John Robert Gransden (Ship’s Master)

Jane Gransdens Story- Part 1- (Father of Jane Gransden)

Not many people survive more than one hundred years, certainly not in the nineteenth century.  One Gransden did – she was Jane Gransden, born in 1816. This is the story of her family. It takes us from the British Royal Navy to botanical gardens in Japan.

Jane was the first daughter of John Robert Gransden and his wife Jane Ann Bingley. So we will start with them. John Robert Gransden was born in 1783 near Strood in Kent, England. His parents and siblings moved to Hampshire, probably before 1793. They lived in the region of a thriving port which is now known as Portsmouth. John Robert became a mariner. Naval records show he enlisted in the Royal Navy and his name appears in the Navy Lists for 1811 through to 1827. He achieved the rank of Master.

 Master: This was the senior warrant rank and can be equated to a “professional” seaman and specialist in navigation, rather than as a military commander. Their rank approximated to that of Lieutenant and were well educated.  As part of his duties on board ship, the Master’s main duty was navigation, taking ship’s position daily and setting the sails as appropriate for the required course. He supervised Midshipmen and Mates in taking observations of the sun and maintained the ship’s compass. He was also responsible for ensuring the maintenance of the rope rigging and sails. Other duties included the stowing of the hold, inspecting provisions, taking stores so that the ship was not too weighted down to sail effectively and reporting defects to the Captain. Security and the issue of drink on board and supervised entry of parts of the official log such as weather, position and expenditure. [Wikipedia]

 In the middle of his Navy career John Robert Gransden married Jane Ann Bingley in Wymering in Hampshire, adjacent to Portsea.  Jane Ann was born around 1793 and in later documents she gave her place of birth as Knightsbridge, London.  Their marriage took place on New Year’s Day 1816 and in December of that year their first daughter, Jane, was born.  (This is the Jane referred to at the start who was to become a centenarian.)

A second daughter, Frances, was born in 1818. More of her later. It is likely that both girls were born in Kent. So the family were mobile.  Remember the father John Robert was also born in Kent. Little more is known of the girls’ childhood although a newspaper article much later in Jane’s life and looking back relates that:

 “As a girl of 17 she had the privilege of being presented to Queen Victoria (then Princess Victoria) of the occasion of a ‘field day’ at Woolwich.” [Sydney Morning Herald. December 1916]

That field day would have taken place around 1833. It is likely it was the Grand Review of Royal Artillery that took place in the presence of then Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria on Woolwich Common.

Before that special occasion Jane’s parents were the victims of theft. The events appear in a report in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey – London’s Central Criminal Court.  In 1829 the Gransdens were living in Deptford to the south east of London. On 9th February at five o’clock in the evening (it was probably dark at that time of the year) John and his wife Jane Ann set off from London in a light cart to their home. They had with them, tied on the back, a trunk containing mainly items of clothing.  Some villains took the trunk from the back of the cart, cut open the binding rope and made off with the contents, stuffing them under their caps and into their own clothes. They tried to sell them in a shop but were apprehended by law officers. (The man Lewis to whom they tried to sell the goods declined the offer to buy them from the young thieves saying “they are worth nothing to me, they did not suit me, I have no call in the country for such things as these – they are almost all female apparel”.

Here are the items they stole:

  •  1 petticoat, value 2s.;
  • 2 pillow-cases, value 2s.;
  • 1 habit-shirt, value 6d.;
  • 2 stockings, value 6d.;
  • 2 pieces of dimity, value 6d.;
  • 1 handkerchief, value 6d.;
  • 1 napkin, value 1s.;
  • 2 gloves, value 6d.;
  • 1 sheet, value 2s.;
  • 1 pelisse, value 6s.;
  • 2 gowns, value 6s.;
  • 1 cloak, value 6s.;
  • 2 aprons, value 4s.;
  • 1 cap, value 1s.;
  • 1 pair of pockets, value 6d., and
  • 1 pocket-book, value 1s.

(s. = shilling, d. = penny)

Jane Ann recognised them as their property in particular noting that some articles belonged to her then late mother and had been marked “R.B.” (This is of interest as my research suggests that her mother was Rachel Bingley).

