Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Robothams of St Albans, their establishment and decline in St Albans in the 16th and 17th Century

The Robotham family were significant in St Albans. From 1570 to 1700 the family was prominent in the town and contributed to the government and improvement of the community. Acting as Justice of the Peace, part funding the repair and enhancement of the Abbey roof, providing land and school facilities.

Unlike many gentlemen or esquires Robothams appear not to have had any long term roots in the St Albans area, nor to retain any after their brief period of high visibility. How did the first Robothams come to be in the town, why did they relocate there, and what if any were the relationships and connections that influenced their residence?

We will examine a wide range of connections that do not appear at first glance, and build a picture of the network of family and court contacts that underpinned the Robotham position both in St Albans and beyond.

Newland Squillers

Newland Squillers was originally church property. After the dissolution King Henry VIII granted Newland Squillers to Sir Richard Lea. Sir Richard held the property until 1556 at a rent of £5 4s, when he was authorised to grant his manor called 'Newlane Squyllers at St Albans in the parish of St Peter and all lands etc belonging thereto:' to Richard Grace, citizen and goldsmith of London, his heirs and assigns. A sum of £6 17s and 5d was paid into the 'hanaper' (an office of the English Court of Chancery in which writs relating to the business of the public and the returns to them were kept in a hanaper, or hamper).

Sir Richard Lea (or Lee) had a profound impact on the development of St Albans. As well as Newland Squillers he had obtained along with Ralph Rowlett the benefit of large monastic holdings near the town boundary. Lee acquired Sandridge and Sopwell as well as Newlands, located to the north-east, east and south -east of St Albans as well as in the town. Perhaps the strongest indication of his activities still visible today is the newly created road now called 'Old London Road' that formed the northern boundary to his Sopwell property – this straight road is not Roman as might be assumed but its design is considered to reflect the professional skills of Lee who was a military engineer , and who had worked on fortifications at several locations including Scotland and served under Somerset and Warwick in Scotland in 1547. He presented a 'massive brazen font' to the Abbey church of St Albans which he removed from Holyrood during the Scottish campaign.
Richard Grace, Goldsmith

Richard Grace, who became the assignee of Newland Squillers in 1556, was a Goldsmith. His London residence was at Goldsmith's Row in Cheapside, in 1558 the clerk of the Goldsmith's Company recorded that Richard Grace, free 1539, livery 1546, renter 1554, warden 1558 occupied number one Goldsmiths Row near the Lower Conduit. Grace was a resident and contributor to 'The most remarkable thing in London', described by a contemporary Italian visitor...'in one single street named Cheapside leading to St Pauls there are 52 Goldsmiths shops so rich and full of silver vessels great and small, that in all the shops in Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence put together I do not think there would be found so many of the magnificence that are to be seen in London'.

Grace was one of the commoners appointed to devise pageants 'against the queen's coronation' in 1558 when Queen Elizabeth processed through the City of London and Richard Grace, aurifex, was responsible along with John Harrison for the Little Conduit's decoration.

Richard Grace's will of 1559 bequeathed Newland Squillers to his wife Marie and on her death to his daughter Margaret. When her mother died Margaret came into the orbit of the infamous Court of Wards, and was assigned to Robert Robotham. Robert Robotham was paid 18s 5d for the exhibition of Margaret from Michaelmas to Nov 2nd 1569 but only after the Court of Wards had received 33s 9 ¼ d for the mean rent of lands up to the day of her full age. John Robotham married Margaret Grace on August 13th 1570 at Christchurch, Newgate. Within the year his father was dead and John became the senior member of the Robotham family.

How did Robert Robotham get into the position to be able to take on a ward from the Court of Wards? The court is considered by some to have been corrupt, siphoning great wealth to the crown and to the adminstrators of the Court. Individuals such as Robert Robotham also gained, and this may well have been because of close relationships with the Court's officers. In Robert Robotham's case the link was probably William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, who became master of the Court of Wards in 1561 and held the office until August 1598. Cecil was succeeded by his son (after a brief interregnum) so the Cecils controlled the destiny of wards – and thus land – for more than half a century.

