Election Fever


William Hogarth – Polling Day

Elections of one sort or another have been constantly in the news for the past few years and the prospect of yet more hangs above our heads like the sword of Damocles. So, as my genealogical side took over, I decided to look back at the voting record of my ancestors and try and discern what were their motives or priorities in the way in which they cast their ballots.

Of my immediate forebears I can say little, other than than guess how they voted and why; I’m fairly sure I know how my parents cast their vote from conversations with them; my grandparents less so. Beyond that all is a mystery caused by the secret ballot which was introduced in the UK in 1872. Of course, prior to the 1920s my female ancestors did not have the vote, and few of my male ones did either before the Second Reform Act of 1867. However, when the ballot was not secret, the lists of voters and for whom they voted were printed and published for all to see. In many cases, no doubt, many voted with this in mind; it did not go unnoticed that one’s employer, landlord or creditor would discover where your vote was cast.

The constituences of the pre-Reform Act Parliament which existed until 1831 were vastly different to the ones we know today. Everyone has heard of the “Rotten Boroughs” where the franchise was exercised by a handful of people; in the notorious case of Old Sarum in Wiltshire there were at one time just 7 electors, controlled by the local landowner who owned all the houses by which they exercised their voting rights. There were many others, all returning two members to Parliament. In addition though, there were the free boroughs where the franchise was extended to all freemen or burgesses. Some of these, like Westminster or Bristol had very large electorates indeed, Bristol usually recording a total of over 5000 votes in any election. As well as the boroughs, each county returned two “Knights of the Shire” who were elected by a land-owning or renting franchise. Quite often in the 18th century at least, elections in the shires were not contested as the Tories or “Country” party normally took all the seats.


William Pitt the younger addressing the House

The Parliament these conditions gave rise to were again very different to that of the post-Reform Act assemblies. The core of the house was the “Tory” knights of the shires who generally voted according to their own consciences or desires. They did not necessarily back any particular line, whether government or opposition. There were also many placemen, usually elected from seats where the government could control elections; naval ports were the main ones, but there were others. These MPs always voted with the government. Finally there were the “professional politicians” who are the ones we have usually heard of; Pitt Fox and Burke for example. They normally sat for rotten or pocket boroughs, nominated by the patron of the seat, although some, like Burke, sat for the free boroughs and took their chances at election time. One must remember that the government of the day was very much the King’s government. No ministry could survive without the royal patronage, if not always the royal approval. The King appointed his ministers, but generally understood the need to have some chance of them securing a majority in the House of Commons when required. In the 18th century, it should be noted, no government ever lost a general election.

Although we still use the labels “Tory” and “Whig” for the factions in Parliament, they do not really mean very much; what was required to govern was the confidence of the King and a majority in the House. Some have preferred the labels “Ins” and “Outs” as being more realistic.

I am lucky in having several ancestors who were enfranchised at one time or another. There are one or two who appear on a voting list where I cannot find a Poll Book with the votes cast, but in two cases my forebears were freemen of boroughs where the data for every election survives.

1721 Bristol Poll Book

The published Poll Book for the 1721 election in Bristol

John Harwood (sometimes spelt Horwood) was a house carpenter and merchant of Bristol. At the time of the 1721 election he is listed in the Poll Books as a Freeholder of St James parish. Other records show that he purchased property there in the early years of the century and his will (1744) makes mention of freehold houses he owns in St James’ Square and Merchant Street. His vote is recorded in three elections; 1721, 1734 and 1739.

John Horwood Poll 1721

John Horwood’s votes recorded in the Poll Book

In 1721 there were three candidates for the two places as MP for the City and County of Bristol: Sir Abraham Elton, Joseph Earle (John cast his vote for these two; every voter could choose one or two candidates) and William Hart. The final result was Earle 2141, Elton 1869 and Hart 1743, Elton and Earle being returned. Both the new MPs were prominent local men, Elton a previous Mayor and Earle a Sheriff of Bristol, and both are described as Whigs, whereas Hart was a Tory, but it seems that local considerations were uppermost in the voters’ minds – who would do best for Bristol and its trade. The election of 1727 saw the return of Abraham Elton (son of the winner of 1721) and John Scrope who was another Whig and Secretary to the Treasury. William Hart had decided to stand again, but was bribed by Elton to the sum of £1000, and did not proceed to the poll.

The mention of direct bribery, which in this case was denied, but expressed as a reimbursement to “offset election expenses”, reveals how rotten the system was even in the nominally “free boroughs”. As well as other candidates, voters were usually offered inducements, from free food and liquor to outright cash payments. A letter of the time records that at this 1727 election “The people who sold their votes have received from one to five guineas per man”, which shows how expensive campaigns could be.

In 1734 Elton and Scrope stood again, this time against the Tory Thomas Coster, but Scrope was beaten into third place, mainly because he had voted in Parliament for an Excise Bill (which as a government placeman he would have to) against the wishes of the Bristol Corporation. John Harwood again voted for the two Whigs. Thomas Coster died in 1739 and a by-election was called to replace him. On this occasion, a non-partisan, Henry Combe, a Bristol merchant stood against Sir Edward Southwell, a Whig country gentleman with no particular connection to the City. John Harwood voted for Combe but the establishment Southwell won by a narrow majority. Seemingly John Harwood voted for the local candidates who stood for the interests of Bristol merchants and trade, rather than strictly partisan party issues. The following election was unopposed and John died in 1745.

Several of my Bumstead ancestors, confusingly all called Stephen, were freemen of the town of Ipswich, and as such were entitled to vote in both the elections for the two MPs for Ipswich and the two Knights of the County MPs for Suffolk. The latter, however were virtually never contested and the only record I have of voting was in 1790 when Stephen Bumstead (1751-1831) voted for the successful Tory candidates Sir John Rous and Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury. Stephen is recorded as voting at all the Ipswich elections from 1784 until 1826; he is often referred to as “senior” after his son Stephen (1778-1841) became a freeman and acquired voting rights in 1800. Three of Stephen’s sons in turn became freemen and voted from the 1826 election onwards. In this latter election the three Stephens are recorded as “Stephen Bumpstead, Stephen Bumpstead junior and Stephen Bumpstead (London), my great great grandfather having moved to the capital sometime in the mid 1820s.

1826 Electoral Poll Book Ipswich copy

The 1826 Ipswich Poll Book

There is little point in listing the results of the many elections the family took part in, but they always voted for the Blue candidate. Party politics in Ipswich was a fiercely divisive matter and the parties were usually referred to as the Blues and the Yellows. The former were the “Country” party standing for the landowning interest, but also the upholding of the established church and establishment in general; they were generally coalescing into the Tory party whilst the Yellows adhered to the Whigs and represented a more radical outlook. Election time was noisy and often violent with gangs of dockers and others terrorising the town and trying to persuade voters one way or the other; as in Bristol in earlier days, bribery and coercion were common. The open ballot and the time taken (elections were often spead over four or five days) presented plenty of opportunity for pressure of one sort or another to be applied. For the voters though there were good pickings, if one was careful. It is interesting that the three Bumstead brothers all travelled from London to Ipswich to vote in the late 1820s and 1830s, which meant a couple of days travelling and time off work – could they really have been such sincere party adherents?


Mr Pickwick at the Eatanswill Election Hustings

A wonderfully satirical glimpse into contemporary elections is seen in Charles Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers” when Mr Pickwick and his companions visit the town of “Eatanswill” at polling time; Eatanswill is actually Sudbury in Suffolk and the atmosphere must have been very similar to nearby Ipswich. All the corruption and fraud around elections necessarily produced results that were challenged. In Ipswich, both the 1820 and 1826 results were overturned on appeal, the first resulting in the two Blue candidates being disqualified and the Yellows triumphing; in 1826 exactly the opposite was the case.

Tory ad 1823

1823 Ipswich newspaper advertisement

Apart from election time, at least one of the Bumsteads took an active role in political matters. Two newspaper advertisements give an indication of this. One lists a Stephen Bumstead amongst the signatories protesting at the invitation (by the Yellows no doubt) made to Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Nationalist to speak in Ipswich in 1836 and another dated 1823 indicates the establishment of a constituency group to advance conservative principles. Again Stephen Bumstead is one of the names listed. With the deaths of all three bearers of the name in the period 1831-46, this stage of my forebears political life draws to a close. The next generation (yet another Stephen 1844-1903) had to wait for the later 19th century reform acts before he appeared on a list of electors in Bristol in 1897.

1897 Stephen Bumstead electoral roll copy


What I did on my holidays…..



Castle Street at junction with Peter Street c1900

Last week I spent several days in Bristol with my son and our time largely revolved around sporting events (football, rugby and golf); I did however, manage to squeeze in two days at Bristol Record Office, hoping to fill in gaps in my family history and several interesting facts were discovered. Here is a summary of what I found.

Drew and Horwood families of Bristol

The relationship between the early Drews was something I had conjectured, but much of it is now firmed up. I had seen the entry for the marriage of John Drew and Joan Gillson in 1603 before, but on a rather underpowered microfiche reader where much wasn’t clear. This time I used the BRO’s finest and largest reader and saw the entry (below) in better detail. Interestingly it shows Joan’s occupation, that of servant to Thomas Clement the elder. Several of the brides in this section of the register of St Phillip and St Jacob are identified by their fathers or employers, which is something I had not encountered before.



I had assumed from other parish register entries that Robert Drew (1607-81) the housecarpenter was the son of this marriage, and in the Apprenticeship Book of Bristol I found confirmation. The entry (below) is in latin but states that on February 27 1626 (old style 1625) Robert Drew son of John Drew husbandman, deceased, of Barton Regis bound himself apprentice to John Friend, carpenter and his wife Thomasine for a term of seven years. This corresponds to the information given when Robert was enrolled in the Book of Burgesses of Bristol in 1635.

I was aware of a lease granted to Robert’s eldest son, John of a piece of land named Gaunts Hammes which lay in Barton Regis in the eastern part of St Phillips and St Jacobs parish (now called Barton Hill) and I wondered if it was connected to the land that John’s grandfather farmed in the early part of the century. This plot was passed down in turn to John’s sons. On viewing the lease dated March 25, 1666, it appears that the land was previously leased on the lives of John’s wife Dorcas (nee Fussell) and her sister, Mary, so my theory was incorrect. There is still a public park in Barton Hill called Gaunts Ham Park.


I have found further leases granted to the Drews and their related families – Pages, Tylers and Shorts which help plot the fortunes of the various branches of the descendants of Robert Drew, one which is intriguing. A lease of 1723 grants a group of properties in Redcliffe Pit, which is close to the Quaker burial ground near St Mary Redcliffe, to Walton Short on condition that he repair them as they had fallen into ruin under the previous lesee. Now Walton was a cordwainer (shoemaker) by profession, so it may be that his brother-in-law, John Horwood the housecarpenter carried out the work. Also it could be possible that John began to reside in the the renovated properties after Walton died in 1728. He certainly appears to have left St James parish around this time and he doesn’t appear as a householder in any record after that date that I can find. Moreover at his death in 1744 he was living “at his house on Redcliffe Hill”.



