*UPDATED* – Twelve – Dame Anne Gostwick, my 12th Great-Grandmother

Over the past two years, I have completed more research on the Gostwick family, and I thought some updates to this post were overdue! It has been very rewarding to study the female side of this family in particular. It is full of strong women who met a variety of challenges with determination and heart. The maternal line starts with Mary Gostwick, the daughter of the subject of this post and Sir Edward Gostwick, then to Dame Anne (Wentworth) Gostwick, Lady Cecily (Unton) Wentworth Hobby, Lady Anne (Seymour) Dudley Unton, Countess of Warwick, and ends with Lady Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset and her mother-in-law, Lady Margery (Wentworth) Seymour. All of these women deserve their own posts (except the Countess of Warwick, whose post I have already written), and hopefully, I will tackle those this year.

This post focuses on Dame Anne (Wentworth) Gostwick, my 12th great grandmother. This post was originally inspired by the genealogy blog challenge, “12.” I hope you enjoy the updates and new insights into Anne’s life and the lives of her husband and children.

Connection to Nicholas Spencer

Going back 12 generations is a very difficult task, especially early in the colonial period when records in certain places are now somewhat scarce. I have managed to go back this far for a few family lines, and the Spencer line is undoubtedly one of my favorites, not least because it is full of fascinating characters. This line is special to me because not only did I research stateside, but I also had the opportunity to research it in England. That experience was unforgettable!

I have written several posts about the Spencer/Ariss/Moss/Swift family for this challenge, but the one with the most relevance to Dame Anne is the post about Nicholas Spencer. At the beginning of that post, I gave some information pertaining to Nicholas’s family background. His most distinguished line came through his mother, Lady Mary (Gostwick) (Spencer) Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, knight and baronet, and Dame Anne Gostwick, nee Wentworth. Dame Anne Gostwick, therefore, is Nicholas’s maternal grandmother.

Family Background

Dame Anne Gostwick was born Anne Wentworth to John Wentworth, Esquire and Cecily Unton. [1] Anne’s mother, Cecily Unton, had a quite impressive pedigree. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Unton and Lady Anne (Seymour) Unton, Countess of Warwick. [2] Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne, which can be found here. She was the daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Both were descended from Edward III. Queen Jane Seymour was Edward’s sister, and Queen Catherine Parr was his sister-in-law. This made Edward and Anne Seymour’s children, including daughter Anne, first cousins of King Edward VII. Lady Anne’s first husband was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, turning Lady Anne into a countess. [3] Dudley died young, and her second husband was Sir Edward Unton, a gentleman from a well-established family in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, though the marriage was a lowly connection in comparison to the Seymours and Dudleys. [4] Lady Anne and Sir Edward Unton’s oldest daughter, Cecily, married John Wentworth, Esquire of Gosfield Hall in Essex in 1580. [5]

The Wentworth family was situated in Gosfield, Essex. John Wentworth was his father’s heir, and on his death in 1588, he inherited Gosfield Hall. John was a descendant of the De Spenser family, as well as the Boleyns. His great grandfather was Queen Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. [6]

John Wentworth and his wife, Cecily, were the parents of Dame Anne, the subject of this post.

Early Life and Clandestine Marriage

John and Cecily Wentworth’s oldest daughter, Anne, was born at her father’s estate, Gosfield Hall, Essex, and was baptized on 3 March 1589/90. [7] She was likely named for Lady Anne, Countess of Warwick, her maternal grandmother and from whose family Cecily was very proud to be descended. Anne had two older brothers, John and William, one older sister Mary, and four younger sisters, Diana, Cecily, Elizabeth, and Catherine. [8] Anne and her siblings grew up at Gosfield Hall, a beautiful house built in 1545 which had hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions. The Hall is still standing, has been added onto over the years, and is now a wedding venue.

Where and how Anne met her husband, Sir Edward Gostwick, is a mystery. Sir Edward was the son of Sir John Gostwick and his wife Dame Jane Owen, herself a descendant of Edward III, Owen Tudor, the Woodville family, and the Dukes of Stafford. [9] Sir Edward attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1606, though he only remained at the college for a year. Likely, he attended to make connections. He was subsequently knighted at Whitehall Palace in 1607. [10] As Willington, Sir Edward’s home, and Gosfield, where Anne was born, are rather far apart, it is quite likely that the two met in London. In fact, Anne’s sister Diana married in London in May 1608 and Cecily married there in 1609. Edward and Anne married when he was about 20 or 21 years old and very soon after her 18th birthday.

The marriage of Anne Wentworth and Sir Edward Gostwick was laballed a “clandestine” marriage, according to the entry in the Gosfield Parish records. Here it is in Latin:

D[omi]nus Edwardus Gosticke, Miles, duxit [in] uxorem Annam Wentworth, filiam Joh[ann]is Wentworth, arm[ige]ri, 11 die Aprilis, clandestine in aedibus dicti Joh[ann]is Wentworth, Thomas Banbridge, p[res]bitero, dictum matrimon[ium] celebranti, 1608. [11]


Master Edward Gosticke, Knight, took to wife Anna Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth, armsbearer, 11 of April, surreptitiously in the said house of John Wentworth, Thomas Bandridge, priest celebrating the marriage, 1608.

