A Country Wife: Anne Barker of Hambleton, Rutland - (1646-47)

Article by SUE HOWLETT from Rutland Record, Journal of the Rutland Local History & Record Society

Close to the shore of Rutland Water stands the isolated Hambleton Old Hall. While Civil War raged it was home to the Parliamentarian High Sheriff of Rutland, Abel Barker, and his new wife Anne. Separated from her Royalist family, Anne wrote intimate letters telling of billeted soldiers, Twelfth-Night cakes, new fashions from London, and her ambition to present her husband with a son. Tragically, Anne's married life lasted only eighteen months; the child she expected with such hopeful joy brought her unexpected death. Her letters survive to paint a vivid picture of the daily concerns and human emotions of a vanished age.

The Manuscripts

Over a century ago, "in a scholar's studious chamber to which the sea breeze comes over a fine sweep of Sussex downs", a member of the Historical Manuscripts Commission found himself engrossed in the domestic preoccupations of seventeenth and eighteenth century Rutland. Hundreds of papers relating mainly to the Barker family of Hambleton and Lyndon had passed into the hands of the Reverend Edmund Field, MA, of Lancing College. The Commissioner, John Cordy Jeaffreson, observed: "The fittest resting place for these memorials would be the old muniment-room of the stately house which Sir Abel Barker built towards the end of his life in his native country." (HMC, Appendix to the Fifth Report, 387). Such hopes were indeed fulfilled when Edmund Field wrote to E N Conant, who had inherited Lyndon Hall in 1862: "You will find, if you survive me, that [the papers] are bequeathed to you if you are willing to accept them with the under-standing that they are to be kept as heirlooms. " The Conant family more than fulfilled this trust. In 1907 the Barker Manuscripts were bound by the Public Record Office in a series of handsome volumes, which in 1966 were generously deposited on indefinite loan in the Leicestershire Record Office.

Concluding his detailed account of the Barker Manuscripts, Jeaffreson noted: "It would be well for students of our Commonwealth history, and all readers who take especial interest in the affairs of Stuart England, if one of our archaeological societies would undertake to publish Mr Field's 17th century papers, and engage him to edit them" (HMC V, 404). Sadly, Mr Field is no longer available as a potential editor. Readers of Rutland Record will . already be familiar with much of the eighteenth century Barker archive from the publication of Thomas Barker's Weather Journals, edited by John Kington (1988), but the seventeenth century Barker papers still await editing and publication. In one volume alone, Abel Barker meticulously transcribed into his private letter book (LRO DE 730/4) copies of over 300 letters written by himself and family members, including his first wife, Anne. In other volumes, many original letters and family papers are preserved. These include a single original letter from his first wife, and a series of lively, spontaneous and erratically spelled missives from his second, Mary Noel, written before and after the Restoration, testimony of a very different world from that experienced by her predecessor.

The Barker Family

The letter which opens the first volume of Barker manuscripts is starkly and tantalisingly abrupt. An isolated survival from the preceding generation, this letter from Abel Barker's grandmother to his father, also Abel, suggests a family feud for which there is no other evidence or explanation. Writing in 1604 after the death of her husband, Baldwin Barker , Elizabeth addressed her son in bitter tones. [In this and all subsequent letters the spelling and punctuation are modernised.]

Dear Son,
Harp not so much upon my death. I desired your life much, before I had you, and God gave me youfor my comfort, I hope still. Therefore, I pray you, understand my intent, for I will have a habitation of my own to dwell in, if God so please. Therefore I pray you, provide me one, according to your father's good intent, or else buy me some house, or sell me some place for a house, according to the proportion of my money which was due to me at last Lady Day and yet unpaid, and that ofMr Greene's which he should pay. I hope you will get it ere long. Pray do this for me which I desire. I have done as much for you as a mother. Do you as much now for me like a most loving son and I shall ever pray for all happiness and comfort to you and yours and shall remain,
Your upright and honest mother , Elizabeth Barker.

