Recently I’ve been exploring the life of my ancestor Elizabeth Boulton and her connection with the ancient and illustrious Littleton family of Worcestershire. Elizabeth was the sister of Captain Richard Boulton of the East India Company (died 1737) and Major Peter Boulton (1665 – 1743), a London gunsmith. I believe their father was William Boulton and their mother Alice Forrest, the sister of my 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest (died 1678), a London citizen and haberdasher. There is strong evidence that both the Boulton and the Forrest families had their origins in Worcestershire.
There are still many question marks over the history of the Boulton family. We know that Elizabeth had a sister, possibly named Margaret, who married Thomas Saunders of Moor, near Fladbury in Worcestershire, and that one of their daughters, Hester, married Thomas Crabb and was the mother of Henry Crabb Boulton, who would become chairman of the East India Company and Member of Parliament for Worcester. There may have been another Boulton sister, Mary, whose married name was Lewes.
There was also another Boulton brother, name unknown, who married a woman named Bridget and who was the father of Captain Richard Boulton junior, who died in 1745, and of another William Boulton. I’ve gleaned this much from the wills of the two Richard Boultons. In the will of Richard Boulton senior of the parish of St Olave Hart Street, signed and sealed in 1737, we read the following (emphasis is mine):
Item I give and bequeath to my Sisters Mary Lewes Posthumous Boulton and Bridget Boulton ten Guineas apiece of like Lawfull money for Mourning
We know that ‘Posthumous’ – actually Posthuma – Boulton was in fact Richard Boulton’s sister-in-law, since she was the second wife of his brother Peter Boulton. Given her surname, the same must be true of Bridget Boulton.
Elsewhere in the will, Richard Boulton writes:
Whereas sometime since I bought the Reversion of two Annuities of fourteen pounds per annum payable out of his Majesties receipt of Exchequer one of which is fallen in and is now payable to me and the other is now received by a Lady in Holland but on her death will also fall into me Now I do hereby will and direct that the said fourteen pounds per annum annuity that is already fallen in be paid from time to time as it shall become due to my Nephew William Boulton during his Natural Life and also that the other fourteen pounds per annum annuity when it shall fall in be also paid to my Nephew William Boulton in manner aforesaid during his Life
The 1740 will of Richard Boulton junior of Perdiswell, Worcester, throws more light on these family connections:
Whereas my late Uncle Richard Boulton late of the parish of Saint Olave Hart Street in the City of London Esquire deceased by his last Will and Testament bearing date ninth day of April one thousand seven hundred and thirty seven – after writing that he had bought the Revertion of two Annuitys of fourteen pounds per Annum payable out of his Majesties Receipt of Exchequer one of which at the time of his making his Will was fallen in and the other was then and is still payable to a Lady in Holland did will and direct that the fourteen pounds per Annum which was then fallen in should be paid from time to time as it should become due to his the Testators Nephew William Boulton my Brother during his natural Life and also that the other fourteen pounds per Annum Annuity when it should fall in should be also paid to the said William Boulton during his Life as by the said Will may appear Now I do hereby give and bequeath unto my honoured Mother Bridget Boulton Widow an Annuity by yearly sum of eighty six pounds for so long time of her Life and untill the fourteen pounds per Annum left by my said Uncle to my said Brother William Boulton and which at the time of making his Will was not fallen in shall fall in and become payable and from and after the time that the said fourteen pounds per Annum shall fall in and become payable I give her an Annuity or yearly sum of seventy two pounds during her natural Life such respective Annuitys to be paid to my said Mother by equal Quarterly payments without any Deduction upon Amount of Taxes or upon any other Amount whatsoever Item I do hereby give and bequeath unto my said Brother William Boulton from and after the death of my said Mother during his natural Life such Annuity or yearly sum of Money as with what he shall receive by virtue of the Will of my said late Uncle will make up the full and clear sum of sixty pounds which sum it is my Intent and meaning And I do order and direct shall be laid out and expended by my Executor after named for the use and Benefit of my said Brother in maintaining and providing for him but shall not be paid to him in money
So, from these two wills we learn that Richard Boulton junior and his brother William were the sons of Bridget Boulton, who presumably was married to a brother of Richard Boulton senior. We can also conclude that both Bridget and her son William were still alive in 1740, when Richard Boulton junior made his will. I think we can also conclude, from the failure to mention him, that Bridget’s unnamed husband had died before these two wills were made.
