Commentaries on the Taintons.


A NOTE ON THE NAME 'TAINTON' prepared by Thelma Osborne Knott Craig (nee Tainton) and her husband Arthur Knott Craig, provided by I. Tainton, New Zealand.

"In September 1965 I renewed acquaintance with Hubert John Tanton, an architect of Port Elizabeth, who gave me some particulars which seem to indicate the possibility of the TANTON and TAINTON stock being descended from a common ancestor. During his student training in England, following his architectural studies in Cape Town, he made a thorough investigation into his ancestral tree and found that the name had been spelled in several different ways. This was confirmed by the then Dean of Wells Cathedral, (Very Rev. Dr. R. Armitage, 1931), who sent him a note on the family name headed 'de Tanton and various spellings of this name' and gave him sources of information where greater detail could be found.

Tanton himself found in the records of the Diocese of Exeter in the parish of Peters Marland, near Torrington in Devon, an entry for 1626 for TAWTON, which was indistinct and which could have been TAINTON (I and N making W) but 100 years later the name was definitely TAWTON and 40 years later TAUNTON and by 1800 it was being spelled TAWTON, TAUNTON and TANTON. Tanton's father told him this was because some of the family were freebooters, and hard drinkers, he thinks his grandfather, who had been born TAUTON, adopted the spelling TANTON for his family. In the above parish churchyard there are many graves with different spellings of the name, and it would appear that different vicars seemed to have written the name phonetically, for in different years the same man's name is written TANTON and TAUNTON.

H. J. Tanton was absolutely certain that he had seen a document in the Africana section of the Port Elizabeth library where the 1820 settler TAINTON had been recorded as TANTON, and on a visit we found it in an article written by Sir George Cory for the 1919 Christmas number of the East London Despatch in which he records that the two official lists have the name TANTON. The one list is that which the leader of the party had to send to officials in London before sailing, and the other is the one which the Master of the ship had to send to the Colonial Office in London, after completion of the voyage. These records are in the archives in Cape Town. In this magazine are photos of Richard Tainton and of his wife Ann. It does seem as if the rough Somerset 'burr' made Tainton sound as TANTON, or it may that TANTON was the more familiar name, for I have only seen one record of the name TAINTON in a directory in England.

H.J. Tanton's family were not 1820 settlers.

David Limerick writes: "My mother, Athalie Blanche Dell Tainton, used to tell the following story":

"The Duchess(?)of Taunton died intestate in the early 19th century, and her considerable assets were placed in Chancery by the British government, which meant that they had to be claimed within 100 years or they would revert to the government. In about 1920, just before this period was about to expire, the South African Tainton family clubbed together and sent one of the Taintons (a lawyer) over to the UK to see if he could prove a Tainton lineage and claim. Unfortunately, whilst he was able to demonstrate the lineage, one critical document had been destroyed in a Church fire, and he could not prove it. The money, sadly, reverted to the Government. But it does seem that the TAINTON and TAUNTON names were interlinked. "

Individual Note Anne and Richard Tainton emigrated to South Africa from Westbury on Trym in 1820 as Methodist Missionaries. For some period they helped in establishing the Buntingville Mission Station, and established the Gwanga mission near Peddie.

Information Extracted from "Peddie - Settlers' Outpost" by Donald Kirby on the 11th December 2003 at the Albany Museum, Grahamstown.


James Bartholomew's note-book mentions only three founders of Peddie, two of whom he mentions by name. In studying the early history of the village it becomes obvious that Richard Tainton was one of its founders and he and his family made a notable contribution towards its well-being and development. The name Tainton deserves an honoured place in its history. Richard played a prominent part as a missionary-artisan in establishing the Rev. William Shaw's Missions throughout Kaffraria and the Transkei. Subsequently in 1839 he and his wife Ann and their large family of eleven children moved to this district where Richard started the Gwanga Mission Station on the river of that name, about four miles from Peddie. At the Gwanga, Richard and Ann and their family later braved many perils and discomforts. The Seventh Kaffir War was in the offing. The natives had for some time been in an unsettled state. Theft and rapine were common. Towards the end of the year 1845 two of their sons, Richard and Samuel, narrowly escaped death at the hands of some of Pato's tribe on the Fish River heights. On this occasion the Rev. Ernest Scholz - one of the missionaries they were transporting by wagon - and a Hottentot driver in the employ of Theophilus Shepstone, the Government Agent at Fort Peddie, were murdered. Eventually on the 25th March 1846 the Taintons were compelled to leave their station to the mercy of the natives. Fort Peddie became the rendezvous for the missionaries from the surrounding stations, and here they too had to flee for protection. On the 3rd March, 1846, their Gwanga Station was burnt to the ground and Richard sustained considerable loss. The famous battle of the Gwanga (Gwanga) took place in the vicinity of the burnt-down mission station on the 8th June 1846.

