Finding the Gullivers
When I was growing up in Nottingham and Birmingham in the sixties and early seventies, we would often spend holidays and Christmases with my maternal grandparents in Walsgrave-on-Sowe, near Coventry. They were always full of tales, especially my Grandpa Gulliver. On one of our visits, I asked him where the name Gulliver came from, since I’d just read the 1912 children’s version of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels into several remote Nations of the World, originally published in 1726 as a satirical, social and political tract, never intended for young minds. He told me that in Banbury churchyard, I would find, railed around, a gravestone with Gullivers on. The legend of that, he went on, is supposed to be that the man that wrote Gulliver’s Travels saw that stone and thought that that’s what he’d call his book. Those are your ancestors. So that’s just something to think on! he added. I thought on, but regarded it as simply a piece of family folklore until in 1986, while attending the Sealed Knot Society’s re-enactment of the Battle of Edghill, near Banbury, I picked up a local history booklet from the stall of the Banburyshire Local History Society. I was surprised to find that it had the very same story printed in it. It was official, then! Lemuel Gulliver (the real one, that is) was indeed my ancestor.
I joined the Sealed Knot as a roundhead and while researching the history of our newly-formed Midland Association regiment, in the library at the University of Warwick, was intrigued to find a record of a Banbury man named Gulliver from the mid-seventeenth century. He was listed as a Quaker, a term which, then, was often used to denote someone with a craft, possibly somewhat itinerant, as Quakers and other religious dissenters were frequently persecuted. They were also excluded from higher occupations, especially public office, though many fought (and became officers) in Cromwell’s Army following the Battle of Cropredy Bridge in June 1644. This discovery was made even more fascinating when I later discovered that an Edward Gulliver had married Mary Hawes in Cropredy in 1620.
Twenty-five years after these discoveries, I found myself standing in the graveyard where Lemuel Gulliver was supposedly buried, together with my younger son. However, we could find no railed tomb bearing the name of Lemuel Gulliver, and it was only when we’d completed my circumnavigation of the churchyard that my modern-day Oliver found a small inscribed stone, stating:
In his Preface to the First Edition of his famous Gulliver’s Travels, 1726, Swift remarks ‘I have observed in the Church Yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers The original tombstones no longer exist, but a later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque.
The tombs that remain, no longer railed, are from the early to mid-nineteenth century and refer to two Samuel Gullivers, father and son, and to Sarah Harriet Gulliver and her daughter, Adelaide. The size of the tombs suggests that this part of the family was relatively wealthy, if afflicted by premature death. Swift was related to the Dryden family of Canon’s Ashby in Northamptonshire. His grandmother was Elizabeth Dryden, aunt of the poet laureate, John Dryden, born near Oundle. She married Thomas Swift and they had two children, Jonathan and Thomas. Jonathan was the father of the author of Gulliver’s Travels. Although Swift didn’t publish his great work until late in life, after he had become Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, he probably conceived of it during his time spent in the service of Sir William Temple of Moor Park near Farnham in Surrey, a diplomat to whom he was secretary in the 1690s and under whom he became involved in London politics. During this time he also gained his M.A. from Oxford, and became part of an inner circle in the Tory government of the Earl of Oxford until the death of Queen Anne in 1714, when he returned to Ireland. However, he continued to visit London, and maintained inflential contacts who helped him to publish his work anonymously, under the pen-name of Lemuel Gulliver, complete with a fictitious frontispiece including a portrait of Lemuel. Whether he actually met any of the real Gullivers on his visits to Banbury is impossible to prove, but the distinctive Gulliver nose he gave to his portrait of Lemuel suggests that he might have done, or else that he had had, at some point in the writing of the books, possession of a similar family portrait! In any event, as a satire parodying the ’traveller’s tales’ literary sub-genre of Defoe, it made its hero apparent author, Lemuel Gulliver, a household name almost overnight, while Swift kept his disguise and his clerical cloth at a time when liberty of speech and publication was far from secure. Much of the book is a reflection of his time in politics, such as the well-known scene in which Gulliver gets into trouble with the Queen of Lilliput by urinating on a fire which threatens to destroy her palace. This was a metaphor for the Tory’s actions in delivering the Treaty of Utrecht: They had achieved a good result, but in an unacceptable manner!
