Twelve – Dame Anne Gostwick, 12th Great Grandmother

This week, I took some inspiration from the “10” prompt from 2018, which featured my 10th great grandfather, Nicholas Spencer. So here is “12,” a post about my 12th great grandmother, Dame Anne Gostwick.

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 Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, 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, Countess of Warwick. [2] Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne Seymour, 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] 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.

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]

Translated:

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.

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, whose father was not titled though he bore his family’s arms? I suppose this is quite possible. Even though his parents were titled, Anne’s family was impressive.

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 why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story!

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 at least 8 children who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, William, Thomas, Anne, Jane, and Frances. The children 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) [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 [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. 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.

Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths

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. 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 adult daughters, and 2 of their sons.

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. It is possible that he met his son before his death, but it is equally as possible that he missed his birth and baptism. 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 Will

Sir Edward did not leave a will, but Dame Anne did. I am 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 owne — 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

There were several people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned in her will. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would automatically 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!”

  • 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.

Both Mary and Bess were married. 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] Bess married Miles Matthews on 13 March 1632. 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. In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and St. Faith’s Parish in London. 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.

  • 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 estate.

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.

Conclusion

This was such a long post, so thanks for staying with me until the end! 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.

Father’s Day – John Bray of London

For the Mother’s Day post, I wrote about my female ancestor who had the most  children (that I know of). This Father’s Day post is somewhat similar, but the subject matter is quite sad. Of all of the ancestors I have found thus far, John Bray lost the most children. For him, as with many men, fatherhood was mixed with great joy and great sadness.

John Bray, my 12th great grandfather, lived and worked in the City of Westminster in London for the majority of his life. No baptismal record exists, and his parentage is unknown. The earliest mention of a John Bray in Westminster is in the will of Edward Dudley, also of St. Margaret’s Parish in the City of Westminster, on 1 July 1542. Dudley made the following bequest to John: “Item, I bequeth to John Bray, my horsse, brydell and saddell, and my new colloryd cloke.” This is likely my John Bray, but other than similar names and location, no other identifying information can prove it one way or the other.

St. Margaret’s Church in the City of Westminster, London

The first record absolutely associated with my John Bray is the record of his marriage at St. Margaret’s Church on 13 August 1553 to Margaret Haslonde. St. Margaret’s is a beautiful church that served (and still serves) the parishioners in Westminster. It is located next to the famous Westminster Abbey and is the church for the House of Commons. The church was largely rebuilt in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and this “new” church makes up the majority of the present church today.

Interestingly, this church and my ancestors who lived in the parish have a connection with another of my ancestors, William Seymour Duke of Somerset (15th great grandfather). In 1540, William planned to dismantle the church and use the building materials in Somerset House, his mansion on the Strand. He was prevented from doing so by armed and angry parishioners. If the Bray or Haslonde families were living in the parish in 1540, they may have been some of the protestors protecting the church.

Martyrdom of William Flower

John Bray became very involved with St. Margaret’s and was appointed a churchwarden in 1554, 1555, and 1556. In 1555, he gave witness testimony in the case of William Flower, a protestant man who assaulted a priest of St. Margaret’s Church on Easter during a service. John was attending church during the incident. Flower was convicted, his hand was cut off, and he was burned alive in St. Margaret’s churchyard.

John was also a successful tailor and a member of the Merchant Taylor’s Company, the most prestigious guild in London. In 1607, John provided some of the wine for a dinner held by the guild for King James I and his family, which John most likely attended.

He was also involved in local government, serving as a Burgess for the City of Westminster in 1585.

Interior of St. Margaret’s Church

John and Margaret’s first recorded child was John, likely named for his father, baptized on 30 Dec 1554. Sadly, little John only lived to be almost 4 months old. He was buried on 28 April 1555.

Their next child was a girl, Margaret, baptized on 17 Feb 1557 at St. Margaret’s. She only lived to be about two weeks old and was buried 2 March 1557.

In about 1558, Margaret gave birth to her third child, Lawrence, who was baptized at St. Margaret’s on 11 October 1558. Lawrence was the first child to live to be older than 4 months old. This must have been such a happy change for John and Margaret.

