John Man (1749 – 1824)

John Man was born in 1749 on Mansel Street, Whitechapel, Middlesex, the second son of John and Mary (Balchen) Man, and was baptized on 3 December 1749, at St. Mary Matfellon, Whitechapel High Street, Whitechapel.

Baptism of John Man 3 Dec 1749

He married Sarah Baker on 5 June 1775 at St Mary the Virgin, Reading. John died in April 1824 while residing on Castle Street, Reading, and was buried on 24 April at St. Mary the Virgin, Reading.

St. Mary the Virgin, Reading
St. Mary the Virgin, Reading

Sarah Baker was born in 1739 or 1740 in Reading, the daughter of William and Jane (Cox) Baker, and was baptized on 25 February 1740 at St Mary, Reading.  Sarah died on 8 May 1808 and was buried on 14 May at St Mary.

John and Sarah belong to Man Generation Six; their children belong to Man Generation Seven and are:

  1. HENRY

[References: John’s birthplace and baptism – FHL Film # 0094603; his marriage – FHL Film # 1040615; his death and burial – FHL Film #1040620. Sarah’s baptism and burial – FHL Film # 1040614; her death from her daughter’s will. The family also appears on the 1783 census for Reading]

1783 census

It was once believed that there were no descendants from this branch of the family, however it has been discovered that William married very late in life and had a daughter. This daughter was found still living but unmarried at the age of 36 on the 1901 census.

John Man Advertisement March 22 1779
Reading Mercury 22 March 1779

Like his brother Henry, John was educated by the Reverend John Lamb of Croydon and he then became a schoolmaster and author.  John published a number of books, and some poems and letters which can be found on a separate page here.

On hearing the news of John’s death his cousin Richard Dennison Cumberland comments in a letter to his brother George of his: ‘ … going to Reading to see poor Maria after the loss of her father … and to do something for his poor blind sister as you suggested I may once more see her …’ (see letter Add 36510f87). The question remains as to which of John’s two sisters, Ann or Frances, was blind?  The last part of the extract might lead one to think that the sister might not live much longer.  Ann died two years after John and perhaps she is the one to whom Richard Cumberland is referring. 

Sarah (Baker) Man’s death date is taken from the will of John and Sarah’s daughter Ann Maria.

John Man House to Let August 16 1790
Reading Mercury 16 August 1790

See also John’s two letters concerning the disappearance of his father John Man. The first is addressed to his brother James and the second to his cousin George Cumberland. Both letters can be read on John’s father’s page. 

John is fondly remembered in the autobiography of the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776 – 1847) who was a pupil of John’s entitled Reminiscences of a Literary Life.

John Man's Sketch from his 'Anecdotes'
John Man’s Sketch from his ‘Anecdotes’

When Thomas Frognal Dibdin published his book ‘The Bibliomania‘ in 1809, he sent a copy as a gift to his old schoolmaster and the following letter was written by John Man in response to that gift.  (British Library MS 2974).

This morning I received from Mr. Snare your very acceptable present, for which I beg you will accept my best thanks and congratulations on your so soon having brought it to publication. I have as yet only taken a peep at its contents just sufficient to convince me that in point of ornament and beauty of type it is superior to most; the literary art will I have no doubt afford me much pleasure in the reading for I am writing to confess though a first rate bibliomaniac it is long since I have sought anything more from books than pleasure, reading more for amusement than for intellectual improvement. The latter you will allow with me it is time to give up when a man has arrived at the age of 62 when it is too late to recover the past or lay a foundation for future knowledge in a very few years if not days to be committed to the grave with the professor. As I have always considered you one of my family it is very natural I should take a pleasure at the success of your endeavour to instruct and improve posterity, for I am much mistaken if the name of Dibden will not be as well known in the centuries to come as in the present.

Being as you know, a very modest old fellow and consequently unwilling to intrude myself on Mr Bere I commissioned our friend Frank, or rather our frank friend to request the favour of you to make our best thanks to that gentleman and his lady for their present which was a great treat to us all. What only we had to regret was the disappointment in not having the young gentleman to partake of it but more so the cause which denied us his company.

From what you say I am fearful that his commission was never executed and as my silence must place me in an unfavourable light with that gentleman I beg you will do your best to set the matter in its true light and make the best apology for me you can.

Frank is very well and as he expects to see you soon I hope I shall also have that pleasure, we have a bed at your service but don’t come again when I am from home as you did last time as found with much regret on my return. If you could stay a week with us we could go over many of our old walks, call to mind times of old, crack jokes and be merry. My best respects to Mrs D and believe me ever most your humble but your affectionate friend
John Man.

[On the back Dibdin has written]: My old schoolmaster at Reading with whom I was placed at five years of age when I arrived from India.

