Where did the Wedds originate from? Our earliest certain ancestor is Peter Wedd, who bought land in Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, near Royston, in 1668; however there were Wedds living in Great Shelford, only a few miles from Fowlmere in the late fifteenth century. The only references I have found earlier than this so far, are mention by Nathaniel Wedd in his pencilled notes of a John Wedd of Hauxton in 1445; unfor tunately he gives no reference for this mention. He also notes a John Whed in Clarkesthorpe 'probably in West Norfolk' (actually Claxthorp in Lincs?) in 1296, similarly unsubstantiated. In about 1545 a William Wedd ('Gentleman Wedd') is mentioned several times in the letters of the Johnson family as a carrier in the village of Tickford near Newport Pagnell in Berkshire.
There is a group of Wedds, apparently unrelated, in a small ar ea around the Kent and Sussex border at the end of the sixteenth century. The only connection I have been able to establish so far is that a William Redman of the squire's family of Great Shelford became vicar of the parish of Bishopsbourn in Kent in the late sixteenth century, before moving on to become first Archdeacon of Canterbury and then bishop of Norwich in 1594; he died in 1602. It is possible that a member of the Wedd family of Great Shelford could have been part of his household; the first record in Kent is the birth of Christopher Wedd to Edward Wedd in 1596; however, I am inclined to think that the connection, if any, goes back earlier than this. One group of the Kent/Sussex family emigrated to Canada in the early nineteenth century where there are descendents to this day.
At a later date an apparently separate instance occurs in Devon in which a Joakim Wedd and a Daniell, possibly a brother, found small families of which I have not been able to trace descendents.
The name Wedd itself has always been spelt as it is now, with the exception of occurences of the spelling Wed in the early registers which is clearly an alternative spelling. My only thought at the present of its origins are that the name Wedde occurs in Germany. The Christian name of the first forebear is spelt Peeter in the parish registers of Royston; whether this was a common variant or whether it implies a foreign origin, I am not sure. The name Joakim Wedd in the registers in Devon does imply to my mind a possibility of an immigrant from Germany or Holland. All the earliest records show that the family were, not surprisingly at that time, involved in the wool trade, and the similar names Wedder, Withers and Wetherburn have meanings related to the sheep trade. For this reason, I have wondered whether the family came over the this country from the Low Countries in the fourteenth century when trade with the continent was expanding rapidly.
As against this, the area of Hertfordshire in which the family originates, is full of names such as Wyddial,Wades Mill, Widdington, which bear a similarity, and if the family were local the name may have place name origins.
In 1492 a Robert Wedd of Great Shelford left a will which is recorded in the Consistory Court of Ely probate records. The first Wedd in the parish registers of Great Shelford is a Peter, who has a large family of children beginning with a Margaret in 1558. The death of Robert Wedd in 1563 relates back to a will in the Ely Consistory Court in that year, so it is not stretching credulity to assume that this may have been the father of Peter. A 'Mother Wedd' whose death is recorded in 1570 could be the wife of Robert. At this stage, the spelling Wed and Wedd are completely interchangeable, for example, one spelling being used for a child's birth and the other for the record of its later death.
Peter's son Robert had a son Peter and a daughter Elizabeth; then Robert and Amy are recorded as h.aving a son Robert in the neighbouring village of Hauxton in 1530, followed by Robert's death and Amy's remarriage. Whether Peter, son of Robert is the Peter at the head of our family tree is of course unproven, but I think a reasonable assumption.
Whatever the origins, the Wedds were settled in the Royston area in the seventeenth century, and were wool staplers, wool combers, merchants, and later lawyers and businessmen. Annie Wedd in 1956 describes them as 'a long line of inconspicuous country gentlemen, farming their own land in the counties of Cambridge, Hertford and Essex.' This is partially true, for they held land, some of it still in open field strips, and farmed it alongside their trading interests, but the majority were primarily merchants, and tradesmen, a few becoming farmers especially in the Essex area where they later acquired land. Inconspicuous is an apt description, however; they achieved just sufficient distinction in the world to warrant a pedigree in Berry's 'Pedigrees of Hertfordshire Families' printed in 1858, and the occasional mention in the Gentleman's Magazine.
In the Hearth Tax records of 1674 a Peter Wedd is recorded as having a property of 6 hearths in Royston, a suggestion of reasonable prosperity. Another Peter Wedd had a house of 2 hearths in Melbourn, and I think this is probably Peter Wedd junior, born about 1645.
The first entries in the Royston parish registers are the marriage of Peeter Wedd (sic) to Mary Mansfield in 1664, and of Elizabeth to Thomas Nash in March of 1669; appropriate this, for the Wedds and the Nashes intermarried on many occasions over the next two centuries. In the seventeenth century and the first part of the eighteenth, their world was a small one; the number of families of the same status in life, and in the same area of the country must have been limited, and the same names, Nash, Chaplin, Fordham,Beldham and Stockbridge occur and reoccur, often several times in the same generation.
Peter I had three other sons, Benjamin I, Robert and Joseph. His will in 1691 divides his land interests, including the Swan public house, between his two eldest sons, Peter and Benjamin, his younger sons, Robert and Joseph, his daughter Elizabeth Nash receiving the remaining property. An inventory taken by Jonathan Stockbridge and another(illegible) records the property in his house, worth £9, including feather beds, rug, household linen and his apparel ('both linen and wool'). Although the contents of the inventory indicate a simple home by today's standards, this value compares quite favourably with the inventory of the rectory taken at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and suggests a reasonably affluent family. Berry records only Benjamin and Robert, but also includes another son, William, as receiving part of the land when divided in 1703, but I have so far found no record of him.
Other early references to the Wedds are a Robert Wedd who matriculated from Trinity College Cambridge in 1636, and a Peter Wedd 'gent, of London' whose marriage is recorded in 1629 in the Bassingbourn register (one of the four parishes covering Royston before the formation of the parish of Royston itself).
Although the Wedds later lived in the village of Fowlmere, Royston remained the centre of their life, rather than the equidistant and larger Cambridge; this is explained by the commercial interests of the town. Despite its strategic position on the cr ossing of the Ickneild Way and Ermine Street, Royston is not an ancient town. It owes its existence to the establishment of a monastery in the early years of Norman rule. Granted with the holding of a fair, this priory flourished and the town developed round the market. On the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 the estate was broken up, but the commercial centre of the town remained, and the town was eventually formed into a new parish centred on the old priory church. Its prime commodity was barley for malting, and there was a considerable industry in malt; many small malsters operated in the area before the gradual takeover of the large factory operation in the late eighteenth century. The other major industry of the area was the wool trade, and this continued into the nineteenth century with regular shipments of wool to the Yorkshire textile mills.
