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Catherine (Brouckner) Adye, later Catherine Willett

British, 1762 - 1798

Catherine Brouncker was born at St. Christophers, West Indies, in 1762, the eldest of four children of Henry Brouncker (d. 1769) and his second wife Susanna Feuilleteau (1741-1808). Her father, Collector of His Majesty's Customs at Basseterre, died on passage to England when she was seven, leaving her a legacy of £5,000. In 1773 her mother married John Stanley (1740-1799) of St. Christophers and Shooters Hill, Kent, then Solicitor General (later Attorney General) of the Leeward Islands. Catherine moved to Stanley's house in Queen Anne Street, Cavendish Square, London, and on August 20, 1780 married one of his closest friends, John Willett Adye (1745-1815) of Dean Street, Soho, the second son of Clara Payne and Stephen Payne Adye of St. Christophers. He had long benefited from the generosity and protection of his older cousin Ralph Willett (1719-1795), an art collector and bibliophile who had inherited an enormous West Indian sugar fortune in 1740. Willett was also first cousin and benefactor of Catherine's stepfather, and she made him godfather of her daughter, Annabella (1781-1795), named for his deceased wife. She again honored him in naming her two sons, John Willett (1784-1839) and Henry Ralph (1786-1857). On Ralph Willett's death in January 1795, John Willett Adye inherited the bulk of his estate (including Merly House, near Wimborne, Dorsetshire) on condition that he assume the surname of Willett, which he did by royal license on 28 February 1795. Following a long illness, Catherine Willett died at Plumstead on October 10, 1798, aged thirty-six. The following year her husband erected a monument in her memory, sculpted by John Bacon, R.A., in the chapel at Great Canford, Dorset.