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The OAKLEY FamilyDOROTHY OAKLEY, who married RICHARD Leigh of Carmarthen, was the youngest daughter of EDWARD OAKLEY, a wealthy Warwickshire gentleman. The OAKLEY family lived in the village of Great Wolford in the West Midlands of England, but when DOROTHY’s eldest brother married in 1612 he took over the family estate, and her parents and most of the other members of the family moved 100 miles west and came to live in Carmarthenshire.
The name Oakley was given as a forename to DOROTHY’s son OAKLEY LEIGH, and it continued to be adopted by his descendants for several generations. As a surname it derived from a place name that meant a clearing in an oak wood, and so has a similar origin to the name Leigh. It became a common surname in the West Midlands. As there were no dictionaries in DOROTHY’s time the spelling of English words varied, and the family surname did not become established as Oakley until the later 17th century, but to avoid confusion earlier spellings such as Ockley and Okeley have not been given here.
The pedigree of our OAKLEY family was not recorded by the heralds, but it can be traced back from documentary evidence for a further three generations before DOROTHY, as follows:
JOHN OAKLEY and his FAMILYJOHN OAKLEY lived in the village of Great Wolford in the parish of that name, which is in the south of Warwickshire close to the borders with Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, and within a short distance of Worcestershire. This area is in the beautiful region of England that is known as the Cotswolds. He married JOAN INGRAM, the daughter of the lord of the manor of Wolford, and the first information we have of them comes from the will of JOAN’S widowed mother AGNES in 1543, who made bequests to her daughter and to JOHN OAKLEY (see The INGRAM Family).
JOHN OAKLEY made his will in Wolford only two years later on 18 November 1545, and he bequeathed 12 pence for the altar and 2 shillings for the bells, and 40 shillings to his brother THOMAS OAKLEY whom he made overseer of the will. To his daughter Anne he bequeathed the generous sum of £20, and £10 each to his daughters Joyce, Mary and Joan, “provided always that my said daughters do marry and bestow themselves after the mind and will of my wife and my brother Thomas”, as otherwise they would have to depend on their good will. To his younger son, THOMAS OAKLEY, he bequeathed his house in Stow-on-the-Wold, which is a market town in Gloucestershire about 6 miles to the south. His brothers William and Thomas were made trustees on behalf of his son, who presumably was still under age. His wife JOAN and elder son John were to be the executors, and she was to take the profits of his land until his debts and legacies had been paid. The will was proved in Worcester in the same year, and is now located at Worcester Record Office with the number 387.
The name of JOHN’s brother William was preceded by a symbol which indicates that he was a clergyman in the Church of England. He would have been trained in the Catholic Church, as Henry VIII’s separation from Rome had taken place not many years before. This together with other information in the will, such as the size of his bequests to his daughters (which were more than a labourer could earn in a year), implies that JOHN was a prominent member of the village, though he was more likely to have been a wealthy yeoman farmer than a member of the gentry.
Nothing further is known of the elder son John, and he does not appear to have left descendants of similar status, yet there is no evidence that the younger son THOMAS inherited property in Wolford. No Oakleys appear in Wolford deeds before JOHN’s time, and he may have moved there on his marriage, and lived on a farm which was given or leased to him by his father-in-law, and which may have reverted to the INGRAM family after John (II)’s death. A search for JOHN’s immediate ancestors has also been unproductive. There were no wills of an OAKLEY from Stow, where JOHN owned a house, and no OAKLEYs in the Stow parish records, which begin in 1558. There were also no OAKLEYs there in a 1608 muster roll (Smith, Men and Armour), and no OAKLEYs of the required status were found anywhere in Gloucestershire. Also, no OAKLEYs who were clearly related to JOHN, apart from those mentioned later, were found in any of the neighbouring counties. There is no record that his brother William OAKLEY was educated at Oxford University, but a search for the parish which he served might give pointers to his origins.
JOHN’s widow JOAN outlived her husband by over 20 years, and when she made her will on 26 April 1566 she was living in Chastleton to the south of Wolford, just over the county boundary in Oxfordshire. She bequeathed money to buy altar cloths for the church, and left ten shillings for the poor people of Chastleton, Wolford and Chipping Norton. She bequeathed personal items such as a pair of sheets and a blanket to each of her daughters Joan Collins, Joyce Gardener and Anne Grene, and a sheep to each of their children and to the children of her daughter Elizabeth Winsmore and of her ‘brother’ (actually brother-in-law) Thomas OAKLEY, and to two godsons and ‘to everyone of my servants which shall be with me at my death’. She gave a cow to her grandson EDWARD (THOMAS OAKLEY’s son who became DOROTHY’s father), and all the rest of her goods she left to her son THOMAS OAKLEY of Broadway, who was made her executor. Her brother John INGRAM and her brother-in-law Thomas OAKLEY were to see that her will was performed, and it was proved four years later in Oxford on 1 April 1570 (Oxford Record Office, 185.21).
JOAN may have gone to live in Chastleton to be with one of her daughters, as there were farmers named Grene and Gardener in the parish later in the century. Her daughter Elizabeth had not received a bequest in her husband’s will, presumably because she had received her inheritance when she married. As Elizabeth received no bequest in JOAN’S will, she had probably died by that time, and the same applies to the other daughter Mary and to the elder son John, who were not mentioned. The parish records of Chipping Norton, the Oxfordshire market town only 4 miles from Chastleton, show the christening of a John Oakley in 1564 who may be JOAN’s great nephew, and further Oakley christenings and burials were recorded there later. Her son THOMAS OAKLEY was living in Broadway, a small town in Worcestershire about 20 miles north west of Chastleton and a similar distance from Wolford, and this continued to be an important place for the OAKLEYs.