Seventeenth-century goldsmiths at work
I searched in the parish records and came across two instances of sons named William being born to a Bridget Boulton during this period. On 30th August 1698, a two-day-old child named William Boulton was baptised at the church of St Sepulchre, Holborn, and on 5th August 1708 another William Boulton was christened at the church of St Giles Cripplegate. In both cases, the father’s name was Thomas Boulton. In the first case, the couple were living at ‘Old Bailey’ (which is the name of a street, as well as of the court located there). In the second, Thomas Boulton was described as a goldsmith.
Could it be that one of these William Boultons was the brother of Richard Boulton junior (for whose birth, incidentally, I have yet to find any record)? The two records might relate to different couples, or it could be that the first William died in infancy and the couple had another child with the same name (the church of St Giles Cripplegate is less than a mile from Old Bailey). Either way, there is a distinct possibility that the father of William and Richard Boulton was named Thomas (and that he may have named one of his sons – William – after his own father).
If we look for records for Thomas Boulton, we find that a child of that name was baptised on 2nd December 1668 at St Mary Whitechapel. The date would match, but the location might be offputting, if it weren’t for the names of the parents: William and Alice Boulton. These, of course, are the names of those I believe to have been the parents of Peter, Elizabeth and Richard Boulton senior. At this date the family were said to be living in East Smithfield, a little to the east of Tower Hill. All the other records we have for William and Alice place them in the parish of All Hallows Barking, but this is just half a mile away to the west.
Early 18th century flintlock pistols (via icollector.com)
On 28th September 1693 a man named Thomas Boulton married Bridget Nutting at the church of St Paul Covent Garden. Might these be the parents of William and Richard Boulton? Even more interestingly, given that the father of the William Boulton born in 1708 was said to be a goldsmith, I’ve found an apprenticeship certificate from 1684 which records that a Thomas Boulton was apprenticed in that year to John Smith, citizen and goldsmith. What’s more, Thomas’ father was said to be a certain William Boulton, citizen and gunmaker of London. This is significant, since we know that Major Peter Boulton, brother to Richard senior and perhaps to Thomas, was also a London gunmaker. Is it possible that he inherited this trade or profession from his father – and that, by this circuitous route, I’ve finally discovered something tangible about the hitherto elusive William Boulton senior?
After these intriguing discoveries, it seems a shame to end on a negative note. However, I’ve also found the will of Thomas Boulton, citizen and goldsmith of London, dated 1739. Unfortunately it makes no mention of a wife named Bridget, or indeed any wife or children. However, it’s possible that there was more than one goldsmith named Thomas Boulton working in London at this date. In any event, I’m fairly sure that at least some of the records I’ve uncovered in this search must relate to ‘our’ Boultons: the recurrence of the names William and Bridget mean there’s a good chance that I’m on the right track.
After an exhaustive search, I’ve now found what I believe to be the baptismal record for Captain Richard Boulton junior. On 12th February 1703, Richard, the son of Thomas and Bridget Boulton, was christened at the church of St Giles Cripplegate – the same church where William, son of the same couple, would be baptised five years later. This confirms that it was this William, and not the one christened at Holborn in 1698, who was the (younger) brother of Richard. It also means that Richard would have been just 42 years old when he died in 1745.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about this new discovery is the profession of Richard’s father Thomas, as recorded in the parish register. Five years later, when his son William was baptised, Thomas would be described as a goldsmith. But in 1703, at the time of Richard’s christening, he was apparently a mariner. How can we explain this? It seems unlikely there were two couples with the names Thomas and Bridget Boulton living in the same parish at this time, or that the first Thomas died and Bridget married a different Thomas Boulton. Far more likely is that Thomas, having trained as a goldsmith, spent some time at sea. Given that his brother Richard worked for the East India Company, and that his own son, Richard junior, would also do so, this doesn’t seem farfetched. But what was Thomas doing at sea, what lured him away from his trade as a goldsmith, and what brought him back?
Further update: 29.09.15
Is it possible that the location of Thomas Boulton’s birth can be explained by the occurrence of the Great Fire of London two years previously? In 1666, the very year of the fire, William Boulton was living in Chitterling Alley, off Beer Lane, in the parish of All Hallows Barking. As the map below shows, this area was damaged in the fire – in fact, it was on the eastern edge of the affected area – while streets to the north of Tower Street, just a few hundred yards away – were spared. What’s more, this map shows East Smithfield, the area where William and Alice Boulton were said to be living when Thomas was baptised in 1668, as beginning much closer to the Tower of London than is represented on later maps. In fact, by the time of Rocque’s map of 1746, the area labelled here as East Smithfield here would be described as Little Tower Hill – the address of a number of my Byne and Greene ancestors. The devastation of much of the parish of All Hallows Barking might also explain why Thomas was christened at the church of St Mary Whitechapel, well beyond the city walls and the reach of the fire.
A map of London, published in 1667, showing the extent of the Great Fire .