Compiled by Eric Benjamin Lawton


A brief historical introduction:

Eurpean settlement at the Cape of Good Hope began in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company sent a small group under the leadership of 33 year-old Jan Van Riebeck to establish a victually station on the long sea route to the East. Although the settlement became permanent and grew it still remained largely confined to an area around present-day Cape Town.

Towards the end of the 18th centuary the once mighty Dutch East India Company was tottering to it’s fall. Mainly to forstall French occupation, Britain invaded and took control of the fledgling colony in June 1795, ending 143 years of Dutch rule. Barely seven years later, on 27 March 1802, a treaty was signed at Amiens between Great Britain, France and the Batvian Republic, handing the Cape back to its former owners. War then broke out between Britain and the Batvian Republic, upon which once again took control at the Battle of Blaauwberg in early 1806.

Some limited British settlement took place in the period 1794-1802, but it was not until after 1806 that people from Great Britain began to come in any numbers. Many were military and official and not necessarily permanent immigrants. However, the industrial revolution and economic depression in England, which follwed the Napoleonic Wars, spurred many to seek a better life in the new British colony.

The Lawtons:

The earliest record of the “Lawton” surname in South Africa is in 1821 in the person of Joseph Lawton. This overview of the Lawton surname refers almost exclusively to Joseph and his descendants. However there are records of other Lawtons which appear in South African records in the first half of the 1800’s and later. I have scanty information relating to them and will deal with some of them first, as they do not form part of the continuous thread of Joseph Lawton’s descendants.

If there is kinship with Joseph’s line it remains unknown to me.

1] Thomas Lawton born 1795; died 1847.

The earliest evidence of his being in the Cape Colony is an advertisement in the Cape Almanac of 1835, in which he is listed as a “tobacco and snuff manufacturer” at 23 Mount Street, Cape Town. A record is in the Cape Archives, dated 1834, in which he applies for ‘the remiision of a fine’.[source; KAB: DOC:vol.3980; ref.143] In 1845-1846 he visited South West Africa [today’s Namibia] as ‘a Cape Town based merchant”.

In 1844 he shipped goods to Port Natal [Durban] for sale and arrived there, with his wife, in 1847 and traded with Henry Hunt. He died soon after arrival in Aug 1847 in the home of the “Clarence” family

2] Nathan Lawton born 1810; died 3 Apr 1869 in Cape Town

Nathan married Julia Maria Hollett on 14 May 1851 in the Anglican Cathedral, Cape Town. She was the daughter of William Hollett, a master mariner who arrived in the Cape on 16 Apr 1816 as master of the “Mary”.and who died in the Cape in 1838.

Nathan may have been a son of Thomas Lawton as he arrived in Durbam in May 1848 on a coastal trading ship the “Douglas” ‘with goods to be sold in Mr Clarence’s stores’. The joint association with the Clarence family suggest a possible family connection with Thomas Lawton.

Nathan traded in partnership with William Whitta [died 1868] as ‘Lawton & Whitta’’ They are listed as ‘general dealers’and wine merchants. There are two applications by the firm to ship gunpowder to Mossel Bay [1844] and to Durban [1846].

2] Martha Lawton born ? Mar 1812 or Mar1822; died 21 Sep 1864 in Somerst East, Cape. Is she a daughter of Thomas Lawton? Martha married Rev Rheinhold [Robert] Theodore Gregorowski, who was born in Danzil, East Prussia in 1807. His offspring continued to be Anglican clergy in South Africa.

3] Charles Lawton first appears inCaperecords in 1845 and died in 1846. No other information is known.

4] Joseph Gamaliel Lawton died in the Cape in 1911 [KAB: MOOC: vol.6/9/673; ref.2222]. The death of his wife, Hannah Jane, is recorded in the Natal Archives, suggesting she may have died there in 1895 [NAB: MSCE: ref.20/11]. He was one of the ‘Lawtons’ of Delph, Saddleworth, east of Manchester, England.

5] Richard Lawton [born 1826; died19 Oct 1882].