THOMAS OAKLEY and his FamilyThe Broadway parish records (now found at Worcester Record Office) show that THOMAS had married Mrs ELIZABETH Sambache on 6 February 1559/60. She was the daughter of THOMAS WHITE, and was a widow with three young children, whose first husband William Sambache had died in 1557. THOMAS OAKLEY would have known the family well, because his uncle John INGRAM had married William’s sister Alice Sambache in 1545. THOMAS and ELIZABETH had only one child, EDWARD OAKLEY, and his christening was recorded in Broadway on 24 February 1560/1. He was brought up with his three stepbrothers, to whom he remained very close. The inter-relationships between the families are such that for clarity they are set out in a tree as follows.
The OAKLEY, Sambache and WHITE Family Tree
ELIZABETH’s father-in-law Richard Sambache had made his will in 1556 (Worcester Record Office, p.28, folio 38), bequeathing his house and lands and his goods to his wife Catherine, and after her death to his eldest son William I, whose three children were to have £1 each. He left 80 sheep and 2 cows to his youngest son John II Sambache of Broadway, and he bequeathed his lease at Little Wolford in the parish of Great Wolford (which he had from Richard INGRAM, THOMAS OAKLEY’s uncle) to his middle son John Sambache, and £2 to each of John’s children. Thus he had two sons named John, but at that time, when so many children died young, this was not uncommon as a means of continuing a treasured family name. He also bequeathed £2 to each of the children of John INGRAM (V) (Richard INGRAM’s brother), who had married his daughter Alice Sambache. The inventory of his goods (Worcester R.O., p.140, no.100a) was valued at £93, and it comprised the contents of six rooms plus the kitchen, wool house, and stable, with farm animals and corn, and it included a coat of mail, a sallet (a light headpiece of armour), and an old harness (armour).
ELIZABETH’s mother MARGARET WHITE was buried in Broadway in 1554, and a year later her father THOMAS WHITE married a Joan Oakley, whom I cannot identify. We know of two Joan Oakleys, but neither appears to have been this new wife. One was THOMAS OAKLEY’s widowed mother, but she still had the OAKLEY surname when she made her will. The other was THOMAS’s sister Joan, but by 1566 her surname was Collins (like the film star), and she had three children. THOMAS WHITE died a year after his second marriage, and his widow married again. He had made his will just before he died, leaving to each of the three children of his daughter ELIZABETH SAMBACHE ‘one feather bed, the which feather beds are in the parlour that hath the chimney’. Her husband William was bequeathed ‘five butts [casks] and three tops, all of oak’, and their eldest son William five silver spoons. His wife Joan was made the executrix, and the will was proved in Worcester (1556/23) in the following January.
A lengthy inventory of THOMAS WHITE’s goods was prepared by Ralph SHELDON, gent (who was a relative of THOMAS OAKLEY’s future daughter-in-law), and they were valued at over £46. They included furniture, kitchenware, 6 silver spoons, linen, iron tools, barrels, 6 horses, and a sword, a dagger, a halberd (a spear and battle-axe on a 6 foot long handle), another battle-axe, and bows and arrows. The possession of silver spoons, feather beds, weapons, and a house with a chimney at that date, reveal him as a man of some substance. He appears to have owned an inn called the White Hart on the main road in Broadway, which has now become the world-famous Lygon Arms. This hypothesis on White ownership is presented in The Story of the Lygon Arms by Alison R. Ridley and Curtis F. Garfield. The main evidence comes from a list in the Broadway parish records of the parishioners who were responsible for maintaining specific parts of the wall of the churchyard, and in 1532 THOMAS WHITE was number 25 in the list. The corresponding names in 1633 and in 1710 were written alongside, and in each case the person named can be identified as the landlord of the same inn. At other places in the list the names can also be associated with successive occupants of a property in the town, including members of the Sambache and SHELDON families, so its use here in locating THOMAS WHITE at the White Hart appears to be justified.
The authors of the book also discovered an earlier Thomas White in Broadway who could have been ELIZABETH’s grandfather or great grandfather (pp.5-8). Early Chancery Proceedings in the years 1476-1485 show that he had brought an action in London for debt against ‘a man of power and might’ for twelve sacks of Cotswold wool which were ordered and kept for six years, and the comment is made that this Thomas White must have been making a substantial income to afford to wait six years to be paid a debt of about £70 (equivalent to about £35,000 today, or about $60,000). His name is also cited in The Stonor Letters and Papers in 1478, when Thomas Betson, a Merchant Stapler, wrote to Lady Elizabeth Stonor to say that he must pay ‘White of Broadway’ £4; and in The Cely Papers an agent writing in 1484 to his master Richard Cely, Merchant of the Staple in Calais, reported that he had dined with Thomas White at his master’s request to obtain information about a certain matter. The Merchant Staplers had been granted a monopoly on the export of wool, which was very profitable to the country. Cotswold wool was of the best quality, and Broadway was near the centres of wool trading, so the three references appear to fit together. It is suggested in the book (p.11) that as he got older this Thomas White may have seen the need for a larger place for merchants such as Thomas Betson to stay, and that his farmhouse had become an inn in the late 1400s, during the more settled period after the Wars of the Roses had come to an end, when there was a move to provide accommodation for travellers.
It would be reasonable to conclude, therefore, that ownership of the inn passed in 1556 from THOMAS WHITE to his daughter ELIZABETH and then in 1560 to her second husband THOMAS OAKLEY. It is known that ELIZABETH’s son by her first marriage, i.e. William Sambache, became the owner of the inn later, perhaps when he came of age in 1568 or when he married in 1578, and that he sold it in 1620. William’s wife was Jane SEVERNE, and his stepbrother EDWARD OAKLEY married her sister URSULA SEVERNE in 1583. EDWARD was then living in Chastleton, where his grandmother JOAN OAKLEY had made her will in 1566, and his father THOMAS OAKLEY made his will there in 1586, describing himself as a yeoman. THOMAS asked to be buried in Chastleton church, to which he made a bequest, and he left 2 shillings to every poor householder in the parish. The rest of his goods he bequeathed to his son EDWARD, whom he made his executor. The rector of the parish and THOMAS’s cousin John INGRAM were to be overseers of the will, and they were each to have 20 shillings to buy a mourning ring, as was then the custom. There was no mention of ELIZABETH, who must have died earlier.
