Edward Gower Vane Sutton ran away from a lot of money. Why this wealthy English stock broker chose the small town of Barrie to exile himself I have yet to discover.
Edward was the eldest child of Edward Barker Sutton and his wife, Charlotte. On his 1849 baptism record, Edward’s father’s profession or trade was stated as gentleman. The senior Edward Sutton had also been a stock exchange broker, and a highly successful one.
The young lad grew up in comfortable surroundings. His first home on Brixton Hill, Streatham included more servants than household members.
The Suttons travelled in some fairly influential circles. Young Edward carried the middle name of Vane in honour of family friend, Rev. John Vane, who had baptized Edward’s younger siblings and presided over his mother’s funeral. Rev. Vane, a son of the Duke of Cleveland, later became the chaplain to the British House of Commons and spiritual advisor to Queen Victoria.
Very likely, Edward Sutton felt the pressure to succeed early on. That silver spoon was not to be wasted.
In 1866, 17-year-old Edward Sutton Esquire’s name appeared in the London Gazette after the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports signed a commission making the young man Second Lieutenant in the 4th Cinque Artillery Volunteer Corps. Early military connections often led to good business relationships in the future.
Around this time, Edward Sutton began his studies at the University of London. Upon graduation, Edward’s future looked to be on a decidedly upward trajectory. He married Mary Starkey, a wealthy wine merchant’s daughter, who was nine years his senior, entered the London Stock Exchange with partners Henry Gutierrez and Robert Chappel, and became the father of a son, all within the span of a year.
The Chappel and Sutton business was listed in the 1875 edition of the London Post Office Directory and that is possibly the last recorded mention of Edward Sutton, the seemingly rising star stock broker. His name then suddenly disappeared from the London financial scene.
Where did he go? We can only make guesses. Perhaps he needed some time to decompress on the continent and took in some salt air on the French Riviera. What we do know is that his father was sympathetic to his plight, whatever it was, and financed his escape.
Edward Sutton made his first appearance in Barrie in March 1878. He boarded at private house for a while and then took a room at the Victoria Hotel across from the Market Square. The Northern Advance of July 27, 1878 described a pleasant young man.
“He was genial, friendly temperament, and his good-natured ways made him a friend with all whom he came in contact with.”
From conversations with the newcomer, acquaintances learned that Edward Sutton was a well-educated stock broker from a prominent English family. They also discovered that their new friend was an extremely broken man.
Edward Sutton had spent every day, since his arrival in Barrie, living “a hard life, drinking deeply and constantly.” The effects of his alcohol consumption were taking a heavy toll on him and, by mid-July, he was suffering from a severe lung infection.
The Victoria Hotel sent for some medicine which was prescribed by Dr. Wells who did not attend the patient. When Edward got no better, the innkeeper sent for Dr. Wells’ services again and this time the doctor visited the sick man and learned how grave his situation was.
Dr. Wells gave Edward bromide of potash, a popular nineteenth century sedative and anticonvulsant, to combat his delirium. He also administered carbonate of ammonia for the chest affliction and applied plasters to cause blistering in hopes of drawing out infection.
Dr. McConkey came to assist Dr. Wells but the doctors, in consultation with each other, saw no hope and the patient passed away on July 26, 1878. The Northern Advance concluded its story.
“Meeting with losses which swept away the bulk of his fortune, and losing by death his young wife, he fell into dissipated habits and the end was death. Since in Canada his father has supplied him with funds. The father, we believe, has been communicated with in reference to the death of his son.”
Edward Gower Vane Sutton was buried in the Trinity Anglican Church cemetery.
Edward Sutton may have indeed suffered a financial catastrophe, but that fact becomes shadowed in doubt if you consider that another fact, the death of his young wife, is not true. Mary Starkey Sutton was nearly 40 years old and very much alive when her husband died in the Victoria Hotel.
His own business situation may not have been great, but Edward Sutton would not have wanted for money had he stayed in England. Pride, mental exhaustion or extremely high social expectations may have led him to flee.
In 1891, Edward’s widow was living in a row of exclusive homes in the seaside town of Hove in Sussex. She was described as living on her own means, on the census record. Again, there were more servants than family members in the house.
Her father, John Starkey, had recently passed away and left a fortune of £65,779 to his heirs, £8 million in 2020 money.
When Edward’s father died in 1901, he left his heirs £40,582, or £5 million today, which is close to $10 million Canadian dollars.
Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.