The last will and testament of Alphonsus Fowle

Visscher’s 1616 panorama of London

Alphonsus Fowle, who was the son of Adam Fowle, and like him a royal servant and ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James’, signed and sealed his last will and testament on 1st December 1635, in the eleventh year of the reign of Charles I. In this post, I’m sharing my transcription of the will, and in the next post I’ll discuss what we can learn from it about Alphonsus and his family.

In the name of God Amen the first day of december, Anno domini, One Thousand Six hundred Thirty ffive, And in theleaventh yeare of the raigne of our Soveraigne Lord Charles by the grace of God king of England, Scotland, Ffraunce, and Ireland, defender of the faith. I Alphonsus ffowle of the parrish of St. Lawrence Poultney London Esquire being of reasonable good health of Body, and of sound, and perfect memory of mynde, thankes, and praise be given to Almightie God, doe make and ordaine this my last will and Testament in manner and forme followinge, That is to say, ffirst I commende my soule into the hands of almightie God my Creator trustinge onely in the meritts of Jesus Christ my alone Saviour, and Redeemer, And I commytt my Body to the ground to be decently, and christianlike interred, att the discretion of my Executrix hereafter named, And as touching the disposition of all and singular my Annuityes, goods, and chattells, which it hath pleased God to bestowe upon me I will devise and bequeath them in manner, and forme following. That is to say, I doe will and devise all that my Annuity rent charge and yearely rent of Twenty Pounds issuinge, and going forth of all that the Mannor of Gobyons with th’appurtenances in the Parish of East Tilbury in the County of Essex which I lately purchased to me and my heires of John Lawrence Cittizen, and Grocer of London to be sold by myne Executrix hereafter named, to pay and dischrge these Legacyes hereafter menconed. Item I doe give, and bequeath unto my eldest sonne Mathias ffowle fforty shillings, Item I do give, and bequeath unto my sonne Alphonsus Fowle, ffive pounds, Item I give, and bequeath unto Alphonsus ffowle (sonne of the said Alphonsus fowle) my Grandchild five Pounds Item I doe give, and bequeath unto my Grandchildren Alexander Bennett, Mathias Bennett, and ffrances Bridgman their sister ffforty shilings a peece, to buy them Rings in Remembrance of my love to them, Item I doe will, and bequeath until Jane ffowle daughter of my sonne Alphonsus ffowle Five hundred Pounds, to be paid to her att her age of twenty and one yeares, Item I doe give, and bequeath unto ffrances ffowle daughter of my sonne Mathias ffowle, One hundred Pounds to be paid unto her, at her age of Twenty, and One Yeares. Item I give and bequeath unto Sir Walter Alexander knight, and Ann his wife, To each ofthem fforty shillings to buy them Rings in remembrance of my love unto them. Item I give, and bequeath unto Lucy Harbert, Charles Alexander, Henry Alexander, and Anne Alexander children of the said Sir Walter Alexander fforty shillings  peece to buy them Rings in remembrance of my love unto them. Item I give and bequeath unto Tenetia Harbert daughter of the said Lucy Harbert Tenn Pounds I  give, and bequeath unto the Minister of my parish five pounds, Item I give, and bequeath fforty shillings, to be distributed among twenty of the poorest people of my parish, Item I give, and bequeath fforty shillings a peece to my two servants. Item I give, and bequeath unto my sister Webb, fforty pounds if shee shall bee lyiving at the tyme of my decease. Item my will and meaninge is that my Annuity being sold as aforesaid by my Executrix that if there shalbee any remaynder of money when my said legacyes are paid I doe give and bequeath it to myne Executrix hereafter named, And yf it shall happen that the mony which my said Annuity shalbee sold for, will not pay my legacyes hereby given, that my will and meaninge is, that my Executrix hereafter named, shall satisfie, and pay so much as is wantinge which sayd legacyes being satisfied, and paid, and my funerall Expenses being discharged, All the rest of my goods leases, and chattells I give, devise, and bequeath unto my welbeloved wife Ellen, whome I doe hereby constitute and appoytne to be full, and whole Executrix of this my last will and testament, in witness whereof the said Alphonsus ffowle to every sheete of Paper of this my last will being fower in Number, and fixed with one Labell, and sealed have severally subscribed my hand the day and yeare above written. Alphonsus ffowle, Subscribed, read, sealed and published in the presence of us Oliver Lawrence Notary public, David Lloyd, Thomas Browne.

