Dear Father and Mother
You must feel very anxious about me. You must want to know how I am inclined for the sea. To tell you the truth I should like to go. We had a very rough passage down. The morning we went out we got as far as Lowestoft Roads and laid there all day ....
Thus wrote thirteen years old Robert Pattman to his parents in February 1864, from Shields on the northeast coast, having ran away to sea. Robert is just one member of the Pattman family of east Suffolk in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, revealed by their descendents' research. Robert, who was born in Southwold in 1851, became a noted sea-captain, skipper of the clipper "Loch Torridon", famed for its speed, which beat all other ships in 1892 bringing Australian wool from Sydney to London in 83 days. He commanded the four-masted barque for over 26 years, until 1908 when he went into steam. He died in Falmouth hospital in 1912, after breaking his leg at sea.
Robert’s father was a bootmaker, born in Beccles, also named Robert (1822–1882). He married a Hampshire girl, Martha Cox of Milton (1822–1899), at the Church of St Martin in the Fields, London, in 1847, and moved to Southwold. All of his eleven children were born there. The 1851 census shows him living at 100 Meeting House Lane as a bootmaker employing one man. The household included his wife, two young children, his sister in law from Milton (had she come to help with the new baby?), and two lodgers. By 1861 they were living at 39 High Street Southwold. Now Robert employed four men and a boy, and there were five children, and a fifteen-years old apprentice in the household. By 1871 the Pattmans were in London, with Robert, now nearly fifty, a coffee-shop proprietor.
An elder sister of Robert senior (and aunt of the sea-captain Robert) was Harriet (1818– ), also born in Beccles. By 1841 she was living in Blythburgh at the schoolhouse with her half–sister Mary Ann (1812– ), the schoolmistress. Harriet married Henry Trueman of the village around 1845, and with him became joint innkeeper of the White Hart at Blythburgh. The census of 1871 shows their fourteen years old son John staying with his aunt the schoolmistress.
The father of Mary Ann, Harriet and Robert was John Pattman (1781–1857) of Blythburgh, a whitesmith and brassfounder, who married Ann Feaveryear in 1811. Mary Ann was their only child, and she was Blythburgh schoolmistress for at least thirty years. John married a second time in 1814, in Barsham, to Rachel Blowfield (1789–1869) who had been born in Westleton. They had seven children, all born in Beccles. In 1851, in their old age, they were living at 40 High Street, Southwold.
There are two Pattman graves in Blythburgh churchyard. Those of John (d.1857) and his wife Rachel.
B. Lubbock, The Colonial Clippers (Glasgow, 1921)
E.R. Cooper, Storm Warriors of the Suffolk Coast (London, 1936)
Alison Edmonds, Harpenden, February 1995.
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