Although THOMAS was then ‘sick in body’ he lived many more years, and a possible reason for him to make a will at that time was that his son had married and presented him with a grandson. In 1596, THOMAS was included in a deed as one of the six people who farmed the 675 acres in Chastleton that belonged to the lord of the manor Robert Catesby. The house in the picture below dates from that period, and may have been where THOMAS lived.
House in Chastleton
On 28 March 1597 his son EDWARD leased from Catesby a house and land ‘now in the tenure and occupation of THOMAS OAKLEY father of the said EDWARD’, and when on 30 September 1599 EDWARD leased further property from Catesby, THOMAS signed the deed with a cross (Oxford R.O., E/24/1/4D/1 and E/24/1/5D/1). EDWARD proved his father’s will on 16 June 1602, not in Worcester or Oxford, but in London at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PPC, 42 Montague), as was necessary if the testator owned land in more than one diocese. However, there is no evidence that this was the case here, and it is perhaps more likely that EDWARD chose to do so because he had become sufficiently wealthy to be considered a gentleman, and it was a matter of pride that the gentry proved their wills in the Prerogative Court, irrespective of where they owned their lands. As it was his marriage that had raised EDWARD to that status, his wife’s SEVERNE family is described next.
The SEVERNE pedigree and coat of arms were not recorded in the Herald’s Visitations of the county until 1682-3, and even then it was stated that no proof was made of the arms. They were ‘Argent, on a chevron Sable nine bezants’, i.e. a silver shield with nine gold circles on a black chevron. The first person named in the pedigree was JOHN SEVERNE of Shrawley who possessed land in Shrawley and Broadway. This would explain why his eldest son JOHN (II) and his two granddaughters all chose marriage partners from Broadway, which is 25 miles to the south west on the other side of the county. The entry for the family in Burke’s Landed Gentry shows the arms and crest and the motto Virtus Praesantior Auro (virtue is superior to gold), and it describes JOHN as living in the time of Henry VIII (1509-1547). The Shrawley parish register (now in the Worcester Record Office) shows that he was buried on 2 January 1546/7.
JOHN’s eldest son JOHN married CHRISTIAN the daughter of BALDWIN SHELDON of West End Manor in Broadway, and their two daughters were christened in Shrawley, Jane on 3 July 1561, and URSULA on 28 March 1568, JOHN being described as a bailiff. Jane, who was named after CHRISTIAN’S mother, was only 16 when she married William Sambache on 13 May 1578, and their first four children were also christened in Shrawley, but from 1583 they christened their children in Broadway, by which time William had probably taken over the White Hart Inn. Jane died in 1613, and when William was buried in 1630 it was recorded that he was aged 83 and was the father of 26 children ‘by Mrs Jane Severne his sole wife’!
William’s stepbrother EDWARD OAKLEY would have got to know Jane’s sister URSULA, and they married on 16 January 15 1583/4 when she was not yet 16. Their first child William was christened in Shrawley on 21 May 1584, but her father JOHN SEVERNE had been buried on 30 April. He had made his will 10 days earlier. He gave 3 shillings towards the church, 5 shillings to the poor men’s box, and a bushel of rye to every poor household in the parish. To his wife CHRISTIAN he bequeathed for life all his lands in Hillhampton (to the west of Shrawley), provided she did not remarry, and after her death to her daughter URSULA and her heirs. He also bequeathed to his wife all his houses and land in Shrawley parish, and subsequently to his daughter Jane. His son-in-law EDWARD OAKLEY was to have his leases in Hillhampton, provided he entered into a bond to allow CHRISTIAN to have the net profits during her lifetime, and his other son-in-law William Sambache was bequeathed another lease on similar terms. His two sons-in-law were therefore well set up.
In the will it was said that EDWARD had been promised ‘three years table for himself and his wife’, but instead he would receive £40 and was forgiven the £40 he owed. Among other bequests, JOHN’s brother Thomas SEVERNE was to have his best gelding and his brother Robert SEVERNE his best cloak, Thomas the son of his brother William SEVERNE was bequeathed 10 shillings, his sister Ann Barnsley £5 (she had married in 1553), William Sambache’s son John £10, URSULA OAKLEY £5 to buy a gown, his servants 16 shillings, and the parson (who wrote the will) 30 shillings. His wife was bequeathed his lease of the parsonage and rectory of Shrawley for life, after which it was to go to his two daughters, and she was to share with his two sons-in-law all the rest of his goods, his lands, leases and copyholds and the tithes of corn and hay belonging to the rectory, and all the corn, grass and hay growing on the glebe. His wife was made joint executor with William Sambache, and her stepbrother William Combe esquire (who will be described later with the SHELDON family) and JOHN’s brother Thomas SEVERNE were to be the overseers.
His high standard of living was indicated by the inventory of his goods, which included 8 feather beds and 5 flock beds and other furniture, an exceptional quantity of linen worth £25, gold or silver plate worth £10, kitchen and brewing equipment, farm animals valued at £104 and crops at £64, and leases worth £20, the total coming to £273, equivalent to about £50,000 today.
His widow CHRISTIAN proved the will in Worcester on 16 June 1584 (1584/40b). She lived for another 8 years, during which time several of her grandchildren were christened in Shrawley. She made her will on 3 June 1592, leaving £6.13.4 to her grandchildren John and Christian Sambache, a similar sum to her grandchildren William and Martha OAKLEY, and 5 shillings to each of her servants. She died soon afterwards, and the will was proved in Worcester on 26 June (Worcester R.O. 1592/63).