Memorandum that the said Alphonsus ffowle deceased after the sealing, and delivery of his will, he being sound of memories, and mind did add this to his will, That whereas in his sayd will hee had bequeathed unto the minister of his Parrish the some of ffive pounds and fforty shillings to the poorest people of his parrish, and whereas att the tyme of the makinge of his last will he did inhabite in the parrish of Saint Lawrence Poultney London, and in the tyme betweene the making of his last will, and the time of his decease hee removed into the parrish of St. Olive old Jewrie London, he did declare his will and meaning to be that the Minister of the Parrish of St Lawrence Poultney should have the ffive Pounds and that the said Parrish of St Lawrence Poultney should have the fforty shillings bequeathed to the poore of his Parrish, and that the minister and the poore of the Parrish of St Olive Old Jurie should not have any legacy att all. Witnesses that he declared this to be his meaninge and will, Oliver Lawrence Noy. Publici.

Alphonsus Fowle, royal servant

In the previous post I wrote about my possible ancestor Adam Fowle, described in contemporary records as a servant to Elizabeth I and as ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James.’ His son Alphonsus Fowle must have inherited his father’s position, following the latter’s death in 1582, since the family pedigree in the record of the Visitation of London describes Alphonsus as ‘sometime servant to Queen Elizabeth King James Prince Henry and Prince Charles sometime keeper of the house and gardens of St James’. The pedigree in the record of the Visitation of Middlesex provides the additional information that Alphonsus Fowle was a Justice of the Peace in Middlesex ‘dwelling nere St James beyond Westminster’.

St James’ Palace and garden (via

As I noted in the last post, Alphonsus was christened at St Martin in the Fields in January 1559/60. It seems that he was married twice. His first wife was Eleanor Medley, and they must have married when Alphonsus was not yet twenty years old, since their first child Mathias was baptised at St Martin’s on 26th February 1579/90. I’ve yet to find a record of the marriage of Alphonsus and Eleanor, or anything definite about the latter’s background. There is a Medley family of London, with Kent connections, listed in the Visitation of Kent records, but no mention in the pedigree of Eleanor.

After Mathias, the next child born to Alphonsus and Eleanor was their daughter Elizabeth, who was baptised at St Martin’s on 30th May 1582, but she lived for less than two weeks, being buried there on 10th June. Another daughter, Anna or Anne, was born in the following year and christened on 2nd June 1583. Frances or Francisca Fowle was baptised on 12th September 1585.

The transcription of the St Martin’s parish register records that, on 27th January 1587, a child by the name of Aldolphus Fowle (sic) was christened at the church, though the name of his father is not given. The Visitation pedigrees, and Alphonsus’ own will, inform us that he had a son who was his namesake. So is ‘Aldolphus’ a transcriber’s error, or was this the son of another member of the Fowle family? According to a record in the National Archives, in the early 1620s Alphonsus Fowle would be involved in a legal dispute over ‘money matters’ with an Adolphus Fowle, though it’s unclear from the reference what (if any) was the relationship between the two men.

On 6th August 1607 the parish register at St Martin’s recorded the burial of ‘Robert’ famula Mri Fowle’, or Mr Fowle’s female servant.

If the Visitation records are to be believed, Alphonsus Fowle served two monarchs – Elizabeth I and James I – as well as two of James’ sons. Prince Henry, the Prince of Wales, was the elder son of King James and was expected to become king after him, until his death from typhoid fever in 1612, at the age of eighteen. A record of the household of Prince Henry published in 1610 includes an entry for Alphonsus (£160 equates to approximately £16,000 or about $20000 in today’s money):

Alphonsus Fowle listed in a record of Prince Henry’s household

According to the Middlesex pedigree, Alphonsus Fowle’s first wife Eleanor died on 8th October 1624. There is no mention in that record of another marriage, but the London pedigree claims that Alphonsus had a second wife: ‘Ellen widow of John Lawrence of Essex and da. of Henry Chapman of Tutsam Hall in Kent’. The entry in the Survey of Kent for the village of West Farleigh, near Maidstone, includes the following:

THE MANOR OF TOTESHAM-HALL, usually called Tutsham, in this parish, was antiently the residence of a family, who assumed their surname from it. 

