With the release of new records on line it has finally been possible to map out Charles Christophers ancestry back another four generations to his great great grandparents which takes us back well into the 16th century. Charles life and marriage to Elizabeth ALLEN in Fordington in 1727 has already been covered and can be accessed via this link . Charles CHRISTOPHER (1705-1791) . His Ancestry starts just over 30 miles North East of Dorchester at the small village of Edmondsham and the surrounding estate of Edmondsham House.
of Edmondsham in Dorset
His great great grandparents were Charles and Anna CHRISTOPHER and they settled in Edmondsham prior to 1597. Nothing is known about them prior to this date, but Charles is likely to have been born around the year 1569(1) and Anna perhaps a year or two later. Nor do we know where they married except that it was not Edmondsham where parish registers have thankfully survived from the year 1573(2).
We are clearly therefore ensconced in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) (picture left), and the time of the exploits Sir John Hawkins (picture right) and that of Sir Francis Drake with their attempts to seize Spanish bullion. Charles was still a young man around the age of 19 when the Spanish Armada set sail in 1588 which in turn fuelled persecution of Catholics with 22 priest and 11 laity being executed that year. Not that these historical events would have meant a great deal to Charles & Anna, who were undoubtedly illiterate. Their concerns would have been much more concentrated upon survival at a basic level and it seems likely that work is what probably drew them to Edmondsham.
Historically Edmondsham was essentially an Estate Village centred on Edmondsham House, and to a large extent this legacy still exists today. Edmondsham was a small linear settlement extending eastwards from the Parish Church of St Nicholas, itself surrounded by the grounds of Edmondsham House. As Charles & Anna raised a family here we know he must have worked on the estate or perhaps labouring in the surrounding fields owned by the Manor. In their day the house lacked the Georgian and Victorian wings but the major work of adding the third storey was completed in 1589 and it would still have dominated life in the village and surrounding area.
The church of St Nicholas - Edmondsham
The churchyard wherein lie the bodies of Charles & Anna Christopher
The Church of St Nicholas (4) is of outstanding architectural interest (3). The walls of this diminutive building are of Heath Stone Rubble and Flint with ashlar dressing. The roofs are tiled with stone gable copings. The Nave and Chancel in particular date from the twelfth century and the North Aisle was added in the fourteenth century with the squat tower with corner pinnacles projecting above the plain parapets is early fifteenth century as are the main church windows. This church has been caring for the souls of my 10x grandparents for neigh on 400 years.
Charles and Anna had three children baptised in the church of St Nicholas. Unfortunately the font used then appears to have been replaced in the 19th century :-
(2). Oliver CHRISTOPHER (1599-?) (5) was baptised at Edmondsham on 31st Oct 1599. It is interesting that Oliver Cromwell was born on 25th April the same year so the name appears to have been popular then. When he was old enough to be independent Oliver Christopher seems to have moved east, probably to Fordingbridge and onto Romsey a distance of 25 miles.
Romsey was a small market village close to the river test which wends its way for 8 miles down to Southampton, even then a major trading port on the south coast. Clearly a good place to find employment. Romsey was originally the site of a religious community in 907 AD led by Elfaeda the daughter of King Edward the elder who was son of Alfred the Great. King Edward re-founded the site in 960 AD as a Benedictine nunnery and the village gradually established itself around the Abbey. It suffered greatly being sacked by the Vikings in 993 AD when the original church was burnt to the ground. The Abbey was rebuilt around the year 1000 AD and the village prospered until struck by the black death in 1348/9 which halved the 1000 strong community and reduced the nuns by 80% leaving only 19 survivors. Once again it recovered to house over 100 nuns but these were dispersed during the dissolution of Henry the VIII in 1539. Unlike many others however the Abbey escaped destruction and saw a resurgence under Elizabeth I . When Oliver arrived the village was still dominated by the Abbey which generated work in the surrounding area and supported the poor during hard times.
Here Oliver met Ellenor BURGES whom he married in Romsey Abbey on 13th Feb 1624/5. They had four children baptised in the parish:-
(2). Richard bap 8th Jan 1630/1
(3). John bap 30th June 1633
(4). Oliver bap 8th June 1636. Although I have not so far located a marriage he also produced a family in the same parish:-
(2). George bap 17 Jun 1666
(3). Richard bap 25 Mar 1668
(4). Mary bap 21 Jan 1670/1
(5) John bap 2nd Feb 1673/4 (6) Sarah bap 27th May 1681
(3). Anne CHRISTOPHER (1604-?) baptised there on 17th May 1604 of unknown fate. The year after her birth saw the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the hosues of Parliament.