Robert Robotham, Yeoman of the Robes

Robert Robotham was a Yeoman of the Robes to Edward VI. It seems he may have been appointed by Henry VIII to this role even before Edward VI was born, as another Robert Robotham (his great grandson) petitioned Charles I in 1630. In 1543 Robert was a gentleman in the household of Edward VI, by January 1548 a groom of the wardrobe and by September 1549 yeoman of the robes. Robert Robotham's origin is not clear, but from 1543 onwards we know quite a lot. We will return to some speculation and opportunity for further research later.

Robert Robotham carried out the regular duties of a Yeoman of the Robes, as recorded in the domestic papers of the state, receiving gownes, furs and 'all things as hath been accustomed for the king's maundy, for the fifth year of his reign'. In all these activities he worked closely with his colleague Richard Cecyl. Cecyl was the father of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who became the Master to the Court of Wards under whose auspices Margaret Grace came into the family of Robert Robotham.

As well as being a member of the King's Household Robert Robotham was fortunate to marry the niece of William Paget, 1st Lord Beaudesert. Grace Paget was the daughter of Paget's brother Robert, who was a Merchant Taylor and one of the Sherriffs of the City of London in 1536. He died in 1541, and was buried in St Dionys Backchurch along with other notables , and especially William Sherrington, who was infamous for debasing the currency and profiting from it, being a confederate of Lord Seymour in the plot against Protector Somerset, and was also married to the widow of Robert Paget.

Grace Paget took Robert Robotham as her husband in September 1551, but only after she had married Robert Bull on November 30th 1550 at St Stephen Walbrook, and was widowed on his death in 1551. Robert Bull was presented by William Paget to the living of Whittington in Derbyshire but died by 15th August 1551. We can only conjecture why and how Grace was remarried only a month (at most) after her first husband's untimely death. Avaibable records suggest that Robert Robotham had been married previously, his son John, who was to inherit his whole estate and live in Newland Squillers, is recorded as having been christened in 1549. Robert Robotham and Grace Paget had 7 children, of which 3 girls definitely survived childhood and were married well, all of them after Robert's death and thus their matches were made either by John or more probably by Grace their mother who married a third time to Godfrey Fanshawe, brother of the Queen's Remembrancer Thomas Fanshawe.

When her husband Robert died Grace was granted the living of Warwicke Inne during her widowhood. She also received income from Raskell in Yorkshire and Berry Pomeroy in Devon, both properties that Robert had been granted in earlier years by King Edward VI. Raskell was the domain of the Nevilles of Raby, Sir Henry Nevill was a beneficiary in Robert's will and one of three overseers of that will along with The Earl of Huntingdon and Sir Walter Mildmay. The 3 noblemen overseers are a clear recognition of the status Robert Robotham has attained by the time of his death.

From humble beginnings he ascended through patronage to a significant level of wealth and influence. In 1553 he was awarded a grant for life of £23 5s yearly by Queen Mary in recognition of his service to Edward VI and to her, but by 1570 in Queen Elizabeth's reign he left a sum of well over £2000 to his family together with income from a number of properties. In 1552 Edward VI made a series of grants to Robert following the fall of Protector Somerset, including land at Wheldrake near York subsequently reassigned by Queen Elizabeth to Blanche Parry, the role of Parker for St John's Wood and also for Berry Pomeroy in Devon, home of the Seymours and Lords of Somerset. Perhaps the most significant grant was made in 1551 however, that of comptroller of customs in Newcastle – the source of vast reserves of coal needed to replace the dwindling supply of trees and generating an income for the crown through levies on this vital commodity.

Newcastle upon Tyne was the first coal port in the world, and the metropolis of the north of England. Coal mines were discovered in the early 13th century and successive monarchs granted charters for digging coal and for exclusive rights to ship the coal to Europe and to London. Some consider the development of North of England coal as the most important factor in early English industrial capitalism. By 1552, when Robert was comptroller of customs the export of coal to France had developed so much that 'France can lyve no more withoute”. We do not have specific evidence that Newcastle was the source of Robotham's wealth but being in charge of the levying of duty on the single most significant export commodity in the realm is unlikely to have been a drain on his finances.

