Tuesday 8 October 2013

Nobility and Celebrity as recorded in the parish registers

The Parish Registers contain a wealth of information about our ancestors much of which is rarely translated in published indexes.

Many of the old baptism records gave just the infant’s name and that of the parents, sometimes only the father’s name.  For a more noteworthy parent, his title might be mentioned.

1634 January 11 – Plympton St. Mary parish baptism – Elyzabeth, the daughter of
Right Worthy Sir Nicholas Slaning, Knight
Sir Nicholas, originally from Bickleigh parish, Devon, near Plymouth, was an important commander in the royalist forces during the English Civil War in the 1640s. He died of wounds suffered in the taking of Bristol in 1643.

The registers often include a substantial amount of information about the parish, besides names and dates, as shown on the example below. On this page from the Plympton St. Mary Parish baptism register can be found entries for labourers, a shop-keeper (butcher), a nobleman (the Earl of Morley) and an unwed mother – a real cross-section of the community.

Page from 1843 baptism register of Plympton St. Mary parish
Usually the noblemen’s families got a little more ink!  Sometimes an extended lineage was shown. 

1728 November 13 - Plympton St. Mary Baptism: Henrietta, daughter of John Parker Esquire of Saltram and the Right Honorable Lady Catherine  his wife, Daughter of the Right Honorable John Earle Poulett of Henton St George
Again, the information about the mother’s family may not be included in a general index of baptisms.  These entries suggest something about the family’s roots, and the importance of the wife/mother, which might also relate to their assets. In this case the family did acquire most of its lands in the parish through the wife whose family is particularly noted in the register.

Occasionally information about historical figures might be found in unexpected and remote parish records.  Plympton St Mary Parish was close the main port of Plymouth and the churchyard there became the final resting place for many people who died on ships that landed there or who died while passing through or visiting the area. In this case the wife of a foreign ambassador was buried after the ship carrying her body had put into port.

1806 November 21 – Plympton St. Mary burial –  “Marcia Mary Wife of the Right Honorable Charles Arbuthnot, Ambassador at Constantinople - in a vault in the Western extremity of the South Aisle, died May 25, 1806”
(the former Marcia Mary Anne Clapcote-Lisle)
Charles Arbuthnot was a British diplomat and Tory politician. He was Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1804 and 1807 and held a number of political offices. He was also a good friend of the Duke of Wellington.

The Arbuthnots were never residents of Plympton St Mary parish.  Marcia was born Marcia Mary Anne Clapcote-Lisle on July 9, 1774, daughter of William Clapcote-Lisle and Hester Cholmondeley.  She had been a Lady-in-Waiting to the Princess of Wales.  She and Charles were married February 28, 1799 at Cholmondeley House, Piccadilly.  Together they had four children.  Many biographies note only that she died in Constantinople on May 24, 1806 but we see in this register where her remains ended up.

Portrait of Marcia Mary Anne nee Clapcott-Lisle Arbuthnot by John Hopper
(downloaded from Wikipedia)
Marcia apparently was carried “home” to be buried.  We are left to speculate on how she was transported that great distance. If this is the only record of her decease and burial, it is not much of a memorial to an important lady.

Baptism and burial images reproduced here are used with the kind permission of the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office (PWDRO). Images were downloaded from FindMyPast , or copied from my own microfiche.