The Nottingham Ancestry of Strachan Monk (1787-1850/1860): Notes on the Possible (?) or Probable (?) Pett Ancestry

Phineas Pett
Phineas Pett, portrait by unknown artist from the National Portrait Gallery, London; on the Wikimedia Commons copy of this image, which I’ve used here, see below.

Or, Subtitled: Fatal Matches and Cruel Step-Parents

It’s time for me to draw this long, long series of postings on the Nottingham ancestry of Strachan Monk (1787-1850/1860) to a close. As I’ve told you in my last several postings, an English researcher of the Virginia Nottingham family, Cedric Nottingham, has concluded that the father of Richard Nottingham (abt. 1620-1692) was a Richard Nottingham (1587-1640/1650) born in Ipswich, County Suffolk, England, who married (he proposes) Mary, daughter of Peter Pett and Elizabeth Thornton, and spent his adult life as a merchant in London. Cedric Nottingham traces this Nottingham line back a number of generations to a John Nottingham who died in Bury St Edmunds, County Suffolk, England, in 1439.

Cedric Nottingham’s Case for the Pett Connection

I’ve also told you that, in building his case for this lineage for Richard Nottingham (abt. 1620-1692), the immigrant ancestor of the family of that surname in Northampton County, Virginia, Cedric Nottingham relies heavily on the repeated assertion of descendants of the Virginia family over many years that Richard Nottingham descended from the Pett family of County Kent, England, who played a significant role as shipbuilders of the Royal Navy in the 16th and 17th centuries. As my last posting focusing on a Richard Nottingham (1546-1626) who was an uncle of the Richard Nottingham (1587-1640/1650) who was a London merchant indicated, the connections of this Nottingham to the Pett family predate the Richard Nottingham (1587-1640/1650) who married Mary Pett. There are several significant connections to the Pett family in the case of that Richard’s uncle Richard Nottingham (1546-1626), who also left Ipswich to become a merchant in London: it appears that his nephew Richard followed him to London, in fact.

One of the reasons Cedric Nottingham is inclined to think the tradition of Pett ancestry among descendants of Richard Nottingham (abt. 1620-1692) is worth considering is that his English branch of the Virginia Nottingham family — a branch of that family which returned to England in the 18th century — has passed down a family story about someone connected to their Nottingham family in the past who was a clergyman, and who beat a child to death.[1] Cedric Nottingham’s father recounted this story to him, stating that he understood the clergyman in question was a Squire Weston.

As Cedric Nottingham notes, in his autobiography, which he wrote from 1612 to 1640, Phineas Pett, whose sister Mary married Richard Nottingham (1587-1640/1650), as Cedric Nottingham believes, recounts the following: after the death of his father Peter Pett on 5 September 1589, his mother made a “fatal” match “with a most wicked husband, one Mr. Thomas Nunn, a Minister, [which] brought a general ruin both to herself and whole family.”[2] Phineas Pett notes repeatedly as he speaks of his mother’s marriage to Thomas Nunn that Nunn lived at Weston in County Suffolk.

Elizabeth Thornton Pett then died in 1597, and then the following happened, according to Phineas Pett:

After the decease of my dear and loving mother there were left under the keeping of my father-in-law, Thomas Nunn, then Minister of Weston in Suffolk, three sisters, vide: Abigail Pett, Elizabeth and Mary, the youngest, and one brother named Peter Pett, who was put out to a gentleman’s house in Suffolk to teach his children, the daughters remaining all at home with him, he being then lately again married.

