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?
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 …
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!