Document of the Month, September 2015: Derwentwater correspondence, 1716

Katharine Schofield, Archivist

September’s Document of the Month is a collection of letters and a printed copy of a speech by James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, written as his execution for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion approached (D/DP F273/2-6, 37). The letters were written to his wife, his mother, and his wife’s parents, and discuss the heartbreak of leaving his wife, his hope for forgiveness and happiness in the afterlife, and care of his brother and children.

James Radclyffe 3rd Earl of Derwentwater

Engraving of James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater by George Vertue, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1716 (National Portrait Gallery)

The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 was the attempt made by the Old Pretender, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart to claim the throne.  James II succeeded his brother Charles II in 1685 but his Catholicism made him unpopular with his subjects.  In 1688 James’s Protestant son-in-law William, Prince of Orange and daughter Mary were invited to England and James fled abroad.  The Glorious Revolution established a Protestant monarchy and after Mary’s sister Queen Anne died in 1714 the crown passed to George, Elector of Hanover (George I).

The Earl of Derwentwater's letter to his in-laws as his execution approached, telling them how much he loved their daughter and apologising for the unhappiness he had brought to her

The Earl of Derwentwater’s letter to his in-laws as his execution approached, telling them how much he loved their daughter and apologising for the unhappiness he had brought to her

On 6 September 1715 the Earl of Mar raised the Old Pretender’s standard at Braemar, beginning the rebellion.  Most of the armed conflict took place in Scotland, but in October there was a rising in Northumberland in which James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater and his brother Charles (later 5th Earl) took part.  They joined with Scottish Jacobites (from the Latin Jacobus or James) and reached as far as Preston where they were defeated and surrendered to the Government forces on 12-14 November.  By the time the Old Pretender landed at Peterhead on 22 December, the Jacobite army was heavily outnumbered and he left defeated in February 1716.

Earl of Derwentwater speech

Printed copy of the speech made by the Earl of Derwentwater at his execution

The Earl of Derwentwater was convicted of high treason and executed on Tower Hill on 24 February 1716.  Many of Derwentwater’s final letters to his family survive among the Petre family records, as his daughter Mary married the 8th Lord Petre.

In 1745 the Old Pretender’s son Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie) made another unsuccessful attempt to claim the Crown.  Derwentwater’s brother Charles had managed to escape abroad in 1716, but was executed for his part in the 1745 rebellion.

The documents will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout September 2015.

Chelmsford Then and Now: The Saracen’s Head

In the second in our series looking at the history of Chelmsford High Street, Ashleigh Hudson looks at the Saracen’s Head Hotel. Find out more about the project here.

The Saracen’s Head was first recorded on the site of Number 3 High Street in 16th century parish registers. Remarkably the Saracen’s Head continues to occupy the same site today, having served as a popular and well frequented establishment for nearly five hundred years.

Saracen's Head Chelmsford

The Saracen’s Head today at the north end of Chelmsford High Street

Walker map Saracen's Head

Extract from the 1591 Walker map of Chelmsford. The Saracen’s Head is the third building down on the eastern side of the High Street, opposite the old Market Cross, where the market and court hearings took place. The property backs onto ‘Saracen’s Head Meade’ (D/DM P1).

John Walker’s map of Chelmsford includes eleven inns dotted along the high street in the 16th century. On the site of 3 High Street sat The Saracen’s Head inn; a large, two storey property constructed from timber. Chelmsford was ideally situated on the road to London and therefore made a welcome resting point for weary travellers. The survey which accompanies Walker’s map tells us that Richard Brett was in charge at the time:

The Sarazens Hedd – an Inn with buildings, gardens, curtilages, and orchards, Richard Brett also holds a piece of waste in front of the Sarazens hedd in length “xv foote of assise and in breadeth Easte and West vj foote, for moveable stalles to be used in the market time.”

 

The Saracen’s Head grew into one of the largest inns on the high street, boasting an impressive 18 hearths according the Hearth Tax Assessment conducted in 1671.