He used himself to them as a stern and cruel father-in-law, not contented that he had brought a general ruin upon my mother’s whole family by cosening us of all that was left us, but proceeded further, even to blood, for upon a slight occasion about making clean his cloak, being wet and dirty with riding a journey the day before, he furiously fell upon my eldest sister Abigail, beating her so cruelly with a pair of tongs and a great firebrand that she died within three days upon that beating and was privately by his means buried; but God that would not let murder pass unrevenged, stirred up the hearts of his own parishioners and neighbours, who, complaining to the Justice, caused the body to be taken up, and so by the coroner’s inquest that passed upon her and miraculous tokens of the dead corpse, as fresh bleeding, sensible opening of one of her eyes, and other things, he was found guilty of her death and so committed and bound over to answer the matter at next General Assizes to be held at Bury, which was in the Lent after, being in this year 1599, and in the time of my employment in Suffolk and Norfolk.[3]

Phineas Pett goes on to say that Nunn was then convicted of manslaughter and imprisoned, but his sentence was commuted by the Crown, and he died shortly after having been let out of prison.[4] When their sister Abigail was murdered by Nunn, Phineas Pett took his sisters Elizabeth and Mary from Nunn’s house, and his brother Peter, whom Nunn had sent out to tutor the children of a gentleman in Suffolk, and brought them to live at his house in Limehouse in the east end of London.[5] Mary then remained with her brother Phineas up to her marriage at a date and to a spouse neither of which is identified by Phineas Pett in his diary.[6]

Cedric Nottingham on the Possible (?) or Probable (?)_Marriage of Richard Nottingham and Mary Pett

Phineas Pett was born 1 November 1570 at Deptford in County Kent, where his father Peter Pett had a ship-building business.[7] Deptford is today in the greater metropolitan London area. Phineas’ autobiography states that Mary was his youngest sister, and indicates that she was not yet of age when he took her to live with his family at Limehouse in 1599. This appears to place her birth after about 1583. Phineas Pett’s autobiography doesn’t mention at any point Mary’s age or date of birth, and no other sources I have found provide this information. As we’ve seen previously, the Richard Nottingham whom Cedric Nottingham thinks Mary Pett married was baptized in Ipswich on 27 February 1587. It appears that Mary Pett and Richard Nottingham would likely have been close in age.

Mary Pett’s half-brother Joseph, son of Peter Pett by his first wife Elizabeth Paynter, died testate at Limehouse in Stepney on 15 November 1605, with a will dated the previous day.[8] Joseph’s will bequeaths money to his sister Mary when she should reach the age of 24. This indicates that she was born after 1581, strengthening the conclusion noted above that she was born after 1583.

Cedric Nottingham has found no record of a marriage of Richard Nottingham and Mary Pett. He and his research team have, however, found an “entry in a Suffolk [marriage] list” stating that an unidentified Nottingham groom married an unidentified Betts [sic] bride in Ipswich in 1617.[9] This was a year after Richard Nottingham’s father Robert died in Ipswich in 1616, after which Cedric Nottingham thinks that Richard moved to Stepney to settle near his uncle Richard, where both were both were merchants, and where the older Richard, who was an associate of Mary Pett’s half-brother Joseph, had married a Pett widow by August 1609 when her son Arthur Pett made his will at Jamestown, Virginia.

Regarding the “entry in a Suffolk [marriage] list” chronicling the marriage of a Nottingham male to a Betts female in Ipswich in 1617, Cedric Nottingham reports that no one his research team consulted could locate the original marriage record. The archivist for Suffolk had inspected an earlier copy of the same record for the research team, confirming that it, too, had only blanks for the given names of the two parties. In the absence of any clinching evidence to prove this point, Cedric Nottingham has concluded that it is very likely this is a record of the marriage of Richard Nottingham to Mary Pett in Ipswich in 1617.[10]  As we’ve noted previously, records in Northampton County, Virginia, establish the year of birth of the Richard Nottingham who was, Cedric Nottingham proposes, a son of Richard Nottingham and Mary Pett as around 1620.