John de Totesham was one of the recognitores magnæ assisæ, or judges of the great assize in the reign of king John, as appears by the pipe rolls of that reign, and bore for his arms, Gules, within a bordure a cross argent, between twelve billets of the last; as appears by his seal appendant to a deed in the Dering library.

From him this manor and estate descended in a direct line to Anthony Totesham, esq. who about the latter end of the reign of king Henry VIII. alienated Totesham, with an appendage to it, called Henhurst, to Thomas Chapman, gent. one of the grooms of the king’s chamber, in whose name they staid till the middle of queen Elizabeth’s reign, when they were sold to John Laurence, esq. captain of Tilbury fort, who by Anne, one of the two daughters and coheirs of Robert Gidding, esq. left a son and heir, Edward Laurence, esq. who was of Totesham-hall, and died in 1605.

Tutsham Hall in the early eighteenth century

If one of Ellen’s relatives was a groom of the king’s chamber, then it might explain how she came to meet Alphonsus. However, the exact relationship between Ellen’s father Henry Chapman and the Thomas Chapman of Tutsham is unclear. It’s also not clear whether the John Laurence of Tilbury Fort mentioned in this source is the ‘John Lawrence of Essex’ who was Ellen’s first husband, if the Visitation pedigree is to be believed. If so, she must have been his second wife. However, according to one source, Captain John Lawrence of Tilbury fort died in 1557, while other sources claim that Ellen Chapman married her first husband on 16th June 1594.

There was obviously a connection of some kind between Ellen and the Lawrences of Tilbury, since in his will of 1625 Alphonsus Fowle makes a bequest of ‘all that my Annuity rent charge and yearely rent of Twenty Pounds issuinge, and going forth of all that the Mannor of Gobyons with th’appurtenances in the Parish of East Tilbury in the County of Essex which I lately purchased to me and my heires of John Lawrence Cittizen, and Grocer of London’. It may also be significant that the ‘notary public’ who was one of the men to witness Alphonsus’ will was a certain Oliver Lawrence. A Sir John Lawrence, grocer, would serve as mayor of London in 1665.

Alphonsus Fowle made his will in December 1635, when he was seventy-five years old. I’ll share my transcription of the will, and discuss what it can tell us about Alphonsus and his family, in the next post.


Adam Fowle, ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James’


Gatehouse of St James’ Palace, London (via

I’ve written before about Adam Fowle, a servant at the court of Elizabeth I and the ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James.’  This was St James’ Palace, built by Henry VIII in the 1530s as a smaller residence that would provide an escape from formal court life. According to Wikipedia:

Much smaller than the nearby Whitehall, St James’s was arranged around a number of courtyards, including the Colour Court, the Ambassador’s Court and the Friary Court. The most recognisable feature is the north gatehouse; constructed with four storeys, the gatehouse has two crenellated flanking octagonal towers at its corners and a central clock dominating the uppermost floor and gable [… ] It is decorated with the initials H.A. for Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry constructed the palace in red brick, with detail picked out in darker brick. The palace was remodelled in 1544, with ceilings painted by Hans Holbein, and was described as a ‘pleasant royal house’ […] Elizabeth I  often resided at the palace, and is said to have spent the night there while waiting for the Spanish Armada to sail up the Channel.

My interest in Adam stems from the fact that, according to the record of the Visitation of London in 1633-34 and 1635, he was ‘nephew to the prior of St Mary Saviours in Surrey’. This is a reference to Bartholomew Fowle, who was prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, at the time of its suppression by Henry VIII in 1539: the priory church was later known as St Saviours, and is now the Anglican cathedral of Southwark. Some sources claim that Bartholomew was the brother of my 13th great grandfather, Gabriel Fowle of Southover near Lewes in Sussex.