The Gwanga Mission Station was never rebuilt and the exact site cannot today be found. During this period of unrest Richard Tainton, being a fluent native linguist was employed by the military command as a non-combatant interpreter. At the end of hostilities he retired from mission work and settled at the military village at Fort Peddie, until he acquired a farm, when he took up farming. He received title to the farms Vermont and Tainton  about eight miles from Peddie in December 1849, and as far as can be ascertained he was the first settler to receive title to farms in the Peddie district. His son, Samuel, was the grantee of an adjoining farm 'Prospect' in 1854. Richard was one of the first farmers to introduce and grow cotton in this district, and he had the reputation of being one of the finest planters in the Eastern Cape. Selling and shipping difficulties later discouraged the planting of this product and after his death cotton growing was discontinued in his family.

Although Richard had given up active missionary work, he was always interested in the work of the Methodist Church, of which he was a highly respected and esteemed member. At the close of the Eighth Kaffir War (1851 - 1852) Richard donated to the Methodist Church the plot of ground on which the present church was built, and offered a liberal contribution from himself and his family towards the erection of a chapel. Joseph Stirk and John Sutton acted with Richard as a Building Committee and 'when the chapel was completed it was handed over to the Society by these three gentlemen, free of expense'.

Reverting to James Bartholomew's note-book we find the following entries referring to Richard and Ann Tainton: Richard Tainton died of Apoplexy (a stroke) on Monday 7th April, 1862'. "13.11.1876 Mrs. Tainton, relict of the late Mr. R. Tainton died at Panmure (East London) in the 77th year of her age, surviving the late Mr. Tainton 14 years. Notwithstanding a diligent search of the Peddie cemeteries no trace can be found of the last resting place of Richard Tainton." Several of Richard and Ann's children will be briefly mentioned because of their early association with Peddie.

Samuel has already been mentioned as the grantee of the farm 'Prospect'. Several of the other sons chose a career in Native Affairs. This choice was probably accounted for by the fact that they all had an unrivalled knowledge of the native language and mentality through their upbringing on the Native Mission Stations.

Of these sons, Richard George joined the Government Service in Peddie in the year 1856 as Superintendent of Fingoes. During the fifteen years that he was resident in Peddie, he was a stalwart supporter of the Methodist Church and when the Trust Committee was formed in 1866 Richard George Tainton - the son of a worthy father - was one of the foundation members. In February 1871 he was transferred to and appointed Special Magistrate at King William's Town. On the 31st December 1877 he, together with his brother John James Henry - who held the rank of Inspector of Police - and Field-Cornet William C. Brown were tragically murdered by Gaikas on the upper reaches of the Kwelegha River.

Sarah Jane, the youngest of the children, was born at the ill-fated Gwanga Mission Station on the 7th March 1841. In that year the youngest Son, John James Henry, who was later murdered at the Kwelegha River, was christened there by the Rev. W. Impey. Mary Lydia married Lieutenant John Cross, the Assistant Clerk of the Commissariat, at Fort Peddie, on the 21st July, 1847. The Rev. John W. Appleyard performed the ceremony and the two Richards, father and son - signed the marriage register as witnesses. lieutenant Cross was murdered by natives in 1852 during the Eighth Kaffir War, whilst carrying important dispatches between Fort Peddie and King William's Town. William Joseph was elected a member of the Peddie Divisional Council on the 12th October, 1864, and he served on this body until September 18th 1865, when he resigned."


