6.1. Alexander Standish[10A1]

6.1. (14) AS 1577: An Eventful Year

Helen Moorwood 2013

N.B. By clicking on the coloured title you can return to the original articles written in early 2004 and placed by Peter Duxbury on A Duxbury Family Website in March 2004, where it still is, under:

Helen's Story: from Duxbury to Shakespeare. The story of William Shakespeare's Lancashire Ancestry, by Helen Moorwood

10. The Biography of Alexander Standish

N.B. Most of this still stands, but where appropriate the 2004 version is now updated below by interspersed commentary in square brackets and italics. Some reformatting was necessary, and the occasional typo – whether by Peter or myself - has been silently corrected. Asap a shorter narrative version of his biography will appear, based, of course, on all details and documents in this file. Meanwhile, this is part (14) of (1) to (45) AS. [2013 HM]


(14) 1577: an eventful year

1577, 27 March. From the following document we have confirmation that Thomas(1) Esquire was still alive in March, living at The Pele (“Pyle”) in the north of Duxbury, the main home of the senior line (Family A) since the early 14th century.

Bond: in £200: Robert Woorsley of Boothes, co. Lancs, esq., and Thomas Standisshe of the Pyle of Duckesberie, esq., to James Prescott, gent. - Robert Woorsley and Thomas Standisshe to pay to James Prescott, gent. - Robert Woorsley and Thomas Standisshe to pay to Prescott £100 in hall of the house of Edward Standisshe of Standisshe, esq. on Lady Day next. 27 March 1577. (Catalogue: DP397/4/25.)

It is not clear what these bonds and payments were about, but it is very clear who was involved. I have not pursued “Robert Woorsley of Boothes”, nor “James Prescott” (he turns up in AS’s Ipm), but the Edward Standish named here was the current Lord of the Manor of Standish, who had recently built a brand new hall in Standish in 1574 in Elizabethan style. The story of his documented activities in Standish was told by Porteus (1927, 1933), from which it is eminently clear that he and his descendants were staunchly Catholic at this time, and remained so throughout the Civil War and on to active participation in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Some documents refer to the Standishes of Duxbury as “close kinsmen”, an indication that they were all well aware that the Standishes of Duxbury had their origins in the Standishes of Standish. The two families had also constantly married into the same local gentry families, making them ‘cousins’ or kinsmen via many intricate routes.

This Edward Standish was to be one of the supervisors of AH’s enigmatic Will four years later (1581), named as “my dear friend”, and so deserves a paragraph. He had married the young widow Ellen Aughton of North Meols in the early 1550s and they had a large family, providing many older ‘cousins’ for AS. Ellen was a daughter of Sir William Radcliffe of Ordsall, a family that was to enter AS’s life in many ways. She married first John Aughton of North Meols, who died in 1550. (The Aughton story has been told most recently and rather definitively by Peter Aughton, North Meols and Southport: A History, Carnegie Press, 1988; John and Ellen’s marriage and Ellen’s second marriage to Edward Standish pp. 43-6. The Radcliffes of Ordsall appear in many places below.)

1577, 22 October. Between March and this date AS’s father Thomas(1) had died, peculiarly with no local burial recorded, and his mother had married Thomas(2), with strong hints of (religious?) problems about the validity of their marriage. There is no doubt about this marriage, as the document immediately below proves. Where did Thomas(1) die and where was he buried? So far, there is only silence. There might be some intriguing story behind this that we will never know, quite simply because the records have not survived. The only fact we have is that his widow married Thomas(2) within six months. One might tentatively conclude that this was a marriage of convenience that seems to have been successful, as they remained married until Thomas(2)’s death in 1599 (if his widow Margaret was still the same Margaret). It also makes clear that in 1577 Thomas(2) still hoped to produce children of his own, but his will of 1593 proves that if he did, there were no survivors. One puzzle is that he now calls himself Thomas Esquire, when he had previously been Thomas Gentleman. Perhaps his recent marriage had raised his status, now that he had stepped into the shoes of the Lord of the Manor of Duxbury until AS came of age?

No record of the date of this marriage has survived - indeed no record of the precise date of any earlier male Standish of Duxbury has survived. One might assume that they had their own private chapel, like so many local gentry families, and called in their favourite clergyman to officiate. Or one might assume that they married in the parish church of their wives, where records have not survived. In the case of this particular marriage in mid-1577, given that both were Standishes of Duxbury, that records of marriages in Chorley and Standish Parish Churches around this date have survived, and that this marriage is not recorded in either, I can only conclude that this marriage most probably happened in Duxbury in a chapel at one of the homes of the Standishes of Duxbury, whose records have not survived.

To all Christian people to whom this present writing shall come. I Thomas Standyshe of Dukesbury Esquire have married and taken to my wife Margaret Bastard daughter of Sir Richard Houghton knight and that I take her to be my lawfull wife . . . whether the said Margaret is lawful by the same law or not and therefore the said Thomas Standyshe mynding that my moytie or half of the manor of Heath Charnock . . . appoint Thomas Houghton, Alexander Rigby, William Chorley and Roger Rigby (son of Alexander) [as trustees] . . . then to Alexander son male of the bodie of the said Margaret, Leonarde another son male of the body of the said Margaret, heirs of me to be begotten in default of heirs of me male of the body of me, etc. (Extracts from MS DP397/21/12.)

