Jo‘s research into her family history intersects with many of the political, ideological and important dates of the Meeting House’s history. Take a look at Jo‘s fascinating records of her ancestors and learn a little more about Dissenters, religious intolerance and radical British history through her families stories. Jo has kindly allowed us to publish some extracts from her book – this week we have a piece on the Dissenters.
Henry, son of Samuel and Obedience, was born in 1640. In 1668 he married Mary Locke, the daughter of William Locke of St.James, Clerkenwell. Henry was the Rector of Lillingstone Lovell1 in Oxfordshire from 1662 to 1675, dying shortly before his father, Samuel. Mary was left with three young children, Henry, Nicholas and Obedience, as well as Henry’s son Samuel by his first wife Dorothy, who had died at his birth in 1666. Mary was buried at St.James in 1711; the actual entry reads “Mary Gellibrand, wid, in the church”. To be buried in the church, rather than the churchyard, implies high status.
Old Church of St.James Clerkenwell
The term “rector” also suggests that Henry and Mary belonged to the established church but from the next generation the family was firmly within the non-conformist fold. Dissenters of this period were of three different denominations, Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists, with Presbyterians comprising about two thirds of the total. There were also Quakers, who kept aloof from the others and were cordially hated by them. Presbyterians had gradually grown more tolerant, with their Calvinism less apparent. The Independents were stricter and more narrow minded while the Baptists were the most liberal of the three, though not as broad as the Church of England. 2
Henry, son of Henry and Mary, was born in 1669. A Presbyterian minister, he married Joyce Perkins in February 1699/1700 3 at St.Botolph, Aldersgate, London. 4 There is a possible baptism for Joyce in 1658 at St.Botolph without Aldgate – that would make her somewhat older than Henry but as Joyce is not a very common name this may well be the case. If so, her father was Thomas Perkins, married to Abigaile. Another possible connection with the Perkins family lies in the Manor of Foots Cray. It was sold in 1694 by Samuel Gellibrand of Lillingstone Lovell (Samuel the printer’s grandson, first cousin of the current Henry) to Mr.George Perkins, Gent. of Lambeth. Maybe just a coincidence of a fairly common name – maybe a connection between two families who, a few years later, inter-married.
Their son Thomas, who had a brother and two sisters, was another non-conformist minister. He is described in the Ashford records as a Congregationalist. “Thomas Gellibrand commenced a notable ministry in 1729 and so continued until 1778. He married into an Ashford family – a Grace Clarke was his wife – whose name appears frequently in Ashford records of this period. With Thomas Gellibrand the first church records now available were started, a register of baptisms from 1727 to 1783 are still in the possession of the church”.5 Grace was the daughter of Sir Charles Clarke. She and Thomas had two children, Joseph and Grace. It was through Grace Clarke that another manor came into the Gellibrand family.
Hundred of Newchurch, Romney Marsh……Poundhurst is a manor situated a mile north west of the church and belonged in 1651 to Richard Watts, who sold it to the Gadsleys, whence it passed to the Hatches and then to the Reads and Clarkes of Ashford. Grace Clarke carried it in marriage to the Rev.Thomas Gellibrand, who at her death in 1782* gave it by will to her son the Rev.Joseph Gellibrand of Edmonton. 6
Grace Gellibrand’s will, made in 1779, is concerned almost entirely with property. She had five parcels of land amounting to about twenty acres at Newham in Kent, two acres in “a certain street called Wilmington Street in the parish of Broughton” in Kent and twenty acres of marshland in the parish of Newchurch in Romney Marsh. All this land was bequeathed to her daughter, also Grace, for her lifetime. She also left three hundred* pounds jointly between her two children Grace and Joseph and named them both as executors. When the will was proved in 1794, Joseph was “sole executor” so it would appear that the younger Grace predeceased her mother. The equivalent of £300 in 1794 is at least £200,000 in the year 2000.
Another Gellibrand was preaching in Ashford at this time. The Baptist chapel had as one of its ministers in the 1770s “David Gellibrand (he was related to the Gellibrands who served the local Presbyterians). It would seem that Presbyterian and Congregational were being used interchangeably at this period. David became Baptist Pastor of Folkestone in 1776 where he served for seven years before joining the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. 7
Joseph Gellibrand was born in 1732, probably at Ashford. He studied for the ministry under the well-known divine, Philip Doddridge, at his academy at Northampton. Samuel Gellibrand (a first cousin of Joseph’s grandfather Henry) mentioned him in the course of correspondence with Philip Doddridge in 1749. “P.S. Your Account & Character of my young Namesake gives me great pleasure & satisfaction (as you rightly judg’d). Pray remember me to him; I heartily wish him Health, with great Success and improvement in his Studies & that he may be no Discredit to you or to the place of his Education. Adieu.” 8
Lectures at the academy began before breakfast and at prayers a student would read a chapter of the Hebrew Old Testament, translating as he went. There were between thirty and sixty students in any year; over and above the fees each young man had to provide two bedsheets and his own supply of candles. Doddridge insisted they all learn shorthand – it saved on paper and ensured privacy 9.