During the first half of the seventeenth century James I had a hunting lodge at Royston, which had a considerable impact on the life of the area, not the least being a drain on its resources. Despite or perhaps because of this, Royston sided largely with the parliamentary cause in the civil war, and indeed was noted for its Puritan sympathies; Quakers were recorded here as early as 1655, and after the Great Ejection in 1662 several nonconformists preachers made their homes in the area. John Bunyan preached in Melbourn, and Baptists had an early meeting at Meldreth. However, the dominant sect was that of the Independents, later Congregationalists, who set up a meeting in 1700, leading to the building of the Kneesworth Street meeting house in 1705. This later split, the New meeting house being built in John Street in 1791.
By the eighteenth century, Royston was a flourishing commercial centre, and also something of an intellectual centre, described by one writer as "a centre of culture and intelligence and of enterprise, quite uncommon in similar towns in the country". The Royston Book Club, succeeding the Royston Club, a dining club primarily for the gentry, was by contrast a debating society, mainly catering for the nonconformist business families and dissenting ministers. This is not surprising at a time when the nonconformist sects set great store by the education of their young people, in advance of more conservative elements in society (especially so in the case of women). By way of note, the first school in Royston was set up, rather haphazardly, in 1718 and a National School endowed by Lord Dacre in 1840. The Royston Book Club also reflected the reformist tendencies of the town, favouring the reform act of 1832 and liberal legislation. When in 1799 Benjamin Flower, editor of the 'Cambridge Intelligencer' was imprisoned for his opposition to Pitt's legislation limiting public assembly, a demonstration was held in support of him, and when the new Poor Law was passed in 1832 which provided for the building of Union Workhouses, stigmatised by the people as 'POor Law Prisons' r iots took place in Royston although the workhouse was built just the same.
This was the society to which the Wedds belonged; nonconformist, Whig in politics, business oriented rather than land oriented, and modestly intellectual.
The next entries in the Royston registers are the marriages of Peter's sons Benjamin and Robert in 1680 and 1675 respectively. For the next two hundred years, the names Peter and Benjamin were generally used for the eldest sons, not merely of the senior line but of all the branches of the family. Add to this the recurrence of the names Hester and Mary for their wives, and tracking down which Benajmin and Mary had the son called Peter sometimes becomes a hard task.
Berry's genealogy lists a third son, James, who married an Elizabeth Wedd and lived in Boston. James and Elizabeth founded the branch of the Wedd family.which lived in Boston and later moved into Cheshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire.
In 1668 Peter Wedd, according to Berry, had bought land in Fowlmere from Widow Morton of Long Sutton, Lincs, and on Peter senior's death the land in Fowlmere was divided between Peter jun and Benjamin. Clearly during the course of the 1670's Fowlmere became home for Benjamin and his wife Mary Bayly, and later for Joseph and Edith.
Fowlmere is a small village in the Cambridgeshire countryside, surrounded by open countryside, with heath and moor to the north. It has never, however, been a rural village in the strict sense, since its life was always dominated by the proximity of the London to Cambridge road, and its offshoot to Newmarket. Even now one of the first things to strike one is the disproportionate number of pubs; in the seventeenth century the Chequers served postchaises, the Swan stage coaches and the Red Lion waggons; the equivalent now, I suppose, of saloon bar, public bar and transport cafe. The existence five miles away of Royston with its large and prosperous market must have acted as a stimulus to commercial activity.
Probably another major factor in the life of the village has been the lack of a lord of the manor. The Aldreds built a manor house, parts of which remain in the main street, but this was not subsequently occupied by the owners of the manor, and the land was leased out or managed by a bailiff. I have read the comment that it is curious how late the land in Fowlmere was enclosed; I think that the absence of a landowner hungry for land has to be a reason. The rectory, like the manor, passed through a number of absentee custodians and was served mainly by curates, but it also operated as a manor in its own right, holding a manor court up until the nineteenth century.
The effect of these two factors was to create a sturdily independent society of small industry and communal farming. Taking its cue from Royston, the main industries other than farming were malt and wool. In the eighteenth century there were probably three wool manufacturers, including one based on the workhouse. The men would have been wool staplers and wool combers, the women spinners. By this time most of the wool would have been shipped out to the textile factories of the north, via Royston, for weaving and fulling.
Only two births are recorded for Benjamin I and his wife Mary in the registers, a son Benjamin, born in 1683 who died in 1684 and another Benjamin, born in 1686. Joseph and Edith had a numerous family, but most of them died young; Joseph's surviving son was also called Benjamin, so that there were three Benjamin Wedds in the village at one time. Benjamin son of Joseph married a member of the Fordham family, Ann, but their children all died young.
The rector of Foulmire from 1667 to 1710 was the Rev John Crakanthorp; suggestion is made that he owed the living of Fowlmere to his grandmother, Lady Hester Honeywood. Certainly, for this period Fowlmere was blessed by a committed and conscientious parish priest, who lived in the rectory and brought up his family there, managed the glebe lands, took the services and kept the parish registers in a tiny and immaculate hand.
Crakanthorp's wife was Margaret Sherwin daughter of William Sherwin a Puritan, who was ejected from his living in 1662 and died in the house of his son-in-law. His wife was a daughter of Thomas Pride, lieutenant to Oliver Cromwell, who was, however, a man of aristocratic origins who could trace his descent in two different lines from Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth, who married Henry VII thus uniting the York and Lancaster factions.
