The Ancient Westcott Family in England

Part 2

Stukely Westcott in England and His Emigration to

Beyond the year of his birth, 1592, nothing has been positively revealed of the youth of Stukely Westcott. That he was born in the shire or county of Somerset in England of the posterity of Thomas de Wescote and Elizabeth Littleton, his wife, of Wescote in the parish of Marwood in Devonshire, whose descendants settled in Somerset in the late 15th century, there is every belief.

Based upon the age of his children, he was married about the year 1617-8 when about twenty-six years of age. His wife, according to Laura LaMance, author of The Greene Tree, was probably Rosanna Hill of Somerset. They are definitely located in the spring of 1622 in the Southern part of Somerset in the parish of Yeovil, from which place they started for New England thirteen years later.

Rosanna Hill descended from an ancient family long seated at Houndstone, near Taunton, Somersetshire. Her father, William, as already stated, was of Poundeford, some twenty miles West of Yeovil. Her mother was Jane, daughter of John and Joan (Cottington) Young of Axminster in Devonshire, and her paternal grandfather was Walter Young, a younger son of the house of Bassildon in Berkshire, who was fined by the first Queen Mary for not taking the order of Knighthood. Her maternal grandmother was Rosanna (Wardwell) Waite, for whom she was named. The Wardwell family was Welsh and is traced through the LaSalles to France. They emigrated to Wales in 1565.

The earliest of the Hill family traced in this research is Richard, probably born in the year 1350 at Helegan in Cornwall. In 1399, he was the king's sergeant, lived at Shilstone in Devon and was ancestor of Abigail Hill, Lady Mashem. He was married twice; both Cornish heiresses. His son, Robert, was sheriff of Devon in 1428-9 and resided at the family seat of Hawkstone Park, Hodnot, in the parish of Shobrooke where Raddon is located and where Thomas and Alice (Walker) Wescott later settled on the Raddon estates. Sir Robert Hill, probably grandson and namesake of the preceding Robert, was born in 1492 and became the first Protestant mayor of London. His father was Thomas Hill. Sir Robert died 1561, unmarried.

Before 1900, says Fred A. Arnold in his Account of the English Homes of Three Early Proprietors of Providence-William Arnold, Stukely Westcott and William Carpenter (1921) every county in England had been combed to find the name Stukely Westcott, without success, until 1902, Mr. Edson S. Jones found the name at Yeovil, as the father of Samuel, baptized Mar. 31, 1622. This, without support of record, does not prove that he was the Stukely Westcott who came in 1635 to New England, but circumstantial evidence very strongly favors that conclusion. The name of Stukely and of Westcott is common in Devon and Somerset, but the combination of these names has so far been found nowhere before 1622 at Yeovil and so far as we know is unique, and the name of his daughter Demaris is very unusual. In Thomas Wescote's Devon, the name Demaris appears only twice.

This son, Samuel, whose birth is recorded at Yeovil in 1622, checks as to age with the third child of the children of Stukely Westcott who made the crossing in 1635. That this Stukely Westcott was he who came to America thirteen years after the birth of Samuel, seems to be fully substantiated by memoranda made In April 1656, by Benedict Arnold and found among his old family papers. He wrote: June 24, 1635, arrived in Massachusetts Bay. Sailed from Dartmouth of Devon May 1, 1635, all but one of the Party (William Carpenter) coming from Ilchester in southern Somerset or within five miles of that place.

My father (William Arnold) and his family Sett Sayle from Dartmouth in Old England, the first of May, Friday & Arrived in New England (Thursday) June 24, 1635. On board was Stukely Westcott 48 of Yeovil, and his wife with children Robert, Damaris, Samuel 13, Amos 4, Mercy and Jeremiah.

That Benedict, then twenty years of age, should have singled out the Westcotts to mention in his memoranda, may be safely explained by his promising friendship with Damaris Westcott, then about fifteen years old, and who later became his wife.

William Carpenter, born 1603, appears to have been the lone bachelor of the party, but he did not remain a bachelor for long, for soon after reaching America his attention to Elizabeth Arnold, daughter of William, ripened into marriage. Their descendant in the fifth generation, Mary Carpenter, of Silas, of Silas, of Silas, married Benjamin Westcott, of Samuel, of Jeremiah, of Stukely.

Two More Ancestors of the Cheshire and Milford Westcotts

William Arnold, father of Benedict, was born at Lemington in Somerset, June 24, 1587, and therefore was the senior member of those on the little sailing vessel. His wife, Christanna Peak, and several of their children were aboard, among them Stephen Arnold. William and Stephen were to become the third and fourth ancestors of the Westcotts of Cheshire and Milford, Stukely and his son Jeremiah being the first and second. (See Wells-Arnold, Pt. IV.)

