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?

Posted in Boulton, Littleton, Markland | Leave a comment

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 | 2 Comments

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

Thomas Sanders in the ‘Returns of Papists’ and Nonjurors’ estates’

In the previous post I wrote about Thomas Sanders or Saunders of Fladbury, Worcestershire, who was included in a return of ‘papists’ and nonjurors’ estates’ in 1723. I’m fairly certain this is the Thomas Sanders or Saunders who married Margaret Boulton, my first cousin 10 x removed, if Ancestry is to be believed.

The returns are held at the National Archives, and I’ve purchased a copy of the records for Worcestershire, which includes the entry for Thomas Sanders. There are 21 individual entries in total for the county, and Sanders’ is the only one for Fladbury. I wonder if it’s a complete list? One of Thomas’ neighbours, the recusant Sir Robert Throckmorton, is listed under Warwickshire, while his main address is given as Weston Underwood in Buckinghamshire.

First page of the returns for Worcestershire

First page of the returns for Worcestershire

The Worcestershire entries are introduced thus:

A Coppy of the Severall Registers made with the Clerk of the Peace for the County of Worcester by such persons who refused to take the Oaths pursuant to an Act of Parliament made in the ninth Yeare of the Reign of his present Majesty King George Entitled an Act to Oblige all persons being papist in that part of Great Brittaine called Scotland and all persons in Great Brittaine refuseing or neglecting to take the Oaths appointed for the Security of his Majesties person and Government by Severall Acts herein mentioned to Register their names and Real Estates. 

The entry for Thomas Sanders reads as follows:

A true particular of the Messuages Lands Tenements and Hereditaments of Thomas Sanders of Moore in the parish of Fladbury in the County of Worcs. Gent whereof I the s[ai]d. Thomas Sanders or any other person or persons in Trust for me or for my use are Seized or poss[ess]ed or in receipt or perception of the Rents and Proffitts thereof as followeth Vizt. – 

One Messuage One Tenement one Stable one Barne and some other Outhouseing belonging to the said Messuage or Tenement Twelve Acres of thereabouts of Meadow and pasture Ground also belonging to the said Messuage or Tenement in the poss[ess]ion of me the said Thomas Sanders of the Yearely Value of sixteen pounds. 

One other Messuage or Tenement and Garden in the poss[ess]ion of Mary Willis of the Yearely value of Twenty Shillings All other the Outhouses Lands Tenements and Hereditaments whatsoever belonging to the firstmentioned Messuage or Tenement are now in the poss[ess]ion of and Rented by John Knowles at the Yearely Rent of 54 s.[?] All which said Messuages Landes and premisses are Situate lyeing and being in Hill Moore and Wyre Piddle in the said parish of Fladbury in the said County of Worcs. In Wittness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name the 14th Day of January Anno D[o]m[i]ni 1723. Tho: Sanders. Subscribed in Open Court at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Worcester the fourteenth day of January 1723. Hen: Townshend. W: Byrche.

Lower Moor viewed from Hill, Fladbury, Worcestershire (via http://e-services.worcestershire.gov.uk-

Lower Moor viewed from Hill, Fladbury, Worcestershire (via http://e-services.worcestershire.gov.uk-

Hill, Moor and Wyre Piddle were all hamlets within the parish of Fladbury. John Knowles, one of Thomas Sanders’ tenants named here, was included in the ‘list of voters from the last election in Fladbury’ appended to the letter written in July 1702 by Bishop Lloyd of Worcester to the rector of Fladbury, urging him to discourage his parishioners from voting for the High Church Tory Sir John Pakington. As for Pakington himself, he doesn’t seem to have been a nonjuror (presumably this would have prevented him for standing for election?), though he had refused to swear the ‘Assocation’ oath of loyalty to William III in 1696, was known to have sheltered nonjurors, and at the time of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion was one of nine Members of Parliament ordered into custody.

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Thomas Sanders of Fladbury and the non-jurors

In the last post I summarised what I know about the Forrest family of Fladbury, Worcestershire. I have good reason to believe that my 9 x great grandfather, Thomas Forrest, a London citizen and haberdasher who died in 1678, was born in Fladbury, though I’ve yet to prove it.

As always, I’m interested in the religious and political affiliations of my ancestors, and their connection with historical events. For example, I was intrigued to discover that in 1723-5, Thomas Sanders or Saunders, a ‘gentleman’ of Moor in Fladbury, was listed in a ‘Return of papists’ and nonjurors’ estates’. I’m fairly sure that this is ‘Mr Thomas Saunders of Moore’ to whose three children William Forrest of Badsey (brother of my ancestor Thomas) left money in his will of 1698. Saunders had married one of the daughters of William’s (and Thomas’) sister Alice (the wife of William Boulton), at some point in the 1680s. As I noted in the last post, one of the children of this marriage, Hester Saunders, married Thomas Crabb, and their son Henry Crabb Boulton would serve as the Member of Parliament for Worcester and chairman of the East India Company. Thomas Saunders or Sanders was probably born in the 1660s, so he would have been in his sixties when the return of nonjurors’ estates was published. It seems unlikely that there were two men of the same name in the tiny hamlet of Hill and Moor. A Thomas Sanders was included in a list of Fladbury electors in 1702, and there’s a good chance this was the person mentioned both in William Forrest’s will four years earlier, and in the list of nonjurors twenty or so years later.