He came to Natal at the time of the “Byrne Settlers” arriving in Duran in Sep 1850 on the “Globe”. J C Byrne & Co. [Joseph William Byrne of Dublin] brought a number of settlers to Natal between 1849 and 1851, who were settled in the Natal midlands. Richard married Eliza Jane Archbell, daughter of Rev James Archbell. Richard farmed and later became a merchant trader in Pietermaritzburg, Natal. A number of his decendants are buuried at St Lukes Church Cemetery, Howick, Natal.

A few other Lawtons crop up in the Archival records but I have no, or very little, information about them.


JOSEPH LAWTON was born in 1797 in England. His parents were Joseph Lawton and Ann Newling, who were married in Westminster Parish, Middlesex in 1791. Nothing more is known about them.

Joseph arrived in the Cape Colony in 1821, as a bachelor in his mid-twenties. It is believed he came from London. In all probability he already had skills as a coppersmith and appears to have established a business soon after his arrival. In 1818, three years before Joseph’s arrival in Cape Town, Aleaxander Kilpatrick [1791-31 Mar 1821] came to the Cape, from Edinburgh, as one of about 200 Scottish artisans brought out as indentured workers by Benjamin Moodie. He was also a coppersmith. Alexander married Elizabeth Hindle [abt 1794-1863] from Norfolk on 27 Nov 1820, in the ‘English Church’, Cape Town. Sadly, Alexander was to die within months of his marriage.

As fellow coppersmiths Aexander and Joseph would have known each other well in the still small community of Cape Town. Four years later, on 18 April 1825, Joseph married the widow Kilpatrick in the Groote Kerk, Cape Town.

Joseph and Elizabeth had six children, as far is known. They were all born in Cape Town.

1] Joseph Newling Lawton [26 Feb 1828-31 Oct 1885]

2] Elizabeth {Bessie] Mary Lawton [1830-16 Apr 1893[

3] Mary Jane Lawton [abt. 1831- bef. 1928]

4] Anne Catherine Lawton [27 May 1832=21 Sep, 1921]

5] Thomas Hindle Lawton [Feb 1835-5 Feb 1896]

6] Benjamin Theophilus Lawton [Jan 1837-8 July 1916]

The eldest son, Joseph Newling, established himself as hardware merchant and iron-monger, importing iron, copper and brass from England but probably not manufacturing articles in the Cape.

Two of Joseph’s sons married Russouw girls, descendants of the French Huguenots who had fled from religious persection in 1791 and settled in the Cape Colony. They brought with them many skills, particularly those of viticulture, and were to play a vital role in the Cape Colony.

Joseph Newling married Susanna Johanna Russouw[1830-28 June 1873] in abt 1873 and they had seven known children. [His younger brother, Benjamin Theophilus Lawton, married a sister, Johanna Francina Russouw [1834-1869] on 17 March 1858, but more of that later].

Joseph Newling and Susanna had seven children. The fifth child, Daniel Russouw Lawton [1 Jun 1862 – 1947] married Annie Beatrice Doveton [21 Dec 1868 – aft 1947] in 1895 in Cape Town. Annie was the daughter of Onesiphorus Bagley Doveton [20 Jun 1838 – abt 1873] and Emily Maria Ellert Beale[1840 – ?] both of whom were born on the island of St. Helena. They emigrated to South Africa in the mid 1800’s and were married in Simonstown, Cape on 25 Sep 1860. The ancestry of Onesiphorus goes back six generations to William Dufton [1653 – Jul 1707] and Anne Wilde.[abt 1655 – 1684] who were married in St Helena in 1678. Onesiphorus’ grandfathether, Sir William Webber Doveton, knew Napoleon during his exile in St Helena.[Oct 1815 until his death on 5 May 1821]

Josephs third child, Mary Jane Lawton married Thomas Philip [22 April 1822-21 Feb 1891], a great-nephew of Rev John Philip [14 Apr 1775-27 Aug 1851], the head of the London Missionary Society in the Cape and famous in South African history for his support of the rights of the indigenous people

The next daughter, Anne Catherine Lawton married John Edwards [17 Jun 1833-7 Feb 1914], the son of Rev. Edward Edwards [17 Mar 1794-6 Apr 1868] and Jane Dendy [4 Jul 1808-2 Feb 1883].There is some evidence that John may have been apprenticed to his father-in-law, Joseph Lawton. Rev. Edward Edwards was one of the early Wesleyan Methodists to come to the Cape, arriving on 15 Dec 1815.