At first, this sounds quite scandalous, but what did “clandestine” mean in the 17th century? A clandestine marriage was one that was missing several elements of a typical marriage: banns were not read, a marriage license was not obtained, the marriage did not take place in one of the parishes from which the bride or groom was from, and/or the marriage did not take place in a church. The only requirement that could not be neglected was that the couple was married by an Anglican priest.

In Edward and Anne’s case, it seems it was deemed “clandestine” because they were married at Gosfield Hall rather than at the parish church. I wonder why they chose to do this? Gosfield Hall was of course Anne’s home and it is absolutely beautiful, but why would they choose a clandestine marriage over a traditional one in the local church?

One of the main reasons for clandestine marriages was to avoid parental consent issues. As Edward and Anne were married at Gosfield Hall, does that mean that it was possible Edward’s parents, Sir William Gostwick, Baronet, and Dame Jane Gostwick, did not approve of his marriage to Anne? It is hard for me to look at both of these families in modern times and try to figure out why exactly the Gostwicks might have been unhappy with his choice. On paper, they look fairly even in pedigree. John Wentworth was not titled, was not knighted, although he was able to carry his family’s arms. Perhaps the Gostwicks thought this wasn’t prestigious enough for their heir?

Or, perhaps the Gostwicks had already chosen a bride for Edward, or at least had someone in mind, and Edward defied their choice and married Anne because he was in love with her. (See later where their love for each other is described.) That could certainly create bad feelings within the family.

Or, did the Gostwicks even know the marriage had taken place? Did Edward and Anne return to Willington already married without their knowledge of the event?

Another reason for clandestine marriages was to hide a pregnancy. Again, this is another possibility for Edward and Anne. However, I have not seen any evidence that this was an issue.

I may never know exactly why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story! If I were to guess, I would think that possibly the Gostwicks were not happy with the circumstances for some reason. This is possibly supported by the fact that Edward and Anne baptized the majority of their children in places other than Willington. But, perhaps I am reading more into this and the truth is much simpler than I am imagining.

Baronetcy and Children

Sir Edward had been knighted by James I before his marriage to Anne, but he did not succeed to the Baronetcy until 19 September 1615 when his father died. By then, his three oldest children had been born. [12]

Anne gave birth to 10 children, 8 who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, William (died young), Jane, Edward, Thomas, Hannah (died young), Anne, and William. Her daughters were named in her will, and her monument in Willington Church recorded that she had 3 sons and 5 daughters.

Elizabeth: Baptized 17 March 1611 in Willington, Bedfordshire [13]

Mary: Baptized 26 December 1612 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [14]

Frances: Baptized 19 February 1615 in Bisham, Berkshire [15]

William: Baptized 12 September 1616 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne); died young [16]

Jane: Baptized 20 October 1618 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [17]

Edward: Baptized 30 March 1620 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [18]

Thomas: Baptized 3 July 1621 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [19]

Hannah: Baptized 9 December 1622 in Gravely, Hertfordshire; died young [20]

Anne: Baptized 12 August 1624 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [21]

William: Baptized 17 October 1630 in Willington, Bedfordshire [22]

As a second William was born in 1630, the older William must have died young, prior to both Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s deaths. Hannah was not mentioned in her mother’s will, which means she is not one of the 5 daughters referenced on her mother’s monument. All of the above children’s baptismal records listed Edward Gostwick as the father, but only the baptisms that took place in Norton also listed Anne.

Dame Anne’s Married Life

Much of Dame Anne’s adult life was probably spent moving around the Gostwicks’ property, giving birth to her children, raising them, and then helping with their marriages. The extent of their property and their family connections can be seen by looking at the locations of the baptisms of Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s children. They were married in Gosfield in 1608 and likely began their married life in Willington, Bedfordshire, where Sir Edward’s family’s main property was located. Their first child, Elizabeth, was baptized (and likely born) in that parish. Their second child, Mary, was not baptized in Willington, but instead in Norton, Hertfordshire, about 16 miles southeast of Willington. The manor of Norton was conveyed to Dame Anne’s father, John Wentworth, in 1608, as a settlement for the marriage of Anne’s sister Diana to Lewis Bowles. Edward and Anne were likely visiting her sister and brother-in-law during 1611, which is why Mary was baptized there. I have found no evidence that either Edward or Anne owned property in Hertfordshire. Or, perhaps they were living with the Bowles at the time. Sir William Gostwick, Edward’s father, didn’t die until 1615, and perhaps they preferred to live with Anne’s sister and brother-in-law.

