Captain Richard Boulton in the London land tax records: 1715 – 1737

In the last post I cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the two Captain Richard Boultons, uncle and nephew, who served with the East India Company in the early decades of the eighteenth century. As a footnote to that post, I’ve been searching for ‘Captain Richard Boulton’ in the land tax records and have found the following.

In 1715 a Captain Richard Boulton was living in the sixth precinct of Aldgate ward in the City of London. The name of his street isn’t given, but on the next page are the records for Blanch Appleton Court and Mark Lane, which were both close to Crutched Friars, where we know Richard senior lived. He lived alone, though he had four ‘estates’ (I’m not sure exactly what this means: does it mean that he owned four properties?) and was paying £5 4s in rent.

Part of Rocque's 1746 map of London, showing part of Crutched Friars and surrounding area

Part of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, showing part of Crutched Friars and surrounding area

In subsequent years Richard could be found at the same address, always living alone, but paying different amounts in rent, and owning differing numbers of ‘estates’. In 1720, he had 16 estates and was paying £7 16s rent. In 1723, 1724 and 1725, he had no estates and paid £5s 10s rent. In 1729, 10 estates and rent of £7 15s. In 1730 and 1731 his rent was back to £5 and 4s. In 1732 and 1733, Richard was said to have 15 estates and he paid £2 12s in rent. In 1734, 1735,1736 and 1737, no estates are mentioned and the rent is back to £5 4s.

The fact that these land tax records come to an end in 1737, the year when we know Richard Boulton senior died, confirms that the records refer to him and not his nephew and namesake. What’s more, the date when these records begin – 1715 – may give an indication of when Richard senior retired from active service at sea. We know that he was a director of the East India Company from 1718, and that he was active as a ship owner at Blackwall Yard in the 1720s.

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The two Captain Richard Boultons: an uncle and nephew in the service of the East India Company

In my continuing quest for information about the Boulton family, I’ve been trying to sort out what we know about two men, an uncle and a nephew, both of whom served as sea captains with the East India Company – and both named Richard Boulton. I believe that some of the extant records confuse the two men, and in this post I want to try to sort out the muddle.

Richard Boulton senior was, I believe, the son of William Boulton and Alice Forrest, the latter being the sister of my 9 x great grandfather Thomas Forrest (died 1678), a London citizen and haberdasher. Richard Boulton junior was the son of Richard senior’s brother Thomas and his wife Bridget. He was probably born in 1703 (see my last post).

The Navy Office in Crutched Friars, London

The Navy Office in Crutched Friars, London

Richard Boulton senior made his will in 1737 and died in the same year, at Crutched Friars in the parish of St Olave Hart Street in the City of London. Incidentally, Crutched Friars was the home of the Navy Office (see image above), where Samuel Pepys worked. In his will Richard describes himself as a member of the East India Company and his bequests include stock in Blackwall Yard and money for a hospital at Poplar. His executors include his (great) nephews Henry and Richard Crabb, whose inheritance depends on their taking the additional surname Boulton. There is no mention in the will of a wife or any children. As for Richard Boulton junior, he is given the title ‘captain’ in his uncle Richard’s will. He made his own will in 1740, describing himself as of Perdiswell, Worcestershire, and he died in 1745. As with his uncle, there is no evidence of a wife or children in Richard junior’s will.

Blackwall Yard from the Thames, by Francis Holman (1729 - 1784)

Blackwall Yard from the Thames, by Francis Holman (1729 – 1784)

We can be fairly certain that the following extract, from a history of Blackwall Yard, refers to Richard Boulton senior (my emphasis in bold): 

In June 1724 the Earl and Countess of Strafford sold the yard, with 20½ acres, for £2,800, to Captain John Kirby, a shipbuilder already resident there, whose agreement to purchase the property is dated August 1722. […] Kirby’s purchase of the yard was made on behalf of a four-man syndicate, of which he was one, all of whom were retired sea captains who had worked for the East India Company and were members of London’s shipping community. On the same day as the sale, therefore, Kirby assigned three quarter-shares in the yard to his three partners, Jonathan Collett, Richard Boulton and Edward Pierson. Collett, an active ship’s husband, was described as a gentleman of Trinity Minories, and Pierson as a gentleman of Stratford Langthorne in Essex. In 1720 Pierson had been the instigator of an abortive scheme to establish a company trading to India from the Continent. The fourth partner, Boulton, was a London merchant and an important figure in the East India Company, of which he was a director from 1718 to 1736 and on the Committee for Shipping from 1723 until 1726. He was also a member of the Honourable Company of Shipwrights. 