The two youngest children of Joseph and Elizabeth, Thomas Hindle and Benjamin Theophilus, joined their father in the coppersmith business and continued it after their father’s death. The firm of Joseph Lawton, and later TH & BT Lawton, were perhaps the most influential and prolific coppersmith and tinsmith concerns at the Cape during to 1800’s. Many articles made by them are to be found in museums and private collections.

Thomas Hindle Lawton married a daughter of Rev Edward Edwards, Catherine [Kate] Edwards [1837-19 Nov 1892]. They had a large family, probably as many as fourteen children. Some of their descendants were to play a prominent role in the South African legal system

Their eldest son, Thomas Edwards Lawton [1859-Apr 1932] became a partner in the law firm, Fairbridge Arderne & Lawton [FAL], now the longest established law firm in South Africa. His son, Wellersley Evelyn Lawton [18 Jun 1892-1963] followed him into the firm.

A younger son of Thomas Hindle, Alfred Benjamin Charles Lawton [12 Feb 1873-Oct 1953] also joined FAL, as did one of Alfred’s sons, Alfred Dendy Lawton[abt 1910-6 May 1967]. Dendy Lawton was to represent South Africa as a wing in the Springbok Rugby tour to Australai in 1937.He ‘tarnished his reputation’, left the firm and went to Southern Rhodesia where he subsequently was killed in an air crash

The connection to the legal world was continued by Thomas Hindle young daughter, Jessie Blanche Lawton [12 Jun 1865-1950] who married Newton Ogilvie Thompson [10 Aug 1863- abt 1933] who was Chief Magistrate in the Transkei [Eastern Cape]. Two of their five children became judges of the Supreme Court. Newton Ogilvie Newton-Thompson became Chief Justice of South Africa and Cyril Newton-Thompson also became a judge of the Supreme Court – both highly distinguished.

A daughter of Rev Edward Edwards and Jane Dendy, Mary Edwards [1835 – 19120 married Henry Tindall [30 Mar 1831 – 16 Jul 1909] who was a Wesleyan missionary and noted linguist in the Nama language of Namaqualand]. One of their sons, Benjamin Arthur Tindall became a Judge of the Supreme Court and Judge President of the Transvaal, further strengthening the connections to the legal profession. Benjamin’s younger brother, William Alfred Tindall was a lawyer in Pretoria, Transvaal.

Constance Maud Lawton [11 Sep 1875-22 Nov 1963], another daughter of Thomas Hindle, married into the Orpen family, members of whom have been prominent in the political, financial and educational fields in South Africa.

Benjamin Theophilus Lawton was the youngest child. He married one of the Russouw girls, Johanna Francina Russouw[1834-1869] on 17 Mar 1858. They produced five children before Johanna died in 1869, leaving him with five children under the age of six. How he managed we do not know, but some six years later, on 30 Mar 1876, he married again, this time to Lucy Harriet Edwards [1848-1938].the youngest daughter of Rev Edward Edwards and sister of Thomas Hindle’s wife. He had another four children with her.

The second child of Benjamin Theophilus and Johanna Russouw, Benjamin Joseph Lawton[Jun 1865 – 2 May 1917] was my grandfather. He married Alice Isabella Holmes [1869 – 1951] in Cape Town on 30 Jun 1892. Their eldest son Edwin Benjamin Lawton[6 Jun 1893 – 2 Apr 1945] was my father. He and my mother, Edith Delia Allin [24 May 1891 – 15 Dec 1990] were married in the Anglican Church, Muizenberg, Cape on 30 Jun 1920.