The Ancient Westcott Family in England

Part I


The Ancient Westcott Family in England

Effort to determine the immediate ancestry of Stukely Westcott has resulted only in deductions. No definite record has been found. The research since 1932, the year the history and genealogy of The Ancestors and Some Descendants of Stukely Westcott, 1592-1677, was published, has, however, revealed records of Westcotts, or Wescotes, as the name was originally spelled, who flourished in Devonshire, England, long before and after the time of St. Leger de Wescote, 1300. (W. G., pp. 1, 2, 4.)

While the origin of the surname of the family in England probably goes hack to before the 9th century, to Wessex (that is, West Saxony), an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in south and southwest Britain during the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries, a definite record of a person bearing the surname has not been found previous to the 12th century. Wessex was founded by Saxons under Cerdic (519-534) and during the 7th century, occupied the most of the south-west of Britain. Under Egbert (d-839), descendant of Cerdic, who became virtually England's first king, the Saxons rose to the lordship of other kingdoms and states, and began the history of England.

While there are no records available, there can be no reasonable doubt of descent from those pioneering Saxons of Wessex. Records emanating from the 13th and 14th centuries, indicate that Westcotts were prominent then in the ecclesiastic life of Britain, as were Stukely Westcott and many of his descendants in their early pursuit of religious freedom in America. In later years, Westcotts, in most instances, have been Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians.

In the British Museum in London, are many abstracts of leases (deeds) and other ancient papers on file, which have been examined to some extent, but they are mostly of periods many years before the birth of Stukely Westcott. In the Museum and in the close of Westminster Abbey, are the only two known existing copies of a book over 440 years old in which records of the early Wescotes are found. (See Caroline Romney, app. 198.)

Further research in London and various parishes of Devon and Somerset, promises encouragement for an intensified and thorough examination by a trained English genealogist. It is hoped such a work may be undertaken in the not distant future.

The following ancient lineage of Wescotes is of interest as it indicates the ancestry of St. Lager Wescote (W. G., pp. 1, 2, 4) and several generations following him. It is notable that the persons named in the succeeding generations were all of the south and north-central part of Devon.

1. Furbert de Wescote, b-1164, d-Exeter, Devon, 1225.

2. John de Wescote, b-Exeter, 1184. He was Canon Residentiary of St. Peter's at Exeter, 1216-1272. (The bishopric, of which Exeter was the seat, was founded about 1050. Its cathedral was begun about 1100.)

3. John de Wescote was rector of John the Baptist Hospital at Exeter, 1272-1307. His wife was a daughter of Sir John St. Leger. They had sons John, St. Leger and Thomas. John was Warden of John the Baptist Hospital, Exeter, and Canon of St. Peter's, Exeter, 1817. Thomas was Abbott of Hartland, Devon, in 1315. St. Leger, second son, probably derived his name from his mother.

4. St. Leger Wescote of the Manor of Wescote, was married in the year 1300. (W. G., pp. 1, 2, 4.)

5. William de Wescote flourished at the Manor of Wescote in 1345-6, which Manor he held of William Coffyn. His wife was a Danish lady, and to them was born a son Guy.

6. Guy de Wescote, assumed to be the foregoing Guy, had a son (7) Thomas.

At this point, it can be only surmised that this son Thomas (7) was the Thomas de Wescote, who, about 1400, married Elizabeth Littleton. (W. G. p. 6.) Historians record this Thomas de Wescote as descending from St. Leger Wescote. The second son of Thomas and Elizabeth was named Guido. The name Guy is Danish and in Spanish is spelled Guido and pronounced Gui'do. By a pre-nuptial agreement, Thomas de Wescote had promised to name his first son Thomas, not for himself but for Baron Thomas de Littleton, father of his wife. This son was baptized Thomas de Littleton. The second son, Guido, was named perhaps for his paternal grandfather Guy.

Thomas de Wescote, baptized Thomas de Littleton, was born, according to the History of National Biography, 1909 (vol. xi, p. 1252), in 1422; not 1402 as recorded by Lord Burke and W. G., p. 6. This would make the birth of his brother Guido in the year 1424. It is believed, however, that 1404 is correct, as in 1450, Guido was granted his Coat of Arms.

The Westcott Coat of Arms

The heraldic interpretation of the Coat of Arms granted to Guido Wescote in the year 1450 and used by the members of the Society of Stukely Westcott Descendants of America, can better be understood by first reading the account of Thomas de Wescote, his pre-nuptial agreement with Elizabeth Littleton, who became his wife, and the evident determination of their second son Guido to perpetuate the family name. (W. G., p. 6)

The Arms reveal the ancient family in England as one of the nobility, and bear out the records handed down to posterity by Lord Burk, Lord Coke, Thomas de Wescote, Collins and others.