John Horwood had been  granted a lease on a plot of land in Queen Square in 1709 on the condition that he build a “mansion house” there. The lease was to run until 1756, but is not mentioned in John’s will, so I assumed he assigned it elsewhere. In 1732 the leaseholders in the Square petitioned the Corporation of Bristol for new leases, which were granted over the next couple of years. John’s property (most likely no.19 or 20 in the current numbering) was, by this time, in the possession of John Brickdale Esq and no clue is given as to when the transaction took place. The new lease does record, however that John had built, in addition to the mansion house, “Warehouse, lofts, Coachhouse, stable and other necessary outbuildings” at the rear of the house and a yard or pavement between them. These outbuildings would have faced onto today’s Welsh Back.



John York of Chewton Mendip
John York of Chewton lived from 1732 to 1818 and farmed the York holding in the East End tything of the parish. Later in life he was the Lead Reeve for the Waldegrave manor of Chewton. I have often thought he might be the John York who acted as a clerk for the parish vestry and whose fine hand can be seen in many parish documents. There was another John York in Chewton, but his dates don’t fit the timescale of the vestry records. There is a mention that the John who was the clerk was also a schoolmaster and in the BRO I found an indenture dated 1780 relating to the estate of a Robert Bath of Compton Martin deceased, in which John York, schoolmaster of Chewton Mendip was named as the administrator of the said estate, Robert having died intestate. What clinches the identification of the schoolmaster with John York of East End is the fact that the indenture names him as the nephew of Robert Bath. John’s mother was Dorothy Bath and he may have been Robert’s heir although there were other relatives mentioned in the document. Finally, the fine signature on the indenture, although having a few minor differences, is otherwise identical to John’s signature on his marriage to Ann Board in 1759. The indenture records the selling of the lands mentioned to a Joseph Vowles for £119.


Signature of John York on his marriage 1759


Signature of John York on the 1780 Indenture


Documents by permission of the Bristol Record Office

John Horwood and the 1703 Indenture


I mentioned previously in my account of the Horwood family, an Indenture of 1703 which appears to be connected to the purchase of land and properties in the parish of St James. Investigating this document further, several questions arose and I shall try and map out my ideas concerning it here. A full transcription of the document is at the foot of this article.

1703 Indenture Angell House 1 copy

Left-hand side of the 1703 Indenture

There are two parties to the agreement, on the one side, Elizabeth Skinner, Elinor Wilkes and Anne Hawkridge, all described as widows, of Bristol; on the other side, John Harwood, House Carpenter and Rowland Thruppe, Gent., also both of Bristol. The indenture goes on to explain that its intent is for “the settling and assureing of the severall messuages, Tenements Lands and hereditaments hereinafter mentioned”. It is presuambly therefore some form of conveyance or related to such a transaction.

Before listing the properties concerned, the main purpose of the agreement is stated; that the three ladies concerned will, in the Court of Common Pleas “acknowledge and levy” a fine “Sur Conizance de droit come ceo etc.” relating to the properties to be named, and the sum of five shillings had changed hands for this benefit. Now this was no great sum even in 1703, and the whole transaction and phrasing took some time for me to fathom.

What is happening here is part of an obscure legal process of property sale, dating from the Middle Ages, whereby land was transferred from one party to another by means of a fake legal dispute. The two parties agreed the details of the sale between themselves (there is often an actual conveyance document which rarely survives) and them the selling party ask the Court via the “fine” or concord to agree that the buying party now own the property involved. The phrase (in legal French) “Sur Conizance de droit come ceo qu’il a de son done” is the surest form of fine and was often used to break an entail, if one existed on the property. A separate document would have been issued by the Court, known as a Final Concord which was in three parts, again indented, one part each for the parites and one (the “foot”) for the Court. These final concords were written in latin until 1733 and give very little detail compared to what is given in our indenture. Below is one such document, also involving John Harwood, dated 1719 and which relates to property in St Philips and St Peter parishes in Bristol.

1719 Deeds involving John Horwood (Latin)

Not only is it in latin (with many abbreviations), but it is written in an archaic legal hand which makes its reading very difficult. Final Concords also normally give very imprecise information on the property changing hands and the price paid, which is often impossible to ascertain.

To return to our indenture, which is known as a ”covenant to levy a fine” I was interested in the parties involved. John Harwood the house carpenter has been discussed at length in my article on the Horwood family; Rowland Thruppe was a wealthy Bristol gentleman, the eldest son of another Rowland Thruppe who had died in 1689. Documents at the National Archive and Bristol Record Office show him involved in many property dealings and investments, as well as disputes. One can probably assume that he and John acted together in this instance with Rowland providing the bulk of the money and John the expertise in building and development. The fact that they were buying several properties from three widows in one transaction was puzzling at first, but I assumed that the women were related. The indenture mentions two of the properties being previously owned by one Peter Hiley, and on checking the wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate records, there is one for a Peter Hiley of Bristol, whitetawer who died in 1675. A whitetawer (modern spelling whittawer) was a person who manufactured or dealt in “white” leather, using tawing rather than tanning, which involved curing the skin in various substances which produced a lighter, more flexible form of leather. It also came to be used of one who produced harness leather and saddlery.

Peter Hiley was a wealthy man, for he bequeathed four messuages in Merchant Street, as well as property in Poole, Dorset and his own house on the Weare (modern Broad Weir) to his eldest son, John; six further messuages and two gardens “att or neare the Barrs in the parish of Saint James” to his unmarried daughter Rachaell, and the remainder of his estate. including other messuages to his widow, Joan. In addition he left £400 to Rachaell and £200 to a grandson, but what is most interesting are the small cash bequests (of either £5 or 40 shillings) to his remaining children, amongst whom are Elizabeth Skinner, Ellinor Wilkes and Anne Hawkridge. So we can assume that the three widows of 1703 are selling property they inherited from another member of the family, possibly their mother Joan or sister Rachael, and the nature of the fine used to convey the properties points towards the latter, as Peter’s will directed that the bequest to Rachel should pass to the heirs of her body, ie. entailled to her line. Further research will be required to establish what happend to Rachel, and how the properties might have passed into the hands of her sisters.

Turning now to the location of the properties involved in the transaction, there appear to be four distinct entities:

1) Angell House lying east of the Horfield road (a continuation of Merchant Street, later Barrs Street)

2) Messuage to the west of the same

3) Upper Garden with a lodge, south of St James Barton, but east of the Horfield road

4) Messuage near Rosemary Lane (later Rosemary Street)

The last is the most difficult to place, yet the most interesting as the indenture suggests this was transferred from Elizabeth Skinner to John Harwood directly. The indenture reads: “all that Messuage Stable & Splott of garden grounds thereunto adjoining and belonging going out of Rosemary Lane extending backwards to a Lane called by the name of the Horse Church Yard”. The latter lane is difficult to place; at first I thought it might be conected to St James Churchyard which lay to the north side of the Horsefair, but an old lease in the BRO relates to “Horsechurchyard Lane, later Rosemary Lane” so it would seem to be a lost highway, possibly to the north of Rosemary Lane.

Millerd St James parish
St James parish from Millerd’s map 1677

Looking at the map, I would suggest that property no.1 was in Barrs Lane (the continuation north of Merchant Street which led to the Barton) on the east, no.2 on the west of the same stretch and no.3 possibly the property south of “Hobsons Garden”. It may be “Hobsons Garden” itself, as in 1642 Peter Hiley had purchased “the great messuage at the Barrs” from a William Hobson. No.4 must be off Rosemary Lane.

It is instructive to compare Millerd’s map which was drawn 25 years before the indenture, with that of Roque which is dated 1750, in order to see the nature of the expansion of development in the area.

170 Roque map St James
Roque’s map 1750

Nearly all the gardens have gone and there is some renaming of streets, for instance Newfoundland Lane has become Milk Street, and to the east of the Barton, St James Square has been built. John Horwood was involved in the construction of two houses on Queens Square just six years later, so it is quite possible that the two properties on the east of Barrs Lane (which leads south off the Barton ie. “the Horfield road”) were purchased with a view to this development which took place about this time. One further possibility is that John constructed his own dwelling house in this area, either on the site of the properties transferred in the indenture, or another purchase. He was certainly a freeholder in St James parish, appearing in the poll books for the 1720s and 1730s. The land and window tax records for the parish show him living at several addresses in the parish, but
largely, after 1720, in Milk Street.

1721 Poll Book John Horwood
1721 Poll book for St James parish

1828 Ashmead map St James

Another map (Ashmead, 1828) shows the same area, and lying between Barrs Lane and St James Square there is a timber yard. A house carpenter would certainly require a large stock of timber, so is it possible that this is the successor of John’s yard? It certainly lies adjacent to Milk Street, and John’s property there may be the one described in his will as his “ Messuage or Tenement …in St James Square”.

Barrs Street

Barrs Street, early 20th century, with St James Barton in the distance, and the entry to a timber yard on the east side

Transcription of the Indenture

This Indenture made the First day of May in the second year of our Sovereign Lady Anne by the grace of god of

England Scotland France & Ireland Queen, def of the faith … Between Elizabeth Skinner of the City of Bristoll widdow Elinor Wilkes of the same City widdow & Anne Hawkridge

of the same City widdow of the one part And John Harwood of the said City House Carpenter & Rowland Thruppe of the City aforesaid Gent of the other part Witnesseth That the said Elizabeth Skinner

Elinor Wilkes & Anne Hawkridge for the settling and assureing of the severall messuages Tenements Lands & hereditaments hereinafter mentioned To and for the severall uses intents and purposes

hereinafter limitted Expressed & declared And in consideration also of the sume of Five shillings of lawfull money of England to them in hand paid by the said John Harwood and Rowland Thruppe

The receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged They the said Elizabeth Skinner Elinor Wilkes & Anne Hawkridge Have Convenanted and granted And by those presents do for themselves

Covenant and grant to and with the said John Harwood and Rowland Thruppe their heirs & assignes That they the said Elizabeth Skinner Elinor Wilkes & Anne Hawkridge shall and will before

the end of this present Easter Terme or Trinity terme next coming before her Maties. {Majesty’s} Justices of her Court of Common Pleas at Westminster in due forme of law acknowledge and levy to the said John Harwood and Rowland Thruppe

& their heirs or to the heirs of one of them One Fine Sur Conizance de droit come ceo etc to be pursued with proclamation according to the forme of the statute in that case made and provided

of All that messuage or Tenemt heretofore commonly called or knowne by the name of the Angell House and of the garden grounds thereto adjoining and belonging with the Appurts.