Edward and Anne’s third child, daughter Frances, was baptized in Bisham, Berkshire in early 1615. Why would Frances have been baptized in Berkshire? John Wentworth, Anne’s father, was buried at Gosfield, Essex, in February 1614, leaving Cecily (Unton) Wentworth, Anne’s mother, a widow. Cecily Wentworth quickly remarried to Sir Edward Hoby, a prominent courtier with impressive connections who owned the beautiful manor house, Bisham Abbey, in Bisham, Berkshire. Cecily’s father’s family was also from Berkshire, so it is likely that she had known Sir Edward Hoby for many years. Although I have not found a marriage date for Sir Edward and Cecily, based on the baptism of Frances at Bisham (February 1615), it seems likely that Sir Edward and Cecily Wentworth had married by that time. Perhaps Edward, a pregnant Anne, and their children were on an extended visit to see  Anne’s mother and her new husband on the occasion of their wedding.

By the baptism of their first son, William, the Gostwick family had returned to Norton, Hertfordshire. Daughter Jane was also baptized there in 1618. The baptisms in Norton stopped after Jane, but Edward and Anne continued to baptize their children in Hertfordshire. The baptisms of Edward, Thomas, Hannah, and Anne all took place at Graveley, an adjacent parish to Norton in Hertfordshire.  Interestingly, most of Edward and Anne’s younger children were also baptized in Hertfordshire. Were Sir Edward and Dame Anne now living with the Bowles again? Or were they renting property? Consistent baptisms in the same area over an eight year period (or 12 year period, if Mary’s baptism is considered and Frances’ baptism in Bisham was a temporary change) seems to indicate that this was the case. In 1623, Lewis and Diana Bowles mortgaged the Norton property, with Sir Edward acting as the mortgagee. The last Gostwick baptism in Graveley occured in 1624, and in 1629, the Norton property was sold out of the family.

Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s youngest child, a second William, was baptized in Willington in October 1630, after the death of Sir Edward.

During the span of time that Sir Edward’s children were being baptized in Hertfordshire and Berkshire, he was also conducting business in Willington, Bedfordshire, and in other surrounding parishes. Records show that he held the manors of Willington, Cople, and Ravensden in Bedfordshire. He also made provisions for his family members around the time of his father’s death. Also, he was typically styled as Sir Edward of Willington.

I have already suggested that perhaps the relationships between Sir William and Lady Jane and Sir Edaward and Dame Anne were strained possibly due to the circumstances behind their marriage. Perhaps they chose to live with or near Anne’s sister and their family because of this. Or, perhaps because the Willington house was full of Sir Edwards very youngest siblings, some not much older than his own children, he felt that his young family needed some space. There seems to be an element to this story that I am missing or that isn’t apparent from the records that I am able to see at this time. That is the exciting part about genealogy, isn’t it? The more records you uncover, the more information you find out, the more questions that surface!

During the years that Dame Anne was busy with pregnancies, giving birth, raising her family, and working as the lady of the house, she faced heartbreak and unique parenting challenges. She and Sir Edward lost two of their children at young ages, their first born son William and their daughter Hannah. I have not been able to find burial records for either child. However, I do know that they died young. A second William was born in 1630 and would not have been named William if his older brother was still alive. Also, Sir Edward’s heir was the next son, Edward, and would not have been named as such in his wardship if his older brother was living. Hannah was not mentioned in Dame Anne’s will with the rest of her sisters, and she was not represented on Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s burial monument. Losing two of their children must have been incredibly devastating.

Another challenge that Dame Anne and Sir Edward faced was the fact that their second son, Edward, now Sir Edward’s heir, was born without the ability to hear or speak. Not only was Edward born with hearing impairment, but his youngest brother, William, born after Sir Edward’s death, was also born with the same condition. Anne therefore raised two sons who could neither hear nor speak in the early 17th century when there was basically no help or guidance provided for children like them. Despite these challenges, the boys married, had children, and in Edward’s case, he inherited the baronetcy.

In 1648, when Edward (now Sir Edward, 3rd baronet) was 28 years old and his younger brother William was 18, John Bulwer published Philocophus: or, The deafe and dumbe mans friend, one of the earliest books on hearing loss. Bulwer was a physician who was an advocate for teaching the hearing impaired to lip read. Edward and William were likely patients of his at some point. Whatever their relationship to Bulwer was, it was clear that they knew each other well because Bulwer dedicated his book to both brothers:

For the Right Worpll Sir Edward Gostwicke, of Willington, in the County of Bedford, Baronet, And M William Gostwick his yong∣est Brother: and all other intelligent and ingenious Gentlemen, who as yet can neither heare nor speake. To be communicated unto them that can, and have acquaintance or alli∣ance with any whom it may concerne.

He stated that even though ” ‘lacking the faculty of speech’,” the Gostwicks have their whole bodies at their disposal ” ‘having a language more natural and significant, which is common to you with us, to wit gesture, the generall and naturall language of Humane nature’. ” This sparked an interest in educating the hearing impaired, and had Anne lived to see her two sons grown up, she would have been undoubtedly proud of them.

