My maternal 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest was a haberdasher at Little Tower Hill, London, in the second half of the seventeenth century. What do we know about his origins?
We don’t for sure when Thomas was born, but we know that he was buried on 12th January 1678 at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate. We also know that he married a woman named Anne, and it seems likely she was the Anne Borrowes, from the parish of St Andrew, Holborn, who married a man named Thomas Forrest at the church of St Bartholomew the Great on 18th June 1650.The name ‘Burroughs’ – an alternative spelling for Borrowes? – occurs in the will of Thomas’ daughter, Alice. She married John Byne, a Sussex-born stationer who also lived at Tower Hill, in about 1675. John and Alice Byne were my 8 x great grandparents.
But where was Thomas Forrest born, and where did his family come from? My current theory is that the Forrests were from the village of Fladbury, near Evesham in Worcestershire. What evidence do we have for this?
Our starting-point for understanding the family’s Worcestershire connections is the will of William Forrest of Badsey, who died in 1700, and also the will of Thomas Forrest’s daughter Alice Byne, who died in 1738. William left money and property to ‘my Cozen Alice Bine’ and to her four children. In fact, Alice was the most favoured of the many beneficiaries of William’s will, suggesting a fairly close family connection. My current theory is that she was his niece, and that her father Thomas was William’s brother. Alice’s own will makes reference to her property in Badsey. William Forrest’s will is also the primary source for our understanding of the interwoven histories of the Forrest, Boulton and Saunders families, all of whom had their roots in Worcestershire.
As for the link with Fladbury, we know that William Forrest had a sister Alice who married a man named Boulton – almost certainly William – and moved to London. Their son Major Peter Boulton was married twice. His first wife, whom he married in 1691, was Elizabeth Bushell of Fladbury, Worcestershire. His second wife, Posthuma Landick, was also descended from a branch of the Bushell family in Bath. We also know that one of Peter Boulton’s sisters, possibly named Margaret, married Thomas Sanders or Saunders from the hamlet of Moor, otherwise Hill and Moor, which was in the parish of Fladbury. It was their daughter Hester, christened in Fladbury in 1688, who would marry Thomas Crabb of Whitechapel, and whose son Henry Crabb Boulton would become chairman of the East India Company and Member of Parliament for Worcester.
If we search the Fladbury parish records for the name ‘Forrest’, we find numerous family members living there throughout the seventeenth century, many of them in Hill and Moor. For example, a Thomas Forrest was baptised at Fladbury on 9th March 1633. He was the son of another William Forrest. Perhaps it was the same William Forrest who had a second son named Thomas christened at Fladbury five years later, in 1638, suggesting that the first Thomas had died in infancy. This is almost certainly the William Forrest who also had three other children christened at Fladbury: John (1631), Robert (1635) and Elizabeth (1641). All of these except for John are mentioned in William’s will of 1681, which a researcher has found for me in the Worcestershire archives. The early date of Thomas’ birth (if he was born in 1638, he couldn’t have got married in 1650), and the fact that he was still alive in 1681, means that he can’t be my ancestor, the London haberdasher.
A man named George Forrest (William’s brother?) had a son William baptised at Fladbury on 27th February 1626 and a daughter Alisia (Alice) christened there on 25th October 1629. Could this be the William Forrest who died in Badsey in 1700, and could this be his sister Alice who married William Boulton? Perhaps George Forrest also had a son named Thomas? If so, I’ve yet to find a record of his birth. George Forrest is probably the man of that name who married Anne Horniblow at Fladbury on 10th August 1625. He also had a daughter named Anne, baptised at Fladbury in 1632.
One of the witnesses to William Forrest’s will of 1681 was a certain Thomas Horniblow, almost certainly a relation. Like the Forrests, the Horniblows seem to have been well-established in Fladbury. A legal document from 1608, that I cited in an earlier post, mentions an earlier Thomas Horniblow, alongside ‘Robert Forrest and William Forrest, his son’, and another Thomas Forrest.
The parish register also makes mention of a certain Edward Forrest, who had four children christened at Fladbury in the early decades of the seventeenth century: Anne (1607), Joan (1608), Mary (1610) and Edward (1613). There are also records for a Richard Forrest, who had three children baptised in the second decade of the century: Richard and Thomas (both 1623), and John (1626). Then there is a John Forrest who had four children christened a couple of decades later: Elizabeth (1641), Margaret (1643), Jane (1647) and Robert (1650).
The Forrests seem to have left frustratingly few wills, so working out the relationships between these different branches of the family, and my ancestor Thomas’ place in the family tree, is not going to be easy.