heretofore in the tenure of one Richard Gernige as Tenant to Peter Hiley deceased and now of (gap with name filled in different hand) Duckett Victualler situate lying and being betweene the highway leading from the weare

towards Horfeild on or towards the East side thereof And a messuage of the said Peter Hiley heretofore in the possion of one John Duckett and now of (long gap) on or towards the

west side thereof And also of all that garden ground with a Lodge thereon heretofore built by Henry Gibbs Alderman commonly called the Upper garden situate lying and being on or towards

the South side of a place there called the Barton the said Highway leading from the Weare aforesaid towards Horfeild on or towards the east side thereof And also of all that Messuage Stable & Splott of

garden grounds thereunto adjoining and belonging going out of Rosemary Lane extending backwards to a Lane called by the name of the Horse Church Yard All which said Messuage & gardens

Lands Tenements and hereditaments are situate lying & being in the parish of St James within the Suburbs of the said City of Bristoll And of all Shops Cellars Halls Parlors

Chambers Kitchens roomths Lofts Lights wayes easements paths passages profitts comodityes advantages emoluments and Appurtanances whatsoever to the said Messuages or Tenements

gardens and premisses belonging or in any wise apperteyning or therewith or with any part or parcell thereof or with or with any part thereof as part parcell or member thereof accepted

reputed held occupyed or enjoyed And of the rents revercions remainders and services thereof By the name of Two messuages One Cottage & One Stable and three gardens with

th’ Appurtenancies in the parish of St James in the said City of Bristoll and County of the same Or by such other apt and proper names quantities or qualities As by the

Counsell learned in the Law of the said John Harwood and Rowland Thruppe shall be advised & thought fitt Which fine so as aforesaid or in any other manner to be levied and

acknowledged by and betweene the said parties to these presents or any of them And all and every other Fine and Fines already levyed or at any time hereafter to be levyed or acknowledged

by or betweene the said parties to these presents or any or other of them or by or betweene them or any or other of them and any other person or persons of the said premisses above
mencioned or any part thereof either alone by itselfe or joyntly with any other Lands or Tenements shalbe and enure and shalbe adjudged esteemed and taken to

be and enure And the said John Harwood and Rowland Thruppe and their heires & all and every other person or persons standing and being seized or which at the time of

perfecting the said Fine or Fines shall stand or be ……for in the said premisses above mencioned or any part thereof shall at all times thereafter stand and be seized thereof and

of every part and parcell thereof with th’appurtenancies To and for the severall uses intents and purposes now ………. tted expressed and declared (that is to say) .. for and

concerning the said Messuage Stable and garden ground going out of Rosemary Lane aforesaid with th’Appurtenances and the rents revercions remainders and services

thereof To the only proper use and behoofe of the said Elizabeth Skinner her heirs and assignes for ever And as for and concerning All and singular other the

said messuages Tenements and premisses above particularly mencioned with th’Appurtenancies To the only proper use and behoofe of the said John Harwood his heirs

and Assignes for ever And to or for none other use intent or purpose whatsoever In Witness whereof the parties first above named to these present Indentures interchangeably

have sett their hands and seales the day and year first above written:
Elizabeth Skinner Eliner Wilks Ann Hawkredg John Harwood Row Thruppe

Note: one or two words missing as damaged in fold of parchment


1703 Indenture Angell House John Horwood signature

All maps documents and photographs courtesy of Bristol Record Office and Museums

The Peters family of Chew Magna


Chew Magna Map 1900 copy

The first date we can be sure of in the story of our Peters ancestors is November 23rd 1713 when Robert Peters, a yeoman of Chew Magna married Mary Horwood, also of Chew at Wells, almost certainly in the Cathedral of St Andrew. Mary was the eldest daughter of John Horwood of Bristol, a house carpenter, whereas Robert’s background is harder to pinpoint. A licence for the marriage had been granted at the bishop’s court in Wells stipulating that the marriage take place either at the Cathedral or at St Cuthbert’s. It does not appear in the parish church register and the registers of St Andrews are not accessible for this period, so no record of the actual ceremony has been found.

Whilst Mary’s family has been dealt with in earlier articles, it is worth looking at the general background of the Peters family in Chew before considering Robert and Mary’s family.

Although there is no record of the baptism or birth of Robert in Chew Magna parish records, it can assumed he belonged to the same family as many other individuals who appear in the parish register and other documents. The Peters family had lived in the village since at least the 1630s. The first entry in the register to mention them is a burial in 1637 of John Peters, and then between 1642 and 1685 thirteen children are baptised being named as the offspring of either a Thomas or a Tobias (or Toby) Peters. I had imagined the family had moved into the parish at this time, were it not for the fact that one of these baptisms reads as follows:

January 7th 1656/7 Mary the daughter of Tobias Peters alias Welch

Now aliases were quite a common feature in the 17th and 18th centuries and have no sinister connotations. It simply means that Tobias was known by two different surnames and this state of affairs occured quite often with second marriages, step children and for reasons of inheritance. But in this case I went again to the parish register and looked for entries with the name Welch or Welsh. These start in 1579 with the marriage of a Peter Welsh to Edith Chinerton and end abruptly in 1644 with a baptism of Joane Welch. There is also a Thomas Welsh, who was buried in 1631 and three of his sons were named John, Thomas and Tobit (another form of Tobias). Is it possible that these three men are the same as the first three Peters to be recorded in the register? There are no Welsh/Welch entries after 1644 and no Peters entries before 1637. It could be that the family had moved to Somerset from Wales and still used the patronymic system normal there. If Thomas was the son of a Peter he would be Thomas ap Peter, but the to locals in Chew he would be Thomas Welsh. It’s only a theory but it is interesting to note that there was another family in the village at this time called Davis alias Welshman. I think Robert was a grandson of Tobias Peters alias Welsh and was born around 1685.

St Andrew Chew Magna

St Andrew, Chew Magna

Robert and Mary had at least eight children and the first record of them is an entry in the baptismal register of St Andrew, Chew Magna in 1724, which reads:

Mary, Ann, Hester, Margaret, John, Children of Robert Peters & Mary
his wife (the parents professing Quakerism & for that reason Baptism
was delayed beyond the usual time) Ye eldest about 5 or 6 years old were
Baptised April 1st
Hum. Buckler Vicar
Two further daughters, Martha and Frances were baptised in 1727; they may have been twins, but there is no proof, and a final son, Robert was born in 1731. There is a problem with these records in that the will of Mary’s father, John Horwood in 1744, names eight Peters grandchildren, but there is an Elizabeth yet no Ann. It would also seem strange that no child was born to Robert and Mary between their marriage in 1713 and 1718. In John Horwood’s will it implies that Elizabeth Peters was living in his house in Bristol and it looks as if she was the eldest grandchild – her name always appears first in any listing and she receives the remainder of John’s household possessions not otherwise bequeathed. I therefore think that she was born c1714/5, and by 1724 was living with her grandfather, in the same way that her mother, Mary had lived with her grandfather, John Heale. She seems therefore to have always lived in Bristol, for following her grandfather’s death she married there and continued to live in the city. She was presumably also raised in the Quaker faith whereas her parents had, it appears, joined the Anglican community.

What then of Ann? It may be that she died young, although there is no entry in the burial register, or she may be the Ann Peters who married Richard Cox in Chew on May 13th, 1744. If the latter, it is still strange that she is not mentioned in John Horwood’s will which was drawn up in November of that year, when he twice refers to “my eight grandchildren”. Perhaps the marriage displeased the family and that is why John was so adamant that the remaining grandchildren should not receive their portion if their marriages went against the wishes of their mother and aunt. However it may be that John had already provided for Ann on her marriage, and therefore she was excluded from the bequest.

Quaker Meeting House, Quakers Friars
Interior of the Quaker Meeting House at Quakers Friars, Bristol

Three of the Peters children married within eighteen months of John Horwood’s death on May 18th 1745. Margaret married William Pow, a cordwainer in Chew parish church in May 1746 and Elizabeth married Anthony Lawrence, a shoemaker at the Quaker Meeting House at Quakers Friars in June of the same year. Although the record hasn’t been found, Hester married Richard Edgell, a horse driver and collier around the same time.

We have seen in the previous story of the Harwood family that Mary’s two unmarried sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret died on the same day and were buried on the same occasion in November 1746, just 18 months after their father, John. Elizabeth had been the sole executrix of her father’s will, but at some time after his death she commited an act which was to divide the family. John Horwood left the sum of £400 to his eight Peters grandchildren, to be paid at their marriage, £50 apiece. By their marriages Elizabeth, Hester and Margaret had gained their portion, but Elizabeth Horwood converted the remaining £250 from an interest-bearing deposit with Stephen Stone, a Bristol currier, into a bond with the same individual, in her own name. In her will Elizabeth Horwood left the bulk of her personal estate to Hester Edgell and Margaret Pow and appointed them her executrices. The sisters and their husbands apparently declared that they would call in the bond and use the money for their own purposes, only paying out the remaining £50 bequests on the respective marriages of their siblings as and when they occurred, from their own resources. This prompted Robert Peters, on behalf of his children, to take the affair to the Court of Chancery and a document of February 1747 states their case before the Lord High Chancellor. The complainants obviously feared that the monies would be subject to “Misapplication or Wasting” by Edgell and Pow and that their bequests might never materialize. They asked for the Court to take charge of the Bond and apply it as John Horwood wished. Sadly we do not know how this family feud ended. Any response by the accused has not yet been discovered. Indeed, none may have been made and the threat implied by going to Chancery may have persuaded Edgell, Pow and their wives to desist, and for a settlement to be agreed.
Margaret Pow named her two eldest children Mary and Robert, so perhaps family unity was restored to some degree. Two more of the Peters children married in the following year – John to Ann Fear and Martha to James Plumley, so one hopes they received their £50. Robert, the youngest, was not to marry until 1762, and of the remaining two sisters, Mary and Frances, nothing more is known. What makes the situation more interesting are some transactions involving leases of the land in Chew Magna which were previously held by John Heale and had passed to the Horwoods and then the Peters.

