The family of Whittingham Wood of Canterbury, gentleman (1614 – 1656)

In the previous post, I announced my intention to revisit the 1652 will of Elizabeth Greene of Stepney, exploring some of the many individuals and families that she mentions in that document. In this post, I want to begin by taking a closer look at the Wood family. In her will, Elizabeth expresses a wish ‘to be buried in decent manner in Stepney Church yard as neare my first husband Gregorie Wood as convenientlie may be’.  I assume he is the ‘Gregorie Wood of Ratcliffe mariner’ who married Elizabeth Wheeler at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney, on 12th September 1614. To date, I haven’t managed to find evidence of any children born to the couple, or any record of Gregory’s death or burial. 

In her will, Elizabeth Greene, formerly Wood, bequeaths ‘to my cousin Master Whittingham wood of Canterburie Gentleman the summe of five pounds’. I think we can assume that this individual was related to Elizabeth’s first husband Gregory, though the lack of records for the latter means that it’s difficult to be precise about the nature of that relationship. 

Bromley parish church

Whittingham Wood was born in Bromley, Kent in 1614. He was the son of another Whittingham Wood, who was probably the person of that name baptised at All Hallows Lombard Street, London, on 16th May 1578. We know from his will that Whittingham Wood the elder had at least two siblings, Elizabeth and Mary, to whom we’ll return later.

The first Whittingham Wood is mentioned in the register of admissions to Gray’s Inn for the year 1600, when he would have been 22 years old. He married Katharine Shurley, the daughter of John Shurley and his wife Frances Capell. John Shurley of Sussex was originally a lawyer who became Serjeant-at-Law and Member of Parliament for Lewes. Frances was the daughter of Henry Capell of Hadham, Hertfordshire, who was also an MP. Whittingham and Katharine Wood had three children: Mary, born in 1612; Francis, born in 1613; and Whittingham junior. All three were christened in Bromley.

Whittingham Wood the elder died in 1616, at the age of 38, when his three children were still very young. His Puritan instincts are on display in the preamble to his will, in which he bequeaths his soul ‘unto Almightie god my maker and Creator trusting only to have remission for my synnes and life eternall by the meritts and passion of Jesus Christe my only Saviour and Redeemer through the working of the holie Spirit in me’. As well as property in Bromley, Whittingham also left ‘landes, tenements and hereditaments’ in other parts of Kent, including Canterbury, Romney, Elham and Barham.

At Easter 1632, Whittingham Wood the younger entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. In 1652, records show that he was living in Canterbury, paying monthly rents for the army and navy. In 1655, Whittingham married Elizabeth St Nicholas, the daughter of Thomas St Nicholas of Ash, near Sandwich in Kent, and his wife Susannah.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge – a Puritan stronghold

Born in Ash in 1602, Thomas St Nicholas was an important Puritan lawyer and parliamentarian. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1619. Admitted at the Inner Temple in 1623, he became a barrister and member of parliament for Yorkshire and later for Canterbury. His first wife Susannah, Elizabeth’s mother, was the daughter of William Copley of Wadsworth, Yorkshire. Besides Elizabeth, they also had a son, Thomas junior.

By 1648 Thomas St Nicholas was Chief Clerk at Grocers’ Hall in London. It was on 25th November in that year, at the height of the Civil War, that ‘my noble friend, Thomas St Nicholas’ received the following letter from Knottingley, near Pontefract in Yorkshire:

SIR,

I suppose it’s not unknown to you how much the Country is in arrear to the Garrison of Hull; – as likewise how probable it is that the Garrison will break, unless some speedy course be taken to get them money; the soldiers at the present being ready to mutiny, as not having money to buy them bread; and without money the stubborn Townspeople will not trust them for the worth of a penny.

Sir, I must beg of you that, as you tender the good of the Country, so far as the security of that Garrison is motioned, you would give your assistance to the helping of them to their money which the Country owes them. The Governor will apply himself to you, either in person or by letter. I pray you do for him herein as in a business of a very high consequence. I am the more earnest with you, as having a very deep sense how dangerous the event may be, of their being neglected in the matter of their pay. I rest upon your favour herein; – and subscribe myself,

Sir,

Your very humble servant,

OLIVER CROMWELL

Oliver Cromwell

In 1653, Thomas’ name was added to the Council of State and in 1659 he became Clerk of the House of Commons. Thomas was also something of a poet: a collection of his verse, entitled ‘At Vacant Hours’, was unpublished in his lifetime but according to one source ‘provides a memorable record of English life during the crucial middle decades of the 17th century.’ He died in 1668.

Whittingham Wood the younger died at the age of 42, only a year after his marriage, and seemingly before the couple were able to have any children. Like his father’s will, the younger Whittingham’s last will and testament provides evidence of his Puritan leanings. He bequeaths his soul ‘unto Almightie God my maker stedfastlie believing through the precious death and passion, and for the only merritts of my deare Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the righteous to be saved and to enjoye eternall blisse and glory everlastinge’. Like his father, the younger Whittingham owned land in various parts of Kent. Besides Ashe, where he lived, Whittingham bequeathed properties in Bromley, Canterbury, Elham, Romney and Barham, where he owned woodlands, a cherry garden and a hop garden.

