A Curious Headstone


I’ve long had a fascination with gravestones.  It’s the stories of those who lie there which fascinate me.  I always wondered who they were, what were their lives like, what happened to them.  It is no wonder then that I became a historian though I view it as a collector of people’s stories.  I came across this headstone in Burton Overy in Leicester.  It is made of Swithland slate and has a story to tell in its inscription and the most amazing carvings on the headstone.  The inscription reads:

Here lyeth the bodys of two, aged 24 and 22

Thomas Dyer, schoolmaster of this place

For pious and virtue two

We hope his soul’s at rest, and William Simpkin’s two

These flowers of youth were swept away

By accident as we may say,

Death met them in the deep

And Caused us to weep

and here they lie like two that are asleep

Water is powerful by them it shows

Venture not where you not knows

Two brothers like within they lie, together liv’d

All you that pass us by

Take care, in time prepare to die

On June 20th this accident was done

In one thousand seven hundred and twenty one;

Here you see we are born to die

When God sees good, we cannot put it by

P1040870There are strange symbols inscribed on the headstone.  There is a curious skull and crossbones representing death.  There is a spider’s web and flowers and perhaps a tree (or is it a leaf?).  One type of flower represented looks very much like a tulip.  There is a symbol which looks, to me, like an hourglass representing the passing of time.  You can see where the stone mason has made lines to keep the inscription in a straight line and you can see where the end letters are squashed as he realised when he was getting near the end that he was running out of space.  I was recording gravestones at St Helen’s, Gumley where I came across and example of the mason running out of space.  This stone is dated much later in 1805 and is a ledger rather than a headstone.  The lettering is less fancy and compared to the 1721 Burton Overy headstone, really quite plain.


Back to the Burton Overy headstone: the lines ‘Death met them in the deep’ and ‘Water is powerful by them it shows venture not where you not knows’ indicates that they met their death by drowning in a place which they were unfamiliar with.  The inscription doesn’t say anything about their parents.  We know Thomas was a schoolmaster and they were close friends, ‘like brothers’ but very little else is given about them apart from that fateful day when they drowned.  We cannot know today what prompted such an elaborate and expensive headstone to be made for the two young men but it would suggest they were well liked within the parish.  The cost of headstone was dependent on: the size; the material used (usually sandstone or slate in Leicestershire); the amount of lettering and pictures or symbols.  The bigger the headstone, slate and the amount of lettering and symbols would have been an expensive one.  Perhaps the two families of the young men both contributed to the cost of the headstone, so a more expensive one was able to be afforded.








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A Curious Indenture of Apprenticeship

From Historical Gleanings of Bolton and District:

A second batch of odd papers (written and printed) in one form or other identified with the township of Breightmet, which have been loaned to (the) present correspondent by an old Breightmetite, contains some particulars which may not generally be known.  The first about is an old indenture of apprenticeship, professionally engraved, xc., but through age it is so jagged and tattered that only odd portions can with difficulty be interpreted.  What is practicable in this respect has been done, and it will no doubt be ample for securing an interest for the whole – an interest arising mainly out of one of the signatories to the indenture being a direct descendant of the Rev. Richard Rothwell of Bolton who died in 1563.  He was known as ‘Bold Rothwell,’ the ‘Apostle of the North’ and famed as an exorcist.  Respecting his descent and powers as an exorcist, Brown in his incomplete History of Bolton (1824) says (following an extract from Bolton Parish Church registers, relating to the marriage of one Richard Rothwell of Haslingden Park to Rebecca Sharples of Bolton, 23rd February 1600) ‘as we copied this extract it struck us it might record the marriage of the celebrated caster-out of devils, of whose extraordinary exploits we have given a narrative.’  It is pretty certain the exorcist was married, and left one or more children, for half a century since and upwards there was a Richard Rothwell, then a peruke maker of Bolton who was reported to be a lineal descendant of the celebrated character referred to.  He dwelt in small house, which is now the (1824) the frontage of the Three Crowns public house in Deansgate.  He was described as grave and stately in his demeanour, of inoffensive life and conversation, eccentric manners, and not at all deficient in entertaining a due sense of his own importance.  With him expired, at least if we are correctly informed, the last of that branch of the numerous family bearing that old Saxon name.  In the preceding century, a person of that name used to say ‘I’m a real Rothwell, none of your leer-edge Rothwells, but a descendant of him that beat the devil.’  But this was an empty boast, if the last of his posterity was the gentlemanly peruguier.  This Richard Rothwell, described as a peruguier, was the same individual whose name figures most prominently in the indenture aforesaid, only with an additional business description in the latter, namely, that he was a barber as well as a peruke maker.  He died in 1780 as appears from a gravestone on the south side of the Bolton Parish Church, where some half-dozen gravestones (all in a line) show the peruke maker’s family, branches of which appear to have a somewhat ancient local pedigree.

(I’ll post more about the indenture at a later date.)

