The Nottingham Ancestry of Strachan Monk (1787-1850/1860): Richard Nottingham (abt. 1620-1692) (1)

Nottingham, Richard, Will, Northampton Co., VA, Orders and Wills 13, 1689-98, p. 210 (1)
Will of Richard Nottingham, Northampton County, Virginia, Orders and Wills Bk. 13, p. 210 (top)

Or, Subtitled: A Mythical Lady and a Fat Purse of Sovereigns

The immigrant ancestor of the Nottingham family of Northampton County, Virginia, and father of the William Nottingham (1669-1719) I discussed previously, was Richard Nottingham. Richard was born in England about 1618-1621. In a July 1658 deposition he made in Northampton County court, he stated that he was 40 years of age. When he deposed in county court in July 1681, he gave his age as 60.[1] As we’ll see when we move to a discussion of factual information about Richard’s life, he was definitely in Northampton County by 1651, and some sources suggest that he may have been there between 1645 and 1650.

Accounts (Some of Them Folkloric) of Richard Nottingham’s Pre-Virginia History and Arrival in Virginia

Folkloric accounts of Richard Nottingham’s pre-Virginia history and his arrival in Virginia have abounded among his descendants, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction as one puts together a biographical narrative for him. For instance, on 2 March 1911, Alice Frances Dunton Mapp, a daughter of David Dunton and Bell Sarah Nottingham, wrote her cousin Louise Armistead from Bridgetown in Northampton County, stating,

Richard Nottingham married the Lady Elizabeth Hatton and came here in the seventeenth century from England. They were the first; and now a mighty host.[2]

The report that Richard Nottingham’s wife was a Lady Elizabeth Hatton is echoed in Nancy Wescoat Harwood Garrett’s “Nottingham Family Tree, Northampton County, Virginia.”[3] According to this and several other sources, Richard Nottingham came to Virginia from County Kent, England, in 1645, having married a Lady Elizabeth Hatton or Hutton in England.

According to Carolyn L. Harrell, Richard Nottingham was a Cavalier who fled England after Cromwell’s defeat of Charles I’s forces in 1646.[4] Harrell, too, says that the Nottingham family was seated in County Kent, with roots in the landed gentry there.[5] Harrell replicates the family story that Richard Nottingham’s wife was a Lady Elizabeth Hutton, and also indicates that Richard’s mother was a Pett, from a family noted for its distinguished service to the British Navy. Harrell places Richard Nottingham’s emigration to America in 1645.[6]

There’s more: Harrell claims that Richard Nottingham came to Virginia with “a fat purse of sovereigns on his person and more in his strongbox,” which enabled him to set up a life of comfort and plenty for his family after his arrival in America.[7] Harrell thinks Richard used his sovereigns to buy from William Stone in 1657 a tract of 1000 acres just north of present-day Eastville between Hungars Creek and Mattawones (Mattawoman Creek, evidently) in Wilsonia Neck.[8] Harrell states that after his arrival in Northampton County, Richard Nottingham appears in numerous records buying land and livestock, including 450 acres from William Whittington.[9]

Well, as these sources suggest, there appears to be an interesting mix of fact and fiction in family stories about Richard Nottingham and in published accounts of what is assumed about his pre-Virginia life and his arrival in Virginia: a Royalist fleeing England following Cromwell’s victory, with a fat purse that permitted him to buy abundant land; a titled wife; a life of ease and plenty in Virginia. It’s difficult to know what’s true and what’s embellished here — but not difficult to show that much of what is stated in these legends is fantasy. There are, for instance, no records of a Lady Elizabeth Hatton or Hutton marrying a Richard Nottingham in England; and, in fact, as we’ll see when we focus on the facts of Richard’s life such as they are known, it appears his wife was an Elizabeth Watson and not a Hatton or a Hutton.[10] Nor did he ever hold anywhere near the amount of land some legends want to maintain he owned. Nor was his family so well-placed economically in Virginia as these same legends want to suggest.

For information about this Nottingham family that appears to be well-documented, I’d like to point readers to a monograph published online in 2003, which is still available (for now) at the StudyLib website. This is an eight-chapter document by Cedric T. Nottingham of Eastrea, Cambridgeshire, England, entitled “The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection.” Cedric Nottingham descends from a branch of the Richard Nottingham family that returned to England from Northampton County, Virginia, in the eighteenth century.[11] These Virginia-to-England Nottinghams have maintained family traditions that in some respects match those handed down by Nottingham descendants in Virginia: e.g., that the Nottingham family was pro-Royalist in the Civil War.