Charles CHRISTOPHER was pre-deceased by his wife Anna and she was buried in the churchyard shown in the above picture on 8th February in the year 1627/8. This was the year that the Duke of Buckingham was assassinated and buried at Westminster Abbey. Charles died the following year joining Anna on 29th August 1629.
Before I leave them however I need to comment upon the way Anna's burial is recorded. It is written as:- " 1627: Anna CHRISTOPHER alias CHARLES the wife of Charles CHRISTOPHER buried upon the eight day of February". Because of it's position in the register we know this was the year 1627/8. The entry for her husband simply states:- "1629 Charles CHRISTOPHER buried upon the 29. day of August". I should perhaps explain that the use of an alias in the 17th century was not a particularly rare event and had none of the connotations which might be associated with it's use today. Used here however it is particularly useful as other records relating to their children also refer to the use this alias helping to confirm relationships.
of Edmondsham in Dorset
Charles of Fordington's great grandparents were Robert CHRISTOPHER and Elizabeth TOP. As shown above Robert was the eldest son of Charles & Anna CHRISTOPHER and Robert married Elizabeth in Edmondsham in 1625 (6). There were only two marriages that year of which Robert's was the first, but the end of the record where the day and month are given is damaged denying us that additional information. It was however a remarkable year in as much as it started with Charles I (picture left) ascended the throne on the 27th March(2) and on 1st May he married the staunchly Catholic Henrietta Maria of France (picture right) and set in train a chain of events that led to the Civil War and him being beheaded in 1649.
So on the appropriate day in 1625 Robert and Elizabeth would have stood before the alter in St Nicholas Church and said their vows in front of Charles and Anna who were both still alive then. Others attending that day would almost certainly have been regular parishioners, most of whom would have been other estate workers with their families, and this is likely to have included Elizabeth's as marriage normally would be in the brides parish before her friends and parents. I cannot however trace the Top family as being in Edmondsham and there is so little firm evidence about her its difficult to be sure of anything. I did locate a possible baptism of an Elizabeth Toppe the daughter of Christopher Toppe that took place at Poole about 10 miles south of Edmondsham on 26th April 1598 but subsequent research suggests that she is more likely to have married at Poole in 1618 (8)
This brings me to the actual marriage registration for Robert and Elizabeth's wedding. It states " 1625: Robert CHRISTOPHER alias CHARLES, and Elizabeth TOP were married upon the -----" . The use of the alias again clearly indicates they are all from the same family and Charles and Ann can therefore only be his parents. After their marriage Robert and Elizabeth had four children all baptised at St Nicholas Church in Edmondsham:-
(2). Humphrey CHRISTOPHER baptism:- "1627. Humfrey Christopher alias Charles ye sonne of Robert Christopher alias Charles baptised upon the fifth .5. day of October". See below.
(3). Charles CHRISTOPHER baptism:- "1630. Charles Christopher the sone of Robert Christopher baptised upon the .17. day of April". Just over a month later Henrietta Maria gave birth to Charles II of England on 29th May 1630. It was also tghe year that Charles and Phillip of Spain signed the Treaty of Madrid ending the 1625-1630 the war with France and Spain.
(4). William CHRISTOPHER baptism:- " 1632. William Charles alias Christopher the sonne of Robert Charles baptised upon the 82? day of December ".
of Hazelbury Bryan in Dorset
The next documentary evidence that we have for Humphrey after his baptism in Edmondsham is his marriage at the age of 29 at Stoke Wake in Dorset on the 8th April 1656. Stoke Wake in those days was a little over 20 miles from Edmondsham but is closer to 26 miles using modern roads. At first I wondered what prompted the move but I think we need to remember that the Civil War took place between 1642 and 1651 when the whole country was severely disrupted as various factions sided with the King or Parliament. I know that during the war at one time over 4,000 Royalist troops were stationed at Cranborne and Edmondsham is only about a mile south so a large family estate like this would have been drawn into support for the King. There is some indication that members of the Hussey Family fought for the King but this would need further research and the house seems to have remained in the possession of descendants of Thomas Hussey throughout. Nevertheless local employment was bound to have been severely affected as large numbers of men joined the cause of one side or the other and trade collapsed. Many families ended up relocated at this time.