Stephen Arnold married Sarah Smith, of Rehoboth, Mass., and had a son Israel, whose wife was Mary Barker, and their son was Stephen Arnold. This son had a daughter, Elizabeth Arnold. The daughter married Peter Wells of Warwick, R. I., and to them was born Anna Wells, who married Stukely Westcott, and settled in Cheshire, Mass. She became the Mother of the Westcotts of Cheshire and Milford, accordingly, a four-fold reason why June 24, 1635, should be remembered by the descendants of this family as a date of interest and importance to them.

For fifty-five days and nights, the small sailing craft, probably unchartered as many were in that period, with its tops'ls and mizzenmasts running before the wind, with probable occasional cries of Thar she blows! as the sails filled, ploughed its choppy way west-ward through the seas and on Thursday, June 24, 1635, landed its thankful passengers on the wild, unsettled shores of the Massachusetts Bay.

Arnold made no mention of the experience of those on the little vessel, but of the voyage it surely may be said that it was an adventure, and the travelers, adventurers indeed!
The Antiquarian Westcott Family

in England

The paternal ancestry of Stukely Westcott, the Founder in America in 1685 of one of three branches of the family of his surname to settle in New England in its earliest days of colonization, is traced back to the shire of Devon in England, according to the Harlain Society's Visitation of Devon (1620), to St. Leger Westcot of the fielde of Wescote in the Boroughe and Parishe of Barnstaple, which by the Ancient Kings of the Land has been endowed with many privileges and great immunities and incorporated in one body,

The Shires of Devon and Somerset

Barnstaple is on the bay of that name off the Bristol Channel, which is the northern boundary of Devonshire and Wescote (now spelled Westacott) is two miles due East of Barnstaple. The shire may be compared in its general proportions to Otsego County, N. Y., both North and South, East and West, but the English county contains some 1,500 more square miles. One shire or county, Cornwall, lies between Devon and Land's End, the extreme South-west part of England, The English Channel is on the South and South-east and the shires of Somerset and Dorset are on the East and North-east.

Near the close of the 5th century, the Baron leader, Cerdic, with a second army from the continent, landed and carried the conquest of the Romans over the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to the River Avon. Thus was formed, in the 6th century, Wessex, or the kingdom of West Saxony, which was probably third in chronological order of the eight kingdoms so founded.

De Avon, or Devon, the country of rivers, became part of Wessex. About the year 827, these kingdoms were united under Egbert and called Anglia, or England. The Anglo-Saxons continued to rule until William the Conqueror defeated them at Hastings, October 14, 1066.

Devonshire is noted for its ancient mines, many of which have long been abandoned, also its rich deposits of marble and coal. Generally speaking, it is mountainous with fertile valleys, and about three-fourths of the land is devoted to agriculture and the raising of Devon sheep and cattle.

There are ruins, Roman and English, in various parts of the county, among which are several abbeys and castles which have witnessed the rigors of war, being captured twice during the civil wars, once by the royalists and once by the parliamentarians.

Like the general section in the town of Milford in Otsego County, where the Westcotts settled between 1795 and 1815, so the field of Wescote is identified in the parish of Marwood in the borough or town of Barnstaple; West Raddon to the South is in the parish of Shobrooke, and Affeton to the North in the parish of Ilfracombe, all in Devon.

The shire bordering Devon on the East, Somerset, from whence the Founder came to America with his family, William Arnold and his family and William Carpenter, is smaller in area than Devon and some six hundred square miles larger than Otsego. It is also noted for its diversification in manufacturing and sheep and cattle raising. The pariah or town of Yeovil and that of Ilchester, in the immediate section of which the Westcott and Arnold families dwelled, (Carpenter coming from the adjoining county, Wiltshire), are in the South part of the county close to the border of Dorsetshire.

The Antiquarian Family

Investigations confirm a belief which already exists, says Hon. J. Russell Bullock (1886) of Stukely Westcott, that his ancestors are to be found of that old nobility who ruled England prior to the Conquest, but whose rank and whose political importance were measurably lessened by the coming of those titled Normans into the land, coincident with the advent of William the Conqueror.

"Thrust down though those Saxon nobles were," as Freeman says. "Yet they lost nothing of their ancient pride and independence, but became in time the stout gentry and the sturdy and prosperous freeholders, who were and yet remain the strength of the realm."