Peters law suit 1746

Chancery pleading by the Peters family 1747

John Heale the baker of Bristol, had acquired a dwelling house and land in Chew Magna and seems to have lived there from the early 1690s. A new lease from the manor of Chew of 1696 gives details of his holdings with several named fields and closes. When John died in 1710 he left this to his granddaughters Mary and Elizabeth Horwood. Another lease in 1715 grants a part of this to Mary’s husband, Robert Peters in his own name. The remaining, and major part of the property, was granted in a new lease of 1731 to John Horwood who, at his death in 1745, left part to John and part to Robert Peters, his grandsons.
In May 1747, just three months after the Chancery pleading was issued, Richard Edgell and William Pow were granted a lease from the manor of Chew for what seems to be the land bequeathed to Robert Peters the younger by John Horwood. They paid £40 for the reversion and were to come into the estate on young Robert’s death. This seems an odd transaction considering they were probably twice Robert’s age, but possibly it was a method of “keeping it in the family” should Robert die childless; in fact he lived another 50 years and records show his sons and grandsons still farming the same land in the 1840s. Later in 1747 Edgell and Pow were assigned part of the land of John Peters, the younger son of Robert and Mary. Possibly these deals were part of a settlement following the upheaval of the Chancery case.

At this point it is worth turning to the situation of the wider Peters family in Chew Magna before returning to the family of Robert and Mary. I have mentioned that Robert was probably connected to some of the Peters mentioned in parish records, although there is no conclusive evidence. It is almost certain that some entries were missed from the registers, and furthermore the Quaker registers for North Somerset are patchy; however it is possible to reconstruct some of the relationships, and the naming patterns give further clues.

Tobias Peters alias Welch, whom we have met earlier, had one son, another Tobias and he lived 1650-1734 and married (date unknown) a lady named Anne. The baptismal register at Chew records the four sons (Tobias, Edward, John and Arthur) and a daughter Frances, of Tobias and Mary. Also recorded are marriages for all of these apart from John. Later documents reveal that of the four sons, Tobias and Arthur were weavers; now a lease of 1715 mentions a brother of our Robert Peters named John who is a weaver and who appears to be unmarried. This is one possible link. Another interesting hint is in the names given to his children by this third Tobias (1674-after 1751), and comparing them with those given to his children by Robert, the son of Robert and Mary. Tobias has (in no specific order as their births/baptisms have not been recorded) Robert, Arthur, James, Sarah, Tobias, Abraham, Mary, John, Ann and Hugh; Robert has Robert, Tobias, Arthur, James, John, Hugh and Edward. This would point to a strong connection between the two families, but it remains conjecture. Incidentally, several of the first family listed above moved to Bristol and became fairly wealthy in various fields – Robert was a clothier, James and Arthur grocers and John a baker. They mainly seemed to have been Quakers and left wills which enable us to see the relationships.

Returning to our family of Robert and Mary, it appears that the youngest child, Robert followed his father into farming, and is always referred to as a yeoman. He would have farmed much the same fields as his father, and seems to have passed them on to his sons in turn. His elder brother, John is a little more of a mystery. In 1744 he was apprenticed to Richard Williams, a cordwainer of Chew. Now he must have been at least 20 at this time; very late for an apprenticeship, which was usually entered into about the age of 12-14. It is possible that an earlier apprenticeship had ended with his master’s death and this was a conclusion. Certainly, by the time of the leases mentioned above, where John assigned land to his brothers-in-law, Pow and Edgell, he is referred to as a cordwainer. John is probably the John Peters who married Ann Fear in 1747 and had several children baptised at Chew. He died in 1771.

Our main interest lies in Robert, the youngest son who had been born in 1731. He was married for the first time on June 1st, 1762 to Sarah Tutton at Dundry. Tragically Sarah died within seven months and was buried in Chew Magna on February 1st 1763. Robert later married Mary Lee at Chew on August 10th 1766, and they had a large family, whose names we have seen above. He is normally referred to as a yeoman and on occasion attended the Vestry, the body that controlled the secular affairs of the parish.

Robert Peters signature in Vestry Dec 1773 copy
Robert Peters signature at a Chew Magna Vestry meeting 1773

Where the family lived is open to conjecture; two of his sons were to live on Norton Lane in North Elm, just to the north-east of St Andrews church, and it may be there that Robert and Mary resided. Robert died in October 1797 having made his will the month earlier. All the children named in the baptismal register were still alive and treated in a roughly similar manner; daughter Elizabeth (who was to marry the following year) and sons Arthur, Robert, Tobias, James, Hugh and Edward were each to receive 2 guineas, and in addition Arthur was to have his father’s wearing apparel. His “plate, linen etc” (unfortunately the original will is lost and all we have is an abstract of the late nineteenth century) which probably includes all household items was to be divided in two, and one “moiety” given to son John. the other half was to be used by his widow in her lfetime and thereafter divided between the other children; Mary lived on until 1816.

From the parish register entries and the 1841 Census it is possible to discover the occupations of Robert and Mary’s sons. Only Tobias disappears from view; all the others remained in Chew Magna. Arthur was a carpenter, whilst Robert, John and Hugh were described as farmers; James and Edward were agricultural labourers, possibly working for their one or other of their brothers. All the brothers married in the village apart from the eldest, Robert and the youngest, Edward; our ancestor, James married Jane Jefferson on May 29th, 1800. I have not been able to trace Jane’s origins yet. Jefferson is an unusual name in Somerset although Jane claimed in the 1841 Census to have been born there. Sadly she died in 1850, just months before the next Census which would have revealed her place of birth.

James and Jane must have lived a hard life. Agriculture was in deep decline in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars and life for an agricultural labourer was harsh and unpredicatble at the best of times. They had eight children baptised at St Andrews (on one occasion Jane is referred to as Jenny – obviously a pet name) and in 1819 three of them, Edward, Sarah and Elizabeth appear in a list of “poor children” bound by the parish as apprentices. Two years later another son, Hugh died aged 10 and James had to approach the Parish Vestry to obtain “15/- to defray the expense of his son’s funeral”.

In this generation, our family line loses its connection with the ancestral lands that had been farmed by their forebears for several generations. James’ brothers who took on the leases and appear in the 1841 Census as farmers held many of the fields that John Heale had in 1696.

In this section of the 1840 Tithe Apportionment Map the field numbered 179 is Barns Hay and was held by James’ brother, John. This is one of the fields included in the property held by John Heale, and even the size (6 acres more or less) remains the same. Also shown is Chewhill Farm at 252 (bottom right) ; this was held by another brother, Hugh in 1840 and is one possibility for the family home of the Peters in the 18th century.

1840 Tithe map Barns Hay
All three of James and Jane’s surviving sons were agricultural labourers, like their father; Edward, the eldest never married, but both the younger boys, James and John left families who remained in the village for many years. There were still members of the greater Peters family in Chew Magna at the time of the 1939 Register. John married Elizabeth Hall from neighbouring Chew Stoke in 1839, and they lived next to Elizabeth’s parents in Westfields, Chew Stoke for a few years after their marriage.

Marriage of John Peters 1839


Their four eldest children, Henry, Louisa, Eliza and Benjamin Hall Peters were all
baptised at St Andrews church in Chew Stoke before the family returned to Chew Magna between 1847 and 1850. From then until the mid 1870s they lived in a cottage in Battles Lane on the western side of the village. and a further six children were baptised in the parish church. Charles, the youngest was christened on October 16th 1864 on the same day that a grandddaughter of John and Elizabeth was also. She was baptised Rosina Fear Peters and was the result of a liaison between Louisa and Samuel Fear, the son of a local farmer. Samuel was three years younger than Louisa and was obviously disinclined to marry her. Louisa had recourse to the law to obtain an allowance for her child and in the Western Gazette of 28th July 1865 the following notice was published:

Louisa Peters Samuel Fear 1865 Western Gazette 28 July


Two years later, Samuel married another local girl, Hannah Fear (Fear was a very common name in Chew Magna) and later established a butcher’s shop in the village. Around this time Louisa moved to Bristol, for in September 1868 she married Stephen Bumstead in Bedminster. She gives her abode as West Street, but this may just be a convenience address to establish her presence for the calling of banns. The witnesses were Louisa’s brother, Benjamin and his fiancee, Ann Green. Ann’s family lived in West Street at this time. John and Elizabeth were still in Chew Magna when the 1871 Census was taken, but seemed to have moved to Bedminster in the next few years. John died there in 1878 and Elizabeth and her remaining children were living at Richmond Terrace in 1881. In 1901 Elizabeth is living in the household of Stephen and Louisa Bumstead at 1 Diamond Street, Bedminster. She died early in 1911 aged 90.

1 Diamond Street crop
1 Diamond Street, Bedminster


To conclude this account I shall summarise the lives of John and Elizabeth’s ten children:

Henry Peters (1840 – ?) the eldest, bore a name not used by either parents’ families before. He is with John and Elizabeth in 1841 and 1851, but in the 1861 Census he is living in the household of the Rev. Alfred Hensley at Grove in Nottinghamshire. He is unmarried and working as a groom. Thereafter no trace of a Henry Peters can be found, but he seems to resurface as the William Henry Peters who appears in records as Henry vanishes. This William Henry (often William H. Peters) is first found in the 1871 Census as a butler working for Salisbury Baxendale, a barrister and JP in Stanstead, Herts; his place of birth is Chew Stoke and his age 31. He married Hannah Elizabeth Phillips on the Isle of Wight in 1879, and they had two children, William Frederick Daniel, born at Sandown in 1880, and Florence Blanche Elizabeth, born in Chelsea in 1883. Another child died young. William Henry has not yet been found in 1881 or 1891, presumably he was away working and either not recorded or misrecorded, but Hannah is still on the Isle of Wight in the 1881 Census and in Chelsea in 1891. The latter is of great interest as, besides her children, she has living with her an Elizabeth Peters, a widow of 72 years described as “mother” to the head of household. Although her place of birth is given as Bristol (perhaps Hannah didn’t know any better – Elizabeth had lived there for the past 15 or so years) this must be Elizabeth, the widow of John Peters, and William Henry’s mother. Certainly Hannah’s mother was named Fanny Phillips.

In 1901 William Henry is back with the family who have moved to Streatham, and his occupation is given as “Jobbing Gardener”; in 1911, with both children having married, William Henry, together with Hannah, is back in service in the household of Robert Borradaile, a retired clergyman in Oxted, Surrey. William is a butler once more and Hannah the cook of the household. No definitive death record can be found for William Henry, although the most likely is in 1914. Hannah seems to have lived until 1947. Of their children, William became an architect with the London CC, but served in the RAMC during the First World War and died of a cerebral haemorrhage whilst in the army of occupation, near Bonn on May 2nd, 1919, leaving a son and daughter. Florence married Joshua Swift, a carpenter in 1903 at Wimbledon parish church. They had a large family and Florence died in 1970.
Louisa Peters (1842 – 1923) we have heard of above. Her husband, Stephen Bumstead moved (as many did at this period) from being a blacksmith to an engineer; in his case a stationary engine driver, working in the timberyards of Bristol. As well as Louisa’s daughter, Rosina, they raised two sons, Frederick Walter (1879 – 1947) and George Albert (1888 – 1976). Stephen died at the age of 59 in 1903. All three children married and raised families; Rosina married John Roberts in 1891, and they had five children, three boys and two girls. Frederick married Lily Price in 1905 and they had a son and five daughters, and George (always known as Bert) married Mabel Kate Flexney in 1914, and their only child was my father, Francis Albert Stephen Bumstead.