Robert entered Parliament in 1553 as member for Reigate, probably sponsored by the Earl of Warwick, the King's new minister. Despite the change of monarch in 1552 Robert remained in the service of Queen Mary, attended the funeral of Edward VI, and might have been a model courtier if he had not been committed to the Fleet prison in January 1554 for 'lewd talk that the King's majesty should be yet living'. King Edward VI died at Greenwich on July 6th 1553. The King's death was kept secret by Northumberland for the whole of the following day in an apparent attempt to secure Lady Mary before she could be proclaimed Queen. Several rumours arose over the months after Edward's death, resulting in several citizens of London, draper Robert Taylor and mercers Cole and Wood being called on to answer for their lewd reports. Robert Robotham was the holder of a much more official position as yeoman of the robes and could be perceived to have privileged access to the King and to information that might have been kept private; he was committed to the Fleet as a close prisoner in 1554 for saying that the King was still alive.

By 1555 Robert was still in the Royal Household. He attended Queen Mary's funeral and was reinstated to his former positions by Queen Elizabeth. In 1560 he was granted arms by Lawrence Dalton, Norroy. Robert is often described as “Robert Robotham of Raskyll, in the County of York, gent”. The arms, described as 'per fesse battelle counter batelle argent and sable 3 Roobucks countrechangyd' are to be seen to this day in the presbytery vault of St Albans Cathedral quartered with Grace.

Non-Conformity and Puritanism

Robotham's will has already shown us his wealth and his connections. It has another very significant story to tell, entwined again with the story of St Albans. Robert Robotham was a protestant, as were the overseers of his will. More than being a protestant the chosen beneficiaries indicate a strong and potentially dangerous set of non-conformist tendencies, even in Queen Elizabeth's reign; Robotham left instructions for gold rings to be made for 8 individuals including Thomas Sampson, preacher of the Geneva school of Calvin. He also left a bequest to the daughter of Augustine Bernher. Augustine Bernher attended the buring at the stake of many of the Marian martyrs and instrumental in establishing an underground church in London supported latterly by wealthy merchants – perhaps Robert Robotham was one of these. His death in 1565 was described as an incalculable blow to Elizabethan nonconformity. When Bernher died Londoners rallied to support his family, and this included Robert Robotham.

Other beneficiaries of the gold rings included Edmund Pigeon, clerk of the wardrobe alongside Robert, Lady Yorke and Peter Yorke referring back to the parents of Grace Paget; Robert Gee, cousin, that hints of links to Derbyshire considered later on; and Drew Drury soon to be jailor to Mary Queen of Scots. The 8 gold rings were all to bear a hidden inscription 'the same scripture written in everie ring that is in my pomannder, viz.; 'viue ut viuas, mors lucrum' (live life to the fullest, death is our gain). The inscription strongly reinforces Robert's credentials as a nonconformist and as a predestinator, that group of puritans that existed under sufferance in Elizabeth's England believing that .

Key amongst the puritans was Sir Walter Mildmay, and we see an echo of Robert Robotham's inscription in the gold rings on Mildmay's monument in St Bartholemews Smithfield 'more nobis lucrum' (death is gain to us), we also see in the various quarterings on the shields inscribed on the monument - Sherrington, linking to Anthony Mildmay's wife and Leveson, linking to Robert Robotham's daughter who married William Levison. Emmanuel College in Cambridge was established by Mildmay to 'educate puritan ministers and preachers', supported by livings for them to go to when qualified – livings were given both by Mildmay and by Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon to whom Robert left his armour in his will of 1570. Strong connections indeed. Queen Elizabeth was very wary of Mildmay's venture at Emmanuel, leading Mildmay to describe it to her as 'planting an acorn, and when it becomes an oak, God only knoweth what it will amount to'. One of the first graduates of Emmanuel was Rev. John Harvard, who ultimately endowed Harvard College, and 'from Emmanuel came the founders of Harvard, the founders of New England, in a special sense the founders of a new nation' (Dr Charles F Thwing). Other graduates of Emmanuel included a John Robotham, to whom we return later.

