James Hodge Byles

???? - 1837


Lawyer and attorney in Jamaica in the early 1800s, returning to Britain in by the 1830s. No evidence of slave-owning has yet been found, and the sources of his wealth, which appears extensive, have not yet been established.

  1. Born 08/10/1774 and baptised 01/11/1774 as James Byles, son of John Byles and Margaret nee Hodge at an independent religious meeting (Quakers?) in Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire; one of (about) ten children baptised same place, same parents between 1763 and 1782. His parents were probably the John Byles and Margaret Hodge who married in Shadwell, East London, in 1762. The indenture document for the apprenticeship of John Curtis Byles (brother of James) indicates that his father was a shopkeeper. There are no indications that the family were wealthy.

  2. James Hodge Byles was a Lieutenant in the Artillery Company in Jamaica in 1795; by 1808 he had reached Major. In 1809 he was listed in the Jamaica Almanac for 78 enslaved people and 15 stock in St Catherine, likely as owner.

  3. Likely the father of: Elizabeth Byles, daughter of Priscilla Lowe, "free mulatto", baptised in St Catherine 1800; James Henry Byles, son of Catherine Browne, "quadroon", baptised in St Catherine in 1801; two boys (Henry Williams Byles and John Williams Byles, children of Catherine Powell Williams, "free mestee") baptised on the same day in St Catherine in 1806; a further two boys (Nathaniel Byles and William Hodge Byles), parents unnamed, baptised on the same day in St Catherine in 1810; Walter Byles, no parents named, baptised in St Catherine in 1812).

  4. James Hodge Byles of Shiplake, Oxfordshire, married Judith Isabella Duncan in St Pancras, London in 1813. She had been baptised in St Andrew, Jamaica in 1791, daughter of William Duncan and Judith his wife. James and Judith had six children; the first three, Isabella, Margaret and James baptised in Shiplake, Oxfordshire (1814 to 1816); the last three, Louisa, Arthur and Marianne Caroline in Upton St Leonard, Gloucestershire (1819 to 1822). Purchased Bowden Hall in Upton St Leonards in 1821.

  5. Father-in-law of Coventry Patmore. The ODNB entry makes no reference to the sojourn of Marianne's father James Hodge Byles in Jamaica at the time of slavery, nor of the sources of her wealth, saying only: 'On 18 July 1864 Patmore married Marianne Caroline Byles (1822–1880), a wealthy Catholic convert, and the daughter of James Hodge Byles of Gloucestershire and his wife, Judith. Able to depend upon her monetary resources as well as her religious convictions, in 1866 he could now settle as the gentleman poet that he had always considered himself to be; and he much improved an estate, Heron's Ghyll near Uckfield in Sussex.' Marianne Caroline Patmore left £20,000 on her death in 1880.

  6. Will of James Hodge Byles of Bowden Hall Gloucestershire proved 04/08/1837. Under the will he left an annuity of £1000 p.a. to his wife, and forgave indebtedness to him from his brothers of £13,000. Three of his four executors were recognisably West Indians in Britain (Robert Hawthorn merchant of London; James Lewis at present of London; and William Rhodes James of Talconeston Place in Norfolk, each of whom q.v.), but the will contains no reference to property in Jamaica or to natural children in Jamaica.

  7. In 1841, Judith Isabella was living with two of her daughters at Lavington Mansions, Woolavington, Sussex, in a large household with many servants. She died in Leamington, Warwickshire in 1860, leaving a personal estate under £20,000; her executrix and universal legatee was her daughter Marianne.


  1. Ancestry.com, England, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1936 [database online]; Ancestry.com, London, England Chutch of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936 [database online]; Ancestry.com, London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1930 [database online].

  2. Jamaica Almanacs (1795, 1808, 1811).

  3. Familysearch.org, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online].

  4. Ancestry.com, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936 [database online]; Familysearch.org, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online]; Ancestry.com, Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1915 [database online]; Ancestry.com, Gloucestershire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1913 [database online].

  5. John Maynard, ‘Patmore, Coventry Kersey Deighton (1823–1896)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/21550, accessed 2 June 2013]; National Probate Calendar 1880.

  6. PROB 11/1882/310.

  7. 1841 census online; National Probate Calendar 1860.

We are grateful to David Barker for his assistance with compiling this entry.

Further Information

Judith Isabella Duncan
Six legitimate children; likely at least seven illegitimate children
Lawyer and plantation owner

Associated Estates (1)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1804 [EA] - 1804 [LA] → Attorney

Legacies Summary

Commercial (1)

notes →
Trustee c....

Relationships (7)

Executor → Testator
Father → Natural Son
Notes →
Father-in-law → Daughter-in-law
Notes →
Extra-marital relationships
Notes →
Father → Natural Son
Notes →
Executor → Testator
Trustee → Testator

Addresses (2)

Bowden Hall, Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire, South-west England, England
Shiplake House, Shiplake, Oxfordshire, Central England, England