Both the connection to Blackwall Yard, and the dates, suggest that it’s Richard Boulton senior who is mentioned here. If Richard Boulton junior was born in 1703 or thereabouts, as I believe, then he was too young to be a director of the East India Company in 1718, and certainly much too young to be a retired sea captain.

This account throws some useful light on the life of Richard Boulton senior. From it we learn that he was firstly a sea captain with the East India Company, that later he was a London merchant and a director of the Company, and that in retirement he went into business as a shipwright or ship owner. If Richard was a retired sea captain in 1724, then he was probably a working mariner during the first two decades of the century. If so, then this suggests he was born by about 1680. Since his brother Peter was definitely born in 1665 and another brother, Thomas, may have born in 1668, it’s possible that Richard was born as early as the 1660s or 1670s.

East India House, headquarters of the East India Company

East India House, headquarters of the East India Company

So we have two Richard Boulton, both sea captains, and both working for the East India Company. It’s perhaps understandable that confusion between the two has sometimes arisen, as it does for example in an account of the life Henry Crabb Boulton on the History of Parliament Online site, which includes the following:

Richard Boulton, Henry’s patron, after some 20 years in the East India Company’s marine service and 18 in its direction, retired a wealthy man to Worcestershire whence the family apparently derived. 

The same mix-up is reproduced in the following extract from a genealogical site:

The [Boulton] family was well known in Leatherhead as they owned the Manor House at Thorncroft from 1763 and from 1781 the Lordship of the manor as well. The first owner was Henry Crabb Boulton who was followed briefly by his brother Richard and then by Richard’s son Henry Boulton jnr. In fact all three were born with the name Crabb and adopted the name Boulton only as a result of inheritance. Their patron was their cousin also a Richard Boulton who had served some 40 years in the HEIC being a Director in 1731 and 1737. He was also associated with the ownership of Blackwall Yard 1724-28. […] He was a wealthy man who retired to Worcestershire where he died in 1745. He bequeathed his manors, messuages and lands to Henry Crabb who thereupon added the name Boulton to his own.

In fact, it was Richard Boulton senior who was a director of the East India Company and was associated with Blackwall Yard, and who made the bequest to Henry Crabb. He died in 1737, and it was his nephew Richard Boulton junior who retired to Worcestershire and died in 1745.

A similar error occurs on the otherwise excellent website of the ‘East India Company at Home’ research project:

Both brothers took the name Boulton from their cousin Richard Boulton who was connected to EIC for 40 years, and left property to Henry which later passed to his brother Richard.

As we have already established, it was Richard senior who insisted on the additional surname, and he was the Crabb brothers’ (great) uncle, not their cousin: that was Richard junior.

There’s also some confusion about who is referred to in some of the tax records and merchants’ directories from this period. An announcement in a publication entitled The Political State of Great Britain printed in 1737 records the death on 26th October ‘at his house in Crutched Friers [sic]’ of ‘Captain Richard Boulton, late a Director of the East-India Company’. We know that Richard senior died in 1737, and we also know from his will that he died in the parish of St Olave Hart Street, which included Crutched Friars.

However, another publication, The Intelligencer or Merchant’s Assistant, published in the following year – 1738 – still lists Captain Richard Boulton of Crutched Friars, London, among the merchants of the city. There are two possible explanations: either Richard junior took over his uncle’s address, and his business, after his death – or the publication was late in catching up with the news of the latter’s demise.

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

The latter explanation seems more likely, since other records suggest that Richard Boulton junior was still serving the East India Company as a mariner at about this time. A volume of The Political State of Great Britain from 1736 notes the arrival at East India House of ‘the Purser of the Beauford Captain Richard Boulton, from Coast and Bay’ [I believe this is a reference to the Coromandel coast and Bay of Bengal]. An earlier record also places Richard on the Beaufort in 1734. Interestingly, the Beaufort was owned by Jonathan Collett, one of the business partners of Richard Boulton senior, and had been launched at Blackwall Yard in 1734. Richard Boulton junior was the Beaufort’s captain on its first voyage (presumably to India) in 1735 and 1736. It seems likely that Richard senior would have been of assistance in gaining his nephew the command of the ship.