Margaret and John’s fourth child, Joan, was likely born in June 1560. Joan lived long enough to be given a name, but not long enough to be baptized. She was buried on 27 Jun 1560, probably a few days after she was born.

Thomas, the couple’s fifth child and third son, was most likely born around 1562, although his baptismal record has not been located. He also lived past his first year.

Mary, my ancestress, was baptized on 24 December 1564 at St. Margaret’s Church. Mary was John and Margaret’s only child who lived to adulthood and had children of her own.

John and Margaret’s last two children, both boys and both named Henry, also died young. The older Henry was baptized on 6 October 1566, and younger Henry on 4 Feb 1568. The older Henry must have died prior to the birth of the younger Henry, and the younger Henry likely also died young as no other record of him has been found. He was certainly dead by 1615, but likely much sooner.

By 1570, John was the father of 3 living children – Lawrence, Thomas, and Mary – and possibly 4 if the younger Henry was still alive. However, 1570 would prove to be a difficult year for a father. Thomas died at the age of 8 and was buried on 22 March. Lawrence died within days of his brother, and was buried two days later on 24 March at the age of 12. Thomas and Lawrence likely died of the same disease.

John was the father of 8 children, 7 of whom died as children. Only Mary lived to be an adult, married, and had children herself. Similarly to her parents, only 3 of her 9 children lived to have children of their own.

Margaret was buried on 28 March 1588, and it seems that John never remarried. He continued to live in Westminster until his death which took place before 6 December 1615. Mary (Bray) Whitney and her husband Thomas were named as executors of John’s will. Unfortunately, the will no longer exists. But it does show that Mary probably continued to have a relationship with her father, and I hope that it was a good one. I hope that John was a good father to the only child that he saw grow up. He certainly worked hard to provide for his family, even if it wasn’t as large as he would have hoped.

John, having no living sons of his own, seemed to take quite an interest in his namesake, his grandson John Whitney. in 1607, the same year as the guild dinner for James I, John Whitney entered into an apprenticeship to be a tailor just like his grandfather. As an adult, John Whitney also became a full member of the Merchant Taylor’s guild. Even though John’s father placed him in the apprenticeship, his grandfather John probably had a hand in it.

Some fathers experience more hardship than others, and John was certainly one of those. Loosing so many children (as well as his wife) would naturally be hard on any father, but I hope that he found some solace and comfort in his daughter and his grandchildren.

So Far Away – From London to Bermuda to Virginia

This ancestor, Reverend William Swift, is one of my favorites because I have been able to conduct so much original research on his life and family. After spending so much time with William (even visiting England for research and to see places associated with his life), I feel as though I know him fairly well! Or as well as I possibly can without actually meeting him.

William’s life was a quite interesting one, even though it was short. He sadly only lived to be 39 years old. His grandfather and father were both gentlemen of some means from southern England. William was the middle son, and as such, he did not inherit the leases held by his father. Instead, he was slated for a career. At the age of 15, he was sent to London to attend the Merchant Taylors School. It was a famous public school that by the early 18th century was competitive to enter as it almost guaranteed the pupils would attend a university after their training was complete. William was one of the 33 fortunate boys to matriculate on 7 March 1710/11 under the guidance of Headmaster Thomas Parsell. As William was not from London, he boarded at the school while it was in session.

Emmanuel College, Cambridge

After finishing school, he was accepted to Emmanuel College at Cambridge University as a sizar on 16 June 1714. This meant that he was essentially a scholarship student. He likely assisted wealthier students in some way or performed other jobs around the college as a way to pay for his education. William studied divinity, and he graduated with a BA in 1718.

Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester

He received his deacons order on 8 June 1718 from Bishop Francis Atterbury, a Jacobite who openly supported Bonnie Prince Charlie over the Hanoverian rulers. Atterbury later examined William for his ordination on 5 December 1719.