Frederick Bumstead and Lily Price

Frederick Walter Bumstead and Lily Price at their marriage 1905

In this damaged photo of Frederick’s wedding there is a tantalising glimpse of other family members. The gentleman behind Frederick’s shoulder could be a Peters uncle, and it seems there is a lady sitting to his left. This may be either Louisa, or more likely, Elizabeth Peters (nee Hall) who surely would have attended her grandson’s marriage.
Frederick was employed as a wood machinist for most of his life, whilst George Albert was a plumber and gas fitter, although during the First World War he worked at the Bristol aircraft factory at Filton. He was originally turned down for enlistment in 1914, owing to an injured wrist sustained in a cricket match, and later was in a reserved occupation and thus avoided military service.
Eliza Peters (1844 – ?) has proved fairly elusive. She married George Chapman, a carpenter in Bedminster in 1870 and they had two daughters; Sidonia Eliza Jane (1875 – 1881) and Lilian Gertrude (1879 – 1961). In 1871 Eliza and George were living in Whitchurch, near Bristol, and in 1881 and 1891 they are back in Bedminster. Thereafter there is nothing; there are a couple of possible deaths for a George Chapman, but none I can find for Eliza. In 1901 Lilian is living with her aunt Louisa Bumstead and six months later she married Alfred Greening with whom she had four children.
Benjamin Hall Peters (1847 – 1913) was named for his uncle, Elizabeth’s younger brother. We have seen above that he was a witness at the marriage of his sister, Louisa in 1868, along with Ann Green, whom he was to marry the following year. Ann’s family were market gardeners living in West Street, Bedminster, and the young couple remained with the Green family for many years. They had two daughters who died young (Annie Louisa 1870-72 and Annie Louise 1874-8) before two sons who survived; William Arthur born 1880 and Thomas Newland born 1883. Benjamin is shown as a porter in 1871, but in the following two censuses he is a gardener, no doubt working with his father-in-law. After the deaths of Ann’s parents Benjamin seems to have given up the business and is shown as a carter in 1901. Ann died a few years later and the 1911 census shows Benjamin returning to Chew Magna and working as a jobbing garderer again, two years before his death.
James Peters (1850 – 1928) was the first child of John and Elizabeth to be baptised in Chew Magna. He married Harriet Hembry Brimble in Bedminster in 1869 and two years later they were living in Bath where James is a railway porter, with a daughter Florence. By the time of the 1881 census, James and Harriet have moved to Newport in Monmouthshire and James is now a hair cutter; surprisingly they have a single daughter, Florence whose age is given as six. I can’t find a death for the child of ten years before, and the birth of this Florence was registered in Bedminster in 1875. However 1891 finds the family still in Newport with James now shown as a hairdressser and an employer. Also with them is James’ younger brother, Charles who is a hairdresser too.

Florence married William Serle in Bedminster in 1898 and it may be that the family had already returned to live there before as James and Harriet are living at 16 North Street, Bedminster in 1901. They are still there in 1911 and their granddaughter Phyllis Brookland Serle is living with them, as her parents left Bristol on the “Royal Edward”, bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia in February of that year. A newspaper report of May 1928 tells the sad story of James’ death. It appears he died of gas poisoning when a faulty tap in his bedroom was loosened by movement about the room. It seems as if his granddaughter Phyllis was still living with the family. Harriet died in 1937 and the register of 1939 still shows Phyllis living on her own at 16 North Street, Bedminster.

Inquest on James Peters 1928

Jane Peters (1853 – 1924) moved to Bristol before her parents as she is shown in the 1871 census working as a domestic servant in the household of Charlotte Caudwell, a lodging house keeper, at 8 Vyvyan Terrace, Clifton, Bristol. At some time in the next few years she moved away and her marriage to Joseph Howes is recorded at Standon in Staffordshire early in 1877. In the census four years later, Joseph and Jane are living with Joseph’s widowed mother, Anne in Standon, where he is employed as an agricultural labourer. They have their two eldest children with them, Albert and George. Ten years later they have moved to 28, Gresty Road, Crewe in Cheshire where Joseph worked as a railway porter, and they now have another son, Charles and a daughter, Gertrude. Two further sons, Leonard and Reginald completed the family by the time of the 1901 Census, although this shows that another child had died at some time during Joseph and Jane’s marriage. A family memoir records that it was a happy and busy household, welcoming the young peoples’ friends with supper and games. All of the children married and had families and the photograph below shows Joseph and Jane at the occasion of their daughter, Gertrude’s marriage in 1921.

Jane Peters and Joseph Howes copy

Jane died in 1924 and Joseph the following year.


Thomas Peters (1856 – 1893), John Peters (1858 – 1881) and Frederick Peters (1861 – 1882), the next three sons of John and Elizabeth Peters are shadowy figures, about which not much can be discovered. They are all living with their mother Elizabeth in the 1881 census at Richmond Terrace, Bedminster. Thomas and John are described as general labourers but Frederick has no occupation, and in the column that lists physical or mental disabilities the following appears:

1881 Census Frederick Peters health
I can only read this “quiet invalide”, but any suggestions as to a different meaning would be welcome. Was he perhaps in some type of withdrawn state? The enumerator has avoided using any of the suggestions at the heading of the column; imbecile, idiot or lunatic. It seems that Frederick died the following year and his brother John in the November of 1881. Thomas appears in the 1891 census as a lodger at the Exeter Inn in Southgate Street, Bath, but with no occupation and his death seems to be listed in Bedminster in 1893.

Charles Peters (1864 – 1947) was the youngest child of John and Elizabeth and was still at home with his mother and three brothers in 1881. His occupation is grocer’s assistant. Ten years later he had left Bristol and was living with his brother James in Newport, working for (and trained by?) him as a hairdresser. Whilst James had returned to Bedminster by 1901, Charles remained in Newport, working on his own account as a hairdresser. He had married Minnie Ann Rider in Bedminster in 1894 and together they had at least four children. There is some doubt as in the 1911 census return Charles has recorded that they have had four children, one of whom has died and yet then lists four children, all alive: Herbert Charles, William Henry, Violet May, and Daisy. At this time the family are living at 160 West Street, Bedminster with Charles again stating that he works on his own account, at home.

Of the children of Charles and Minnie, William Henry is a mystery. I can find no trace of him after 1911. Herbert married Lily Jenette Jones in 1923 and in the 1939 Register they have one person with them whose name is not available. This may be a son, Mervyn as there was a birth recorded in Bedminster in 1930 with a Peters father and Jones mother, but we can’t be sure. Herbert was a tobacconist and confectioner and at that date the family were living at his parents previous home of 160 West Street. Charles and Minnie had moved to 104 Chessel Street, Bedminster where they are shown on the Register along with daughter Daisy and her husband, Isaac Victor Oram. Violet married William Hamilton Bennett in 1924 and they had at least two children. 1939 found them at 10 Bath Street, opposite the site of George’s Brewery, where no doubt William worked in the fermenting department. Minnie Peters died in 1944 and Charles three years later, the last of John and Elizabeth’s children to die.

As an interesting footnote, Charles and Minnie’s next door neighbours at 106 Chessel Street were the Flexney family, and Charles’ nephew, George Albert Bumstead married Mabel Kate Flexney in 1914. Is it possible they met whilst Bert was visiting his uncle and aunt?

Charlie Peters 1930s

Charles Peters later in life

Acknowledgements: photographs of Jane & Joseph Howes, and Charles Peters: Lynne Gibson.

Photograph of Frederick and Lily Bumstead: Josephine Summers

Documents: The National Archive,  Somerset Heritage Centre & National Newspaper Archive

The Horwood family of Bristol

St James Square, Bristol c1805

I have already mentioned two Bristol families in previous articles – the Heales and the Drews, and now will turn my attention to the third main family who provide the connection between the city and the Peters family of Chew Magna; the Horwoods.The surname is variously spelt as Horwood and Harwood, but I have chosen the former as it was the first version I came across and sheer laziness prevents me from changing all my notes.

William Horwood was born around 1633/5 but no record of his parentage, baptism or possible apprenticeship has been found yet. The first time we encounter him is at his marriage to Elizabeth Drew at the church of St Philip and St Jacob in Bristol on April 7th 1656. Just under a year later, on March 3rd 1657, William was admitted as a Burgess of Bristol, giving him the right to vote in local and national elections and the right to work and trade within the city. He was granted this by reason of his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter of a Burgess, Robert Drew the housecarpenter; marriage to a daughter or widow of a Burgess conferred the right, as well as the more normal methods of entry which were as the apprentice to a Burgess on completion of the apprenticeship, or as the son of one.

By trade William was a feltmaker, possibly serving an apprenticeship outside the city of Bristol. Horwood/Harwood was a common name in south Gloucestershire. Feltmaking or Hatting was an important local industry, suppling the hinterland as well as a substantial export trade, especially to the American and Caribbean colonies. Whilst Bristol had its own Company of Feltmakers and Haberdashers, catering to the retail and wholesale trade, as well as manufacturing, South Gloucestershire was the hub of a cottage industry geared to the cheaper end of the market. By the middle of the eighteenth century it is estimated that there were over 10,000 people employed in the hatting trade in the villages of Frampton Cotterell, Winterbourne and Rangeworthy alone. The majority of these would be piece-workers, being supplied with materials, and tied to selling to members of the Bristol Company.

It was a dangerous occupation too – many workers succumbing to lung complaints brought on by the constant wool dust which the process produced as well as the ever-present threat of “hatters’ disease” caused by mercury poisoning, and the inhalation of the fibres used in the process. This caused mood swings, memory loss and tremors and gave us the expression “as mad as a hatter”.

Art of Hat Making
A print of the mid 18th century shows the process of feltmaking. This would hardly have changed since the days of William Horwood. The feltmaker is shown to the right, with his bow, layering the fibres into a “batt”. By plucking the bow over the loose fibres they were rearranged and layered into the required shape. The “batt’ was then rolled up and down boards over a “bason” containing heated acidic liquid – this is shown to the left. This arrangement of boards and bason was known as a kettle. The batts would be regularly dipped into the liquid and then pressed and rolled again until the correct thickness was acquired. On the floor are the moulds for the shaping of the hats, and finished hats are hanging to dry on the walls.

A study of the archives of the Company of Feltmakers shows that William was admitted a member in 1660 and during the next few years played an active part in the organisation. He served twice as Warden (1662 and 1665) and twice as Master of the Company, the first time in 1666, when he would have only been in his early thirties. His second term was in 1670.