Sir William Gostwick’s Death and Sir Edward’s Provisions for His Family

Sir William Gostwick, father of Sir Edward, died on 19 September 1615 and was buried the next day in Willington church beneath a splendid monument. Sir Edward then inherited lands and the title of baronet from his father. Before he died, it appears that Sir Edward made a provision for his mother, Lady Jane. He gave her a life interest in the manor of Putnoe in Bedfordshire, and if for any reason she was evicted from that property, her dower would come from Sir William’s other manors. After her death, the Putnoe property would revert to Sir Edward and his heirs. It sounds as if Sir Edward was already in possession of Putnoe.

After his father’s death, Sir Edward set about to provide for the rest of his family members.

  • 13 May 1616 – Provisions for Sir Edward’s sisters – Deed that demised or leased land in Putnoe (after death of his mother Jane) to Sir Thomas Cheeke, Oliver Luke and others for 120 years. Sir Edward would then pay to his sisters money for their upkeep and their dowry at their marriage. His sister Mary would receive £30 per year until her marriage and £600 at her marriage. His sisters Elizabeth and Jane would receive £20 per year until they reach the age of 18 and £30 per year until their marriages. Both sisters would also receive £600 when they married.
  • 20 November 1617 – Provision for Sir Edward’s wife Lady Anne and his mother Lady Jane – Sir Edward placed the manor of Willington, the rectory, advowson (ability to appoint clergy), and all lands in Willington in trust with Sir Valentine Knightley and others for Lady Anne. (Sir Valentine Knightley was Lady Anne’s uncle. He married Anne Unton, Cecily (Unton) Wentworth’s sister). She would receive the profits of the land while she remained a widow, and if she remarried, she would be paid yearly rent. This was a life interest only. His mother, Lady Jane, would also receive the residue of the profits while she lived. After the death of Lady Anne, the profits would revert to Sir Edward and his heirs.
  • 1 September 1628 – Provisions for John and Francis Gostwick, brothers of Sir Edward – Land in Goldington and Cople were leased to “Sir Thomas Cheeke and others for 99 years for a peppercorn rent. John and Francis each to receive £20 p.a. during their minority and once they reach full age during their lifetimes, following which the lease to cease.”

The next set of provisions were made for Sir Edward’s children, it seems in lieu of a will. He would die just a few days later, so at this time, he must have known he was dying and wanted to ensure his children’s futures.

  • 15 September 1630 – Provisions for Sir Edward’s daughters – Sir Edward leased the manor of Westoning to “Doctor Bainebridge and others for 1000 years paying a peppercorn p.a. in trust to pay the marriage portion of his daughter Mary.” (Mary is my 11th great grandmother and had married Nicholas Spencer the year before.) This is where the summary on the document becomes a little confusing. It looks like her marriage portion was either £1100 or £4000. Also, the amount given to his other daughters is not very clear. But in any case, he had made provisions for his daughters.
  • 15 September 1630 – Provisions for Sir Edward’s sons, excepting his heir – Sir Edward gave his second son Thomas £100 per year and property that would provide an additional £100 per year. Dame Anne was about 8 months pregnant at this time, and unless Anne gave birth within the next few days, Sir Edward would never meet his child. So, if Dame Anne should have a son, he gave him £50 per year, and when he reached his majority, he would have £200 per year.
  • 15 September 1630 – Provision for the oldest son of his heir – Sir Edward also made a provision for the oldest son of his oldest son and heir, Edward. If Edward the younger had a son, he would have if the ward should have £200 per year when he reached his majority.

Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths

Sadly, Sir Edward died on 20 September 1630 at the age of 42, 15 years to the day of his father’s burial. [23] He was buried in Willington Church in the Gostwick Chapel. A beautiful monument affixed to the wall exhibits statues of him, his wife Anne, their 5 daughters who were alive at that time (Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne), and 2 sons who were living (Edward the heir and Thomas). The fact that the third and youngest son, William, is not represented on the monument indicates that it might have been erected by Dame Anne and before his birth in October 1630. The inscription would have been added later as it mentioned 3 sons. HOWEVER, I have not seen the monument in person. If you look to the left of the sons, there is something there. Could it be a cradle? Does this represent the youngest son, William? On my next trip, I will be sure to visit the church and see if I can make out that mystery image.

The burial monument in Gostwick Chapel

One of the saddest parts of this story is that Sir Edward died a month before his youngest child, William, was baptized. This would have been such a difficult thing for Dame Anne to endure.

Dame Anne only lived another three years. She died on 6 July 1633 and was buried with her husband. The most remarkable part of their deaths and burial is their burial monument. The inscriptions give such a sweet glimpse into their personal lives. Here is the first inscription:

To the memories of Sir Edward Gostwyke Knt. and Baronet, and Dame Anna his wife, eldest daughter of John Wentworth of Gosfield in Essex, Esqr., by whom he had issue 3 sonnes and 5 daughters. (They lived vertuously and died religiously). Shee in her widowhood like a true Turtle never joying after his departure till her dyinge Day.