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop John Robinson

William passed his examination, and 15 days later, he was ordained a priest by Bishop John Robinson at the newly rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

 

 

 

 

 

William accepted a curate position in Kent, which he held for several years until he accepted a ministerial role on the island of Bermuda as the rector of the Southampton, Sandys, Warwick, and Paget parishes. After living in Cambridge and London for many years, Bermuda would prove to be a huge challenge for William. On 8 May 1722, he received the King’s bounty of 20 pounds for his appointment in Bermuda. Two months later, on 6 July 1722, he married Dinah Hodgkins at the St. Dunstans in the West Church in London. William and Dinah likely sailed for Bermuda soon after their marriage. William and Dinah traveled 3,447 miles to Bermuda.

William and Dinah were first mentioned in public records in Bermuda on 7 January 1723/4, where it was recorded that he was paid for his services in the parish of Southampton.  In September of 1726, it was recorded in the minutes that William had still not taken the oath of allegiance to King George I, and on 2 April 1728, he was allowed to carry a pistol to the Devonshire Church.

Living conditions were not very good on the island, and William was being paid very little. He and Dianh became unhappy with their situation after just four years in Bermuda. To make matters more difficult, William and Dinah’s oldest children, William and Thomas, were both born in Bermuda. Sometime in 1726, William requested to be transferred to a new parish somewhere other than Bermuda. The Bishop of London, Edmund Gibson, granted his request, and he was supposed to wait in Bermuda until his replacement arrived. But by May 1728, William was no longer willing to wait, and he and his young family sailed from Bermuda to Virginia. This was a journey of 759 miles.

Sir William Gooch

His arrival in Virginia was reported by Governor William Gooch to Bishop Gibson in a letter written on May 26, 1728 from Williamsburg:

“The last week came in hither the Revd: Mr: Wm Swift from Bermudas: He shew’d me his orders, and a Letter from your Lordship…Upon which I told him that I was sorry to find he had not complied with your Lordship Instructions. He is much esteem’d by Those that are acquainted with him, and appears from the little knowledge I have of him, to be a Gentleman very deserving. I must confess from the general Character of that Place (Bermuda), where all sorts of Provisions are very scarce, and consequently dear, and the allowance to Ministers but small, how he could stay there so long as he did, which he said was wholly owing to your Lordship’s letter, that abated both my wonder & resentment, especially as he had a Family to provide for. I hope therefore your Lordship will not blame me, if to relieve a man from such circumstances, I immediately sent him to a Parish in this Country St. Martin’s in Hanover County, where I am confident he will be very easie, and faithfully discharge his duty in the care of souls.”

Reverend James Blair

Reverend James Blair, the minister of the James City Parish in Williamsburg and founder and president of William and Mary College, also wrote to Bishop Gibson of William’s arrival and character:

“Williamsburgh in Virginia, June 8, 1728

There is lately come into this Colony from Bermudas a Clergyman, who seems to promiss well. He has a wife and three children, I have a good character of him from some Gentleman that knew him in that Country. He gives a good description of the … straits to which he was reduced in it. His name is William Swift. His deacons orders are June. 8. 1718. from the late Bp of Rochester and his Presbyters orders Dec. 20. 1719 from Bp John Robinson. I find by a letter of your Lordship to him about two years ago, you was acquainted with his design of removing out of that Countrey; but but he had not then your Lops positive permission. I thought it my duty to acquaint your Lop of this.”

William and his family settled into the new parish, which had just been created that year in Hanover County. Throughout 1728 and 1729, William also ministered at the King William Parish in Goochland County, where he purchased 2000 acres of land in 1730. A few years later, he purchased an additional 800 acres, and sold off a few smaller portions.

Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London

Sadly, William did not enjoy his life in Virginia for very long. William died between 1 April 1734, his final land transaction date, and 11 August 1734, when his death was reported to the Bishop of London. Reverend James Blair wrote:

We have lately lost two Ministers, the first Mr Swift, who came some years ago from Bermuda with a wife and several children, whom he has left in very poor circumstances.”

Although William died when he was still young, he traveled an impressive 4,206 miles, from London to Bermuda to Virginia during his life, plus travel between his home town and London, and Cambridge and his home town, and his travels throughout Virginia. He and his wife died very far away from the places of their births, and due to the struggles they endured during their marriage, I wonder if they thought traveling so far from home was worth it in the end.