The Clarkson family of Langham

Someone which had been quite a mystery to me for a while was the name of Dorothy Cardinall’s husband. I knew she’d married a man with the surname Clarkson, and I knew he’d died by 1700.[1]The will of Dorothy’s nephew Charles Cardinall describes her as a widow. I knew that it was her son, James Clarkson, who left the Cardinalls property in Tendring – and this was because they were his cousins.

I had thought the Tendring property had come from James Clarkson’s father, but recently found out that it had come from the will of Robert Drury, related to the Cardinalls and the Clarksons via the Welbys. But I still didn’t know anything about the Clarksons.

It was an extremely rare surname in Essex, which made me wonder where they had come from. Who was Dorothy’s mother-in-law – did she provide a link?

Only by untangling the origins of the Tendring property did I get a better idea – and by transcribing Langham’s [in Essex] parish register.

I knew James Cardinall and his wife Dorothy had lived in Langham, from James’ will, and with James and Dorothy appearing in the burial register. Other records, British History Online (BHO) being particularly helpful, explained when Cardinall had bought, then sold, Valley House in Langham. But what about the Clarksons?

In Langham, on 25 July 1654, Samuel son of Samuel and Dorothy Clarkson was baptised. As the name Clarkson is so unusual in Essex, and as the combination of “Dorothy Clarkson” would be even more unusual, it seemed to me that I had at long last found the name of Dorothy Cardinall’s husband: Samuel Clarkson.

And the name of another child – James Cardinall’s will leaves money to his daughter Clarkson and her three children, but doesn’t name them. I knew that James Clarkson existed, and James Clarkson’s will mentions his widowed sister Elizabeth Sparrow, but I didn’t know who the third child was.[2]There may of course have been other children who didn’t survive, and only three were living at the time of James Cardinall’s will I found a baptism at Colchester St Leonard’s on 7 April 1656 for James, son of “Mr Samuell Clarkson by Dorothy his wife” – who is likely to be the James Clarkson who left the Tendring property to his Cardinall cousins.

The Sparrows of Sible Hedingham

I am yet to find Elizabeth’s baptism, but she led me to more information about the Clarksons. She appears in Wright and Bartlett’s 1831 The history and topography of the county of Essex, comprising its ancient and modern history. A general view of its physical character, productions, agricultural condition, statistics &c. &c (a catchy title, I’m sure you’ll agree). In a section on the Sparrow family of Gosfield, the following paragraph appears:

A snippet of text from a book. Transcription is included in the body of the page.

“John Sparrow, esq. the eldest son, succeeded; he was of Christ’s College, Cambridge, in 1679, and about the same time admitted a member of Gray’s-inn, and called to the bar in Michaelmas term 1686. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Clarkson, esq. of Langham Lodge, (one of the masters in chancery), by Dorothy, daughter of James Cardinal, of Langham Valley, son and heir of William Cardinal, esq. of Great Bromley. John Sparrow, esq. died in 1720, leaving an only daughter, named Elizabeth.”

I teased out the information. This paragraph appears in a section on the Sparrow family, who occupied a residence in Sible Hedingham in Essex called, unsurprisingly, Sparrows. I was surprised I hadn’t found it before, but the optical character recognition had read Cardinal as “Cardhial”! Whilst one shouldn’t rely on Google and optical character recognitions, sometimes books like this don’t have indices, or a table of contents. If you have the time to read through hundreds of pages of dry recitations of manors and properties, then you would find it in the end, of course. But I would never have thought to look in Gosfield.

The entry contains an error, stating that James Cardinall’s father was William – Philip Morant made the same error in his history of Essex, but there is a lot of primary evidence to show that James’ father was Charles.[3]James’ baptism, his uncle’s will, his father’s will, etc etc.

Researching the Sparrows occupied me for a while. I haven’t yet found the marriage of Elizabeth Clarkson and John Sparrow, but I found John’s baptism in Sible Hedingham on 22 July 1662, son of Mr John Sparrow and his wife Ann. John and Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth was baptised in Sible Hedingham on 7 June 1688. She married Henry Summers in 1706 and they had twelve children (including one with the mellifluous name of Sparrow Summers). John Sparrow died in July 1720 and was buried in Sible Hedingham’s church under a black marble slab – hence why Elizabeth Sparrow is a widow in James Clarkson’s 1725 will. Elizabeth lived another nineteen years, dying in Castle Hedingham in 1739 – so she had outlived her brother, James Clarkson.

Why were the Clarksons in Langham?

