4. VP Introduction

Helen Moorwood 2013

These are versions of the ancestry of any individual family presented to a herald of the College of Arms in the 16th and 17th centuries, agreed on at the time by the family itself and the relevant herald as to their right to bear their coat of arms. This was the only aim. The original manuscripts are in the Harleian MSS, formerly in the British Museum, now the British Library (1533, 1567, 1613) or at the College of Arms (1664/5). Those for Lancashire were all transcribed and published in the 19th century by the Chetham Society, in the following volumes in the Old Series (CSOS), all of which are meanwhile online:

1533 Visitation

The Visitation of Lancashire and a Part of Cheshire: Made in the Twenty-fourth Year of the Reign of King Henry the Eighth, 1533 A.D., by special commission of Thomas Benalt, Clarencieux, pt. 1 (Ed.) William Langton, CSOS, Vol. 98, 1876, p. 52.)4. VP1. 1533 Family A

The Visitation of Lancashire and a part of Cheshire made in A.D. 1533, pt. 2 (Ed.) William Langton, CSOS, Vol. 110, 1882.

1567 Visitation

The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1567, by William Flower, esq., Norroy king of arms(Ed.) F. R. Raines, CSOS, Vol. 81, 1870, p. 90. 4. VP2. 1567 Family A

1613 Visitation

The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1613, by Richard St. George, esq., Norroy king of arms(Ed.) F. R. Raines, CSOS, Vol. 82, 1871, p. 70 4. VP3. 1613 Family A; p. 71 4. VP5. 1613 Family B; p. 123 4. VP6. 1613 Standish of Burgh in Duxbury.

1664/5 Visitation

The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1664-5, by Sir William Dugdale, knight, Norroy king of arms, pt. 1 (Ed.) F. R. Raines, CSOS, Vol. 84, 1872.

The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1664-5, by Sir William Dugdale, pt. 2 (Ed.) F. R. Raines, CSOS, Vol. 85, 1872.

The Visitation of the County Palatine of Lancaster, made in the year 1664-5, by Sir William Dugdale,pt. 3 (Ed.) F. R. Raines, CSOS, Vol. 88, 1873, p. 293 4. VP4. 1664 Family A;, p. 294 4. VP7. 1664 Standish of Burgh in Duxbury, 1664; pp. 291, 192 4. VP8./9. 1664 Standish of Standish a, b.


Comment on Sir William Dugdale & the 1664/5 Visitations

1664/5 saw the very last Visitation tour of the North of England by Norroy. It was particularly comprehensive and required two visits, one in 1664 and a follow up one in 1665, in an effort by (Sir) William Dugdale to gather as much information as possible for his historical works. He also visited many churches collecting Monumental Inscriptions (including, of most interest to my own research, St Bartholomew’s, Tong, Shropshire, where he recorded the two Shakespeare epitaphs); so many tombs had been damaged or wrecked during the Civil War that he wished at least to preserve what was still remaining. As a Royalist during the Civil War, he was particularly interested in noting Royalist members of families in his VPs. Sir William’s father was a Dugdale from the Preston area of Lancashire, so he had a particular interest in Lancashire. His father had a post at Oxford University and Sir William settled in Warwickshire, which also gave him a particular interest in Shakespeare. In his publications he included and acknowledged much of the research by Lancashire antiquarians Roger Dodsworth and Christopher Towneley as well as Richard Kuerden, who accompanied him on his Visitations of Lancashire. The particular significance of this 1664/5 VP of Standish of Duxbury is analysed in 6. and will be further analysed in depth in Sir William Dugdale’s Search for Myles Standish’s Ancestry in 1664/5 in the folder MYLES STANDISH


Comment on Sir Richard St George and the 1613 Visitations

There is an extremely interesting section in Raines’s introduction to the 1613 Visitation about the heralds and other (particularly Northern) antiquarians involved, to which and whom reference will be made elsewhere in discussions on additions to VPs well after their original presentation. (The names of those of most interest to the Standishes of Duxbury are given here in bold). Raines gives several references, which are not repeated here, but readily available in the following extracts (online).

Sir Richard St. George has the reputation, in the College of arms, of having been an able and industrious officer, possessed of ability to grasp a complicated subject of descent, and to master its details and legal bearings in a clear and satisfactory manner. He had the privilege of ranking amongst his personal friends, Sir Robert Cotton, [William] Camden, Spelman and [John] Weaver, all kindred spirits, andall cultivating the same branches of learning.

     He died at his house in High Holborn, co. Middlesex, onWhitsunday, the 17th May 1635 and was buried in the chancel of St. Andrew’s church, Holborn, on the Friday following. His will was proved 26th May 1635 in the Prerogative court of Canterbury (Sadler), of which he made his eldest son (afterwards Garter) sole executor.

     Although this Visitation was made in the year 1613,there are a few additions and interpolations of a more recent date, which were not made by the visiting heralds, Norroy and Blue Mantle. The pedigrees are, however, chiefly in the handwriting of Sir Richard St. George, and some are written by his son. There are also a few additions of arms and some continuations to divers descents, which will be easily perceived, being the handywork of John Withie, who, like Camden’s father, was a painter-stainer, but of whom nothing more is known.

    A few memorable names occur in this visitation  which we are glad to connect with the palatinate. Camden, whose mother was a native, not of Cumberland, but of Lancashire. Roger Dodsworth, educated at Warton school near Lancaster, and who married Holcroft, daughter of Robert Hesketh of Rufford, esq., Edward Hyde of Norbury, supposed to be the ancestor of Edward Lord Clarendon, the historian of the Rebellion, Christopher Towneley, the third surviving son of Richard Towneley of Towneley, esq. This industrious antiquary was the friend and literary associate of Dodsworth and Hopkinson, [Richard] Kuerden and [Sir William] Dugdale, and of all the Northern antiquaries of his time, who were more or less indebted to him.

(Introduction to Visitation of Lancashire 1613, CSOS, Vol. 82, F.R. Raines, 1871, pp. 33, 34, 37.)


A general comment of caution on VPs

On the whole, the heralds performed a magnificent job, but it is sometimes necessary to read between the lines and examine every detail in the introductions of publications to know whether you are reading exactly what was recorded at the time or a later ‘helpful’ (or not so helpful?) version given by the 19th century editor. Or even a repetition of a previous Visitation Pedigree, without bringing it down to the current incumbent. 

My conclusion is that the families in the 16th and 17th centuries knew very well who they themselves were, who their parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents were, and that we should believe them. The main problems in interpreting some of these come from families attempting to provide their ancestry back to further than four generations before, and many ‘helpful’ souls in the 19th century trying to prove that they were ‘wrong’ in not knowing about their immediate families. Where more than one VP was presented by the same family during successive Visitations, all should be compared for similarities and differences.


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