(DE 730/11)

Forty years later, family relationships were more amicable as a second Elizabeth Barker set about arranging an advantageous marriage for her son, the second Abel Barker. Born in 1618, Abel Barker inherited from his father the property of "Henbecke" in Hambleton, a property whose locality has so far eluded discovery. Through his tenancy of additional lands, rented from Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir Edward Harington and Thomas Waite, he was able to amass sufficient wealth to purchase in 1634 the recently built "Old" Hall of Hambleton (fig. I). His mother's determined financial negotiations resulted in Abel's marriage in 1646 to Anne, eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Burton of Stockerston and seven years his senior. Anne's married life was tragically brief: she died shortly after giving birth to an heir, Thomas. The widower's second marriage was to Mary, daughter of Alexander Noel of Whitwell. Since Parliament's abolition of the Prayer Book, this was a civil ceremony solemnised by Evers Armyn, Justice of the Peace: the marriage certificate survives among Abel's papers.

Old Hall
Fig. 1 Hambleton Old Hall, purchased by Abel Barker 1634

Healthy profits from sheep-farming, a sharp eye for business and political adaptability brought Abel Barker to increasing local prominence. His support for the dominant Parliamentarian faction brought its reward. On 2Oth June 1645, the Journal of the House of Commons recorded the addition of his name to the membership of the Rutland County Committee, responsible under Parliament for civil and military administration. Other names on the committee included two future signatories of Charles I's death warrant: Thomas Waite and Thomas, Lord Grey of Groby. In 1646, Abel Barker was appointed High Sheriff for Rutland. This new responsibility evoked an ironic comment from his Royalist father-in-law, Sir Thomas Burton: "I doubt not but he will in a thrifty way discharge it [his office] for it is out of fashion to be prodigal in these troublesome times. "

Having openly collaborated with the enemies of Charles I, though never bearing arms in the Civil War, Abel Barker astutely recognised the advantages of a restored monarchy and contributed to a "voluntary present from the loyal gentry and clergy of the county to the King" (HMC V, 396) in 1661. Serving as Member of Parliament for Rutland under both Cromwell and Charles II, Abel Barker continued to receive the rewards of dependability with a baronetcy, bestowed in 1665. His position assured, Sir Abel was able to purchase, with his brother, the manor of Lyndon. He began to build the handsome Lyndon Hall (fig. 2), into which his family moved shortly before his death in 1679.

Lyndon Hall, East Front
Fig. 2. Lyndon Hall, built for Sir Abel Barker between 1665 and 1675

In the letters of Abel Barker and his two wives, we look in vain for significant personal insights into social or political issues. Instead we are given a vivid picture of family concerns and daily preoccupations. In a world of political, religious and military tensions, Abel Barker's most strongly expressed opinions were to complain of the financial hardships occasioned by uncooperative landlords or military demands. Although Anne Barker's father and brother were committed Royalists, her letters express no conflicting loyalties. Indeed, military activities are referred to as an inconvenience added to the problems of the weather, disrupting communication and family visits.

The selection of letters given below leaves aside hundreds of documents from a largely masculine world, recording the minutiae of business dealings and daily concerns. The focus here is on the brief marriage and early death of Anne Barker. From Anne's letters we gain a vivid impression of a dutiful daughter, affectionate sister, warm-hearted kinswoman and attentive wife of a rising member of the Rutland county community, in the brief interlude between the first and second English Civil Wars.

An arranged marriage

In the early months of 1646, Elizabeth Barker wrote to Sir Thomas Burton of Stockerston, Leicestershire, proposing a marriage between their children. Originating from Tolethorpe, the Burton family retained strong Rutland connections, and were firm Royalists. Anne's brother, also Thomas, "distinguished himself in the Civil Wars on the part of the king and was in the first Commission of Array for co. Leicester, in 1641, suffering sequestration and imprisonment" (Complete Baronetage, I, 205). Sir Thomas, who had been made a baronet by James I, had recently married, at the age of 60, his third wife, Frances Turville of St Andrew's, Holborn. Sir Thomas's address for the war years was "at his house in the upper part of Holborn near the elm tree". Although her son was closely involved with the Parliamentary leadership within Rutland, Elizabeth's main concerns were not current political differences but long-standing social connections and the more pressing financial requirements which her second letter boldly addresses.

For Sir Thomas Burton knight & baronet etc.
Worthy Sir
The distance ofplace denying opportunity of personal conference, makes me presume upon so small acquaintance to make these lines messengers of my desires unto you, which are that you will be pleased to grant unto my son that he may with your consent and approbation prosecute that affection which he bears to your daughter Mistress Anne Burton. Sir, if upon enquiry made of him and his estate you shall vouchsafe to gratify me with a line or two in answer hereof, I shall be ready to give you such .further satisfaction therein as you shall desire from your humble servant ,
Elizabeth Barker.