Royal blood is indicated in the Arms because of the tilted crown shown in the helmet. The helmet slightly at profile, indicates the Arms was granted to a Knight or Baronet. The robe or mantling around the helmet and shield, because its effect is ragged, indicates the first one to wear the Coat of Arms was a Battle Knight; also because the two uppermost corners of the mantling turn down, it indicates he was the King's bodyguard, whose members were allowed to keep the collars turned down in the presence of the King.

The three vessels or cups on the shield are apparently representative of the three brothers (Guido, Edmund and Nicholas), who retained the name Wescote, although their meaning is not quite clear in heraldic lore. They are possibly incense holders, each assuring light or heat in the perpetuation of the family name.

The red band across the shield indicates that Guido was accepted as the oldest son, since the older brother Thomas had abandoned the family by being baptized Littleton; in other words, the red band indicates the oldest son of the oldest son. The clasped hands issuing from clouds indicate friendliness or neighborliness and accepted with the motto, Renovato nomine, meaning the name renewed, indicates a rehabilitation of the family.

The Littleton Family

Elizabeth de Littleton, who married Thomas de Wescote, was the sole heir of Baron Thomas de Littleton and his wife, Maud Quartermain, daughter of Sir Richard. Baron Thomas was the son of Thomas de Littleton, b-1340, and his wife, Julia de Somery, of Thomas de Littleton, b-1315, and his wife, Lucia de Bois, of the first Thomas de Littleton who in 1265 married Emma de Frankly, daughter of Sir Simon de Frankly, b-1180, and at the death of Emma, her husband became heir to the rich Frankly possessions. He m(2)-Asseline Fitz-Warren, daughter of William Fitz-Warren, b-1152, and by this second marriage, their son Thomas was born in 1315.

Through the five generations from Sir Simon de Frankly, Elizabeth de Littleton retained the Frankly estate in Worcestershire, and soon following her marriage to Thomas de Wescote, they went there to live, their son Guido retaining the Manor of Wescote in Devonshire. The ancestry of the wife of Guido de Wescote, who was Mice Granville, reverts to a cousin of the Conqueror.

Other Early Westcotts in England

Other Westcotts in England before the coming of Stukely Westcott from England to New England, 1635:

Ricardus de Westkote of Buckinghamshire, 1273.

Henry Wescote, b-1280.

Nicholas de Westcote of Oxfordshire, about 1280.

John de Westcote, Apr. 6, 1315, was a witness in Hampshire to a quit claim by Peter de Wadham of land which his grandfather Doru de Frevillis, had quit claimed to his son Mathias. (St. Leger Wescote married in 1300, a daughter of the line descending through the titled families of Wadham [some times spelled Wadeham]).

St. Leger Wescote

St. Leger Wescote was born in the field or enclosure of Wescote, in the parish of Marwood near Barnstaple in Devonshire, about the year 1275. Of his paternal ancestry, it can only be surmised, as related by Judge Bullock in his history, that they are to be found of that old nobility who ruled England prior to the Conquest.

His maternal ancestry is believed to have reverted to that ancient and distinguished family of St. Leger, or Leodegar, the earliest mention of whom is in the year 670. In this year, the Burgundian nobles rose up under Leger, Bishop of Autun the old town in France now so enticing to tourists because of its ancient Roman walls and gates, remains of an amphitheater, and the cathedral and chapella of St. Lazare and defeated Ebroin, the Frankish mayor of the palace, who wished to impose the authority of Neustria over Burgundy. Soon, Leger was himself defeated, Oct. 12, 678; after his eyes had been put out and he had endured prolonged torture, he was put to death. The church honors him as a saint, and thus the name Saint Leger.

The family early established itself at court in England and was honored down to the 16th century, when, in 1537, Henry VIII appointed Sir Anthony St. Leger president of a commission of inquiry into the condition of Ireland. Following the marriage in the 13th century, of a daughter of the Wescote line, Sir Thomas St. Leger in the 15th century, married the Duchess of Exeter, sister of Edward IV, and their grandson, Sir George, in 1531, was sheriff of Devon, the ancestral shire of the Wescotes. Two of his daughters married sons of the allied Wescote lines, Mary becoming the wife of Sir Richard Grenville of Bedford, and Frances the wife of Sir John Stucley of Affeton.

St. Leger Wescote, the earliest of the paternal family of whom there is positive record available, in the year 1300, married a daughter of the line descending through the titled families of Wadham and Cantelupe.

