In a memoir of his sister Theresa Poole formerly Walker nee Chauncy (1807 – 1876), Philip Lamothe Snell Chauncy (1816 – 1880), who was my third great grandfather, wrote:

[Her grandfather] William Snell Chauncy was the proprietor of the Winkfield Estate in Berkshire, where he resided for many years ; he was also possessed of slave estates in Antigua and St. Kitts, in the West Indies, of house property in Sackville Street, Dublin, and of considerable funded property.

Her father was his only son, born in London, on the 14th August, 1781, and died at Leamington on 1st August, 1845.

In giving this information, however, Philip Chauncy neglects to mention that his and Therese’s father was illegitimate, the natural son of William Snell-Chauncy (1756-1829).

Here was the explanation for something that had puzzled me: why had published pedigrees of my Chauncey forebears failed to include Philip Chauncy’s father William (1781-1845)?

On 14 August 1781 William Brown, the son of Eunice Brown and William Snell-Chauncy, was born in London.

Eunice (1753 – 1836) was the daughter of Captain Robert Brown (1713 – 1769) and his wife Margaret Brown nee Cosnahan (1718 – 1769). The Brown family was from the Isle of Man. Eunice was the seventh of nine children. William Brown was brought up on the Isle of Man by his mother’s family, with financial support from his father.

On 6 June 1783 William Snell-Chauncy married Sarah Toulmin (1757 – 1834). William and Sarah had two daughters, Sarah (1786 – 1841) and Catharine (1788 – 1858). William Snell-Chauncy and his wife Sarah separated in 1789. The Deed of Separation, issued in 1789, stipulated that William should not have the management of his two daughters.

Philip Chauncy’s father, William, married Rose Therese Lamothe on 5 May 1804 at Malew on the Isle of Man. Marriage records give his name as William Snell Chauncy; it appears William had adopted his father’s name. William’s children were all known by the surname Chauncy.

Philip wrote that his sister Theresa was “sent on a visit to my grandfather at Wingfield, where she rendered us good service by watching and partially defeating the intrigues of another branch of the family who were using every exertion to obtain an undue share of property from my grandfather in his old age. I think Theresa must have been at Wingfield for several years”. This would have been in the late 1820s.

William Snell-Chauncy died in 1829. In his will he named his son as William Brown, later referring to his “natural son William Brown”. The children of William Brown were also provided for, as was Eunice Brown, William’s mother. Only after providing for the Browns does William’s will turn to his daughters Sarah and Catharine. He made no provision for his wife Sarah, stating he had provided for her in his lifetime.

In 1831 William Snell-Chauncy’s daughter Mrs Catherine Snell Burke challenged the legal validity of the will and its codicil on the grounds of insanity of the testator. One of the executors was a man called Robert Westwood; the case was named ‘Westwood against Burke and Others’. The challenge was put forward in June 1831 and the case came to court in November and December 1831. The bulk of William Snell-Chauncy’s estate of £25,000 had been left to his natural son.

Martha and Theresa Brown [sic], Philip Chauncy’s sisters, were noted as having lived with the deceased, their grandfather. The court heard evidence alleging that William Snell-Chauncy’s behaviour had been childish, that he was a habitual drunkard, and that he had conducted himself in an insane and irrational manner. It was also alleged that the signature on the will was not in his hand-writing. The counter allegations were that the deceased, though eccentric, was not of unsound mind; he had conducted his own affairs, had received and paid money, played at cards, spoke French; that he was charitable and benevolent; and that he entertained great regard for his natural son and his family.

On 19 December 1831 The Times reported the proceedings of the Prerogative Court for December 17. The King’s Advocate on behalf of the executors observed that the party opposing the will was really Captain Burke on behalf of his wife and her unmarried sister and that Captain Burke’s difficulty with the will was not that the testator was incapable of making a will but only a will more in favour of the legitimate children. The King’s Advocate noted that previous wills made by William Snell-Chauncy in 1799, 1816 and 1820 had all provided for his natural son. Given that the 1789 deed of separation from his wife had stipulated he should not have the management of his two daughters, it followed that there was less intimacy with his legitimate family. But he had had constant interaction with his natural son and his family.

