A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 3, the court cases.

Part of the William Henry Burke story  [If you haven’t seen part 1 and part 2 use the links here]  was always going to come from what the court case was. Quite early on, I had come across this cutting from the London Gazette.

So it’s quite clear that there has been some sort of argument about the will. Given the title of the case referred to “Burke against O’Bryen” and that George Wood is “one of the defendants and executors”, it must be the case that either Basil or Harriet O’Bryen, or, most likely, both, were also defendants. The only close adult member of the Burke family likely to be the claimant is (William) Henry Burke, and it appears from this notice that he had some sort of dispute with his sister, and a brother-in-law. So the search was on for what the case was about. We knew from the details in the ” Illustrated London News “ in January 1871 that WHB left about £ 18,000. The only figures in that clipping were that Henry Burke received shares worth £ 6,070 ” beyond any other provision made for him “. We also know that he made “provision and settlement for his two daughters, and daughter in law,” , and that Harriet received £ 500 to give to charity as she saw fit, and that she was the  “residuary legatee of both his real and personal estate “. So the bulk of the estate, almost two-thirds in fact, are either settled on the daughters, and daughter-in-law, or part of the residual estate. Harriet also seems to get the family home, and potentially other property as well.

32 Thistle Grove [now Drayton Gardens] in South Kensington was a fairly new-built house, construction had started in 1845, with the majority of the houses completed by the end of the 1850’s. It had probably cost in the region of about £ 600 to build. So not a bad thing to inherit. All in all, Harriet and Basil seem to have done fairly well from her inheritance, certainly well enough for Henry Burke to feel hard done by.

The next step was to try to track down the details of Burke against O’Bryen. After a lot of fruitless searching, I finally came across something in the National Archives catalogue, having searched under O’Bryen. The following came up:

Cause number: 1872 B246. Short title: Burke v Keith.

Plaintiffs: William Henry Burke.

Defendants: Wilson Keith, Basel William O’Bryen, Harriett Matilda O’Bryen his wife, Mary Anne Burke (wife of William Henry Burke) and William Donald Henry Burke, Edmund John Burke, Kate Alice Burke spinster, Sarah Elizabeth Burke spinster and Walter Keith Burke.

The title of the court case isn’t Burke v. O’Bryen exactly, but it’s definitely a court case involving Henry Burke, his sister Harriet, and Basil O’Bryen. It had to be worth looking at, so a little over a year ago, I’d registered for a reader’s ticket, given the required notice because the records were stored off site, and was booked in for a visit to the National Archives in Kew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *