Dictionary of Family Biography – John Cutler

John Cutler (27 Nov 1794 – 16 Mar 1843) was born in Sherborne, Dorset, the son of the Reverend John Cutler and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Guise. He was their fifth child, of 10, 8 sons and two daughters.  His father was headmaster of Sherborne Grammar School, and it is assumed that he received his education there.  Two of his brothers Richard and George appear in the school registers as students, but it can be assumed that the other boys also received a similar education, one of the perks of being the son of the headmaster.

By 1811 John appears on the list of clerks under the Clerk of the Ordnance – as an assistant clerk. A note in the document which lists him states that he is not paid as a clerk, being an officer in Tower Hamlets Militia, with leave.  John’s job was at the Tower of London, and the Clerk of the Ordnance was responsible for the purchasing of supplies for the military.  It is not clear whether or not this was an apprenticed position, but it seems likely.  By 1824, at the time of his marriage he was a clerk in the Ordnance Office (although not THE Clerk of the Ordnance), and was styling himself as a gentleman.

A number of records state that John Cutler was from Eton, which was somewhat confusing while researching his life. At first when it was confirmed that he was the son of the Reverend John Cutler, it was that that this was a mere affectation, connecting him to a rather posh town, where his father was born.  But save for a short spell in the early 1840s he did not actually appear to live there.  It seems though that he came to own a fair amount of property there as heir to his uncle William Henry Cutler, who himself had inherited the Windsor Waterworks from his father Roger Cutler. This inherited wealth no doubt contributed to his advancement as a ‘gentleman’, although he appears to have continued to work for the Ordnance office.  He first appears on Eton’s electoral rolls in 1831.

In 1824 he married Louisa Freak, the daughter of Thomas Freak, Esq. and Elizabeth Walters. Freak was a very successful shipbreaker in Greenwich. In it unclear as to how the couple met, as their homes and social circles seem vastly disparate.

They moved to Camberwell, south of London. The area, at the time, was considered an up and coming neighbourhood with the construction of some new town homes on the New Road.  The area otherwise seems to have been slightly rural, but connected by road and bridge to London.  The couple had five children: Elizabeth (1828-1915), Fanny (1834), Louisa (1831), William Henry (1835-1895) and Mary (1836-1921).

It is not clear why, but the marriage appears to have broken down in about 1839. John appears to have moved to Eton, but without his wife or his younger daughter Mary, and is listed there in the 1841 census.  Louisa has not been located at all for the 1841 census.

John had returned to Camberwell by 1843, where he died after a long illness in 1843. From his last will and testament it is clear that he and Louise no longer lived together, and that he was quite angry with her.  In the will he leaves his daughters Louisa and Elizabeth a fair amount of money and household goods, and his son William Henry the control of the Windsor Waterworks on the condition that they don’t live with or near their mother.  He also gives guardianship of these children to his sister Elizabeth Bennison.  To his wife he leaves the house in Notting Hill, the household goods, control of the money she inherited from her parents, and guardianship of Mary.  He leaves Mary some money, but not nearly the same as her sisters.


JC Sainty, “Ordnance Clerk 1544-1855: A Provisional List Compiled by JC Sainty, May 2002” http://www.history.ac.uk/publications/office/ordnance

Reports from Commissioners, Session 1 November – 24 July 1810-1811, Vol IV.

Hampshire Advertiser, 25 March 1843

Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 25 March 1843

London Standard, 17 March 1843 & 8 Feb 1837.

UK Census 1841

UK Poll Books & Registers, 1831

The Gentleman’s Magazine & Historical Chronicle from Jan to June 1825, Vol xcv

Royal Kalendar & Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland and the Colonies – the Present Peerage of the UK London, William Stockdale, Picadilly, 1825

Norwood Cemetery Transcript of Burials, 1843.

Dorset England Baptisms

Faculty Office Marriage Licence Allegations, 1701-1850

Will of John Cutler of Eton, Buckinghamshire, Prerogative Court of Canterbury & related Probate Jurisdictions, British National Archives, I/13/03057953D

Lease of workshop, orchard and buildings in Eton by John Cutler (Kennington) Property left to Cutler by his uncle William Henry Cutler (Eton) died 1829 – dated 1831.