By a remarkable chance, John Crakanthorp's accounts book for the years 1705-1709 have survived, together with two books of harvest records. The first harvest book was discovered by a Mr. Arkle of Birkenhead, and the second in the family papers of Sir Cyril Fox, a descendent of Crakanthorp's. The accounts were found in among the papers of a Rev Frederick Fox Lambert, by a nephew Sir Anthony Lambert. All three have recently been edited and published by the Cambridgeshire Record Society, uniquely recording the details of life in the village at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
John Crakanthorp had six children, John, Samuel, William, Hester, Benjamin and Nathaniel. In June 1705, Hester Crakanthorp who was 25 married Benjamin Wedd, then 19. The Wedd family are mentioned on a number of occasions in the Crakanthorp notebooks, and are clearly reasonablyprosperous, Benjamin Wedd senior being dignified by the title Mr. rather than Goodman, for example, and to be found in 1707 building a house, but I question whether such a match would have been welcome to the Crakanthorp family who were undoubtedly gentry. I was fascinated, therefore, to discover the marriage recorded at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street. At that time, the Fleet area of London was notorious for runaway marriages, particularly of minors, at first performed in the Fleet prison then in taverns in the area. I have little doubt that this was an elopement; however, there are puzzles. In May 1705 Crakanthorp pays the carrier for taking Hester's trunk to London. In mid-June he pays for the ringing of the bells 'for Hester Wedd', and for the expenses of his youngest son and partner, Nathaniel, in travelling to London for his sister's wedding. Finally, at the end of the month he pays for Hester's board, and for her wedding clothes (the considerable sum of £12). If the wedding were not an elopement why did it not take place in Fowlmere?
In any case, it seems that the marriage was accepted, because at a later date Crakanthorp divides up his property between his children, including Hester, and Hester and Benjamin were executors of his will. Hester's eldest brother John went to Cambridge like his father and took orders, but he later became a Quaker, being buried in the Royston Friends burial ground in 1749. John is very poorly treated in the division of his father's property, but whether this was because he was already independent of because there was an estrangement, perhaps as a result of his Quakerism, I am not sure. Benjamin went into business in London, Samuel was living in Bocking, Essex at the register of freeholders in 1734, and Nathaniel took over his father's farming interests. A later son of the Wedd family married Nathaniel's granddaughter.
Benjamin and Hester lived, during the early part of their marriage at least, in the neighbouring village of Foxton. However, in 1707 Benjamin Wedd snr had built in Fowlmere the house, known as The Green, which the family was to occupy for the next two hundred years, and I assume that on his death the younger Benjamin took his family to live there.
They had seven children, but Benjamin died in 1720 at the relatively young age of 34, and in 1728 Hester married his cousin Peter II, the son of Robert, by that time also a widower. The seven children were John, born 1706, Benjamin, born 1708, Samuel, born 1710, Hester born 1713, Peter born 1715, Mary born 1716, and Nathaniel born 1717. This exhausted the family's efforts at originality with regard to names, and with the addition of Elizabeth and William, the same names were used for the next four or five generations with almost no variation.
The eldest son, John, does not appear to have married; his will, dated 1750, leaves his property divided between Valentine and Hester Beldam, the children of his sister Hester and Samuel Beldam (who was also the executor). The Beldams were a Royston family of Huguenot descent, also prominent nonconformists, Valentine and John Beldam being signatories to the covenant forming the Old Meeting in Kneesworth Street in 1705, (as was a Mary Mansfield Wedd, probably a daughter of Peter Wedd and Mary Mansfield). The earliest known member of the family was Valentine Beldam, born 1654, and a notable member was the lawyer and antiquarian Joseph Beldam (17951866) who, in addition to working for the antislavery movement and publishing "The Laws Affecting Protestant Dissenters" was interested in local history and wrote a book on the Royston Cave, discovered in 1742. As late as the mid nineteenth century a Valentine Beldam claimed rights of common in Fowlmere.
Samuel Wedd also appears to have remained unmarried, and Peter and Nathaniel both died shortly after their marriages. Indeed, the four brothers died between the years 1742 and 1750, followed by Benjamin in 1757, so that Hester Crakanthorp outlived five of her seven children. There was an outbreak of fever in Royston in 1750, the year in which John and Peter died, so the presumption must be that this was the cause of their deaths. Nathaniel's wife, Mercy Sunter, remarried in 1748, to Benjamin Crakanthorp, Hester's nephew.
The remaining sister, Mary, married Richard Chantry who lived in London but had links with Royston; Edward King Fordham the banker of Royston, born 1750, married Sarah Chantrey, daughter of Richard Chantrey of London, and relative of Francis Chantrey the sculptor, and I wonder whether this might be the daughter of Mary Wedd, despite the small variation in spelling.
Like his father, Benjamin III only survived the fathering of his youngest child by two years; the parish registers record him as dying from smallpox in 1757 at the age of 49. His wife was Mary Inkersole of Spalding in Lincolnshre, who outlived him by nearly fifty years, dying in 1802 at the age of 87. Three children, Mary, Elizabeth and Dorothy, died as infants, but five, Peter, Hester, Nathaniel, Benjamin and William, survived, all under the age of 12 at the time of their father's death.
Mary Inkersole seems to have been a remarkable woman. Having in fifteen years lost three children, her husband and all four of her brothersinlaw, she turned her hand to business, and by the time the children were adults had a flourishing wool staplers' firm, Mary Wedd & Son. In 1774 she took on an apprentice, Joseph Moule, at a charge of £40. In 1776 the firm was convicted in the Quarter Sessions of evading duty. However, she seems to have been an upright woman, and I believe it was she who first converted to the Independent, later Congregational church of which her sons were such stalwart members, since in 1758 her house was registered for the holding of a meeting. There was a strong Independent movement in the Royston area by that time, and in Fowlmere the incompetence or indifference of the minister John Morden in the mid seventeenth had encouraged a breakaway Independent movement of which the Wedd family were part. Earlier generations of the Wedd family had been described as 'dissenters' but until the mid eighteenth century they remained, formally at least, within the Church of England. In 1780 at the instigation of the Wedds and the Ellis's of Thriplow, the Congregational Church in Cemetery Lane was built.
On three occasions in the registers of this time, the parish priest or curate ventured to add a comment to the succession of births and deaths, and Mary Inkersole warrants one, for entered under her death is the remark "Her epitaph, without any ornament, may be expressed in these few words, she was an active and truly virtuous woman".
Mary Inkersole had more than her share of tragedy, for her eldest son and heir, Peter, met a sudden death before he was 20. Clearly, this was a deeply shocking event in the area, for the parish priest enters the whole story into the register:
"He was shot by one Thos Howard*, his tenant at Lidlington, when he went to seize for rent Nov 61765. He languished till Friday 3.1.1766 when he died, much regretted by all who knew him. *This wretch was Clerk and Schoolmaster of Lidlington and murdered himself after he had done the vile deed."