Firstly, we know that the line did not die out with the death of Richard as he had a large family with at least three sons to carry on the Rothwell name.  His eldest son was Robert the Barber who definitely had children; there is a question mark whether Robert the Schoolmaster was one of those.  He certainly had another son Henry (but we don’t know whether he had any children or what happened to him yet).  I managed to find an administration of Robert the Barber granted to his wife Susannah in 1796.    In the administration Robert the Barber is described as an Innkeeper.  I wonder if this could be the same place as described above?  It would make sense that it was left to his eldest son.  I’ve looked at the Memorial Inscriptions for Bolton Parish Church and it appears that the gravestone with Richard’s details did not survive.  There was however an inscription recorded for his daughter Mary:

Here resteth the body of Mary the daughter

of Richard and Hannah Rothwell of Bolton,

who departed this life the 17th day of

November 1761, aged 8 months.

Elizabeth the daughter of James and Hannah

Howarth, died September 9th 1828, aged

2 weeks.

Also a second daughter Elizabeth, died June

12th 1830, aged 8 months.

Also Hannah the wife of James Howarth, died

May 6th 1849, aged 55 years.

Hannah their daughter, died October 6th 1849

aged 18 years.


There is another inscription recorded for Robert:

Here resteth the body of Robert Rothwell

who died September 2nd 1794, aged 35 years.

Catherine Greenhalgh was interred September

7th 1802, aged 71 years.

This is certainly him as Susannah’s mother was Catherine Greenhalgh.  On the one hand it is wonderful to find Robert’s resting place but it raises another issue with my research.  Robert the Schoolmaster was buried in St Mary’s, Deane.  Why would he be buried there if his family (and its ancient pedigree) are all in Bolton Parish Churchyard?  Part of the answer could lie in the Burial Acts around this time.  This legislation was driven by parish churchyards becoming full.  (Curiously, the 1857 Act made it illegal to disturb a grave but not illegal to remove the contents of the grave.)  Robert the Schoolmaster was buried in April 1857.  His wife Ruth died in 1874 and was buried in St Peter’s, Halliwell.  So, why were they not buried together?  I haven’t been able to find out anything further about Robert’s burial place in Deane; whether it was a family grave or where it is.  Ruth was buried in Halliwell as the grave was connected to her daughter-in-law’s family (the Renshaws).  Tonge Cemetery opened in December 1856; perhaps the family did not want or like the idea of being buried in a cemetery?  Unfortunately it does not explain why Robert was buried in Deane instead of Bolton.

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Robert Rothwell the Schoolmaster

Its been quite a while since I have looked at my Rothwell research so I thought it was time to tackle the problem of Robert Rothwell.  I have two major stumbling blocks in this part of my research and they are both called Robert Rothwell.  You can find more information on them elsewhere in this blog.  I have named them: Robert Rothwell the Schoolmaster and Robert Rothwell the Prisoner.  I have been trying to look into the parentage of Robert the Schoolmaster on and off for a while.  There is no baptism for him in Bolton.  He could have been born outside of Bolton but I think it is unlikely.  Another reason for a missing baptism could be because his family was nonconformist.

Robert the Schoolmaster married Ruth Balfern (whose family was definitely nonconformist) at St Peter’s in Bolton in 1812.  They had nine children: Benjamin; Marianne; Henry; Robert; Elizabeth; Jane; Richard; John and Susannah.  Benjamin is named after Ruth’s brother.  Marianne could possibly be a combination of Ruth’s mother’s name (Ann) and stepmothers (both named Mary) or it could be because Marianne was a popular name around that time.  There are no Henrys in Ruth’s family so could he be something to do with Robert’s?  Possibly a brother or father?  Looking at the marriage entry in the parish register, all of the parties, including the bride and groom and witnesses signed their names.  The witnesses are both Rothwells and whilst one name is clear the other is not.  The second witness was Jane Rothwell but I thought it better to leave her aside for now as I had no idea whether she born a Rothwell or married a Rothwell.  I thought perhaps the initial on the first witness signature may be an ‘H’.  As Robert’s second eldest son was named Henry, I began looking into possible Henry Rothwells born around a similar time to Robert the Schoolmaster (born c.1791) and found a possible candidate.

Henry Rothwell, born 25 June 1794 to parents Robert and Susannah (Greenhalgh).  Robert the Schoolmaster named his youngest daughter Susannah – perhaps after his mother?  At first this seemed very promising, a father named Robert (yet another Robert!).  As Robert was a barber, he is now ‘Robert the Barber’ and I have a possible 4 generation run of Roberts: Robert the Barber, Robert the Schoolmaster, Robert the Prisoner and his son Just Robert (who worked hard and died at the young age of 31).  Henry had three older sisters:  Jane 1783; Lucy 1785 and Catherine 1789.  This leaves a five year gap between Catherine and Henry, enough time for another birth.

Looking into Robert the Barber’s parents I found a baptism for him 1759.  His parents were Richard and Hannah (Stones) who married in 1758 and Robert the Barber was the eldest child, born in 1759.  He was followed by ten siblings including twins.  Mary 1761; Eleanor 1762; Richard 1765; Henry 1767 John 1769 Hannah and Martha (twins) in 1771; Richard 1773; Mary 1776 and Jane 1778.  Richard was a barber and peruke maker in Churchgate.

If Robert the schoolmaster is part of this family where is his baptism?  I decided to see if Henry had married and found an entry for him in the parish register and even better, the witness was ‘Robert Rothwell’.  I compared the signatures of Robert the Schoolmaster with Robert the Witness and also to see if Henry’s signature showed any similarities to the Rothwell witness in Robert’s marriage entry.  Well when I looked at them, my first thought was that they were not the same person.  Then I looked again.  The two ‘R’s are different but look at the rest of how he has signed his first name; both signatures are very similar.  Could it be the same person?