William and Elizabeth had four children baptised at St Philip and St Jacobs, Elizabeth (1656), Mary (1657), William (1660) and John (1663), and both the sons were later apprenticed to House Carpenters, following in the profession of their grandfather, Robert Drew. John, having completed his apprenticeship with Thomas Stockman, was admitted as a Burgess of Bristol on March 31st 1685. Two years later, on June 2, 1687 John married Mary Heale at the Quaker Meeting House in Bristol. As noted in a previous article, Mary was the daughter of two prominent Quakers, John and Margaret Heale, whereas the Horwood family appear to have diverged in their religious affiliations. When the intention to marry of John and Mary was first declared at the Quaker Meeting, Elizabeth was present and gave her “concent and aprobacion”. This however, was not sufficient for the Meeting and the following month John appeared again with “a certeficate from his father William Horwood of his concent and aprobacion”. William was not a witness at their marriage, whereas Elizabeth made a bold EH mark.


William probably died in 1690/1 as his membership of the Feltmakers Company ceases then, but I have not found his burial yet. It was certainly not in the Quaker burial ground at Redcliff, whereas Elizabeth was interred there at her death in 1693. So it seems William remained an anglican and Elizabeth, in common with several of her siblings, joined the Society of Friends. William and Elizabeth had lived in one of the properties built, and held on a Corporation lease, by Robert Drew. In his will of 1681, Robert left this house to trustees to hold for the use of Elizabeth for the remaining term of the lease. It is probable that the newly-wed John and Mary Horwood lived there too, as at the birth of their eldest child, Mary on February 7th 1688, the certificate records that she was born at their dwelling house in Castle Street

Birth of Mary Horwood 1687 2

Two further daughters, Elizabeth (1689) and Margaret (date unknown) were born to the marriage before the premature death of Mary Horwood in 1695. She too, was buried in the Redcliff burial ground. It would be fifty years before her husband John was to join her.

John continued to reside in the Castle Precincts, as the area built on the site of the demolished Bristol Castle was known, and it may well be that the family occupied the same house that Robert Drew had built back in the 1650s and which John’s parents had lived in. In 1696 a list of inhabitants was drawn up for taxation purposes and as the transcribed extract below shows, John Horwood’s neighbour is one Peter Gray, who was another tenant of the Corporation and whose property was alongside two of the houses mentioned in Robert’s will. Other members of the extended Drew family can also be seen – Mary and Francis Page, and John and Darcas Collins.

John Horwood in Inhabitants of Bristol 1696 crop

It is interesting that John’s eldest daughter Mary is not present here. This document does not represent a snapshot of Bristolians, in the way of modern Censuses, but was intended as a definitive list on which to base future tax assessments. It may well be that Mary, who would only have been eight years old, had moved into her grandfather Heale’s residence. John Heale, who had lived in Wine Street, Bristol moved to Chew Magna at some time around 1691/2, when his name disappears from taxation records in the city. Possibly, as John’s senior heiress, it was considered suitable for her to be raised in the house she would inherit and become the lady of the household. Mary’s eldest daughter, as will be seen, appears to do the same in the following century.

John Horwood’s name does not feature in Quaker records very often; he does attend the Men’s meeting on occasion, and in 1690 is paid for his work on the new School established by the Friends. His signature is also seen as witnessing marriages, but he was certainly not a prominent member of the Society. His business interests do seem to have prospered though. His name is no longer found in the taxation records of Castle Precincts; possibly the lease originally granted to Robert Drew had ended and John now appears in the tax records of St James parish to the north. Initially in “Broadmeade” in 1704, and later on in Milk Street. An indenture of 1703 shows him involved in the purchase of property in the Barton (St James Barton presumably), Rosemary Lane and “Angell House near the weir”. Another in 1719 involves three houses in St Peters parish and St Philips. Whether or not John was involved in these deals as a carpenter, to build or rebuild on the sites, or purely as an investor is hard to tell. Certainly the Poll Books for 1734 and 1739 show John as a freeholder of St James parish.

On one of the documents where John is named he is described as a merchant rather than a carpenter, and indeed he was involved in other enterprises. At this time, Bristol was one of the pricipal lead-smelting centres in the country, and together with other businessmen John was involved in the extraction of lead. At least three leases survive (there could well be others) which show him as a partner (often the senior one) in prospecting and digging for minerals. One dated August 26th 1719 show him acquiring two-eights of a partnership to “dig and search for lead and other ore upon the Cardiganshire lands of Thomas Johnes of Llanfair”. The other parties were the landowner and his son-in-law, a Bristol merchant, a Gloucestershire Gentleman and a Thornbury yeoman. These individuals were named in another lease two year later, in another Welsh mining enterprise on the lands of Viscount Lisburne. The consideration at that time for a 21 year lease was £50 and one seventh of the ores raised. In 1726 John entered into a 7 year lease for the mining rights on the land of a Captain Obadiah Webb at Stoke Bishop, in the parish of Westbury-On-Trym. This may well have been in the area of the old lead workings on Durdham Downs.

All of the houses constructed by John Horwood have probably long since been demolished, but one certainly survived into the 1880s. On June 16th 1709 John was granted a lease on a plot of land on the eastern side of Queen Square. The Square was a grand new development by the Corporation of Bristol on land between King Street and the quay, known as the Marsh. It had previously been a public recreational area, with a bowling green and tree-lined walkways. A piecemeal attempt to develop it had come to nothing and it was resolved to grant a good number of leases (some 25 within 6 months) so that it could be completed, and raise the status of the city as befitted its trading reputation. It remains the second largest square in Britain to this day.

John was originally granted a plot with a 64 foot frontage and a depth towards Welsh Back of 121 feet. A codicil to the lease requests instead for there to be two plots of 32 foot, with the more southerly one granted to Henry Walter Esq.

1709 Lease John Horwood Queen Square

The 1709 lease

The lease was for an initial period of two years with a rent of “ a Pepper Corne” and a proviso that John build a “Mansion House or Houses” thereupon. Thereafter he was granted the premises for a term of a further 51 years at an annual rent of £3. 4s. The property (seen on a map of 1828 as No 19) was not mentioned in his will of 1745 and one presumes he sold on the lease to help finance other investments, possibly the mining activities. Queen Square became a fashionable residential site at once and John, no doubt, made a good profit on his enterprise.

Queen Square map 1828 copy

Detail of Ashmead’s map of 1828

It is fascinating to see that John had adapted so quickly to the demands of the new age. Brick and stone had rapidly replaced wood as the pricipal building materials and the carpenter’s manual job was reduced to providing joists and roof timbers, yet along with many others, John had transformed himself into what we would now call a builder and developer.

Queen Square 1827 painting
Queen Square, painted in 1827 and showing the south-east corner. The house built by John Horwood is on the extreme left, beneath the tower of St Mary Redcliffe

Following the death of his father-in-law, John Heale in 1710, John Horwood appears to have taken over the property and land at Chew Magna which was bequeathed to his three daughters in John Heale’s will. It is possible that he spent time there on occasion, and certainly his daughters are described as “of Chew Magna” in various documents. Only the eldest, Mary ever married. The wedding, to Robert Peters, a yeoman of Chew, took place in 1713 at Wells Cathedral by Licence, and with her father’s consent. For a Quaker, marrying before an Anglican priest in “a steeple church” was a cause for expulsion from the Society, so possibly the couple married well away from their home parish to avoid any complications for both the newlyweds and the bride’s father.

On the 1st November 1744 John Horwood drew up his will. There are substantial cash bequests to his eight Peters grandchildren (£50 a piece on marriage, if such marriage is approved by his daughters!) and the two properties he holds in Chew in his wife’s name are left to his two grandsons, John and Robert Peters junior. He bequeaths two Bristol freehold properties to his youngest daughters: a house in St James Square to Elizabeth and a house in Merchant Street jointly to Elizabeth and Margaret.

It is interesting that Margaret, the youngest (albeit aged about 54) receives nothing individually. His household goods in Chew are left to daughter Elizabeth, and in Bristol mainly to granddaughter, Elizabeth Peters, who presuambly lived with him, as he refers to the “Bedd and all that belongs to it which my Granddaughter Elizabeth Peters now lyes on”. He is scupulous in arranging matters so that his grandchildren benefit in the long run so long as they do not go against the wishes of their mother and aunt. It therefore seems to be the case that he moved between houses in Bristol and Chew, and although he leaves no property in Chew Magna to his second daughter, Elizabeth, we shall see that she describes herself in the following year as “Of Chew Magna”. John also bequeaths the profits of his “Five Eighths in Ventures” – no doubt his mining interests – equitably; two eighths to daughters Elizabeth & Margaret jointly; two eighths to the grandchildren jointly and one eighth to daughter Mary Peters.



John died on 17th or 18th April 1745 and was buried in the Quaker Burial Ground at Redcliff on the 19th. The certificate shows that he died “att his house on Redclift Hill” – one not mentioned in his will, so presumably it was rented.

Redcliffe Hill

Redcliff Hill in the late 1700s

However much John Horwood, in his will, hoped to divide his estate fairly between his daughters and grandchildren, a series of unforseen events was to complicate this. He had named his daughter Elizabeth sole executrix and, although she presumably carried out the provisions of the will as probated, what resulted from her actions was to provide a sad coda to the story of the Horwood family.

Within a month of John’s death three of his Peters granddaughters married, and were given £50 each as stipulated in the bequest. The executrix, Elizabeth Horwood then converted the remaining £250 which was “at Interest” with a Bristol currier, Stephen Stone into a bond with Stone, but in her own name. Has Elizabeth lived longer, no doubt all would have been resolved as the remaining Peters children married in their turn. However it would appear that she died suddenly on November 25th 1746. She had attended the marriage of her neice, Elizabeth Peters to Anthony Lawrence at the Quaker Meeting House in Bristol in April of that year, signing as a witness, and on August 7th she made her will, yet something very odd seems to have occurred. Her will states that she was “of Chew Magna”, yet her death is recorded in the Castle Precincts in Bristol. Even stranger, her sister Margaret died there the same day. They were both buried at Redcliffe on 26th November.

Burial of Margaret Horwood 1746

Margaret Horwood is a shadowy figure – her birth was not recorded in the Quaker Registers, and whenever she features as the beneficiary in a will, it is normally not as an individual, but as a sharer in an annuity or property bequest. It may be that she was handicapped in some way and not considered able to look after her own interests, unlike her two elder sisters.

