HENRY CORT'S BIRTH
According to the inscription on his tombstone, Cort "departed this Life 23rd May 1800 in the 60th Year of his age."
Commentators have deduced he was born in 1740.† But it could have been as late as 22 May 1741 (before you allow for the 11 days that failed to materialise when the calendar changed in 1752).
Consider also the record of his first marriage (Crowhurst, Surrey), 24 April 1764.
Henry Cort of this ph gentleman & Miss Elizabeth Brown of the ph of St.Giles in the Fields, in the County of Midx were married in this Church by Licence this (24th) day of April 1764 by me W m Hoggart, Minister.
††† From Crowhurst parish register.
He is said to be 22, consistent with a birth date after 14 April 1741.
And the place of his birth?
This is stated explicitly, "Ellell, near Lancaster", in one of the main sources of information about him.
Of contemporary documents, the only significant one is the 1789 will of Jane Cort of Lancaster.
It names "my Cousin Henry Cort late of the Navy Office Crutched ffryers London but now of Gosport in Hampshire Gentleman" as an executor and beneficiary.
It also refers to Cort's "sister Jane Cort of Standing in Herefordshire Spinster".
Either the quoted location is a mistake, or it is a remarkable coincidence that Cort purchased a small estate at Standon in Hertfordshire.
Mott constructed a family tree for Jane Cort.
Her father was another Henry Cort, formerly Mayor of Kendal.
All her siblings (other than those who died in infancy) were baptised or buried in Lancaster, showing that the whole family moved there from Kendal.† Infant deaths included both of Janeís brothers named Henry Ė an instance of fate being unkind to sons given the same name as their father (also noticeable in Attwick and Haysham families).† Two of Janeís nephews were also named Henry, but Mott identified them from family wills as a merchant and a mariner.† No sign of our inventor.
No sign, either, of a family branch from which a cousin Henry may have sprung.† Mott concluded that the term "cousin" in Janeís time covered a wide variety of relations.† He reckoned Cort the inventor was illegitimate, and speculated who the father might be.
He did not consider the possibly that Cort was a bastard from another family, and had been adopted by the Corts.
If so, the other family may have been rich and interested enough to help in his career.† A good job in London at sixteen, a partnership at twenty-one.
A story that his father was a builder seems to originate in a nineteenth-century account by Samuel Smiles, who probably heard it from one of Cort's children.