Faku's reluctance to part with Richard was hardly surprising in the light of the evidence we have of Richard's efforts to help his subjects help themselves. The Quaker travellers Buckhouse and Walker described their visit in 1839 to the site where the mission had stood they found some small, neglected pepper bushes which stood as mute proof of Richard's experiment to help the natives to help themselves by growing Cayenne pepper from which a paste could be made and sold to use as a condiment at sea and in India. These travellers pointed out the evil done by frequent removal of Wesleyan missionaries and other personnel just as they became familiar with the language and saw plans for improvement on the road to fruition. When Richard, soon after the war, moved back to Mount Coke all pepper cultivation was given up and the population lapsed into mere subsistence farming. Backhouse and Walker were entertained at Mount Coke by Richard and Ann. They described Richard as an 'artisan-catechist' and mentioned the site (on elevated ground visible from King William's Town on a branch of the Buffalo River) of the ruins of the mission houses where there were few inhabitants left after the ravages of the war, and the 'unfinished house and chapel of wattle and daub' which seemed to be the all-too-frequent environment of this pioneering family. By the time they moved to the Peddie District in 1839 the family numbered nine children although Ann had ten. Two more to complete the dozen were to be born. Peddie had been built as a fort in 1835 between the Fish and Keiskama Rivers. After the land East of the Fish River was abandoned the garrison was maintained for the defence of the Fingoes located in the area. It was named after Lt. Colonel John Peddie. Here Richard established the Gwanga Mission Station on the river of that name, four miles away. He and Ann can justly be regarded as the founders of Peddie. At this mission their twelfth child, a daughter, was born and here during the Seventh Frontier War they faced the untold perils of attack when on the 3rd March 1846, Gwanga was burned. Three months later on the 6th June 1846 the battle of Gwanga completed the devastation. The station was never re-built and the exact site cannot be found today.

Warwick 'Peter' Tainton said:

'Douglas Tainton showed us a site at Butterworth on which Richard Tainton had built a church at Hintza's Kraal in about 1827 but during various disturbances the missionaries were told to get out and away by Hintza and the church was burned down. On the return after each such incident they had a very warm welcome and Hintza gave them help to re-build the Church. (This may well be because his mother was a committed Christian)."

Athalie Blanche Dell Tainton used to tell the following story.

The Duchess of Taunton died intestate in the early 19th Century and her considerable assets were placed in Chancery of the British Government which meant that they had to be claimed within 100 years or they would revert to the government. In about 1920, just before this period was about to expire the South African Tainton family clubbed together and sent one of the Taintons (a lawyer) over to the U.N. to see if he could prove a Tainton lineage. One crucial document had been destroyed in a Church fire and he could not prove the link so unfortunately the money reverted to the British Government. It does seem that the Tainton and Taunton names are interlinked.

Extract from the Rev. William Eveleigh's book:


This information was obtained as a photocopied document from the Amathole Museum, King William's Town in December 2003. "No small part of the early missionary work of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in South Africa was due to the earnest and efficient labour of the lay assistants who shared in the toils of the ordained ministers. On each mission station there was one of these laymen. His duties were generally those of an interpreter, supervisor of building operations and an assistant preacher and teacher. They were practically all Settlers or the sons of Settlers; their genuine piety, good sense, knowledge of native ways, experience of pioneering conditions and the real interest in Christian work gave them peculiar fitness for the tasks to which they devoted themselves. Unfortunately the story of their work has never been told. Only now and again does one catch a glimpse of them in the records of the past. They were as zealous as they were unobtrusive and they deserve to be held in honoured remembrance. Among the names of these good men we find those of Tainton, Roberts etc." Mr. Richard Tainton who was one of the original settlers was one of the earliest assistants engaged by Mr. Shaw. He was the first white man to reside at Mount Coke as he went there in 1825 to prepare the way for the coming of the missionary, Rev. Stephen Kay, by erecting the necessary buildings. Mr Kay, himself a splendid labourer for the Kingdom, found in him a most useful helper. At a later time he helped to establish the Butterworth station with the Rev. W.J. Shrewsbury. He had a period of work at Buntingville as well. When, after a lengthy spell of pioneering labour, he decided to settle on a farm in the Fort Peddie district he purchased a site for a church and gave a liberal contribution for himself and his family towards the erection of the building. His interest in the work of missions was warm and unabated right to the close of his life. Mrs. Tainton, who was a sister of Mrs. William Shepstone, laid the foundation stone of the Waterloo Square Church, East London, some fifty years ago. The eldest son, Richard George Tainton  was, for a time the native magistrate at King William's Town. He, with his younger brother, John and Mr. William Brown, the eldest son of another pioneer was brutally murdered at a native kraal while endeavouring to trace some stolen cattle with the aid of a squad of Fingo Police. This murder was the first aggressive act of the Kaffirs in the Gaika-Galeka War.

