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.