This notice below that appeared in the Reading Mercury dated June 1795 indicates that John relinquished his role a schoolmaster and handed over his school to James Taylor who a year later married John’s sister Maria.

John Man Retires June 22 1795
Reading Mercury 22 June 1795

The following letter by John’s son William Man to his cousin George Cumberland describes the circumstances of his father’s death.

ADD 36510 f 78 William Man to George Cumberland.
Reading, April 10th1824
Dear Sir 

I am sure you will be much grieved to learn of the death of my poor father, who this morning expired after a protracted illness, in great measure occasioned by that most distressing of maladies, the stone, and which he was able to bear up against with a tolerable degree of fortitude to the last moments of his life. The asthma which so much affected him in an early stage of the illness, and which you will recollect, so distressed him when you were last with us, had for some considerable time left him and his general good state of health did not seem to have been in the least impaired by it. Indeed his constitution was so strong as to let him exist a whole fortnight without taking the least sustenance except his medicines, which I understand are soporifics and of which during the last few days of his life he was deprived, not being able to swallow them. My sister who is almost worn out by her increasing attentions to him, and for whose health I have much anxiety joins with me in kind love to yourself and family. I remain dear sir, 

Wm. Man.

John Man drew a map of Reading which he presented to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the town and is shown below:

John Man's Map of Reading
John Man’s map of Reading
The last Will and Testament of John Man, Gent

of Castle Street in the Borough of Reading in the County of Berks.  That is to say, I Give to my Son William Man all that my Freehold Estate situated in Castle Street in the Borough aforesaid, now let to Miss Welch, with the appertinances thereunto  belonging to keep or dispose of the same in what way he pleases.  I Give to my Daughter Maria Man all that my adjoining Freehold house, now let to Peter Pineau, Esqrewith the appurtenances thereto belonging to keep or dispose of the same in whatever manner she may hereafter please.  And to prevent as far as possible future disputes, my will is that the partition Wall and fence between the two Gardens should be considered as annexed and a part of the same House hereby bequeathed to my Son William and my Will further is that the Pump shall remain common to both houses and be repaired at their joint expense and that the Writings be kept by William Man subject to the inspection of his Sister or whoever she may appoint.  I also Give to my Daughter Maria Man all that my Freehold tenement wherein I now reside situated in Castle Street aforesaid and adjoining the above mentioned Freeholds with the appurtinances thereto belonging with the same right of disposal as above mentioned in respect to the adjoining house hereby devised to her.  I Give to my Son William Man and my Daughter Maria Man the Six Cottages I built at the North end of my premises to hold the same jointly and the rents arising therefrom to be equally divided between them with the same right of disposal thereof as above mentioned.  I Likewise Give to them jointly all that my Freehold Estate situated at Binfield in the Count of Berks, and now let to MCharles Cove together with the Coppice I hold in my own hands and also two acres and a quarter of newly inclosed land, now let to Roberts, together with the rights and appurtenances thereto belonging.  And my meaning is not to entail the above freehold estates but to leave to my Son and Daughter the same right to dispose of them as I myself possess.  But in respect of the last two mentioned Estates, that is to say, the six Cottages and the Binfield Estate neither shall dispose of his or her moiety without the consent of the other, and as long as they retain them undisposed of, the rents and profits to be divided between them share and share alike.  I Give to my two Nieces Emma and Ann Man each the sum of five pounds and the like sum of five pounds to my Niece Thomasina Baker.  And whereas I have during my life time by Deed of Gift disposed of all my personal property, that is to say, all my household furniture, plate, linen, etc. to my Daughter and all my Books, Instruments and everything not included in the former Gift to my Son, my Will is that each of them do, out of the first proceeds of the Estates hereby devised to them, pay and discharge in equal moieties all my remaining Debts, Funeral expences and the expence of proving this my Will.  And I hereby leave them Executors of this my Will, signed in the bottom of the first leaf with my name and this last with my hand and seal this 28th day of May 1822.

Signed and sealed and delivered                                    John Man
In the presence of us
Who in the presence of
each other have hereunto
Set our names
P Pineau of Reading
C. Pineau         }
}  Daughters of the above
N S Pineau         }
                                                                    1824 June 9th

                                                         William Mann and Maria Manthe Executors in this Will named were sworn to the truth thereof and as usual and also that the Effects are under £20 in value.
                                                          Before me
                                                                Thos. E. Williams, D.D.

This Will was proved in the Visitation at Reading on the 9th day of June in the year of our Lord 1824 before the Reverend Thomas Edmund Williams, Clerk, D.D., Surrogate of the Reverend Richard Francis Onslow, Clerk, Master of Arts, Official Principal of the Reverend the Archdeacon of Berks lawfully constituted by the Oaths of William Man and Maria Man, Spinster, the Son and Daughter and Executor and Executrix therein named to whom Adm con was granted being first sworn duly to administer.