Going forwards in the Clarkson family presented little difficulty – I know what became of James and Elizabeth even if I don’t know what became of Samuel. I can’t find a will for Samuel Clarkson senior, and although I may yet find a burial for him in Langham as I continue to transcribe the register, I think he might have been dead by 1670. The Michaelmas Hearth Tax Return for 1670 lists “Dorothea Caxon” as responsible for an eight-hearth house in Langham – this would have been one of the largest houses in Langham. Was this still The Lodge? The house with most hearths in Langham was William Humfreville’s gaff, with fifteen hearths; he had bought Valley House from James Cardinall in 1653. The fact that the Clarkson’s house is listed under Dorothy’s name and not her husband’s indicates to me that Samuel had died by then. It’s listed as “vac domo” – empty house – so either she was away somewhere on a visit, or only lived in Langham occasionally.

What would I be about to find out about the Clarksons by going backwards? Who was Samuel? He appears in the admissions register for Gray’s Inn on 10 March 1648/9, which says he was the son of John Clarkson of Langham Lodge. But Morant tells us that Samuel’s father was in fact called Samuel. And just to confuse matters further, I have a further suggestion for his father: Josias Clarkson.

Samuel Clarkson appears in the Essex Record Office catalogue as the steward of Langham Manor on four records between 1656 and 1667. When I search The National Archives catalogue for “Clarkson” and “Langham” in the 1600s, I discovered three disputes where Josias Clarkson was a plaintiff in Chancery disputes. Clarkson v Vigorus 1636, Clarkson v Starling 1640 and Clarkson v The Mayor of London 1656. Searching the same catalogue for “Josias Clarkson”, I found more Chancery disputes:

  • Two Clarkson v Saltonstall (sometime between 1642-1660), money matters, one specifying money matters in Middlesex. Plaintiff Josias Clarkson versus defendant Dame Mary Saltonstall.
  • Dowse v Playters, 1647, money matters in Middlesex. Josias is one of five plaintiffs versus thirteen defendants (including three knights, two earls and a lord)
  • Pryse v Perry, 1654, money matters in Cardiganshire. The plaintiff was Sir Richard Pryse, baronet, and the defendants included Josias as well as Dame Mary Saltonstall again.
  • Hackett v Welby, 1656, money in Leicestershire. Husband and wife Thomas and Elizabeth Hackett were the plaintiffs, and Josias was one of four defendants along with William Welby.

First of all, if you’ve been reading my other pieces on the Cardinall family, two names here should jump out at once: Sir Richard Pryse and William Welby. Pryse may be one of the Apreeces (Cassandra Apreece and Adlard Welby were the grandparents of Dorothy Welby, who married James Cardinall). And William Welby might be Dorothy Welby’s nephew, son of her brother Adlard, who was born in 1630.

BHO explains that the manor of Langham (which had passed through the hands of three of Henry VIII’s wives) was granted by Charles I to (the splendidly named) Edward Ditchfield and “other trustees of the City of London” in the late 1620s to pay of a loan, as the government wouldn’t give him any more money. The trustees, we are told, held the manorial courts. So when we see Samuel Clarkson appearing as the steward, then we might assume he was working for the City of London. Certainly, it seems as if this Josias Clarkson was one of the City of London trustees. In fact, one of the plaintiffs in Clarkson v Vigorus was Edward Ditchfield.

Two records at the London Metropolitan Archive, in the Royal Contract Estates collection, appear to refer to Josias as well. One is titled “Joseph Clarkeson, the contractor’s case for the manor of Langham, Essex” (dated c. 1616-1650), and the other is the “Petition of Josias Clarkeson, tenant of the manor, to the RCE commission” (dated after 1659). In the first document, it looks as if Joseph has been substituted for Josias by mistake.

The Chancery documents and the records at the LMA place Josias Clarkson in London, with a link to Langham thanks to the manor. And what do we find in London, on 27 April 1628 but a baptism for Samuel, son of Josias and Elizabeth Clarkson. Unfortunately, this is a record from Family Search, one of many of their records which, for reasons best known only to themselves, doesn’t mention which parish the baptism took place in. Hopefully I can trace it down one day – but it could well be the Samuel Clarkson who went onto marry Dorothy Cardinall. The record for Gray’s Inn says that Samuel was admitted in 1649. If he was born in about 1628, he would have been about 21 when admitted.