The descendants of JOHN’s brother Thomas SEVERNE will be described briefly, as they became involved in the later history of the OAKLEYs and INGRAMs. According to the 1683 Visitation, Thomas inherited land in Broadway from his father, and purchased other land in Powick to the south of Worcester (a place to which reference will be made later). In 1577 he was one of several persons who bought land in Broadway from CHRISTIAN’S brother Ralph SHELDON. Thomas died in 1594, and his young son John SEVERNE was made a ward of Queen Elizabeth, as was customary if the heir as a minor held land of the Queen. The crown took the profits of the estate, except what was necessary for his maintenance.
This John later sold his land in Broadway to increase his Powick estate, and he married Mary Langley of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, about 40 miles north west of Shrawley. Their son John SEVERNE became a draper in Shrewsbury, where he was mayor in 1675, and he purchased land to the west where he built Wallop Hall in Shropshire and Rhos Goch just over the Welsh border in Montgomeryshire. These properties were inherited in 1788 by his descendant Samuel Amy SEVERNE, who somewhat coincidentally befriended the last members of the INGRAM family and inherited their property as well. The Shropshire property amounted to 3,500 acres when it was sold in 1920, and the present SEVERNE family lives on an estate only 10 miles north of Shrawley, which was inherited through Samuel’s daughter-in-law Anna Wigley, whose ancestors received it from Edward III in the 14th century (Burke’s Landed Gentry). This is one of few of our early families we have been able to trace down to our own times, as it retained its gentry status and did not die out in the male line.
The rest of the children of JOHN SEVERNE had remained in Worcestershire. In 1649 his daughter Catherine married John Somers, who was an attorney and fought on the side of Parliament in the Civil War. Their son, also named John, was a brilliant lawyer who as an MP framed the Declaration of Rights which brought William and Mary to the throne. The king granted him land in London which is still known as Somers Town, and a pension of £2,100. In 1697 he became Lord High Chancellor of England and was made Baron Somers of Evesham, and during the next reign he was involved in the Naturalisation of the House of Hanover and the Regency Acts of 1705 and the Act of Union with Scotland, both crucial legislation in the history of this country (Dictionary of National Biography). In London he became a friend of the famous essayist Sir Richard Steele, who (as will be described later) married one of the OAKLEY descendants in Wales.
Catherine’s eldest daughter Mary Somers married Charles Cocks, the MP for Worcester, and one of their daughters married into a Welsh family who had connections with one of EDWARD OAKLEY’s sons and with Bridget LEIGH. Charles and Mary’s great grandson, also a Charles Cocks, built Eastnor Castle and was made Earl Somers in 1821.
Having described the SEVERNE family, we return now to URSULA and her husband EDWARD OAKLEY.
On the day before his marriage to URSULA, EDWARD was bound in the sum of £100 on condition that he solemnized the marriage, and that there was no legal impediment for him to do so. He signed the bond, together with William Porter, a clothier of the city of Worcester, who signed as surety on behalf of the SEVERNES. The marriage made EDWARD a gentleman, which was how he was described thereafter, and it gave him the wherewithal to live in that manner.
Their first four children, William, Martha, John and Ursula, were christened in Shrawley while URSULA’s mother CHRISTIAN was still alive. A son Thomas was christened in Broadway in March 1592/3, probably while they were staying there with William and Jane Sambache, and their other children were probably christened in Wolford, where they had gone to live, but the early records of that parish have been lost. A further nine children can be identified from EDWARD’s will, making 14 in all. This was a large family, though not as large as that of her sister Jane, and there may have been other children who had died before the will was written.
The move to Wolford came about because of an indenture dated 10 July 1586 (Gloucester Record Office, D1447/1/276a), whereby EDWARD, described as gent and son and heir of THOMAS OAKLEY of Chastleton, purchased land in Great Wolford called Coopers Yardland from John INGRAM, gent, his father’s cousin. John had inherited the land from his father and namesake John, who had married Alice Sambache, and he left Wolford to live in Broadway. EDWARD paid £100 for the yardland, which was about 30 acres in size and would have consisted largely of strips in the open fields, which were not enclosed until the 19th century. At the time they were being farmed by William Howl and Anthony Horseman.
This land was not the only property that EDWARD obtained. John INGRAM had also inherited from his father the lease from Merton College, Oxford, of Parsonage Farm and the glebe land, amounting to 3 yardlands of arable and other land. The Registers recording the annual payment of rent by leaseholders are still held in the College library, and they show that John paid rent on the property up to 1587, and that EDWARD began payment in the following year. From that time, members of the OAKLEY family continued to live at the Parsonage for 200 years.
EDWARD also developed interests elsewhere. As we have seen, in 1597 he leased from Robert Catesby the property in Chastleton occupied by his father THOMAS. The lease was for 61 years at a rent of 37 shillings and 4 pence a year, and he covenanted that he would not plough up any of the 39 acres of pasture during the last 7 years of the lease. Also included were 50 acres of arable land and 10 acres of meadow, and they bordered the ridgeway north of the village which forms the county boundary with Gloucestershire. The indenture was signed by Catesby, who later achieved notoriety as the ringleader of the Gunpowder Plot (see The SHELDON Family).
In 1599, EDWARD leased from Catesby for 100 years a building and 14 acres in Chastleton which was occupied by a carpenter named Thomas Bromley. This was the document that his father THOMAS signed by mark. A yeoman on one of the other Catesby manors had leased the same property from Catesby only five days earlier, and both leases were released to the new owner of Chastleton in 1606 after Catesby’s death. The down payment made by EDWARD for his two leases is not disclosed. The first had some legitimacy because it continued his father’s lease, but the second looks more like a loan to Catesby, who was very short of money having been severely fined for his part in the unsuccessful revolt of the Earl of Essex against Queen Elizabeth I.