Stoke Wake is a leafy hamlet situated in the Blackmore Vale under Bulbarrow Hill, 8 miles West of Blandford Forum. Unfortunately for us the current parish church of All Saints was built in 1872 on the site of the ancient church in which Humphrey and Ann married. It was described by Hutchins as being of Perpendicular style with a nave, chancel, south porch and embattled tower containing four bells, one dated 1627. Inside was a 15th century octagonal font with carved panels and a painting of a beggar on the north pillar, with the stern inscription, “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man”. At any rate Humphrey CHRISTOPHER married Ann SCAMELL on 8th day of April in the year 1656, whilst Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) (picture above left) was still Lord Protector of England. Eleven months later Ann gave birth to a baby girl whose name is denied us by a damaged parish register but who was baptised at Stoke Wake on 8th March 1656/7. Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd Sep 1658 which is about the time that Humphrey and his family moved to nearby Hazelbury Bryan where they settled to live. In 1659 Richard Cromwell was forced to resign by the Army and in 1660 Parliament restored Charles II to the throne (picture left above)
Stoke Wake: Looking down from Bulbarrow Hill onto the re-built church of All Saints
where Humphrey Christopher married Ann Scamell in 1625
© Picture Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.
Humphrey and Ann moved to Hazelbury Bryan in 1658/9 and had three more children baptised there so their children were:-
(2). Maria CHRISTOPHER baptised Hazelbury Bryan 27th Jan 1659/60; no more known
(3). John CHRISTOPHER baptised Hazelbury Bryan 2nd Jan 1662/3; John married Agnes STICKLY at Hazelbury Bryan on 22nd May 1682. She was a native of the village having been baptised there as Ann the daughter of Richard & Joan Stickly on the 30th May 1665. Her father Richard Stickly was buried in the parish as well on 5th Nov 1684. They produced a family of four children
(b) John bap 8/2/1684/5;
(c) Maria 21 Jan 1689/90; who as Mary may have married John Crocker at Hazelbury Bryan on 8th Jan 1731/2
(d) Humphrey (1692-1776) bap 2nd June 1692. Humphrey left the parish to work in Poole where he married Elizabeth TALBOT on 29th Dec 1713. We know this to be the case as his marriage registration at Poole states that he is from Hazelbury Bryan. We then loose track of him for forty years during which time it appears that his 1st wife Elizabeth must have died as the death of Edith CHRISTOPHER his wife is recorded at Winterbourne Clenston on 28th March 1753 when she was buried by the vicar John Bartholomew. The only other records located about him is his attendance at the wedding of his niece Ann Christopher to the widower Christopher Cuffe at nearby Winterbourne Whitechurch on 26th May 1766 and then his burial with his wife Edith at Winterbourne Clenston on 20th February 1776 by which time he would have been aged 84. He does however seem to have remained in contact with his nephew Joseph CHRISTOPHER's wife/widow Joan nee HOOPER (1704-1781) as her daughter Jenny, around the year 1761, disappears from Cheselbourne but then marries at Winterbourne Clenston in 1768. Jenny having reached adulthood, Joan lost some of her support from the overseers of the poor at Cheselbourne, and it seems likely that she went to live with and look after the ageing Humphrey.
(4). Humphrey CHRISTOPHER baptised Hazelbury Bryan 14th July 1665 who was Charles of Fordington's Father and is the subject of the next section below.
There were no more children after Humphrey as Ann CHRISTOPHER (nee Scamell) died in 1668 being buried at St Mary and St James Church in the village on 10th October. Her death is recorded as "Anno Dm 1668 sepulti fuerunt Joana ux Humfredi Christophers October 10" i.e. In the year of Our Lord 1668 buried was Joana the wife of Humphrey Christophers October 10th. Ann of course was a colloquial form of Joanna and we can be sure it was her as there have only ever been 3 Humphrey Christophers in Dorset and apart from her husband the other two were her own son Humphrey then aged 3 and a grandson not born until 1692. Her death would have been around the time of her next pregnancy so she may have died from complications that arose during her term. Humphrey CHRISTOPHER Senior lived to a ripe old age of 76 being interred in the graveyard at Hazelbury Bryan on 16th Jan 1703/4.
Samuel Pepys (picture left) wrote in his diary on June 7th 1665 "This day I did in Drury Lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon their doors and "Lord have mercy upon us, writ there". The plague was finally killed off in 1666 by the Great Fire of London (painting right depicts the fire on 4th Sep 1666) which destroyed much of London including St Paul's Cathedral. Monumental events indeed which would have been the topic of the day even in Hazelbury Bryan.
Annoyingly Humphrey's life is not as straightforward as it might have been, mainly because we have not located his marriage and because the accuracy and completeness of some records leaves much to be desired (7) . As a consequence we know nothing about his wife, her name coming to us simply through some of the baptism records and they appear somewhat contradictory. It was traditional for the marriage to be in the brides parish so this probably indicates that she came from a nearby parish. I am hoping that some additional information will come to light. We believe they had eight children baptised by the Rector Rev William Walters MA who was vicar of Hazelbury Bryan from 1682 until 1729 but these are complicated as well so I have quoted records in full for research purposes and commented accordingly to highlight issues in case others researching the family can shed additional light:-
The church of St Mary and St James - Hazelbury Bryan
where Charles Christopher grew up
© Picture Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.