Londoners formed their own illegal underground church, constituting a ‘congregation of faithful persons concealed in London during the time of Mary, among whom the gospel was always preached, with the pure administration of the sacraments’ (Robinson,Zurich Letters, 29). Theirs was not the only clandestine community, but it was among the most important. Organized along lines laid down during Edward's reign by John à Lasco, during the reign of Mary the congregation acted autonomously, in emulation of Bullinger's Zürich and Calvin's Geneva. They had elders and deacons, and they chose their own ministers ‘by common consent’. Although the congregation ‘had survived in the midst of the flames’ , Elizabeth suppressed it. Lever informed Bullinger in the summer of 1559 that the London congregation had had to revert to its Marian custom of meeting in ‘private houses’ once more. Was this suppression one indication of a puritan, rather than papist intent behind the Babington plot to kill Elizabeth? This might make more sense of the shadowy figure heavily involved in the meetings at Petworth described as 'Robotham' and earnestly searched for but never found during the trials of the conspirators. The Pagets were, of course, related to Robotham, and it is highly likely that the Babingtons had been very close neighbours in Derbyshire.

John Robotham and Margaret Grace

We may now return to St Albans. John Robotham married Margaret Grace and became Lord of the manor of Newland Squillers in St Albans. His 3 sisters and his mother were all single, endowed with significant legacies from their father Robert.

When Elizabeth the elder was 19 years old in 1574 she married Robert Bainbridge of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire – Bainbridge continued the puritan endeavours we have discussed already. After speaking in Parliament on 4th November 1586 in favour of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots Bainbridge along with Wentworth, Cope and other Puritans planned to reform the church to 'divert God's plague from us' and mentioned 'detracting papists'. Having met outside the House where privilege did not extend Bainbridge was sent to the Tower, inspiring an inscription in the Beauchamp tower 'Vincit qui Patitur Ro. Baynbridge' (the one who is patient wins). Bainbridge was knighted in 1603, after providing lists of recusant catholics in the service of the Earl of Shrewsbury. John Bainbridge, son of Robert, attended Emmanuel College and was a Doctor of Physick in both Emmanuel and latterly Merton College Oxford, publishing 'astronomical description of the late comet'.

The youngest daughter Mary married William Levison, of Kent.The middle daughter, also christened Elizabeth, married Nicholas Spencer of Kent in 1585. There is some confusion with dates and husbands, because in 1631 Robert Edolph, son of Robert and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Robotham is recorded to have died in Hinxhill. If the sumptuous monument to Edolph is to be creditted then one of the Elizabeths married Sir Robert Edolph in the mid 1590s or even before this. Richard Bainbridge was still alive at this time, dying in about 1623 then we may have to consider that the 1634 visitation of Hertfordshire may be misleading.

When his mother Grace married Godfrey Fanshawe, John could stop worrying about the women of that generation and move on to providing for his own children. With his first wife Margaret he had 5 children, married to a mix of local gentry and others of similar status but from further afield.

Anne was married to Andrew Waller in 1608, records of admissions to Gonville and Caius show a Robert Waller, son of Andrew Waller gent of St Albans having been born in Shenley, attending Charterhouse school and being admitted in October 1637 at 18 years of age. He went on to study at Leyden and become a Fellow of the College of Physicians in 1662.