In 1763 Joseph married Elizabeth Tice, born 1743, the daughter of William Tice and Hannah, (née Blake). The Tice family was well known in Blandford Forum – Malachi Tice was a surgeon and Tice & Fisher were button manufacturers and also mercers and drapers. Prior to the marriage, in 1763, William Tice settled the sum of three hundred pounds (in Navy four per cents) on his daughter, the trustees for this being his future son-in-law Joseph, plus William Blake and Malachi Tice, almost certainly close relations.
Joseph and Elizabeth had three children, William, Thomas and Hannah, who were born at Blandford Forum. Joseph was the minister at Sandwich in Kent from 1754 until 1758, where the services were held in a converted inn, previously the Star. His whereabouts for the next twenty years are unknown; in 1778 he returned to Ashford to take the ministry there on the death of his father, Thomas. Joseph and Elizabeth remained in Ashford until 1783 when he was succeeded by his cousin, Evan Davies. Presumably Joseph and Elizabeth then went to Edmonton. “For eighteen years [he was] the pastor of a congregation of Protestant dissenters in the parish [of Edmonton]”. 10 The Edmonton meeting house was one of the many founded after the Act of Toleration, in this case in 1702. Before this, the services had been held in a barn.
Joseph died in Edmonton in 1806 at the age of seventy-four; His will, which ran to eleven pages, was mainly concerned with tracking the money invested at the time of his marriage, recounting the sale of the Navy stock and the purchase of Bank Annuities. He left tightly controlled bequests to his daughter Hannah Jennings, with directions that her husband William was not to benefit from it. [This may not have been personal – it could have been a legal device to give his daughter control of her own money. This was nearly a century before married women would be able to own property of any kind]. He left money to his two sons, again tightly hedged about with restrictions and also to his grand daughter, Sophia Louisa, William’s daughter. Her two brothers, William Clarke and Joseph, only benefited if she were to die before she reached twenty-one. William himself received some books of antiquities. The only outright bequest was twenty pounds to two nephews – they would actually have been able to spend the money without the permission of trustees! The residue of the estate was left to “my dear wife Elizabeth for the term of her natural life”.
Elizabeth survived her husband and lived in Edmonton for many more years, dying in 1824. Elizabth’s will was full of personal detail, more like an inventory in places. She dispensed with the usual conventions of will-writing and plunged straight in the goods for disposal. Her daughter Hannah received all her “cloathes”, two gravy spoons and four of her best tablespoons. Hannah also had “five pounds* for mourning”, presumably for clothes. Elizabeth’s grand-daughter Sophia Louisa got all the bed and table linen – she seems to have been the favourite grandchild 11 although Hannah also had daughters. William Clarke Gellibrand, Elizabeth’s grandson, received a silver coffee pot and “my great Bible”. Having dealt with the household items, Elizabeth directed that all her stocks and securities should be converted into money, with one third left to her son Thomas, one half to Sophia Louisa and the remainder to be shared between the Jennings girls, Eliza, Maria, Sarah and Sophia. There was also thirty pounds** towards the schooling of Sophia Jennings “or placing her out apprentice”.
* The equivalent of £5 in 1824 is about £300 in the year 2000 using RPI
** The equivalent of £30 in 1824 is about £1800 in the year 2000 using RPI
There is no mention in the will of her son William, although two of his children are included – Joseph Tice is also missing. Elizabeth’s will was written about a year after William and Joseph sailed for Australia – did Elizabeth disapprove of this venture or was Australia so far beyond normal comprehension that leaving them anything would have seemed an empty gesture? William Clark had been nine years in Russia by that time but he was not totally forgotten.
The Fire of London
Henry Gellibrand m. Mary Locke
Henry Gellibrand born
Samuel Gellibrand died
William & Mary
Henry Gellibrand m. Joyce Perkins
England, Wales & Scotland become Great Britain
Mary (Locke) Gellibrand died
Robert Walpole became Britain’s first Prime Minister
Joseph Gellibrand born
Start of the Industrial Revolution
Britain adopted Gregorian calendar – New Year became 1st Jan
Joseph Gellibrand m. Elizabeth Tice
Thomas Gellibrand died
Grace (Clarke) Gellibrand died
Battle of Trafalgar
Joseph Gellibrand died
Battle of Waterloo
William Clarke Gellibrand to Russia
William & Joseph to Van Diemen’s Land
Elizabeth (Tice) Gellibrand died
1 Henry is described in his son Samuel’s indentures in 1683 as “Dr.of Physic, deceased”
2 “Our Unitarian Heritage” by E.M.Wilbur, 1925 in Dr.Williams Library, London.
3 Prior to 1752 New Year was 25th March. Dates in the early part of the year are given the double date.
4 Marriage licence in Bishop of London Registry
5 “History of Religious Dissent and Non-Conformity in Ashford, Kent” by A.C.Watson, 1979
6 Ireland, History of the County of Kent, vol.2, p.280 *Ireland got her date wrong – Grace died in 1794
7 A sect of Calvinistic Methodists. The Countess was a friend of Philip Doddridge
8 Manuscript letters to Philip Doddridge in Dr.Williams Library
10 Monumental Inscriptions, Edmonton.
11 Sophia and her brothers lost their mother at an early age