A Captain Richard Boulton had been in charge of another ship, the King George, in 1729. On balance, this is most likely to be Richard junior, since by that date his uncle, Richard senior, was director of the Company. However, the Captain Richard Boulton who commanded the Loyal Cook, bound for Amoy in China, in 1701 and 1703, must have been Richard senior, since his nephew had yet to be born.

I hope this post has helped to clear up the confusion surrounding the two Captain Richard Boultons. However, further research is still needed in order to understand the origins of this illustrious family, and how some many members of it ended up as prominent figures in the East India Company.

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Looking for the Boultons: gunmakers and goldsmiths in late seventeenth-century London

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.

Fladbury, Worcestershire

Fladbury, 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

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.

18th century flintlock pistols (via icollector.com)

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.

Update

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 .

A map of London, published in 1667, showing the extent of the Great Fire .

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Littleton connections: recusancy and ‘treason’ in Elizabethan and Jacobean Worcestershire

In the last post I reported my discovery that John Littleton, the first husband of my ancestor Elizabeth Boulton, was the brother of Humphrey Littleton of Naunton, Worcestershire, who died in 1690. I also shared what I’d been able to discover about this particular branch of the illustrious Littleton family, tracing them back to Roger Littleton, one of the sons of John Littleton of Frankley, who purchased the property in the early sixteenth century. (N.B. The spelling of the family name varies between individuals and generations – sometimes ‘Littleton,’ at others ‘Lyttelton’. For simplicity, I’ve kept to the former spelling.)

Naunton Court (via british-history.ac.uk)

Naunton Court (via british-history.ac.uk)

However, at that stage I was unable to connect the Littletons of Naunton with the other branches of the family. In particular, I was interested to know whether there was any connection between the various Humphrey Littletons of Naunton – and the Humphrey Littleton who was executed at Worcester in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. And what was the link between the John Littleton of Frankley who was the father of Roger Littleton, and his namesake, also of Frankley, who was implicated in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion and died in the Tower of London in 1601?

After a few days of intense searching, and a few false starts, I think I’ve managed to untangle the complex web that is the Littleton family history – or at least the relevant part of it. I’ve discovered that the John Littleton of Frankley who bought Naunton was born in about 1500 and died in 1533. For the sake of clarity, we’ll call him John Littleton (1). He was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Gilbert Talbot of Grafton, and they had seven sons and two daughters.

An aerial view of the manor of Frankley in 2010 (via www.rgcrompton.info)

An aerial view of the manor of Frankley in 2010 (via http://www.rgcrompton.info)

One of their sons was Roger Littleton of Groveley, from whom the Littletons of Naunton are descended. Roger, who took over the ownership of Naunton from his father and brothers, had at least three sons: George, Francis and Humphrey. As I noted in the previous post, Naunton passed first to Roger’s son George, then to William, son of Francis, and then to Humphrey (again, to keep things clear, we’ll call him Humphrey Littleton (1)).

Humphrey Littleton (1) married a woman named Margaret and they had a son called Edward, who inherited Naunton on his father’s death in 1624. Edward, who seems to have been married to a woman named Amy, had a son named Humphrey (we’ll call him Humphrey Littleton (2)), who was born in 1633, the year before his father’s death. Humphrey Littleton (2) had three children: his eldest son and heir Humphrey, John (who married Elizabeth Boulton) and Margaret. He died in 1665.

Humphrey Littleton (3) married a woman named Elizabeth and died in 1690. It was through researching the legal battle over his will that I uncovered the connection between him and the John Littleton who married Elizabeth Boulton.

Now, to understand the Naunton Littletons’ relationship to the wider Littleton family, we need to go back a few generations to John Littleton (1) of Frankley, the father of Roger. Roger had an older brother, John, who inherited his father’s estate as well as his name. This John Littleton (2) was knighted, probably by Elizabeth I. He married Bridget Pakington, daughter of Sir John Pakington of Hampton-Levet (I wrote about a later member of this family in an earlier post). Sir John Littleton lived at Frankley but owned many other properties, including the manor of Hagley. He died in 1591.

Sir John and Bridget Littleton had six sons and four daughters. Their eldest son Gilbert Littleton inherited Frankley and married Elizabeth, daughter of Humphrey Coningsby. Gilbert and Elizabeth’s son and heir was yet another John Littleton (3). He married Meriel, daughter of Sir Thomas Bromley, the Lord Chancellor of England. It was this John Littleton who was implicated in Essex’s rebellion and was sentenced to death, though his sentence was commuted to imprisonment in the Tower and loss of his estates. John was a Catholic, but his wife Meriel did not share his faith and after his death in 1601 decided to bring up their children as Protestants. She also successfully petitioned King James I to restore her late husband’s estate, approaching him at Doncaster on his progress south from Scotland to assume the throne of England.