John and Margaret's second child John was the only recorded male descendant, and became Lord of the Manor on his father's death in 1615. Baptised in June 1653 John married Penelope Pitchford at St Christoper le Stocks in London on 9th July 1610. The Pitchfords were a Shropshire family based in Lee Brockhurst, William who was Penelope's father was an apothecary and citizen of London and had died a year or more prior to his daughter's marriage. William's wife was Elizabeth Aldersey, who had by the time of her daughter's marriage become the wife of Thomas Coventry, invested as the first Baron Coventry of Aylesborough at Theobalds in 1616. He served as Attorney General, Lord Keeper of the Seal and High Steward of St Albans. John is recorded as having four children, Robert who became Lord of the Manor after his father, William, James who died young and Elizabeth, who married Thomas Aldersey. We will return to both Robert and Elizabeth.

Grace Robotham was the third child of John and Margaret. Born after 1583 she married James Rolfe of St Albans. James was Commisary and Official to the Bishops of Lincoln and London, one of the masters of the High Court of Chancery. His grandfather had been servant in ordinary to King Henry VII, and his father resided at Barton in the Clay and St Albans and was at one time Mayor of St Albans. James attended Gonville and Caius as did Andrew Waller, although much earlier receiving his MA in 1589. He lived for 65 years and died on 27th October 1630. On the south wall of the church of St Stephens, in St Albans, his wife Grace had a marble plague inscribed to his memory. In 1604 Rolfe came under pressure when 'the inhabitants of Hertfordshire' petitioned the King with 160 particular complaints including lascivious habits, unseemly conversation and overcharging for probate and garnts of administration. There is no record of any subsequent censure. Two children were born to the Rolfes, a son Nicholas and a daughter Mary; The visitation of Hertfordshire records that both children married members of the Colle family of Parkbury, Nicholas married Margaret Colles daughter of William while his sister Mary married William.

Margaret and John's fourth child was Mary. She married Thomas Hammond of Kent. There is a strong likelihood that this Hammond is a member of the family that resided at St Albans Court in Kent.

Second wife Sarah Powell and their son Robert

John was married for a second time to Sarah, daughter of Thomas Powell, and is recorded to have had 6 children with Sarah – Robert, baptised on 24th November 1597, described as armiger, and 5 siblings Henry, Mary, William, Margaret and Grace with no record of their longevity. Thomas Powell is identifiable as Thomas ap Howell, son of Lewis of St Albans and from a long line of Welsh noblemen including it may appear Owain Glyndwr himself.

Robert was steward to Henry, Lord Clifford, Earl of Cumberland. He died in 1672 and was buried in the chancel of St Peters near his half brother John. The dedication records that he gave £5 to the vicar of the parish and his successors for ever, and £4 per annum to be given to 80 poor people of the parish.

John Robotham, son of John

When John Robotham died in 1615 he was replaced as Lord of the Manor by his only son John. He remained Lord of the Manor of Newland Squillers until his death in 1651, when we was succeeded by his eldest son Robert. John Robotham and his wife Penelope had two children who grew to adulthood and married. The first to marry was Elisabeth, who married Thomas Aldersey, son of John Aldersey of Aldersey, Cheshire in 1632.

The Aldersey family have already featured in our research, and were related to the Pitchford family by marriage, as were the Robothams. Burke tells us that the Alderseys had a seat at Aldersey ever since the conquest. Their multiply quartered Coat of Arms features Robotham as its 20th element. Thomas was the eldest son of John Aldersey, and favourite nephew of William, who was a merchant and antiquary. William was Lord Mayor of Chester twice, 1595 and 1613, where he built barracks to provide for the troops travelling to Ireland, as well as ensuring the City was efficiently able to revictual ships for the voyage. He was included in the patent incorporating the East India Company in December 1600, making nearly 300% profit on shares subscribed to fund the first voyage. William outlived his own son David, but not his favoured nephew Thomas. Thomas attended Queen's College Cambridge; he entered Gray's Inn in 1622 and was granted the Office of Escheator for the County of Chester under the Great Seal of England. He married Elizabeth Robotham in 1632 and they had ten children, five boys and five girls. Anne, the third daughter moved to live with her uncle Robert Robotham in St Albans in 1691, and married John Rochford, the incumbent of St Peters.

