By Richard Smith
This article was originally published in the April 2001 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
The story begins in the early 16th C with John Sewall (1) and his wife Margery Gibbon in Great Henny. The Court Rolls of the Manor of Barrington’s Fee (ref H/DHt/T1/34 Essex RO) mentions a John Sewall and wife Marjerie in 1543 surrendering a close of land and pasture containing around 14 acres called Mapyltrowe to Thomas Boreham. It is reasonable therefore to assume that John and Margery were born no later than 1520. Nothing further is known of this couple but as their grandson John (3) was still in Great Henny in 1601 it is probably their son John (2) who dies in there in 1589.
John’s (2) will (D/ABW35/46 Essex RO) where he is described as a yeoman mentions his wife Ellen and from the will of Thomas Hardy of Gosfleld in 1583 (Essex Wills vol 4 by F G Emmison) we learn that her name is Ellen Johnson daughter of Sebastian. John (2) and Ellen apparently owe Thomas Hardy for ten weeks schooling and board for their eldest son John (3).
John (2) leaves his ‘capital messuage wherein I now dwell’ (we find from later evidence that this was called ‘Guyblons’) in Great Henny to his son John (3) together with lands in Little Henny and Middleton. His son William inherits land in Twinstead, son George lands in Halstead and Gosfield, (see story below) son Richard lands in Finchingfield and the three daughters Joan, Alice and Ellen have two hundred pounds to be shared between them. All the children are under 24. His loving brothers Edmund Sewell and Robert Cooke (presumably a brother in law) are named supervisors and Edmund Sewall, Robert Sewall and John Sewall junior are amongst the witnesses.
The brother Edmund Sewall died in Pebmarsh in 1638 and his will (PCC Ess-138 Lee) in which he does not mention a wife or children, mentions kinsmen John (3) of Henny, George of Halstead, Robert of Pebmarsh, John of Pebmarsh and Richard Sewell amongst others. Edmund owns land in Pebmarsh, Halstead and Sibble Heddingham.
John (3) who inherited Guyblons was in dispute in 1601 with Roger Gwinn the then Lord of the Manor about some property called Henny Park and Lodgearme Meadow (D/DH/V1C59). Only some interrogatories survive but their main interest for us is that the document mentions John’s (3) grandparents John Sewall (1) and Margery Gibbon.
John’s (3) will was proved in 1645 (FCC FROB11/193) where he is described as a yeoman. His wife Parnell is given a life interest in some property in Great Henny and afterwards to his son John (4). The property ‘where I now dwell’ is given to his son Thomas (1) and his wife Mary Alston daughter of Edmond, son Christopher (died 1657 Dedham) property in Middleton and son Robert who only seems to get anything if his brother John (4) dies without male heirs (but he will form the subject of a separate story). Three daughters are mentioned Helen wife of Hamblest Fryer, Francis wife of John Woodthorpe and an unnamed daughter who married John Mendall. There are also bequests to John’s daughters unnamed and five children of John Mendall.
Although John (4) is the eldest son, his brother Thomas (1) seems to do best out of the will because he inherits the main property ‘Guyblons’ in Great Henny. Indeed there is a clause in the father’s will specifically stating that if John (3) or his heirs molests or troubles his brother Thomas (1) or his wife Mary that John (3) will forfeit some of his inheritance. It appears to be part of a marriage contract between the respective fathers of Thomas (1) and Mary that they should have these particular lands.
Thomas (1) and Mary Alston were married in 1633 in Newton by Sudbury, Suffolk where Mary had been baptised in 1614, daughter of Edmund Alston and his wife Rachael. Thomas' (1) Will was proved in 1662 (PCC PROB11/310) and he is described as a gentleman. His eldest son Thomas (2) inherits ‘Guyblons’ together with various other properties in Great Henny, Little Henny and Middleton. Son John (5) inherits land in Otten Belchamp, son Robert land in West Mersey, son Edmund land in Great Henny and Alphamstone, son Benjamin land in Great and Little Cornard in Suffolk. All his sons are under 21. His three daughters Mary, Elizabeth and Parnell each get £300. There is an unnamed daughter who married Bernard Carter. Apart from the unnamed daughter whose age we do not know, all the other 8 children are under 21 which means there are no children for the first 9 years of marriage, maybe they died in infancy. There are no parish registers for Great Henny before 1678. Parnell marries William Sadler of Great Horkesley and my line descends from there, but we will follow the fortunes of her brother Thomas (2) for a generation or two.
