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. Although I can trace back four generations I will start with his great grandparents as these are key to explaining family relationships.
Robert CHRISTOPHER (c1598 - 1635)(1) & Elizabeth TOP
His great grandparents were Robert CHRISTOPHER and Elizabeth TOP and the earliest record that we have located is their marriage in the small parish of Edmondsham in Dorset in 1625. Unfortunately there were only two marriages that year of which Roberts was the first, and 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 ascending the throne on the 27th March(2) and on 1st May that year he married after his fathers death to the staunchly Catholic Henrietta Maria and set in train a chain of events that led to the Civil War and him being beheaded in 1649.
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 Robert and Elizabeth raised a family here we know he must have had work locally and this almost certainly meant that he worked on the estate or perhaps laboured in the surrounding fields owned by the Manor. In their day the house lacked the Georgian and Victorian wings but it would still have dominated life in the village.
The Church of St Nicholas in which they married in 1625 is of outstanding architectoral interest (3). The walls of this diminutive building are of Heath Stone Rubble and Flint. 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. Robert and Elizabeth would therefore recognise much of what remains today as they walked up the aisle on that day, little realising that their descendants would still be interested in this event over 400 years later.
The church of St Nicholas - Edmondsham
where Robert Christopher married Elizabeth Top in 1625
© Picture Copyright Trish Steel and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.
So who else might have been in the church on the most important day in their lives? It's reasonable to suppose that this was friends, family and parishioners. Friends and Parishioners would most likely have been other estate workers but family is more difficult given the lack of documentary evidence. Apart from their children, which I will come to, there are only two other records which relate to members of the Christopher family in Edmondsham Parish registers. The first of these is the all important record of the burial of Ann written as:- " 1627: Anna CHRISTOPHER alias CHARLES the wife of Charles CHRISTOPHER Ann: buried upon the eight day of february". Because of its position in the register we know this was the year 1627/8. The second record is the burial of her husband:- "1629 Charles CHRISTOPHER buried upon the 29. day of August". 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 clearly indicates they are all from the same family and Charles and Ann can therefore only be his parents. With Robert born circa 1598 we clearly have the head of the Christopher family firmly embedded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Before moving on 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 its use today.
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"
(3). Charles CHRISTOPHER baptism:- "1630. Charles Christopher the sone of Robert Christopher baptised upon the .17. day of April".
(4). William CHRISTOPHER baptism:- " 1632. William Charles alias Christopher the sonne of Robert Charles baptised upon the 82? day of December ".
Humphrey CHRISTOPHER Senior (1627-1703/4) & Ann SCAMELL (bur 1668)
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 whilst Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of England on 8th day of April in the year 1656. 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. Humphrey and his family then found work in nearby Hazelbury Bryan where they settled to live.
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 neice 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 Chesselbourne 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 Chesselbourne, 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 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.
Humphrey CHRISTOPHER Junior (1665-1724/5) & Anna (bur 1755/6)
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.]
Annoyingly his 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(4) . 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 and 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:-
(1). Maria CHRISTOPHER (1695-1695) -
(2). Anna CHRISTOPHER (1697/8-1702) -
(3). Charles CHRISTOPHER ( 1701-1701/2)
(4). Joseph CHRISTOPHER (1702-?) Link to an Account of his life.
(5). Charles CHRISTOPHER (c1705- 1791) Link to an Account of his life.
(6). Anne CHRISTOPHER (1710-1713)
(7). Elizabeth CHRISTOPHER (bap 1714)
(8). Anne CHRISTOPHER (1718-1776)
(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). The year 1625 started on the 25th March
(3). East Dorset District Council Policy Planning Division Supplementary Planning Guidance No.3 September 2005
(4). In 1821 the Rector appointed to Hazelbury Bryan was 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 scissars. Henry Walter Rector ( neither descended from, nor to the best of his knowledge at all related to his predecessor William Walter. * On more careful examination the date must have been that of 1724. Henry Walter. Unfortunately for us William Walter was responsible for the completion of the parish registers between 1682 and 1729.