Cooper & Wright Family Background

The first letter writer we meet is Dorothy Wright née Jervas[1] (Jervis), 1696-1770. She married Thomas Wright, 1696-1781, in Sheffield on 4 February 1717/18 and they had twelve children, of whom nine reached adulthood, with only one not marrying. We will meet some of these children as the letters progress.

An old pedigree[2] in the Sheffield Archives suggest that the Wright family came from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. The same pedigree describes Thomas as :-

"Thomas Wright of Sheffield Park farmer (Nunnery Farm). He was the first stage carrier between Sheffield and London. He died 17 June 1781, aged 85. The portraits of himself & his wife are in the possession of W. White"

Several contemporary documents (baptisms of his children), describe him as farmer, yeoman and gentleman. Whether or not Thomas was indeed the first London carrier is debatable. The above-mentioned pedigree mentions in this regard, a possible half-brother (born 1670).

"Richard Wright of Attercliffe & Sheffield Manor. Called London Carrier in 1711".

An old book on the history of Sheffield suggest that Joshua Wright of Mansfield started as a carrier in 1710.

At that time being a “London carrier” meant the transportation of goods between Sheffield and London. Sheffield was well known for its cutlery production and for the quality thereof. Chaucer mentions a Sheffield knife in his Canterbury Tales. The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1624 which gave the company the right to regulate apprentices, masters, freemen, and trademarks, thereby enforcing quality control.

Today the term ‘London carrier’ conjures an image of huge lorries covering the distance in a few hours. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a wagon pulled by a team of straining pack horses would have taken several days, stopping each night at inns along the way. The journey could also be completed in less time by an ‘express wagon,’ which moved at the same plodding pace but, with changes of horses and drivers, continued through the nights  The dire condition of the road at the start of the eighteenth century, improved greatly over the coming decades, with the introduction of toll roads.

The second letter writer is a Dorothy’s daughter- Rebecca Cooper née Wright[3],  1723/24-1778. She had married David Cooper[4] in Sheffield on 26 October 1743. Both the Marriage Bond and the parish record of the marriage describe him as being an ironmonger of Saint Dunstan in London. David’s father, Francis Cooper[5], 1673-1747/8, had left Derby in 1690, moving to London as an apprentice cooper. His father had been a Derby inn-keeper. His half uncle Samuel Cooper[6], 1670-1745/46, was Mayor of Derby three times and played a small part when Bonnie Prince Charlie marched into Derby, during his southern progress,  in 1745 :-

"While the bells rang and the bonfires added a welcome glow and warmth to the dwindling daylight, Charles and his father were publicly proclaimed before the Town Hall on Market Place, now overwhelmed by the occupying army. As no magistrate was available, the common town crier did the honours, according to the Derby Mercury. However, Hugh Bateman recorded that the Jacobite officers had 'seized upon Alderman Cooper, too lame to run away, and obliged him to proclaim the Prince'."[7]

Both David’s father and his brother, another Francis Cooper[8], 1710?-1759 were friends of the Truman family and Francis Junior was a partner in their brewing business.

The final letter writer is Rebecca’s elder sister Catherine “Kitty” Elliott née Wright[9], 1722-1805. She married George Elliott[10] in Sheffield on 4 Feb 1742/43. Not much is known about George except that according to the Bishop’s Transcript of the parish record of the marriage, he was a chapman from Stony Stratford. A chapman is a merchant, a market man. Certainly, according to her letters, Cartherine “Kitty” resided at Stony Strafford for a number of years, before returning to live in Sheffield.


[1] Dorothy Wright – born Jervas

[2] Pedigree of Wright of Gainsborough (Lincolnshire) and Sheffield with arms IN Volume of extracts from the parish registers of Eyam, Derbyshire and numerous pedigrees. Sheffield Archives JC/1100. "The skeleton of this Pedigree is copied from one on Parchment penes  W. Joshua White of the Manor Lathes of Sheffield and kindly shewn to me this 10th June 1853. The said parchment transcript was made from an older one in the possession of his relatives the Cooper family of London. But this Table contains many additions from Register notes of Mar. Index at Sheffield & from Mr. Hunter"

[3] Rebecca Cooper – born Wright, 1723-1778

[4] David Cooper, 1716-1792

[5] Francis Cooper, 1673-1747/48

[6] Samuel Cooper, 1770-1745-/46

[7] Jacqueline Riding, “Jacobites : a new history of the ’45 rebellion.”  Bloomsbury, 2017

[8] Francos Cooper, 1710?-1758

[9] Catherine Elliott – born Wright, 1722-1805

[10] George Elliott, 1716?-1805

Sheffield Archives LD1576/2 - Folder