Robert the Schoolmaster’s signature from his marriage licence.

Robert and Ruth’s signatures in the marriage register 1812

The signatures of Henry Rothwell, Betty Hopwood and Robert Rothwell in the marriage register for Henry’s wedding in 1818.

The signatures of the witnesses of Robert the Schoolmaster’s marriage in 1812

I’m fairly certain that Henry who married in 1818 was the same as the witness at Robert the Schoolmaster’s wedding:  look at the ‘th’ in Henry’s surname and how it tails off at the end.  It looks quite similar to me.

The top two signatures are earlier (1812) and the final one comes from Henry’s marriage entry in 1818.  Would six years make a difference or perhaps he was ill?  If Henry was the witness at Robert’s wedding, then surely Robert would have been the witness at Henry’s wedding rather than it being a different Robert Rothwell?  Another supporting piece of information is that Henry had an older sister called Jane – and a Jane Rothwell was one of the other witnesses at Robert’s wedding.  Thankfully there is little doubt over her name as she has signed it clearly.

To summarise the similarities:

Henry Rothwell signatures similar

Similarities in parts of Robert’s signatures

Robert married into a nonconformist family (the Balferns); Henry came from a family of nonconformists.

Ruth Balfern’s father ran a fabric shop in Churchgate – Robert the Barber and his father ran Barber shops in Churchgate.

A further Churchgate connection is through Jacob Butler standing a guarantor for Robert’s marriage licence.  Jacob was a clockmaker based in Churchgate.  If Robert the Schoolmaster was a son of Robert the Barber, Jacob would have been well acquainted with the family.

There are shared family names: Robert, Henry, Elizabeth (perhaps from Henry’s wife); Jane, Richard, John and Susannah.

Robert was a schoolmaster, Henry was a manufacturer and Jane could also sign her name confidently; all of them had a reasonably good education.  Is this because they came from a reasonably well-off family and/or because they were nonconformists?

I’m not fully satisfied.  The difference in signatures and a lack of a baptisms is irritating.  The researcher in me needs some other corroborating evidence.  I haven’t found any wills for Richard or Robert the Barber so I’m off to find out what happened to Jane, Lucy, Catherine and Henry and to look into the records of Bank Street Independent Chapel.  In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts on the whether you think Robert the Schoolmaster is the son of Robert the Barber.

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Photos of People from Botlon

Most of our old family photos were lost.  My mum remembers a large leather bag with loads of photos in, especially the old Victorian card ones, as well as many of her and her sisters when they were young.  The bag was lost when my grandfather’s possessions were put into storage as his council house was being renovated in the 1980s; it never came back.  This loss sparked a bit of an obsession in collecting photos of people and places connected to  Bolton.  Partly due to the thought that someone out there would one day want their family photos back and also, perhaps I might come across some of mine one day.  Now I have many photos that I don’t know what to do with.  So, the next few posts will be some of these photos. 

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Photos of People from Bolton

Over the last few years, I’ve bought old photos of people from Bolton.  I know very little about them so I’ll post them here and if you recognise anyone, let me know!  These two groups are unrelated and were bought separately.


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Selim Rothwell, Artist

Selim Rothwell

Photo of Selim Rothwell from Scraps from an Artist’s Sketch Book

I have a print of a painting of Churchgate in Bolton circa 1840.  I love looking at this picture because it looks so different to the Churchgate of today.  It is full of people; some strolling along, others selling from the numerous stalls lining the road.  St Peter’s is in the background, looking more like the medieval church it was before the Victorians ‘improved’ it. This painting is by Selim Rothwell who was born in Bolton in 1815

This branch of Rothwells appears to have had at least three artists in the family but it is perhaps Selim Rothwell who has become the most well-known.  Selim’s father, Edward Rothwell, married Alice Monks on 22 November 1812 at St Peter’s Bolton by licence.  Edward was a Painter.  Both were ‘of this parish’ (OTP) and all signed their names.


Marriage entry of Edward Rothwell and Alice Monks at St Peter’s, Bolton

Their son, Selim, was baptised on 15 October 1815 at St Peter’s Church, Bolton.  Selim’s father was listed as a painter in the register but Selim, in a letter to the Bolton News, refers to him as a sign-writer.  In this letter, he writes of his early days growing up around Chancery Land and Fold Street in Bolton.

Sir…and first, in reference to the Timbered Building, a relic of Old Bolton.  As to the drawing by Mr George Bury, which I had the pleasure of presenting to the Bolton Public Library, together with an equally interesting drawing of Churchgate, with the Old Church and Vicarage in the distance, also by this excellent native artist, I can confirm the statement by Mr Holden that the drawing had not originally the name of the street at the gable end of its building, and it was not written by my old friend Mr Bury.  I suspect it was added by my father, the drawing having been presented to him by the artist, and he being a sign-writer must needs put one up at the corner of the street in which he lived, so that the account of date and change of the name of the street by Mr Holden is no doubt correct.  I think this drawing would be taken about the year 1822.  I was a pupil of Mr Bury’s at the same time with Mr Holden, and I have now before me the first pencil drawing I was allowed to make upon cardboard bearing this date, my father having written my name upon the back, adding – aged 7 years.

