Court of Wards

I have been transcribing a document held in Gloucestershire Archives and described as a ‘Court of Wards valor of lands of Richard Guynett, deceased’.  The Court of Wards and Liveries was established by two Acts of Parliament during the reign of  Henry VIII to deal, among other things, with the estates inherited by minors and lunatics who inherited property.

This particular document (G.A. Ref. D1313/2) refers to the property of Richard Guynett, who died in 1615, when his two sons were under the age of majority. It covers land in Badgeworth, Shurdington, Witcombe, Bentham and Down Hatherley and particularly mentions the old farm house called Crippetts.

The document is divided into two parts:  In the main body of the document, it states the date of death of Richard and the birth date of his eldest son, George, neither of which were known in detail, and it lists all his property, both houses and land, from whom he purchased it and to whom it was leased, giving a wonderful picture of the estate he owned. Down the wide left hand margin, it states the findings of the investigation by the Court of Wards and records the contents of Richard’s will, including the name of his executrix, his wife Mary, which has not been found elsewhere.  What a wonderful document!

Gloucester’s High Cross


Every year, on New Year’s Eve, young and not-so-young Gloucester residents gather at ‘The Cross’ to celebrate the coming of the New Year.  The vast majority of them believe that The Cross is so-named because it is where the four ‘Gate’ streets meet in the middle of the city.  Not so!  It is named after the original stone memorial cross that stood at the junction for hundreds of years.

Alta Crux 1455

Alta Crux 1455

Known as the High Cross or Alta Crux, it began its life as far back as the 13th century.  In a rental compiled in 1455 (Gloucestershire Archives reference: GBR J5/1) there is a sketch of the cross as it was in the 15th century, showing how the lower section had been adapted with pipes to supply water to the city centre, brought from Robinswood Hill.

It is believed that the Cross was rebuilt during the reign of Henry VII and again during the reign of his son, Henry VIII.

By the eighteen century, the memorial stood nearly 35 feet tall; the edifice was octagonal in shape at the base and, above that it consisted of two sections plus a steeple.  The lower section held the water pipes whilst the upper of the two sections held statues of previous sovereigns of England.  They were of King John, Henry III and Eleanor his wife, Edward III, Richard II, Richard III, Elizabeth I and Charles I.

A more impressive, more recent image of the High Cross graces the wall at Gloucestershire Archives.  It shows an engraving made by George Vertue after a sketch by T. Ricketts.

This magnificent piece of sculpture stood proudly in the centre of Gloucester until 1751, when it was considered to be a nuisance to passing traffic.  A small item in the Gloucester Journal dated 5th November 1751 states:

This week was taken down, for better Conveniency of Carriages, our ANTIENT CROSS, round which were the Effigies of several of our illustrious Kings and Queens; of which curious Pieces of Antiquity particular Draughts have, however, been taken by the Famous Mr Rickets of this City, pursuant to an Order from the Society of Antiquities in London, to whom they are sent that they may be preserv’d to latest Posterity.

A rarely-accessed treasure recently surfaced during my research at Gloucestershire Archives.  It took the form of a small book, handwritten in the 1750s by Samuel Gwinnett, junior.  His father, the Reverend Samuel Gwinnett, was the vicar of Down Hatherley near Gloucester but also the curate of St. Nicholas Church in Westgate Street.  Hence, young Samuel was very familiar with the centre of the city.

Whilst at University in Oxford, Samuel, junior, had written a series of poems, many to a young woman he called ‘Celia of Gloucester’, obviously the love of his life at that time.  Tucked amongst these poems was one relating to the destruction of Gloucester’s High Cross, as follows.

On Our Worthy Corporation of

Gloucester’s pulling down the Cross

venerable with the statues of our old kings

upon his majesty’s Birthday.

When factions banish’d Quiet from the Plain

And wild Disorder shook a Stewart’s Reign

Gotham’s rude Sons, for Civil Discord fam’d

At Monarch Sway with deadly rancour teem’d

Nor ceas’d to thunder with Rebellion’s Tongues,

‘Till Charles’s Blood assuag’d their groundless Wrongs.

Republic Maxim’s did their bosoms fire,

And still the Youngkling apes his Patriot Sire.

For tho’ each Burgher round the Festive Bowl

To Thee, Great George! May pledge his drunken soul;

Yet should black Clouds arise, & strike at Kingly Power

To distant Climes thy tender Offspring drive,

Nor let one Mark of Royalty survive!

For while in gaudy Pomp & rich Array,

Brittania joyous hails thy Natal Day:

While Laureate Cibber’s in Bastion Rhimes

Applauds the Blessings of the present Times!-

With impious hands lo! Gotham’s Senate dare

Deform those Busts, that Regal Badges wear.