The local newspaper of the time, the Norwich Advertiser, recorded the story of shooting, and later Peter's death. Apparently Mary had sent Peter to collect the rent from Thomas Howard, who invited him in for a drink, but when Howard went to the pantry he came out instead with a gun, which he fired at Peter. When he realised what he had done, he shot himself and died immediately. It is tragic to consider that after surviving for such a long period, it may well have been the medical treatment of the times which killed the young man, rather than the wound itself, and he would almost certainly have survived today.
The only daughter, Hester, married into the Nash family. Her husband was William Nash, born in Fowlmere, who had a law practice in Royston. Local history records him as the 'honest lawyer' of Royston, and they were supporters of the Independent (Congregational) meeting in Kneesworth Street, but both were buried in the churchyard of Fowlmere church, where their gravestones, with those of some of theirchildren, were still to be seen in July 1991. Hester's records 'Her industry and energy, patience and fortitude, benevolence and duty, were so exemplary that her death was bewailed by the neighbouring poor, lamented by her numerous friends and by her husband and children most sincerely deplored.' Hester and William had three daughters, one of whom, Mary, married her cousin Joseph Pat tis son Wedd. Sarah married J.G. Fordham. Hester and William's only son, Wedd Nash, was a musician and subsequently married Ann Hollick; his son was William Hollick Nash who was also a fine musician.
Benjamin and Mary's second son, Nathaniel, married Dorothy Gutteridge and is registered as dying in 1820; no children are recorded. After serving an apprenticeship to a Cambridge draper, I believe he took over his mother's business, for Nathaniel Wedd and Co are recorded in 1777 as taking on an apprentice, Joseph Pattisson, for a fee of £126. (Later in the century William and Benjamin were in business together, presumably separately from Nathaniel.) From 1790 he leased Anstey Manor in Trumpington, and supported the Meeting there. In 1814 he is mentioned in the will of Mary Pew tress, who left a substantial bequest to his wife ('for her use absolutely without recourse to her husband'). In 1787, however, he was still living in Fowlmere, for an entry in the parish registers in 1787 records there being three brothers, named as Mr. Wedd, Mr. B. Wedd and Mr. W. Wedd, the Mr. Wedd presumably being Nathaniel.
This entry gives me the first evidence I have of the value of the land the Wedds occupied, for it is a record of the calculation of wages to the Parish Clerk, made by 'A. Pern, Curate', and is based presumably on property values. Three properties, the Parsonage occupied by Messrs Gawthorn and Adams, Lordship Farm occupied by Mrs. Pottrell and Bury Farm occupied by Mr. Faircloth, warrant 6s 8d, 8s and 7s 6d respectively. Six further properties warrant fees of over a shilling; these are 'Wedd's, late Purdues' occupied by Mr. Wedd and rating 1s 6d, 'Beldham's late Rayners' and 'Mr Fiske's Farm', both occupied by a Mr. Nash, 'Beldham's', occupied by Mr. W. Wedd at 1s 4d, 'Carpenters late Westleys' occupied by Mr Carpenter at 1s 4d and 'house in ye occupation of Mr. Benj Wedd (at 9d) and Mrs Wedd' (at 8d) (possibly The Green?). Since all three brothers would have been married at this time, I assume the Mrs. Wedd mentioned to be the mother, Mary. Other properties warranting a separate rate are the Swan, the Chequers and the Black Horse, the Red House occupied by John Winter, and the next door house 'occupied by Mr. Harrison the Dissenting Minister in 1786'. Every other house in the parish pays 4d.
Lordship Farm was occupied later by William Wedd, for it is mentioned on the tomb of his daughter Rachel, who died in 1822. The farm was built by Edward Aldred in the early 17th century, but was never again occupied by lords of the manor. The Mitchells of Carshalton in Surrey were the major landowners in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but their land in Cambridgeshire was managed by a bailiff. The original farm was burnt down in the mid nineteenth century.
From various property transaction recorded in the Manorial records of Thriplow manor, clearly the Wedd brothers were farming various plots of land in Fowlmere and Thriplow, some still in open field strips. These include leasing from Peterhouse the glebe lands at Thriplow in 1794, arable and pasture land with buildings including a dovecot in 1795, 'messuage called Pratts in Middle Street', pasture adjoining Foreman's Close and '1.5 roods in Church Field with covenant to surrender 5 acres and 2.5 acres in the common f ield'. Part of this land was farmed in conjunction with Joseph Ellis; the Ellises were a substantial family in the village, and were also leading members of the Congregational Church.
Benjamin IV V & VI
It is at this point that my family tree departs from the senior line, tracing its descent from William.
Benjamin IV married Elizabeth Crakanthorp, daughter of the Ben Crakanthorp who married Mercy Sunter, and greatniece of the first Hester. They had eight children, Benjamin V, born in 1777, Elizabeth, who married George Willsher, another family warranting a pedigree in Berry, Hester, who again married into the Nash family, John, born in 1783 who died in 1834 and of whom I know nothing, Charles, who married Sarah Wallis, Samuel who married Anne Buxton, Maria who married Robert Paul, and Catherine.
Charles and Samuel had children, and two of Charles' three daughters, Sarah and Mary, married into the Chaplin family.
Maria married Robert Paul, and it is from her family that Sir Cyril Fox, who located John Crakanthorp's second harvest notebook in his family papers, is descended.
Benjamin V married Mary Chater, and had five sons and three daughters, several of whom were baptised in the Congregational Church of Weathersfield, Essex. The eldest, Benjamin VI is recorded by Berry as having gone to America and married a Caroline Parrgyre (this is a guess, for the writing is hard to read) of Massachussetts. Another son, William, is also recorded as 'of New York'.
I am puzzled by this emigration from England, since both Nathaniel and William were by this time highly prosperous and I cannot imagine why Benjamin's grandsons should have left the country when the family's fortunes were rising. It is purely speculation, but I have found one clue in the following excerpt quoted by Alfred Kingston from the diary of Henry Crabb Robinson for 1825:
"I spent my Christmas, as I had done many, at Royston. All there were in low spirits on account of the failure of the Cambridge Bank. The Nashes say that among their friends nine families are reduced from affluence to poverty. Neither Wedd Nash's fine organ, nor Pope's 'Epistle on the use of Riches' could keep up our spir its, and, notwithstanding good punch, our vivat to the New Year was not a cheerful burst of glee"
Either Benjamin IV or his son Benjamin V, was not above evasion of the law, for in 1812 'Benjamin Wedd, gent' is convicted of 'evading the toll in Trumpington' at the Quarter Sessions, presumably visiting Nathaniel!