I cannot recollect any occupier of the old house earlier than a well-known vendor of fish and vegetables, commonly called Fish Jim whose name was Darbyshire, a lean character, with an extravagantly proportioned wife and a bouncing daughter, lived here for many years, whilst just a strip of a shop at the end of Fold Street was occupied by West, the watch and clock maker.  The opposite building now occupied by Mr Bromley, and built by Hilton Lever, was at that time the warehouse of Messrs Ormrod, Tayor and Swan, and quite an important looking place of business, with an entrance lobby, and the door at the end having a very highly polished brass plate, with the name of the firm, – altogether a respectable bank appearance.

There are some of the old townsmen remaining who will remember each of these partners in business, long since removed to their rest.  With respect to the other buildings in this street, I can see them all as they were.  Smith’s carrier’s warehouse, with its busy lading and unlading wagons, which at night was very effective and picturesque, being lit up with large oil lamps, high up in the roof, whilst open galleries for the storage of goods went round the building.  The next house past Chantler’s Court now converted into a shop was a school, where many of the youth of the period were instructed, and where I learned my letters.  This was kept by a namesake but no relative.  The ground above and in front of Bowker’s Row was all unoccupied, and the land adjoining these houses was used as a stone yard, a long signboard bearing the name of King, stonemason.  This land was shortly afterwards taken by the father of Sir Thomas Bazley, and the present warehouse built; it was considered a large building at the time, and certainly was a great improvement on the one occupied by the firm in the narrowest part of Mealhouse lane, leading into Deansgate.  At the other end of Bowker’s row, on the land now occupied by Mr Hall, warehouse and the chapel, stood a large old barn and stabling.

I may mention with respect to the christening of another street in close neighbourhood, the house in which I was born was at the corner of Hotel street, opposite the old Queen Anne public house.  This was at one time the Assembly Room, and here still the sessions rooms existed, where the chief magisterial business of the town was transacted…

Pray excuse my troubling you with this communication, which is prompted by my love for the old town,

I am, yours obediently,

Selim Rothwell.

This is a fascinating insight into Selim’s early life and was published in the Bolton Chronicle which ran a series of ‘Gleanings’.  I love the description of Fish Jim and his family and wonder what happened to them.  The part I have emboldened was quite a discovery for me as this is a reference to Robert Rothwell, one of my ancestors.  Robert was a schoolmaster for most of his life but unfortunately, no records survive of his activities so this little snippet is a real insight into who, what and where he taught.  You can find some old photos of Fold Street and the area Selim describes here: http://www.bolton.org.uk/oldbolton2.html

Selim married Mary Ashton at St John’s Church, Manchester in 1837.  They would go on to have 8 children but only 2 would survive and reach adulthood.  Even though Selim moved to Salford he would remain loyal to St Peter’s all of his life with all his children being christened there.  Most of his children were also buried there.

Part of the memorial inscription reads:


Here lieth the bodies of Alfred Monk, son

Of Selim and Mary Rothwell, departed this

Life XIX January MDCCCXLIX, aged IV years.

Margaret their daughter, departed this life

VIIth February MDCCCXLIX, aged XVII months.

Edward Ashton their son, departed this

Life XXIst August MDCCLII, age XI years.

Mary Mable their daughter, departed this

Life VII February MDCCCLII aged 11 years

X months.

Selim Herbert their son, departed this life

XVI April MDCCCLII, aged VIII months.

Ernest Arthur their son, departed this

Life 1st of March MDCCCLIV, aged

XV months.

Mary the wife of Selim Rothwell, departed

This life March XXth MDCCCLV, aged XL years.

In the 1871 census Selim is living in Pendleton and in the household are two female servants, one of which is Sarah Priestly aged 68.  I think this is the same woman who lived with Selim’s parents as a servant for many years and after their deaths sometime before the 1871 census, Sarah went to live and work for Selim.  She was already elderly at this time and working for Selim would have saved her from probably having to go in the workhouse.  Sarah is still with the family in 1881, aged 78.

Selim married secondly Jane Stark in 1872 and they had one daughter – Mary in 1873.  Selim died on 10 August 1881 at Chorley New Road.  A report appeared in the Bolton Chronicle.  It is a long piece, perhaps reflecting the esteem in which he was held at the time.

Awfully Sudden Death of Mr Selim Rothwell

Our readers will learn with feelings of deep regret of the death, which was awful in its suddenness, of our esteemed townsman, Mr Selim Rothwell, artist, of India Buildings, Manchester and residing at Beech View, 122 Pendleton…

On Wednesday morning he left his residence for Bolton with his son T (Thomas) Rothwell who conducts a drawing and painting class at Mr T Bromleys Fine Art Gallery, Bradshawgate.  Selim had organised a fine art exhibition at the Infirmary Buildings.   During the day he had overseen the hanging of the pictures and other work connected with the exhibition.  He seemed to be in excellent health and accepted an invitation to tea at Mr Peter Kevan’s house, Honorary Secretary of the Infirmary; then went to Mr John Musgrave’s and afterwards left with Mr Musgrave and other friends for the West End Bowling Green.  After watching a few games, he ran for the tram to the station just after 8pm.  He was taken ill on the tram which stopped and the guard sent for a doctor but it was too late and Selim Rothwell died.