There are a number of printed pedigrees of the Pett family to which Phineas belonged. None provide information about his sister Mary and her ostensible marriage to Richard Nottingham. Due to the family’s prominence in building ships for the royal navy, there’s abundant information available about the Pett family and its lineage, which I won’t rehearse here, but to which I’ll point you with a footnote.[11]

It is worth noting, in conclusion, that, as Cedric Nottingham points out, a great-nephew of Phineas Pett (a grandson of Phineas’ brother Peter), who was also named (Sir) Phineas Pett (1635-1694), married Lady Elizabeth Hatton, the widow of Henry Hatton, in 1665.[12] Cedric Nottingham thinks that a confused transmission of information about this marriage among the Nottingham family in Virginia may account for the erroneous claim that the wife of Richard Nottingham, the Northampton County, Virginia, immigrant ancestor, was a Lady Elizabeth Hatton.

It’s also worth noting that there were several connections between the Pett family and the Yeardley/Yardley family from which Governor George Yeardley of Virginia descended — a name we’ve encountered a number of times in connection with the Nottingham and allied families in Northampton County, Virginia. Phineas Pett’s (1570-1647) second wife Susan Eaglefield was the widow of Robert Yardley of Warwickshire and Chatham, and Phineas’s son John Pett, by his first wife Anna Nichols, married, Katherine, daughter of Robert Yardley and Susan Eaglefield.[13]

The gentleman at the head of the posting? It’s Phineas Pett (1570-1647). The portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London and is by an unknown painter.[14]

[1]The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection,” p. 50.

[2] The Autobiography of Phineas Pett, ed. William Gordon Perrin (London: Navy Records Society, 1918), p. 2.

[3] Ibid., pp. 11-12. In a posting at his “The Eagle Clawed Wolfe” website entitled “Introducing Phineas Pett,”Grant Smith corroborates Phineas Pett’s report that Thomas Nunn was “an unscrupulous churchman who robbed him [i.e., Phineas] of his inheritance, forcing him to quit university.”

[4] Autobiography of Phineas Pett, pp. 12-13.

[5] Ibid., p. 13.

[6] Ibid., p. 14.

[7] Phineas states that date and place of his birth in ibid., p. 1. See also H. Farnham Burke and Oswald Barron, “The Builders of the Navy: A Genealogy of the Family of Pett,” The Ancestor: A Quarterly Review of County and Family History, Heraldry and Antiquities 10 (July 1904), p. 147.

[8] Phineas Pett gives the date of his brother’s death in his Autobiography of Phineas Pett, p. 27. Joseph’s will is discussed in Burke and Barron, “The Builders of the Navy,” p. 150. Burke states that the will is in P.C.C. 46 Stafford.

[9]The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection,” p. 54.

[10] Ibid.

[11] On the Pett family, see G.W. Hill and W.H. Frere, ed., Memorials of Stepney Parish (Guildford: Billing & Sons, 1890-91), p. 188, n. 1; J. K. L., “Pett, Peter,” “Pett, Sir Peter,” and “Pett, Phineas,” Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 45, ed. Sidney Lee (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1909), pp. 103-106; Burke and Barron, “The Builders of the Navy,” pp. 147-178; The Visitation of Kent, Taken in the Years 1619-1621, etc., ed. Robert Hovenden (London: Harleian Society, 1898), pp. 24-5; Sir Edward Bysshe, A Visitation of the County of Kent [1663] (London: Mitchell, Hughes, and Clarke, 1906), pp. 131-2; and George W. Marshall, ed., Le Neve’s Pedigrees of the Knights Made by King Charles II, King James II, King William III and Queen Mary, King William Alone, and Queen Anne (London: Mitchell and Hughes, 1873), pp. 155-7.

[12]The Nottingham Surname: The Virginian Connection,” p. 56.

[13] See Burke and Barron, “The Builders of the Navy,” p. 157.

[14] The Wikimedia Commons reproduction of this image has a note stating that it’s in the common domain, but that one or more third parties have made copyright claims against Wikimedia Commons for reproducing it — claims that Wikimedia Commons concludes do not apply in the United States. I do not intend to infringe anyone’s copyright claims in using it on this blog, which is a non-commercial venue, it goes without saying, and if I’m doing that, would gladly appreciate having further information.

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