With the deaths of Elizabeth and Margaret the narrative of our family story properly moves on to the Peters family, but I shall deal with the consequences of Elizabeth’s actions here. Unlike her father, Elizabeth obviously had her favourites among her nephews and neices. Of the two freehold houses in Bristol, the St James Square property was left to Elizabeth Lawrence, nee Peters, the eldest grandchild of John Horwood; on Elizabeth’s death in 1762 it would have passed into the hands of her widower. The Merchant Street house was left to sister Margaret for her life, and thereafter to Robert Peters, the youngest grandson of John Horwood. Was it assumed Margaret would not be able to make a will of her own? There were a few cash bequests to others (kinsmen and servants possibly), but the remainder, including the house and property in Chew Magna and all her goods was left to her neices Hester Edgell and Margaret Pow, whom she appointed joint executrices. No mention is made of Elizabeth’s sister, Mary Peters, nor of Mary’s other children, Mary, John, Martha or Frances. Hester and Margaret were the third and fourth daughters of Robert and Mary Peters, and the actions of these two sisters, along with their husbands would lead to a family dispute that would end in the Court of Chancery. But that belongs to the story of the Peters family.

Horwood family tree jpeg

The Drew family of Bristol

Castle Street 17th Century houses

The Drew family line can be taken back to one John Drewe who was probably born around 1575. His marriage to Joan Gillson is recorded at St Philip and St Jacob’s church in Bristol on 2nd May 1603, although Joan may be his second wife, as there is an entry in the burial register a year earlier for Elinor, the wife of John Drewe. No baptisms with John and Elinor as parents occur in the register, but his marriage to Joan produced four children, two daughters named Anna (the eldest died aged 2), a son, Robert and a final daughter, Bridget. Little more is known of John; he does not appear in the Bristol Burgess Books, but we can be sure he lived in the eastern part of the city, in the Old Market area, and he is surely the individual whose burial is recorded in 1624 at St Philip and St Jacob.

John died intestate and administration of his estate was granted to the widow, Joan on 20th September on presentation of an inventory, which happily survives. It is frustrating that the occupation of John is unclear (and possibly missing), but it may read “husband(man)”, which is a smallholder or farmer who leased his land. Certainly the contents of the inventory would bear this out, although no animals or leases are mentioned. He did leave however, two acres of oats and oats in the barn as well as fodder and three stacks of hay, which would indicate that he kept stock. In addition he had horse fetters and saddles in the house as well as ox yokes and pig styes. The only livestock listed are a single cock and hen. Inside, as well as the normal household items there were cheese vats, a cheese press and ten cheeses. He also owned a crossbow, arrow and bolt. No mention is made of the property apart from the fact that it must have comprised a dwelling house with three downstairs rooms (hall, parlour and kitchen) and two chambers above, as well as a barn.

Inventory of John Drew 1624

The Inventory of John Drewe’s goods 1624

With John’s son Robert, the documentary evidence is much stronger. On 28th July 1633 he married Elizabeth Brayne (also at St Philip) and eighteen months later he was admitted as a Burgess of Bristol. He is listed as a Carpenter and the name of the master to whom he had been apprenticed was John Friend. Carpenters (sometimes House Carpenters) were major figures in the rapid expansion of Bristol in the seventeenth century.

Before c1700 virtually all houses were constructed of wood, even the grandest, such as the famous “Dutch House” which once stood at the corner of Wine Street and High Street. This magnificent structure was built about 1680, almost certainly by local craftsmen. The master carpenter was the main contractor on any construction, being responsible for arranging the design, foundations, all the major framework and the roof woodwork. Separate tradesmen would be called in for the minor works; a joiner for the internal partitions and probably the doors and windows; plasterers, glaziers and plumbers for the windows and roof leadwork, and finally tilers for the roof. During this period wages were fixed and strictly enforced by the Corporation – a master carpenter, if employed was paid 2/- per day; journeymen and older apprentices received 1/8d and junior apprentices 1/4d. The hours of labour were also fixed – from 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning until 7pm – with breaks for breakfast and lunch.

Dutch House

The Dutch House

The mid seventeenth century was a busy time for carpenters in Bristol; apart from the regular rebuilding of decaying properties and those damaged by the constant fires that were a terrifying hazard in a largely timber-built city, a major construction site became available in the 1650s when Oliver Cromwell authorised the demolition of Bristol Castle by the City Corporation. The Castle had been purchased by the Corporation in the 1630s, and although garrisoned during the Civil War, had not seen any military action for hundreds of years; Cromwell was pleased to see the end of a possible stonghold in the centre of the second city of the Kingdom, which still held many royalist sympathisers. The Castle had been in disrepair for some time and the site contained many illegal gerry-built structures which harboured criminals and low-life of all descriptions. It was almost completely demolished and three main streets were constructed on the site – Castle Street, Tower Street and Castle Green.

St Philip and St Jacob, Bristol

St Philip and St Jacob’s Church

Although living closer to the parish church of St Peter, the Drew family maintained their connection with St Philip and St Jacob. All of Robert and Elizabeth’s children were baptised there, and two of their daughters married there; Elizabeth married William Horwood, a feltmaker on 7th April 1656 and the following year, Mary married Francis Page who had been one of Robert’s apprentices. Francis became a Burgess of the City through the completion of his apprenticeship, whilst William did so by virtue of his marriage to Elizabeth; marriage with the daughter or widow of a Burgess was one method of becoming a Freeman. A lease of 1641 shows that Robert already rented a property inside the Castle grounds – “that tenement wherin he dwelleth” with a woodyard adjoining the Castle wall on the south side. The lease was for 99 years or the lives of himself, Elizabeth his wife and John, his son.
On the destruction of Bristol Castle the Corporation granted many new leases to citizens who were willing to take on the clearing of the site and the construction of new properties. Robert must have been one of the earliest to obtain such a lease – possibly because of the situation of his existing dwelling. On the 26th July 1656 a lease was granted on the surrender of his previous one, which included a property (“messuage or tenement” is the phrase customarily used) called the George Inn, which was near the site of the Castle Gate, just inside the walls, and a piece of void land leading to the highway – the new Castle Street as it was to become. It may well be that this included the house and woodyard he previously rented from the Corporation. A renewal in 1658 granted him the land behind the George, running down to the river and gives the dimensions of the site – a street frontage of 47 feet. and a frontage onto the Avon of 42 feet. The lives on which the lease was granted are now those of his daughters, Mary Page and Elizabeth Horwood, and his youngest son, Joseph, and the term has been extended from the 41 years of the 1656 lease to 99 years. The annual rent was £6.10s and there was a convenant to erect a building on the street frontage, so the George must have stood somewhat back from the line of Castle Street.

In 1663 Robert was granted a further lease on a site in Castle Street of 36 feet in frontage and 70 feet backwards. This was the site of Nos 7 & 8. One condition was that he “remove the Rubbell thereon and build two houses within the space of four years in uniformity to the rest of the Castle buildings”. A rent of 12d per foot (presumably a reduction on the norm) is agreed because “there are noe stones left to bee made use of”. It seems that Thomas Harding, another carpenter had already constucted the house at No.7 as the lease records that one house is already built. These houses were almost facing Robert’s other properties at the George Inn site on the south side of Castle Street. Although the lease stipulates that the houses were to be constructed “in uniformity” with rest of the new developments in the area, it appears that such uniformity was loosely applied. Robert’s house at No. 8 bears the inscription in the plasterwork “ID” and “1663”.


Castle Street 17th Century houses

Nos. 7 & 8 Castle Street painted in 1828

All three of Robert and Elizabeth’s sons became House Carpenters and Burgesses in due course – John the eldest (born 1635) was admitted in 1665, Samuel in 1666 and Joseph in 1677, and the elder two are also found being granted leases in the Castle Precincts (as the area encompassing the old Castle site was known).

1663 Lease Robert Drew mark

Mark of Robert Drew on 1663 lease

In 1665 Samuel, the middle son was granted a lease on a plot in Tower Street on which he was covenanted to build two houses and in 1668 the eldest son John, took a lease on a plot at what became Nos. 70, 71 & 72 Castle Street. In all these cases it is laid down the pattern of the buildings to be constructed – in the wording of the 1668 lease to John Drew: “one good, strong, firme and substantiall tenement, fitt and convenient for a tennant to dwell therein and the same tenement to be three story in height besides the roof and alsoe in uniformity to the rest of the Castle buildings there erected”. All three of Robert’s sons
have fine signatures on these documents but Robert himself could only make a mark. Strangely enough John Drew alone signs himself “John Drue als Druw”.


Castle Precincts 1673 copy 2

Detail from Millerd’s map of 1673. Robert’s properties at The George Inn in red and No.8 in yellow; Samuel’s Tower Street houses in blue and John’s houses in Castle Street in green; The “Sugar House” in white.

We can pinpoint the area where the Drews constructed their houses and where they lived for the next thirty or so years. In Millerd’s map of 1673 a cluster of buildings is shown to the east of St Peter’s church. One lease granted to a Ralph Hele in 1656 states that his plot of land is between Castle Street and the river to the north and south, and between the George Inn on the east and the “Sugar House” on the west, and stood where the old Castle ditch had been, against the Castle wall. The George is, of course, Robert’s plot, and the Sugar House was part of the old mansion of the Aldworth family, later known as St Peter’s Hospital; it had been used for sugar refining for much of the 16th century, and was later to become the Bristol Mint, the first Workhouse in the country and later, the Bristol Register Office. It was totally destroyed in the Blitz in 1940. Thus the site where Robert and John built their houses was a property’s width away from the Aldworth mansion.

Site of George Inn 1789

A later map of 1789 shows quite clearly where the yard of the George Inn lay and confirms the situation.

It is not known if the Drew family ran the George themselves, or simply sublet the running of it to others. A Council resolution of July 1657, just a year after Robert had acquired the site states: “Whereas the Castle is now demolished, and a common street and highway made therein. And whereas there was formerly a house in the Castle called the George inn. A new house having been built on part of the old site, and it being very commodious for entertaining men and horses, Ordered that the said house be used as a common inn and hostelry”. A few months later a further resolution forbad the establishment of any other inn within the Castle Precincts. Obviously Robert had constructed a very desirable residence and perhaps the family then had to live in another house on the site. It could be a reason for the later (1663) lease which enabled Robert to build elsewhere in Castle Street. The George became a very valuable property for the Council and they sold it on to the Merchant Venturers in 1686.

Some of the extended Drew family became Quakers as the century progressed, and suffered as a result. It is recorded in March 1682 that Constable Hoares “violently haled one Mary Page, Wife of Fra. Page, out of the Meeting to the endangering of her life, she being big with Child”. It seems that Robert’s eldest son, John and his wife Dorcas were also members of the Society, along with the Pages and Elizabeth Horwood. The births of the children of John Drew and Mary Page are recorded in Quaker registers, whereas those of John’s brothers are not, and the Horwoods had their children baptised at St Philips.