[undated] (DE 730/440)

For Mrs E.B. at Hambleton
Mrs Barker ,
I have received your letter and understand your desires, but they are of so great consequence that I think you do not expect a sudden answer. But I have heard so well of your self and your son, and have that confidence in my daughter (she having been ever a dutiful and obedient child) that I will refer your desires to her, it being her own business. Yet not out of any neglect to her for I love her well, and it shall appear so, and will give her content in this or in any thing else that is./it, she having never offended me in all her life. I am sorry for the occasion of this distance of place now betwixt you and me, but I hope the times will amend and quickly, that we shall not need to have letters to be messengers betwixt us. I think you knew me in my youth, and will be glad to renew that acquaintance when it please God I may come with safety into the country. In the interim, I leave your desires to my daughter's will, and rest your assured friend to serve you,
Thomas Burton. London, 26 February 1645.

[1646 New Style Calendar] (DE 730/441)

For Sir Thomas Burton, knight & baronet, etc.
Worthy Sir,
I have hitherto deferred my answer to your letter, in respect you was pleased therein to refer me to your daughter's pleasure. But because I could not expect satisfaction from her in that which more properly concerns your self; I have presumed once more to address myself unto you. Sir, I suppose by this time you have informed yourself of my son and his estate , and (if you esteem him worthy), I hope I shall not seem offensive in desiring what your pleasure is to give in portion with your daughter, and what you will be pleased to require in jointure for her. The good character yourself have afforded her in your letters hath prevailed with me to ask no more than £1500, and will, I hope, prevail with you to grant no less. Sir, I shall here be sparing in repeating my son's deserts, in that I am his mother, desiring rather you should know them from others, yet I have had such experi-ence of his obedience toward me in matters of less consequence, that I do not doubt of his observance in this. Thatformer acquaintance which you are pleased to remember, I humbly thank you for, and shall account it my happiness if I may become known unto you in a nearer relation; in the interim my request is these lines may present my own and my son's service to yourself and your lady , from her that desires to rest your most affectionatefriend to serve you,
Elizabeth Barker.
Hambleton, 2 Apri1 1646.

(DE 730/4 42)

As a postscript to the foregoing arrangements, we have one solitary letter between Abel Barker and his new bride, although it could scarcely be called passionate or romantic!

For Mistress Anne Burton at London
Mistress Anne,
Though the distance ofplace denies us our accustomed communication, yet the intercourse of letters may, if you be so pleased, supply that defect, wherein, that you may not judge me oblivious of our forepassed amity , I have presumed to break the ice, in confidence that you will not disdain to wade after, and impart your present condition of your affairs. For change of place cannot alter the mind of yours you know who and how.
Hambleton, 25 June 1646.

[unsigned] (DE 730/443)

The New Wife

Only one letter survives, undated, in the handwriting of Anne Barker (fig. 3). Her remaining nine letters exist only in her husband's subsequent copy. In the summer of 1646 she wrote in a clear italic hand to Henry Heron, relative of her late mother, regretting the lack of his "sweete company" at her recent wedding. Written during a visit to her brother's home at Stockerston, Anne's next letter is addressed to her sister Jane, in London with their father and step-mother. The letter mingles yearning for her sister's lively company with practical arrangements for the purchase and delivery of family gifts.

Letter from Anne Barker

Fig.3. Letter from Anne Barker to Henry Herne (Heron), 1646 (Leicestershire Record Office DE 730/1)

To my dear sister Mistress Jane Burton
Sweet Sister,
I thank you for your pains in buying my things, but I rather wished you had danced with me in the dining room than about the streets, who infinitely wanted your company. I would entreat you to buy bone lace and satin for a gown and kirtle, and a laced handkerchief and cuffs made and starched, and a love hood. I pray , good sister, do me the favour to buy for my father and my lady, my Lord Cobham and my lady and your self and my cousin H. Heron and Walter Calverley the best fashionable gloves you can get. I pray do you present my father's and my mother's and W. Calverley's, and get Wat to present the rest together with Mr Barker's service and my own. Mr Barker's man will give you money for the gloves. Mr Barker presents his service to you, wishing you in the like condition with myself; and in the mean time hath caused me to subscribe myself your assured loving sister,
A Barker. Stockerston,
15 Aug 1646.