[More pictures of the Church and Font can be accessed via this link.]
(1). Maria CHRISTOPHER (1695-1695) -
(1). Estimated year of birth:- Where year of birth is unknown it has been estimated (identified by use of the letter 'c' for circa before the year) as being 27 years old for a man and 25 years old for a woman. These are averages applying to the Tudor period (1485-1603) for England. See the 'History Today' website under 'Courtship in Tudor England' and many others. It continued however during the House of Stuart (1603-1714). the ' Oxford Illustrated History of Britain' states regarding the Stuart Period" In all social groups, marriage was usually deferred until both partners were in their mid twenties and the wife only had twelve to fifteen childbearing years before her. The reason for this pattern of late marriage seems to be the firm convention that the couple save up enough money to launch themselves as an independent household before they wed. For the better off, this frequently meant university, legal training, an apprenticeship of seven years or more; for the less well off a long term of domestic service, living in with all found but little in the way of cash wages". I have tested this against known birth and marriage dates when writing other biographies and this held up really well for Anthony EAMES (1595 – 1686) of Fordington who emigrated to New England and its true of the Labouring classes as well. We know Charles brother Joseph for example was baptised in 1702 and married in 1728 making him 26 - his wife Joan Hooper was 24.
(2). Parish Registers: Before the reformation, some Monasteries noted births occurring in the leading local families, but there was no standard, country wide system for keeping such records. In 1536 an attempt was made to start parish registers, but it finally became effective only as a result of a mandate of 5th Sep 1538. The registers were to be entered up weekly, and were often kept on loose sheets of paper, so it is not surprising that only about 800 registers nationwide still exist from as early as 1538. In 1555 and 1557 under Mary I, Bishops were required to see that the sponsors were named in baptismal entries but this ceased under the next reign. In 1598 Queen Elizabeth I approved an order of 25th Oct 1597 that registers be kept in parchment books and that all the old register entries be copied into such volumes. The Clergy were however given the option of starting from 1558 (the beginning of the Queen's reign) so a number of registers only start from this date. Registers for Edmondsham were copied back to 1573.
(3). East Dorset District Council Policy Planning Division Supplementary Planning Guidance No.3 September 2005
(4). Listed Building -
(5). Few records have so far been transcribed (as at Sep 2013) for the County of Hampshire so it may be possible to extend our knowledge of these families at a later date
(6). The year 1625 started on the 25th March
(7). In 1821 the Rector appointed to Hazelbury Bryan was Rev. Henry Walter and in the front of the parish register which starts in 1717 he wrote " This register has been kept in a very disgraceful manner at different periods, & I find that the pages which should have contained the burials between Dec 6 1725* and April 1st 1725 have been cut out, apparently with scissors- signed Henry Walter Rector. Note:- * On more careful examination the date must have been that of 1724 signed Henry Walter. Unfortunately for us the Rev. William Walter (who does not appear to have been related to his predecessor) was responsible for the completion of the parish registers between 1682 and 1729.
(8). Elizabeth Top Research Notes:- A lot of parish registers have not survived back to this date so we are never going to get a complete picture of events. The only likely baptism that I came across was in the parish of Poole in Dorset which is 10 miles south of Edmondsham an easy walk, or ride on a cart, by standards of the day. This was recorded as 'April: 26. 1598 Elizabeth TOOP the daughter of Christopher TOOP was baptized'. It was originally recorded incorrectly by ancestry.com as Elizabeth TOPP. If this was her she would be the same age as Robert which was encouraging. Her father Christopher married the year before her birth when he is recorded as "May 30 1597 Christopher Toop and Elizabeth WHIFFIN were married' and they appear to have had at least 4, possibly 5, more children in Poole after Elizabeth so were there up to at least 1609 (Marie Toupe bap 24 Feb 1600; Thomas Toope bap 23 May 1602; Edyth Toope bap 27th Jan 1604; George Toope bap 26th May 1605, and Hope 2nd Nov 1609) but we lose track of them after that. None of the baptisms of the children show Top or Topp only Toupe or Toope but as our Elizabeth was not a native of Edmondsham her name is quite likely to have been spelt differently. As an aside Christopher Toope's baptism is also in the Poole parish register. He was baptised on 27th Oct 1560 the son of Thomas Tope [or Toope] by his wife Alce [Alice] Whest [West] whom he married there on 5th Oct 1555. He had an elder brother Thomas and a younger sister Alice and interestingly the registrations all give their god parents. The big problem with this being our Elizabeth's registration is that there is a marriage in Poole of an Elizabeth Toope to a John Brown on 13th Feb 1618. She would have been 20 so this is a more likely marriage for her than one in Edmondsham. I have kept these notes however in case further information comes to light.
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