Chelmsford’s growing prosperity and increasing trade facilitated the redevelopment of the property in the early 18th century. Owner Thomas Nicholls took a second mortgage out on the Saracen’s Head, describing the property as ‘lately erected and new built’ in 1724. Development came at a price and unfortunately Nicholls was unequipped to pay it. He defaulted on the mortgage repayments and the property subsequently passed to William Taylor. Despite Nicholls’ personal financial shortcomings, the Saracen’s Head continued to prosper into the 19th century. We are fortunate to have a beautifully written will belonging to Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake which reveals the growing wealth of the town’s tradesmen. Lake was able to bequeath twenty pounds each to his mother and sister as well as an annuity of thirty pounds to be paid over their lifetime. While many of the original Tudor inns were either demolished or replaced by various retail establishments, the Saracen’s Head continued to thrive and proved itself a profitable establishment.

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The will of Saracen’s Head innkeeper George Lake in 1845. (D/ABW 137/1/144)

From the late 18th century, inns increasingly provided an important social space in the heart of town. The Saracen’s Head, as one of the largest inns on the high street, was a popular venue of choice and hosted a whole range of activities, clubs and events.

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Photograph taken from the north end of the High Street in the late 19th century. The Saracen’s Head can be seen just behind the Sebastopol Cannon which has since been moved to Oaklands Park.

The Chelmsford Beefsteak Club met once a month at the inn where they had their own cellar reserved. Every summer the inn accommodated the Flowerists feast and prior to the construction of the Shire Hall in 1791, the Saracen’s Head hosted various concerts and balls. Advertisements were frequently placed in local newspapers announcing the events which attracted visitors from across the county.

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The Chelmsford cycling club posing outside the Saracen’s Head in the 1890s (I/LS/CFD/00006)

The Saracen’s Head was equally popular with local residents, who perhaps appreciated the long history of the ancient establishment. Mayor of Chelmsford Frederick Spalding recalled:

“…the little back room, which I remember very well, was what one might call a club room, because every seat in it during the evening was occupied by some well-known resident of Chelmsford… If you were at any time permitted to go into this room and happened to seat yourself on any particular chair you would be politely told that at 7 o’clock, when Mr. – came in, you would have to vacate it.”

During the Second World War, the Saracen’s Head opened its doors to the American Red Cross. Known locally as the ‘American Club’, the hostel provided sleeping accommodation for up to 30 men as well as providing meals for up to 300 soldiers per day. The hostel was kept separate from the Saracen Head’s main bars and even had its own entrance. The Chelmsford Chronicle hastened to reassure residents that the opening of the American Club ‘would in no way affect the bars, which will be carried on as usual’.

The American officers were a visible and constant presence on the High Street during the war years. The photograph below captured in 1942 depicts numerous American officers, dressed in full uniform, posing outside the Saracen’s Head. A large sign reading ‘American Red Cross Service Club’ dominates the main entrance, while an American flag flutters overhead.

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The Saracen’s Head Hotel during the Second World War when it was used as a club for the American Armed Forces. (SCN 552)

 The hostel also acted as an important social hub where American soldiers could relax and mix with the locals. In the photograph below numerous American officers can be seen relaxing inside the hostel, clearly enjoying the comfortable and even homely interiors.

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The Saracen’s Head provided hot meals for up to 300 American soldiers per day. (SCN 547)

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Over 150 women from the Chelmsford area volunteered their services at the new American Club. (SCN 548)

The American officers reportedly enjoyed their time in Chelmsford with a survey conducted by the Chronicle establishing that 32 out of 40 American soldiers very much liked Chelmsford, although all were excited to ultimately get back home. A young American Lieutenant is quoted:

“Your town is much bigger, and has more services than we expected… We have been very agreeably surprised. Many of our boys are now almost members of some Chelmsford families, who took the initiative in the early days of our arrival and made us so much at home… Most of us think that Chelmsford is a real swell place, with grand people in it.”

The ‘American Club’ came to represent a period of harmonious relations between Britain and the US. Over 150 young women in Chelmsford volunteered to work at the club and countless Chelmsford residents interacted with the American soldiers socially on a daily basis. Such was the legacy of these relations, both in Chelmsford and Essex as a whole, that the Essex Anglo-American Goodwill Association was created to foster continued relations and perhaps engage with Americans who were sent here as soldiers, but who might one day return as tourists.

