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Brewis, Robert

Albion Terrace Hartlepool

Robert Brewis, son of a Sunderland shipbuilder, began his working life as a painter and glazier. He must have been successful in his trade as he began purchasing shares in sailing vessels in 1837. By 1845 he owned ships outright and had shares in partnership with others.

Robert was born on 1st October 1808 in Newcastle to parents James (Sunderland shipbuilder) and Margaret (neeThompson) Brewis. Robert was brought up in Blyth and was married to Mary Heron at Tynemouth on 12th January 1832 and in that year the couple moved to Hartlepool. In 1841 they were living at Northgate, Hartlepool and by 1851 at Queen Street, Hartlepool.  In 1851 Robert was listed in the census as a shipowner. The couple had two daughters, Mary Ann and Henrietta.  Robert’s wife Mary died at Blyth aged 48 on 25th September 1856.

Robert’s second marriage was to Phillis Garritte (daughter of a Hartlepool Marine Insurance Surveyor) at Hartlepool in 1859. In the 1861 and 1871 census the couple were living at Albion Terrace, Hartlepool. They had a son, William, and a daughter Marian.  In 1870 Robert became a Hartlepool town councillor and was rapidly promoted to chief magistrate. He was a trustee of Smith’s Charity Estate and a member of the Port and Harbours Commission and the Pilotage Board. Robert retired from his active business connections in about 1874 and moved to ‘Blythville’ Trinity Road, Darlington.

Robert died aged 86 on 23 January 1895 leaving effects of £23,399 11s 10d.

Obituary in the Northern Echo Thursday 24 January 1895:


On Wednesday morning, at his residence at t Blytheville, Darlington, in the presence of his wife and two faithful attendants, as calmly as in natural repose, at the advanced age of 86, Mr Robert Brewis fell asleep .Until three months he had shown no sign of the decrepitude of age. His life has been one of activity, industry and well-doing. Mr Brewis was by birth a citizen of no mean city. He was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 1st of October, 1808. His father was for many years a successful shipbuilder in Sunderland, and a prominent merchant of Tyneside, who, through some reverse in fortune, " began the world again" with a young family in Blyth, where the boyhood of the future mayor of Hartlepool and borough magistrate of Darlington was spent in acquiring a practical knowledge of many industries and an insight into shipping affairs which afterwards stood him in good stead. It was--as he used afterwards to recall-the year of the cholera visitation- of the north-east ports -1832-that he removed to Hartlepool. He was one of the public-spirited townsmen who joined in reviving the ancient charter of that ancient borough. Being an ardent Whig in politics he took an active part in promoting the election of Lord Harry Vane (the late Duke of Cleveland) and Mr Henry Pease (father of the present Mayor of Darlington) as representatives of South Durham in 1857. When, two years later, the Hartlepools were enfranchised and had the privilege of direct representation in Parliament, he strongly supported successively the candidatures of Mr Thomas Richardson and Mr (now Sir Isaac) Lowthian Bell. In 1870 he became a Town Councillor of Hartlepool in succession to his friend of many years' standing, Mr J. Hyslop Bell, and was rapidly promoted to the Chief Magistracy of the borough. Many other public s offices in the busy seaports of, the Hartlepools were forced upon him about this time. He became a trustee of Smith's Charity Estate that singular foundation upon which has been reared the Hospital, Grammar School, and other valuable institutions of "the old town." Of the Port and Harbour Commission, the Pilotage Board, the Savings Bank, the Natural History Society, and the Mechanics' Institute he was long an active office-bearer.  In his sixty-sixth year Mr Brewis retired from many of his active business connections, and built for himself the villa of Blytheville. The only public body with which he was then connected was the Tees Fishery Board, where he was one of a group of members who steadfastly devoted themselves to its developing, the fishery resources of the Tees river and estuary, and to the removal, which he lived to see almost completed, of the obstructive Dinsdale Dam. Mr Brewis was twice married. The child of the first marriage survives him. His second wife-to whom he was married in 1855, and who also survives him-was 'Miss Phyllis Garrite, youngest daughter of the well-known Marine Insurance Surveyor of Hartlepool. Two children of the second marriage, Marion and William, were educated at the seminaries in Darlington. The only son died two years ago. His death occasioned a source of grief and disappointment, from the effects of which Mr Brewis never completely recovered. The surviving daughter is the wife of Mr Albert Charles Seward M.A. Lecturer on Fossil Botany to the University of Cambridge. Mr Seward is well known in the North-country towns as having been a popular and successful lecturer under the University Extension system. An important work from his pen, which is no breach of confidence to say will owe much in its illustration to the artistic skill of Mrs Seward, is now passing through the University press, In September and October last, during a visit to Cambridge, Mr Brewis, after a pleasant afternoon on the banks of the Cam, was seized with the fatal illness to which in the end he succumbed. After some weeks of suffering he was sufficiently recovered to return to his own home, for which he had been most anxious have the advice of his regular medical attendant, Dr. John Hern, of Sommercote; but from the first week after his return he regarded the end as inevitable. He made a final disposition of his affairs, accepted with calm and thankful spirit all the ministrations of friendship and affection by which he was surrounded, spoke with the no uncertain language of the future life which he unfalteringly believed awaited him, and towards the close of his protracted illness divided his attention between making the most minute directions as to his earthly affairs and confessing his entire thankfulness to the Father of all for the goodness and mercy by which he had been guided and followed during a  long and, on the whole tranquil life. The late Lord Chancellor had added the, name of Mr Brewis to the Commission of the Peace for the borough of Darlington. Mr Brewis felt it was due to the townsmen who had recommended him to the distinguished honour to qualify; but owing to a growing infirmity of deafness, he did not take upon himself the duties of the office.’

He was interred in West Road Cemetery, Darlington. His headstone reads:

In loving memory of WILLIAM GARRITTE beloved and only son of ROBERT & PHILLIS BREWIS of Blythville,Darlington who died Sept 14th 1893 aged 33 years. Also of the above ROBERT BREWIS JP who died Jan 23rd 1895 aged 86 years. Also of PHILLIS BREWIS widow of the above ROBERT BREWIS JP who died July 30th 1901 aged 78 years. Also of ANNIE ISSABELLA BREWIS who died Sep 29th 1916 aged 78 years. Widow of CAPTAIN J.E. BREWIS of Hartlepoo/ nephew of the above ROBERT BREWIS.



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