The three Drew sons all married and produced families, and at least two of Robert’s grandsons became house carpenters in their turn. The family appears to have remained in Bristol thoroughout the eighteenth century. The two eldest boys, John and Samuel predeceased their father, leaving their widows with six and three children respectively. John made his will in June 1680 and presumably died shortly after; Samuel died only a month before his father in September 1681. John’s widow, Dorcas married again in 1683 in a Quaker ceremony. Her new husband was John Collins, a cooper, who had previously appeared at a Quaker Meeting to agree to the conditions of Dorcas’ children inheritance expressed in their father’s and grandfather’s wills. Of the two brothers, only John’s will survives, together with an inventory of his possessions. He left two houses, for the term of their leases, in Castle Street and a further piece of land and workshop of some type in Gaunt’s Mead (possibly near where Barton Hill is today), all in trust to his wife and children. The inventory has his possessions valued at £32 7s 6d – more than twice that of his grandfather, and in addition his four leases were valued at £150. His residence in Castle Street, which he had built in the 1660s was of three stories with a cellar and a garret.
In addition there was a storehouse and yard at the back. It would have resembled the houses at Nos. 7 & 8 as well as those in the same rank, shown below.

Castle Street 1820s Nos. 65-8

Nos. 65-8 Castle Street in the 1820s. John’s house was at No.70

Robert died in 1681 and was buried at St Philips on 7th October, and in his will he left a substantial estate There are a few money bequests to his grandchildren and daughters-in-law, but the main inheritance were the leases on seven or eight houses which were left to his three surviving children (his two sons-in-law being enjoined not to “intermeddle or have to doe with any part of my estate”) for the remainder of his interest therein. Of the houses, one was left to son Joseph, one to the children of son John, and the others to trustees who were required to distribute the rents and profits therefrom to Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth equally. Apart from one house in Marsh Street, all the others were in Castle Precincts, mainly in Castle Street, but also “behind” Castle Street – one “next to the waterside”. The three children were to share equally the cash, household belongings and “stocks of timber” as well as the usage of one third each of the garden on the site. Apart from requiring his children to pay an annuity to their mother, no further mention is made of Robert’s widow, Elizabeth (even her name is not recorded in the will). Although Robert seems to have remained an Anglican, it is interesting that one of the Trustees to his will is named as Nathaniel Snead, who was a leading figure in the Broadmead Baptist Chapel.

Robert’s surviving son, Joseph, did not seem to have the entrepreneurial spirit of his father. An account book of the wealthy merchant, Thomas Speed records various small payments to him for work done or timber supplied during the 1680s, the final one being £1.12s for work carried out at a stable in Duck Lane (the account book ends in 1690). Furthermore in 1688, Speed had purchased from Joseph three tenements in “the Castle… held by him by the last Will and Testament of Robt. Drew his father, deceased”. These included the houses occupied by Francis Page and William Horwood. Speed also purchased the reversion in fee of the properties from the City, becoming the outright owner of the freeholds. He paid Joseph £137 and a further £120 to the Corporation, whilst continuing to receive rent from the Pages and Horwoods, who are recorded as still living there in 1696.

In the same year Speed paid a further amount to Joseph (£3.6s.3d) for “flooring a kitchen & new windows etc.” as well as £25.3s “in consideration of his poverty, over and above the purchase money contracted for”. The contra account splits this payment up, showing that a part of it was to “Francis Yeamans for managing his business with his Creditors whilst in prison, release from Walton Short…”. So Joseph had got himself seriously into debt and needed to sell the leases in order to settle outstanding liabilities. Joseph’s sons seem to have restored the family’s fortunes somewhat, both leaving property in their respective wills in the following century, but our interest lies in Joseph’s sister Elizabeth and the Horwood family.


Illustrations courtesy of Bristol Record Office and Bristol Museums


An Ancient Friend of Good Memory


The Quaker Margaret Heale


Central Bristol 1673 map copy

Central Bristol in 1673

Very little can be discovered of the early life of Margaret Heale, in fact nothing is known of her, including her maiden name, before her marriage to John Heale, presumably in Bristol, around 1651/2. The marriage itself is not recorded – it may have taken place at St Peters, where the registers have been destroyed, or possibly in the nonconformist Church of Christ, which later became the Broadmead Baptist Chapel. What is certain is that at some point in the 1650s the Heales became members of the Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers. It is possible they were among the score or so Independents who followed Dennis Hollister from the Broadmead congregation to the newly established Quaker group which had been established soon after the first preachers, John Audland and Thomas Airey arrived in the City on July 12, 1654.

An early Quaker register records the birth of John, son of John and Margaret Heale on 16th of the 9th month (November) 1653, the parents residing in “Peters parish”. A daughter named Susannah followed in 1655, but she must have died early, as another Susannah arrived on 24th October 1658. Sadly she too died young, being buried in the burial ground known as the Orchard near Broadmead, where the Society’s first meetings took place, in 1664. The birth of their final child, Mary had been recorded in the register of the Society two years previously: “Mary daughter of John Heale by Margaret his wife was borne at their dwelling house in Wine Street the Two and Twentieth day of the 11th mo. 1661”. In modern terms that is January 22, 1662.


Birth of Mary Heale 1662

John Heale (sometimes spelt Heal, Hale or Hele) was a baker by trade, having served his apprenticeship under another John Hele (his father perhaps) and become a Burgess of Bristol in 1652. This probably points to him being born around 1622 – Margaret was probably about the same age. Both John and Margaret were active in the Quaker community, John being employed on occasion on disciplinary activities and a regular member of the Men’s Meeting; Margaret, however seems to have been a major figure in the women’s congregation. In November 1671 the Men’s Meeting, being the main organisational body of the Society, questioned why “Margaret Hale and Jone Hily publisht a womens monthely meeting & likewise to know how & on what account that …meeting was sett up; & to give an account to this next meeting”. Four members were deputed to attend the women’s fortnightly meeting and report back. At the next Mens’ Meeting on December 11th, they recorded “That Margret Heale of her selfe, and not by order of any meeting, published the weomens monthely meeting in the publique meeting house.” It appears that the Men had intended to send a paper to the Women “against vanity and excess”, but in error had forwarded a letter from George Fox, the founder of Quakerism which dealt with the setting up of monthly meetings. This is what the Women had discussed and attempted to implement. Margaret and Joan were obviously the prime movers in this as it is recorded that the “weomen friends…. not agreeing amonge them selves… apoynted a meeting…to waite upon the lord if peradventure they might come to unity amongst them selves”. The Men’s Meeting advised them not to proceed with a Monthly Meeting and matters thus lapsed, but two weeks later, a “paper given forth” by Margaret was read out at the Men’s Meeting and she proposed for it to be more widely distributed. Again the advice from the Meeting was that “shee should further waite to bee directed in the wisdome & power of God to publish it” – another put-down. She agreed to to recieve the “councell of freinds & so left the paper with us”.

It is unfortunate that the minutes of the Women’s Meeting for this period do not survive, but further evidence of her standing in it is shown in a letter held in the Bristol Record Office archives. It dates to about 1672 and shows the women at odds with the Men’s Meeting again. It concerns help being given to a widow living in want of “necessarys required in a famaly which were not fitt for men to loke into” and the letter rebukes the men for concerning themselves with almsgiving, which was normally the preserve of the Women’s Meeting. The list of signatures subscribed is headed by Jone Hely and Margarit Hale, although noticeably the handwriting is the same – almost certainly that of Joan Hely, as Margaret when witnessing marriages usual made a mark of MH.

Letter from Womens to men's Meeting c1671. Sig of Margaret Heale r

Margaret Heale in letter to the Men’s Meeting

The Quakers in Bristol suffered two intense bouts of persecution, although harrasment and hostility were a continual feature of theirs lives; the first was in 1663-4 when John was imprisoned, but the most serious was that of 1681-3, instigated by the sheriff of Bristol, John Knight. John Heale had already been imprisoned for a second time in 1679, as punishment for opening his shop on January 30th – the anniversary of the execution of Charles I, which had been ordered to be a day of “fasting and humiliacion” by Charles II, but these final years of trial were to see both John and Margaret suffer imprisonment, John fined £220 for failing to attend Anglican worship (it is not known if the fine was ever collected) and finally, in January 1683, the death of Margaret in Newgate Gaol. Joseph Besse’s Sufferings of the Quakers records that, following ill-treatment by the gaolers, she was taken ill on the 23rd, and by the 26th she was near to death. A request to visit her by some of her fellow prisoners was denied by the Tapster of Newgate, although one member of the Society was present and recorded her final words (see here). Asked as to her condition she replied with a beautiful metaphor for dying: “Aye, said she, we are full fraught, ready to set sail the first fair wind” and the author adds “as she and some others did, into the ocean of eternity not long after ….finishing her testimony for God, and his truth, the 28th of the 11th month, being faithful unto death, and now enjoy the crown of life”.

Margaret was buried the following day, 29th of the 11th month, 1682 (29th January 1683 New Style) in the Quaker burial ground and the entry in the Register records the fact: “Margarett, wife of John Hale Baker buried” and added in another hand, “An Ancient friend of good memory, she dyed prisoner in Newgate” A remarkable woman whose faith sustained her and whose strong personality shines down through the centuries.

Burial of Margaret Heale 1683 detail copy

Burial of Margaret Heale 1683

Postscript. Following Margaret’s death John Helae continued to live in Wine Street until c1691. Their daughter Mary married John Horwood at the Quaker Meeting House in the Friars in 1687 (these are my 6x great grandparents), but by 1691 John Heale had moved to Chew Magna where he had acquired a property and some land. He ceases to appear in the Bristol Quaker records but often attended the Chew Meeting, sometimes representing it at the Somerset Monthly Meeting. He married again in 1697, his bride being Hannah Fyler. To obtain the Meeting’s approval he was required to present a “Cetificate of his clearnesse from the widdow Hickinbotome, with whom he had been formally concerned”! It seems he continued his baking business in Bristol (he was paid £39 by Thomas Goldney when the Duke and Duchess were fitted out before their famous voyage of 1708-11) although he sometimes described himself as a yeoman. He made a will in 1708 in which he left the bulk of his estate to his Horwood granddaughters, with an interest for life to his wife Hannah, of his dwelling house and goods. One detail that delights is that he bequeathed to his granddaughters Mary and Elizabeth “one wring and stone for making Cider”. John died at Chew but his body was brought back to the Quaker burial ground at Redcliffe, where he was laid to rest at 4.00pm on July 22nd 1710.

Records of the Society of Friends (Quakers)
Joseph Besse: A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers 1753
John Whiting: Persecution Exposed 1791
Anon: A Narrative of the Cruelties & abuses acted by Isaac Dennis, Keeper, his wife and servants in the Prison of Newgate…. 1683
Anon: The distressed case of the people called Quakers in the City of Bristol…. 1682
Minute Book of the Men’s Meeting of the Society of Friends in Bristol 1667-86 BRS XXVI 1971

This article was first published in the Journal of the Bristol & Avon Family History Society  (No 162 December 2015)