For researchers of the Nottingham family who are not living in England, Cedric Nottingham’s work is invaluable, since it documents the connection of his English family to the Northampton County, Virginia, Nottingham family, and because it appears to be based on careful documentation of the Nottingham lineage in England, where Cedric Nottingham has access to documents not so easily available to those living outside the country. Cedric Nottingham’s work appears to provide substantial proof of the Nottingham lineage back to a John Nottingham who died in Bury St Edmunds, County Suffolk, England, in 1437.

As Cedric Nottingham notes, there’s no documentation to support the belief that Richard Nottingham, the immigrant ancestor of the Northampton County, Virginia, family married a Lady Elizabeth Hatton or Hutton, or that he arrived in Virginia with substantial wealth, though this family did prosper in Virginia. Nottingham suggests that if the family had Royalist leanings and this precipitated Richard Nottingham’s move to Virginia — a portion of the U.S. family stories he accepts as factual — it’s possible that any property Richard Nottingham may have had in England might have been forfeited due to his political inclinations.

Cedric Nottingham thinks that the nubbin of truth to the story of a connection to a gentry family named Hatton is this: his research indicates that Richard Nottingham was the son of an older Richard Nottingham (1587-1640/1650) by wife Mary Pett, daughter of Peter Pett and Elizabeth Thornton. Mary’s older brother Phineas Pett, a naval builder noted in English history, had a son Peter who married Elizabeth, the widow of Sir Henry Hatton, in 1665.

In my next installment about Richard Nottingham, I’ll focus on what is certainly known about him and his life in Virginia.

[1] Northampton County, Virginia, Order Bk. 8, p. 27; Northampton County, Virginia, Order Bk. 15, p. 196. See William R.M. Houston and Jean M. Mihalyka, Colonial Residents of Virginia’s Eastern Shore: Whose Ages Were Proved Before Court Officials of Accomack and Northampton Counties (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ. Co., 1985).

[2] The original letter was in the possession of the Armistead family when William Driscoll shared a transcription of it on 26 May 1996 on the Genealogy and History of the Eastern Shore of Virginia (GHOTES) website.

[3] This unpublished typescript was privately published in 1975 by Nancy Wescoat Harwood Garrett, 2712 Sterling Point Dr., Portsmouth, Virginia. A copy is held under the title “The Nottingham Family, 1975” by the Special Collections Research Center of the William and Mary University library (box 12, folder 4; id253880).

[4] Kith and Kin — A Portrait of a Southern Family, 1630-1934 (Macon: Mercer UP, 1984), pp. 97-8.

[5] Harrell is apparently citing Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, vol. 5 (NY: Lewis, 1915), p. 827, whose biography of Smith Severn Nottingham states that Richard Nottingham was from a branch of the family that had been resided in Kent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and that the family was connected to the Petts, noted for their Naval service.

[6] Harrell cites here a source I cannot identify, which she lists as Ezell, Family Encyclopedia of Southern History, p. 191.

[7] Again, Harrell appears to be citing the Ezell source I cannot identify: see supra, n. 6.

[8] Harrell is apparently citing here Ralph T. Whitelaw, Virginia’s Eastern Shore (Richmond: Virginia Hist. Soc., 1951; repr. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1968), vol. 1, p. 318.

[9] Citing Northampton County, Virginia, Grantor and Grantee, 1632-1732, and Northampton County, Virginia, Orders, Deeds and Wills Bk. 4, p. 33; Northampton County, Virginia, Deeds and Wills Bks. 7, p. 41, 9, p. 115, 11, p. 92, and 14, p. 58.

[10] In a 23 December 1991 letter to me, Jean M. Mihalyka of Cherrypoint, Virginia, says that Dr. William Houston of Mansfield, Ohio, her collaborator in the study cited in n. 1 supra, has done much research on the early Nottingham generations in America, and thinks that the claim that Elizabeth Nottingham was the Lady Hatton is not based in any factual information at all.

[11] Cedric Nottingham descends from Richard Nottingham, who was born in 1728 in Northampton County, Virginia, and who died in 1778 in Falmouth, County Cornwall, England, after he had moved his family back to England. This Richard was a great-grandson of Richard Nottingham the immigrant. His line runs from Richard (1652-1729), son of Richard the immigrant, through that Richard’s son Richard (abt. 1684-1758), who was father of the Richard who died in England in 1778.

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