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The Sandersons of Midhope: links to Honley, West Yorkshire, & Northamptonshire via a seventeenth century will

Richard Axe

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Four wills, for what appear to be four brothers, provide a sound basis for constructing a pedigree for a family that roamed far beyond Langsett, Midhope and Bradfield. The four wills in question are those of Henry of Bradfield (proved 1596), George of Midhope (proved 1601), Raphe of Midhope (proved 1607) and Christopher of Litchborough (proved 1631-2). Between them, they offer no fewer than nine siblings – but no indication as to parentage. Births somewhere between 1550 and 1570 would be a reasonable estimation if one considers a likely first child of Raphe (baptised 1587) and the matriculation date of 1579-80 for Christopher, the latter offering a likely birth date in the early to middle 1560s.

  1. Will of Henry - siblings George, Raphe and Agnes
  2. Will of George - siblings Raphe, John, Jennet, Elizabeth and Anne
  3. Will of Raphe - siblings Christopher and John
  4. Will of Christopher - no siblings but several nieces and nephews identifiable from other sources                                              

Sibling names mentioned in the four Sanderson wills (in chronological order of dates proved)

Two of the testators, George and Christopher, appear not to have produced children (either living or at all). The will of the fourth brother, Christopher Saunderson, clerk of Litchborough, Northants., becomes relevant at this point. Without it, very little would suggest a family connection with Yorkshire. He matriculated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1579-80, became rector of Litchborough in 1598 and died in January 1631-2, so his adult life spanned some fifty years outside Yorkshire. The Cambridge University Alumni Database gives a burial date of 29/1/1631-2 and his will was proved at Canterbury in February 1631-2.

The genealogical details contained within Christopher’s will enable a Yorkshire connection to be identified with confidence. Nephews named there can be identified with the children of Raphe of Bradfield (buried 1607) because two, Francis and George, are given abodes in Honley (Francis) and Midhope (George). Gabriel Saunderson can be identified as the gentleman of Clerkenwell whose will was proved in 1650 – he seems to have been unmarried. Information from that will suggests that his father Christopher – recently deceased by the time of Christopher of Litchborough’s will writing – was the man who died at Northampton in 1630. That Christopher left his own will, for which see below. In addition, Gabriel’s will shows that his brother John was still resident in Northampton. That allows for the latter’s baptism to be identified: John, son of Christopher and Elizabeth, was baptised at All Saints, Northampton, on 16th December 1620. Working backwards, John’s elder brother was baptised there on 23rd August 1618 and their parents were married there on 22nd May 1617 – she was Elizabeth Danby. Three other baptisms are on record: Samuell (27/2/1624-5), Sara (21/4/1627) and Elizabeth (6/2/1629-30). Gabriel is missing from that list for whatever reason. The burial registers show that Elizabeth and her husband Christopher were buried within two days of each other on 9th and 11th November 1630 respectively. The homonymous son seems to have been buried on 19th June 1634, so of no long life. Gabriel’s elder brother John may have produced a family of his own: a linen draper was father to two children in 1645 and 1646-7 (John, baptised at Northampton 30/3/1645 and Elizabeth, baptised at the same on 14/3/1646-7). The second entry names John’s wife as Mary.

Christopher of Northampton’s will of 1630 does indeed confirm the Danby connection as well as providing an order of birth for the three surviving sons: Christopher, John and then Gabriel. Either the last-named was the Samuel of the baptismal register or perhaps an unrecorded birth between John and Samuel with the latter dying as a child. The testator’s homonymous uncle was also mentioned in the will as were brothers Francis and Nicholas and a sister, Joane Saunderson. She was also recorded in the will of Christopher of Litchborough’s will of 1631 as a niece and sister of George, but with an explanation. Joane is an alias: she was actually Jenet, hence a long-time spinster.

Christopher’s will is of great value in determining the identification of other family members. He was probably the last surviving person of his generation, which is why it is helpful that so many of his nephews are mentioned in his will and can be assumed to be alive at the time as a consequence. The number of family members mentioned suggests that those of Raphe’s children not included in the will might reasonably be expected to be deceased.

The reason why members of a Bradfield family were to be found in Northamptonshire was probably due to the appointment of Christopher as rector of Litchborough in the first instance. Whether there were other influences at work must be a possibility, given the proclivity for travel and movement amongst many of its members. Christopher’s will also reveals another nephew, Nicholas, being tutored by Robert Saunderson of Boothby Pagnell, in the southern part of Lincolnshire. That was none other than the future bishop of Lincoln, and a man baptised in Sheffield. Their familial connection was probably some generations previous but it would seem reasonable to suppose the link to be less than coincidental. One might wonder whether Nicholas was already, or had ambitions to become, a cleric of some description. His uncle’s will left Nicholas his books and all his apparel, which could suggest such a career. Nicholas was baptised in 1599 so was of a good age by 1631-2. He might have attended a university earlier and may have received a post subsequently but no candidate jumps out from the clerical database – in Northamptonshire or anywhere else. Lastly, Christopher’s deceased nephew Christopher had apparently acted as a mercer in Northampton: in what capacity is unknown but that role might be suited to commerce and travel amongst some of the better off.

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