The plotters led by Catesby were reckless Catholic conspirators against King and Parliament, and a second reason why EDWARD might have been prepared to help save Catesby from debt, in addition to his connection through his father’s tenancy, was that he was himself a Catholic, though there is no suggestion that he knew of the plot or would have had any sympathy for it. His affiliations are revealed by the Recusant list for the Kineton Hundred of Warwickshire which was compiled on 10 September 1605, only two months before the Plot was due to take place, and it was very helpful that Gene Hetherington found this list (Warwick Record Office, CR1618/W19/3). In Wolford it included EDWARD OAKLEY, gent, and URSULA his wife, who ‘do come to the church [of England] but do not receive the communion’. On the other hand, they were no longer included in a similar list compiled on 21 February 1605/6 after the Plot had failed, so they may have decided that it was better to conform.
Some indication of EDWARD’S wealth is provided by the Lay Subsidy tax for Wolford of 1610, in which he paid 8 shillings and 4 pence tax on goods worth £5 (PRO, E179/193/274). He was not the wealthiest in the parish, as a William Brent paid the same tax, and a James Bishop paid 13 shillings and 4 pence on goods worth £8. His INGRAM cousin would probably have paid more than any of them had he been alive, but he had died, and his young son was being brought up by his stepfather in Wiltshire.
At about this time, EDWARD’s eldest daughter Martha married Thomas Chapman of Blockley parish in Gloucestershire, to the west of Wolford. EDWARD’S son John, who had become his heir on the death of the eldest son William at an unknown date, was married in 1612 to his second cousin Margaret SHELDON of Broadway, and a grandson EDWARD OAKLEY was christened there on 3 July 1614. By that time, EDWARD and URSULA had moved to Wales, taking most of the rest of the family with them. The evidence is provided by a document of 30 March 1614, in which EDWARD gave his address as Llanarthney in Carmarthenshire, when he assigned the 61-year lease of land in Chastleton to John Wakeman esquire, of Beckford in Gloucestershire, as trustee (Oxford Record Office, E/24/1/4D/2). The move had presumably come about so that John and his wife could take over at the Parsonage, and perhaps this had been envisaged in John’s marriage settlement. It is possible too that EDWARD and URSULA were still concerned that they might be accused of being recusants, with the consequent threat of fines and the sequestration of property, these laws having been enforced with greater stringency after the Plot, though in view of the time that had elapsed since the Plot it is unlikely that this was still their motivation.
They may have chosen Llanarthney, 100 miles away, because the Tywi valley was good farming land and may have been available at a reasonable price, and it was not far from Carmarthen to which other English men of standing, such as RALPH LEIGH, had been attracted in recent years. They would have known of it also from two near neighbours, one of them, Richard Daston, a relation through the SHELDONS, who had become Justices of Great Sessions for West Wales, serving Carmarthen and other major towns.
Only two years later, on 22 August 1616, EDWARD made his will, and he gave his address as Beili Glas (green bailey). The farm is near Dryslwyn castle, where one of the LEIGH relations in the PRICHARD Ancestry had been constable in the 13th century, and it can be seen in the distance on the far side of the river Tywi in the picture below, which was taken from the castle ruins.
EDWARD left £100 each to his sons Francis, Edward, and George, presumably named in order of seniority, to be paid when they reached the age of 25. His daughter Elizabeth was to have £100 one year after her marriage, provided she married according to her mother’s wishes and for her advancement, and her sisters Mary, Anne and ’Dorrity’ (DOROTHY) were bequeathed 100 marks (£67) on the same conditions. EDWARD reported that he had given his daughter Martha a dowry of £250 on her marriage, and had made arrangements to pay a further £50 to help to redeem the estates that were to be assured to her and her husband Thomas Chapman, and he explained that his wife URSULA as executrix would pay the additional money once Thomas’s parents had carried out their side of the agreement. His wife URSULA was bequeathed four yardlands in Chipping Norton and property in another parish, and all the rest of his goods provided she did not remarry. If she did remarry, EDWARD’s stepbrother Anthony Sambache of Gloucestershire and his son-in-law William Knight of Llangathen in Carmarthenshire were to be trustees on behalf of his unmarried children.
To his son-in-law Nicholas Chapman, who had married his daughter Catherine, he bequeathed his new cloak and new boots, and their daughter Anne was to have £10 when she was 16. His new black suit of clothes, his best hat and his best stockings, were to go to his son-in-law William Knight, and his second best suit of clothes, his doublet, breeches, stockings and second hat were to go to Francis Sambache. His son John and his sons-in-law Thomas Chapman, Samuel Francis, Nicholas Chapman and William Knight were each bequeathed a piece of gold worth 22 shillings to make a ring to wear in his memory, as was ‘my good friend Mr Christopher Middleton, vicar of the parish where I now dwell’, who wrote the will. EDWARD must have died soon afterwards, as URSULA proved the will in London on 5 May 1617 (PCC, 39 Walden).
EDWARD’s eldest daughter Martha and her husband Thomas Chapman had 6 children. They appear to have received their promised estate, as when their eldest son Robert was constable of Blockley in 1643 his home was given as Stapenhill, a farm in the north of the parish. Martha had died in 1632 aged only 45, and two years later the Herald’s Visitations for the county described her husband as a ‘’disclaimer’, which means that he disclaimed the right to bear arms. He died in 1646 aged 66.
