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Robert Harvey 1700-1756, of Stoke Ferry, Norfolk. Grocer (not a Surgeon).


Robert Harvey, of Stoke Ferry, Norfolk 
Grocer (not a Surgeon)
(There was also a Doctor called Robert Harvey 1727-1754 living in Stoke Ferry at this time)

Born: 1700(?) and died 29 July 1756 aged 56.
Parents: Robert Harvey of Crimplesham, Norfolk (possibly: Robert Harvey, 16??-1720).
Brother of:
1. William Harvey (1695?-1786) Rector, of Fincham, Norfolk.
2. Possibly: Lieut John Harvey RN (1700ish to mid 1700ish).
He married: Mary Wheasenham (1701?-1777) daughter of William Wheasenham of Runcton Holme.  Mary was sister of Leonard Wheasenham of Runcton Holme.
They had issue:
1. Robert Harvey (who possibly had a son William Harvey).
2. Dr William Harvey (1732-1803), Surgeon in the Navy.
3. Mary (17??-1784).
4. Elizabeth (17??-1798).
5. Ann Helsham nee Harvey (1731?-1793) who married Dr Henry Linhooke Helsham MD (1730-1805).
6. Susan Forby nee Harvey (1732-1824) who married Thomas Forby.

The information I have about Robert Harvey comes from the following sources:
1. The diaryof his great grandaughter Elizabeth Jones(nee Helsham) who makes reference to him but gives no information about him (written in the mid 1800s).
2. Various notes written by his great great grandson Col Henry Helsham Helsham-Jones.
3. The book titled "Stoke Ferry" by Doris E Coates, 1980, page 61.  This mentions the doctors in the village including the Harveys and the Helshams living near the church.
4. His memorial inside All Saint's Church, Stoke Ferry.
5. His will, which is in the Public Record Office in Kew (Prob 11/824).

The book "Stoke Ferry" states that Robert Harvey was a doctor and practiced in the village and was followed by his son Dr William Harvey (1732-1803), his son-in-law Dr Henry Lindhook Helsham (1730-1805) and later his grandson  Dr Henry Helsham (1767-1806).  Robert Harvey's will however presents him as a Grocer and the mix up is because there was a second Robert Harvey living in Stoke Ferry who was in fact a Surgeon.

The details of his will are as follows:
Robert Harvey of Stoke Ferry in the County of Norfolk, Grocer.  His executors were his brother William Harvey of Fincham, Clerk, and his brother in law Leonard Wheasenham of Runcton Holme Goth, both of Norfolk.  He names his wife Mary, his sons Robert and William and his daughters Mary, Elizabeth, Ann and Susan.  He leaves each daughter £1000 each, also his wife £1000, his son Robert £300 and William £500.  He mentions a friend Thomas Topper of Wattlington, Norfolk (Watlington?).  The will is witnessed by S Lobb, J Forby, M Cooksedge.  It was written 13 July 1754 and proved 26 August 1756.

Regarding Thomas Topper (1709 – 1790), I understand that he was born in Watlington in 1709.  In 1722 he was apprenticed to John Platford of Kings Lynn, Grocer.  Thomas was married 28 March 1734 in Methwold to Ann Bird (1708 – 1780) whose family had links to both Methwold and Feltwell.  She was sole heiress of Robert Bird.  At the time of the marriage licence in 1734, Thomas Topper was described as of Stoke Ferry.  Perhaps he was an earlier partner of Robert Harvey or a predecessor?  Thomas moved back to Watlington in 1736 when he inherited from his father.  Thomas and Ann had 10 children only 3 surviving to adulthood – 2 daughters who had no offspring and one son William.  Thomas died in Watlington in 1790.

The diary of Elizabeth Jones (nee Helsham) reads as follows:
My Grandmother was Anne Harvey, and I should think that she was both born and married at Stoke Ferry, her parents being Robert and Mary Harvey.  A relative, the Rev William Harvey, was incumbent of Fincham Church the years 1745 and 1787.  Another of the name, a cousin , resided at Watton in Norfolk, whose only child married Sir Robert Harvey, and their son is the Mr Harvey whose entertainments at Crown Point cause such a sensation from year to year.  My Grandmother had, I believe, more than one brother but the only member of the family we knew and loved was her sister Susan who is very imperfectly represented by the portrait which hangs over my fireplace.  She married Mr Forby of Stoke Ferry, whose brother, the Rev. Joseph Forby, was Rector of Fincham from 1787 to 1799 and he it was who, while travelling on the Continent before the French Revolution, left some small sum in the French Fund of which mention was made some years since.

Page 61 of "Stoke Ferry" reads as follows:

The Doctors - Harvey and Steele
In medicine, as in the law, it was traditional that sons would follow fathers and grandfathers in their professions.  This explains why just two families provided local doctors for the whole of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  It is interesting that one house (The Lodge, which together with Lodge Cottage was one property) was 'The Doctors House' from 1771 until 1954.

All the members of this family are commemorated on stone slabs in the floor of the aisle in All Saints Church, Stoke Ferry.

In 1771, when Peter Smith, grocer and draper, went bankrupt, Dr William Harvey bought his estate at public auction for £378.  It included the grocer and drapery shop with house adjoining, the old chemist's shop, and the lodge with its out-buildings and servant's quarters (now 'Lodge Cottage').  Dr Harvey and his family lived at 'The Lodge' and the two shops and houses were let.  In his medical practice he was assisted by first his brother-in-law, Henry Linhook Helsham, then by his nephew, Henry Helsham, the younger, both described as 'surgeons'.

Later owners of The Lodge found a print of William Harvey (1578-1657) who discovered the circulation of the blood and the working of the heart.  Given that the name William recurs, and the custom of sons following their father's profession, it is reasonable to assume that the doctors at Stoke Ferry were descendants of a famous ancestor.

Dr Harvey died in 1803, and Helsham the younger continued as doctor.  The widow sold the Chemist shop to Roger Micklefield and the grocer and drapery shop to Abraham West, keeping the Lodge for her family's use, and still the doctor's surgery.  In the 1820s the practice (and the Doctor's house) was brought by Dr Henry Steele, whose family continued there until 1928.


There is a memorial slab on the floor in the middle of the All Saints Church at Stoke Ferry.  This memorial reads as follows:

Mary the Daughter of Robert and Mary Harvey died in the Year 1784.
Also Elizabeth Harvey her Sister who died the 5th of June 1798.
Near this place lay the Remains of Ann, Daughter of, Robert & Mary Harvey, and wife of Henry-Linhooke Helsham, who departed this life Jan 29th 1793 in the 63rd Year of her Age.
Henry Helsham MD died April 25th 1805, aged 69 Years.

There is a second memorial up on the wall of the vestry inside the church.  This reads as follows:

Here lieth the body of Robert Harvey, Late of this Parish Gent, Who died July 29, 1756, Aged 56. Also the body of Mary relict of Robert Harvey, And daughter of William Wheasenham, Gent, Late of Runcton Holme, Who died Sepr 27, 1777.  Whose remains, With those of her husband, Are Inclosed, In the tomb below.

Above the inscription is a Dexter Cubit Arm Erect and above the hand a Crescent

I understand there are two more memorials.


If you have any further information please do contact me.


(Will of Robert Harvey)