April 2021: Local History

March 26 2021

Cave family history: From Normans and Cavaliers to slavers

Descended from Norman knights who settled in Yorkshire after 1066, over the centuries members of the Cave family gradually moved south until they settled in Mangotsfield and Downend, where their name is still well known. Mangotsfield Residents Association member and historian David Blackmore tells their story.

THE family name Cave has a long association with Mangotsfield and Downend but its roots are in two Yorkshire manors of that name granted by William the Conqueror to a follower, Lord Wyamarus, after the Battle of Hastings.
Wyamarus left his estates to his brother, who became known as Lord Jordayne de Cave, and the surname continued for several centuries until the French preposition 'de' was dropped.
By the 15th century the family had moved to Stanford on the border of Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, and then to Worcestershire.
It was during the Civil War that the family name was first mentioned in relation to Bristol, when Sir Richard Cave took part in the storming of the city by Royalist forces in 1643.
Member of Parliament for Lichfield from 1640 until he was barred in 1642, because of his support for the King, Sir Richard was Governor of Hereford Castle from that year until April 1643, when he surrendered to Parliamentarian forces under General Waller. Cave was court-martialled for this act but acquitted after explaining how reluctant the citizens had been to defend their town. He was killed at the decisive Battle of Naseby on June 14, 1645 while serving King Charles I.
It was a century later that John Cave, who had been born in Herefordshire, settled in Bristol, living in Arnos Vale and becoming the first member of the family to take up banking in 1786, when he became a partner in the private bank of Ames, Cave, Harford, Daubeny and Bright at 16 Corn Street.
Also known as the Bristol New Bank, it later joined up with other Bristol banks to become the Old Bank, then Prescott’s Bank, with branches all over the south of England. At the beginning of the 20th century, Prescott’s amalgamated with the National Provincial Bank, which eventually became part of the National Westminster Bank.
It was John’s son Sir Stephen Cave who would buy the family’s seat, Cleve Hill House, from the slave trader John Gordon in 1804.
The house, which stood on the north side of Cleve Hill Road, on the site of the present-day Cleve Lawns, had been noted as a “lodge well within the King's Forest” during the 1600s, and had been bought from the Blount family by early coal industrialist William Player. After his death in 1739 it passed to his nephew Charles Bragge. who lost a fortune in the collapse of the Warmley Brass Company in 1768 and whose son, of the same name, sold up to Gordon.
Sir Stephen, born in 1763 in Arnos Vale, would also make a fortune through the African slave trade and Caribbean sugar plantations.
He received £13,795.4s.10d – equivalent to more than £1.8 million today – in compensation under the 1834 Abolition of Slavery Act for the 675 enslaved Africans he had owned in Jamaica.
His brother John, of Brentry House, owned slaves in Antigua and received £19,337.15s.10d, while his brother-in-law Thomas Daniel was also a major claimant.
Sir Stephen’s fourth son, Charles Cave, had married Sarah Cumberbatch, daughter of another prominent slave owner, after meeting her at her family’s plantation in Barbados while visiting his own relatives in 1816.
A Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Justice of the Peace and Quartermaster in the 103rd Loyal Bristol Regiment of Foot, which was typically formed from the propertied classes, Sir Stephen was a director of The Old Bank and the Flint & Crown glass manufacturers of Redcliff Back, who made Bristol Blue Glass.
Sir Stephen died on 18th February 1838 at Cleve Wood and was buried at St Paul's, in Portland Square. The elderly men of the parish, who had been former pupils at  Cave's school near the Green Dragon Inn, lined the route of the funeral procession in Downend.
Next month: The Cave family from the 19th to 21st centuries.