Elizabeth's marriage to Thomas Aldersey was governed by a marriage settlement, in which John Robotham agreed to give £1000, half to Thomas Aldersey the groom and half to his father John. John Aldersey promised in return to provide lodging for the couple at his manor house at Spurstowe, provide a manservant and allocate lands with sufficient income to generate at least £100 a year for Elizabeth and her assigns if Thomas pre-deceased her. As it turned out Thomas died in October 1675, and Elizabeth aged 83 years in 1692; all 10 of her children outlived her.

The Aldersey family were intermarried with the Pitchfords, as were the Robothams. Elizabeth Aldersey, who married William Pitchford also married Sir Thomas Coventry the Lord Keeper. Elizabeth's brother Samuel Aldersey was a prominent puritan who contributed to the Impropriations Fund in 1626. Samuel was a resident of Allhallows, Lombard street. He was an early Adventurer and deeply involved in the settlement of New England.

There is much to research to be undertaken on the involvement of the Aldersey family and their relatives in the battle against Laud and the conformist movement in the 1630's. Alderseys and Robothams had been involved with the non-conformist movement since the 1550s, through trade and through belief. The unlikely alliance of Catholic and non-conformists against the Laud conformity had deep roots.


The last Robotham of St Albans

Robert Robotham, Elizabeth's brother, was born in 1614, and in 1627 made a speech in Latin to King Charles I when he visited St Albans School. Robert Robotham was the last to bear the family name in St Albans. He married Martha Haile in June 1635, she then being buried in 1689 with no record of any children from the marriage. When he died in 1700 Thomas Gibbons wrote to Thomas Aldersey at Spurstow outlining how he intended to assist in the sale of Robert's houses and manor along with Ann Ritchford / Rochford, Thomas's daughter and Robert's niece. The estate was valued by Gibbons at £2551, including all the house, lands, tenements on St Peters Street. His letter to Aldersey confirms Gibbons was in communication with Lord Marlborough, the High Steward of St Albans. Records show that the house was retained by the family and let out as a school for non-conformists, run by dissenter Dr Nathaniel Wood where Phillip Doddridge boarded in the same house as Presbyterian minister Samuel Clark. Until a few months before his death Doddridge continued to do all he could to further the cause of protestant dissent and evangelical Christianity at home and abroad raising a volunteer force, together with Halifax, during the Jacobite rising of 1745. In about 1735 Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, of Holywell Manor purchased Newland Squillers, demolished it and built the The Marlborough Almshouses on Hatfield Road. It is perhaps fitting that Newland Squillers ended its days as a school for non-conformists, so in keeping with the family, relatives and town where it lay.

Wider Connections and Further Research

It is probable the Robotham origins are in Derbyshire, and these connections endured and the move to St Albans may not be quite so out of the blue when put in some more context. This and other potential linkages based on thinner and less substantiated evidence open avenues for future research while hinting at a wider set of connections that reinforce the familial and court connections that made the Robothams of St Albans what they were.

John Woley of Broadbotham lived in the reigns of Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. His son William Woley married Margaret, daughter and heir of John Robotham and his wife Mary who was the heiress of the Ribergh (Riber) family. Their descendants appear to be Robert Wooley, born in Riber 1628 and married in St Albans and thenceforth Thomas Wooley and his successors who were St Albans residents.