Top half of the monument showing Sir Edward and Dame Anne
The bottom half showing seven of their children

Here is the second inscription:

On the death of Sir Edward Gostwyk Knight and Baronet. Chronogram. – Edward Gostwyk died 20th September, 1630, aged 42.

On the death of the most select Lady. Chronogram. – And the wife hastens to join her husband 6th July, 1633, Aged 42.

As a bright example of fidelity and social love, this marble is inscribed with the name of Gostwyk. They lived equal in piety and second to none. The one was quite wrapt up in the love of the other. He first yielded to fate, that she might not yield. She, however, was not a whit behind her husband in love. He, when he had numbered both thrice and four times six years (42), said, ‘O Anna, I have lived out my days,’ and fell asleep. She, when she had completed the years of her beloved husband, said, ‘O Edward, I have lived out mine,” and fell asleep. Thus they lived alike in mind, husband and wife; thus in life and mind alike they fell asleep. [24]

Isn’t that just beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful? They must have been truly in love with one another, and it was quite apparent to whoever commissioned the inscriptions.

A Few Observations

– The “turtle” mentioned in the inscription is actually a reference to a turtle dove, known for “the constancy of its affection.” Another sweet testament to their love.

– Thinking back on their clandestine marriage, the inscriptions shed a new light on the circumstances. I would be willing to assume that Sir Edward and Dame Anne were quite in love with one another, and perhaps the his parents in fact did not approve of their marriage. Whatever the reason, they were definitely in love and were ready to get married.

Dame Anne’s Life After Sir Edward’s Death

Anne did not long outlive her husband. But, during the years following his death and before her own, she had several new responsibilities. If a nobleman died during the minority of his male heir, the wardship of the heir would revert to the crown. Then, other men who could afford to purchase the wardship of the heir would do so and control his properties, provide for his education, and arrange his marriage. This was a much hated system, but such was the reality.

On 20 February 1631, King Charles I granted the wardship of the new baronet, Edward Gostwick, son of Sir Edward deceased and Lady Anne, to the following people:

  • Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Cleveland
  • Dame Anne Gostwick
  • Thomas Bainebridge of Cambridge, DD
  • George Keinsham of Tempsford
  • William Ashwell of the parish of St Nicholas Acons, London, merchant
  • William Farrar of Bedford
  • Francis Read of Willington

It is likely that these men were friends and associates of Sir Edward and Lady Anne. Evidence for this lies in Sir Edward’s provisions for his children. Dr. Thomas Bainebridge and “others” had the lease of the Westoning property. In the Bedfordshire Archives catalog, the “others” are not named. (I am not sure if they just aren’t named there, or if they aren’t named in the document itself.) The Earl of Cleveland was also named as the overseer of these provisions. Based on these facts, the “others” might be George Keinsham, William Ashwell, William Farrar, and Francis Read. It also shows that Sir Edward was personally acquainted with Dr. Bainebridge and the Earl of Cleveland.

Being granted the wardship of a nobleman’s son was often lucrative, but the trustees had to also fulfill their duties. For the honor of receiving the custody, wardship, and marriage of Edward Gostwick, their duties included:

  • Pay a fee to the Court of Wards and Liveries
  • Pay an additional fee if Edward died without children while a minor
  • Supply Edward with an education from money raised from his lands
  • “Defend his inheritance”
  • Appoint auditors to “verify schedules of manors”
  • Inform the court if new clergy need to be appointed to churches in Edward’s lands
  • Promise not to sell the wardship
  • Bring Edward before the Court to be evaluated every 4 years

The grant also outlined very specifically the properties Edward inherited. The following day, the same trustees were granted the ability to provide some additional income for the children of Sir Edward from parts of lands inherited by Edward the younger. The trustees paid a small fee to the Court of Wards and Liveries, and King Charles I granted the children of Sir Edward, deceased, use of certain properties:

  • third part of the manor or grange of Putnoe
  • third part of the manors of Willington, Cople, Goldington and Ravensden, rectories of Willington and Ravensden and advowson of vicarages or churches of Willington and Ravensden
  • third part of 25 messuages, 10 cottages, 700 acres of land, 60 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 50 acres of wood and 40s rent rent in Willington, Cople, Ravensden, Renhold, Goldington, Clapham, Thurleigh and Putnoe, value £49 p.a.
  • third part of moiety of the Barony of Bedford
  • third part of common of pasture of Beeston Leazow in Northill, value 20s p.a.
    – amounting to total yearly value of £50

As Dame Anne was one of the purchasers of Edward’s wardship, she shared in all of these responsibilities. She was probably eager to safeguard the inheritance of her son Edward, as well as that of her other children.