The Wadham family originally came and took its name from Wadham, or Wadeham, in the parish of Knowstone in northern Devon, where it settled during the reign of the Elder King, Edward I, of the West Saxons (901-925). Thence it migrated to Egge, or Edge, near Saton, same shire. A descendant, Sir John Wadham, married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Hugh Stucley of Affeton. Their son, Nicholas Wadham (1532-1609), founded Wadham College at Oxford. His wife, Joan, was the daughter of Robert and Ann (Young) Hill of Taunton in Somerset. Ann Young and a sister, Jane, who married William Hill of Poundsford in Somerset and became the parents of Rosanna Hill, believed to have been the wife of Stukely Westcott, the Founder of this family in America, were the daughters of John and Joan (Cottingdon) Young of Axminster in Devon, and granddaughters of 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.

The Cantelupe family had risen by devoted service to the crown. William de Cantelupe, who died in 1251, was the second Baron, one of King John's ministers. His son, Thomas de Cantelupe,1218-1282, English saint and prelate, with his father, is named by Roger of Wandover, as being among the evil Counsellors of John, apparently for no other reason than they were consistently loyal to an unpopular master. Walter de Cantelupe, nephew of Thomas, who died in 1265, was Bishop of Worcestershire.

Mention of the Stucleys, or Stukelys, first appears in the Huntingtonshire records before 1199 in the reign of Richard I. Richard Stucley, a descendant, appears in Somersetshire in 1414. His son, Sir Hugh Stucley, married Katherine, only daughter and sole heir of Sir John Affeton of Affeton Castle in northern Devon, whose wife was a daughter of Thomas Bratton. Sir Hugh and his wife settled on the Affeton estate, to which she was the sole heiress, and he became knight and sheriff of Devonshire.

Affeton, the seat of the worshipful family of Stucley, according to Thomas Westcott's View of Devonshire (1630), came to a grandson of St. Leger Wescote who also owned Wescote wherein lived a tribe of the name. Thus, it is learned that this grandson of St. Leger Wescote was Sir Hugh Stucley, whose mother, wife of Richard, was a daughter of St. Leger.

The second Sir Hugh Stucley, son of the preceding Hugh, lived in Affeton Castle in 1545 (died 1560), owned Wescote, and had a daughter Damaris, the name given by the Founder to his eldest daughter. The wife of this second Hugh was Jane, second daughter of Sir Lewis Pollard. It was their son, John, who married, as has been stated, Frances St. Leger, through whom he was related to all the leading families of the West of England.

A little American color may be added here, in passing, by stating that Sir Lewis Stucley, son of John and Frances, was knighted by James I in 1603; in 1617 was appointed guardian of Thomas Rolfe, infant son of John Rolfe and his American Indian wife, Pocahontas. In June 1618, he was ordered by the king to arrest his cousin, Sir Walter Raleigh, the first Governor of Virginia. Sir Lewis died in 1620. Pocahontas through the Rolfes, Randolphs, Fowler and James Morris families, is a direct ancestor of the writer's two grandsons.

Thomas Wescote, Esquire, of Wescote

The grandson of St. Leger Wescote was Thomas Wescote, esquire. He was born on the ancient family estate at Wescote, and is mentioned by Lord Coke, who calls him the king's servant at court, a gentleman of Devonshire, anciently descended. He was married about 1400, to Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of Thomas de Littleton (2nd), lord of the manor of Frankly in Worcestershire, and esquire of the body of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. Her mother was Ann (or Maud), daughter of Richard Quartermine.

The family of Littleton, according to Collins' Peerage of England (Vol. VIII, p. 316), had fair possessions in the vale of Eversham in the county of Worcester, before 1234, particularly at South Littleton, from which place it is probable they took their name, agreeably to the custom of the age. In 1160, John de Littleton was witness to a grant of land belonging to Eversham Abbey.

Thomas de Littleton (1st), father of the preceding Thomas, married Emma, daughter and sole heir of Sir Simon de Frankly, knight, which Thomas appears as witness to an instrument between Walter de Cantelupe, Bishop of Worcester, and Robert Fitz-Ralph. This Thomas married secondly, Asselm, daughter of William Fitzwarin of Worcester. He died and his wife, having remarried, seized Frankly estate.

Thomas, son of Thomas de Littleton, attaining his majority, became heir to his father and recovered Frankly. He died in 1392, leaving his widow Ann (or Maud), daughter of and sole heir of Richard Quartermine of Ricote in the commonwealth of Oxford, and his wife, Joan, daughter of Robert Grey of Rotherfield, same county. Their daughter and sole heir was Elizabeth, who married Thomas Wescote, who, according to Prince's Devonshire Worthies, was born in Wescote, near Barnstaple, and flourished in 1414.