1646 map of Kent

The younger Whittingham’s will is almost as densely populated with names as that of his kinswoman Elizabeth Greene, who died in the previous year, providing valuable information about his family and his wider social network. Whittingham leaves property in Bromley to ‘my kinsman’ Samuel Barneham and his sons. Since the elder Whittingham’s will names Jacob Barneham as his brother-in-law, the wife of his sister Elizabeth, then it’s likely that Samuel was the latter’s son – and therefore the cousin of the younger Whittingham Wood.

Whittingham junior’s will also mentions ‘my kinsman Whittingham Fogg’. This individual also turns up in the will of Elizabeth Greene: I’ve often wondered about the connection between the two men and how they came to share such an unusual first name. Between them, the wills of the two Whittingham Woods, father and son, have enabled me to solve the mystery. The elder Whittingham refers at one point to ‘my sister Fogg’, and he also makes Richard Fogg of Barham ‘gent’ one of the overseers of his will. On 18th August 1606 Richard Fogg married Mary Wood at All Hallows Lombard Street. I believe that Whittingham, presumably named after his uncle, was their son – and therefore another cousin of Whittingham Wood the younger. I’ll have more to say about the Fogg family in another post.

Further evidence of the younger Whittingham Wood’s religious affiliation comes in the first item of his will after the preamble, which reads as follows:

I give and Bequeath unto Edward Owen Robert Mascall and William Jones of the Citty of Canterbury gentlemen the summe of one hundred pounds of lawfull money of England to be employed By them and the Survivors of them towards the maintenance of the preachinge of the Gospell in England or elsewhere in such manner as they in their discretion shall thinke to be most fit

The only member of this trio about whom I’ve managed to discover anything definite is Robert Mascall. In 1646, a Robert Mascall was in trouble in New England: he was ‘released’ from the church of Boston, Massachussetts ‘unto the church of Christ in Dover’. A ‘Brother Mascall of Dover’ appears in the records of the ‘gathered’ (i.e. independent) church in Canterbury in 1647. Around this time a  ‘Mr Mascall’ was pilloried by one author as a rather troublesome customs collector turned radical preacher. Robert Mascall is also on record as recommending a divinity lecturer for Canterbury Cathedral some time in the 1650s, while ‘Captain Mascall’ who was once again in difficulties after the Restoration for belonging to an illegal church in that city.

Rochester bridge and castle

The Lee family of Rochester features prominently in the younger Whittingham’s will:

I give and bequeath unto Richard Lee of the Cittye of Rochester Esq and to his wife and to their Children the summe of one hundred poundes equally to be divided betweene them Item I give and bequeath unto Richard Lee of the Cittye of Rochester Esq and to his wife and to every of their children fortie shillings apiece to buy them Rings in remembrance of me.

Like the Foggs, the Lee or Leigh family were also mentioned in Elizabeth Greene’s will:

I give and bequeath unto Mistris Jane Leigh daughter of Richard Leigh of Margaretts Parish neare Rochester in Kent five pounds.

Richard Lee was elected Member of Parliament for Rochester in 1640 and sat in the so-called Short Parliament. He was re-elected MP for Rochester in November 1640 for the Long Parliament where he sat until he was excluded under Pride’s Purge in 1648. Lee was mayor of Rochester in 1643 when he was also appointed a commissioner for Kent to oversee the speedy raising and levying of money for the relief of the Commonwealth.

St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, in 1656

Members of another famous Kent family are among the beneficiaries of the younger Whittingham Wood’s will:

I give unto Francis Lovelace of the Cittie of Canterbury Esq and Anne his wife and to Francis Lovelace their sonne and to his wife And to Judith Lovelace widow their own daughter in lawe And to Anne and Margaret Lovelace their daughters and to every of them forty shillings apiece to buy them ringes in remembrance of me.

Born in 1594, Francis Lovelace was a member of an ancient Kent family and a relative of the Cavalier poet Richard Lovelace. In 1638 he succeeded his father as Recorder of Canterbury. According to one source:

He was removed from office in 1643 as a royalist sympathiser; but in 1647 he was one of the moderates who strove to allay the disturbances in the city caused by the attempt of the county committee to suppress the celebration of Christmas. When the parliamentary forces regained control, he was imprisoned in Leeds Castle for a few months, and he signed the Kentish petition for a free Parliament in the following year. He was described as ‘very active against Parliament’ in the second Civil War, and compounded for £50 on a property he had purchased in Chatham, though this had apparently been sequestrated because of the vendor’s delinquency rather than his own. Lovelace again signed a Kentish petition for a free Parliament in January 1660 and regained his recordership at the Restoration.

Francis Lovelace made a celebrated speech ‘to the Kings most Excellent Majestie at his coming to Canterbury the 27 day of October 1660.’  He was returned as a Member of Parliament for Canterbury in 1661, when he was already 66 years old. He died in 1664 and was buried at St Margaret’s Canterbury.

The fact that the royalist Lovelace and his family are remembered in Whittingham Wood’s will is a sign that the latter’s friendships extended beyond his own religious and political allies.

My exploration of the family of Whittingham Wood has left me none the wiser about his precise relationship with his ‘cousin’ Elizabeth Greene of Stepney. The elder Whittingham was probably closer to the age of Elizabeth’s first husband Gregory. Perhaps they were brothers? Only the discovery of a christening record for Gregory will make it possible for us to be sure.

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