St James’ Palace and gardens in the early seventeenth century

In this post, I want to share what I’ve managed to discover about Adam Fowle and his immediate family, and in subsequent posts I’ll discuss the lives of some of his descendants. I’m hoping that my exploration of this branch of the family may throw some much-needed light on the origins of my own Fowle ancestors.

The pedigree in the Visitation of London records states that Adam Fowle was married to a woman who was the daughter of a man named Dryland, and the ‘relict’ or widow of a man named Webb. A collection of Middlesex pedigrees, published in 1914, contains a little more information about Adam and his wife. He is said to be of Faversham in Kent, but ‘descended out of Sussex’, while we learn that her Christian name was Anne and that her father’s family, the Drylands, were also from Kent.  This is confirmation that Adam was connected in some way with my own Fowle ancestors, either those who lived in Rotherfield, Sussex, or those from Lamberhurst, on the Sussex\Kent border.

I suspect, though I can’t be sure, that Adam acquired his property in Faversham through his marriage to Anne Webb née Dryland. The Dryland or Dreylond family seems to have been resident in the Faversham area since at least the time of Edward III, when Stephen Dryland lived there. A William Dryland of Faversham made his will in 1494, and a Richard Dryland was alive in 1517.

Cooksditch House today (via

According to the Survey of Kent, published in 1798, the Drylands’ ancestral home was in Cooksditch, ‘almost adjoining to the east side of the town of Faversham’. (The house was rebuilt in Georgian times and is now a nursing home: see photograph above.) The Drylands were said to be ‘of good account, and at times intermarried with some of the best families in this county.’ During the reign of Henry VI, John Dryland was ‘knight of the shire’, and in succeeding reigns the family often supplied the mayors of Faversham.

The Survey has this to say about Richard Dryland, who lived at Cookdsitch during Henry VII’s reign:

He was twice married, and left by his first wife Joane, daughter and heir of Thomas Quadring, of London, only one daughter Katherine, who became heir to her mother’s inheritance, which she carried with Cooksditch likewise, in marriage to Reginald Norton, esq. of Lees-court, in Sheldwich, who had by her two sons, Sir John, who was of Northwood, in Milton, and William Norton, to whom by his will he devised Cooksditch. He afterwards resided at it, and married Margaret, daughter and heir of Matthew Martyn, by whom he was ancestor of the Nortons, of Fordwich, in this county.

I’ve written elsewhere about the Nortons of Fordwich, and their connections with the recusant Hawkins, Finch and Knatchbull families. Intriguingly, there is also a connection between the Nortons and another branch of the Fowle family, from Tenterden in Kent. Another source claims that Richard Dryland had a second daughter: this might have been Anne Dryland who married Adam Fowle.

Intriguingly, a character by the name of Adam Fowle of Faversham appears in The Tragedy of  Master Arden of Faversham, published in 1592, which some have attributed to Shakespeare. This Adam Fowle is said to be ‘of the Flower de Luce, Faversham’. At first I thought this might be a courtly in-joke about a royal servant (though ‘our’ Adam had died by this time), but apparently the play is based on a true story, and there really was an Adam Fowle who was landlord of the Fleur-de-lis inn in Faversham. I suspect that there is probably no connection with my own Fowle ancestors.

The old church of St Martin in the Fields (via

The parish register of St Martin in the Fields, Westminster, records that on 23rd January 1559/60 a child by the name of Alphonsus Fowle was baptised there. Since we know from the Visitation of London pedigree that Adam and Anne Fowle had a son with this unusual Christian name, and that he would be seventy-four years old in 1634, this is almost certainly the same person. If so, it would mean that Adam and Anne were married by 1558/59 (the first year of the reign of Elizabeth I), which places Adam’s birth at the latest in about 1540. This would make him a member of the same generation as my 12th great grandfather Magnus Fowle, the son of Gabriel. There are no other extant records of children born to Adam and Anne Fowle, and in fact Alphonsus is the only child of theirs mentioned in the Visitation pedigrees.