Notes from the Book on Shepstone by Dr. Ruth Gordon.

These notes were in the form of a photocopied document from the Amathole Museum, King Williams Town, December 2003. Gloucester township is largely built on Tainton Estates.

The family name 'Tainton' appears in the Domesday Book. Richard Tainton was born in Bristol on the 16th April 1797. Ann was born at Westbury-on-Trym and baptised in Westbury on Trym on the 7th October 1800. They were married by the Rev. Mr. F. Elliot at the Temple Church, Bristol.

Note: A.D. Knott Craig knows from H.J. Tanton of Port Elizabeth that there was at that time a Tainton Commercial Hotel in Bristol. He also thinks that the name 'Tainton' with that spelling would not be the name in the Domesday Book.

Richard Tainton was of a family that had lived for Generations in Gloucestershire. Richard's father did not favour his son's marriage into a Quaker family and it is just possible that this circumstance influenced the young Taintons to throw in their lot with the Shepstones in the great adventure of 1820. The Taintons had made their contribution to the settlement and development of Port Frances, and soon after 1923 Richard Tainton was engaged in building one of the Customs Houses there. In 1825 they were at Mount Coke and in 1827 in Butterworth and 1833/1835 at Buntingville. The Taintons were a strongly united family and the first generation of children tended to cling to the Fort Peddie area where ties of work and marriage anchored them for a long while. The Tainton Mission Home was about four miles from Peddie was noted for her hospitality. The Tainton family is of 1820 Settler Stock. Richard Tainton and the Reverend John William Shepstone had married sisters, Ann and Elizabeth Brookes. The family joined the party of William Holder, a yeoman of 7 Nelson Street, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England this joint stock party recruited in Bristol consisted almost entirely of small tradesmen, although their leader assured the Colonial Department that 'all understood agriculture'. only two names on the first list submitted, Holder himself and Webb appeared on the party's final sailing list. Powell and Roberts were originally members of a party formed by John Staples of Bermondsey, London, who was unsuccessful in his application to emigrate. They were both Bristol men, and after Staples' party was rejected they joined Holder in place of drop outs from his early list. Deposits were paid for 12 men, one of whom did not even emigrate. Two of the party, Holder and Powell were accompanied by servants (Currier and Woods); the latter's age was given as under 18 in order to avoid paying the full deposit.

The party consisted of William Currier, 24, labourer (servant of W. Holder), Edward Guest, 34, mason, and his wife, Ann 40 and son John; John Hancock 23, tailor; Frederick William Hiles 38, sawyer and army pensioner with his wife Mary, 35 and children William 11, George 9, Ann 6; William Holder, Yeoman, 30, wife Sophia 25 and children Sophia 3, Eliza 2; Alexander Kidwell 38, labourer wife Phebe, 32, James Powell 32; Smith with his wife Sarah 32 children Priscilla 9, Sara 5, Philip 3; William Roberts 35, Carpenter wife Maria, 24, children John 3; John William Shepstone 24, Mason, wife Elizabeth 2 and son Theophilus 3; Richard Tainton 24, carpenter, wife Ann 20; John Webb 34, pump and engine maker, wife Sarah 30, children Eliza 7, Frederick James 5, Henry 3, Sara; Samuel Woods (17) (servant of James Powell). Main Sources for the party list: Agent of Transports' Return of Settlers under the direction of William Holder (Cape Archives, C06138/2,67), Special Commissioner William Hayward's notes (Cape Archives C08542). The first names of the women given in the Agent's Return differs in several cases from the names set down in the London Sailing List. The other parties on board the Kennersley Castle were those of Bradshaw, Greathead, Philipps and Southey, a total compliment of 202 Settlers in all. Richard and Ann married only a few weeks before they sailed. Unfortunately his family would not accept Ann into the family as, according to our family tree she was a Quakeress. Recent information from Margaret Milner provides the information that she was a Wesleyan. This may well have been sufficient cause for her to be rejected by the Taintons who were a staunchly Anglican family.

