Joshua Roylance had a sister Sarah Burgess (her last name was Burgess because Joshua's mother had remarried after her first husband died), who when married became Sarah Davenport . Sarah Davenport has a daughter Hannah Davenport , Hannah marries George Warburton , Edith Alice Warburton is born. Edith marries Charles Frederick Shawcross and has a son Kenneth Charles Warburton Shawcross who marries Ivy Edith Binks who has a son John Frederick Shawcross who marries Frances Elizabeth McCaffry and has a daughter Clare Shawcross (who worked this all out!!). 

In fact, there are other characters in play.  The letter which was originally written on both sides of a sheet of paper both across and up and down ( I saw the original jfs) was passed to Charles Frederick Shawcross's older sister Lucy Shawcross, who kept it for many years and it came to Kenneth Shawcross after her death. Somehow the letter was lost but a transcript was made before it was lost and I have reproduced it here.

John Shawcross  (This extra note added in May 2012)

Posted Dec 12" 1852

Ward’s Island

Nov 16" 1852

My Dear Mother,

Long have I intended writing you, and many uneasy hours has it cost me, in not being able to do so; but I trust you will forgive me for the apparent neglect and believe that unworthy as I may have been, I have not, nor ever can forget or cease to love a parent for whom I owe so much, and who has suffered so much for my misspent life.

I will also trust that a brief narrative of my eventful life since leaving my dearly-loved home will be taken as sufficient apology for my long silence. I am fully convinced that you have spent many unhappy hours on my account, and have had many misgivings with respect to the course of life I might be leading. My past life I grieve and confess must lead to such surmises, but I am thankful to say and I know, you will be equally thankful to know, that I have not disgraced myself by any mean or unmanly actions since I left my native land, and I am at the present time filling (I believe satisfactorily) a most responsible, and if not a very lucrative, at least a highly reputable situation.

On leaving my brother Harry I immediately repaired to the vessel and although we did not sail until the following Tuesday, I did not leave it again, and we had a modestly good passage, but a somewhat long one, being exactly six weeks, from the time we went on board to the time we landed in New York.

You will probably surprised to hear that I did not experience on hours one hours sea or other sickness throughout the whole voyage, and I trust was one of the most useful passengers on boat, which consisted of seven hundred within too(?). I wrote and read a great deal and found the two volumes of sermons my Aunt presented to me extremely useful, as previous to our second Sunday on board, I was requested to conduct a religious service, which I did during the remainder of the passage. I am quite aware that my efforts were very imperfect, still I hope they were acceptable to that being to whom they were offered & whose laws I had so long and grievously been violating.

I have a very long journal of my passage, which I was urgently pressed to have printed, by both officers and passengers, but I would not comply with the request on account of the expence; could I have done so I would easily have cleared thirty or forty dollars. I would have sent you a written copy of it along with this letter, but I have not the means, but when I receive my quarters pay at Xmas, will not fail doing so, trusting that it may tend(?) to pass over a----ceably (agreeably?) a few hours during the long winter evenings.

Pretty nearly the last words that Harry said to me was that when I wrote to state nothing but facts. Nothing else shall you hear from me. Upon landing in New York, as you are aware, I had but what I left Liverpool with 22/6 a very trifle in a large city without a single individual that you know, and having to trust to providence for your future means of subsistence. All this I was previously fully aware of and did not doubt that I should be able by my own exertions to obtain some kind of employment, but in this case I was, as I had often been before to sanguine. For six weeks did I diligently seek and offer myself for almost every kind of work, unsuccessfully, suffering, I must confess those privations that I will not hurt your feelings by relating; suffice to say that I subsisted by occasionally writing a letter for a person I might accidentally fall in with, and by printing (painting?) ornamental cards for shop windows and limited enough I assure you, my resources were.

At the end of six weeks, I fell in with a clergyman for whom I was recommended by a draper who I had done some writing for, and was engaged by him to work in his garden, or grounds that was converting into a garden, and where he proposed building next spring a family house. The day after I was engaged p------- wit, I was consequently sent to assist the carpenter, and was found so active that I was kept at that work. After three weeks was raised my wages with a promise of constant employment I felt extremely(?) comfortable, but just as I felt myself settled, I was attacked with a bowel complaint and remained with them at their charge. He feared keeping me longer, when I left for New York where I stopped until my money and most of my clothes were gone.

I then made application gaining admission to this hospital or as it was called ‘the emigrants refuge’ named at the head of this letter. This island is perhaps half the size of Style, and has been purchased by the Commissioner(s?) Of Emigration for receiving emigrants who are sick and have not the means for paying for medical or other attendance. I perhaps need not say that I was most thankful to be received in this asylum (which is situated up the river about two miles from the city) and in a short time was restored to health. The institution is not confined to one building but consists of numerous houses or as they are called ‘shanties’ each admitting of a certain number of patients classifying (clarifying?) the various diseases with which the patient may be afflicted. I cannot enumerate the variety, but every complaint is comprised. It is also a receptacle for parties who are destitute, who can be clothed, fed for their labour and furnished with better employment as soon as possible.

