Richard Collins (1693 – 1748), the Epping landowner whose will I discussed in the previous post, was the father of John Collins (born 1733), the first husband of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson. Richard Collins was himself the third of the four children of another Richard Collins (1656 – 1742). He had an older brother John (1686 – 1742), an older sister Sarah (born 1688), and a younger sister Elizabeth (1697 – 1761). Fortunately, there are extant wills for three of the four siblings (I’ve yet to track down a will for Sarah, or details of when she died), which make it possible to piece together some of the Collins family history, and to provide some context for John Collins’ own life.

We also have the will of the first Richard Collins, the father of these four siblings, who died in 1742. To his eldest son John he left the property in which he himself lived, together with a number of other properties, all of them in Epping. To his younger son Richard he bequeathed the property know as Turners, which Richard would in turn leave to his own son, a third Richard Collins, as well as his property ‘at the sign of the George’ in Epping, which would be passed on to William Collins (see previous post). To his daughter Elizabeth, Richard Collins left his property in the village of Northweald, also known as Northweald Bassett. His youngest daughter Sarah, who by then was married to Henry Small, was bequeathed a property known as ‘the Harpe’ in Epping Street, which was to pass to her daughter Sarah Small after her death. In addition Elizabeth Collins was to receive a legacy of one hundred pounds together with all of the household furniture and implements to be found in her father’s parlour, and the use of that parlour until the time of her marriage (in fact, she never married). Richard’s grandchildren Richard, Sarah, Henry and Mary Small received legacies of forty pounds each. 

Epping High Street today

Epping High Street today

Sarah Small née Collins

The first of the four children of Richard Collins the elder to marry was his daughter Sarah. On 12th May 1708 Henry Small, a bachelor, and Sarah Collins, a spinster, both of Epping, were married at the church of St James, Dukes Place, in the City of London. According to the marriage allegation, Henry was twenty-six and Sarah twenty-one at the time. We know from her father Richard’s will that Sarah Small née Collins had children named Richard (1711), Sarah (1713), Mary (1715) and Henry (1718), all of them baptised at Epping. We also know from the parish records that another daughter named Mary was born to Henry and Sarah Small but died in 1710. The same records inform us that a son named John was born and died in 1721, and that another son, Joshua, was born in 1722. The latter’s survival is confirmed by the 1759 will of his aunt Elizabeth Collins, who leaves one hundred and thirty pounds to ‘my nephew Joshua Small’.

We know very little about Sarah’s husband Henry Small: his will of 1750 is held in the Essex Archives and from the online entry we know that he was living in Theydon Mount at the time. His name appears in an Epping electoral register for 1715, beneath that of John Collins, presumably his brother-in-law.

According to the parish records, Mary Small may have died in 1741 and Henry Small junior may have died in 1742, the same year as his grandfather Richard Collins. Joshua Small was buried at Epping in 1777, but nothing else is known about him.

More is known about Sarah Small the younger, daughter of Henry and Sarah. In 1734 she married widower John Franklin at St Benet Paul’s Wharf in the City of London. He was said to be of Much Hallingbury near Bishops Stortford while she was said to be from Theydon Mount. In her will of 1759, Sarah’s maiden aunt Elizabeth Collins left money to her niece ‘Sarah the wife of Mr John Franklin’. In his own will of 1769 John Franklin describes himself as an ‘innholder’ and refers to his wife Sarah Franklin and to ‘my only son Richard Franklin’, who is named as executor. Sarah must have remarried after her husband’s death 1760, since her own will, signed and sealed in 1789, in which she describes herself as ‘the relict of John Franklin late of (Epping) victualler and before that Sarah Small’, is written under the name of Sarah Cary. 

John Collins

Coopersale House, once home of the Archer family, in about 1958

Coopersale House, once home of the Archer family, in about 1958

John Collins was the second child of Richard Collins the elder to marry. On 5th November 1722, John Collins, a bachelor from the parish of Epping, married Mary Archer, a spinster from the neighbouring parish Theydon Garnon, at the church of St Andrew Undershaft in the City of London.

As I’ve noted before, it’s possible that Mary was the daughter of the William Archer (1677 – 1739) who had been born William Eyre and inherited the substantial estate of Coopersale in Theydon Garnon from John Archer on the condition that he marry Eleanor Wrottesley, John Archer’s niece, and take the Archer name. When Eleanor died without issue, William married Susanna, daughter of Sir John Newton, baronet, and I assume Mary was their daughter. According to one source William Archer ‘entered Parliament as a Tory at a by-election in 1734 and was returned unopposed later in that year, voting against the Government on the Spanish convention in 1739.’ We also learn that, as a result of his marriages, William and his family ‘were of considerable wealth; his daughter Susanna was said to have a fortune of £50,000 on her marriage in 1751 to Edward Harley, 4th Earl of Oxford.’

John Collins’ will of 1742 names a ‘William Archer the elder’ as one of his executors and the will was witnessed by, among others, one Nicholas Archer, who is probably the person of that name listed, with John Collins and Henry Small, in the electoral roll for Epping in 1715. However, I’ve yet to find confirmation that William and Nicholas Archer were members of the Archer family of Coopersale. John’s will mentions his wife Mary, father-in-law William Archer ‘the elder’, and son Richard. He also makes reference to his brother Richard (making him one of the executors, as well as guardian of his son Richard, together with William Archer), and his nephews Richard, John, William and David.

Elizabeth Collins

As already noted, Elizabeth Collins, the sister of Richard, Sarah and John, and the daughter of Richard Collins the elder, did not marry. She made her will in 1759, leaving the property in Northweald Bassett that she had inherited from her father Richard to her nephew William. She bequeaths a property ‘called Squires otherwise Tylers’ in Epping Street to William’s younger sister Elizabeth, who is to pay an annuity of eight pounds to her brother John. As mentioned above, the elder Elizabeth Collins also makes provision for her nephew Joshua Small, son of her sister Sarah, and for the latter’s daughter Sarah, the wife of John Franklin. Mention is also made of ‘my niece Sarah the wife of Mr Dillworth’.

There are a number of individuals named in Elizabeth Collins’ will whose exact relationship to her is still a puzzle: these include ‘my cousin Susanna the wife of William Clarke of Epping’ and ‘my niece Jane Reynolds spinster the only daughter of my niece the late Mrs Jane Reynolds’.

1786 map of the Epping area, Essex

1786 map of the Epping area, Essex


My purpose in exploring the lives of these members of the Collins family has to been to provide some context for understanding the life of John Collins of Epping who married my ancestor Elizabeth Gibson. His uncle John Collins the elder died when John was only nine years old, but he had a son Richard who would have been the younger John’s cousin. His aunt Sarah Small was probably still alive when John married Elizabeth Gibson, and her children would have been his cousins and contemporaries. Finally, his unmarried aunt Elizabeth was also alive during most of John’s adult life, dying just a few years before him.