Joseph Pattisson was apprenticed to Nathaniel Wedd & Co in 1777 and William married Elizabeth Pattisson in the following year. The Pattissons of Maldon in Essex, who as with the Wedds' Benjamins, always called their heirs Jacob (with an added preference for the initial letter J as in Joseph, for other sons!), were small landowners of the same faith as the Wedds, and it is after this marriage that the land at Great Wakering seems to have come into the family. They were clearly well thought of, for the name Pattisson was included in the given names of the children for several generations. I can imagine that good businesswoman, Mary Inkersole arranging the marriages of her children; Hester to the lawyer William Nash, Nathaniel to Dorothy Gutteridge, Benjamin to Elizabeth Crakanthorp and William to Elizabeth Pattisson. William continued to own property in Foulmire and to state this as his main place of residence, but three of his children were baptised in the Congregational Chapel in Maldon, in Essex, and it is clear that they lived at least partly there.
Of their thirteen children, six predeceased their mother. William I, the eldest son, died at the age of 11, and Henry and Elizabeth each at the age of 15. Elizabeth's death moves the parish priest (possibly a susceptible young curate?) to a marginal comment in the parish register: 'a most beutiful and virtuous young lady'.
The second son, Peter, married a Mary Dunkin of Woodham Mortimer near Witham in Essex, and had three children, of whom at least two, Peter and Mary, died in infancy. He himself died in 1817, and his death is briefly recorded in The Gentleman's Magazine "In his 35th year, Mr. Peter Wedd of Hazeleigh Cottage, Essex". Peter and Mary too were obviously of the Independent faith, since their children were baptised into the Congregational chapel.
The third son, Joseph Pattisson, married his cousin Mary Nash, daughter of Hester Wedd and the 'honest lawyer' William Nash. Joseph Pattisson joined William Nash's firm Nash and Day in Royston, and they are recorded by the local history society as having had a very flourishing practice, including a number of important clients, such as Lord Dacre and Lord Godolphin. Joseph Pattisson Wedd and Mary Nash had three daughters, all of whom married into Royston families; Frances married John Forster, Emma Bernard Bayles, and Hester Frederick Chaplin. Joseph is described in Alfred Kingston's 'History of Royston' as a publicspirited man. A pair of portraits of him and his wife, powdered and patched, are still in the family. Frances married John FOSTER of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire a merchant, while Emma married John Barnard BYLES of Stowmarket a barrister and eventually a judge.
Of George, born 1785 and Alfred, born 1789, more later. Of Frederick (17941826) I know nothing. William, born 1796, is mentioned in the will of Mary Pew tress of Northampton (Crisps' Wills), who left £100 to 'William Wedd jun of Foulmire who has lost his hearing'. William lived until 1756 but there is no evidence of his having married; the possibility is that he was profoundly deaf.
Mary, born 1791, lived until 1872, and there is a photograph in the family album which may be of her; however, I cannot be sure of this because of the prevalence of the name Mary in the family!
Octavius was born in 1798, the eighth son due to the death of the first William, and he married Jael Ingle of Shepreth; he was the father of Edward who later farmed at Great Wakering. Octavius contined to live at The Green until his death. When the open fields at Fowlmere were finally enclosed in 1845, Octavius was one of only three onwers to be granted over 100 acres of land. He then farmed Manor farm, part of the old Thriplow Manor, some land owned by Christ Church as well as his own 125 acres, a total of about 900 acres, surely a considerable holding at that time. He appears to have farmed in conjunction with his brother, William Wedd junior. In the notorious slump of 1830 the agricultural labourers of the village struck for higher wages, and when the Wedds' and Ellis' labourers refused to join them, riots occurred and the militia had to be called out. I should like to think that the implication is that these elders of the Meeting treated their workers better than some others, rather than that they intimidated them into compliance!
Rachel, the youngest child, died in 1822 at the age of 22, and has a tomb in the churchyard of Fowlmere church.
In his History of Rovston of 1906 Alfred Kingston quotes from the diary of Henry Crabb Robinson a record of his visit to William Nash who was a prominent member of the Royston Book Club, where he met Nash's brother-in-law William Wedd. He describes William as 'a country gentleman proud of his horses and conscious of being a good rider' 'books and bookish people'. However, Robinson won him over with a quotation about horses from Lord Herbert of Chesbury. In November 1815 he records a visit to Mr. Wedd (presumably Joseph Pattisson Wedd), when William Nash dined with them.
At the time of William Wedd's death in 1819 he was obviously prosperous. He warrants an obituary in the Gentleman's magazine and is dignified 'Esq'. Elizabeth Wallman Pattisson, despite bearing 13 children, lived to a considerable age; she died in 1845 at the age of 86. It is a remarkable thing for the times, that four generations of Wedd wives, from Hester Crakanthorp to Sarah Dunkin, lived to be over eighty.
The fifth son, Alfred, farmed land in Great Wakering Essex; in 1859 he is mentioned as being a substantial farmer in Kelly's Directory for that year. However, on his death in 1877 he seems to have been succeeded by Edward Arthur, who was the son of Octavius. Did Arthur never marry? Did he inherit land from the Pattisson family, or was this farm already in his father's possession, perhaps as Elizabeth's dowry?
In the family photograph album of about 1875 there is a picture named as Edward who I think must 'be Octavius' son Edward Arthur. He appears to have prospered, for he is named in the 1890 Kelly's Directory for Great Wakering as being one of two major landowners, whereas Alfred in 1859 is described merely as farmer. After Octavius's death in 1876 I believe The Green must finally have passed out of Wedd hands, as with the tenure of Manor farm; however Edward continued to own land in Fowlmere until well into the twentieth century. When the then rector of the village, the Rev A C Yorke, who did so much for local history, attempted to excavate the Round Moats, the owner of the land was Edward Wedd.