Stukely Westcott doubtless derived his somewhat unusual Christian name from the ancient family of Stucley of Affeton Castle in the parish of Ilfracombe. The Westcotts, or Wescotes as the name was spelled in those ancient days, were related to the Stucleys through the Wadham and Cantelupe families, according to Harlain Society (p. 352). The name is of Saxon derivation. In that tongue it was written Stycle, meaning stiff clay.

Early historians in England used the spelling Stuckly and Stukley, while in this country, historians have generally spelled the name Stukeley, as did Bullock. The Founder of the family, Nov. 19, 1644, signed an old colonial document, "Stuckley Westcott." His grandson signed his name, Stukley, while in the inscription on the head stone of the Founder's great great grandson at Cheshire, Mass., it is spelled Stukely. The grandson of Stukely (V) of Cheshire, son of Benjamin (VI), was the only one of the Christian name to dwell in Milford township and he spelled his name Stukley. In so far as this research has revealed, there are but two descendants living today who bear the name, and in each instance, for a middle name.

While it seems that the spelling in this history should be the same as that used by the Founder, the fact that it especially records Stukely Westcott (V) of Cheshire, and his sons, James, Benjamin and Reuben, who settled in Milford township, and their posterity, the spelling will be adhered to as used by the ancestor at Cheshire.

The family or surname is believed to be derived, from
Wes in Wessex (or kingdom of West Saxony), and cot or cote, meaning a protected home or cottage, field or enclosure. Thus, early Saxons came and settled in a protected field or enclosure near Barnstaple in Devon and called themselves Wescote, later spelled Westcott.

There is a legend in connection with St. Leger Wescote, he first of the name of which there is authentic record, to the effect that he descended from the family of Leger, of whom a member attained to ecclesiastical distinction and became Saint Leger. This legend, however, has never been verified.

That the Founder, Stukely Westcott, after reaching America, called himself Stukeley of Wescote is fiction, is borne out by two facts. First, it is probable that he was not born at Wescote, and secondly, being a younger son, did not inherit estates or rank, and furthermore, his sharing of the opinions of Roger Williams, placed him quite outside any desire to be reminded of the land of titles he had abandoned.

It may be of interest to note the various spellings of the surname in old colonial records: Waisent, Waistcoat, Waistcot, Waistcott, Wascot, Wascoat, Wascott, Wesgatt, Wastcoat, Westgatt, Warscutt, Wescoats, Wescoot, Wescot, Wescott, Wescotte, Westcut, Westcutt, Wescutt, Wesgott, Westcoat, Westcot, Westcote, Wiscoat, Wisget, Wesket.

The Family Coat of Arms

Those of the Westcott blood of today are entitled to use either one of two Coats of Arms registered to the early family in England. The Arms of Thomas Wescote, Esquire, ascribed to him in the year he was married to Elizabeth Littleton, about 1400, is reproduced on this page in outline. The one recorded to his son, Guedo Wescote, in 1450, is used, in correct colors, as the frontispiece of this book. There is still a third Coat of Arms, embracing a Moor's head, which probably antedates those of Thomas and his son by several centuries. It appears to have been in disuse at least three generations before Thomas.
coat of arms
The Arms and Crest, attributed to Guedo Wescote, were intended evidently to take the place of all former Arms, for the family seems to have been lost or was, in the process of losing among the many Arms assumed by the marriage of Thomas Wescote, and the name was also being lost.

The Guedo Arms - two hands issuing from clouds and conjoins in fesse, proper, and motto: Renovato nomine, meaning the name renewed - plainly suggests why the clasped hands issuing from clouds were used, and the appropriate motto. Based upon the ancient record of Guedo Wescote that from him descended the Wescotes of Devon and Somerset, the Arms attributed to him is accepted here as correct for the use of the family today.

The Arms of Thomas de Wescote: Argent, a chevron between three escallops, sable, with motto: Sic fidem tenee, meaning in this manner we keep faith; are of record quarterly-quartered, with (2) Littleton (his wife), (8) Wescote, (4) Quartermine, (5) Wescote, (6) Walter, (7) as (1) for Thomas. The Greek cross or patriarch, indicates the head of the family who rules by paternal right; argent or shield in silver or white, is emblematic of purity, innocence, etc.; chevron, divided as a shield into several parts, is representative of several families; the three escallops (three parts), he quits his all; the pilgrim-staff he bore, and fix'd the scallop in his hat before. It may be presumed that the Arms were registered to Thomas de Wescote in the third generation after heraldry became fixed by compulsory terms (end of 13th century).

Wescott Genealogical Information
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This Page was last updated on February 8, 2003