The sad event cast quite a gloom over the town (as soon as it became generally known) the deceased being greatly respected, whilst his indefatigable labours for months past and journeys up and down the country in quest of loans of fine art for the new Infirmary exhibition are as widely appreciated as they are well known.

He was the son of the late Edward Rothwell who was in partnership with Mr Cooper, father of T Cooper, flax merchant, carrying on business as painters in Fold Street…on the death of Mr Cooper, Mr Rothwell moved to Bradshawgate on the site now occupied by the Post Office, where the son kept a shop for the sale of drawing materials etc.  at this time the deceased gentleman gave drawing lessons and conducted evening classes at the Mechanics Institute, which were well attended.  During his residence in Bolton he sketched many buildings of interest to Boltonians, including Hall i’th’ Wood and subsequently the interior of the old parish church.  In 1842 he published a bird’s eye view of the town from the summit of Blinkhorn’s chimney then just completed.  He was the designer of the monument in the parish churchyard erected by the workpeople in the memory of Mr Benjamin Hick and took an active interest generally in artistic matters.  Passionately fond of sketching, especially architectural subjects, he paid many visits to the Continent and made admirable sketches in Rome, Florence, Venice, Verona, Munich, the Rhine Cologne, Rotterdam etc.  many of these are well known, the finished paintings adorning the mansions of numerous admirers.  The exhibitions of his paintings and original sketches of Continental buildings and scenes, held at Mr Bromley’s Fine Art Gallery have always been interesting to lovers of the beautiful in art.  Mr Rothwell was also successful in etching and had a work in that body of art at the present exhibition of the Royal Academy, entitled ‘Bronze Fountain, Brunswick’.  Mr Rothwell could also in addition to being a successful artist, lay claim to authorship, ‘Scraps from and Artist’s Sketchbook’, with illustrations from the author’s sketches embellishing the volume.

He was twice married.  By his first wife he leaves a son and daughter and by his second, who survives him and resides at Torquay, a daughter.

Further in the newspaper article it describes how he attended the Free Grammar School, was a pupil of Mr Bury, drawing master of Halliwell Lane, Cheetham Hill and among the first original members of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.

Scraps from an Artist’s Sketch Book by Selim Rothwell was published in 1877 and is an account of his travels in Italy. In it he mentions various artists of the day and a visit to Signor Zocchi, the Professor of Sculpture at the Academy of the Fine Arts in Florence:

The professor spoke to us in the highest terms of the industry and talents of a young Englishman, Mr Robert Stark, of Torquay, at present studying in the academy, an d whose work is so original that it gives promise of future great success, and is the admiration of the other professors and students in the academy.

This Robert Stark turns out to be Jane’s nephew.  After Selim’s death, Jane (or Jennie) spent the rest of her life down on the south coast and died in 1911.  I am unsure of what happened to Mary after her mother’s death but came across a marriage entry for a Mary O Rothwell and Thomas Garner in 1917.  If this is her, she would have been aged about 43 when she married.


Lithograph of a painting of Hall i’th’ Wood, Bolton,  by Selim Rothwell

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The Cursed Shoes of Papillon Hall

Market Harborough, like many places, has its share of ghosts and haunted buildings.  However, this post concerns a haunted building just outside Market Harborough.  Papillon Hall used to stand on the way to Lubenham and was built around 1624 by David Papillon.  The Papillon family originated from France. David along with his mother and two sisters (Anne and Esther) fled France in 1588 when he was seven years old.  The ship was wrecked and his mother drowned. The family were Huguenots and had come to England to escape the religious persecution at the time and the family became part of the large French Huguenot community that settled mainly in London but there were smaller communities in Canterbury, Norwich, Southampton and Bristol.  I will write more about Huguenot records in a future post.

David married firstly, Marie Castol, in 1611 and had two children; Thomas who died in childhood and Mary who later married Peter Fontaine.  Marie died on 3 May 1614 and is buried in Blackfriars Church, London.  David then married Anne Marie Calandrini on 4 July 1615 and had five children:

  • Phillip Papillon born 1 January 1620; died and buried, Lubenham in 1641
  • George Papillon died 6 July 1684 married Mary Nicholson ten children
  • Thomas Papillon born 6 September 1623; married Jane Broadnax; son Phillip born in 1660 who was the father of David ‘Pamps’.
  • Anne born 19 January 1626, London died 27 February 1684.
  • Abraham born 6 May 1630 at Bosworth, Leicestershire married Katherine Billingsley.  Died without issue.

Anne Marie died on November 1675 aged 84, buried in the chancel of St Catherine Coleman, London and David died on 18 March 1659, buried at Lubenham.  In his youth, David was apprenticed to a master jeweller but after serving his apprenticeship he became a military engineer and architect.  He was also a deacon of the French Church in London.  It was his interest in defensive buildings which inspired his design of Papillon Hall.  A description of Papillon Hall from Nichol’s History of Leicestershire Vol II:

‘It is very singular in its structure, and is thought to have been built with a view to defence.  The shape is an octagon, and formerly it had only one entrance, and very strong work in the windows.  The rooms were so curiously planned that each had a communication with the next, so that a person could go through them all without returning by the same door.  The slated part of the roof is in the form of a cross, with leaded spaces in the intervals, whence there is a pleasant view of the neighbourhood as the house stands on high ground.  Not long ago it was surrounded by a moat.  The whole plan of the ground floor was altered by the late owner, and the windows sashed.’