By the end of July 1945, the ‘American Club’ closed, although the Saracen’s Head did not officially resume pre-war functionality until 1948. In January of that year the Essex Newsman warmly declared ‘Welcome back the Saracen’s Head!’ noting that after the long period of war service the hotel was at last able to come into its own again.

Many inns have disappeared from the High Street since the creation of the Walker map in 1591, but the Saracen’s Head continues to operate under the same name and from the same site as in the 16th century. This extraordinary achievement is a testament to the popularity of the premises in question. Nonetheless, the nature of the business has changed a great deal over time. Originally a resting point for weary travellers, the Saracen’s Head increasingly became a social establishment, providing an entertaining venue for visitors and residents alike. Today the Saracen’s Head is a popular social destination for a whole new generation of Chelmsford residents.

If you would like to find out more about this ancient building, try searching for the Saracen’s Head on Seax. Alternatively see Hilda Grieves’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows in the ERO Library.

Transatlantic letters: from Boston to Romford

This letter from Robert C Anderson, a researcher looking at the social connections between the earliest settlers in New England, tells of an exciting discovery in the archives at Essex Record Office.

At the end of September I was following in the footsteps of an earlier historian in his work on Rev Stephen Marshall of Wethersfield and Finchingfield.  One of the citations he gave was D/DMs C2.

When I submitted my order for this item it brought forth a bundle of about a dozen letters written to various members of the Mildmay family.  Once I had studied the letter relating to Marshall I looked through the remaining items in the bundle.

To my surprise two of the letters [D/DMs C4/5 and D/DMs C4/7] were written by Michael Powell of Boston, Massachusetts to Carew Mildmay of Romford, Essex, one in 1649 and one in 1651.  To the best of my knowledge these letters have never been published nor even mentioned in the literature.  This was an exciting discovery and one which I am keen to bring to a wider audience in America through my ongoing work on the migration from England to New England in the 1620s and 1630s and the associated website of my project, www.greatmigration.org.

Michael Powell to Carew Mildmay

One of the letters from Michael Powell in Boston to Carew Mildmay in Romford (D/DMs C4/7)

Michael Powell was born in England about 1605 and married Abigail Bedle of Wolverston, Suffolk.  They emigrated to New England in 1639 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, possibly following Rev Timothy Dalton who had been minister at Wolverston until leaving for the New World in 1636.  Powell and his family initially lived in Dedham but in 1648 they moved to Boston where Powell was a lay preacher in the Second (Old North) Church.  He was ruling elder there until his death in 1673.  His widow Abigail died in 1677 and left bequests to their 4 daughters, Abigail, Elizabeth, Dorothy and Margaret.

Michael Powell signature

Michael Powell’s signature on one of the letters (D/DMs C4/7)

In both of these letters, Michael Powell reminded Carew Mildmay of their past close associations and commiserated with Mildmay regarding the difficulties he was experiencing in the Civil War. In the 1649 letter Powell noted that he had had a report that “the lord hath preserved you & yours in these dangers when Essex was visited with the Cavileirs [sic],” referring apparently to an assault on Mildmay’s residence at Romford.

Powell to Mildmay

Powell writes to Mildmay as ‘an old freind of oures’ [sic] Michael Powell signature

Powell also informed Mildmay of events in New England, including the recent death of Governor John Winthrop, Mildmay’s cousin. Powell stated that “I live now at Boston & follow my trade. We have 2 sons & 6 daughters.” Although the identity of Powell’s wife has long been known, the residence of the family in England just prior to migrating to New England was not. Based on the obvious prior friendship between Powell and Mildmay, a search of the Romford parish register revealed baptisms for two Powell children there, a son John in 1637 and a daughter Abigail in early 1639, only a few months before the family sailed to New England.

It was a real thrill to find two previously unknown pieces of correspondence from Michael Powell which will add another piece of the jigsaw to the details of his life and connections to the early settlers in New England.

_________________________________________________________________________

The Great Migration Directory, by Robert Charles Anderson, lists all those families and unattached individuals, about 5600, who came to New England between 1620 and 1640 as part of the Great Migration. Each entry provides data on English origin (if known), year of migration, residences in New England, and the best treatment of that immigrant in the published secondary literature. The book may be ordered through the New England Historic Genealogical Society here. A copy is also available in the ERO Library.