(DE 730/4 46)

Figure 4 illustrates some of the items requested in this letter. "Bone lace" was made on bone bobbins, while the "kirtle" was the underskirt revealed beneath the gown. A "love-hood", according to OED, was made of " a kind of thin silk stuff" .Lord and Lady Cobham were the parents of Anne's mother, Philippa, whose first husband had been Walter Calverley of Yorkshire (Complete Baronetage, I, 204). The Walter Calverley mentioned here may be a step-brother, as is the Henry Calverley addressed in later letters. Establishing her own household at Hambleton brought new concerns to Anne Barker. The next letter demonstrates her desire to ensure a good reference for a potential servant. In December 1646, she wrote to her father's cousin, who, according to Wright's History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland (1684, Additions, 11), had married John Booth, gentleman of Oakham. Oakham Church contains a memorial to John and Mabella Booth, noting that Mabella was sister to Andrew Burton, recommended in a letter from Sir Thomas Burton as a friend and adviser to his son-in-Iaw.

Dress of an English Gentlewoman Dress of an English Gentlewomen

Fig.4 Engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar, showing the dress of an English gentlewoman, c1640(leicestershire Record Office 730/9)

For Mistress Mabella Booth at Oakham
Good Cousin,
I would have waited upon you before this, had not the unseasonableness of the weather prevented me. When it shall please God to send fair weather I shall be glad to see you here. In the mean time, Ipray do me the favour to send me word whether you thinkMrsRoss's daughter of Edith Weston will be a fit chambermaid for me. I must put her to wash clothes and ifyou think her not fit for me, I pray let me know if you can commend any other to me. Thus with my service to yourselfand your husband, and my cousin Burton and all hers, I rest your faithful cousin and servant,
A Barker
Hambleton, 17 December 1646.

(DE 730/4 50)

Writing to her father, Anne remarked on the problems of communication, made worse by the weather and effects of civil war .In this case as in others, much use was made of John Musson, Abel Barker's cousin and agent, to deliver letters, parcels and payments on his regular journeys to the capital.

For Sir Thomas Burton knight and baronet at his house in the upper part of Holborne near the elm tree , these:
I am sorry that your letter miscarried, for I received it not until Wednesday night last (and then not by my cousin Burton but your carrier) , otherwise I had sent you what you write for before this. But I have sent it now by {the] Uppingham carrier so soon as I could. I hope it will not come too late. But for the soldiers I had sent it you by John Musson without writing. I am very glad to hear you are all well at London, where the foulness of the way and illness of the weather (though I think they was never worse) should not have kept Mr Barker and me from waiting upon you and my lady before this time had we not lived in daily expectation of troopers whom we have had already quartering with us almost these three weeks, and my maid having the green sickness and gone away we could no ways leave the house in safety. I hope you and my lady will be pleased to excuse us and not impute it to any neglect of you. And now that Mr Barker is by reason of his office to reside in the country, we should be glad to see you at Hambleton. Sir, Mr Barker wrote to you when John Musson came last from London to acknowledge and give you thanks for that kindness which he then received, and I have written to you since, but I fear the letters have miscarried, because I cannot perceive by your letters that you have received any of them. I shall now desire only to present Mr Barker's and my own most humble duty to yourself and my lady, and our love to my brother Thomas and my sister Jane and all our other worthy friends at London, and so rest your dutifull and obedient daughter till death,
A Barker
Hambleton, 23 December 1646.

(DE 730/4 47)

The object which Sir Thomas Burton had requested his daughter to send is noted in his letter of 9th December, retained among the Barker manuscripts: "In the interim and presently (you know the cause) I desire you would send me the Leopard[?] , the time grows near I should use it." Anne's next letter, as copied by her husband who presumably remembered the occasion, repeats the mysterious word more legibly as "Leopard", a reading confirmed by HMC V (390). Whether this is a correct reading, and if so, what form the "leopard" might have taken, remains an intriguing question. Dictionaries of obsolete words and dialects offer no explanation, unless the "leopard" were some form of ornament, such as a tapestry. A tempting alternative, given the warlike times, might be "halberd". However, in the light of Abel Barker's transcription of the letter below, the puzzle awaits solution.