Dame Anne’s Will

It is always thrilled when I find a will for any family member, but for me, it is incredibly special when I find one for an ancestress. For many women, it is one of the few places where their voices can truly be heard. Even better, Dame Anne left a will in 1633. 1633! That is 386 year ago!

Below are a few of the most important or genealogically interesting sections of her will:

In the name of God Amen, The fifteenth day of May in the year of our lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one Thousand five hundred therty three I Ann Gostwicke widdowe late wyfe of Sr Edward Gostwicke of Willington in the County of Bedford beinge att the the time in reasonable helth and perfect Remembrance for which I doe blesse and praise Allmighty God…

I bequeath my soule to Allmighty God…

My body I committ to the earth from where ytt came to be privately buryed in the Parish of Willington in that Church so neare my dear husband as…will permitt and appoint my beloved Cosen Mr William Ashwell Gentleman and Merchant of London to bee my sole Executour…

I doe bequeath to Mr Hoyvill Preacher of Gods word in Willington the summe of fforty shillinges to Mr Cookson Minister twenty five shillinges to Mr Rydings Minister twenty two shillinges to my Cosen Panmer minister twenty two shillinges to buy them gold Ringes wth deathes hands

I doe bequeath to my sister…my ringe sett wth greene stones and three other ringes I have allready given wth my owne hands

the rest of my Jewells I doe give my Daughter Elizabeth and Ffrancis Gostwicke to bee equally devided

I doe bequeath my sister Katheryn Wentworth a silver porrindge of forty shillinges

I doe bequeath my dahter Mary Spencer my two silver candlesticks

I doe bequeath to my sister [Diana] Bowles fowre children twenty two shillinges a peece

I doe bequeath to my Gentlewoman Mary Payne my gowne and petticote of black satten and the summe of Tenn poundes of lawfull English money

all my other apparell I doe bequeath to my fowre daughters Bes Ffrank Joane and Anne to be distributed Bes to choose first then Frank

I doe bequeath all my child bedd linen…to my house of Willington and all damaske and diaper and all sets of table linnen whatsoever all holland sheetes and pillow…to be safely kept to remain to the house as long as they will endure wth carefull usage

and for all the ordinary howshowld sheets I doe bequeath to my two daughters Bes and Ffranke to bee equally devided but not to bee given them till they bee maryed

I doe bequeath to my servant Ffrancis Reade the summe of forty shillings and to my servant Masson twenty shillinges and to my two Chambermaydes each of them twenty shillinges and to the rest of my yearly servants tenn shillinges a peece and to the poore of Willington yf I bee buryed there fforty shillinges yf I die in London forty shillinges to the uphowldinge of that Parish Church in which God called mee

all the rest of my estate whatsoever I doe bequeath to my Executor performinge my will

as for the goods I tooke to my owne use I can owe noe money uppon them consideringe I have kept all my Children in meate and apparell even since the diparture of their deare ffather…

Signed Anne Gostwick [25]

Dame Anne’s Will – Observations

What an amazing will! There are so many points to discuss!

  • “Dear Husband”

After reading through the will again after writing about the burial monument, the sincerity of her use of “dear husband” or “deare ffather” really struck me. It seems that she was very much in love with him, and her request to be buried as close to him as possible was very sweet.

  • Missing Children *UPDATE*

There were several important people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would inherit the majority of his father’s property. Her other two sons, Thomas and William, were both under 10 years old. I am wondering if some other provisions were made for the sons elsewhere. This will go on the list of “things to research!”

My original assumption was correct. Sir Edward did make provisions for his children before his death, including his sons, as well as for Dame Anne and his mother, Lady Jane Lister. When Anne made her will, she was only disposing of the property that was in her power to distribute. It appears that she was making sure that her daughters received some of her favorite or more precious (whether value or sentimental) possessions.

  • Daughters and Bequests

She was sure to include all of her daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne. I love that she used some her daughters’ nicknames rather than their full names: Bes for Elizabeth, Franke for Francis, and Joan for Jane. That brings a bit of personality and private life to a very formal document.

Interestingly, I had assumed that both Mary and Elizabeth were married by Anne’s death. Mary (my 11th great grandmother) married Nicholas Spencer, Esquire on 20 January 1629 in Ravensden, Bedfordshire. Mary’s wedding was the only one attended by both of her parents. [26] A license was take out on 13 March 1632 for Elizabeth to marry Miles Matthews. Their license, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite informative:

1632-Mch. 13 – Miles Matthews, of Bishop’s Hatfield, co. Herts, Esq., Bachr, 33, & Elizabeth Gostwicke, Spr, 23, dau. of Sir Edward Gostwick, late of Willington Herts, Kt & Bart, decd., with consent of her mother Dame Ann Gostwicke, of Willington afsd, Widow, at St. Faith’s London, or Wormleigh, co. Herts. [27]

This is definitely my Bess, as the parents listed in her license leave no room for doubt there. However, in Anne’s will, Elizabeth is not named with her married last name (Matthews), but Mary is named as Mary Spencer. To me, this seems a little odd. Wouldn’t Elizabeth be called Elizabeth or Bess Matthews? I am not convinced that the marriage actually took place. In the Baronetage, Elizabeth reportedly married Francis Reading of Willington, and indeed, there is a marriage that took place in London for a Francys Reade and Eliz. Gostwick on 20 Feb 1638 at Allhallows London Wall, London. It seems that the first marriage didn’t take place and she married someone else 5 years later. (I also found a will for a Matthew Miles, gent., of London, and he named his wife as Jane.)

