Local Boy Makes Good

published by GAE, October 2004

I am grateful to Julie of Newbury for sending me a copy of an article she has recently written and had published in the June edition of the Leicester & Rutland Family History Society Journal. It runs as follows:

One of the plus sides of being the Research Co-ordinator of the Goddard Association is that I get to research family trees just for the fun of it, not only with my husband's family but anyone surnamed Goddard. One of my favourites is Thomas Goddard, Citizen of London and a Merchant Taylor.

From the information given in his will and using the parish registers, it is possible to establish that Thomas was born in Mountsorrel and baptised in the parish church on 26 April 1604 as "the son of William Goddard". He had a cousin John, son of his uncle Nicholas, who was baptised in the same year in the same church. Thomas had a brother, William, and two sisters, Mary and Joice. I imagine that they were on the same social level as the Herrick and the Nichols families; in fact, Joice married Thomas Nichols of Barrow-on-Soar. It is also possible that they were related to the armigerous Goddard family of Beeby (who are related to some of the Berkshire Goddards), but the connection has not yet been proved.

Thomas's trade was perhaps glove making, a Mountsorrel trade. Gloves were highly prized as a fashion accessory. However, his will shows that he was also in the woolen cloth industry.

The early 1600s were a time of change, danger and conflict, especially in London where the king reigned and Parliament increasingly tried to oppose his wishes. Thomas probably moved to London in his late teens to learn his trade. Was he the "Thomas Goddard, servant] of Thomas Lyon" who was entered into the Merchant Taylors' register on 5 July 1620? He married his first (unnamed) wife soon after as he had a son, Thomas, who was baptised in St Giles, Cripplegate, on 13 October 1622, but presumably died before his father as he is not mentioned in Thomas's will. He also had two daughters, Ann baptised 1628 and Prescilla, baptised' 1629. This wife must have died around 1630 as he married Jane Sampson in 1632 at St Helens, Bishopsgate. They had no children.

During these years and for the next ten the differences between King Charles and Parliament grew until in 1642 Civil War was declared. The City of London Guilds were very rich and very powerful and were involved in both sides in the conflict, both for and against the king. It is not supposed that Thomas Goddard sat on the sidelines, but which side did he support? King or Parliament? As his will asks for the services of Dr Samuel Annesley to preach the sermon at his funeral, I think we can be sure that he was for Parliament as the good doctor was a friend of the Cromwells.

Thomas survived the Civil War, the following Republic and the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 without losing his head, his money 6r his trade. Either he had friends in high places or he was a skilled reader of men. He made his will on 30 March 1660 at the moment when the City of London Guilds had decided that they would support the return of the monarchy and had sent a messenger to the Netherlands to invite Charles II to return. One suspects that Thomas was a little uneasy at his position under the new regime. Whatever his misgivings he survived to see Charles's triumphant entry into London in April 1660, before dying sometime in May. There was an epidemic of smallpox at this time, but I think that aged 56, a respectable age for the time, and "being sick in body" he died of old age and disillusionment.

In his will he asked to be buried in the parish church of St Giles, Cripplegate. The parish is given 70 and the warden ofthe parish 10, and four shillings annually to the minister of the parish. He left no male heir so his estate is to be divided as follows: his wife Jane is given 70 a year for life to be paid out of the money which will be received from some property in St Giles, or she may make some other arrangements with her sons-in-law if she wishes. There is money for his daughters' husbands, Robert Savage the husband of Ann, and Christopher Nottingham the husband of Prescilla, and their children. There is some suspicion of the probity of Christopher and he will forfeit some of the money if he proves laggardly in paying his debts.

Thomas owned a considerable amount of property in St Giles and with profits from these he wanted every year twenty yards of strong kersey in serviceable dark brown or olive colour to be bought. The material was to be made into coats for ten fatherless children of the parish of St Giles, to be given to them at the beginning of November each year - and he requests that the lame Mary Cooke and Margery Bembridge are among the children selected. He also leaves money for bread for the poor.

But it is the next request that will interest Leicestershire readers; he gives and bequeaths "unto the parish of Mountsorrel wherein I was born the sum of ten pounds in trust to be by them put forth and disposed of for the yearly benefit of the poor of the said parish..." 10 is to be spent on bread for twenty-four poor people of the parish. I have tried to discover whether this ceremony is still performed, but no one is prepared to say. And I also gather that during restoration of Mountsorrel parish church the charities and benefits notice has been lost from the church.

One minor request is interesting: Cousin Hugh was to be given 30 to purchase a frame on which to make silk stockings and Captain Salter was to advise him on the choice of the frame. The art of making silk stockings had been known for a hundred years, but they were still an expensive item of dress.

The importance of the executors of the will passed me by at first. They were Mr Thomas Grimshaw, Mr Thomas Sturges, Mr John Fine, and the surprise, Mr Richard Edlyn. The Dictionary of National Biography says of Mr Edlyn that "He practised his noble science in new buildings in Sugar Loaf Court from the style of his writing he must have been a more than ordinarily literate knave." In other words, he was an astrologer and fortune-teller; in those uncertain days such men flourished, but I would not have expected such as Thomas Goddard to be friends with one!

Finally, perhaps we can judge Thomas Goddard to have been a kindly and generous man, for besides the coats for the orphans, he left an old suit of clothes for "Nurse Dickinson", and others for his wife's kinsman in St Bartholomew's Hospital. Clothes in those days were made to last and were often handed on or down, but it was a kind gesture all the same. Besides being an able man, I think Thomas must have been a very thoughtful and generous one. If any of the readers of this article knows anything more about this Goddard family I would be very grateful to hear of it.

Patrick Goddard of Plymouth has compiled a very large family tree of Leicestershire Goddards from the fifteenth century to the present day and has made a tentative suggestion as to Thomas Goddard's ancestors. He also has information on families which married into the Goddards; Beeson, Hemingway, Marriot and Sharpe - and also my Siddons family as far back as 1663 in Ibstock.