EDWARD’s son and heir John took a new lease of the Parsonage at Great Wolford in 1624, and another in 1629 for the lives of his children Edward and Cicely, and of John Sambache, the younger son of John Sambache of Botley in Berkshire. The lease included the mansion house, the glebe lands and the tithes, and responsibility for the maintenance of the chancel of the church, and he was to pay the warden and scholars of Merton college £8 a year and ‘6 quarters of good dry and sweet wheat, and also 8 quarters of good dry and clear malt, at the feast day of St Margaret the Virgin … or for as much ready lawful English money … as the best wheat and the best malt shall be sold for in the markets in the city of Oxford’. The payment in these terms had been introduced to provide a hedge against inflation, which had been rampant in the 16th century, but otherwise the terms of the lease had not been altered for over 100 years. John was obliged to travel to Oxford each year to pay the rent, but he did not do so in 1645. This was towards the end of the Civil War when the king’s headquarters were in the city, and he probably judged the journey too dangerous.
EDWARD’s widow URSULA married again, as is shown by a deed of 10 October 1623 (Oxford R.O., E/24/1/4D/3) in which the 61-year lease in Chastleton was assigned to her son John by Thomas Warren of Barton-on-the Heath, William Knight of Llangathen (John’s brother-in-law), and Samuel Freeman of Beckford, and ‘Henry Beuchampe of the Town of Carmarthen and URSULA his wife sometime the wife of EDWARD OAKLEY late of Llanarthney deceased’. Their signatures, including URSULA’s mark, were witnessed on that date by the vicar of Broadway and others, and separately on 2 December, presumably in Wales, by William Knight, Francis OAKLEY (John’s brother), William Bowen and Walter Thomas. It is possible that URSULA’s second husband was related to the Beauchamps of Powick in Worcestershire, as this is where her cousin John SEVERNE had his estate. The lease soon changed hands again, as on 21 October 1628 John and his mother and stepfather, together with his brother-in-law William SHELDON, assigned the lease to the new owners of Chastleton for £560, a considerable sum (deed E/24/1/4D/6).
John and Margaret appear to have kept open house at the Parsonage, as his sister and two of Margaret’s family christened some of their children in Wolford in the 1630s while staying with them, and in 1634 John was involved in a settlement of the estate in Broadway of Margaret’s brother William SHELDON. In the same year, John paid a fine of £10 ‘for distraint of knighthood’. Charles I had decreed that all landholders worth £40 a year and over should take a knighthood, this presumably being a useful means of raising cash. John’s unwillingness to do what he was asked had already caused him to appear in the Quarter Sessions records for 1625 (QS40/1/1). He had been ordered to pay 40 shillings to the Overseers of the Poor of Wolford towards the maintenance of a bastard child begotten by his brother, but had paid only half that sum, and the constable Thomas OAKLEY had been required to bring him before the Justices but had not done so. The outcome is not known.
It has already been suggested that this Thomas was John’s brother, but the brother who was the child’s father may have been Francis OAKLEY, who had made his will shortly before on 30 December 1624. He bequeathed £5 to his ‘father-in-law Henry Beacham’, who was actually his stepfather, £10 to his brother Edward II, £3 to his brother-in-law Nicholas Chapman whom he made his executor, £5 each to Nicholas’s children William and Anne and £20 to the second son Walter, £10 to John’s son Edward, and £10 to Thomas the son of Elizabeth Chubley deceased (who was probably his sister Elizabeth). He asked for the legacies to be paid out of the £60 that John had borrowed from him. When the will was proved much later in Oxford on 15 July 1652 by his brother Edward, it was stated by the church official who recorded the probate grant that Francis had died ‘in the parts beyond the seas’. It is possible that he had taken part in the Thirty Years War in Europe, in which England had made ‘a belated effort at intervention in 1625’ (MacCulloch, Reformation, p.499).
John was again in trouble at the Quarter Sessions in 1646 (Warwick R.O., QS40/1/2), as the previous Overseer of the Poor had nominated him for that post, but he had refused. Then in 1652 he was one of the inhabitants who refused to pay their taxes (QS40/1/3). He died in 1656 aged 67 and Margaret died in 1663, and they were succeeded at the Parsonage by their son Edward, who had married Margaret Barry of Thame in Oxfordshire and paid an entry fine of £200 when he took over the lease. He paid tax on 7 hearths, which was equalled by only one other house in Great Wolford, but was not as many as the 11 hearths of his INGRAM cousin in Little Wolford (QS/11/3-10). He died in 1670 at the age of 56, and his gravestone in Wolford church shows a coat of arms ‘Argent, on a fesse between three crescents Gules, as many fleur de lis Or’, i.e. a silver shield with red crescents above and below a red band with three gold fleur-de-lis, and it empales the Barry arms ‘two lions passant’. The crescents look like acorn cups, hence ‘oak’, so with the fleur-de-lis the arms were a pun on the OAKLEY surname. Their pedigree was not recorded in any of the Herald’s Visitations, so they had not proved their right to bear arms. The arms were those of the Oakeley family of Lower Oakeley near Bishops Castle in Shropshire, whose pedigree is well established back to medieval times, but close examination of the pedigree with the help of a descendant who has written on the subject has shown no clear connection between the families. It seems more likely that our OAKLEYs had adopted the arms of the family with a similar surname. It was not uncommon for two unconnected gentry families to bear the same arms, and was the case for the NASH family.”
Edward and Margaret’s elder son John OAKLEY (1657-1715) continued the lease of the Parsonage, and in 1707 he was short of money, so he borrowed £190 from his nephew, using as security Coopers Yardland which his great grandfather EDWARD had bought in 1586. Thus began the series of debts in which his descendants were involved for the remainder of the century. The main sources of information on these transactions are documents D1447/1/276 and 279 at Gloucester Record Office, which are among the papers of Lord Redesdale who purchased the overlordship of Wolford in 1819, supplemented by documents DR41/31, pages 109, 130 and 136, in the Bloom Collection at Stratford Record Office. In his will (Gloucester R.O., D1447/1/276h), John OAKLEY directed that if his only surviving son Edward ’shall settle himself so in the world as to enable himself to pay down so much money as shall pay my said debts and legacies, then my said executors shall permit him to have the parsonage except so much as shall raise the sum of £40 per annum for his mother’. It appears that his son Edward was the cause of the debt. John bequeathed £120 to each of his unmarried daughters, and his wife was bequeathed all his plate and jewels and his household goods. The inventory of his goods came to £392, and his gravestone also bore the new arms.