Thomas (2) died on the 15th May 1707 aged 61 according to the gravestone (one of four) in the Nave of Saint Mary the Virgin’s church in Great Henny. These gravestones include a coat of arms but there is no grant of arms recorded at the College of Heralds. The Latin inscription on this tomb translates as ‘here lies the son, the father, the grandfather and the great grandfather’. So this means that John (2) is buried there but not John (1) so although John (1) had property in Henny he did not necessarily live there. There are Sewells owning land in nearby Halstead as early as 1395 (Duchy of Lancaster Court Rolls Bundle 123 No 1859) so perhaps the Henny Sewells came from there, particularly as they did own land in Halstead.
Thomas (2) was married to Alice who according to Morants 'Antiquities of Essex’ was the daughter of Joseph Beaumont, Gentleman of Hadley. Thomas and Alice had sons; Thomas (3), Joseph and Beaumont and daughters Mary and Alice.
Thomas (3) died 21st September 1727 aged 54. The tombstone in the nave of St Mary the Virgin states that he was the eldest son of Thomas and Alice Sewell. Thomas (3) married firstly Elizabeth Hardwick and she died in 9th August 1715 aged 36. Her tombstone in the nave says she was the wife of Thomas Sewell of Inner Temple London, gentleman, and daughter and heiress of Richard Hardwick, gentleman of Spalding in Lincolnshire. Their children were Thomas (4), Hardwick and Alice. As his second wife, Thomas (3) married Rebecca Carter daughter of George the rector of Pentlow.
Thomas (4) died aged only 19 and his tombstone in the nave reads in translation, "Here lies Thomas Sewell of Magdalene College, first born son of Thomas Sewell, gentleman of Guyblons in Henny, died 10th November aged 19".
I will now return to George Sewell son of John (2) who you may recall inherited land in Halstead upon his father’s death in 1589.
The Court Rolls of the Duchy of Lancaster show that John (2) paid 12shillings to enter upon a messuage and 22 acres known as ‘Partige’ in Halstead in 27 Elizabeth (1583-1584) he having acquired it from Nicholas Starling. They further show that George, son of John, paid 12d to enter upon these same named premises in 31 Elizabeth (1588-1589).
George’s first wife was named Sarah and she is buried at Halstead in 1620. She was probably the sister of Robert Ward who died in 1616 because Robert refers to his brother in law George Sewell of Halstead, so Sarah was the daughter of Lancelot Ward of Wethersfield. George and Sarah had several children baptised at Halstead, Ellen 1609, George 1611, Sarah c1613 and John 1619. After Sarah’s death, George married a second Sarah and had sons, another John (the eldest), Steven, Nathan, Ambrose and Ezekiel and daughters Isabell, Rebecca, Phillip (sic), Mary, Dorothy and Dorcas.
Ellen and George from the first marriage presumably pre-deceased their father because they are not mentioned in the will, and Ezekiel was buried at Halstead in 1638. George left property in Halstead called Russells to his eldest son John by his first wife and the ‘messuage and lands wherein I now dwell’ i.e. Partiges to ‘John my eldest son by my now wife.’
The daughter Phillip or Phillippa was baptised in 1628 in Halstead and died in 1669 in Massachusetts. She is said to be an ancestor of the American president Millard Fillmore. This information my informant states comes from an article in the American Genealogist in January 1988.
I will now return to Robert son of John (3) and Parnell. He was their youngest son and as such did not inherit very much. We know from his mother’s will (PCC1667 PROB11/324) that his wife’s name was Dorothy and from his brother Christopher’s will (FCC 1656 PROB11/261) that he lived in London.
According to ‘Morants’, Robert was a draper in London and he married a daughter of Bruno Ryves who was Dean of Windsor and they had a son named Jonathon who was a colonel. There is a John baptised 21/08/1653 at St Gregory by St Paul in London to Robert and Dorothy and there are 9 children baptised at St Georges Chapel Windsor over a period 1682 to 1700 to a John Sewell.
Arms were granted to Robert Sewell son of John on 6th June 1667 (College of Heralds) Argent on bend gules, 3 martlets of the first, crest on a helmet, a mural crown surmounted with a martlet of the first. Robert was a gentleman of the Privy Bedchamber to Charles II in 1664.
Was this our Robert, he was the son of John, he was in London around the right time?
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