‘An Ocean of Books’

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

In preparing our latest mini-biography of an interesting person from Essex’s past for Essex Life magazine, I came across this wonderful quote from William Gilberd (1544-1603), in the preface to his book De Magnete, published in 1600:

‘But why should I, in so vast an Ocean of Books by which the minds of studious men are troubled and fatigued, through which very foolish productions the world and unreasoning men are intoxicated, and puffed up, rave and create literary broils, and while professing to be philosophers, physicians, mathematicians and astrologers, neglect and despise men of learning: why should I, I say, add aught further to this so-perturbed republick of letters, and expose this noble philosophy, which seems new and incredible by reason of so many things hitherto unrevealed, to be damned and torn to pieces by the maledictions of those who are either already sworn to the opinions of other men, or are foolish corruptors of good arts, learned idiots, grammatists, sophists, wranglers, and perverse little folk? But to you alone, true philosophizers, honest men, who seek knowledge not from books only but from things themselves, have I addressed these magnetical principles in this new sort of Philosophizing.’

Portrait of William Gilbert (Wellcome Collection)

Gilberd was a physician and natural philosopher who founded the field of magnetic science. He was the first person to suggest (correctly) that the earth is a giant magnet, and the word ‘electricity’ has its origins in his work. The ‘new sort of Philosophizing’ to which he refers is his methodology of using experiments to find out about natural phenomena.

Gilberd was born in Colchester and is buried there in Holy Trinity church. You can find out more about him in our article that will be published in the October 2015 edition of Essex Life magazine.

 

Chelmsford Then and Now

IMG_6536 compressedWe were fortunate recently to have University of Essex student Ashleigh Hudson undertake a 10-week research project with us exploring the history of several properties along Chelmsford High Street. Ashleigh has used a range of sources, including documents, maps, and photographs, to highlight areas of continuity and change. Her research findings will be turned into a display, and also shared here in a series of blog posts, starting now…

 

A Royal Charter, granted in 1199 by King John, authorised a weekly market to be held within Chelmsford. A town grew around the market and by the 16th century, the basic shape of the high street had been firmly established. In fact the essential pattern of the High Street has not changed a great deal since the 16th century. A quick comparison of John Walker’s 1591 map of Chelmsford and a map of the high street today reveals that the fundamental shape of the town is very much the same.

John Walker's map of Chelmsford, 1591

Extract from John Walker’s map of Chelmsford, 1591.

Internally, the High Street is quite different, with all of the timber buildings featured on the Walker Map long replaced by brick buildings of modern design.  Economic factors, social mobility and technological advancements have all impacted on the structural development of the High Street. Development has occurred sporadically, and according to the whims of a particular owner at a given time. By the latter half of the 20th century, the demand for retail and a growing population seemingly justified the demolition of vast portions of the town, which were deemed no longer fit for purpose. To many long-term residents of Chelmsford, modern development has completely obscured the town they knew and loved.

Chelmsford OS maps 1963 1974

Extract from the OS Map of 1963 (left) and 1974 (right). A comparison of the two maps reveals that by 1974 many of the individual properties situated on the west side of the high street have been demolished or consolidated to make way one large store, Marks and Spencer’s. Marks and Spencer’s currently occupies the former sites stretching from 62-66.

One of the biggest challenges facing Chelmsford High Street is a perceived lack of history; the belief that 20th century development has stripped away the heritage and integrity of the town. In actuality there is still a great deal of history hidden, often just above street level. Even where the ancient building has been demolished, the plots themselves have a story to tell. It is entirely possible for modern development to occur and coexist with areas of historic value; the challenge is building awareness and a sense of appreciation for the history behind the High Street.

King's Head Chelmsford | Essex Record Office

Photograph of the King’s Head shortly before it was demolished to make way for a branch of F.W Woolworth. The King’s Head had occupied the site since the 17th century and was a central part of town life throughout that period. Though the physical building has gone, the King’s Head is a large part of the history of 40-41 High Street, so much so that the carpark to the rear of the property was named in its honour.