Information from 'Fragments that Remain' by Daisy Gill:

"On the other side of Mr. Tainton's family, romance came to South Africa in the persons of Mr. Richard Tainton and his wife, Ann. Ann Brooks was of Quaker parentage and her marriage estranged her from his family who were Church of England. They flatly refused to countenance his marriage to a 'Quaker Girl'. They were married, however, in the face of all opposition and because of the feeling thus engendered on all sides they decided to seek a new life abroad, offered by the proposed British Settlement at the Cape in 1819. They sailed for South Africa in 1820 in the company of the Rev. Mr. Shepstone, father of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who had married Mrs. Tainton's sister. Pride and bitterness at the exile from their home connections was evidently the reason for interesting family records and Deed of Gift relating to valuable property in England left to Ann Tainton being burned by two of the daughters after their mother's death. The letters written by them, treasured today by their descendants, and pages from old diaries are an absorbingly interesting record of life at the Cape in those early, troublous days".

Extracts taken from:

'THE COMING OF THE 1820 SETTLERS' by  Prof. George E. Cory, M.A. Rhodes University College, Grahamstown.

".....In England, the winter of 1819 - 20 was the most severe which had been experienced for many years. For weeks continuously the thermometer had registered several degrees below freezing; and the heavy snowstorms and piercingly cold winds were worthy of Arctic Regions themselves. As far down the Thames as Deptford the river was so thickly covered with ice that not only was it perfectly safe to walk from one side to the other, but - so some who saw it tell us - stalls and booths were erected in the middle of the river, where refreshments of gin and gingerbeer were supplied to those who danced to the fiddlers' tunes and in other ways held high festival around them.

Among the ships lying there at anchor, and more or less imprisoned by the ice, were eight three-masted vessels of about 500 tons burthen which were of special interest, for they were soon to leave with settlers for the Cape of Good Hope. Their names were Nautilus, Chapman, Aurora, Belle Alliance, Ocean, Zoroaster, and Sir George Osborne. At Portsmouth similarly waiting were the Northampton, Weymouth and Amphirite. At Liverpool were the Stentor, John and Albury at Bristol the Kennersley Castle, and at the cove of Cork in Ireland the Fanny and East Indian.

It would have been observed in making a tour of inspection on board these ships, during the cold December, that they were in very different stages of preparation for the voyage. On some, the full complement of emigrants would have been found, many of whom were chafing at the delay in starting. In other vessels, besides this source of discontent, there was that due to the real or apparent want of proper foresight and preparation on the part of the Navy Board in not having provided sufficient bedding and provisions, in consequence of which many had for a time to sleep on the board with no other covering than such great promise, arrived on the comfortless ships long before these preparations could be completed with the result that they had to remain on board for nearly a month before they sailed. This gave time for reflection and retrospection leading some to think better - or worse - of the momentous step they were taking and inducing them, at the first opportunity, to escape from the ship and return to their homes.

Captain Synnot, head of one of the Irish parties said, in writing, to the Earl Bathurst on the 5th January 1820. "The settlers under my care are extremely dissatisfied and difficult to be kept together, and a very large expense attends holding them in constant readiness for such a length of time".....with the great majority, however, there seems to have been a determination to see the business through and a preparedness, with a good heart, to face the unknown and to battle with difficulties as they arose".