(1) Thomas and Elizabeth (Littleton) Wescote had four sons and four daughters: Thomas, Guedo, Edmond, Nicholas, Ann (who m-Thomas Porter, Esquire, of Barston, in Warwickshire), and three others. With the death of the second Baron Thomas de Littleton, the paternal line of his distinguished old family became extinct. To perpetuate the name and keep the family fortune intact, which appears to have been large, and included beside the Littleton, the Quartermine and Frankly estates, Elizabeth upon her betrothal to Thomas Wescote, entered into a pre-nuptial agreement whereby their first male issue should be called Thomas and be baptized in her surname, Littleton. When the son was born in 1402, this agreement was adhered to and the child in after years became Sir Thomas Littleton, a brilliant and distinguished barrister. However, it appears that the mother was not content to have only her eldest son bear her name, but also wished Guedo, Edmond and Nicholas to take her surname. She would not permit them to share equally with their brother Thomas in her estate, and so they retained the name of Wescote. This appears to have created something of a family discord which culminated in 1450 in Guedo, the second eldest son, registering his Coat of Arms with the motto: Renovato nomine, meaning the name renewed. The use of clasped hands issuing from clouds suggests the family discord. Thomas and Elizabeth settled on her estate at Frankly, where he served the office of eacheator of Worcester under Henry VI in 1451. He died soon after, and his widow married second, Thomas Hewster, esquire, of Lichfield in Staffordshire. Guedo remained on the ancestral estates at Wescote, Edmond died unmarried, and Nicholas married Agnes, daughter and sole heir of Edmond Vernon of Staffordshire, and they were the ancestors of the Wescotes of that county. From them descended William Wescote of Hansaker in Staffordshire, whose daughter, Maud, married David Cawaden of a family dating back to Henry Mevesyn, son probably of the Norman, being of sufficient age in 1100 to attest to the foundation grant of William ltzalam to the Abbey of Haghmon, in Shropshire. Through the Purefoy family, the Cawadens were related to the Wightman-Whitman line of the third known generation.

(2) Guedo Wescote of Wescote, b-1404, second son of Thomas and Elizabeth, as heir to his father's estate because of his elder brother being baptized in his mother's surname, retained the ancestral acres at Wescote. He married Alice, daughter of Sir Richard Granville of Gloucestershire, who was the son of William, of Bartholomew, second son of Sir Richard Grenville of Stow in Cornwall, whose wife was the daughter and heir of Bevil of Guarnack in Cornwall and who flourished late in the 13th Century. To Guedo, the credit is due for reclaiming and perpetuating the family name and prestige since the confusion occasioned by the demands of his mother. From Guedo and Alice (Grenville) Wescote descended the Wescotes of Devon and Somerset. They had but one son to whom they gave the name of the child's grandfather, Thomas.

(3) Thomas Wescott of Wescote, appears to have made a slight change in the spelling of the family name. He married Mary, daughter of Thomas Wescott of the parish of Porlock in the adjoining shire of Somerset. They were cousins, it is recorded, but if so, Mary's father was probably of the line of Nicholas Wescote who settled in Staffordshire. Thomas and Mary appear to have departed from Wescote and settled in Somerset, for of their son Thomas, it is recorded that he came to Devonshire, suggesting that he was not of that county at the time. Also it is recorded that Philip, their eldest son, was of Porlock in Somerset, the native parish and county of his mother. Philip married Margaret, daughter of William Spur of South Petherton in Somerset, and is said to have died without issue. Of the third and last son, Stephen, no record is found. It appears also that at about this period, Wescote was owned by the Stuckleys.

(4) Thomas Wescott, second son of Thomas and Mary, above named, followed the Court in the time of King Henry VIII (1509-1547), came to Devonshire with Sir Thomas Dennis of Holcomb-Burnell, knight, Chancellor to Queen Ann of Cleves, and was much desired in marriage by Anna, daughter of John Walker, the relic of John Raddon of Raddon in the parish of Shobrooke in Devon, and heir of John Collacutt of Winkleeigh in Devon. Anna's mother was Alice Collacutt, of John, and widow of John Colome of Champslon in Mollan. There was no issue of record by this marriage, and secondly, Thomas married Alice, daughter and heir of John and Mice Walker, a sister of his first wife. Thomas died Mar. 28, 1549, and Alice, Oct. 6, 1557. Issue: In pedigree of Wescote of Shobrooke, View of Devon (1630), only Philip is named as issue of Thomas and Alice Wescott. However, Harlain Society Visitation of Devon (1620), states there were two sons, but names only Philip. (For reference: Unnamed son.)

