Friday, 22 July 2011

Tales from the Parish Clerks’ Memoranda No.3: Hang Sorrow! The Remarkable Recovery of the Heavy-Hearted Widower

I was intrigued to read the following account of a grieving widower who, within the space of three weeks, had found the cure for his heavy heart – the gaining of a new wife:

17 Octobris 1615
Thomas Addis Gun-smith in the Minories Street, who continued a havie widower almost three weekes, was Maried again to one Anne Basse a widow of Stepney, by a Licence from Mr Kempe[s] office the Seaventeenth day of October, Anno domini 1615. he was a heavie man, at the death of his other wife but now is lightlie geven, and Saies, hang sorow.
P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223 f223r

This seemed rather a quick recovery to me, and I wondered if this was common practice. I didn’t have to look far to find another widower who had taken the same route to renewed happiness:

23 Octobris 1615
Henry Jaques, who has continewed a widower almost a moneth, was maried to Mary Sussex, a widow the xxiiith day of October. Anno domini
P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223 f233v

The only information I could find about their respective first wives were their funeral details. They were buried within a day of each other:

24 September Anno Domini 1615,
Ffrancis Addis, wife to Thomas Addis Gun-smith in the Minories street, was buried in the Church the xxiiith day of September, Anno dm, who had a knell wth the great Bell, the black Cloth not vsed, but paid for, Shee was a Auncient parishioner,
P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223 f231r

25 Septembris 1615
Elizabeth Jaques, wife Henry Jaques of Cock Alley in Eastsmithfeild was buried the xxvth day of September, Anno dm 1615. Coffind in the old Church-yard, and had the Blacke Cloth
P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223 f231r

Once ReScript is fully operational, it would be interesting to do an analysis to find the average timespan between the death of one spouse and the marrying of the next in 17th century London, whether this differed between men and women, and whether Thomas Addis and Henry Jaques were unusual in their alacrity.

I did find one further interesting fact about the Addis household: they kept lodgers in their house on Minories Street, including the “seafaring man”, Henry May in 1615. According to the Parish Clerks’ Memoranda, there were quite a few sailors who lodged in the area, some of whom returned from the sea in poor health, and who subsequently died in their lodgings. But Thomas Addis’s lodger, Henry May, appears to have had a former career – or at least training - in the textile industry.

26 Maii 1615
Henry May, a Seafaring man, who lodged in the house of Thomas Addis Gunsmith in the Minories street, was buried in the new Churchyard neer Rosemary lane the xxvith day of May, Anno dm 1615. he was free of the Cloth workers
P69/BOT2/A/003/MS09223 f220r

I consulted my colleague Mark Merry, IHR Digital Projects and Training Officer, about this. Mark supplied the following information:

Ah, a salty sea-dog - there were lots of those in Aldgate in the 17th century! Being free of the Clothworkers doesn't necessarily mean he worked in the textiles industry, but it is quite likely. It means he was trained at the Company, and whether or not he did actively work with cloth, the being 'Free' makes him a man of some social standing. That he ended up as a seafarer and a lodger is interesting, suggesting one of two scenarios:

1) He fell on hard times, and made a living as a sailor signing on as crew as and when a voyage was available
2) 'Sea farer' might imply a more senior figure, a ship's master or perhaps owner/master, and he was involved in trading textiles overseas, which would suggest he was quite well off. That he ended up lodging was common for mariners (even the rich ones), as they were often taken in by parishioners if they came off ship after a voyage and were sick.

As the record shows that the clerk received no payment for his burial, this might suggest that May was the poor kind of sea farer, rather than the more successful kind. I don't think we know enough about him to decide definitively either way. However, if you want a bit more information on him, it so happens that one of the Centre for Metropolitan History's other projects ( has digitised the membership records of the Clothworkers, and we have May's freedom record. He was made free in 1597 by patrimony - meaning his father (John) was a member of the Clothworkers too. Unfortunately the record in this instance is one of the least informative in the database, so we don't know much more than that...

Making connections such as these is one of the joys of using online digitised resources such as ReScript. You never know where a simple query, such as that into the background of a heavy-hearted widower, may lead you.

Many thanks to St Botolph without Aldgate and London Metropolitan Archives for permission to reprint extracts from the Parish Clerks' Memoranda.

The Parish Clerks' Memoranda transcripts were prepared by the Centre for Metropolitan History team as part of their Economic and Social Research Council-funded Life in the Suburbs project (Grant Reference: RES-062-23-1260;


  1. Fascinating and thank you! One quick point - being free of any Livery Company didn't mean you had ever worked there. In this case, freedom by patrimony just meant he was made a Freeman because his father was one; he may well have been at sea all his life and had little or nothing to do with textiles. Being a freeman improved social status and also helped to prevent being 'irregularly taken' by a pressgang.

  2. It has been a few years since I last tracked down anyone using archive materials and what databases were available at the time (if memory serves right it was an author who had received patronage from Queen Anne for defending Britain's sovereignty of the seas in a book). So this brings back happy memories. What I also very much enjoy about how you combine project information and the historical posts is that it reminds people that we engage with technology to help research - and in the case of history so that historians can also tell more exciting stories. I am looking forward to reading more of this as the project progresses.

  3. Thank you Torsten - it's really good to hear that this mixed approach is working. Donna has another great 'Tales' post lined up for Friday!

  4. May I also point you towards fol. 148r,4 October 1587.
    Gommar van Osterwyke beinge one of the Queenes Maties musicions and Marye Pa'kines His mayde Servaunt weare maried togither in ower parishe Churche and beinge of ower parishe the iiijth Daye of October in ano 1587 By vertewe of a Lysence from [blank] office Dated the [blank] daye of october in ano prdicto.
    Gomar married his maidservant about 6 weeks after the burial of his wife on 19 August 1587,fol. 119r

    I have very much enjoyed reading these notes on some of the contents of the memoranda

    Rebecca Tomlin

  5. Hi Rebecca - thank you very much for your kind comments.