So far so good; the family was distinguished, wealthy and well-connected.  There was nothing untoward at the hall until it was inherited by David’s great grandson, also named David but known as ‘Pamps’. He has been described as an extremely good looking young man and it was said he had a split personality and had a hypnotic ability, terrifying the local people. There is a story of how a thief tried to steal a bag of money from him as he rode home one day.  Pamps fixed the thief to the spot and leaving the bag of money at the thief’s feet rode home where he instructed his groom to go back down the lane and collect the money.  When the groom got there he found the thief ‘frozen’ in place but when he picked up the bag of money, the thief was ‘released’ and ran off!

David kept a mistress at the hall before his marriage his marriage in 1717 to Mary Keyser and she is thought to have been Spanish.  She was never allowed to leave the house and would take her exercise on the roof of Papillon Hall.  She once owned a pair of beautiful high-heeled, green brocade shoes and pattens with red velvet and silver thread work which she cursed.  There is nothing that says why she put a curse on them but perhaps the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death in 1715 had something to do with it.  The shoes were always passed to the owner of the hall with the solemn injunction ‘on no account to permit them to be removed from the house or ill-fortune would assuredly befall the owner’, and if they ever left the building strange and disturbing things would happen!

In 1866 the house was sold to Lord Hopetun and it wasn’t long before he and his family were disturbed by strange knockings and sounds all over the hall.  One night the entire household, including servants, were wakened by loud banging and crashing noises coming from the downstairs drawing room.  Everyone gathered outside in the hall too afraid to open the door as they all stood and listened to the sounds of furniture being thrown about and the windows being slammed.  A brave footman opened the door and the noises immediately stopped.  Everyone looked into the room and there wasn’t a single thing out of place.  Everything was as it should be.  Until this point the family had ignored the local village gossip about the shoes but after this terrifying night they eventually traced them to a daughter of the former owner. As soon as the shoes were returned to the house, all the disturbances stopped.  Lord Hopetun sold the hall six years later to Thomas Halford and during this time the shoes were sent to the Paris Exhibition.  Once the shoes had left the hall, the crashing and banding began so much so that the family had to leave the house until the shoes could be returned.  Thomas Halford then sold the hall MR CW Walker in 1884.  Mr Walker was a wise man who took the legend a little more seriously than the previous owners and the shoes safely locked away in a purpose built safe in the wall above the hallway fireplace.  A metal grill was placed in front and t was padlocked so the shoes could be seen but not removed from the building.  In 1903 he sold the hall to a Captain Frank Belville who didn’t take the curse seriously – oh dear.

Captain Frank engaged Sir Edwin Lutyens to re-model the hall.  Three hundred years previously when Pamps had been in residence at the hall he had ordered to East attic to be bricked up.  Lord Hopetun had broken into the attic and found a few turned table and chair legs along with some candle ends but nothing more otherwise the room had not been touched or used.  Back to Sir Edwin.  He wanted to add an extra floor to the hall necessitating in the east having to be demolished and this is when a woman’s body (well, by this time it was a skeleton) was found in the wall.  The builders began to experience accidents with one unfortunate man being killed when a falling brick landed on his head.  Needless to say the builders refused to continue working and others from outside of the area had to be brought in.  Captain Frank didn’t escape unscathed either and he was thrown out of his pony trap resulting in a fractured skull.  The shoes were returned to the hall but Captain Frank still hadn’t learnt to be wary of the curse and lent the shoes out.  Of course, the inevitable happened and Captain Frank had another accident, this time whilst hunting but this time he needed a metal plate in his skull.  If that wasn’t enough, there was also a terrific thunderstorm and three ponies were killed and the hall was set on fire.  The shoes were returned and locked safely away.

During WW2 the 82nd Airborne Division were stationed at the house and twice the shoes were taken, probably as a souvenir, and each time those who took the shoes were killed and the shoes returned to the house.  After the war, the house was left and decayed with it eventually being demolished.  There was one shoe and one patten in the wall safe but when the hall was being taken apart the other was found under the floorboards. One of the shoes and one of the pattens were taken to the British Museum in the 1950s and were dated to around Pamps time at Papillon Hall.

It wasn’t only the shoes that caused disquiet at the hall.  Pamps had had his portrait painted around 1715.  Was this painted at the hall?  Was his mistress still alive at this time?  We will probably never know.  It seems as though the hypnotic ability of Pamps wasn’t restricted to when he was alive.  His portrait somehow was left behind when the hall was sold and in 1840, when a Papillon relative visited the hall, the owner begged him to take the portrait away with him.  It was described as having sinister influences and the owner could keep no servants because they say ‘he’ comes out of the frame and haunts the house so badly and brought ill luck to its inhabitants.  The portrait found its way to Crowhurst Park.  When this was le tout all was going well until the tenants sent a letter requesting that the portrait be removed.  It began with a feeling of a strong psychic influence emanating from the portrait with some guests becoming obsessed with the portrait; a sense of being followed and also one lady saw Pamps dressed in all of his finery –  red coat, yellow waistcoat and wig.  Some people were so hypnotised by the portrait they had to be forcibly removed away from it.