Contemporary print showing Gunpowder plotters being hanged, drawn and quartered

Contemporary print showing Gunpowder plotters being hanged, drawn and quartered

Apparently the Humphrey Littleton who was executed in the aftermath of the Gunpower Plot was Meriel’s brother-in-law, and thus the brother of her late husband John. (Wikipedia is wrong to describe Humphrey as one of the sons of Sir John Littleton of Frankley.) It was at her house at Hagley that Humphrey sheltered their nephew Stephen Littleton of Holbeach and his friend Robert Wintour after the collapse of the conspiracy. It seems that Stephen was the son of George, another brother of John and Humphrey.

I’ll probably have more to say about the Littletons and the Gunpowder Plot in another post. I’m fascinated by the links between the plotters and a number of prominent recusant families in Worcestershire, and the connections between those families and the people and places in my own family history. For now, I’m curious to know whether other branches of the Littleton family shared the Catholic faith of the John Littleton who took part in the Essex rebellion, and his brother Humphrey and nephew Stephen, executed for their role in the Gunpowder Plot. We know that Sir John Littleton (2), the father of Gilbert and grandfather of John (3) and Humphrey, was a convinced Protestant who objected to the re-introduction of Catholicism under Queen Mary. Was it Gilbert who reverted to Catholicism, or his sons? And were these sympathies shared by other branches of the Littleton family, such as those at Naunton?

Hindlip Hall

Hindlip Hall

We know that the Humphrey Naunton who died in 1624 was a good friend of Thomas Habington of Hindlip Hall, the Catholic antiquarian who was condemned to death but then reprieved for sheltering priests who were accused of complicit in the Gunpowder Plot. Habington described Humphrey as a ‘gentellman of nobell and worthy descent, with whom althoughe in hys lyfe I had discontentment, yet before hys deathe theare was between us, eaven with expressyon of teares, that true reconcilyation as I intreate all myne eaver to love hys.’ Was their friendship based on shared religious sympathies?

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The Littletons of Naunton Beauchamp

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.

The 'complaint' of Martin and Elizabeth Markland

The ‘complaint’ of Martin and Elizabeth Markland

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.

John Somers, Baron Somers, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt

John, Baron Somers, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt

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.

Naunton Court today (via imganuncios.mitula.net)

Naunton Court today (via imganuncios.mitula.net)

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.

Interior of parish church of St Bartholomew, Naunton Beauchamp (via worcesteranddudleyhistoricchurches.org.uk)

Interior of parish church of St Bartholomew, Naunton Beauchamp (via worcesteranddudleyhistoricchurches.org.uk)

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.

Posted in Boulton, Byne, Forrest, Littleton, Markland | Leave a comment

Magnus Fowle in the Sussex coroners’ inquest records

In the last post I reported my discovery that my 12 x great grandfather Magnus Fowle, who died in 1596, served as a coroner in Elizabethan Sussex. Since then, I’ve had another stroke of luck. I discovered that there exists an edited collection of Sussex coroners’ inquest reports from Elizabeth’s reign. What’s more, there is a copy of this book, which would be prohibitively expensive to buy, in my own university library – and it’s possible to take it out on loan. So I’ve spent much of the past week eagerly searching the book’s index for references to my ancestor, and collating the information it contains about his service as a county coroner.

The Old Grammar School, Lewes, founded in 1512

The Old Grammar School, Lewes, founded in 1512

Before reporting my findings, it might be useful to summarise what we already know about Magnus Fowle. We know that he was the son of Gabriel Fowle of Southover, Lewes, who was Master of the Free Grammar School there. Gabriel was the son of Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst and, according to some sources, the brother of Bartholomew Fowle, an Augustinian friar and the last prior of Southwark at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. Gabriel remained a faithful Catholic through the religious revolution begun by Henry VIII and continued under Edward VI, dying in Queen Mary’s reign and asking in his will of 1554 for masses be said for him. The name of Magnus’ mother is unknown, but we know that he had a sister Agnes. It seems likely that both Magnus and Agnes (were their rhyming first names a family in-joke?) were born in the late 1520 or early 1530s, almost certainly in Lewes, where Gabriel had been living since about 1525.

