A few weeks ago I wrote about the first marriage of my ancestor Elizabeth Boulton. Born in about 1670, Elizabeth was the daughter of William Boulton and Alice Forrest, and thus the niece of my 9 x great grandfather, London citizen and haberdasher Thomas Forrest, and the first cousin of my 8 x great grandmother Alice Byne, née Forrest, the wife of London citizen and stationer John Byne. Elizabeth Boulton was the sister of Captain Richard Boulton of the East India Company and of London citizen and gunsmith Major Peter Boulton.
In 1686 Elizabeth Boulton married John Littleton. However, the marriage seems to have been cut short by John’s premature death, and in 1694 Elizabeth married for a second time, to Martin Markland, an official at the Navy Board. In 1697, three years after their marriage, Martin and Elizabeth Markland made a legal claim against the personal estate of the late Humphrey Littleton of Naunton, Worcestershire. I’ve now received a copy of the documents in this case from the National Archives, and they throw interesting light on John Littleton’s origins.
The Marklands’ complaint was addressed to ‘the Right Honourable John Lord Somers Baron of Evesham Lord High Chancellor of England’. John Somers (1651 – 1716) was a Whig jurist who played a leading role in the secret councils plotting to overthrow King James II, and he was elected as Member for Worcester in the Convention Parliament which transferred the Crown to William of Orange. Somers became a leading figure under William and Mary, rising to the rank of Lord High Chancellor and being elevated to to the peerage in 1697.
In their complaint to the Lord High Chancellor, Martin and Elizabeth Markland describe the latter as ‘the widow and relict and adminstratix of John Littleton’. They claim that John Littleton was owed the sum of one hundred pounds by Humphrey Littleton – his brother. The reasons why this sum was not paid are complex, and relate to Humphrey’s lack of funds to pay the debt, and therefore becoming ‘bound’ to one Margaret Oldnall of Worcester. The compaint also notes that Humphrey Littleton senior, the father of Humphrey junior and of John, had left some of his household goods to John and his sister Margaret, ‘his younger children’, though John’s share was left in this hands of his older brother Humphrey. The document is not easy to read, but the upshot is that Humphrey Littleton’s creditor Margaret Oldnall, and his widow Elizabeth, are said to be in possession of money and goods that rightly belonged to John Littleton, and thus to his widow Elizabeth Markland.
The documentation for the case includes a long ‘answer’ by Elizabeth Littleton, widow of Humphrey, which I may find time to transcribe and analyse at some point. However, the principal value of these documents is that they solve the mystery of John Littleton’s family origins. Apparently John’s brother, Humphrey Littleton or Lyttleton of Naunton, was the third person bearing that name to live there. The first died intestate in 1624 (there is a monument to him in the parish church of St Bartholomew, Naunton Beauchamp), leaving everything to his wife Margaret. The second Humphrey Littleton died in 1665. According to one source, his will notes that his two younger children, John and Margaret, were still under the age of twenty-one, so they remained under the guardianship of his widow. The third Humphrey, presumably the eldest son and heir, died in September 1690 but his will has not survived. An inventory reveals that he left goods, excluding land, to the value of £308 and a shilling.
The village of Naunton Beauchamp is about nine miles to the east of Worcester and about seven miles to the north-west of Fladbury, where I believe my Forrest ancestors originated. The manor of Sherriff’s Naunton passed into the hands of the Littleton or Lyttleton family of Frankley, near Birmingham, in the sixteenth century. The Littletons lived at Naunton Court, to the west of the main village: in about 1600 an old moated building was replaced by the building which survives today. Apparently John Lyttleton of Frankley, who bought the manor from one Thomas Norton, died in 1532, leaving it to his sons Edward, Gilbert, Anthony and Roger. The manor eventually passed to Roger’s son George and then to the latter’s nephew William (son of his brother Francis), who inherited the property in 1600. In 1608 William settled it on his father Francis’ youngest brother Humphrey Lyttleton of Groveley and on the latter’s son and heir Edward. When William Lyttleton died in 1618, his uncle Humphrey inherited Naunton. This is the Humphrey Lyttleton who died in 1624 and whose monument stands in the parish church. He was succeeded by his son Edward who died in 1634, his heir being his one year old son Humphrey. It’s probably this Humphrey Lyttleton who was the father of Humphrey junior, John and Margaret.
As I’ve noted before, the Lyttleton or Littleton family included many prominent figures in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England. However, identifying the precise relationship between the Littletons of Naunton and the other branches of the family is proving to be a difficult and baffling task, not least because the same Christian names recur in successive generations, and in different branches of the family. However, I hope to be able to shed more light on John Littleton’s family in future posts.
The Littletons were an old gentry family and Elizabeth Boulton’s marriage to John Littleton suggests that the Boultons, and perhaps by extension the Forrests, were of a similar social status. The marriage also confirms that the Boultons, like the Forrests, had their roots in Worcestershire, though so far I’ve failed to discover exactly where in the county they came from.