For Mistress Jane Burton, etc.
Dear Sister ,
I hope my father hath received his Leopard safe which I sent by Uppingham carrier the last week. I have made bold to send my Lady a country cake to choose king and queen with. You shall find the pea and the bean where two little sticks be. Sister, I give you many thanks for your many favours and pains for me. And so, hoping my father and my Lady be in good health, and wishing you all a merry new year, I rest your assured loving sister ,
A Barker .
[P.S.] Sister, Mr Barker presents his most humble duty to my father and my Lady and his love to your self Hambleton, 31 December 1646.

(DE 730/449)

The gift sent by Anne to her step-mother ("My Lady") is more easily explained. According to Bridget Henisch in Cake and Characters (Henisch 1984, 1819):

The cake is one of the two special elements in the Twelfth Day festivities ... The person who found a bean or coin in his piece was the lucky king for the night. Sometimes he picked his own queen, sometimes chance chose her for him, and a pea secreted in the cake conferred the honour on its finder ... The cake, the bean and the pea were emblems of fertility and harvest, health and prosperity.

It is ironic that Anne, wife of a Parliamentary supporter, sent Lady Burton such a cake at the very time when Parliament was about to abolish Christmas and such "pagan" festivities. However, these traditional Twelfth Night celebrations were revived and elaborated after the Restoration, as testified by Samuel Pepys' Diary for 6th January 1669:

I did bring out my cake - a noble cake and there cut it into pieces, with wine and good drink: and after a new fashion, to prevent spoiling the cake, did put so many titles into a hat, and so drew cuts; and I was the Queen; and The. Turner, King -Creed, Sir Maring Marrall; and Betty, Mrs Millicent.
(Everyman edition, 1906, 11607)

From the next letter it is clear that Sir Thomas Burton was able to make the journey to Rutland to stay with his daughter in the spring of 1647. Jane Burton, aged 29, was about to be married (although neither Wright nor Burke give her name or that of her prospective husband). There is an interesting, perhaps even ironic tone in Anne's comment: "all the happiness that can be expected in a husband" [HMC V, 390, mistakenly reads "expressed"].

For Mistress Jane Burton at London, these:
Dear Sister,
I desire you would do me the favour to give the bearer hereof, John Musson, my little gilded trunk and my fur box and if you can find the cloth that went about the cake, sew it about the trunk. I thank you for your care of them. I shall now have use for them in the country. I pray remember my husband's and my most humble duty to my lady (my father I thank God is very well) and our love to yourself and your servant when you see him. Wishing you all the joy and happiness that can be expected in a husband. I shall be glad to know, ifit be no prejudice to you, when your wedding is, though I can do you no other service if it be in London but to send you a bride cake. I pray you send my love to Mrs Cokayne and the two Nans I and to all others that ask how I do. I hope I shall see my lady and you in the country this summer and have the happiness to enjoy your company at Hambleton where you shall be very welcome to your assured loving sister,
A Barker .
Hambleton, 10 Apri11647.

(DE 730/451)

Whatever the degree of her married happiness, Anne's pride in her new husband is confirmed by the following letter of December 1646, from her uncle, Thomas Farbeck, Rector of Ketton (fig. 5). Included for its insights into some very human relationships, this letter contains a poignant reference to Anne's desire to provide her husband with an heir, which was soon to be so tragically fultilled:

To the worthy, and his very loving cousin Mistress Anne Barker at Hambleton:
Noble Cousin,
In your pleasant mirth, I have heard you ask of God two things: the one that your husband might [be] High Sheriff, the other that you might bring him forth a son. Though you said these in jest, the one proves true and so I hope will the other, and I pray for the accomplishment thereof

Good cousin, these two saucy boys will needs come over to see you, and if they durst, they would present their best service to Mr High Sheriff My humble request to you is, to take notice of their silent desires and, if you please, to stand their friend in the cause. The little boy is somewhat confident in your favour, but I say no more for them but leave it to you to do what you please. My wife with myself remember our service to you, and if we may be so bold, to Mr High Sheriff also, to whom with your self I offer my service to preach before you the next Sabbath, or next to that, ifyou please to accept therefore, and then out of your love to send a horse that I may bring your aunt along with me.