The trial report offers little more by way of explanation except to record that two offenders John Johnson (aged 13) and Joseph Jones (aged 15) were found guilty of larceny (theft) and transported for seven years. In 1829 transportation (at that time to Australia) was receiving increased opposition but continued until 1857.  It was seen as a more serious punishment than imprisonment since it involved exile to a distant land. Opposition was on the grounds of failure to reform convicts or deter crime and that conditions in the convict colonies were inhumane.

Researching the Gransden family can be difficult given the paucity of information. There were several John Gransdens alive around this time. However, I believe John Robert Gransden can be traced farther, yielding some interesting material. He appears in newspaper reports of the arrival and departure of on ship in particular – the David Shaw. This was a private vessel with various captains at different times, including a John Jordain. One advertisement in Australia was dated 1819 (so it predates the robbery).  The Sydney and New South Wales Advertiser on 11th December 1819 and in the Sydney Gazette on the 4th of December 1819, advertised under “Claims and Demands” the departure of the David Shaw and indicated two members of crew: Captain Jordain and Chief Officer John Gransden.

Captain Jordain Ship David Shaw. 1819 'Classified Advertising', The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), 4 December, p. 1. , viewed 07 Apr 2016,

Captain Jordain Ship David Shaw.
1819 ‘Classified Advertising’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 4 December, p. 1. , viewed 07 Apr 2016,

John Gransden Chief Officer David Shaw 1819 'Classified Advertising', The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), 4 December, p. 1. , viewed 07 Apr 2016,

John Gransden Chief Officer David Shaw
1819 ‘Classified Advertising’, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), 4 December, p. 1. , viewed 07 Apr 2016,

How can we be sure this is John Robert Gransden?  The date fits with his career. His rank seems appropriate, but I believe the most convincing evidence comes from investigation of Captain Jordain. John Jordain had for several years captained private cargo ships. He retired to Brixham, Devon in England making his will on 22nd October 1825. In this will which was proved on 29th November 1825 he bequeathed everything to his wife Frances Jordain.  These are the very names given to John Robert Gransden’s second daughter.  Frances Jordain Gransden was baptised near Gravesend in Kent on 7th August 1818 according to parish records (St Peter & St Paul, Milton-by Gravesend). Her parents were John and Jane Ann Gransden. This suggests that there was a firm companionship between John Robert Gransden and his Captain – John Jordain. The only other mention of the daughter Frances Jordain appears in a record of inscriptions on the churchyard of St Nicholas in Deptford, Kent. The dates were apparently not clear, but the memorial inscription read:

John Robert Gransden, d. ______, 18_____, a. 47. Also Frances Jordain Gransden.

As John was aged 47 when he died this must have occurred in 1830. Parish records show Frances died and was buried in January 1835. In the 1841 census for England, the widowed Jane Ann Gransden was living of independent means with her daughter Jane aged 20 in Camberwell, near London. Naval records of pensions show that Jane Ann Gransden was in receipt of a pension as the widow of her husband John Gransden at a rate of £40 per annum according to his rank as Master. Although there is no census record for her in1851, in 1861 she was living as a lodger in Peckham, London, giving her age as 64 and describing herself as an Independent Naval Officer widow. She died in the next year on 10th July leaving effects of under £450.

John Robert Gransden has several connections with Australia. Australia is where had sailed in and out of ports, where two youths who stole his property were probably transported and finally, although it happened after his demise, it is where his daughter Jane would migrate.  Further to this, his niece Mary Ann Gransden, three of his nephews – Edwin, Robert and Silas Gransden also migrated to Australia and their stories appear elsewhere on the Gransden Family web-site.

Jane Cocking née Gransden (1816 – 1918) Jane Gransdens Story- Part 2

Bill Gransden © March 2016


  • Samuel Cocking and the Rise of Japanese Photography. Luke Gartlan. ‘History of Photography’, Volume 33, Number 2, May 2009. 2009 Taylor and Francis.
  •  Portrait of Samuel Cocking. Anonymous, Samuel Cocking, reproduced from S. Cocking, ‘Philosophies of an Early Rover to Japan’s Shores’, Yokohama Semi-Centennial 1859–1909. Yokohama: Japan Gazette 1909, 38. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, Harold S. Williams Collection, HSWf 1367.