Woolworth's Chelmsford 1930s | Essex Record Office

Photograph of F.W Woolworth in the 1930s. The photograph reveals an entirely new building sitting on the former site of the King’s Head.

 

Barclays Bank, 40-41 High Street Chelmsford

The former Woolworth’s building is currently occupied by Barclays Bank. A quick comparison of this photograph and the one above reveals a high level of continuity, just above street level.

The aim of this project is to construct a historical profile of selected sites across the high street using a range of different sources. The research gathered will be presented in a variety of ways to highlight areas of continuity and change. It is hoped that this project will encourage a greater awareness of the historic development of Chelmsford High Street and a stronger appreciation for the town itself.

The Essex Record Office has provided most of the primary material for this project. Supplementary material has been sourced from The Essex Newspaper Archive and Ancestry, both of which can be accessed in the ERO Searchroom. Hilda Grieve’s detailed history of Chelmsford The Sleepers and The Shadows was a fantastic starting point for much of the research, and a constant source of reference throughout. Look out for the Chelmsford Then and Now series of blog posts to be posted on the ERO blog shortly. Alternatively, why not check out our new HistoryPin page which contains a range of photographs of Chelmsford High Street through time.

ERO is on HistoryPin!

We have finally joined HistoryPin, an online community which allows organisations or individuals to share historic pictures, videos or sound clips by virtually ‘pinning’ them to a map of the world.

We have been wanting to do this for a while, and the final catalyst was a project undertaken here recently by research intern Ashleigh Hudson on the history of Chelmsford High Street (lots more on this coming over the next few weeks).

Our first pins are photographs of our county town of Chelmsford taken by the famous Spalding family of photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fred Spalding senior was the first commercial photographer in the town, and his son and grandson (both also Fred Spalding) followed in his footsteps, leaving us a photographic archive of some 7,000 images.

As well as the images we’ve pinned so far, you can also listen to recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive showcasing what Essex sounded like in the past.

You can explore what we’ve pinned using the map or by browsing the collections we’ve put together (click on the right tab below to see the collections).

If you’re new to HistoryPin we will warn you – it’s addictive.

Click here to go to our HistoryPin channel, and here to go to the HistoryPin home page to explore everything that has been pinned from all over the world.

Document of the Month, August 2015: mystery baptisms

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

This month’s document is a typical parish register (ref. D/P 183/1/37) from St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, the mother church of Southend.  As well as marriages and burials, it covers baptisms from 1727-1807 and might record the baptism in secret of two illegitimate children of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton in 1803.

Emma Hamilton as a young woman c. 1782, by George Romney

I was reminded of the local story about Emma Hamilton’s supposed secret confinement somewhere in Southend, which I had read about in Karen Bowman’s book Essex Girls,[1] when I collected some records and memorabilia of Eton House School last month.  The school used to occupy the house called Southchurch Lawn on the road from Thorpe Bay to Great Wakering, which is where it is claimed Emma’s confinement took place.  Apparently, a ship’s surgeon called Seacole was in attendance, and he was persuaded to act as the father at the christening.  Also in attendance, it was said, was a gentleman ‘with an eye patch and an empty sleeve to his jacket’.

Baptisms of Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole

Extract from the Prittlewell baptism register, including entries (at the bottom) for Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, September 18th 1803 (D/P 183/1/37)

Looking at the register to verify the entry myself, I found a baptism that took place on 18th September 1803 for two children, a boy christened Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole followed by a girl christened Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, the son and daughter of a Thomas and Anne Seacole.  If these were the secret children of Emma Hamilton, and the name of the boy obviously suggests that they might have been, it looks as though she might have had twins.

At the time, Emma would most likely have been staying at the Royal Terrace at Southend, which was in the parish of Prittlewell, as she did on occasion apparently to facilitate liaison with Nelson whenever his ship was moored at The Nore.  In 1805, Emma gave a ball in Nelson’s honour at the assembly room, Southend, which was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday August 2nd.  Of course, at the same time, possibly in 1803 or 1804, Caroline the Princess of Wales stayed at the ‘Royal Terrace’ which was named after her, and two years before, her daughter Princess Charlotte stayed for three months at Southchurch Lawn in 1801 for health reasons.

