The Gassiots

The Gassiot family came originally from the Pyrenees and John Peter Gassiot, Esq., D.C.L., L.L.D., F.R.S., J.P. who was born in 1797, and bought St. John's in 1871, was listed at the time of the sale as a port wine merchant.

As well as being a member of the City wine merchants Martinez, Gassiot & Co. and a magistrate he was also a distinguished amateur scientist, and his house on Clapham Common in London was full of the best apparatus and was always open to other scientists of the time. Although little known today Gassiot was very friendly with Michael Faraday and worked with him on research into electricity. He was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1840 and in 1841 was one of the founders of the Chemical Society. He also founded the Royal Society Scientific Relief Fund. Among his other achievements was winning the Royal Society's Royal Medal (Gold) in 1863 in recognition of his work on voltaic electricity and on the discharge of electricity through gasses at low pressure. On committees was associated with such famous names as Herschal and Wheatstone, and after having endowed Kew Observatory with a £10,000 grant to the Royal Society in 1871 was, for some years, the chairman of the Royal Society's Kew Observatory Committee.

J. P. Gassiot (2nd left) and colleagues with apparatus for Mr. John Welsh's balloon ascent in Vauxhall Gardens, London in July 1852.J.P. Gassiot, a popular man in Ryde, died at St John's on August 15th 1877 and was buried at Norwood Cemetery in London.

He had a total of twelve children, three of whom died before they reached the age of one and one at the age of seven. This shows us that infant mortality was not just confined to the poor of the time.

He named two sons after himself, two because the first had died an infant. The second married a Spanish lady, keeping the Gassiot connections with that part of Europe alive.

It was another son Charles who had Gassiot School built in his father's memory, giving the land to the diocese in 1878, the year after his father's death. Although not an owner of the house he is still of interest. He was taken into the family business and took sole charge in 1870 becoming extremely wealthy. He was fond of the outdoor life and horses, wishing to own his own farm.

He was a keen art collector and usually bought the Royal Academy Picture of the Year, and at his death in 1902 left about 130 paintings, including Constables, Landseers and Millais worth over £100,000, the money mainly going to the City of London. As he had no children he left £400,000 to St. Thomas's Hospital, London, which still has the Gassiot wing named in honour of his generosity, and £3,000 to Gassiot School, this Trust is still administered by the diocese and school managers.

The youngest child was Captain Sebastian Gassiot, R.N. 1841 - 1902, listed on the purchase documents for St. John's House as being his father's co-purchaser. He had more land on the Island at Whitwell and Godshill.

The youngest daughter of J.P. Gassiot was Anne Wright Gassiot who was given St, John's shortly before her father's death on the occasion of her marriage to General Henry Carr Tate, R.M.A., on June 27th 1877. She must have been about forty at this time, having spent the earlier part of her life looking after her father, and so was older than the usual first time bridge of the Victorian era.

She was General Carr Tate's second wife and they were married at St. John's Church by the Rev. William Chawner, M.A. The General had served on the north coast of Spain during the Carlist war, a war following Ferdinand V11's designation of his daughter as his heir instead of his brother Don Carlos to whom the Salic law, which precluded the succession of females, gave the succession. The General died in 1901 and Anne Gassiot a little over ten years later.

The next member of the family to own the house was the Rev. Thomas John Puckle, M.A., the grandson of Charles Gassiot and nephew of Anne Gassiot, who had left him the house in her Will. He resigned his living as vicar of St. Peters in Barnsley to take up residence at the house where he remained until his death in 1920. He was buried in the cemetery at Ryde and as he was unmarried the house passed to two of the mourners at his funeral, his sister Elizabeth and her husband Harold de Vaux Brougham.

This gentleman, a member of the Reform Club and a barrister of Lincoln's Inn, died in the 1930's and his wife lived on at the house until World War Two, being joined after her husband's death by his niece Miss Gladys Johnston. Their son Thomas also lived there with her.

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