Another of the main St Albans families was Pemberton. In the late 17th Century another Robotham, George, is recorded in great detail as a member of the Maryland judiciary and was for some time temporary Governor. One of his close colleagues was a Pemberton, indeed John Pemberton was an executor of George's will in 1698, and Margaret Pemberton his wife was a benificiary of a tract of 100 acres in Talbot County Maryland called Epsom. George Robotham left the majority of his possessions to his nieces, daughters of his sisters Ann of Findern in Derbyshire and Mary of Keeling in Staffordshire.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography refers to possible connections between John Robotham of Emmanuel College, Oxford and the Robothams of St Albans. In the 2004 edition John Robotham is referred to as a clergyman and ejected minister who may have been related to John Rowbotham , sometime JP of St Albans, while in the 1897 version he is described as a divine, possibly descended from the Robothams of St Albans. This John Robotham is noteable for having been the translator and publisher of many religious tracts, including a 1640 edition of Jan Amos Comenius's Janua Lingua Reserata, (a text used for the education of the children of noblemen in the 1650's , subtitle The Gate of Languages Unlocked), The preciousness of Christ unto Believers (1647) , An Exposition of the Whole Book of Solomon's Songs (1651) and The mystery of the two witnesses unveiled (1654) dedicated to Oliver Cromwell himself. Robotham was an army chaplain in the 1650s and served for Cromwell's cousin Richard Ingoldsby and for Mill and then William Sydenham. This last text is described in a book catalogue of 1844 from the University of Michigan, digitized on 28 August 2006 as 'Robotham's (John Puritan) Mystery of the Two Witnesses Unveiled, with the Seventh Trumpet and Kingdom of Christ explained' – a direct opposite view perhaps to the Robert Robotham who we have already discussed as secretary to the Royalist Cliffords at this same time.

One further possible linkage promising reward for investigation is the relationship between the Robothams of St Albans and the Robothams of Thame and latterly Llandaff and Wales. Yet another Robert Robotham gained his BA from Emmanual College in 1597, MA in 1600 and went on to marry the daughter of Archbishop Francis Godwin. Robert was possibly sponsored at Oxford by Godwin's father Archbishop Thomas Godwin. Godwin's daughter Joyce married Thomas Emyly of Helmdon, and their daughter Anne was married to Robert's father Hugh. Frances Godwin was the author of 'The Man in the Moone', described by Poole as 'The first work of English science fiction that claim some title to that status' and also of 'A catalogue of the Bishops of England'. Francis Godwin was married to the daughhter of John Wolton, Bishop of Exeter and his daughter Frances married Robert Robotham. The relationship with the Robothams of St Albans is not proven; it is difficult to imagine two families with the same surname both moving in the higher circles of Queen Elizabeth's court not to know each other, and links to Berry Pomeroy (Seymour swapped church land in Thame to take over Berry Pomeroy in the first place ) as well as records indicating possible family links between Hugh of Thame and Robert of Raskelf 67 offer significant scope for study.

The Robothams of St Albans made their mark on the town for 150 years. They were connected to many significant families of the day, Paget, Mildmay, Cecil, Clifford, Hastings, Yorke, Sherrington, Aldersey and others, and were perhaps protected by them and others when links with other prominent but more notorious families such as Babington and Throckmorton threatened to diminish their standing. The more we investigate the Robothams the wider the span of connections are visible, offering much scope for further study. The Robothams typify the emerging class of administrators and professionals that began to become prevalent over succeeding years as power and influence slipped from the grasp of a few people of high nobility to a widening aristocracy and professional class. They also represent and typify the non-conformist dissenter movement that spread at first clandestinely and then overtly, and lead to the formation of the American colonies.

The Robotham family is remembered in St Albans by the 'Robotham Cup', donated by John Robotham in 1603 / 4. The cup, now minus cover, is recorded as the earliest piece of plate still in the possession of the Corporation.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Robert Robotham 16th century

Robert Robotham is the most referenced of our early possible ancestors.

My research suggests that he was the brother (or cousin) of Hugh Robotham of Thame - and Hugh is the one from which we are descended (see his section).

Their ancestors are discussed in "Derbyshire 1400s and 1500s"

Robert was born about 1520. He was chosen by Henry VIII to be a member of Prince Edward's household in 1543 as a groom and when the young Edward became King in 1547 Robert started an illustrious career, including Yeoman of the Robes (looking after the royal wardrobe) and worked very close to the king until Edward died in 1553 (he was only 9 when he became king, died at 15.