John’s son Edward (1685-1740) had been living in London, but he took out a new lease of the Parsonage for £170, and after his mother died in 1734 he renewed it for a term of 21 years and not for lives, because he had no children and was the last OAKLEY of this line. On the same day, he mortgaged the lease for £283 to his wife’s brother in London. This was his main asset, and had been sufficiently profitable to maintain the eldest son of each generation in the manner of a gentleman. The mortgage was later increased to £500, and the mortgage on the Yardland was increased to £250 and transferred to his three brothers-in-law. When the lease expired in 1756, Edward’s nephew Edward Oakley Gray, who had been a vintner in London, obtained a new lease from the College, and he remained at Great Wolford until his death in 1771. His son Edward Oakley Gray was brought up by his aunt Martha and her husband, who had become trustees of the properties, on which the total mortgage was then £850. The son was living in Buckingham when he renewed the lease of the Parsonage in 1798, and finally he sold the Yardland in 1802 and gave up the lease two years later, so the family connection with Wolford came to an end. The property was described as 60 acres of arable plus rough pasture and some timber, and its annual value was £145, including tithes at £95.
These were the descendants of EDWARD OAKLEY who lived in England, but he also had children who grew up in Wales, including his youngest daughter DOROTHY who married RICHARD LEIGH.
EDWARD OAKLEY's descendants in Wales
Catherine’s most surprising bequest was of a house and land in Llanarthney to Altham Vaughan of Golden Grove, esquire. He was the son of Richard Vaughan the second Earl of Carbery, and his second wife Frances Altham, and had been born a few years before Altham Gwyn, Catherine’s great nephew, so it is possible that the Earl had been godfather to the Gwyn baby. The families were connected in that a Gwyn cousin had married the Earl’s aunt Mary Vaughan, and Altham and his eldest brother Francis Vaughan were members of Carmarthen council at the same time as Catherine’s nephew John OAKLEY. In addition, the Earl’s sister, also Mary Vaughan, married Sir Francis Lloyd, whose mistress was Catherine’s niece Bridget LEIGH, and a few years after Catherine’s death her nephew OAKLEY LEIGH married a descendant of the Earl’s ancestor HUGH VAUGHAN.
Information concerning Catherine’s brother Edward OAKLEY is to be found among the papers of the Edwinsford estate at the National Library of Wales. In 1633, Edward and his wife Anne sold 80 acres in Talley parish near the estate, and in 1637 they were granted a 21 year lease of a house and land in the parishes of Talley and Llandeilo by Nicholas Williams of Edwinsford, whose wife was a sister of Sir Francis Lloyd. There was to be another link between the families, because Nicholas’s grandson Sir Nicholas Williams married Mary Cocks of Worcestershire, the granddaughter of Catherine SEVERNE whose great grandfather John SEVERNE was also Edward’s great grandfather. Edward OAKLEY made his will on 22 May 1662 in the parish of Llanegwad near Llanarthney, and he bequeathed £30 to his wife Anne in place of her dowry, and £20 each to his grandchildren Altham, Ursula and Anne Gwyn (NLW, SD/1668/72). His goods were valued at £78, much the same as for his sister Catherine. His daughter Jane had married Harry Gwyn, whose father David Gwyn had paid the Lay Subsidy in Llangathen in 1626 and 1628, and whose grandfather was an illegitimate son of Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Dinefwr, whose career is described in the PRICHARD ANCESTRY.
Edward’s youngest brother George OAKLEY had moved the 10 miles west from Beili Glas, where their father had died, to Carmarthen, which was an important administrative and judicial centre as well as a port and a market town, and in 1628 he paid 16 pence Lay Subsidy there on land valued at 20 shillings (PRO, E179/239/234). In 1641 he was mayor of the borough, and during the Civil War he bought a store of stolen cattle and drove them to the king’s quarters in Worcester, where they were sold to buy pistols for the royal army (Lloyd, 28-29). By the end of the war he was dead, and in 1646 letters of administration were granted to his widow Mary OAKLEY in London (Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, Vol.25, 1934, p.13).
Mary (whose maiden name is not known) lived for a further 30 years. In 1662 she contributed 40 shillings towards the Free and Voluntary Present to king Charles II, who had recently been restored to the monarchy, and in 1673 she paid tax on a house with 13 hearths, which must have been one of the biggest buildings in the town, and on a house with 4 hearths, which was also above average in size (PRO, E179/264/15 and 22). She made her will on 28 April 1676 (NLW, SD/1677/19), and a witness said later that she signed the will while sitting in her own hall, as the main room was called. She bequeathed to her granddaughter Mary Lewis a silver tankard and pewter dishes, and ‘all the loose feathers now in my dwelling house and which are not put up in any bed or bolster’. Eight of her grandchildren were to have £1 each, and money for mourning rings was bequeathed to her sons John and Jonathan OAKLEY, to her son-in-law John Scurlock, and to Theophilus Bevan who had married her granddaughter Elizabeth Lewis. The family was prominent in the borough council in the 1660s, as her son-in-law George Lewis was mayor in 1661, her son John in 1662, her son-in-law John Scurlock in 1665, and her nephew Richard LEIGH (III) in 1666, and this continued into the next generation, as John Scurlock’s son-in-law Martyn Beynon was mayor in 1678, and Theophilus Bevan was mayor in 1697.