In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and London. Because Elizabeth’s marriage was to take place either in Hertfordshire (where Miles Matthews was from) or at St. Faith’s Church in London, I assume that Dame Anne was possibly living in that London parish. St. Faith’s Church is longer standing, but it was attached to the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is likely the Parish church to which Dame Anne was referring in her will. Notably, Dame Anne gave her consent for their marriage, different from her own clandestine marriage.

Mary only received silver candlesticks, but she had likely been given other items upon her marriage. Her sisters received clothing, jewels, and ordinary house linen. As the main house in Willington would go to her son, Dame Anne wanted all the best linen to stay with the house.

  • Anne’s Children

Anne’s children were not very old when she made the bequests and provisions in her will on 15 May 1633. The ages are calculated based on their baptism records.

Elizabeth – 22; license taken out (according to her baptism; her marriage record from the year before says 23 years old)

Mary – 21; married

Frances – 18

Jane – 15

Edward – 13

Thomas – 12

Anne – 9

William – 3

With their ages in mind, were the unmarried children (Frances, Jane, Edward, Thomas, Anne, and William) living with after the death of their parents? All of the provisions made by Sir Edward and Anne’s will did not clarify this issue. Perhaps Edward the heir remained on his estates in Willington, watched by some of his guardians. But, I believe that I may have discovered where they were living at least in the 1630s. The children’s paternal grandmother, Lady Jane, was still living during this time. She had remarried Sir Matthew Lister, a prominent physician, in 1625 in London. Sir Matthew became a royal physician to both King James I and King Charles I. It seems likely that when Lady Jane married him, she lived with him in London until her death and welcomed her grandchildren by her son, Sir Edward, into her home.

I have several reasons for believing this:

  • Jane, the daughter of Sir Edward and Lady Anne, was married in the City of London at the St. Andrew in the Wardrobe Church. Here is the license:

William Oliver, gent., of St. Martin in the Fields, bachelor, 26, and Jane Gostwicke, of same, spinster, 21, daughter of Edward Gostwicke, of Willington, Beds, gent., who consentes – at St. Andrew in the Wardrobe. 1 April 1636. B.

Obviously, her father, Sir Edward, had been dead since 1630, so he could not have given consent. Was “daughter” a mistake? Should it have said “sister”? This could be a possibility. However, her brother Edward was only 16 and could not have given consent without his guardian’s approval.

The answer is a little more complicated. In a Chancery bundle (which I haven’t seen; but I have the reference and a quote from it), it states that Jane, the daughter of Sir Edward, forfeited part of her share the inheritance (marriage portion) set aside by her father because she married without the consent of the trustees, i.e. the Earl of Cleveland, etc. She had married “an ordinary servant” who was employed in her grandmother’s house, Lady Jane Lister.

Jane also misrepresented her age, probably intentionally, when she applied for the licesne. She stated her age as 21 in April 1636, when in fact, she was only 17 (based on her baptism, and assuming she was probably born within the same month or so as her baptism). Not only did she marry without consent, she married underage and provided false information about her age and parental consent. Because of these circumstances, she forfeited half of her inheritance from her father’s estates. About 20 years later, after a suit in Chancery, the Olivers received the remainder of her inheritance.

This answers a few questions, and brings up more. Jane was likely living with her grandmother and Sir Matthew Lister in the 1630s, which is how she met William Oliver. If she was with her grandmother, the rest of her younger siblings were likely living with her as well. Other records show that Sir Matthew Lister was renting property from John Milton (the famous author) in St. Martin in the Fields during the 1630s, and he completed the purchase of it in 1638. That matches the addresses of both Jane and William Oliver in their marriage license.

Did her grandmother know about this romance and disapprove? Did the trustees refuse consent, or did she just marry William without seeking it? Was she a romantic like her parents and married the man she loved no matter the consequences? Did they lie about Sir Edward’s consent so that they could obtain the license, because he was not alive to refuse it?

  • Mary, one of the younger siblings of Sir Edward (d. 1630) also married in London, just two years later. She was also living with her mother, Lady Jane, and her step father, Sir Matthew, in the 1630s. Her address is St. Martin in the Fields, just like Jane Oliver and Sir Matthew. Here is the license:

Sir Maurice Williams, of St. Martin in the Fields, bachelor, 50, and Mary Gostick, of same, spinster, 26, consent of her father-in-law, Sir Matthew Lister – at St. Anne, Blackfriars, Christchurch, London, St. Faith, or St. Martin aforesaid. 15 May, 1638. B.

