Friday, 27 December 2013

Old John of Bromley Common and the Long Island USA murder

I am grateful for the Reverend Henry Smith D.D. who from 1785-1818 was Vicar of Bromley Saint Peter and Saint Paul and maintained detailed registers. Reverend Smith provides detailed footnotes and biographical details for several burial register entries.
Old John spent a large part of his life serving the households of the Norman family and resided at Bromley Common.
However as Reverend Smith describes John Reynolds was born in the USA and was a fugitive from that country for the murder of an Custom House officer at Long Island. He died aged 85 in 1797.
John Reynolds was buried by the Reverend Smith on 26 November 1797 in the churchyard of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Bromley as at that time Bromley Common was within the Ancient Parish. The Reverend Smith records:
"This man was a servant to James Norman Esquire of Bromley Common and afterwards his son George Norman. He was by birth an American who left that country for murdering a Custom House offical at Long Island. He had been in the family many years and was allowed his weekly wages to the day of his death."
George Norman lived at the Rookery Bromley Common and the Norman family had originally occupied a tenancy of the house from Thomas Chase from about 1755. James Norman purchased the property and land of 37 acres on 8 February 1765 and subsequently James Norman and his son George employed John Reynolds.George Norman was a prominent businessman in London trading in timber with Norway where he had large holdings. The Norman family were Treasurers of Bromley College; five members of the family acted in that capacity from 1776 for over 150 years.
Clearly his employers knew of his flight from America and since it is openly recorded that he had murdered a Custom House Officer presumably two generations of the Norman family were aware of this. The Norman family were one of the most influential families in Bromley. George Norman had been resolutely opposed to the enclosure of Bromley Common which became enclosed by Act of Parliament dated 6 April 1821,over 60 years after the initial enclosure Act of 1764.
I would be delighted to receive any further information from the USA on John Reynolds life before he came to England as a fugitive. No doubt the Declaration of Independence offered John Reynolds some protection in England.