Magnus’ sister Agnes was already married to John Harman, a Lewes merchant, by the time her father died in 1555. We know that they had a son and three daughters. As for Magnus, he married Alice Lucke, daughter of Richard Lucke of Mayfield, probably in the late 1550s: there is a record from 1560 describing Magnus as a yeoman of Mayfield. Magnus and Alice had one daughter who survived them, my 11 x great grandmother Agnes, but there may have been others who died in childhood. Alice Fowle predeceased her husband, but we don’t know exactly when she died. Their daughter Agnes married Edward Byne of Burwash in 1575 and their eldest son Magnus, named after his grandfather, was born in the following year. Magnus Fowle made his will at Mayfield on 30th July 1595, in the thirty-seventh year of Elizabeth’s reign, and it was proved in the following May.

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

Farms at Mayfield (via geograph)

Sussex Coroners’ Inquests 1558 – 1603, edited by R.F. Hunnisett and published by the Public Record Office in 1996, includes summary reports of 582 inquests that took place in the county during the reign of Elizabeth. Magnus Fowle acted as coroner in 79 of these cases. His first inquest was held on 30th April 1572 and his final inquest on 8th April 1595, a year before his death. If I’m right in my speculation about Magnus’ approximate birth date, then he would have been in his early forties when first appointed to the role of coroner, and in his sixties when he convened his last inquest. By 1572, he would have been married and settled in Mayfield for at least ten years, and within a few years of taking up the post he would become a grandfather.

In most of the inquest reports, Magnus Fowle is described as a county coroner, but a minority give him other titles: he is described as the coroner for Lewes rape in 9, for Bamber rape in 3, and for Eastbourne hundred and Dorset hundred in one each. A number of the reports give him the title ‘gent[leman]’ and one gives him the suffix ‘esq[uire]’, suggesting a rather higher social standing than ‘yeoman’.

In only one year during this period (1578) did Magnus Fowle not preside at any inquests. In other years, the number of inquests in which he was involved ranged from one during two years in the 1570s, and in his final year, to eight in 1592, with two to five inquests being the more typical range in other years. The locations covered the whole county and are too numerous to mention. In two cases Magnus presided with another county coroner, but in the vast majority of cases he presided alone.

Of the cases which Magnus investigated, the majority were deemed to be accidents or death by misadventure, the second largest category being suicides, closely followed by murders and then natural causes, with two cases being defined as killing in self defence. The reports themselves provide a fascinating glimpse of life, albeit through the lens of abnormal events, in Elizabethan England. A remarkable number of people, often women and most of them spinsters, seem to have been desperate enough to take their own lives,with hanging, drowning and cutting one’s own throat among the methods recorded. Murders were often committed in the course of breaking and entering, or as the result of fights, with a handful of women accused of killing their own babies immediately after giving birth. A number of those convicted of murder were able to plead benefit of clergy, or pregnancy, and therefore escape the noose, but many others were not so fortunate. Accidental deaths occurred when people fell into wells, or were mortally injured in the course of work, whether by scythes, ploughs or water wheels. A substantial number of Magnus’ inquests were held in gaols and investigated the deaths of those who died in custody. These were almost always deemed ‘natural’ deaths, suggesting that disease or poor conditions must have been the cause, and prompting the reflection that a prison sentence was often as sure a guarantee of death as a sentence of execution.

A public execution in 16th century Engand

A public execution in 16th century Engand

There is a suggestion in the records that Magnus Fowle took a while to get the hang of his role as coroner. Editorial footnotes to the reports on his first two inquests, which took place in 1572 in Westmeston and Preston respectively, note: ‘The coroner was summoned to King’s Bench to answer for defects in the inquest; process against him ceased when the inquest was amended, presumably by the addition of the information about the goods and chattels which is interlined’.

A later inquest report, from Lewes in November 1585, is followed by a long explanatory note by the modern editor. This was a complex case of murder and violent affray, in which questions appear to have been raised about the conduct both of Magnus Fowle, acting as coroner, and some members of the jury. It’s difficult to reconstruct exactly what happened, but it’s interesting to note that one of those involved in the case challenged the coroner’s credentials and expressed doubts that justice would be done because of Fowle’s ‘want of sufficient judgement in law’. Apparently the extensive original documentation of the case includes both the accusations against Magnus Fowle and his own answers, which offer very different versions of events.