But, perhaps, some of these conclusions aren’t quite correct, in regards to where the children were living. It is very possible that they were living on the estates in Bedfordshire, and only came to town periodically to visit their grandmother. I am hoping that by examining some of the Chancery Court records concerning Jane’s marriage to William Oliver, more details will come to light.

  • Bequests to Servants

Dame Anne also left items and money to her servants. This gives me just a little insight into Anne’s daily life. As the wife of a Baronet, she was constantly surrounded by servants who helped her care for her children, run her house, and run her estates.

She names first her gentlewoman, Mary Payne, to whom she bequeaths a gown and petticoat of black satin and some money. A gentlewoman, used in this context, refers to a lady’s companion. A lady’s companion was a woman of genteel birth whose social status was slightly lower than the lady whom she was serving. Mary Payne, therefore, was probably from a respectable family, and though she wasn’t a serving girl, she was not the social equal of Dame Anne. Her main duties would include spending time with Dame Anne, reading to her or with her, providing conversation, and general companionship. She would be paid an allowance, would sleep in nice rooms in the home, help entertain, and accompany her mistress to social events. It seems that Dame Anne was a bit sad and lonely after the death of Sir Edward, so Mary Payne probably helped cheer her.

Dame Anne needed other female servants to perform other tasks within the household. Francis Reade was also given money, and was simply called a servant. She was likely the woman who supervised the other servants within the house, purchased items for the house, and kept accounts. Frances could possibly be a lady’s maid, who would have been in charge or dressing Dame Anne, caring for her clothes, running errands, and taking care of any personal issues her mistress might have.

Dame Anne also mentions two chambermaids, but does not give their names. The chambermaids would have been in charge of taking care of the rooms within the house, tending the fires, changing linen, and other small tasks the mistress needed completed.

The only male servant named was Masson, and he could have been tasked with any number of things, from accounts to horses.

Dame Anne also employed an unspecified number of other servants who she engaged on a yearly basis. These servants were probably house maids, kitchen maids, grooms, and page boys. These servants could also refer to any person who worked on the estate in any capacity.

I think it is fair to say that Dame Anne lived a life that was materially comfortable. She born into some luxury, married a baronet, and had a gaggle of servants to see to her and her family’s every need. Dame Anne is a good example of a 17th-century noble woman who lived a fairly typical upper class life.


Thank you for staying with me until the end of this long post! The more research I conducted on Dame Anne, the more I came to really connect with her. I think her love story is so sweet, especially for a the 17th century, though incredibly sad at the same time. Her will is definitely a treasure, and it provided such a fantastic window into the life of a noble woman. I am certainly fortunate to have found so much information about an ancestress who lived so long ago.

1. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

2. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 46.

3. Westminster Abbey, (Westminster, London, England), Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset monumental inscription, read by R. Vaughn, 23 April 2018.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 48.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 42-48.

5. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_850372096 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for John Wentworth-Cicely Unton, 9 Mar 1580.

6. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 166.

7. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

8. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 167-168.

8. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 29th-32nd pgs., baptisms of John Wentworth’s children (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

9. Frederic Augustus Blaydes, ed., The Visitations of Bedfordshire, Annis Domini 1566, 1582, and 1634 (London: 1884), 34.

10. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

11. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 7th p., Gostwick-Wentworth marriage (1608); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

12. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

13. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_850372096 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Elizabeth Gostwick, 17 Mar 1611.

14. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963892902 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Mary Ghostwicke, 26 Dec 1612.

15. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_952291008 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Fraunces Gostwick, 19 Feb 1615.

16. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963895974 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Willia Ghostwick, 12 Sep 1616.

17. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963893605 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Jane Ghostwicke, 20 Oct 1618.

18. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963998834 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Edward Gostwyke, 30 Mar 1620.

19. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963996557 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Thomas Gostwicke, 3 Jul 1621.

20. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963996557 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Hannah Gostwyke, 9 Dec 1622.

21. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_944958059 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Anne Gostoyke, 12 Aug 1624.

22. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_22086092225 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for William Gostwyke, 17 Oct 1630.

23. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

24. The Home Counties Magazine, Devoted to the Topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent, vol. 9 (London: Reynell & Son, 1907), 154.

25. Dame Ann Gostwicke will, Willington, Bedfordshire, 1633; PROB 11/163/736, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Wills and Letters of Administration, The National Archives, Kew, England; imaged at “Discovery,” database, The National Archives (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D866438 : accessed 11 May 2019).

26. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_843921232 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Nicholas Spencer-Mary Gostwicke marriage, 20 Jan 1629.

27. Frederick Augustus Blaydes, ed., Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, vol. 2 (Bedford: F. Hockliffe, 1889), 74.