Orphans also find here a home and are well clothed and fed and sheltered until able to obtain their own living. Further details I will not enter into other to say that shortly after my admission I was noticed by the Doctor and was promised a situation. Each ‘shanty’ has its nurse and assistant and hold about forty five patients. The situation I looked for was assistant, as it is very rare for anyone to be appointed nurse without first having acted the position of subordinate. This I had to do for two months in the third degree without any remuneration, than my board(?) and clothing. When the nurse for the group was, for neglect of duty, was discharged, I most unexpectedly was appointed in his stead over the senior assistant who certainly was on scholarship as want(?) of knowledge of medicine inable(?) to cope & had however continued still to work comfortably together. I don’t boast when I say I am giving satisfaction to my employers and to the patients entrusted to my charge. It is neither a very comfortable place, nor by any means an easy one. I am now out of my bed and must remain so for five hours to ten oclock. I can safely say I have not had more than four to five hours of sleep of a night for the last six weeks and do not however complain, neither will I as long as the Almighty spares my health, which I am thankful to say I am enjoying.

I am far stouter(?) than you last saw me. My time is is so limited that I beg you to excuse writing in anything like a collected manner. I have several most dangerous cases whose deaths may be expected any hour; indeed such scenes are no novelty to me now. Three died last week. In the midst of death then how can I forget my own end. I trust I do not do so, but that I am prepared for the awful but certain change.

My salary is one hundred and eighty dollars per year, payable quarterly. The first of which I receive at Christmas (with board, washing and most of my clothes except a best suit, which one but of little use.

You are neither permitted to enter upon or leave the Island without a pass, neither have you any chance of spending money as there are stores of all kinds to provide what is necessary, no money being taken or received. I cannot therefore if so disposed spend my earnings. But I have no desire to any such thing, my object is to save; and I must with God’s blessing to be enabled to return and prove substantially that I deeply deplore my past degradation. It is a country I can never bring my mind to settle, for although I have no thought of leaving it for years, I believe I can save money and until I have done so will remain.

Good mechanics, joiners, bricklayers etc. may do well but scholarship is not of much value here until you become known. Book keepers or clerks are well paid but it requires considerable interest? T o obtain such a situation. My brother John might do well here and would have no difficulty in getting employment, I have often wished him love and hope he is doing well. I know he may do so if he chooses and anyone who is doing moderately at home is unwise if he leaves for few come here who have to submit to many privations for a length of time and after all those who have been brought up in a comfortable home, must not expect ever to find those comforts here.

If a man does not know himself, then come to America, I warrant his wits will soon be set to work to let him be ever so sharp he will meet with more ‘know it alls’ than himself. Do not suppose that I am whining I am not. I am thankful for the success I have met with and am resolved to do my duty in the situation I am placed in until an opportunity offers of meeting with something more congenial to my talents. You will probably if you receive this have received a letter from William. I hope so and sincerely do I hope that the accounts from him may be favourable and that he may be prosperous and happy in that Distant land. [note from KCWS: Australia, I think] I sometimes have a notion of going there myself as I feel assured that it is a country where success is certain if parties are guided by prudence, but I trust I have in great measure divested myself of that impetuosity, which has been so great a characteristic of my past life and shall take no steps without mature consideration, but I will trouble you no more about myself, having stated all particulars and that truly.

I hope you are all well & you have had a prosperous year. How is Sarah, William & family & Hannah, her William and their little ones. I trust their fresh undertakings wil prove a successful one. I have often thought with a considerable degree of coolness. One thing however stirs my feelings and has often overpowered me, that is when about my work I commence humming some favourite tune almost unconsciously it suddenly calls to mind your own cheerful family circle; would that I could bring back those happy times; such however cannot be and I cannot now join in. Let us hope that the recolection of them will inspire me with fresh courage to preserve bonds(?) to check any relapsing & fall back into my former evil courses. Give my love to my Uncle Samuel and say that I hope he is well and prosperous and to my Aunt Lydia Uncle Pownall’s family. I am much engaged at this time and anxious to send this by next mail. You will therefore excuse me saying more further than to request you to write me a letter of all particulars immediately. Excuse me if I neglect mentioning all my friends particularly believe I forget none. Remember me to Mrs. ____, Mrs Higginson if she enquire and let me also ask have you heard from or seen Jane. I much fear, if she e—ed (?erred) so far as as a presentation, I shall have a good deal to answer for. God in heaven forgive her and me and may she be happier than I ever can be, although I am now cheerful and do not let vain regrets trouble or divert me from what I consider to be my line of duty. Let me hear of her. Do not fear it upsetting me. My nerves are far stronger than when I left you. I hope my father’s health is perfectly reestablished. Give my dear love to him, my cousin, Aunt, brother and sisters and all friends and accept my dearest Mother the sincere and ever affectionate love of your