John Man's sketch from his Anecdotes
John Man’s sketch from his ‘Anecdotes’

John Man Ad in the Reading Mercury, September, 1801

Some more recent research: in 2009 further internet searches on John Man revealed three references that had not been previously known about, namely:

i) A contribution to ‘The Beauties of Britain’; ii) a biographical sketch of John Wallis; and iii) a short history of Wallingford. Details of each of these is as follows:

In the early nineteenth century John Britton published ‘The Beauties of England and Wales’ which was a multi-volume set describing the landscape and the history of each county in England and Wales with Berkshire forming Volume One. In his biography – ‘A Descriptive Account of the Literary Works of John Britton F.S.A. (from 1800-1849)’ there is a section that refers to the various contributors to each volume of ‘The Beauties …’. The section on Berkshire runs as follows:

“It has been thought desirable to repeat in this place the names of some of the chief contributors to the work [‘The Beauties… etc.’], amongst whom will be found many estimable authors, antiquaries, and topographers. Berkshire: The Earl of Malmsbury; the Earl of Radnor; Rev. Clement Cruttwell; Rev. Dr. Brown; Benj. West, P.R. A.; George Cumberland; Henry Ellis; John Man; Matthew Robinson.”

We do not know what John Man’s contribution was except that in the section on Berkshire there is a passage on the town of Reading which may have been his. As for his cousin, George Cumberland, he lived for a time at Windsor and he may have contributed on that town. The section on Berkshire can be read HERE.

ii) Also uncovered are two references from catalogues of manuscripts on auction are the following:

John Man Refrence re John Wallis

Wallis (Dr. John) Letters decyphered by, Transcript of the original in the possession of W. Wallis, in the autograph of Mr. John Man, Author of the “History and Antiquities of Reading,” portrait, 4o. with book-plate of John Richardson. [ From Catalogue of a Portion [1st and 2d] of the Very Extensive Library of the …By James Crossley]

John Man Refernce in Wallis Letters2


Wallis (Dr. John) Collection of Letters and other papers intercepted in cypher during the late warres in England, decyphered by John Wallis, sm. 4vo. neatly written MS. transcribed from Wallis’ own MS. in the Bodleian library, with his portrait engraved by Loggan inserted, hf. bd. 2. 10s Transcribed by John Man, 1786 The letters are preceded by an interesting account of the life of Dr. Wallis, by John Man, dated 1786. Man’s name is known through his printed History of Reading.

A biographical sketch of Wallis can be found right at the very end of this page. Wallis also appears in the DNB.

iii) An entry from the Berkshire Ashmolean Society May 24, 1841 is as follows: “The History and Antiquities of Wallingford” from an unpublished MS by John Man (author of the History of Reading), in the collection of John Richards, jun. esq. F.S.A.” to be edited, with additions, by Richard H. Allnatt, M.D.

This projected publication has not been found but in the book ‘The History of Wallingford, in the county of Berkshire, from the invasion of Julius Ceasar to the Present Time. .. etc.’ by John Kirkby Hedges, there are the following passages:

“From one of these books [the famous Doomsday survey] the late John Gough Nichols Esq, the famous antiquary and author, extracted various passages relative to Wallingford, made a translation, and appended some explanatory notes. They were prepared many years ago as a supplement to Man’s manuscript ‘Antiquaries of Wallingford’ which under the auspices of the Berkshire Ashmoloean Society, and with the able assistance of Dr. Allnatt, it was intended to publish. The work had not progress beyond the printing of a few pages when the society collapsed, owing to the death of its most active members, the late John Richards, of Reading and consequently the intention was never carried out. I am greatly indebted to Messrs Nichols (sons of John Gough Nichols) for the gift of this printed matter, and permission to utilize it. That portion which bears the authority of their late distinguished father’s name, reappears, with a slight alteration, in the following pages; it is full of interesting information respecting Wallingford, and, with some further detail, shows that this borough was, as he states, the most important possession of the Crown within the county.”

The writer (Hedges) in discussing the history of Wallingford goes on to say: ” …in the minute-book of the corporation the following entry is made: ‘Soon after his (Henry II.) coming to the throne, he granted them a charter of liberties, in regard, said he, in his particular, of the good service they did for us in helping us to the crown.’

Man, in his brief manuscript, considers that the writer in the minute-book must have been under a mistake, because, as he states, there is no mention of any such inducement on the part of the monarch in the charter. But the mistake appears to rest with the author of the manuscript, who, it would seem, had access only to an imperfect translation of, or to an extract from, the charter, in which the recital in question did not appear.

