Last week I discovered a new ancestor: my 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest, a London citizen and haberdasher who lived at Little Tower Hill in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, and who died in 1678. He and his wife Anne were the parents of my 8 x great grandmother Alice Forrest who married Sussex-born citizen and stationer John Byne.
I’ve been trying to find out more about the Forrest family, by studying the wills of Alice, her father Thomas, and her uncle William. From William’s and Alice’s wills we learn that the family had connections in Worcestershire: William owned land in his home village of Badsey, about ten miles east of Evesham, which he bequeathed to Alice and her son John. Rather like John Byne’s family, the Forrests seem to have had one foot in the shires, where they were yeoman farmers, and another in London and ‘trade’.
Churchyard at Badsey, Worcestershire (via flickr.com)
Thomas Forrest’s will is not particularly helpful in furthering our knowledge of his family, since the only relatives he mentions are his wife Anne, his son Thomas, his daughter Alice, her husband John Byne, and their daughter Anne. William’s and Alice’s wills, on the other hand, present us with a large cast of characters that potentially provides clues to the Forrest family’s origins and connections. As always, however, we need to be wary of references to ‘cousins’, as this word seems to have been deployed to mean a variety of relatives (for example, William Forrest refers to Alice as his cousin, when we know that she was his niece).
I’ll probably have more to say in later posts about the range of relatives in both William’s and Alice’s wills . However, for now I want to focus on the only surname to occur in both wills: Boulton. In his will of 1700, William Forrest leaves money to ‘my sister Alice Boulton’ and to ‘my cozen Alice Bolton daughter of Peter Bolton’. In her will of 1733 (she died in 1738), Alice Byne née Forrest writes:
I do hereby request and desire my Cousin Richard Boulton the Elder to be Overseer of this my said Will and to assist advise and direct my said Executrices in the due Execution thereof and I do hereby give and bequeath unto my said Cousin Richard Boulton for his care and trouble in assisting my said Executrices two Guineas to buy him a Ring.
Given William’s imprecision in describing his relatives, his ‘cozen’ Alice Boulton might be related to him in any number of ways. However, the fact that he also refers to a sister with the name Alice Boulton leads me to speculate that he had a sibling named Alice (Forrest) who married a Mr Boulton – probably Peter – and that the ‘cozen’ named Alice is actually their daughter and thus his niece (it may not be a coincidence that he uses the same term for his niece Alice Byne). In her will, Alice Byne appears to be as liberal in her use of the word ‘cousin’ as her uncle William (she applies the term to four other people in the will, of whom one at least, Elizabeth Byne, must be a relation by marriage), so it’s difficult to determine the precise nature of her connection to Richard Boulton. However, he is certainly a relative, and one who was close enough to be trusted with the oversight of Alice’s will.
My initial search of the records for Peter, Alice and Richard Boulton was fairly unproductive. I assumed that the latter, at least, probably lived in London, if he was able to help Alice Byne with her will. There are a number of Richard Boultons in the contemporary records. Someone of that name was paying land tax on a property in Sun Yard, East Smithfield, in the 1740s, and in 1738 Richard Boulton, son of another Richard at that address, was buried at St Botolph’s, Aldgate. There are also burial records from 1681 and 1700 for two other Richard Boultons, both of them at Tower Hill, close to the family homes to the Bynes and the Forrests. In 1677, a son named Joseph was born to Richard Boulton of Tower Hill: at first I thought the mother’s name was Alice, but this turned out to be an Ancestry mis-transcription for Amelia.
St Olave, Hart Street, London
It’s possible that one or more of these records might turn out to refer to the Richard Boulton mentioned in Alice Byne’s will. However, I’ve also followed another thread that has introduced me to what seems to be a completely different Boulton family. I’m wary of the fact that the plentiful records for this family, together with the fascination of their story, might make me too eager to claim them as my distant relatives. However, there are a number of elements that make me cautiously optimistic even if, as yet, I can’t prove their connection to my Forrest ancestors. For example, the records point both to another Tower Hill connection, and to origins in Worcestershire.
The first record for this Boulton family that I found was the will of Richard Boulton Esquire of the parish of St Olave, Hart Street, signed and sealed in 1737. St Olave’s was just to the south of Fenchurch Street and only a short distance to the west of Tower Hill and the Minories. I’ll have more to say about this long and richly informative will, and will probably produce a transcription of it, at a later date. For now, I’ll simply note that its author mentions his nephew ‘Captain Richard Boulton Junior’, suggesting that he himself might have been known as Richard Boulton Senior, or the Elder, as in Alice Byne’s will. Also, this Richard Boulton had a brother named Peter, who might be the person referred to in William Forrest’s will, and therefore possibly the husband of his sister Alice.
Worcester in the 18th century
I’ve also tracked down the will of the younger Richard Boulton, which was written three years later, in 1740, and was proved in 1745. This Richard Boulton, despite his obvious London connections, had retired to ‘Perdeswell in the County of Worcester’, suggesting a family association with that part of the country. Once again, it will take a closer analysis, and probably a detailed transcription, to yield all the information contained in this will. However, as well as confirming much that was suggested in his uncle’s will, this later document also reveals that one branch of the family lived at Tower Hill, while another was resident in Evesham – perhaps further indirect evidence of a connection with the Forrests.
A third, brief Boulton will confirms some of the information of the other two, and adds a few more details of its own. In 1741 Peter Boulton, a gentleman of Bath but clearly with London connections, made his last will and testament. He can’t be the person who married Alice Forrest, since his wife bears the unusual name of Posthuma, a name that occurs in the earlier wills and confirms his membership of the same Boulton family.
Bath in the 18th century
None of these wills makes any mention of Alice Byne or the Forrest family, so my theory about the link with my ancestors must remain, at this stage, speculative. However, there is enough evidence in the records to encourage me to press ahead with transcribing and analysing these three wills, and attempting to reconstruct the history of the Boulton family of London and Worcestershire. I hope that, in doing so, I will uncover some clue that will provide confirmation of my hypothesis.