Dr Lushington on behalf of Captain Burke stated that in the course of evidence there were “charges brought against the Misses Brown [Theresa and Martha Chauncy] [which] were not a substantial part of the case, but solely with the view of discrediting the testimony of a witness.”


Portrait of Sir John Nicholl (1759-1838), Welsh politician and judge. Artist William Owen Collections of St John’s College, University of Oxford Retrieved from

The Times of 5 January 1832 reported the decision of Sir John Nicholl, judge of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. More than 50 witnesses had been examined and there were depositions from more than 100 witnesses. There was a larger body of evidence on the case than in any case of the records of the Court. Nicholl found that no act of insanity had been proved and that the whole conduct and history of the testator naturally led to the conclusion of the probability of the dispositions in the will. The judge

“referred particularly to the charges alleged against the Misses Brown, in an interrogatory address to a witness named Gould, and which he had positively denied. Where, he asked, was the necessity of attacking the character of these two young women? It was an act of justice to them that the Court should declare thus publicly, that the character of these young women had been attacked without any just cause, and that the single witness by whom the charge had been attempted to be supported, was unworthy of any sort of credit whatever.”

Mr and Mrs Burke were condemned to all costs as it was deemed unfair that the estate should bear any of the costs.

From the judge’s summing up it appears that Martha had most certainly earned the comment from her brother that “…she rendered us good service by watching and partially defeating the intrigues of another branch of the family who were using every exertion to obtain an undue share of property from my grandfather in his old age”.


  • Philip Lamothe Snell Chauncy (1816 – 1880) wrote a memoir of his sister Mrs Poole, Theresa Poole formerly Walker nee Chauncy (1807 – 1876). It was first published in 1873 as Memoir of the late Mrs G.H. Poole by her brother. It was republished in 1976 together with a memoir of Philip’s second wife as Memoirs of Mrs. Poole and Mrs. Chauncy.
  • Tucker, Stephen, 1835-1887. Pedigree of the Family of Chauncy. Special private reprint, with additions. London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1884. Viewed online at [see printed page 10]
  • Will of William Snell Chauncy Esquire probated 26 March 1832 PCC  Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1795
  • “Prerogative Court, Tuesday, Nov. 15.” Times [London, England] 16 Nov. 1831: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 Sept. 2018.
  • “Prerogative Court, Saturday, Dec. 17.” Times [London, England] 19 Dec. 1831: 7. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 Sept. 2018.
  • “Prerogative Court, Wednesday, Jan. 4.” Times [London, England] 5 Jan. 1832: 4. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 30 Sept. 2018.

Related links

  • The Gazette (London Gazette) Publication date: 12 December 1780 Issue: 12144 Page: 4 William Snell, later William Snell-Chauncy, was born in 1756 at Wingfield, Berkshire to William Snell (1716 – 1779) and Martha Snell nee Chauncy (1720 – 1765). Martha was the daughter of Charles Chauncy (1673 – 1763). In his will, Charles Chauncy specified that his grandson William Snell should take on the name Chauncy when he was twenty four years old and that he should quarter Charles Chauncy’s coat of arms with his own. Charles Chauncy’s three sons had no male issue and William Snell was the oldest of Charles Chauncy’s three grandsons by his daughter Martha. William Snell of Edmonton was granted license in accordance with the will of his late grandfather Charles Chauncy late of Newington to add Chauncy to his name in December 1780.
    • Will of Charles Chauncy probated 28 February 1763 : The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 884
  • ‘William Snell Chauncy ne Snell’, Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, [accessed 1st October 2018].
  • From
    • In 2017, the relative price worth of £25000 0s 0d from 1831 is:
      • £2,160,000.00 using the retail price index
      • £2,450,000.00 using the GDP deflator
    • In 2017, the relative wage or income worth of £25000 0s 0d from 1831 is:
      • £20,200,000.00 using the average earnings
      • £30,900,000.00 using the per capita GDP
    • In 2017, the relative output worth of £25000 0s 0d from 1831 is:
      • £114,000,000.00 using the GDP
  • UK National Archives: it seems the court records are available: Reference: PROB 37/883 Description: Westwood v Burke and others Testator or intestate: Chauncy, William Snell formerly of Bishopsgate Common, Surrey; afterwards of Windlesham, Surrey; late of Winkfield, Berks.; esq. Date: 1830-1832 Held by: The National Archives, Kew

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