1715 rising: the 'Old Pretender' lands in Scotland

1715:  the ‘Old Pretender’ lands in Scotland

The description of the list of nonjurors at the National Archives reads as follows:

Following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, all catholics refusing to take oaths of loyalty to king and government were required to register their names and estates at quarter sessions. Lands not so registered would be forfeit.

This series consists of returns by clerks of the peace for most counties of England and Wales and several towns of the names and estate details of catholics and nonjurors, registered pursuant to an Act of 1722.

The returns describe the estates in detail, giving precise locations and dimensions of lands; land and building names; topographical and building details; and all privileges and appurtenances. Tenants are named, with details of tenure, and rents are sometimes given. In most instances it is not clear whether the returnees were catholics or nonjurors.

Also in this series are a few certificates of the Land Tax Commissioners, concerning the assessment of double tax on the property of catholics.

As this note explains, inclusion in the list does not necessarily mean that the person named was a Catholic. Many nonjurors were Anglicans, as explained in this Wikipedia entry:

The nonjuring schism was a split in the Anglican churches of England, Scotland and Ireland in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, over whether William of Orange and his wife Mary could legally be recognised as King and Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland.

The word ‘nonjuring’ means ‘not swearing [an oath]’, from the Latin word iuro or juro meaning ‘to swear an oath’.

Many of the Anglican clergy felt legally bound by their previous oaths of allegiance to James II and, though they could accept William as regent, they could not accept him as king. It was not necessarily a split on matters of religious doctrine, but more of a political issue and a matter of conscience, though most of the conjurors were high church Anglicans. Thus, latitudinarian Anglicans were handed control of the Church of England. The nonjurors thus were nominally Jacobite, although they generally did not actively support the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 or 1745.

So Thomas Sanders or Saunders might have been a high church Anglican rather than a Catholic; I’ve found no evidence of Catholic affiliation among his descendants. However, there is certainly evidence of continuing nonjuring sympathies among the population in that part of Worcestershire. Apparently Worcestershire in general was strongly royalist during the Civil War. We also know that the Throckmortons, one of the prominent landowning families in the Fladbury area, remained Catholic, supported the King in the Civil War, and suffered loss of their estates as a result. Thomas Throckmorton of Coughton was mentioned in the same legal document as Robert, William and Thomas Forrest ‘all of Hill in Fladbury, husbandmen’ in 1608.

Sir Robert Throckmorton

Sir Robert Throckmorton (via Wikipedia)

In the election of 1702, another prominent local landowner and politician, Sir John Pakington of Westwood Park, a staunch Tory and Anglican traditionalist, faced a vigorous campaign against him by William Lloyd, the Bishop of Worcester. In the words of one source:

Lloyd used the occasion of his episcopal visitation to issue veiled exhortations to the voters to eschew Pakington, and in private excoriated the baronet for debauchery and adherence to the Pretender. The dispute between Pakington and Lloyd epitomized one of the most important divisions within the Church, that between an increasingly Whiggish, Latitudinarian episcopate and a High Anglican, Tory squirearchy.

Lloyd went so far as to write to local vicars to encourage them to put pressure on their electors to vote against Pakington. One letter, ‘To the Reverend Poutney, Rector of Fladbury’ berates the local electors for voting for Pakington in the past and adds a postscript: ‘The enclosed is a list of the voters from Fladbury at the last election. I pray God direct them this time to vote better or to stay away’. The list then follows –and it’s from this list that we know that Thomas Sanders was one of those entitled to a vote in the parish, as well as one or two other familiar names, such as Thomas Horniblow and William and Richard Bushell.

Sir John Pakington

Sir John Pakington

I’ve been reading a great deal recently about the political and religious conflicts of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, including James and Ben Long’s gripping Traitor to the Crown, which describes the little-known episode in which Samuel Pepys was arrested on a charge of treason in the aftermath of the imagined ‘Popish Plot’, and Meriol Trevor’s enjoyably revisionist biography of Pepys’ erstwhile employer James Stuart, Duke of York and later (briefly) James II of England and VII of Scotland. I’m intrigued to discover on which side of these disputes my ancestors found themselves.

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The Forrests of Fladbury

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.

Tower Hill in the late 17th century

Tower Hill in the late 17th century

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.

Fladbury, Worcestershire

Fladbury, 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.

Fladbury parish church (via geograph)

Fladbury parish church (via geograph)

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.

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