The Edge maternal line runs back from Doris’s mother, Frances Ellen Edge, née White, wife of George Josiah Edge. Her mother, Elizabeth Weston, was from Corse in Gloucestershire. Frances’ grandmother was Elizabeth Thackwell. For the moment, we are just tracing her family backwards two generations to a gentry family, the Thackwells, who lived in Worcestershire on the eastern edge of the Malvern Hills.
The Thackwells of Worcestershire
According to Burke’s, the Thackwell family were present for several centuries before the 16th century in Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. It is suggested that the family dates back to Saxon times, with different spellings of the name. We first pick up the story of the family with William Thackwell (1486-1566), who styled himself “gentleman”, at Birtsmorton, Worcestershire. He was Marshall of the Admiralty and his role was to administer the Admiralty court in London that dealt with issues connected with maritime law. The Thackwells built up a sizeable presence in the villages around Birtsmorton, which lies between Ledbury and Tewkesbury.
It should be born in mind that not all children would take over the running of estates and that younger sons would by tradition support themselves by entering the church or the army. William’s grandson, Rev. Thomas Thackwell (1579-1668), was a clergyman whose living was in Oxfordshire, at St. Mary’s Church, Waterperry, just east of Oxford, which is where he is buried. Thomas studied at Oxford University (1599-1604) at Christchurch College, Oxford being where aspiring clergy went for their education as a major centre of Anglicanism. One might remark that he was a clergyman in a time of major conflicts over religion and politics, when the dominance of the new Protestant Church of England, in which Thomas served, was challenged by rising Puritanism and there was a fear of Catholicism and its suspected links with the monarchy. These splits spilled over into civil war between 1642 and 1646 and Oxford was Charles I’s headquarters throughout the war. After 1646, Puritan-dominated Parliament and associated factions led by Oliver Cromwell were effectively the dominant force until 1660 and Anglicans were suspected of being “Papists”, whilst other clergy had effectively become almost separate churches. We don’t know where Thomas stood in all of this, just outside Oxford, but it cannot have been an easy time.
We find Thomas’s grandson Paul Thackwell (1662-1712) living at Rye Court, Berrow, not far from Birtsmorton and from records so far seen had a substantial abode. He was married to Margaret Keat, the daughter of another “gentleman”, Hugh Keat of East Hagbourne in Berkshire. The house is a fairly typical box-framed, half-timbered house of the period, which would now be called a farmhouse and not the classical, Palladian-style houses that would be built from the end of the century often upon demolition of such buildings by more affluent families. Paul married his cousin Catherine Terry, of Stanton St John, Oxfordshire, and daughter of Rev. Lewis Terry. He is buried in the family church at Berrow.
The changing fortunes of the Gentry
His son, John Thackwell, Gent. (1707-1783), is also buried at Berrow, where he was a churchwarden, but his birthplace is marked as Lake Farm, Pendock, nearby, which address is also given for Rev. Thomas Thackwell earlier. Today, Lake Farm shows as a small, two-up two-down cottage, a smallholding by today’s standards. It’s possible that there were more buildings there in the 18th century, but it is a reminder that the title “gentleman” was a very fluid designation and could embrace a range of levels. One should therefore be careful about assumptions, and in any case, by the end of the 19th century, as land declines as the main social and
economic driver of fortunes, being a gentleman is more a style description rather than a distinction in a fast-disappearing traditional landed social hierarchy.
However, in the 18th and 19th centuries there was also the question of what was to be done with younger sons. Families might think that they could always marry off the daughters, but what of the sons? John was the youngest of eight children, and it looks like it was the eldest, Stephen (1692-1729), who gained the lion’s share, as it is he who is at Rye Court and it is his family that is the main beneficiaries in Paul Thackwell’s will, John simply getting £150. Stephen’s family is the more distinguished. His son, John (1719-1808), was a JP (Justice of the Peace), people who generally effectively took care of the government and law-enforcement of a county, his grandson, also a John Thackwell (1765-1829), was Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the county and the
latter’s brother, Lt. General Sir Joseph Thackwell, (1781-1859) distinguished himself in India in imperial conflicts. Thenceforth several Thackwells had military careers, a different trajectory depending on whichever branch of Thackwell to which one belonged. The last-named purchased Birtsmorton Court between 1791 and 1797, pictured here:
We later find , by contrast, our John’s (1707-1783) son, Peter Thackwell (1761-1848), who was born at Lake Farm, father of the Elizabeth mentioned at the start of this page, to be now the proprietor of Staunton Swan Inn in Staunton and, like his father and two of his brothers, to also be expert watch-makers with an outlet in Ledbury as well as being the Staunton parish clerk. Thus we see again the trend by the end of the 18th century for people to diversify away from land.
The Thackwell tree
Here is the Thackwell line, shown in two stages:
(1) The Thackwells from Frances, Elizabeth Weston and Elizabeth Thackwell back to Paul Thackwell, Gentleman (1662-1712)
(2) From Paul Thackwell to William Thackwell (1486-1566)