Man also recognizes a grievous error in the entry in the corporation book, ante, p. 265, relative to the charter granted by Henry II., “in the time of a Parliament holden in Wallingford, anno 1155 ;” because, he [Man] says,

“Parliaments were not called till many years afterwards, and because Oxford, and not Wallingford, was the place where, according to the charter, it was signed.” The term “Parliamentum” does not occur in the charter, but there is abundant authority for using the term ….. “

All the above quotes are from Hedge’s ‘History of Wallingford’ and include an explanation as to why John Man’s short manuscript never appeared in print. However Hedges himself is quoting from some version of Man’s manuscript which appears to have been owned by Nichols. Onr wonders what happened to it.

Also found is the following:

Title: Rambles in the neighbourhood of Wallingford also some account relative to its ancient, medieval, and modern conditions by William Allnatt Publication: Wallingford : Printed and published by S Bradford, Year: 1873 100 p. ; 19 cm.

This publication appears 32 years after the entry about the Berkshire Ashmolean Society and Richard Allnatt’s attempt to publish a history of Wallingford based on Man’s manuscript, maybe. William Allnatt was a son of Richard’s and he completed his father’s work. If so, did he acknowledge John Man’s contribution?

In A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923. There is a chapter titeld ‘The borough of Wallingford: Introduction and Castle’.

A paragraph from this introduction reads as follows:
The three bridges over the moat are named in an inquisition of 1555 as ‘the southgate bridge, the westgate bridge, and the northgate bridge, two of them being built of stone and one of timber’; and it also describes ‘a certain sluice or lock, built of timber, to turn the water into the castle ditches every Saturday at noon until even-song time the Sunday following; the which bridges and sluice or lock were to be repaired from time to time at the only costs and charges of the king and queen’s majesty.’

A footnote for this paragraph references John Man as follows:

Cited in MS. Antiquities of Wallingford, 28, 29, by Richard Skermer, M.A., written 1712–16, in which year he died (Hedges, Hist. of Wallingford, ii, 407). Of this and also of John Man’s MS. 1818 (ibid. 398) some pages were printed for the Berkshire Ashmolean Society, 1842, but never published (ibid. i, 205). The references are to a copy of pp. 9–32 of Skermer’s MS. and 41–64 of Man’s in possession of the Rev. J. E. Field. The ownership of the original MSS. has not been traced.


He inherited from his father-in-law William Baker, a small school. John’s brother in law, William Baker, achieved prominence as printer; for details see the Baker Family.

Above is a view of Reading at the end of the eighteenth century.


Biographical sketch of John Wallis

John Wallis was born in 1616, went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1632, and after some time became fellow of Queen’s. He was ordained, and went to London in 1641, where he first became known by decyphering intercepted papers of the Royalists. In 1644 he became a Secretary of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. In 1649 he was named Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, and in 1658, by Cromwell’s help, it is said, he defeated Dr. Zouch in a contest for the Keepership of the Archives. At the Restoration he, unlike most men, was confirmed in his offices, and was made Chaplain to the King. On the Commission in 1661 for reviewing the Book of Common Prayer, he was one of those nominated on the Presbyterian side, and had a great hand in drawing up exceptions against the Prayer Book. But he afterwards conformed to the Act of Uniformity. His collected Works were published by the University in three volumes fol. 1693-99. He was theologian as well as mathematician: he wrote also on teaching mutes to speak, and on English grammar. His controversy with Hobbes was long and embittered. The Terrae-filius seems to have constantly attacked him, as the foremost man of the Puritan party, with the greatest virulence ; hypocrite, traitor, and schismatic, are common names for him: he will not hear of Hobbes’ squaring the circle, ‘quoniam ipse est caput rotundum, i.e. a notorious Round-Head.’ His own account of himself is worth quoting:

“It hath been my Lot to live in a time wherein have been many and great Changes and Alterations. It hath been my endeavour all along, to act by moderate Principles, between the Extremities on either hand, in a moderate compliance with the Powers in being, in those places where it hath been my lot to live, without the fierce and violent animosities usual in such Cases, against all that did not act just as I did. And willing whatever side was upmost, to promote (as I was able) any good design for the true Interest of Religion, of Learning, and the publick good.” (Langcroft, p. clxix.). An unpublished Life of Dr. Wallis by John Lewis, Minister of Margate, is in the Bodleian (MS. Rawl. C. 978). The B. M. has a transcript. Dr. T. Smith, of Magdalen, intended to write his life, and the long memorandum which was sent to him by Wallis, with a view to this, was printed by Hearne in the Preface to Peter Langtoft’s Chronicle. Some Memoirs were also prefixed by his great grandson to a posthumous edition of his sermons, 1791.)

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