It’s probably no coincidence that St Martin’s church was the location for the marriage, on 25th February 1565/6, of Robert Fowle and Maria Burton. Robert, a soldier who rose to become Provost-Marshal of Connaught in Ireland, was the son of Robert Fowle of Carshalton, Surrey. Mary or Maria Burton was the daughter of Nicholas Burton, also of Carshalton, the second husband of Eleanor Fowle, widow of William Fowle of Mitcham. As I’ve written elsewhere, William was almost certainly another relative of Bartholomew Fowle, the prior of St Mary Overy, since he makes bequests to him in his will of 1547. William Fowle had connections with the Kent Fowles, but the precise relationship between him, Robert, and the family of Adam Fowle of Faversham and London is still unclear.

On 12th July 1582 the parish register of St Martin’s records that Adam Fowle was buried  ‘in New Church yarde’, which was an ‘overflow’ cemetery in the grounds of the Royal Bethlem Hospital, created in the sixteenth century when parish cemeteries became full. I’ve been unable to find a copy of Adam Fowle’s will. A search at the National Archives only turned up two certificates of residence, from 1563 and 1571, declaring him to be liable for taxation in the royal household.

Yeomen and Kinsmen: a new blog about my Tudor and Stuart ancestors

My latest ‘spin-off’ history blog, Yeomen and Kinsmen, tells the story of my ancestors in Tudor and Stuart Sussex, beginning with my 12th great grandfather William Byne, a yeoman farmer in Burwash in the early 16th century, and ending with my 9th great grandfather Magnus Byne, a clergyman in Clayton about a hundred years later.

The story encompasses not only successive generations of the Byne family, but also the families with whom they were connected by marriage, and who are also part of my family tree. They include the Mansers, landowners and iron masters in Wadhurst, a few miles north of Burwash, and the Fowles, originally from Lamberhurst in Kent, who included monks and schoolmasters among their number.

The most significant change in people’s lives during this period was the transformation of the religious life of the country. When our story begins, England was still, as it had been for more than a thousand years, a Catholic country. By the time it ends, Catholicism had been effectively outlawed, the official state religion was Anglicanism, and an increasing array of Protestant sects had begun to rebel against the new orthodoxy. My ancestors saw the religion in which they, and countless generations before them, had been raised swept away under Henry VIII, and even more drastically so under his son Edward VI, then briefly restored during Mary’s brief reign, before the pendulum swung back again under her sister Elizabeth. The period ends with the nation tearing it apart in a Civil War, largely inspired by the religious disputes sparked off a century before when Henry VIII broke with Rome. I’m fascinated by my ancestors’ part in these spiritual and political conflicts, and one of my aims in this blog is to understand more fully the changing religious identities of my forebears.

I hope you’ll visit the website and follow the story as it unfolds.

A new year – and yet another new blog


Part of Greenwood’s 1827 map of London, showing the area around Mile End Road where my maternal ancestors lived in the early decades of the nineteenth century

Happy New Year to all my readers and fellow family history researchers!

Having followed my mother’s family from their arrival in London in the middle of the seventeenth century, through to the end of the eighteenth century, on my Citizens and Cousins blog, I’ve now set up a new website in order to continue the story.

East End Lives tells the story of one family – my family – living in London in the nineteenth century. Please follow the blog on Twitter @eastendlives blog, ‘like’ its page on Facebook, and generally spread the word!

Another new blog!

London from Southwark. Oil on wood. This is a view of London taken from Southwark in the mid-1600s before the Great Fire. It shows Southwark in the foreground, with the playhouses on the left-hand side and the cathedral in the centre. London Bridge spans the river and then the City of London itself is on the north bank of the Thames, shown as a huddle of crowded, narrow houses and church spires. The writer John Evelyn described London as 'this Glorious and Antient City…so full of Stink and Darknesse' in his Fumifugium of 1661. He went on to call the buildings 'such a Congestion of mishapen and extravagant Houses'. This 'congestion' of houses and industries belched out huge amounts of smoke into the atmosphere and created a massive fire risk. The Great Fire of London was an accident waiting to happen.