Cousin, I am bold with you, your good nature hath emboldened me, and so I pray excuse me, and thus with my love and best respects remembered to you both, with hearty prayer to God for your good, I humbly take my leave. From Ketton this 28th of December, 1646, Your daily orator,
Thomas Farbeck.

(DE 730/1 22)

By the late spring of 1647, Anne Barker was pregnant. A respectful letter to her step-mother looks forward to the promised family reunion, one year after Anne's marriage:

To the much honoured Lady the Lady Frances Burton these present with my humble duty:
I had waited upon you before this to have given you thanks for your many favours to me, had not Mr Barker's extraordinary occasions, and my own sickness prevented me. But now that your ladyship is near coming into the country (which I am glad to hear) I hope you will be pleased to do me the honour to see Hambleton, whither you and all your good company shall be very heartily welcome to Mr Barker and me,. and in the mean time that you will be pleased to accept the presentation of our most humble duty to your self and my father, and our best love to my sister Jane, wishing her as happy a bride, as your dutiftl and obedient daughter till death,
A Barker .
Hambleton, 26 June 1647.
(DE 730/4 35)

Letter to Anne Barker from Thomas Farbeck

Fig.5 Letter to Anne Barker from Thomas Farbeck, Rector of Ketton (Leicestershire Record Office DE 730/1)

On the same day Anne wrote a more spontaneous letter to a friend, acting as her agent in London. The furnishings at Hambleton needed renovation, while medicines, unobtainable in Rutland, were required from a London druggist.

For Mr Augustine Crofts at the Nag's Head in the Old Bailey near the Pump there.
Mr Crofts,
I thank you for all your favours, and I would desire you to buy me twelve ells of a deep watchet sarcenet for a bed, and a slight fringe for it of the same colour , not above five yards and a quarter long, and a small .fringe for the top of the bed. I pray you buy me five dozen of small silk buttons and a set ofprints suitable to this enclosed pattern and send them down. And 1 desire you would do so much as go into Lombard Street to one Mr White a drugster and buy me an ounce of his best parmacity and sa grains of beaten bezoar. Mr Barker will return you the money by the first opportunity: he sent you the last by Mr Woodcock,. I hope you have received it before this. 1 pray you remember my love to my [step-]brother Calverley if he be in town. I should be glad to know how he doth and how his business goes forward, and thus with my love to your self and your wife, 1 rest your truly loving .friend,
A Barker.
Hambleton, 26June 1647.

(DE 730/436)

The luxurious new bed-curtains were to be made from twelve ells (12 x 45 inches) of "watchett" : pale bluish-green, "sarcenet" : a thin soft silk textile with slight sheen (Cunnington et al). "Parmacity", or spermaceti, obtained from the sperm whale, was recommended in J ane Sharp's Midwives' Book of 1671 as a cure for smallpox. "Bezoar" was a term for an antidote, or various medicinal preparations (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). The successful delivery of these orders was paid for with a "bill of exchange", precursor of the banking system which was to make trade so much easier by the end of the century.

For Mr Augustine Crofts, etc
Mr Crofts,
My best love remembered unto you with many thanks for your pains taken in buying my things, all which 1 have received by Sewell the carrier. 1 have sent here enclosed a bill of exchange for your money. Mr Woodcock, who is to pay it, will be in town before you can receive this letter. I pray present my love to my brother Calverley and my sister, from your assured lovingfriend,
A Barker. Hambleton,
14 July 1647.

(DE 730/4 37)

Birth and Death

No further letters from Anne survive to give news of the progress of her pregnancy. Early in the New Year , her step-brother, Henry Calverley, wrote an anxious letter to Abel Barker:

For his honourable brother, Abel Barker and his at his house at Hambleton near Oakham in Rutland, these present:
Good Brother ,
I writ both you and my dear sister two several letters to enquire of your and her health and welfare, but hearing no answer I address by this messenger to be satisfied. I hope to see you in the spring here. You shall have homely but welcome entertainment. Thus, wishing you good report to my desire, with my best love to you and my sister, I rest, Sir, your loving brother to serve you,
Henry Calverley.
Calverley, 9th January 1647[8]

(DE 730/1 22b)

Abel's reply was bleak:

For his honoured brother Henry Calverley Esquire at Calverley, these:
Good Brother,
Had I received your former letters I should with more willingness have answered the same than I shall now acquaint you with the greatest affliction that ever I endured in the loss of a most loving and dearly beloved wife. It is my unhappiness which to others is a comfort in misery "tot socios habuisse doloris II {to have had so many companions in grie.n wherein as I am not ignorant of your large proportion, so I have nothing at present to offer in allay to the same, more than that it hath pleased God to bless me with a pledge of our love. I mean a young son, which I hope is likely to live and be a comfort both to you and me. I beseech God he may hereafter be as like his mother in condition, as he is now in complexion.

