck and can’t seem to get back any further. If anyone has any ideas, I would be delighted to hear them.
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby callbrian » Sat Jan 25, 2014 10:47 pm

you've obviously as stated done an awful lot of research.
I expect you may already seen or tried the following but you never know. ... CDwQ6AEwBw
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby JGeber » Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:01 pm

Thanks Brian for reminding me about that really useful site.
Yes, I have checked it in the past and did so again now, but no matches on all counties.
Thanks for trying.
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby ianbee » Sun Jan 26, 2014 4:13 pm

There is a Bath marriage on FreeReg that possibly might be connected
23 May 1745 at Walcot St Swithin
Thomas West and Anne Wade
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby JGeber » Sun Jan 26, 2014 6:54 pm

Hi Ian and Brian

Thanks again for your suggestions. Ian, I have tried to find your result for the baptism with Wade as mother on FreeReg but can't find it, even though I have done a 10 year search on either side of 1745. Can you help me find it please?

I have some notes from a notebook years ago which took me to one West family in Walcot St Swithins, but when I researched around the family using newspapers, I wasn't convinced. I think what I will do now is look at all the West families in Bath that I can find and reconstruct the family lines to see what I can come up with. The fact that T W West is 'of Bath' doesn't necessarily mean that he was born there, but I will have to try to confirm it or dismiss it using all means possible.

Thanks again for your help.
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby Sylcec » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:40 pm

Confirming the 1745 marriage found on FreeReg by Ian - however of all the WEST baptisms in Bath in the following 5 years or so, also on FreeReg, none had parents Thomas and Ann.
I wondered if Thomas Wade West may have been born and baptised as son of Ann Wade (prior to marriage) but if so, this is not on FreeReg.
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby JGeber » Mon Jan 27, 2014 5:42 pm

Thanks for your thoughts sylcec. I have often puzzled over the name Wade, which has continued to be used down the generations as a middle name for sons and then finally it was used as an add-on to the surname, as if it had some importance as a female line. But I am still at a loss. I will follow up your suggestions. Thanks J
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby dabercrombie » Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:41 pm

Hi JGeber,

I am working on the family tree of a friend whose 3xgreat grandfather was William Wade West the Royal Navy Commander who died in Mauritius in 1856. There is a tree in Ancestry which relies heavily on some of your research and which claims that William Wade West was the son of the theatrical impresario Thomas Wade West.

I confess that I am struggling to make that connection. It is that case that my William Wade West had a son named Thomas Wade West (1824 - 1882), but that, your statement that your Thomas Wade West had a son named William Wade West and the fact that the dates broadly fit, makes the connection circumstantial.

I wonder if you have any additional information that would prove the connection between your Thomas Wade West and my William Wade West.

Thank you in advance.

David Abercrombie
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Re: Parents of Thomas Wade West (c.1745-1799) ‘of Bath’

Postby SullyBarbier » Mon Sep 03, 2018 1:50 am

I've always seen Thomas Wade West listed as the brother-in-law of Matthew Sully, father of well-known painter Thomas Sully. His sister, TWW's wife is listed as Margaretta Sully West.
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