It had been the intention of the Navy Board to dispatch the ships in pairs at intervals of about a week but the state of the weather forbade this. The 'Nautilus' was the first to start. She sailed on the 5th December 1819 and was followed on the 9th December by the 'Chapman'. Then during the ensuring six weeks the whole of the British Settlers, assisted by the Fifty thousand pounds grant, were afloat and being steered to the shores of South Africa. The ships which left Liverpool, Bristol and Cork do not seem to have had any worse experience than those associated with the cold and high seas. But in the cases of some which had to pass down the Thames and through the English Channel, such dangers were encountered as nearly put an end to their voyages before they began. In the early years of the settlement, according to the official list of occupation there were numerous agriculturists, some of whom, after they had had a few weeks of Colonial agriculture discovered that they were goldsmiths, silversmiths and experts in other 'ornamental trades' as the Proclamation of December 20 1820 described them. There were the essential butchers, bakers and similar tradesmen as well as ordinary labourers, Thames watermen and fishermen, not forgetting the painter on porcelain, the Oxford bootmaker and the teacher on the Lancastrian method. And as had been stated there were many without any particular profession or trade at all, such as the retired officers and gentlemen at large. On the whole they were a very representative collection of people who were for a time imprisoned on the small ships bound for the Cape of Good Hope.


The vessels were somewhat crowded, yet, under the circumstances, the Government and Navy Board had done all that was possible to promote the welfare and comfort of the emigrants. Food, though perhaps rather rough was good and plentiful, and there was a liberal supply of such commodities as tea, coffee, cocoa and when necessary in cases of illness, wine and other luxuries. Each ship carried a doctor. As far as the weather and sea were concerned the voyage was all that could have been desired. At times, however, it was too calm when the ship could make no headway and all had to wait patiently for a favouring breeze. Cooped up as these people were, for three months, and taking into consideration that they were really all strangers thrown together in one another's company it is scarcely surprising that dissensions among them should have broken out. More than ordinary unselfishness and accommodation of spirit were needed to reconcile dispositions so different and characters so various as were to be found among the people on these ships. Friction of all kinds were soon manifest. On the principle that Jack is as good as his master, and perhaps better, many members of parties refused to accord that respect and deference to their respective heads, which, those heads considered their due. This led to mutual recrimination. In the large party under Mr. Bailie for instance, the 'Chapman' was nowhere near the Equator before his party rebelled and insisted upon being divided into smaller parties under heads of their own choosing. Even worse was the discord in Mr. Parker's party on the 'East Indian'. Mr. Parker, an ex-Mayor of Cork, and a man of tremendous importance and pre-eminence in his own estimation was taking out 220 individuals to found a town of 'New Cork' on the shores of Saldanha Bay, when his domineering attitude and tyrannical behaviour was resisted by those who considered themselves his superiors in honesty and straightforwardness; thus a state of continual turmoil was maintained on the East Indiaman during the whole voyage.

On the Belle Alliance Mr. Thomas Willson 'sacrificed himself at the altar of duty' for an 'ungrateful rabble who sought his life', so he tells us when excusing himself for abandoning his people in Albany and returning to England..


After a voyage of something over three months, the vessels arrived at Simon's Town. They did not touch at Cape Town. The first two to drop their anchors in South African Waters were the Nautilus and Chapman. This happened on the 17th March 1820. Thereafter, at irregular intervals, sometimes two and three in one day - others reached the same haven. And now a very great disappointment and chagrin met those sea-tired people - none but the heads of parties were allowed to land. The authorities obviously feared  the difficulty there would be to get these crowds back to the ships. For over a week, and in some cases nearly a fortnight, the unhappy people could do no more than look at their promised land from their crowded decks. The poignancy of this disappointment was all the greater to one settler in particular as he had so longed to set eyes on the fat-tailed sheep of the Cape. At Simon's Town the ships were re-victualled for the further voyage to Algoa Bay. Certain of them were withdrawn from service. All the Settlers on the 'Zoraster' were transhipped to the 'Albany' thus greatly overcrowding that vessel. In the same manner the 'Stentor's' people were crowded onto the 'Weymouth'. In due course the onward voyage to Algoa Bay was commenced. There was a great variation in the time taken for the voyage. The 'Brilliant' did it in 5 days while the 'Northampton was at sea a whole month.


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