Despite these questions about his expertise, Magnus Fowle’s twenty-three years of service as a county coroner provide clear evidence of his social status. His role as an officer of the Crown helps to explain (for example) why his will includes references to the aristocratic Ashburnham family. At the same time, it challenges my theory that Magnus was, like the Ashburnhams, a recusant or at least a recusant sympathiser. Surely open sympathy for the recusant cause would have been incompatible with holding office on behalf of the Crown?

Posted in Ashburnham, Byne, Fowle, Harman, Lucke | Leave a comment

Magnus Fowle – a county coroner in Elizabethan Sussex?

I’m grateful to Rosie Franczak for drawing my attention to an infamous murder that occurred in the village of Mayfield, Sussex, on 1st October 1594, when a husbandman named Ralph Mepham (or Deaphon, in some accounts) killed his wife by cutting her throat with a knife. What makes this case interesting as far as I’m concerned is that the coroner who investigated the death and convened the subsequent inquest was Magnus Fowle.

This, of course, was the name of my 12 x great grandfather, who lived in Mayfield and indeed died there shortly after this event. It seems unlikely that there were two men with this rather unusual name living in Sussex at the same time. The name ‘Magnus’ would become popular in later generations of my family. (Magnus Fowle’s daughter Agnes married Edward Byne. They were my 11 x great grandparents and their eldest son was Magnus Byne of Framfield, presumably named after his grandfather. Another son, Stephen Byne, was my 10 x great grandfather, and he named his son, my 9 x great grandfather, Magnus. And so the name was passed on through the generations. ) However, it appears that Magnus Fowle was the first bearer of the distinctive first name in the family, given it by his father Gabriel Fowle, who was the master of Lewes Free Grammar School during the reign of Queen Mary.

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via http://media.rightmove.co.uk)

Countryside near Mayfield, Sussex (via http://media.rightmove.co.uk)

Until now, I had imagined that Magnus was simply a yeoman or gentleman farmer, living off the substantial inheritance of land in Ringmer and Glynde left to him in his father Gabriel’s will of 1555, as well as the inheritance in Mayfield of his wife Alice Lucke. However, it now seems likely that he had an additional, official role as one of the county coroners for Sussex. As I understand it, in the medieval period there were three coroners for each county, and their role was keeping the pleas of the Crown – ‘custos placitorum coronas’ – from which the title coroner or ‘crowner’ (see Shakespeare’s Hamlet) derives. Coroners were unpaid and there was a property qualification associated with the office. They were elected, but those entitled to vote were a select few: the Freemen of the county, meeting for the purpose in the county court. 

A full account of the gruesome murder of Joan Mepham can be read here. It seems that the local constable was first on the scene. He then called for the coroner (presumably my ancestor), who proceeded to interview witnesses. The fact that Magnus Fowle lived locally must have meant that he was there fairly quickly. Having interrogated the suspect, the coroner had him committed to ‘the queen’s gaol at Lewes’, some twenty miles away. One account mentions an inquest held at Mayfield on 8th October 1594 convened by Magnus Fowle, and heard before sixteen jurors. However, the murderer was eventually tried at East Grinstead Assizes on 24th February 1595 when, despite his plea of ‘not guilty’, he was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, the execution being carried out three days later.

Sixteenth-century printing press

Sixteenth-century printing press

An additional point of interest to me, also highlighted by Rosie in her email, is that the murder was reported in a sensational pamphlet printed by John Danter of Smithfield, London. Danter was a notorious ‘pirate’ with a reputation for printing stolen texts, including (also in 1595) the first ‘bad quarto’ of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He was both friend and landlord to Thomas Nashe, satirical pamphleteer and co-author with Ben Jonson in 1597 of the lost ‘seditious’ play, The Isle of Dogs, which was performed in July 1597 when the London theatres were ordered to be closed by Robert Cecil and the Privy Council. There is also a connection between Nashe and the actor Edward Alleyn, son-in-law of the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe. As I’ve noted before, Henslowe’s diary makes a number of references to Arthur Langworth of the Broyle, Ringmer, brother of the ‘church papist’ clergyman and poet Dr John Langworth. It is this Arthur Langworth who is referred to so disparagingly in the will of my ancestor Magnus Fowle, for reasons as yet unknown. Wheels within wheels!

The murder at Mayfield must have been one of the last cases adjudicated by Magnus Fowle. He made his will on 30th July 1595 (five months after Ralph Mepham was executed) and it was proved in the following May.

Posted in Byne, Fowle, Langworth | 2 Comments