I just can’t help myself. I’ve created another new website, to share my family history research with a wider audience. Citizens and Cousins traces the story of my seventeenth- and eighteenth-century London ancestors, recounting the history of the city at this fascinating period through the lives of a network of relatives living cheek-by-jowl in the capital, but originally from Sussex, Worcestershire and elsewhere.

You can find the blog here.  Best to start with this page, which explains the background.

A new blog

In the course of researching the history of the Robb family, I discovered a possible case of double bigamy among my early Victorian ancestors. I’ve created a new blog, The Bonds of Betrayal, where I plan to post updates on my investigation of this curious tale. I hope you’ll follow my research and find the story as intriguing as I do.

New information about the Lucke family of Mayfield, Sussex

I’ve written before about my connection to the Lucke family, who were yeoman farmers in sixteenth-century Sussex. Alice Lucke, daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield, married Magnus Fowle, son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, probably some time in the 1550s. They were my maternal 12 x great grandparents.

St Dunstan's church, Mayfield, Sussex

St Dunstan’s church, Mayfield, Sussex

Previously, I’d discovered that Alice had a sister named Elizabeth and an uncle (her father’s brother) named Thomas, who was a priest at Litlington and before that almost certainly an Augustinian canon at Michelham priory. I’m also fairly certain that Alice’s father Richard Lucke died in 1559, and that Richard’s son and heir Christopher died in 1570.

Now an email from Wendy Teeter, another researcher who is descended from the Luckes, has provided me with additional information about Alice’s family. Wendy has kindly sent me copies of two Lucke family wills that I wasn’t previously aware of, together with her transcriptions.

The first will was signed and sealed by ‘Joha’ (Johanna? Joan?) Lucke in August 1567, in the tenth year of the reign of Elizabeth I. The testator describes herself as the daughter of the late Richard Lucke of Mayfield, but declares that she is now living in the parish of Buxted. She bequeaths Alice Fowle, whom she describes as her sister, a portion of what had been left to her by her father, and also two sheets. ‘Joha’ also makes a bequest to Annys (Agnes) Fowle, described as the daughter of her brother-in-law Magnus Fowle. The remainder of her goods she bequeaths to Margaret Lucke, who is also appointed as sole executrix of the will, Magnus Fowle being given the role of overseer.

Part of the will of Joha. Lucke of Mayfield (1567)

Part of the will of Joha. Lucke of Mayfield (1567)

The second will was also drawn up in 1567, but obviously later in the year, since it describes ‘Joha’ Lucke as deceased. This will was made by the Margaret Lucke mentioned in the first will, and confirms that the two women were sisters. Margaret describes herself as a spinster, and presumably ‘Joha’ was too, since she also retained her father’s surname.

So these two wills expand our knowledge of the Lucke family, giving Richard Lucke two more daughters and my ancestor Alice Fowle née Lucke two additional sisters, both of whom were unmarried and both of whom predeceased her.

‘Joha’ Lucke’s will also provides possible confirmation of my theory that the Luckes, like the Fowles, retained their attachment to the traditional Catholic faith, if not openly as recusants, then surreptitiously as ‘church papists’. The preamble to the will of ‘Joha’ Lucke includes the words ‘I bequethe my Sowle into the tuition of the holy trinitie’. I’m fairly sure that ‘tuition’ is the word used here, though it seems an odd choice. Apparently bequeathing one’s soul to the Holy Trinity was common among Catholics, and Catholic sympathisers. Magnus Fowle’s will of 1595 includes this formula: ‘I give and wholie bequeathe my soule to Almightie god, the father, the sonne, and the holie ghoste, Three persones and one god’.

The Mortimers of Huddersfield

On Tuesday I paid my first ever visit to Huddersfield, for a meeting at the university. It was a gloriously sunny day and I made sure to take photographs of some of the Yorkshire town’s imposing Georgian and Victorian architecture. One or two of the buildings were of particular interest to me, for family history reasons. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Huddersfield was home to members of the Mortimer family, who form one branch of my maternal family tree. 