Robert was put in charge of Berry Pomeroy castle in Devon after Protector Somerset was ousted and was variously steward of St John's Wood ( a hunting wood north of London that is now part of central London), in charge of Customs in Newcastle and a member of several Parliaments. the parliamentary records are very useful here:

(click on the image below to see it clearly)



Robert married Grace Paget, daughter of Robert Paget, brother of the very important Royal Household figure of William Paget. They lived in Raskelf in Yorkshire and Warwicke Inne, just north of St Pauls in the City of London and worshipped at Christ Church Newgate, a massive church that is now reduced to a couple of walls near Merrill Lynch's office just West of St Paul's. The register of baptisms weddings and funerals for this church record the birth of their children and some of the subsequent weddings. The children all married well, as can be seen from the record of the family tree that accompanied the Herald's Visitation of Hertfordshire in 1643 - there is a lot more supportive information in other sections to expand this chart,




Robert died in 1571, having made his will in 1570. He was well off, and left most of his wealth to his son John, who then married his father's ward Margaret Grace (her father was a goldsmith in London) - they lived in the manor house of Newland Squillers in St Albans (but mor of this in John's own section!)

Robert's will is recorded, as you can see - I am fascinated by the bequests at the start of the will because these all show him to have been a Puritan and supporter of the Predestination version of the church that was prevalent in Geneva. Sampson was a leading minister in Elizabethan times, as was Berneher, whose daughter was mentioned in the will as Berneher's children were by many supporters. I am working in understanding the significance of the gold rings and inscriptions - broadly translated they mean vive ut vivas - live life to the fullest, mors lucrum - your reward will be in heaven.

remember to click to see clearly




Grace Robotham later remarried (her 3rd marriage) to Godfrey Fanshawe, the brother of the Queen's Remembrancer Thomas - responsible for making sure exchequer business ran smoothly. Godfrey Fanshawe was not as influential as his brother Robert and was a clerk in the Exchequer Office. He was appointed Master of Ilford Hospital in 1578.

Derbyshire 1400s and 1500s

There are clear signs that Derbyshire, and prior to the 14th Century maybe Shropshire are where the Robothams originated. Lancashire / Derbyshire / Shropshire changed boundaries during the period and that messes up the precision, but there are some specifics that offer pointers.

In 1458 John Robotham married into the Riber (Ribergh) family of Riber Hall near Matlock in Derbysire. He became the master of Riber Hall when he married Mary, and they had at least one daughter Margaret who subsequently married William Woolley, starting a long period of Woolley occupation at Riber Hall. We visited Riber Hall in 2008, it is now a high class hotel; a brief history is available on the hotel website and at the hotel. On the wall in the lounge where we had coffee is a framed copy of the Robotham family arms, which was a big surprise especially as they were not granted to Robert Robotham until 1560, 100 years after the Robotham period at Riber......

The area around Derbyshire, particularly Wirksworth, has a significant number of Robotham references. The most useful one is probably the following that links Hugh, Robert and James to Windlebotham and also introduces Robert Gee whose son Thomas is given a gold ring in Robert Robotham's will in 1571. The record is from the summary of the will of yet another Robert Robotham in Windlebotham in 1549, it references sons Alexander, Edmund and William, daughters Margaret and Maud and godchildren Robert Gee, Hugh Robotham and Robert Robotham. One of the appraisors was James Robotham. This could well be the family from which Robert and Hugh come, as well as James the book publisher? The link is strengthened by a record of Thomas Gee son of Robert Gee of Chapel in le Frith apprenticed to Roger Redferne haberdasher, attested before John Buck, warden October 12th 1st Edward vi (1547).

Other references around this time include 3 curates, Richard, Thomas and John all in the Derbyshire area at Wetton, Glossop and Heyfyeld. John is also recorded being ordained both priest and deacon on the same day by Bishop Downham in 1564. Heyfyeld - now Hayfield is perhaps particularly significant for the presence of many names - Gee, Ridgeway, Mellor in the local population whose names also appear in the 1571 will of Robert Robotham mentioned above. Heyfyeld is in a strategic location midway between Manchester and Sheffield on the slopes of Kinder Scout the highest point of the Peak District.

How this family ended up in London, Thame, Essex and Norfolk - if they indeed did, is still unclear. Some linkages may well come from connections with Sauvage who fought in Scotland