The Jermy Pence

I was naturally very interested in the article in the "E.D.P" of April 15th on the "Jermy Millions" by J.D.W., as I am the only descendant if Norfolk of my great-grandfather, Isaac Jermy Jermy, and my great-great-grandfather, Isaac Jermy, Recorder of Norwich, both of whom were murdered at Stanfield Hall on November 28th 1848. I may therefore be able to fill in a little more of the story given by J.D.W.

William Jermy of Bayfield Hall, the last of his line married twice. His first wife was the Hon. Elizabeth Richardson, the then owner of Stanfield Hall. I have the Marriage Settlement Indenture in my possession, dated February 3rd 1737 (OS), and one of the witnesses is Isaac Preston, Attorney of Beeston St Lawrence. On the death of his first wife, without issue, William Jermy inherited Stanfield Hall and soon after married again, this time to Frances Preston, Isaac Preston's youngest sister. Under his second marriage settlement William Jermy left his North Norfolk estates, including Bayfield, on trust to provide a jointure for his wife on his death, with a right for her to require the trustees to raise £5000 from the sale of part of the estates, should she survive him without issue.

This is in fact what happened. William Jermy died without issue on January 21st 1751/52, and there is, or was, a monument to his memory in Aylsham Church. Frances Jermy married again in 1754 to a Mr Michell and the sum of £5000 was raised from the Bayfield estates to provide her with her share from her first marriage settlement. She died in 1791 and with her death the Bayfield (and ancestral) part of the Jermy "millions" went to her Michell children.

William Jermy had by his will, left the bulk of his free estate, including Stanfield, to his wife Frances, for life, and then, as J.D.W. says to two separate Preston "heir-presumptives," and only failing issue of either of them, "to such male persons of the name of Jermy as should be nearest related to the testator in blood." It was, I suppose, rather a stupid will as William Jermy appeared to have no known Jermy relations (he was the only son of an only son of an only son) and he evidently considered such Jermy relationships as may have existed as so slight that he was prepared to leave his property to two possible Preston lines (one headed by a boy of ten and the other by a man of 39) before falling back on any of his own kindred. It is true that Isaac Preston, William Jermy's brother in law, purchased the reversionary rights off the two nearest Jermy kin for £20 each, but I think this was nothing more than the usual lawyer's caution as he, too, would have no reason to believe that his son, of ten, and his brother, of 39, would both die childless. Of the two bought off, one, the Yarmouth labourer, was a third cousin once removed, and the other, the North Walsham attorney, was a second cousin twice removed. The latter was evidently an old man (his father had been made Rector of Gunton over 90 years previously) and no doubt would have preferred £20 cash to the ultimate right to a reversion which was never likely to occur and which would anyhow come years after his death.

But the unlikely did happen. The two Preston "heir-presumptives" both died childless and both died before the owner of Stanfield, Mrs Michell, ex-Jermy, nee Frances Preston. On her death, in 1791, the property then passed to the nearest male descendant of old Isaac Preston, who had purchased the reversionary rights off the nearest Jermy relatives 37 years before. This was another Isaac Preston, Recorder of Kings Lynn. From him the property passed, in 1796, to his younger brother, The Rev. George Preston, who built the present Stanfield Hall, and who lived there until his death in 1837.

He was succeeded by his son, the Recorder of Norwich, who changed his name to Jermy (no doubt with an eye on William Jermy's will of 1751) and who was murdered there 11 years later. The subsequent claim by Mr Taylor, the railway guard from Harwich, in 1878, was, in view of the Statute of Limitations, hopeless from the start, and seems to have been put up by some London lawyers in the hope, perhaps, of having the case settled out of court by an ex-gratia payment. The case could not have taken more than a couple of hours at most and I have a full account of it in the "Norfolk Chronicle" and "Norwich Gazette" of August 10th 1878.

J.D.W., or Mr Vladar, asks about the Jermy portraits, silver and heirlooms. I do not know much. I imagine the portraits would have been at Bayfield, but the great era of portrait painting of the country gentry had only comparatively recently started when William Jermy died. The portraits at Stanfield were nearly all Preston, although there was one supposed, possibly quite incorrectly, to be a Miss Jermy, and known to us from her enticing appearance as "Madame de Breasts." When the Rev George Preston's effects were sold in 1838 on his death, they included some 1000oz of silver and a large library of books, and some of both these items may have been Jermy. I have from Stanfield the original Blomfield's "History of Norfolk." The first two volumes have William Jermy's book plate, and his name is among the subscribers in Volume II. The other three volumes were published after his death and have the book plate of the Rev George Preston.

As regards the Jermy "millions," I only wish I knew more. I know they haven't come my way. So far as I am concerned it can only have been Jermy pence that trickled down, and I have headed this article more modestly accordingly.

Philip Jermy Gwyn

Ref: Eastern Daily Press, 29 April 1955