Laban Sweeting

Laban Sweeting was born at Burnham on Crouch in November 1796 to Oyster Merchant, John Sweeting  and his wife Elizabeth.

The Sweetings were a family who had been connected with Burnham on Crouch for many generations.

On 28 October 1813 Laban married Mary Cobham at Thaxted.  Mary was then aged 26 but with Laban still only 20 he had to received his father’s approval for the marriage to take place.

The marriage was to bring two children – a son John and a daughter Mary. Mary married a young clergyman George Augustus Addison, son of Burnham surgeon Dr James Addison and the couple moved to Jamaica where Rev Addison was a Chaplain. Soon after giving birth to a son Spencer Addison,  Mary died and Rev Addison remarried. Spencer was sent home where he was raised by Laban and Mary.

Laban ran the family Oyster beds at Shelford Creek and took an active role within the Burnham Oyster Industry. The business was quite extensive with a large workforce based at Burnham on Crouch.

He was the founder and main driver of the Burnham branch of the Essex Provident Society and was superintendent of the Church Sunday Schools.

Mary died after 52 years of marriage on 29 June 1865 at the age of 78.

Laban felt unwell on 19th November 1876 in his home in High Street, Burnham on Crouch and despite the efforts of Dr May of Maldon he died a few days later on 22 November 1876.

The report in the Essex Newsman described him as ‘His kindness of heart was proverbial and in the exercise of public and private benevolence he was unremitting. Those who were in adversity found in him a sympathising and a generous friend. By his death the poor especially have sustained a great loss To those in his employ he was most considerate particularly his old servants, several of whom had worked for him for nearly half a century. His memory will be revered by all classes for many years to come. ’.

His funeral was held on Saturday 25 November 1876 at St Mary’s Parish Church, Burnham on Crouch. The shops in Burnham were closed, with blinds drawn, for the duration of the service and the funeral cortege was followed from High Street to the church by a large procession of Sweeting employees which were swelled by a large number of other inhabitants of Burnham to form a very large gathering at the church.

After his death a small committee was established to arrange a memorial to Laban and there was such a swell of support that funds were raised to enable to construction of a Clock Tower in High Street next to the town schools.

Click here to read more about the Clock Tower.