Samuel Clarkeson, merchant tailor

Would there be any wills? Abstracts of probate acts in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) tells us that the will of Samuel Clarkson of St Sepulchre, London (merchant tailor and Citizen) was proved in 1642 by his nephew Josias Clarkson. Sir Richard Saltonstall renounced executorship. But this wasn’t the end: in January 1661/2, administration was granted to “pronepos and next-of-kin Samuel Clarkson, d.b.n surviving executor Josias Clarkson; Elizabeth the relict and executrix of the said Josias renouncing.” D.b.n. means “de bonis non administratis”, dealing with the goods that hadn’t yet been distributed. But this entry told me a lot – it seemed possible here that the “pronepos and next-of-kin” might have been Samuel Clarkson, son of Josias and Elizabeth baptised in the 1620s, and that the testator was their relative. Pronepos is Latin for great-grandson, which seems a bit odd, but I wonder if it’s expressing generational distance rather than an exact relationship.

The PCC will, written in 1638, bequeathes £500 each to Richard and Anne, children of Sir Richard Saltonstall, children by his late wife who was Samuel’s kinswoman.[4]South Ockendon’s church has an impressive monument to Sir Richard’s grandfather, another Sir Richard Saltonstall. His godson Samuel Clarkson, son of Josias Clarkson, was also left £500. Two daughter of the testator’s deceased brother William Clarkson (Marie wife of Thomas Feild[5]Thomas Feeld married Mary Clarkson at St Olave, Hart Street, City of London, on 2 February 1618/9. and Ellen wife of John Williams) were left £50 each. Josias Clarkson’s wife was left £5. Various friends and acquaintances were left legacies, including his “old acquaintance” William Claxton esq, who lived “in or near” Bristol – Claxton might be a mangling or alternative version of Clarkson, so William might be the testator’s kinsman too.

I was glad to have found this will, as it went some way to explaining the Chancery suits Clarkson v Saltonstall. But then I discovered that Samuel Clarkson had left not one but two wills, both of which had been probated! I have never seen this before.

Whilst Samuel’s PCC will had been made in 1638, the earlier will had been made in 1630. It’s easy to see how a dispute arose. The will from 1630 leaves 100 marks to Josias Clarkson and £20 to his son Samuel – a lot less than the £500 left him in the later will. Josias apparently had two sisters – neither are named but the testator calls them his nieces and leaves them £20 each. I do wonder if they could be the Marie Feild and Ellen Williams mentioned in the later will. A brother-in-law called Mr Richard Francis was left £3 for a ring, but he isn’t mentioned in the 1638 will. After a few bequests to friends, Samuel left his rest and residue to the three children of Sir Richard Saltonstall of South Ockendon and his late wife Dame Elizabeth – who Samuel describes as his niece. Sir Richard was the executor.

When Sir Richard himself wrote his short will in February 1649/50, he instructed that “for my daughter Ann my will is that the money recovered or to be recovered either by her selfe or my Executor […] out of her Uncle Claxtons Estate be made unto her by my Executor the full summe of two thousand pounds to be at the day of hir marriage.” So although Samuel Clarkson’s wills had both been proved in 1642, his estate was still logjammed eight years later. The same note about d.b.n. is appended to Sir Richard’s will – his wife Mary had been the executrix (note that she’s named in Clarkson v Saltonstall). Administration was granted in March 1661/2 to Sir Richard’s son Richard, and Richard’s daughter Mary Bridecake. By then, Sir Richard’s executrix had died. This presumably was after the dispute had ended.

So… who were the Clarksons?

I think that Samuel Clarkson, the man who married Dorothy Cardinall,  was also the son of Josias and Elizabeth Clarkson. He was born in London in about 1628, and presumably because Josias was linked with the manor of Langham, the family ended up living in the parish, at The Lodge.

Richard Smyth’s Obiturary (to give it its full title, A Catalogue of All Such Persons Deceased Whome I Knew in their Life Time, Wherein are set down the Several Years of Our Lord, and the Dayes of the Month when Every One of them Dyed or were Buried, From the year of Our Lord MDCXXVIII Successively) records the death on 5 December 1661 of “Mr Samuel Clarkson, of ye six Clerks Office.” Was this “our” Samuel Clarkson? Did his death mean the end of the Chancery suits? But

Sentence of Samuel Clarkson, 1664 of St Giles Cripplegate. Doesn’t appear to be on Ancestry, but can get from TNA website.

[Langham Manor owned by the crown, city of london, for some reason the family ended up at the Lodge for whom records are easily obtained.]


1 The will of Dorothy’s nephew Charles Cardinall describes her as a widow.
2 There may of course have been other children who didn’t survive, and only three were living at the time of James Cardinall’s will
3 James’ baptism, his uncle’s will, his father’s will, etc etc.
4 South Ockendon’s church has an impressive monument to Sir Richard’s grandfather, another Sir Richard Saltonstall.
5 Thomas Feeld married Mary Clarkson at St Olave, Hart Street, City of London, on 2 February 1618/9.