Answers to Questions


WITTEWRONGE, Rothamsted, Harpenden, 18th century and earlier

June, 2007




Barbara Lewellen (bjlewellen @t comcast.net) of Longmont, Boulder County, Colorado, USA, writes: I am researching Mary Wittewronge who was first married circa 1704 to Richard Beale, Esq, (d. 1712).  Mary was the daughter of James Wittewronge of Rothamstead House, Hertford, and Susanna Pedley.

According to the extensive family tree in Robert Clutterbuck's History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford (Volume 1, page 411), James Wittewronge of Rothamsted House married three times

  1. Elizabeth, dau of Robert Dickerson, of Hillingdon, Middlesex, esq. They had many children and she was buried in Harpenden in 1685.
  2. Mary, daughter of John Cock, of St Albans by whom he had children William (died in infancy); Mary (married Richard Beale, of Lee, Kent, esq); Ann (died single); Martha (married William Paxton, surgeon, and had son Henry)
  3. Susannah, daughter of Sir Nicholas Pedley of Huntingdon, and widow of William Bullock of Sandhurst, Berks, Esq. [The text says there was no issue.]

If James Wittewronge married Mary Cock circa 1687 it is quite possible that Mary Wittewronge was born circa 1690 and there would then be no difficulty in her being widowed at about 22 and a child at the age of about 29.

Mary secondly married the Reverend Thomas Taylor sometime between 1713 to 1719.  They had a son named Wittewronge Taylor, b. ca. 1719, Royal Navy. 

Have you tried looking for Wittewronge Taylor's military records (at the Public Records Office) - which may well include something about his father, and tie down his date of birth more accurately?

I am trying to determine if the Reverend Thomas Taylor lived in Hertfordshire, and if he was previously married and had other children. The only book that I have found that references the couple Reverend Thomas Taylor and Mary Wittewronge is "Pedigree of Wittewronge of Ghent in Flanders, Stanton Barry (Bucks) and Rothamstead House (Herts) published 1905. Are there any other books that would reference Reverend Thomas Taylor?.

As James Wittewronge was a barrister at law at Lincolns Inn (in London) he would have needed a town house as daily commuting to Rothamsted would have been out of the question. It may be that Mary Wittewronge was born in London. There is no obvious reason why the Rev Thomas Taylor had any strong connection with Hertfordshire. If he was a member of the Church of England he would have trained for Holy Orders at either Oxford or Cambridge - and lists of their graduates are published, so you should be able to look him up. If he was not a member of the Established Church you may have more problems in tracking him down.

I would expect that most, if not all the men mentioned above left wills, which could clarify the situation, and that further research relating to the Rev Thomas Taylor may well fall outside Hertfordshire records and the scope of this web site.

Because of the discrepancies mentioned above it is worth checking up on the overall accuracy of the pedigree you mention. In 1905 it would be far harder to get hold of many of the necessary records (including parish registers) than it is today, and accuracy sometimes suffered. The large number of people who have spurious ancestral trees because they have accepted a published tree without question is unbelievable! (For instance see The Dangers of Internet Genealogy)

July, 2007

Barbara Lewellen  replied: Obviously there are differences between the book "Pedigree of Wittewronge of Ghent in Flanders, Stanton Barry (Bucks) and Rothamstead House (Herts)" published 1905, and the "History & Antiquities of the County of Hertford," published between 1815-1827. The question is, which book is correct?

The major difference is whether the second or third wife is the mother of the four children. It does seem more logical given the marriage date of Mary to Richard Beale in 1704, that the children belong to Mary Cock and not  Susannah Pedley

My local university has a copy of the 3-Volume book "History & Antiquities of the  County of Hertford" by Robert Clutterbuck (1772-1831), published between 1815-1827, in their Special Collections  department. Which volume is the Wittewronge family mentioned in?  The Special Collections is a limited access- by appointment only library, requiring a written request  for retrieving each book.  They also have a full collection of the Gentleman's Magazine.

The Wittewronge family tree is on page 411 of Volume 1 of Robert Clutterbuck's History and Antiquities of the County of Hertford. There is also a very extensive footnote (extended over 4 pages in minute print) of an account of the Wittewronge family written by Sir John Wittewronge (1618-1693). This document was stated to be in the possession of a descendant, John Bennet Lawes of Rothhamsted. John Bennet Lawes played an important part in agricultural research during the 19th century and founded an important research establishment. It may be that this and other papers relating to the history of the manor are held in the library of Rothamsted Research. However Access to Archives suggests that such papers may now be transferred to HALS. Definitely the extensive collection of manuscripts at HALS includes a Wittewronge Family History dated 1898 - which may prove to be a draft of the 1905 book.

Hertfordshire references in The Gentleman's Magazine between 1731 and 1800 have been republished in Hertfordshire 1731-1800 and the only relevant entry is the death of James Wittewronge Esq., of Rothamsted, on 28th September 1748.

The error here is the differences between two published books and not information found on the internet.  The only difference between errors published in books and errors published on the internet, is the lightening speed at which they are communicated, conveyed, and repeated.

Here are the differences in facts published in the two books-The Wittewronge Pedigree book published 1905 vs Clutterbucks' published 1815-1827.

James Wittewronge, b. 18 June 1647; buried at Harpenden 5 March 1721.

1. 1905-first wife's name: Elizabeth Diconson (d.1685), daughter of Thomas  Diconson. md 1667
    Clutterbuck: first wife's name is Elizabeth Dickerson, daughter of Robert Dickerson

The difference between Diconson and Dickerson is probably not significant. A submitted entry on the IGI at Familysearch records Elizabeth Diconson married James on 11 June 1667 "at Rothamsted". (The source of this information is not known but Rothamsted was not a parish which immediately raises a question mark about reliability - see The Limitations of the IGI on Familysearch.)

