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My family tree in 1000 words – Edward William Cox

Following on from my first family story post I’d like to introduce you to my 3x great grandfather:

Edward William Cox (aka Serjeant Cox)

Edward was born in Taunton, Somerset on 8 Dec 1809, the eldest son of William Cox, a manufacturer with an iron foundry and Harriet, daughter of William Upcott, a cloth manufacturer, of Exeter. He became a solicitor in Taunton, and in 1836 established a local newspaper there, the Somerset County Gazette. He was called to the bar in 1843, joined the Western Circuit, and sold the title.

Legal Career

Edward William Cox aka Serjeant Cox
In his robes as Serjeant Cox

He held various significant legal appointments – Recorder of Helston and Falmouth 1857–1868 which he resigned when gaining the more important appointment as Recorder of Portsmouth. In 1870 he became Deputy Assistant Judge of the Middlesex Sessions, a position he continued to discharge until his death.

Edward moved to London to pursue his career as a barrister. His periodicals, reports and textbooks led to him being raised to the dignity of serjeant at law in 1868 – rather than his modest practice as a lawyer.

He campaigned for then-radical Bar reforms like making it compulsory for barristers to have legal training. He was known as “Serjeant Cox”


Offices of The Field owned by Edward William Cox
The Field offices on the corner of Fleet Street, London

Around the time Edward was called to the bar, he founded the weekly Law Times which he conducted for nearly 25 years. He also founded or transformed the English journals The Field, bought cheaply from Benjamin Nottingham Webster, and the Exchange & Mart; also The Queen, founded by Samuel Beeton and bought by him in 1862, merged in 1863 with Ladies’ Paper, and edited by Elizabeth Lowe under Horace Cox (his nephew and also one of my 2x great grandfathers (some cousins married in my family)), and the County Courts’ Chronicle. An enduring publication was Crockford’s Clerical Directory, started in 1858. He also set up his own newspapers. Some of them, like The Critic, had only limited success, but others such as Bazaar were profitable. Long before his death, he relinquished direct control over the publishing businesses, but he continued to write.

Some (in bold above) are still available today and The Queen is now Harper’s Bazaar.

The Law Times made him successful and The Field (and later acquisitions) made him rich.


A lifelong Conservative, Edward unsuccessfully contested Tewkesbury in 1854 and Taunton in 1866. He did get elected in Taunton in 1868 but was unseated on petition by Henry James; James successfully brought a bribery petition. He was a Deputy Lieutenant and JP for Middlesex, and a JP for Westminster.

Other Interests

He was very keen on growing orchids and had an extensive, and valuable, collection. One selling for £22 10s in 1880 (around £1,350 in today’s money)

Edward William Cox at Moat Mount, Hendon
Edward William Cox at Moat Mount in 1878 (portrait by John Collier)

He also had an interest in psychology. In 1875, he founded the Psychological Society for Great Britain.

Landed estate

Edward William Cox is an example of the wealthy early Victorian middle class men who established large landed estates. He began in 1866 by the purchase of Moat Mount. He rebuilt the house as a Renaissance-style stuccoed villa to include a large main block with a carriage porch,

He bought the freehold of Sergeant’s Inn and took the contents to Moat Mount House.  He reconstructed Sergeant’s Inn’s hall with the original stained glass windows from the hall and chapel at the inn – this is now in the Law Society Hall in Holborn (see below).

Stained glass from Serjeants Inn bought by Edward William Cox
Photo by Giacomo Gallo

By 1873 he owned 209 acres (0.85 km2) in Middlesex. He and his son Irwin continued to add to the estate in Hendon and Edgware until it covered perhaps 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of valuable land near London. The estate included Moat Mount Park (120 acres), plus Coventry Farm (of 127 acres), Stoneyfields, Broadfields, Bays Hill, and Barnet Gate. He kept a pack of hounds, and he and his son hunted over what are now Golders Green, Hendon, Mill Hill and Hampstead Garden Suburb. While some land was sold in 1906, 1,090 acres (4.4 km2) remained to form public open spaces and part of the Broadfields housing estate in Edgware when the Cox estate was finally broken up in June 1923.

He was also lord of the manors of Taunton Deane and Trull in Somerset. He owned small estates at Ugborough and Widecombe in Devon.


Edward married twice. His first wife, Sophia, was the daughter of William Harris of the Royal Artillery, and they married in 1836. In 1845 he married Rosalinda Fonblanque, the only daughter of John Samuel Martin Fonblanque, a Commissioner in Bankruptcy.

The son from his first marriage was Irwin E. B. Cox, and he had a daughter Ada (aka the novelist Mrs H. Bennett Edwards and my great great grandmother); there was another son, Harding, from the second marriage. Four other children either died very young or before the age of 21.


He died on 24 November and was buried at Colney Hatch (now New Southgate) Cemetery on 29 November 1879.


He left £400,000 in his will. This is equivalent to around £17.2 million today. Where did all this money go? His daughter Ada Bennett Edwards had 7 children and his son Harding gambled. Any inheritances stopped a couple of generations ago…

Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the information above. The Wikipedia entry also lists 30 of his works and other references.

So that’s Edward William Cox, I like to think I have inherited of his love of writing and of plants although I’m not good with orchids (I leave that to my sister in law!)

Which of your ancestors can you write a story about? If you do, please share them in the comments below. And if you’d like help compiling your stories please get in touch.

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