(5) Philip Westcote (so spelled in the ancient records), the only named son of Thomas and Alice, remained at Raddon (or West Raddon), where he died Feb. 7, 1600. He married Oct. 17, 1557, Katherine, daughter George Waltham of Brenton, parish of Axminster in Devon, She died Feb. 19, 1601. Waltham was son of Richard of Brenton. His mother was Janet Paddon of Keene, Devon. Philip and Katherine had twelve children. An account of the children follows merely to establish the fact that Stukely Westcott, the Founder of the American family of his name, did not descend from them.

(6) Robert Westcote, the eldest son (1560-1636), lived throughout his life at West Raddon and died without issue. George, second son, died without issue. Thomas, third son (1567- ), married Mary Roberts, lived in his later years with his brother Robert at West Raddon, and had divers children, which he names in his View of Devon (1630). There was not a Stukely, Richard, William or a Daniel among them, all names of those who came to America. John and Philip both died young and without issue. The others were daughters: Joan, Susan, Pascaw, Ann, Alice, Janor, Julia.

In searching the ancient records of the antiquarian family in England for a clue to the parentage of Stukely Westcott, which, regretfully, has never been determined, the present compiler was aware at the outset that a half-century back, a diligent investigation was made without successful issue. However, in pursuing the records left by the Harlain Society, Thomas Westcott, Burke, Prince, Coke, Collins, and other authorities, the impression was gained that through the process of elimination, possibly some progress might be made in determining at least the second or third generation before that of the Founder.

It is learned from the ancient records that from Guedo and Alice (Glenville) Wescote descended the Wescotes of Devon and Somerset. As they had but one son, Thomas, it may be said of him as of his father, that from him descended the Wescotes of Devon and Somerset.

This son Thomas, of Guedo, had three sons: Philip, Thomas and Stephen. Philip, the eldest son, was "of Porlock in Somerset," the native parish and shire of his mother, and died there without issue. Thus, he is eliminated as a possible ancestor. Likewise, it has already been shown that his next eldest brother, Thomas, must be eliminated and at the same time, Devonshire must be eliminated as the probable native shire of the Founder. The old records state clearly that this Thomas came to Devon, indicating that he was not originally of that county. He settled in Raddon in Devon, and nowhere do the records say he ever was of the parish of Wescote.

Authorities differ as to whether this Thomas had one or two sons. They agree that he had a son Philip (married 1557), and some contend that he had two sons, but they left the second son unnamed. Names and dates recorded of Philip's offspring, eliminate him also as the ancestor of the Founder.

The unnamed son (brother of Philip) suggests a possible clue. However, the fact, clearly established by the old Arnold papers, that Stukely Westcott and his friend William Arnold and their families, started from Somersetshire to board the sailing vessel at Dartmouth to come to America, is at least circumstantial evidence that they were both natives of that shire. It is recorded positively that the Arnolds were natives of Somerset.

Therefore, the deduction that Stukely descended from the Wescotts of Somerset, seems logical, although unfortunately, there are no known records to substantiate this position. It is only known that he was in Somerset in 1622 and that he left the shire for America in 1635.

The only remaining son of the line who so far as the old records show, cannot be eliminated, is Stephen, son of Thomas and Mary Wescott. There is no known record of him, but as his parents and at least one of his brothers, dwelled in Somerset, and he being the youngest son, it is probable that he also was of Somerset.

Stephen Wescott, based upon the birth of his grandfather Guedo in 1404, the law of genealogical averages and the reign of his brother Thomas (1509-1547), was born about the year 1475 and therefore of suitable age to have been the grandfather (or great-grandfather) of Richard, b-1588, Stukely, b-1592, and of William, who are conceded to have been brothers. Thus, the speculation, far fetched as it may appear to some, is that Stukely Westcott probably descended from Stephen Wescott, of Thomas, of Guedo and Alice (Grenville) Wescote, the last of the name to dwell on the ancient estates of the family at Wescote.

The inability to definitely trace and authoritatively record the immediate ancestors of the Founder is moat unfortunate. In view of the extended research made in England by representatives of the late Judge J. Russell Bullock prior to 1886, and again by Mr. Edson S. Jones for a period extending over some years prior to 1902, and the later research of Mr. Fred A. Arnold, the first and last named being descendants of Stukely Westcott, it appears unlikely that the missing link in the English lineage will ever be learned. However, the records compiled here may be of service in some future and more ambitious research.

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This Page was last updated on February 8, 2003