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Emra Family #2

Reflecting on the life and family of Rev John Emra, vicar of St George, born in St Kitts, West Indies, circa 1769.

Rev John Emra, vicar of St George, was born in St Cristopher (St Kitts) in the West Indies in about 1769. His grandmother on his mother, Lucy's, side of the family was Sarah Grey (born Manning).

John Emra's great-aunt, Lucy, gifted him ownership of enslaved workers when he was an infant. The fact that Rev John Emra was born in the West Indies into a world of plantation and slave owners does not fit with how many people imagine the traditional view of an English Country Parson. We don't know what happened to the enslaved people that John Emra was given in childhood by his great-aunts. We can only assume that they became the property of his parents or were sold.

Sarah's brother was John Manning, his son William Coventry Manning and grand-son, William Manning became very wealthy merchants, politicians and slavery plantation owners. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Manning_(British_politician)

John Emra came to England without his parents aged around 11 years & went to school in Stoke Bishop. Bristol Merchant Worthington Brice acted as surrogate father. This drawing of Worthington Brice is from the extra-illustrated book by John Emra's daughter held at @SomHeritage


Worthing Brice & his wife Martha had a Town house in Bristol & also a nearby farm (in walking distance of St Paul's for a very young Martha). This is 'the way to the farm'.


This is the young Martha (who was named after Worthington Brice's wife) feeding the chickens. Note the sail in the background and the hill behind it. Martha visited prior to 1805.


Here is another view of the farm (sorry about the poor quality). Martha describes adjacent fields. Note the glass cone and the church plus chimneys to the right.


in 1810 ‘A messuage or dwelling house, gardens, and outbuildings, late the residence of Worthington Brice Esq’ was for sale with a ‘frontage of 347 feet towards the Floating Harbour'. Could this be the farm, if so where was it?


From the above, I think the farm was as marked on this extract of the Ashmead Map of 1828 - what is now Baltic Wharf. Before the New Cut was built the farm would have been linked to the fields to the south. Do you agree? Any other suggestions welcome!


Rev Emra continued to have contacts in St Kitts through to his death. Apart from his children, the only other beneficiary mentioned in his will (dated 20th Nov 1837) was Jane Osborne. "I give and bequeath unto Jane Osborne of the town of Basseterre in the Island of Saint Christopher Seamstress the sum of one hundred pounds sterling money for her absolute use and benefit" A codicil, written less than a month before his death in September 1842 revoked the bequest "having made an advance in favour of Jane Osborne".

We wondered whether there were any traces of the family receiving compensation through the Slave Compensation Act 1837, and found that there is a Jane Osborn Emra recorded as having received £50 4s 3d in compensation for 3 enslaved people in St Kitts in October 1835*. I assume this is the same Jane Osborne, but I have been unable to find how Jane was related to Rev John Emra. There is no record of any of his known close relatives receiving compensation through this act, though the wider Manning family were involved in several claims.

The Emras were a very religious family, Rev Emra's son also became a vicar, Martha married the St George Curate, who then became a Minor Cannon at Canterbury. Lucy married a Wesleyan Minister. Elizabeth describes many visits to the poor in the parish, but the family were clearly well off and able to employ several servants 'doing their duty humbly and heartily, in that state of life in which it has pleased God to place them’ as Martha describes them. At least three of Rev Emra's daughters had books published, so they all clearly received a good education, though there is no mention of any of them going away to school. Undoubtedly their father's views will have very strongly influenced their own.

There is no mention in any of his daughters' books of their views on slavery and indeed very little mention of their links to the West Indies. However, Martha does mention abolitionist, poet and religious writer Hannah More and her sisters. She describes a visit by ‘the Mistress Mores’ who had apparently come some distance to hear Rev John Emra preach in Yatton. Martha later visited Hannah More with her father ‘whom she was ever pleased to receive’ and was presented with two copies of one of her books. Perhaps Hannah More was interested in Rev John Emra's views given his links to St Kitts, though it must be remembered that he was only 11 years old when he left the island and as far as we know he never returned. It may be that his views chimed with those of Hannah More, but unless more evidence comes to light we will never know for sure.

*'Jane Osborn Emra', Legacies of British Slavery database, http://wwwdepts-live.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/25739 [accessed 12th November 2021]

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