He then continues to include the five daughters still living: “Elizabeth, Jane, Alice, Ellyn and Margaret daughters of the said Margaret Bastard daughter” and “heirs of the girls to be lawfully begotten”. In effect, this served as an early will, and shows that he had ‘adopted’ his new family completely. This was in accordance with the custom of the times, when children from a previous marriage of a new spouse were regarded in civil law as children of the new father, with the term ‘stepchildren’ never used. The abstract in the catalogue lists his other lands, and reveals why the full contents of this document were not exactly obvious from this:

Settlement: moiety of manor of Heath Charnock and other property there and in Hyndley, Little Crosby, Lancaster , Scotforth, Burroo, Preston, Chorley, Longton, Gosenarghe and Threlfall. 1577 (Catalogue: DP397/21/12)

This list is all revealing as a list of lands overlapping in part with those owned by Thomas(1) Esquire, Margaret’s first husband, and yet rather different. A complete analysis of all Standish of Duxbury lands, as given in all wills and inquisitions post mortem down the centuries, will be given in the future. Meanwhile, we now know that these lands were added to AS’s inheritance from his own father. Thomas(2) was obviously concerned that his declaration to “all Christian people” should be known, as an exact copy stayed in the family papers (Catalogue: DP397/21/12a: “Another, as 12”). How many more copies were produced and who received these we will probably never know, but two more have now turned up in the batch purchased (2003) by Jonathan Sheard, one in Latin and one in English.

A brief recent history of Heath Charnock, including Thomas’s purchase of half of the manor, is given in the Victoria County History:

With other Harrington estates it was obtained by the first Lord Mounteagle, and descended in his family during the 16th century, being sold in 1574 by William Lord Mounteagle to Thomas Walmesley the younger and Robert Charnock. Three years later Walmesley sold his moiety to Thomas Standish of Duxbury, and in subsequent inquisitions the ‘manor of Heath Charnock’ was considered to be held by Standish of Duxbury and Charnock of Charnock Richard in moieties.

(Farrer, VCH, vol. 6, p. 213.)

It was actually the Charnocks of Astley Hall in Chorley, as we will see later. For anyone not familiar with the geography of this area, the following might be useful. There are two Charnocks, separated by several miles: Heath Charnock to the immediate east of Duxbury, and Charnock Richard, which anyone who travels up the M6 might have noticed because it has a service-station. At this time Heath Charnock was very much divided into North and South, the manor house of the northern part being Bretters Farm (modern name, next to a previous moated manor house) and the southern part Hall o’th Hill, owned by the Asshawes (today the clubhouse of Chorley Golf Club). The manor house of Charnock Richard was Park Hall, owned by Richard Hoghton, AS’s uncle who visited Thomas ‘The Exile’ in Flanders in 1575. The senior branch of the Charnock family was meanwhile at Astley Hall in Chorley.

The other names in the document above are interesting, not least because two were to meet later because of the Gunpowder Plot. The first Lord Mounteagle was a younger brother of the 1st Earl of Derby and this William in the document above was the 3rd Lord Mounteagle (died a Catholic in exile), whose grandson William Parker, the 4th Lord Mounteagle, was later the ‘saviour of the nation’ when he ‘uncovered’ the Gunpowder Plot. Thomas Walmesley the younger of Dunkenhalgh, also a Catholic, was beginning his career as a lawyer at this time, was later to rise to be a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, was knighted, and was on the bench at the trial of the Gunpowder Plotters. ‘The saviour of the nation’ was the phrase coined by Ben Jonson, Shakespeare’s friend, who pops up several times below.

To recapitulate, Thomas(2), AS’s new stepfather in 1577 was a quarter-cousin of Thomas(1) the father, descended from two sons of Sir Christopher, who was knighted in 1482 and was also the ancestor of Myles Standish. AS’s stepfather appointed Thomas Hoghton (TH), another uncle of AS, as one of the supervisors of his estate in Heath Charnock, which he had bought earlier this year. TH was the younger half-brother and heir of AH, who was to write the enigmatic will in 1581, in which TH was requested to receive William Shakeshafte into his household with all ‘play clothes’ and ‘instruments of musics’. Until 1581 TH was living in Brinscall, half way between Duxbury and Hoghton. A recent visit to Brinscall (September 2003) produced the intriguing details that it is hoped to excavate some of the ‘secret tunnels’ that lead from the cellars of Brinscall Hall to the surrounding woods (personal communication from a local resident). If there is any truth in the existence of these, then their most obvious purpose (apart from drainage) would have been as escape routes for priests, which in turn suggests that some members of the Hoghton family living there were Catholic (and we know from Honigmann that TH’s wife was). In any case this provides another family with sons around the age of AS, whom he must have known during his school years. The son and heir of TH was Richard, later Sir Richard Hoghton, who has been perceived as playing a central role in the ‘Shakespeare in Lancashire’ story, not least as the main dedicatee of John Weever’s Epigrammes in 1599. (His basic story is given in Honigmann, Shakespeare, the ‘lost years’, 1985 and Weever, 1987.)

1577 saw the arrival of another batch of Catholic priests returning from their education at Douai. Their numbers were later to reach as many as four hundred. Two hundred were to die as martyrs during Elizabeth’s reign, many of them from Lancashire. (Brief biographies of all these appear in the standard Catholic literature. Hilton, Catholic Lancashire is a good place to start for a dense summary.)


Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.