Blush!  Blush!  Nor thus your Zeal to Kings proclaim; –

For who at once reveres & stabs a name?

Samuel Gwinnett, junior, c.1751

G.A. Reference:  D9125/1/5344


Rents from Pensions & Landgable rents

I am trying to locate where the Reverend Samuel Gwinnett (1699-1775) actually lived with his family. He was instituted as vicar of Down Hatherley in Gloucestershire in 1727 and married Anne Emes c.1728/9. (Only a marriage licence found so far).  The couple had seven children, six of whom were baptised in three different City of Gloucester parishes so it appears that the family lived in the city rather than in Down Hatherley vicarage.

I have been looking at Gloucester Cathedral Treasurer’s accounts as I know Samuel was living in 10 College Green at least from 1741 until 1750 (stated in a lease) and that property is within the Cathedral Precincts.  Each year, the rents received by the treasurer are grouped into one of six categories, always in the following order:  rents from the manors, rents from other farms, rents from portions, rents from pensions, rents from the precincts and rents from the city.  I expected to find Samuel in ‘rents from the precincts’ but he always appears in the ‘rents from pensions’ group.

Does anyone know the meaning, in this instance, of the word ‘pensions’?  Did it imply that, as a clerk, Samuel was more important than other tenants in the precincts – all those in the pensions group had connections to churches – Samuel, at that time, was also curate of St Nicholas church in Gloucester and was listed as such.  Would Samuel have been responsible for paying the rent himself or would the Church of England have paid it.  It was often left unpaid.

Just to complicate the situation, I have also been checking the Gloucester Borough rental records and Samuel appears in there as well, in all of the same years!  The Borough records describe Samuel’s rent as ‘langable’ or landgable’ rents.  What are these?  No one else is described thus.  Is there any connection between the rent from pensions for the Cathedral and the landgable rents for the Borough?  For both organisations, the rent is 13s 4d per year.  Did he rent two houses or pay two lots of rent on the one property?

I should add that Samuel rarely seems to have paid his rent!  Occasionally he did pay off a lump sum to the Cathedral but rarely paid the Borough rent – at his death in 1775, he owed 25 years rent!

Can anyone clarify what is going on?

Where was Button born?

Generally speaking, it is believed that Button Gwinnett was born in Down Hatherley, in Gloucestershire, as that is where his father was the vicar.  But looking at the baptismal records of the children of Samuel and Ann Gwinnett, I wondered if this was true.  The baptisms of the first two children were recorded in the registers of St Mary de Lode church in the city of Gloucester, the next two, including Button, were entered in the registers of St. Catherine in the city and two more in the registers of St. Nicholas church.  The seventh baptism still eludes me.

So, the question is, did Samuel and Ann actually live in Down Hatherley vicarage during their children’s childhood?  Certainly Samuel was there each year, signing the register and the churchwardens’ accounts.  But did he just turn up whenever there was a baptism, marriage or burial to conduct or a parish meeting to attend?  That is what I want to find out.

The more I looked into the situation, the more I felt that, when Anne was expecting her first child, the couple decided to rent a town house in Gloucester which would seem to have been in the parish of St. Mary de Lode, hence the two baptisms there.  As their family grew, when the third child, Button, was expected, they moved to a bigger house in the parish of St. Catherine’s and then, again, when the fifth child was on the way, they moved to a bigger property again.

Most of the property in the city of Gloucester at that time, was either owned by individuals or belonged to the Diocese of Gloucester or Gloucester Borough Council.  I have found no evidence that Samuel owned any property so it is the latter two groups that I am investigating at the moment.

To be continued …


Marriage Allegations

Busy checking out over 70 marriage allegations, bonds and licenses for the Gwinnetts in Gloucestershire.  Only 15 done so far.  The earliest is an allegation from 1661 for the marriage of Isaac Gwinnett of Shurdington to Elizabeth Pierce.  The most recent one was for John Gwinnett, of Abbots Morton in Worcestershire, who intended to marry Jane Bomford, of Hinton on the Green, Gloucestershire in 1837.



Button Gwinnett

With the visit to Gloucester of the American Eagles team who are participating in the Rugby World Cup, there has been increased interest in Button Gwinnett, who was born in Gloucester but emigrated to America where he rose to fame and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

I am still working on a time line for Button but, as ever, he proves elusive. Whilst many of the events of his life and his movements are known, proof of them is harder to find.

In the meantime, there is a move to restore the impressive tombstone to his parents, the Reverend Samuel Gwinnett and his wife, Anne, at Down Hatherley. The grave has been cleared of ivy, displaying the damaged stonework below. The large inscription, for the details of which we have to thank Ralph Bigland, is no longer visible. Watch this space!