My recent work on the life of Henry Crabb Boulton (1709 – 1773), Member of Parliament and East India Company director, has re-awakened my interest in the Boulton and Forrest families of London and Worcestershire. Henry Crabb Boulton’s great grandparents were William Boulton and Alice Forrest, the latter being the sister of my 9 x great grandfather, London citizen and haberdasher Thomas Forrest. The Forrest and Boulton families both appear to have had roots in the villages around Evesham in Worcestershire.
Although I’ve managed to piece together a great deal of the history of the two families, mainly drawing on family wills that I’ve found online, I’ve hit a number of brick walls in my attempt to trace their Worcestershire origins. As a consequence, I’ve recently engaged a professional researcher, based in the county, to explore the local archives for me, and I look forward to hearing what she manages to discover.
Nevertheless, I continue to make occasional new discoveries of my own. For example, yesterday I solved the mystery of the first marriage of Elizabeth Boulton, one of the daughters of William Boulton and Alice Forrest. Probably born in about 1670 and almost certainly in the parish of All Hallows Barking, in the City of London, we know that Elizabeth married Navy Board official Martin Markland in July 1694. However, the parish record gives Elizabeth’s surname as Littleton rather than Boulton, even though we know from later records that Martin Markland was definitely married to Elizabeth Boulton.
Yesterday, I finally discovered evidence of Elizabeth’s first marriage, in 1686, to John Littleton. The marriage took place on 19th June at the church of St Botolph Aldersgate, and both bride and groom were said to be of the parish of All Hallows Barking. But why choose St Botolph’s rather than their own parish church? The reason might be that the couple were married, according to the parish register, by a certain ‘Dr Littleton’.
Interestingly, it turns out that this was Dr Adam Littleton, who was (to quote one source) ‘born of an antient and genteel family…in Worcestershire’. Born in 1627, Adam’s father was Thomas Littleton, also a clergyman and vicar of Halesowen, then in Shropshire. Educated at Westminster School, Adam Littleton was elected to Christ Church, Oxford, in 1644 ,where he was a conspicuous opponent of the parliamentary visitation which purged the University of royalist sympathisers, writing a satirical Latin poem on the subject, and was expelled in November 1648. However in May 1651 he joined with three other students in a petition for the restitution of their scholarships, which seems to be have been successful. Appointed as an usher and then second master at his old school, after the Restoration Littleton taught at Chelsea where he was also appointed rector of the parish church. Besides his excursions into verse, Adam Littleton was the author of a number of theological texts and translations from Latin.
Charles II made Littleton a royal chaplain, and he also served as a chaplain to Prince Rupert of the Rhine. In 1674 he became prebendary of Westminster Abbey, in 1683 rector of Overton in Hampshire, and in 1685 he was licensed to the church of St Botolph, Aldergate, where he served for about four years, thus confirming that he was indeed the Dr Littleton who married John Littleton and Elizabeth Boulton.
But what was Dr Adam Littleton’s relationship to John? Of course, the shared surname and the Worcestershire connection might be coincidence, but I think this unlikely. Since John Littleton must have been born by 1670 at the latest, it’s possible that he was Adam Littleton’s son. I’ve discovered that Dr Littleton was married three times. On 6th March 1655 he married Elizabeth Scudimore at the church of St Mildred Poultry. On 24th January 1667 he married Susan Rich of West Ham at St Andrew Undershaft. Finally, he married Susan Guildford, daughter of Richard Guildford of Chelsea, by which he acquired a fortune, but apparently he spent freely as a collector and, when he died in 1694, left his third wife in poor circumstances for the remaining four years of her life. It’s possible that John Littleton was the son of Adam Littleton by his first marriage, though I’ve yet to find any record of his birth or baptism.
The Littletons were an illustrious family, and they seem to have shared Adam’s royalist and High Church opinions. Adam’s father Thomas was one of five sons of Thomas Littleton of Stoke Milburgh, Shropshire, who died in 1621. The eldest son, Sir Adam Littleton, who was made a baronet by King Charles I in 1642, was the father of Sir Thomas Littleton, and the grandfather of another Sir Thomas who served as one of the lords of the treasury. Thomas Littleton of Stoke Milburgh had another son, Sir Edward Littleton, who served as Chief Justice of North Wales. His eldest son, also Edward, was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Charles I and was created Lord Littleton in 1640. A second son, William, was a sergeant at law, while two other sons, James and John, were Fellows of All Souls, Oxford. The latter was for a time Master of the Inner Temple, from which he was ejected in 1644. According to one source: ‘He and his family were staunch adherents to the royal cause, and in the course of 1642 he left London and joined the king’. Another Littleton brother, Nathaniel, was a gentleman in the Earl of Southampton’s company in the Low Countries, and another, Timothy, served as one of the barons of the Exchequer.
I wonder how Elizabeth Boulton came to meet her first husband, and what connections there might have been between the Boulton and the Littleton families? Did the link have its origins in their common roots in Worcestershire, or did it go deeper and touch on matters of shared political and religious opinions? We know that one branch of the Worcestershire Boulton family included a Nonjuror, whether Catholic of ‘High Church’ is unclear, who suffered deprivation of his property after the pro-Stuart 1715 uprising. This was Thomas Saunders of the hamlet of Moor near Fladbury, who married Margaret Boulton, Elizabeth’s sister, and whose grandson was Henry Crabb Boulton, with whom we began this post. Did these sympathies extend more widely in the Boulton family, and were my Worcestershire ancestors (unlike the Byne family of Sussex, with whom they would be linked by marriage) royalists rather than parliamentarians in the conflict that divided England in the seventeenth century?