George and Mary OAKLEY’s son-in-law John Scurlock arranged for the restoration of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School during his time as mayor, and in 1677 he was High Sheriff of the county. His house in Carmarthen had 9 hearths, but he also owned property in Llangunnor parish on the other side of the river Tywi, including a mill in which his tenants had to grind their corn. When he died in 1678, his inventory revealed that he had a richly furnished house, in which the dining room had 21 chairs and stools and a couch, all 'of turky work', a woven material of wool with a pile in imitation of Turkish carpets, and 11 'Russhia' chairs covered in a very durable leather made of skins impregnated with oil distilled from birch bark. The contents of the nine rooms were valued at £100, his clothes at £28, linen at £46, silver plate at £46, farming stock at £162, and the goods in his shop and out on credit at £550. With other items the total came to £998, equivalent to about £70,000 today (NLW, SD/1679/24).
John and Mary Scurlock’s eldest son Jonathan was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and became a JP, but he died in 1682 aged only 29, and his memorial in St Peter’s church exhibits the Scurlock arms of three red bands on a silver shield. Jonathan’s daughter Mary became the second wife of Sir Richard Steele, who with Addison is known as the father of political journalism.
Sir Richard Steele
(from Mary Evans Picture Library)
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Steele was born in Dublin in 1672, the son of a wealthy attorney, and in 1705 he married a widow with extensive estates in Barbados, but she died a year later. He met Mary at the funeral, and they married in 1707. She was described as ‘a cry’d up beauty’, and was the ‘Dear Prue’ in his letters which are now at the British Museum. He was good-natured, but perpetually in debt, and he enjoyed the tranquillity of his wife’s home in Llangunnor and the view of Carmarthen from Llangunnor church. In London he was a member of the Kit Kat club, where he met the politician John Somers, artists such as Vanburgh, and John Vaughan the third Earl of Carbery, who had succeeded Pepys as the President of the Royal Society. He founded The Tatler magazine in 1709, which began with news and gossip but became a collection of essays until it ended in 1711. With Joseph Addison he began The Spectator, which is still published today. It took advantage of the greater leisure that had been created among the gentry and the professional and commercial classes, and so would have been popular in Carmarthen, which had become the centre of fashion in south Wales. Steele became an MP in 1715, and was knighted in that year. Mary died on 26 December 1718 aged 40 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, and he retired from publishing and writing in 1724, then later moved to Llangunnor. He died in Carmarthen in 1729, and was buried in the Scurlock vault in the church.
The Spectator magazine
(from Mary Evans Picture Library)
Returning now to the children of George and Mary OAKLEY, their younger son Jonathan was an Oxford-educated lawyer who had been a trustee with his cousin Richard LEIGH of Sir Francis Lloyd’s will in 1667. He made his will at the age of 39 on 4 September 1677, only a year after his mother’s death, and as he had no children he left all his property in Llanarthney and Carmarthen to his wife Elizabeth. He bequeathed £20 each to three of his nephews, and the same amount to the council so that the interest would provide 15 shillings for an anniversary sermon, and 9 shillings for bread to be distributed among the poor on the same day. His inventory was prepared by his cousins Richard and OAKLEY LEIGH, and by William Davies of Dryslwyn, who also prepared the inventory of Oakley Gwyn in 1688. It included a silver tankard, a silver tumbler, and 6 silver spoons, and was valued at £19 (NLW, SD/1677/42).
Jonathan’s widow erected a memorial in St Peter's church in Carmarthen, in which he is shown wearing a wig and holding a rolled parchment. Underneath is a tablet with the Oakley arms in colour, and an inscription in gold letters on a black marble pane which says that he was descended from the OAKLEY family of Wolford in Warwickshire. A transcript of the inscription has been published, in which the arms are shown with the crescents and the band marked 'g' to represent 'gules' (red), and the fleur-de-lis marked 'o' to represent 'or' (gold). The same arms had appeared for the first time only 7 years earlier on the gravestone of his first cousin Edward OAKLEY in Wolford church, except that Jonathan's arms had a small crescent in addition to indicate a younger son.
George and Mary’s elder son John OAKLEY was a mercer in Carmarthen, and was elected mayor in 1662. In 1661 he contributed 20 shillings towards the Free and Voluntary Present (PRO, E179/264/13), and in 1673 he paid tax on 5 hearths. Despite his prominent position in the town he occasionally got into trouble. The Plea Rolls describe a case in 1655 in which he was accused of trespass and assault in which he beat and wounded a Thomas Davy, to which he pleaded not guilty (Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, XI, 73). The outcome of the case is not known. He continued to attend council meetings until shortly before his death in 1688, and he appears to have lived at that time in the house with 13 hearths on which his mother had paid tax in 1673, as his inventory described the contents of many rooms including 11 bedrooms. They had names such as ‘The Globe’, ‘the Fleur-de-Lis’, and ‘The Prince’s Arms’, so it appears to have been an inn. His goods were valued at £214, including silver plate at £42 (NLW, SD/1688/32).
John’s elder son George OAKLEY had 6 children, but 3 died as babies and possibly a fourth as well, and another died aged 23. Several of the children of OAKLEY LEIGH died young in the same period, and it may be that the town was an unhealthy environment, even among the relatively wealthy. George himself survived his father by only 4 years. His son John OAKLEY married Elizabeth Aubrey whose brother was an attorney in London and a clerk in the Exchequer Office. John and Elizabeth had nine children, four of whom also died as babies. One of the children was given the uncommon name Vincent, which had appeared in the families of his Great Wolford cousins in the two previous generations, and this suggests that they remained in contact with each other. John’s son George OAKLEY died in 1767, leaving a daughter Elizabeth who died a spinster in 1794. George had a brother Thomas who was a surgeon. He died in 1790, and his daughter Mary Aubrey OAKLEY died a spinster in 1801 aged 50. She appears to have been the last OAKLEY in Carmarthen, and she died at much the same time as their cousin in England ended the family’s links with Wolford.
By Derek Williams