Sir, I shall desire herein to present my best love and respects to your self and my sister, with an acknowledgement of many thanks for that great affection which you have always expressed both to me and my wife: I hope that, though it hath pleased God to take to his mercy the first occasion thereof, yet you will be pleased still to continue the same for her sake that was so near and dear unto us both. And I do assure you that you shall find in me all offices of love that can be expected from your sorro~l but most affectionate brother,
A Barker.
Hambleton, 17 January 1647[8].

(DE 730/475)

A more detailed account of the event was provided in the following sequence of letters from Abel Barker to his father-in-law. These moving lines demonstrate how rapidly the expectation and joy of the child's arrival was transformed to desolation at the mother's loss.

For Sir Thomas Burton knight and baronet at Holborn
I had before this time saluted you with my letters had I not been in expectation to have writ you the news that my wife was laid on her mending side[?], but that good hour is not yet come though daily expected. She is very well, thanks be to God, and hath had Mrs Kneeland with her, almost these three weeks. We desire both to present our duties to your self and my lady, and our loves to all our friends at London, and particularly to Mrs White, and to give you both thanks for your many favours to us. We should be very glad to hear you were got free from such an ill companion as a cough. My wife desires you would keep liquorice in your mouth at night ifyou can abide the taste ofit, for she hath lately had a cough andfinds it hath done her much good.

Sir, I have nothing more at present worthy your knowledge, but that my brother Walter and my sister are safely arrived with your obedient son,
A Barker.
Hambleton, 21 December 1647.

(DE 730/470)

For Sir Thomas Burton knight and baronet at Holborn
I shall now take the boldness to present you with that news which in my former letter I could not, that it hath pleased God to bless us with a son, which after a sharp but short (ifnot too short) conflict was born this day about 2 of the clock. My wife, thanks be to God , is very hearty, and Mrs Kneeland tells me she doubts not but will do well. We shall both make one request unto you, that yourself and my lady will be pleased to be two of the witnesses to the baptism, that you was pleased to promise us at Stockerston. In hope whereof, our duties beingfirst represented, I shall rest in haste, your obedient son,
A Barker.
Hambleton, die solis [Sunday] 26th December, 1647.

(DE 730/471)

For his ever honoured father, Sir Thomas Burton knight and baronet at Holborn
I believe before this you have heard the report of that heavy affliction which it hath pleased God to lay upon me, in the loss ofmy dearly beloved wife. I know not what secondary cause to impute, more than her own fears, and the too much haste of a hardhearted midwife. Dr Boles went from her but the day before she died and was with us the day after, yet could see no outward signs of death in her. Had it not beenfor my indisposition, I had sooner given you account of these sad tidings, though God knows they come now too soon, having nothing wherewith to assuage the same, more than the remembrance of that sweet pledge of her love, your Godson and grandson, which, though at first bruised by the midwife, is now (thanks be to God) recovered and very well. I pray God he may hereafter be as like his mother in goodness and virtue as he is now infavour and complexion, that so he may be the object of your favour and affection, as he is now of your pity and compassion.

Sir, if the length of the way and your other occasions do not prevent you, I should desire I might enjoy your presence at her .funeral which I intend upon Tuesday the 8th of February. And in the interim to present my most humble duty to yourself and my lady and to give you thanks for your many expressions of love and affection to me. Ihope, though ithathpleased God to take to his mercy her that was the first and most beloved cause thereof, yet you will be pleased still to continue the same for her sake, than which nothing can be of greater comfort and more acceptable to your sorrowful son,
A Barker.
Hambleton, 26January 1647[8].

