Discovery in a tin box

Estate worth £20,000 in 1938

by Christine Russell (0969)

This is the story of Elizabeth Perrott who lived in Gresse Street, London, one of the children of Nathan and Caroline Perrott. Her story is one of ‘rags to riches’ that you might find in a novel.

I have traced my grandfather’s uncle, Nathan Perrott (1821-1912) who was married to Caroline (b.1834? Bermondsey, d.1913.) in the 1881 census living at 26 Gresse Street, Marylebone, London, working as a furniture broker. He died in 1911 and his wife Caroline in 1913; they never made Wills. Their daughter Elizabeth (a spinster) continued living there alone for the next 25 years, living as frugally as her parents did all their lives. She then sometimes sold flowers and sometimes did office cleaning to earn money to support herself. When she was 80 years old and too old to work and care for herself she was given help by representatives of her church. They suggested she should go into a poor institution and the curate from her church asked if she had any family or relatives they could trace. She then produced an old tin box belonging to her late father, which neither she nor her mother ever opened as the key was missing.

The box was forcibly opened; inside were records of £10,000 of bank deposits and several thousand pounds worth of Government Bonds. These deposits, once discovered, were then restored by the bank and with interest added were worth £20,000 – that’s about half a million pounds today!

For Elizabeth to inherit this money it had to be proved that her parents were married and that she was their daughter. The case went to the Court of Chancery. Extensive searches were made and no marriage certificate was found. There was no evidence found to suggest that they had not married and a mass of evidence in favour of them being married. There were many birth and baptism certificates as they had seven children and the census returns from 1851 to 1911 showed that Nathan and Caroline had lived together as man and wife. The Judge said as this was clearly stated, therefore the monies should go to Elizabeth, the only surviving daughter.

Elizabeth died in 1939. She had made a Will and left all the money to her late sister’s three children.

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