Edward Arthur died in 1925 as recorded on a plaque in the Congregational Church in Great Wakering; he married Katherine May in 1877 and they had two sons, Edward Parker Wallman Wedd, born in 1883, who served in the Essex Yeomanry, won the Military Cross and was killed in 1918, and Aubrey Pattisson Wallman Wedd CBE who was a career soldier in the Royal Engineers and died in January 1945. Their daughter Muriel married Oscar Tidman, and later in life returned to Fowlmere to live. Sadly, this branch of the family seems to have died out with Aubrey Pat tis son since he and his wife Charlotte Cooke appear not to have had children.
George and Sarah
At the age of 14 George was apprenticed to his father and uncle in their wool stapler's business, but at some stage, like many younger sons, he sought his fortune in London. made his home in Clapton, which would ther. have been a suburb of the City, and became a cornmerchant. Like his father, however, he seems to have prospered. The photographs of himself and his wife are the first in the family album which was kept by their daughter, Mary.
George Wedd, like his elder brother Peter, married into the Dunkin family. The Dunkins of Woodham Mortimer, Essex, were important enough to have warrarlted their own coat of arms, and the matronym Dunkin joins that of Pattisson in the given names of the sons of the following generations. A Georgian silver teapot, dating from 1783, bearing the Dunkin coat or arms and phoenix crest, remains in the Wedd family. Although Berry describes them as of Woodham Mortimer, I do not think they had owned land there for long, since I have been unable to trace their ancestors in that parish. Of course, they were again Congregationalists, so that record-seeking is not easy. The name is Scots in origin, but there were Dunkins in Kent early in modern times, and a John Dunkin owned a house of 12 hearths in Plaistow in 1674.
However, some of the Dunkin papers were handed down in the family and some letters were edited and published by Annie Frances Wedd in the 1920's, and these give us clues. The father of Sarah and Mary Dunkin was John Dunkin, who I believe must have been a businessman in the City for their paths to have crossed. In 1779 Mary Hays, sister in law of John Dunkin was living with her mother in Southwark, and in the following year she records that her 'sister Dunkin' is in labour, though Mary is too prostrated by her lover, John Eccles' illness to be concerned - other than to resent her mother's absence! After the tragic death of John Eccles, Mary Hays became involved in literary circles, becoming a friend of Mary Woollstencraft, William Godwin and the Lambs.
George and Sarah again had a large family. After four daughters they had a son George, in 1821, then three more daughters, then two more sons, another Joseph Pattisson and Henry Arthur, my great grandfather; and another daughter and son Frederick followed.
I don't know what became of Frederick; like Joseph Pattisson he died young, for with the exception of the eldest daughter Elizabeth who died two years after her marriage to Searles James Nash, they are the only members of the family not to appear in the family album.
Elisabeth's son, Wallis Nash, was the father of a considerable family, who were obviously the darlings of their Wedd maiden aunts; I get the feeling of a fun-loving family, where the Wedds were perhaps rather dour.
The other two sons, George and Henry, became stockbrokers and 'both amassed considerable fortunes in the sober atmosphere of the consol Market, and both achieved the distinction of being elected members of the Stock Exchange Committee' (Annie Wedd 1944).
George married widow, Mary Webb, nee Trimbey, in 1760; she had a daughter Clara by her first marriage, but had no further children. The daughter Clara married a James Davies Cooker and had three children, Kathleen, Beatrice and Aubrey. George and Mary had a large house, Charman Dean, near Worthing in Sussex.
Five of the daughters, Joan, Ellen, Susan, Harriet and Mary, remained unmarried, and lived for many years at 21 Hereford Road, Bayswater, where they were active in the life of the Meeting. We have to thank Mary for the old Victorian family album with picture of the cabinet card type of George and Sarah and their children and grandchildren, and many of the cousins.
The youngest daughter, Frances, married a Clement Poole; she died, perhaps in childbirth, at the age of 25. Her daughter Fanny committed what must have been a shocking apostasy to the Wedd family, for she became a nun.
Henry Arthur married Lydia (or Lillie) Budgett. The Budgetts were a Bristol family, and active members of the faith; their Payne and Sibree cousins contributed more than one minister to the church; after the formation of the Church Missionary Society, primarily by the Congregational Church, at least one member of the Sibree family served as a missionary overseas.
At the beginning of their married life, Henry and Lillie had a house at Sutton in Surrey, in addition to their London home in Bayswater. In 1868 they rented The Manor House Woodmansterne, near Epsom, which they later bought. Henry duly reverted to the Church of England and took an active part in the life of the parish; he served on the Croydon Board of Guardians (the successor to the Poor Law) and as church warden, and is mentioned in the parish guide as a benefactor to the village, giving them the recreation ground and cricket pitch and in his will an extensiorf to the cemetery. He also gave them, inadvertently, the local pub, for he built what is now the Woodman as an annexe when his family and their visitors outgrew the Manor House even with the 'particularly incongruous' extension which he had already built.
Henry and Lillie had nine children, seven sons and two daughters. The matronyms Pattisson and Dunkin appear again, and the fifth son was named Sibree. The children of the famil.y seem to have had a very happy childhood, according to Annie.
"Our Manor House, built in the eighteenth century and pulled down in 1936, had been altered and added to by successive owners. Early Victorian taste had caused the original red brick to be plastered over and had provided verandahs and a large conservatory opening out of the drawing-room; and my father was later responsible for the building on of a particularly incongruous wing when the growing needs of his family of two daughters and seven sons necessitated further enlargement. Inside, in addition to the main staircase of four flights, there were little steps up and little steps down in the most unexpected places; rooms that could only be reached through other rooms; strange little passages and lofts; and actually an entrance to the laundry through the billiard room. The result was so bewildering that visitors, even relations, sometimes lost their way, and once, at a dance, a couple were found tapping at a bedroom door in search of supper! The kitchens, in a sort of semibasement, were an immense distance from the dining room and the butler's pantry further still. I remember the installation of the first bathroom; before that a hip bath had been provided in each bedroom, and the long-suffering maids, with apparently no sense of grievance, carried cans of hot and cold water up from the lowest regions. There was, however of course, no lack of servants in those days, and we had, I think, eight of more in the house besides laundrymaids and charwomen from outside.