Although there isn’t much left of the building today there are still unexplained noises so be careful if you find yourself anywhere near the site of Papillon Hall, especially late at night.  Sleep well!

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Market Harborough

StDMHMarket Harborough was a ‘new’ town created in the 12th century and lies about halfway between Leicester and Northampton.  According to Nicholls, Market Harborough was first mentioned in 1170; it was mentioned again in a Pipe Roll of 1199 relating to a payment from the manors of “Buggeden and haug”.  The town had a main road running through it (the High Street) with ‘tofts and crofts’.  Toft was a piece of land which fronted the town street where the dwelling was erected and the croft was land to the rear where an outhouse was or crops were grown.  Many of these can be seen  in some form today by the long yards which run off the High Street.
The parish church for Market Harborough is St Dionysius which dates mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries.  It is unusual for a medieval church as it has no churchyard and there is no evidence that it ever had one although there would have been plenty of room to create one when the church was built. It is thought that this is because it was built as a chapel of ease to St Mary in Arden, and most of the burials in Market Harborough took place in St Mary in Arden until the cemetery in Northampton Road opened in 1877.  The dedication to St Dionysius is unusual and it is thought to have come from Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln.  He died in 1254 so the chapel must have been started before then.  Pevsner describes the steeple of St Dionysius as one of the finest in England and he thought it was built around 1300.  In James Dugdale’s The New British Traveller: Or, Modern Panorama of England and Wales, Volume 3:

“It (St Dionysius) is said to have been built by John of Gaunt, in penance enjoined him by the Pope, for his illicit connection with Catherine Swynford, before she became his third wife.  It was dedicated by its founder to St Dionysius, the Aeropagite.  The building is decorated with the arms of John of Gaunt and those of Blanche, his first wife…” William Harrod in his History of Market Harborough, describes John of Gaunt’s affair with Katherine as “an illicit conversation”

Next to the church is the Old Grammar School built in 1614 but founded in 1604 by a bequest of Robert Smyth.  The building has recently been restored and is still used today to hold events.  Market Harborough’s early trade seems to be concentrated mainly on its market and fair.  Cattle, horse and sheep were sold and ‘The Square’ was known as the sheep market.  There were other trades in the town such as shoe-making, carpet making and later, Symmington’s Corsets.  The former factory building now houses the council, library and museum.

In the 18th century Market Harborough became a staging post and had many prosperous coaching inns to accommodate travellers.  The Three Swans and the Angel are amongst the oldest of Harborough’s inns and can still be found on the High Street today with the northern end of the town still having many Georgian fronted buildings.  The amount of inns and their prosperity were dramatically reduced when the railway arrived.

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Agnes Bowkers’ Cat

I love the weird and wonderful and this story is definitely that.  I have taken most of the information from, Agnes Bowker’s Cat; Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England, by David Cressy.

Agnes Bowker, aged 27, daughter of Henry Bowker of Market Harborough, appeared before the archdeacon’s court on 22 January 1569 and testified: ‘that she was delivered of this monster (for so she called it) the 16th day of January between the hours of six and seven at night.’  Agnes also mentioned a certain Randal Dowley, servant to Edward Griffin, ‘had to do with her at Braybrooke over the porter’s ward at Michaelmas’ and that wasn’t the only occasion.  There were further encounters with Randal in the porter’s ward, in the maltmill and upon the grange leas as she was gathering sticks one month before pease harvest last past.  This would lead you to believe that Randal was the father of the ‘monster’ but you would be wrong because Agnes continued her testimony: ‘that a cat had to do with her six or seven times betwixt Michaelmas was twelthmonth and a month before Harborough fair last past’.  Agnes testimony also included an attempted suicide when Randal would not help her and ‘who utterly forsook her’.

Agnes returned to Harborough where she was examined by Mrs Roos, a local midwife.  Agnes returned to her a few days later in labour and Mrs Roos told the court, ‘she did feel a thing but whether it were child or water she could not tell’.  Mrs Roos also stated that Agnes already ‘hath had a child of late, and this is the afterbirth’.  Apparently the labour stopped but started again eight days later when Agnes was attended to by a different midwife, Elizabeth Harrison, from Great Bowden. This is Elizabeth’s testimony:

‘That on Tuesday the 11th of this January she (Elizabeth Harrison) was sent for by the wives of Harborough, Margery Slater being the messenger, to come to Agnes Bowker being in labour.  She saith that she asked this Agnes who was the father of her child…who answered it is one Randal Dowley, for he had had many times the use of her body carnally; and further (she) saith that the said Agnes told her these tales following.  There came to (Agnes) divers and sundry times a thing in the likeness of a bear, sometimes like a dog, sometimes like a man, and had the knowledge carnal of her body in every such shape.  Also she saith that Agnes Bowker told her that…as she walked abroad the country (she) met with an outlandish woman, a Dutch woman, and the stranger asked her the cause of her sadness.  Agnes answered, I have good cause for I am with child; then the stranger said, Nay thou art not with child, but what wilt thou give me, I will tell thee what thou art withal.  Then Agnes said I will give thee a penny, and so did, and the woman stranger said Thou art neither with man child nor woman child, but with a Mooncalf. And that thou shall know shortly, for thou hast gone forty weeks already, and thou shalt go eleven weeks longer, and then at the same hour the moon changeth or thereabout, get thee women about thee, for it shall fall from thee.’

