Island Lecture Series April 2016 – “New London: The Island’s Lost Dream” with John Cousins

New London: The Island’s Lost Dream

with John Cousins
Tuesday, April 19, 2016 | 7 p.m. | SDU Main  Building Faculty Lounge

The Island Studies Lectures Series concludes this season on April 19 with historian/folklorist John Cousins presenting a lecture entitled “New London: The Island’s Lost Dream,” tracing the rise and fall of the “Quaker” village of New London between the years 1773 and 1795. The talk – a sneak preview of a book to be published later this year by Island Studies Press – gets under way at 7 p.m. in the SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge on the UPEI campus.

New London was unique in the history of Island settlements. It was begun not as a community of scattered farms but as a compact industrial village stretched along “Leadenhall Street,” the road leading to the harbour mouth. The villagers for the most part were woodsmen, mill workers, and artisans: shoemakers, blacksmiths, coopers and woodworkers like the famous Benjamin Chappell. There was even a village doctor: Dr. Cullshaw. The plan of Robert Clark, the London Quaker who owned Lot 21, was to exploit the sea and the forest of his Island properties and export fish and lumber to the Caribbean. In return, products from the Caribbean – rum and sugar, for instance – would be carried back to the Island.

The village was unique in other ways. It was planned as a Quaker community and its core families were Quakers from London and from the southern and western counties of England – some of whose descendants still live in the area. Powerful Quaker industrialists in England, among them John Townsend, a London pewter merchant, and William Cookworthy, the founder of England’s porcelain industry, were Clark’s supporters. Yet, within 20 years, the settlement at New London’s harbour mouth had died.

Using eyewitness accounts and correspondence from the time, Cousins examines the village’s birth, its middle years and finally the “perfect storm” of events which led to the end of Robert Clark’s dream: the American Revolution, the business failure of Robert Clark, and finally the machinations of Island politicians who seized part of Clark’s property. In the end the dream of New London and its founders died. However, the first-hand accounts of its early days recorded by Benjamin Chappell, Thomas Curtis and Joseph Roake demonstrate that the courage, grace and toughness of the first New Londoners outlasted the death of their dream.

John Cousins was born in the fishing village of Campbellton, Lot Four, western Prince County in 1945. He has been a fisherman, a school teacher, a school administrator, a historian and a folklorist and has published a number of works on PEI history and folklore. He taught as a sessional professor of folklore in UPEI’s History Department from 2000 to 2014. He is descended from John Cousins and Mary Townsend, whose families were among the first settlers at New London.


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