"The number of inhabitants in the parish totalled about two hundred. There were only three 'gentleman's houses' in Woodmansterne itself the Rectory, the Manor and Court Haw. At a little distance were Woodcote Grove, Fairlawn and the Oaks. The lastnamed had been the property of the Lambert family, connected with Woodmansterne since the thirteenth century, and was originally called Lamberts Oaks. Lord Derby first rented and in 1788 bought the estate, and it was after it that he named the race, first run in 1779. (The Derby was run a year later, 1780.).....Derby Day was the most important annual event in the neighbourhood. The railway to Epsom Down had not yet been opened, and every kind of conveyance 'coach, carriage, cart and wheelbarrow', or rather donkeyshay, came through Woodmansterne. We children used to be drawn up with our nurses inside the Manor gates to see the fun, and a row of servants looked out over the Lodge palings on our left. The village children ran perilously along the sides of the road, throwing little bunches of flowers into the passing vehicles, and must have had many narrow escapes from being run over as they collected the pennies tossed to them in exchange; and the hedges of the Oaks lane were white with dust for days afterwards.
"Another exciting annual event - to me a terrifying one - was the coming of the Mummers at Christmans. I knew, of course, that they were really only village men 'dressed up', but these weird figures, disguised from the tops of their heads to their feet in paper streamers of various colours remained a Source of alarm. ... I should like to know for how many years after our time the Mummers continued their activities. Their version of the old Mystery Play must even then have been a curiously distorted and modernised one, for the final victor over the 'mighty Turk' was not St George but a British soldier in a scarlet tunic!
"The Eastland family owned the farm opposite the old Rectory and my father rented it, with the High Fields and adjoining meadows, which included a rabbit warren, from them. The farmhouse had been burnt down and left in ruins, but an eccentric old Mrs. Eastland and daughter with whom she was not on speaking terms lived in a little hut which had been put up in the orchard behind. Mrs. Eastland kept bees and brewed her own mead a potent beverage which once nearly had disastrous effects on one of my schoolboy brothers. Two of them had gone to take her some of the rabbits which they had just shot in the warren above, and she pressed glasses of this unknown liquor upon them. The elder deftly poured his share away on the ground when the old woman was not looking, but the other, out of politeness, drank his, and afterwards reached home in a state bordering on collapse.
"Reynold Eastland, the sweep, was one of the most remarkable characters in Woodmansterne. He used to boast that he had an ancestor in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and said that 'would stand no Popery' and that his children should never attend the village church because there were candles on the altar although these candles, incidentally, were never lit.
"At Court Haw ... lived Mrs. Mildred. She was a rich and generous, short, stout and handsome old widow lady who was a great power in the place. .. Among her many benevolent actions was the establishment of a little private orphanage in the house at right angles to the village street and approached either dir ect through her own grounds or by a little swing gate in the lane. The Orphans were a source of constant interest to me. In church they occupied the two front pews parallel with our own, on the opposite side of the nave, facing the lectern. thus I was able to observe their beautiful behaviour, and I used stealthily to try and imitate the little curtsey with which they were taught to reverence the Holy Name when it occurred in the hymns a practice disapproved of by my ultra-Protestant family.
"... They attended the village school and when the time came for leaving were taken into the house at Court Haw to be trained for domestic service. All the parties of servants from the big houses had their special pews in church .. The maids, of course, went to church in little bonnets ... and talking of curtseys all the girls in the village and most of the women greeted us, or any other 'gentry' with a 'bob' and every man and boy touched his cap or forelock.
One summer pleasure to which we always looked forward was the haymaking in the Home Meadow. The sound of hone on scythe told us when the cutting was about to begin; all the household was pressed into service, and I can still see, in my mind's eye, a row of maids, in their print dresses, busy among the newly-fallen swathes. We children had little wooden forks and rakes made for us by our carpenter, but I do not think that we did very much work, for my recollections are chiefly of flying leaps taken on to cocks; of burying each other; of making 'nests' and 'houses' and of 'tea in the hay'.
".. one formerly conspicuous object has gone from the view away to the right - the Crystal Palace. This, with its two great flanking towers, crowned the horizon, and was a landsmark for many miles. Here I saw my first pantomine; heard my first real concert, with Joachim, the world-famous violinist, as soloist; and here I had my first ride in a 'horseless carriage', a primitive forerunner of the motorcar, two specimens of which trundled round the sweep in front of the main entrance, taking passengers at so much a turn.
"Entertainments took place during the winter in the schoolhouse. The most frequent of these were village concerts, in which quite the most popular performer was Mr. Philip Puckle, whose singing of 'Two Lovely Black Eyes'received tremendous applause. Then we had an undergardener named Fred Flack, who recited. He had the most phenomenal memory and could repeat the longest poem after reading it through only once - or so the village believed - and his completely monotonous voice and strong local accent made his rendering of 'Curfew shall not ring tonight' or 'The Barber went on shaving' certainly remarkable.
"Village cricket, in which my brothers took part, was the chief amusement on Saturday afternoons in the summer; the first pitch I remember being in a particularly unsuitable spot - a small level island, as it were, hal f way up the first of the High Fields. ... Later, before we left Woodmansterne, the meadow opposite the 'Woodman' ... was presented to the village as a cricket field and still forms a public recreation ground. It had already been used for the festivities in connection with Queen Victoria's first Jubilee and for school treats. On these latter occasions I used to enjoy playing 'singing games' with the village girls. One of these 'Here comes three knights' (or was it 'dukes'?) 'a-riding' I have never met with elsewhere and I think that it, like the Mummers' play must have dated from Medieval times."
It is extraordinary to recall that this was barely more than a century ago, and not twenty miles from central London. Henry sons went in their turn to Harrow School. My grandfather, Henry George, the eldest, was possibly the ablest one; in addition to his sporting achievements (he was gym champion at Harrow and later played hockey at county level as well, as being a good shot) he went on to Brasenose College, Oxford, to read law. That none of the younger sons followed him there may not, however, indicate lack of ability, since a university education at that time was a considerable expense, likely to be the privilege of the eldest son. George refused to send his own second son to university on the grounds of cost.
Some mystery surrounds Henry's last years. He appears to have retired from the Stock Exchange in 1880, going up to London only once a week for the meeting of the Stock Exchange Committee. There is an implication that he had made enough money to retire, but at the age of 48 this was a pretty early 'retirement', and within ten years he was dead, after falling in rather odd circumstances from a fourth floor window in his house, leaving a family of children of which the eldest was 20. The manor was clearly sold in the following year, and the widow and her children returned to Sutton.