Huddersfield railway station

Huddersfield railway station, with a statue of the town’s most famous son, Harold Wilson © Martin Robb 2016

My link to the Mortimers is via my maternal 5 x great grandfather Joseph Holdsworth. Born near Halifax in about 1735, Joseph came south to a farm in South Weald, Essex, and married my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson in Bermondsey in 1763.

Joseph Holdsworth was the son of John Holdsworth of Sowood House, Coley, to the north of Halifax, and Mary Mortimer, who were married in 1725. I haven’t been able to discover anything about John’s forebears, but we know that Mary was the daughter of clothier and wool stapler John Mortimer of Shelf (d. 1742) and his wife Judith Woodhead (1681 – 1740), who were thus my 7 x great grandparents. They had five other children: Richard, Martha, John, Sarah and William.

Parish church of St Peter, Huddersfield, where some of my Mortimer ancestors were christened, married and buried.

Parish church of St Peter, Huddersfield, where some of my Mortimer ancestors were christened, married and buried. © Martin Robb 2016

Of these, we know that my 7 x great uncle John Mortimer junior, who was born in 1711, was married to a woman named Mary and that they lived at Woodhouse, Fartown, near Huddersfield. John died in 1747, leaving two sons, Samuel, born in 1744, and another John, born in the year of his father’s death. Samuel and John were my first cousins, 7 times removed.

The George Hotel, Huddersfield

The George Hotel, Huddersfield © Martin Robb 2016

The younger son, John, married Susan Hanson and lived at Paddock near Huddersfield. He described himself as a ‘gentleman’ in his will of 1823, and he left a substantial amount of money in his will when he died. John’s brother Samuel was less fortunate. In 1769 he married Frances Murgatroyd, daughter of the landlord of the George Hotel (see above), a role which Samuel would eventually assume. Frances died just two years after their marriage, and three years after that, Samuel Mortimer filed for bankruptcy. Nothing is known of what became of Samuel after this, but I assume that he died before his brother John, who doesn’t mention him in his will.

In search of Gregory Martin

In recent posts I’ve written about Thomas Lucke, the former Augustinian canon and precentor of Michelham Priory, Sussex, who was serving as a curate in the parish of Litlington at the time of his death in 1552. Thomas was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Richard Lucke of Mayfield. Richard was the father of Alice Lucke who married Magnus Fowle. Magnus and Alice were my 12 x great grandparents, and it was their Chancery case about Thomas’ disputed will that provided me with vital information about the Lucke family.

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke's will of 1551

Reference to Gregory Martyn in Thomas Lucke’s will of 1551

In his will, Thomas Lucke made a number of bequests to his niece Alice. One of them was as follows:

I wyll of that monye that ys in Gregorye Martynes hands of Mayghfelde xlv to the povertie there to be dystrybuted by my executor. And the Resydue of the monye in his hands, I wyll halfe to Alice Lucke: the other halffe I wyll equally betwene Thomasyn Lucke and Elizabeth Lucke, by the hands of my executor to theme to be delyvred.

Gregory Martyn (or Marten, or Martin) is the only name that occurs both in Thomas’ will of 1551, and in the will of John Lucke of Mayfield, composed two years earlier in 1549. I’m fairly certain that John was a relative of Thomas’, and may indeed have been another of his brothers.

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

Witnesses to the 1549 will of John Lucke

The witnesses to John Lucke’s will are listed as follows:

Richard lukk John Mone Gregory mtty: John Wenborn wm penkherst with others

I’m almost certain that ‘mtty:’ is an abbreviation for ‘Martyn’ and that this is the same person who would be mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will. However, my searches for Gregory Martyn in the contemporary records have proved frustrating. His name does not appear in the 1524-5 lay subsidy rolls for Mayfield or indeed for anywhere else in Sussex, though the names of Christopher, Laurence and Thomas Marten can be found in the Mayfield listing. Nor can I find a will for a Gregory Marten in the Sussex archives.