In Agnes’ later testimony she mentioned a Mr Hugh Brady who she said dwelt in Harborough and ‘was schoolmaster there’.  Agnes accused him of being vicious and sleeping with his maids and when she told his wife, Brady ‘entreated her evil and there the falling sickness took her.  Agnes encountered Brady again at Braybrooke where he told her to go the grange yard.

‘She saith she went there and he came to her and cast her on the ground, and had his carnal pleasure upon her and bad her be merry, and he would get her a boy, and would send for her where she would live in better state all the days of her life.’  Brady asked her if her disease had gone and when Agnes relied no, he said she must be ruled by him, and have a child and then it would go.  Also, she must forsake God and all of his works and give herself wholly to the Devil.

So did Agnes give birth to a cat or monster?  The men of Harborough seem to have been a little less fanciful. The curate Christopher Pollard, along with George Walker, innholder, William Jenkinson and Edmund Goodyear of Harborough, baker, all testified that they saw bacon in the stomach of the cat and were convinced they were looking at a real cat – not some monster that Agnes had given birth to.  They further testified that Agnes had tried to borrow a neighbour’s cat which was now missing and they had no doubt as to where that cat had gone.

Ecclesiastical courts dealt with the ‘moral’ crimes of its parishioners, including adultery, witchcraft, prostitution and sex outside of marriage etc. and because of the nature of these cases these courts were also known as ‘the Bawdy Courts’.  Ecclesiastical courts were also responsible for the licensing of midwives who were expected to gain details of any illegitimate births and also to try and find out who the father was.  As this story shows, these court records can provide a fascinating window into the lives of your ancestors.

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Oh Lord save us!  A great pestilence is upon us.

Reports reached London in 1347 of a terrifying and incurable disease which was spreading from the East.  It reached England in 1348 and is thought to have killed millions of people.  There are three different types of plague; bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic.  The most common variant is the bubonic plague where buboes Bubonic-plagueappear in the neck, armpits and groin areas which oozed blood and pus when opened. It is thought the plague which hit England was the Bubonic Plague and there were sporadic outbreaks between 1348 until the last in 1665-1666 (The Great Plague of London).  There were (known) outbreaks of the plague in Market Harborough in 1609, 1625, 1641 and 1645.  In 1609 the Townsmen’s Accounts record the provisions made for an outbreak of plague in the town.  Mr Walker’s bill details; aquavitie, saffron, cinnamon, orange, ginger, frankincense, nutmegs, cloves and mace, just to name some of the exotic spices listed which were thought to help cure the plague.  Although there isn’t any mention of the cause of deaths in the burial register, in 1625 there were 33 burials recorded, compared to 14 in 1626. During the outbreak of 1641 the minister recorded who had died of the plague in the parish register (spelling as in the parish register).

Anne Townsend a stranger who came from Stonie Stratford and brought with her the plague to the towne who lodged at one wid: Nowelle at the sign of the Meeremaide and infected first that house wt the pestilence and there dyed and was buried July 19 1641

Goodith Pickering the daughter Gilbert Pickering and sister to widow Nowill dyed of the plague and was buried July 31

John the sonne of widow Makkernes dyed of the plague and was buried August the first.

Mary Nowell widow and hostis of the meeremaide dyed of the plague and was buried August 5th

John Glover hostler at the Meeremaide dyed of the plague and was buried August 5th

Francis Yates widow hostis of the Talbott and sister to widow Nowill of the Meermaide dyed of the plague and was buried August the 10th

Christopher Mackernes sonne of wid: Mackernes dyed of the plague and was buried August 12th

Joseph Mackernes sonne of wid Mackernes dyed of the plague and was buried August 13

Edward Chapman the sonne of Edward Chapman dyed of the plague and was buried 15th of August

Sarah Mills daughter of John Mills dyed of the plague and was buried August 18th

In 1645, the plague returned:

Anne Tomlin the daughter of Robert Tomlyn shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried August 30

George Tomlyn the sonne of Robert Tomlin shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried August 30

Thomas Tomlin the sonne of Robert Tomlyn shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried September 13th

Mary (?) daughter of John (?) shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried September 13th

Mary Tomlyn the daughter of Robert Tomlin shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried September 14th

Susanna Tomlyn the daughter of Robert Tomlyn shoemaker dyed of the plague and was buried September 16th

Ffrancis (?) dyed of the plague and was buried October the first

Thomas Miller the sonne of Thomas Miller dyed of the plague and was buried October 12th

John the sonne of John Hoyt shoemaker dyed of the plague October 26th

The poor Tomlyn family were hit particularly hard – I’ll have to look into them at a later date.  A total of 41 burials were recorded in that year.  There were other burials in between the ones mentioned above but they were not recorded as having ‘dyed of the plague’.

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