There are five memorial windows still in the parish church at Woodmansterne, one of which is a thanksgiving window dating from 1880, which is about the time he retired and also about the time that he finalised the purchase of The Manor. Which of these events was most the cause for thanksgiving, we shall never know.
When Henry died so suddenly in 1889, the burden of managing the finances and bringing up the other eight children must have fallen heavily on George, then only 17, since his paternal uncle and namesake would then have been nearly 70. The bulk of his father's property was left in trust to George and Arthur, for the remaining children. An interesting provision shows that the nonconformist streak had not entirely gone; Henry Arthur specifies any child entering the Catholic church or any religious order would forfeit all but a tiny income. Annie, 14 at the time of her father's death, had extremely high church leanings in later life, and indeed seems to have been buried by a catholic priest, although in Woodmansterne cemetery; whether this tendency was evident at 14, and her the provision was specifically an attempt to discourage it, or whether it was a gerleral provision, I don't know.
The story of Henry's nine children, despite their apparently happy childhood, is rather a sad one. As I am suspicious about Henry Arthur's death, so I am about those of two of his children who did not long outlive him. Wilfred Sibree, the fourth child, is described in the Harrow School register as 'farmer, Ingatestone, Essex', but died in January 1900 at the age of 26 at Waverley House, Reading, and was buried under a coroner's order from his mother's house, The Croft, Sutton, and the following year the eldest child, Lilian, was also buried under a coroner's order from this address.
A third child died the following year'; this was Laurence Dunkin who died of enteric fever in July 1902 in South Africa, at the end of the Boer War. After leaving Harrow, Laurence went on to Sandhurst, and in 1898 to the Queen's Regiment (the West Surrey regiment, later amalgamated with other regiments from the south east). He sailed for South Africa with the first shipment from this country in October 1899, and was sent directly to Ladysmith. The regiment arrived in time to distinguish itself in the forefront of the debacle at Colenso in December 1899, Laurence being mentioned in despatches for his bravery and subsequently being awarded the DSO. He was present at the relief of Ladysmith, but invalided home in June 1900. He returned to South Africa early in 1901 to take part in the mopping up operation, which continued until the following year. Britain lost more soldiers from enteric fever than in battle, largely, it appears, to their inability to grasp the simple principle of boiling the water, and Laurence died in July 1902, at what must have been the last moment of the war.
His letters home, some of which were preserved by the family, give an interesting insight into the war and to the attitudes of the times. He is believed to have planned to leave the army and join his brother Cyril, with whom he was very close, in Ceylon after the war, but this was not to be.
Arthur John initially followed his father and uncle onto the stock exchange; later he went out to Canada where he died in 1930. Cyril Edward became tea planter in Ceylon, and served for two years with the Ceylon police, but he appears to have kept a house, Boscawen, at Hailsham, Sussex in addition to that as Maskeliya. His son Roy followed him into service overseas, retiring the live in Marlborough in Wiltshire. Roy lost his first wife at a young age, and subsequently married again. His daughter Susan is married and lives near Cambridge.
Bernard Harry became a doctor, at first a bacteriologist at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, then serving with the RAMC during the first world war. He died in Ceylon on 28 January 1924, probably from the effects of being gassed in the war; the St Luke window in Woodmansterne Church is in his memory.
The youngest son, Reginald Pattisson entered the army, serving with the Buffs during the First World War. In 1917 his first wife, Aline Flower Wedd, died; shortly after this he remarried and had a son, Paul, and a daughter, Judith Elizabeth. I would like to know whether Aline came from the Royston Flower family who, with the Fordhams, were bankers there. Reggie was for a time in business with his brother Cyril, but this was apparently not a success. It was alleged that he absconded with some of the money and reputedly someone else's wife. The family lost contact with him, but he died in Sussex in 1955. His ex-wife, Gladys, and her daughter Judith took up greyhound breeding and had some success on the racetrack; Gladys died in 1949. Judith later married and had two children; she was the executor of her father's will so I assume contact was re-established. The son Paul was brought up by Reggie's sister, Annie Frances, and like her became a Catholic. He became engaged to be married in his early twenties, and then for some reason unknown committed suicide.
Annie Frances was the only one of the aunts and uncles that I remember. As a young woman she was a talented musician, owning a fine old Italian violin which I later inherited, and studying for a while in Germany. Later in life, after the deaths of the old Wedd aunts, she unearthed some of the family papers and edited and published them. Whether she ever intended to publish her brother's Boer War letters I don't know; she certainly got as far as transcribing them.
RECENT HISTORY 1914-1990
My grandfather, after qualifying as a solicitor join a law practice in Langport, Somerset, subsequently Carne and Wedd. There he met his wife, Kathleen Phoebe Cotter, at a hockey club dance. Her father, Edmond Cotter, an Irishman, was a colonel in the Royal Engineers, in India and elsewhere, but retired early and settled in Yeovil; reputedly under a cloud because of his Sinn Fein sympathies. Her mother was the daughter of Langford Frost, of a family originally from Cornwall. The Cotters and Frosts were families with a long army tradition. Edmond's mother was a Spanish woman, hence the name Luis; the story is told that her husband fell in love with her when he saw her stepping into a boat, and caught a glimpse of the delicacy of her ankle; John Cotter served in the Crimean War and elsewhere, so whether this story is truth or fable is unknown. Most of Edmond Cotter's service was, however, in India, where he was put in charge of the Burma Company of Sappers; the difficulties that corps had in reaching full strength I hope had no connection with the fact that Edmond was familiarly known as 'Terror Cotter'. Later in life the Cotter children would warn the bootboy "the Colonel's coming" so that he could take cover.
Kitty had been brought up while her parents were in India by an aunt, in cir cumstances familiar to those who have read Kipling's Baa Baa Black Sheep, and I believe this coloured her life; she sought and found a secure home life with George. George and Kitty set up home in Eastdon House, The Hill, Langport, then one property, adjoining the hanging chapel. Kitty was very gay, a good foil to the rather dry George, and led a busy social life in the area with tennis parties and bridge.
They had four children, Mary Kathleen (Mollie) born in 1909, Luis Pattisson, born 1914, John Antony Dunkin (Tony) born 1919 and Elaine born 1921.
Imogen Wedd, 1991
Back to WEDD family history homepage