Unfortunate but not unfeeling Son,

Joshua Roylance

Write soon and direct: J. Roylance

Orderly Hospital

No. 8 Shanty

Wards Island

Near New York



Once upon a time a lady named Mary married Joshua Vernon Roylance (b. 1790). In about 1816, they had a son, Joshua Roylance, our letter writer -- and tragically, the same year, while Joshua Roylance was an infant, his father died, very young himself. Mary was only about 18 at this time. I have a copy of the will, which is quite detailed and mentions some of the characters in our letter.

A couple of years later (1818) Mary marries Henry Burgess, and they had I believe 3 children, including Sarah Burgess (who married a Davenport and had a daughter Hannah, who married George Warburton and had a daughter Edith, who married Charles Shawcross, who has a son KCWS...and here we are).

A few years after their marriage, Mr. Burgess died and Mary married John Perrin -- which is why this letter is addressed to Mary Perrin, with the greeting  "My dear mother" -- and with Henry she had two sons.

Joshua married Jane Higginson in 1839 in Mobberley, when he was about 23. By the 1851 census (just a year before this letter!), they are both 35 - he is a schoolmaster and she is a schoolmistress. On the night of the 1851 census, coincidentally or not, they are *not* both in the same place, she listed as a "visitor" at a different address.

Now, at the end of the letter, we have this rather intriguing bit. I assume Mrs. Higginson is his mother-in-law. Obviously a lot went on with Jane, and one wonders what he was worried about her saying, and about his obvious mix of feelings about her.
Remember me to ...Mrs Higginson if she enquire and let me also ask have you heard from or seen Jane. I much fear, if she (?erred) so far as as a presentation, I shall have a good deal to answer for. God in heaven forgive her and me and may she be happier than I ever can be, although I am now cheerful and do not let vain regrets trouble or divert me from what I consider to be my line of duty. Let me hear of her. Do not fear it upsetting me. My nerves are far stronger than when I left you.

I also have a copy of the ship's manifest of Joshua's ship, arriving in New York -- July 19, 1852 on a ship called the "Irene" from Liverpool to NY - he is listed as a "teacher". He would have been 36 though I believe the manifest shows him as 30. And after that, of course, we have all the information in the letter.

We don't really know why he left England, except it seems it was sudden. Perhaps debt? Gambling? Law breaking? In the letter he talks about his "misspent" life and says "I have not disgraced myself by any mean or unmanly actions since I left my native land" and says also object is to save; and I must with God's blessing to be enabled to return and prove substantially that I deeply deplore my past degradation -- so he does want to return.

And what I really do not have is anything about What Happened Next (after the letter). One possibility might be that he died young, possibly of illness at the hospital, another might be that he stayed in the US or returned to England but I just have not found the census information yet, and another might be that he went to ?Australia to be with William, mentioned in his letter.

To my mind, the remaining big mysteries: what did Joshua (and Jane?) do that caused him to flee. And the biggest: what happened next to Joshua? I also wonder what happened to Jane, and whether she ever remarried (especially as it might shed some light on what happened to Joshua)

Sent to

Then Clare also provided this additional snippet:

I just remembered this page I had once seen which mentions a rumor naming someone who I can now be pretty sure is "our" Jane! Fortunately, google brought it right back up. Now, it is just conjecture but it might be interesting to write to the lady who made this page to ask her if she knows more about where the rumor came from!! (Unfortunately Joan is now deceased. jfs)

Dear Joan
What can you tell me about Old Dame's school - now Grange Cottage - on Darkness Lane - Chelford Road. I know it's mentioned in Cranford but I would like to know how long it was a school for and what other uses if any it had.
Thank you
Sue Primrose

Joan answers:

Grange Cottage, Chelford Road. This is one of Knutsford's older buildings. The rendered exterior gives no clues to the wealth of beams which have been exposed in the interior of the house. Originally this would have been an open hall, single storey building. In the course of its life, an upper floor and staircase have been added.

Old Dames school, Knutsford

It is probable that Richard Bertington was the occupant of the house in 1641. In 1850 it was a Dame School, where it is alleged, the school marm could not read or write. This was probably Jane Roylance, who gave her occupations as "Schoolmistress" when the census enumerator called, in 1841.

Mrs. Perrin

Oversley Ford