2. 1905-Mary Cock, widow of William Bullock, daughter of John Cock - by whom no issue
    Clutterbuck-: Children -
William, Mary, Ann, Martha

3. 1905-
Susanna Pedley, daughter of Sir Nicholas Pedley - Children - William, Mary, Anne, Martha
    Clutterbuck: No children

I have already obtained the will of Wittewronge Taylor, which was very brief, and only referenced his wife Ann.  There is one possible will for a Thomas Taylor, at the PRO, (out of 76 Thomas Taylors who died between 1700-1749-mostly mariners) which I'll order from the online PRO.

The book "The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815" has

Wittewronge Taylor
Lieutenant    7 Sept 1741
Commander    1 Nov 1748
Captain    16 Dec 1755
D (drowned)    15 Feb 1760

Depending on the cost, (the exchange rate between the US and Great Britain is awful) I'll check into obtaining Wittewronge Taylor's military records. Believe he has a "Passing Certificate" under ADM107/3, page 442

One thing that interests me is the comparative lack of relevant Wittewronge entries on the familysearch databases including the International Genealogical Index which may say something about their religious associations.

January, 2009

Johanna Wittevrongel (wittevrongel.joke @t gmail.com) of  Piershil, The Netherlands, writes: My maiden-name is Wittevrongel. In the Netherlands there are no males anymore. My father was the last one. The name is still frequently found in Belgium were it was first found around the city of Ghent. During the 1600's Belgians escaped to Holland and England to avoid the religious war. My family is originally from the province of Zeeland. During several inundations in the area registrations were often destroyed so I can only go back till the 1850's.

I was very surprised to find an epitaph on a tombstone in St. Pauls, London. It says:

Here lieth the body of Mr. Thomas Bennet, citizen & stationer of London, who married Mrs. Eliz: Wittewrong eldest daughter of James Wittewrong of Rothamsted in ye county of Hertford. Esqr by whom he had one son and two daughters and departed this life August the 26: in the year of our Lord 1706 And in the 42d year of his age.

I think the original name Wittvrongel can be degenerated during the ages. Are you aware of this epitaph in St. Pauls

Information on the Wittewronge family at Rothamsted is given in D. H. Boalch's book The Manor of Rothamsted which also mentions the inscription at St Pauls. You will be iunterested in the family background, as given in the book:

But we must retrace our steps to the middle of the sixteenth century, when there lived in the city of Ghent one Jacques Wittewronghele (born 1531), a notary public of well-connected family, and an adherent of the Protestant faith. His wife was called Mary Everdey, and they had two infant sons Abraham and Jacob, whose births stand recorded by him in a small note-book which is still to be seen among the Wittewronge papers. The tyranny and religious persecution of Philip II of Spain in the Netherlands becoming intolerable, Jacques fled in 1564 with his wife and sons to England. As his grandson puts it in his Memoir: 'It was in this hott time of persecution that my grandfather left his countrey to enjoy his conscience, and made shipwrack of his outward estate to preserve his inward peace.' (The motto Pour La foi sometimes used by his descendants alludes to this flight.) Arrived in London he was able to continue in his profession; seven more children were born to him, and he died in 1593.

His son Jacob Wittewrongle (as his name is most commonly spelt), born in Ghent in 1558, was only six years old when his parents fled with him to London. After education at the Free School in St Albans, where one Helicomius, a fellow-Fleming, was a master, he proceeded to Magdalen College, Oxford. A few years later he married Susanna, daughter of Bernard Tielman, a wealthy German merchant, gaining by the alliance property in the Duchy of Cleve and in England, including an estate at Walthamstow. On 10 May 1582 he was granted letters of naturalization. After some years of partnership with Matthias Otton, a brewer in London, he decided to set up on his own, and, pulling down some houses in Grantham Lane (as his son John relates in his Memoir):

erected (to his great charge) a faire new brew-house, together with a mansion­house thereunto adjoyning, where he lived many yeares, exerciseinge that callinge by himselfe; and, by the blessing of God, attained unto a very considerable estate, which may be the less wondered at, considering the paucity of those that in those dayes exercised that mistrey [trade] within the citty ... And I have heard from my mother, that my father for many years cleared at least one thousand pounds ...

In 1611 he obtained a mortgage on Rothamsted by means of a loan to Edward Bardolph, as recounted above. His first wife having died, he married in 1614 Anne, daughter and co-heiress of Gerard van Acker or Vanacker, an Antwerp merchant settled in England. Anne bore him a daughter (1616), and a son, John (1618). The memoir goes on:

My father continued in London about five yeares after his marriage with her, viz. until the yeare of Grace 1619, when being (as it seemes) desirous to lead a more private life, hee retired to a house which he had, a little before, purchased at Westham in Essex, where he lived untill the 22d day of July, anno 1622, when it pleased Almighty God to take him to himselfe, after hee had a long time conflicted with a sore tedious fitt of the gout, (with which malady he was much afflicted,) which brought him to his end. He was buried in the Church at Westham ....

Jacob Wittewrongle was a man of considerable wealth (he left a personalty of over 16,500), and in high standing with the Flemish colony in London, being an elder of the Dutch Church. John Strype, the historian of the Reformation, called him 'a singular Friend to the Ministers of the City, a Maecenas of Studious Youth, a Favourer of Piety and Learning'. His portrait hangs in the Great Drawing-room.

In the year following his death his widow bought Rothamsted outright for her son.

Page updated January 2009