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

List of witnesses to the 1529 will of Robert Sawyer

However, there is one solitary reference to a Gregory Martin in the records, and it’s an intriguing one. In 1529 Robert Sawyer of Mayfield made his will. The opening paragraph is in Latin and it culminates in a list of witnesses, which includes the name ‘Gregorio Marten’. The word that follows this name is difficult to read, but it could be ‘clico’, which might be an abbreviation for ‘clerico’. Indeed, the transcript by the Sussex Record Society translates the word as ‘clerk’: in other words, priest.

Is this the same person who would appear in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke some twenty years later, and was he really a priest? Unfortunately, I’ve found no trace of a Gregory Martin in the clergy records, but then they only begin in 1540. Could he have been a member of a religious order, rather than a secular priest? Then again, if the person mentioned in those later wills was a priest, why was he not described as such, given that Thomas Lucke doesn’t hesitate to append the word ‘clerke’ to the name of Richard Cressweller, one of the witnesses to his will? Had Gregory Martin ceased to serve as a priest by 1551, or is this a different person altogether?

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Father Gregory Martin (via Wikipedia)

Interestingly, my search online for traces of Gregory Martin led me to a very different person with the same name: the Catholic priest, scholar and author who was chiefly responsible for the Douai-Rheims translation of the Bible that first appeared in 1582. Although this Gregory Martin’s origins are largely obscure, it’s said that he was born at Maxfield, in the parish of Guestling near Winchelsea – also in Sussex. Indeed, an introductory chapter to Martin’s book Roma Sancta, by George Bruner Parks, includes the following speculation:

There was an older ‘Gregory Martin clerk’ at Maughfield or Mayfield in northeast Sussex in 1529 and again in 1551, and the unusual Christian name makes it almost certain that he (if he was one man) was related to our author. If so, this priest, though he is not listed at either university, must have influenced the younger man’s schooling and vocation.

The references here are to the wills of Robert Sawyer (1529) and Thomas Lucke (1551). One thing is certain: the Gregory Martin mentioned in Thomas Lucke’s will can’t be the priest and translator of the Bible, since the latter was probably born some time in 1540s and would have been still a child when Thomas died. We know that this Gregory Martin went up to the newly-founded St John’s College, Oxford, as one of its first students, in 1557, where he befriended and may have influenced the conversion of the future Catholic priest and martyr Edmund Campion. For a time Martin was a tutor in the household of the Duke of Norfolk, before the increasingly hostile atmosphere for Catholics under Elizabeth I prompted him to travel to the continent and join the English College at Douai. After a sojourn in Rome, he returned to the College at its new home in Rheims, where he worked on his translation of the New Testament, before dying of consumption soon after its publication.

Great Maxfield (via

Great Maxfield (via

As already noted, Father Gregory Martin was said to come from Guestling, near Winchelsea. In the lay subsidy rolls of 1524-5, there was a John Marten living in the parish and two William Martens. As for Maxfield, reputed to be the Marten family home, there is still a house in Guestling known as Great Maxfield. Apparently the property belonged to Battle Abbey until its dissolution in 1538. However, I’ve found no trace in the records of any association between Maxfield and the Martin family. At one stage, this made me doubt the sources that claimed Maxfield as Gregory’s home: I even wondered if somebody had once misread ‘Mayfield’ as ‘Maxfield’ and the misunderstanding had become accepted as fact. The earliest source I’ve found is an 1843 edition of A Defence of the Sincere and True Translations of the Holy Scriptures Into the English Tongue, Against the Cavils of Gregory Martin by the Puritan divine William Fulke, a contemporary of Martin’s.

On the other hand, if we could prove a connection, it might be further proof of the Catholic sympathies of my Lucke ancestors, especially if Gregory Martin of Mayfield turned out to be a (former?) priest. We know that Father Gregory Martin was a lifelong Catholic, rather than a convert,  so it’s certain that he was brought up as a Catholic. However, even if he turns out to have been born elsewhere in Sussex, and even if he was actually from Mayfield, we have no evidence to connect him with the Gregory Martin of Mayfield mentioned in the wills of John and Thomas Lucke. The fact that they shared a name, and an unusual one at that (I’ve found very few Gregorys in the contemporary Sussex records) suggests some kind of connection – but what?