The boy, however, is even more interesting for his connection to another remarkable woman.  Later, he went to Jamaica and married a Jamaican woman of mixed race, Mary Jane Grant, who was to become the celebrated ‘black nurse’ of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, voted the ‘greatest black Briton’ in a poll in 2004 as reported by BBC News.[2]  ‘Mother Seacole’, as she was affectionately known to many soldiers at the time, ran the ‘British Hotel’ at Spring Hill near Balaclava, which she established in March 1855 to provide what she herself described in her autobiography[3] as ‘a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers’.  She also helped wounded soldiers on the battlefield and witnessed the fall of Sevastopol.

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London (c. 1873)

Later, in her will, she claimed that her husband was Nelson’s ‘godson’ who gave him a diamond ring which Mary kept until the end of her life, even though she fell on hard times after the Crimea, and bequeathed to one of her supporters, Count Gleichen.[4]  In which case, one wonders whether Nelson also attended the christening at St Mary’s himself.

At the time, Mary Seacole’s celebrity rivalled Florence Nightingale’s but she soon fell into obscurity, that is, until recently.  Although many have pointed out that she was never a ‘nurse’ in the sense that Florence Nightingale undoubtedly was, members from The Royal College of Nursing attended the dedication in July 2014 of the site in front of St Thomas’s Hospital where a memorial statue is to be erected to her, due for completion this summer (2015).

The register will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August.


[1] Bowman, Karen (2010). Essex girls. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

[3] The wonderful adventures of Mrs Seacole in many lands, which has since become a Penguin Classic.

[4] Sara Salih, the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Mary Seacole’s autobiography, as well as citing the will in her introduction, also refers to surviving records for her marriage to Edwin Seacole in Jamaica and the entry for Edwin Seacole’s baptism in the this register.

Essex-American Connections: William Pynchon, 1590-1662

William Pynchon was a native of Writtle and resident of Springfield (both near Chelmsford), who played a key role in creating and developing colonial Massachusetts. The first place named Springfield in America was founded by Pynchon in 1636 as Agawam Plantation, and in 1651 it was renamed after his Essex hometown.

We have two good reasons to talk about William Pynchon just at the moment (on top of the fact that he’s an interesting man to talk about at any time); our trip to Boston next week, and a talk here at ERO in September from an American scholar and expert on Pynchon’s life.

??????????????????David M. Powers is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard University. His book, Damnable Heresy: William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned and Burned in Boston, offers the first comprehensive biography of Pynchon. Placing Pynchon within the fabric of his times, Powers traces his life from Chelmsford, through his New England adventures, to his return to Britain, and describes contributions Pynchon made to the Puritan experience in Old England and New.

David says:

‘Two things stand out in Pynchon’s pioneering life:

First, he consistently treated his trading partners, the Indians, with respect and sensitivity – an attitude which was regrettably not shared by many of his fellow colonists.

Second, even though he was a layman, Pynchon wrote a volume of Christian theology, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650), which the Massachusetts Bay government condemned “to be burned in the market place, at Boston, by the common executioner.” This was the first instance of book burning in British North America.’

Pynchon travelled to America with his wife and three daughters on one of the ships of the Winthrop Fleet. This was a fleet of 11 ships under the command of John Winthrop, which carried about 700 people along with livestock and provisions to New England in summer 1630.

He was a shrewd businessman, and became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He initially settled in Roxbury, near Boston, but in 1635 led a settlement expedition into the Connecticut River Valley, and founded what would become Springfield. Although the land was not the best for farming, the location was a good one for him to carry on his fur trading, as it was near beaver colonies and his trading partners, the Native peoples, and was on a major transportation route, the Connecticut River.

His book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption, presented his views on the Atonement. Published in London, it was condemned and symbolically burned by the Bay Colony legislature because of their concern for how the English Parliament might react to strange ideas from New England. Only nine copies are known to survive.

Pynchon transferred his properties to his son John, who continued and extended the Pynchon influence in the Connecticut River Valley, and returned to England in 1652, where he spent the rest of his life.

____________________________________________________________________

Find out about our trip to Boston and more Essex-US connections here.

David will be speaking for the September meeting of the Essex History Group on the life of William Pynchon. All are welcome, admission is £1 including a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit.