(DE 730/476)

Further letters from Abel Barker, regarding his wife's funeral, were addressed to relatives, clergymen and friends. These included Thomas Farbeck, to whom he sent: "five yards of Spanish cloth, which I desire you would be pleased to make into a suit and cloak, and wear it as a sad remembrance of her who was so great a lover of you and me. " The Rector of Stockerston was invited to bring neighbours from Anne's birthplace to the funeral with him, and five shillings apiece given to the poorer villagers who could not afford to make the journey.

Finally, a diplomatic letter from Abel Barker to his late wife's step-brother provides details of her arrangements for the care of the child.

For his ever honoured brother, Henry Calverley Esquire at Calverley:
Good Brother,
I have alwaysfound such real expressions of your true love and affection to me, and have such affiance of your care and well wishes for that dear relic and pledge of our love, my young son, that I shall be very ready to accept of any whom you shall commend to be his governess, to initiate him in virtue, from which I hope he will not be averse, if he participate as much of his mother's disposition, as complexion. But because as yet his tender age is neither capable of understanding good or evil, and his being in the town with a nurse ofhis mother's own choosing, and being very well, as this bearer can relate unto you, it may perhaps be prejudicial to him to be removed, which makes me defer the acceptance of so great a favour until I see you. It was his mother's desire he should be named Thomas after his grandfather and Godfather , and I was willing she should have her desire,. her deserts have obliged me not to deny her a greater request than that .

Sir, I know not whether I shall have leisure to wait upon you at Calverley this spring as I intended, ifnot I shall take the first opportunity I can to visit you. I hope you will be pleased to see your little nephew and me at Hambleton, whither you shall be very heartily welcome. Now that I know where your letters were left I shall not fail to send for them if they may be had. In the interim, I desire to present my best love and thanks to yourself, my good sister and kind cousins and so remain, good brother, your sorrowjill but most affectionate brother and servant ,
A Barker. Hambleton, 18February, 1647[81].

(DE 730/481)

Anne's hopes and intentions for her child were to be fulfilled. He would grow up to inherit, as Sir Thomas Barker, the substantial estates of Hambleton and Lyndon, and to follow in his father's footsteps, in 1681, as High Sheriff of Rutland. Subsequent letters written by Abel Barker record his young son's progress, for example, on 11th August, 1649, when he ordered a coat for the eighteen month old child who "bath newly begun to go" (DE 730/4 106). After initially expressing a reluctance to remarry, Abel Barker made at least one unsuccessful proposal to obtain a step-mother for the child. In July 1655, when he was already negotiating for the hand of Mary Noel of Whitwell, Abel Barker received a letter from "Rebekah Parfett alias Partesoyle" of London:

...I did question that your desire was rather from your friends' persuasion than any inclination or affection of yours, which now doth appear, as concerning a settlement ...I cannot think of committing myself and estate into the hands of any man upon the terms you desire, more especially, your condition considered, as you have a son. ...
(DE 730/1 41)

On 6th September 1655, Abel Barker married Mary Noel. Her surviving letters, all addressed to her "Dear Heart" , chart occasional resentment at his frequent absences in London; requests for fashionable purchases recommended by Lady Mackworth; constant anxieties about the health and material welfare of their three daughters; reports on the farming activities of her stepson and frustration at her exclusion from her husband's plans to buy and build at Lyndon. The testimony of these letters, with their tone of human insecurity and wealth of historical insights, must await a subsequent article.


I would like to thank Sir John Conant for his support in this work on the Barker Manuscripts, which I hope will become part of a larger project. Thanks are also due to the Leicestershire Record Office for providing facilities for research, and allowing me to reproduce extracts from the Barker manuscripts and illustrations to accompany this article.


Burke, I & I B, A Genealogical and Heraldic History ofthe Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England (London 1838)

Cokayne, G E, Complete Baronetage I, 1611-1800 (Exeter 1900).

The Conant MSS, Index prepared by Rutland Record Society (1985).

Cunnington, C W, Cunnington, P, and Beard, C, Dictionary of English Costume (London, 1960).

Diary of Samuel Pepys II (Everyman, London, 1906).

Henisch, B, Cakes and Characters (London, 1984).

Historical Manuscripts Commission, Appendix to the Fifth Report (London, 1876).

Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition 1989).

Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (3rd edition 1983).

Sharp, I, The Midwives Book (London 1671).

Wright, I, The History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland (1684, republished 1973).

We are grateful to Sue Howlett and the Rutland Record for allowing us to reproduce this article.