William Pynchon: From Springfield, Essex, to Springfield, Massachusetts

A talk by David M. Powers

Tuesday 1 September, 10.30am

£1 admission, no need to book

Boston trip: another document is coming with us!

Following yesterday’s post we are pleased to be able to share the news that we have got further permission to be able to bring an original parish register with us on our trip to Boston in August 2015.

D/P 192/1/1 is the first parish register of Saffron Walden, with baptism, marriage and burial entries dating from 1558-1630, and therefore contains entries for a number of early American settlers and their families.

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Map of Saffron Walden, 1758, by Edward John Eyre (D/B2 MAN7/3

Several early settlers have been traced to Saffron Walden, such as Samuel Bass who moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1633, Thomas Cornell who went to Boston, Massachusetts in 1638, and Nicholas Desborough, who by 1637 was in Hartford, Connecticut.

The register is a beautiful early-modern book, long and thin, constructed of wooden boards with a soft leather cover.

The register will be on display with two original wills at our events in Boston, details of which are here.

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The first parish register of Saffron Walden – you can see its wooden covers just poking through the leather in the top left corner

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Soft leather wraps around the wooden covers of the book

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A glimpse inside the register

Boston trip: some documents are coming with us

We have even more exciting news about our Boston trip – we will be taking some original documents with us.

Two historic wills will be making the trip across the Atlantic for visitors to our events in Boston to come and see, one made by Richard Knight in 1703 and the other by Richard Fitzsymonds in 1663.

Knight was an innkeeper from Rochford. His will (D/AEW 30/7) was made on 3 January 1703 and he died a few days later (he was buried in Rochford churchyard on 15 January).

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

Burial of Richard Knight, 15 January 1703 in Rochford (D/P 129/1/1 image 27)

He was a prosperous man, and left his mother Love Wood a hundred pounds and three houses for life.

These houses – and two more in Moulsham, Chelmsford – were to pass after his mother’s death to his brother George Knight of ‘Herford in New England’, the place now known as Hartford, Connecticut.

Extract from Richard Knight's will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Extract from Richard Knight’s will, leaving his brother George Knight in Connecticut five houses, and his brother John Wood 1 shilling (D/AEW 30/7)

Court records show that the will was contested by Richard’s half-brother John Wood, who had been left just one shilling (5p.). Trouble was brewing even before Richard’s death. On 9 January, under pressure from Wood, the executor gathered together three extra witnesses, led by a local gentleman, Thomas Wheeler. Asked whether he was willing to have the will read over to him, the dying man replied ‘noe it is well enough’. Later he allowed Wheeler to break open the sealed will and to read its contents – but only after John Wood’s wife had left the room. Richard then confirmed his original intentions, ‘putting his forefinger upon the marke by him before made’, and the three new witnesses signed the will as it was re-sealed.

Sadly we do not have the Woods’ side of the story, but the court of probate found for the will as written. Whether George in Connecticut ever got his houses remains to be discovered.

The other will is of Richard Fitzsymonds of Great Yeldham, gentleman (D/AMW 9/1).  He made his will in 1663 but did not die until 1680, which is an unusually long gap between a will being made and the testator’s death. The will has a particularly fulsome religious preamble and includes bequests to the poor of three parishes where he owned property.

Will of Richard Fitzsymonds 1663

The detailed religious preamble to the will of Richard Fitzsymonds and bequests to the local poor (D/AMW 9/1)

He also leaves a bequest to his brother and those of his nephews and nieces who were born in England and went out to New England with their father.  He mentions a number of other brothers, nephews, nieces and kinsmen and leaves money for them all to have a gold ring worth twenty shillings.

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

Extract from the will of Richard Fitzsymonds, 1663, leaving property to his brother Samuel Symonds and his nieces and nephews in New England

 

The family was clearly wealthy and had lands in several parishes and two seal rings.  He also asks for a jewel to be purchased for his daughter in law as a token of his love for her.

If you’re in the Boston area next week (3-7 August 2015), do pop in to see ERO staff and these original documents at one of the locations they will be going to – all the details are here.

Both of these wills, along with 70,000 others, are available to view online on our subscription service Essex Ancestors.