Family tradition suggested that the Gullivers were originally a French Huguenot family, possibly weavers, who, escaping persecution in their native country, may first have settled in Dublin, where there is a Huguenot graveyard dating from this time, from where they moved to Banburyshire. The name may therefore have its origins in a corruption of French names such as Guillefort or Guillevoir. However, I then discovered a recent (2011) family history publication by Susan E Clarke (née Gulliver), Gulliver Travels Again. Her great-grandfather, Charles Gulliver (b Marston St Lawrence, 1834), had been a farm labourer and a Methodist lay preacher, possibly the man I refer to later as the ancestor who helped Joseph Arch form the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union, centred on the nearby Warwickshire villages of Wellesbourne and Barford, where he is still remembered today. Arch was also a Methodist lay-preacher, as well as becoming a Liberal MP. Charles preached at chapels in Eastcote, Litchborogh and Culworth, villages in East Warwickshire/ South Northamptonshire. Charles’ father, John Gulliver (b Overthorpe, 1797), had farmed land in Marston St Lawrence near Banbury, and married Joanna Middleton of Thenford and his ancestors had farmed land in the nearby parishes of Warkworth and Overthorpe for generations before that, going back to another John Gulliver or ’Galover’, who is recorded in the parish registers as having died in 1570.
Local antiquarian studies revealed to Susan E Clarke that the old spelling of Gulliver had, apparently, been ’Golafre’ or ’Goulafre’. A Guillaume Goulaffre, or William Golafre, is recorded as having come over from Normandy with William the Conqueror, and was given lands in Suffolk. In old French the word ’golafre’ refers to a nickname for a ’glutton’, relating to a word for ’caterpillar’. However, the original family name, ’Goulafre’ relates to the manor that they once owned in Normandy, ’La Goulafriere’, originally known as ’Bernard de Mesnil’.
Andrew J Chandler, Kecskemét, August 2013
The Gullivers of Banburyshire and the Golafres of Fyfield.
By the fourteenth century, besides continuing to hold the manors granted to them by the Conqueror, the ’Golafre’ family had acquired lands in Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. They appeared on the Swan Rolls, which was a sign of great wealth and heritage. Sir John Golafre lived on the manor of Fyfield (then in Berkshire). In 1336, Sir John Golafre (senior) had inherited the manor of Fyfield in Berkshire (now Oxon) from his mother-in-law, Juliana, widow of Sir John de Fyfield. His father, Thomas Golafre, of Sarsden, had been MP for Northampton. The manor house on the village green was probably mostly built by this Sir John Golafre (senior), who became an MP for Oxfordshire in 1334, then for Worcestershire in 1337-8, where he seems to have inherited lands at Nafford, and then became the member for Oxon once more in 1340. He died in 1363, leaving the estate to his son, Sir John Golafre (junior). He died in 1378, leaving no legitimate children, so that Fyfield passed first to his brother, Thomas, and then, when he died the following year, it came eventually to Thomas’ son, John Golafre, who occupied it from 1406.
Sir John Golafre (senior) had a bastard son by his mistress Janet Pulham, born in about 1350. He was also a John Golafre, who rose to become King Richard II’s most trusted courtier and Constable of Wallingford Castle. He was knighted by the King, becoming skilled at jousting and an expert archer. He was sent on a year-long diplomatic mission to Poland to gather support for the Anglo/French Crusade against the Ottomans in 1394 and accompanied the King’s horse in the Richard’s Irish campaigns the following year. He died in 1396 and was buried at Westminster Abbey in 1396. He had asked to be buried in the family mausoleum at Greyfriars’ in Oxford, but Richard persuaded him to accept a plot in the Abbey, close to the one reserved for the king himself. Although he acquired ownership/ custodianship of manors and castles throughout England and Wales, he did not possess an inheritance or any great income, leaving his modest treasures and jewels to the king. He died childless.
(Effigy of Sir John Golafre, (d. 1396), Old Cleeve)
It was no doubt due to the influence of his cousin, who had found him a position as a young squire at court in 1395, that the third Sir John Golafre of Fyfield also become a trusted courtier by this time. Moreover, his cousin’s widow, Philippa, having been disinherited by her mother, remarried the king’s brother, Edmund Duke of York. Sir John was appointed Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and was elected ’knight of the shire’ (MP) in 1401, a position which he held twelve times during the next thirty years. In the early fifteenth century, the Golafres found themselves wedged, profitably, if somewhat uncomfortably, between the great Plantagenet houses of York and Lancaster.
Sir John Golafre was briefly imprisoned by Henry Bolingbroke after the capture of Richard II, but when Bolingbroke became Henry IV, Sir John accepted his kingship and was reappointed as sheriff in 1404. He became a close ally of Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet Geoffrey, one of the most powerful men in Oxfordshire, whose daughter Alice married into the de la Pole family. Chaucer appointed Golafre controller of Woodstock Palace and grounds, and by 1416 he had also risen high in the estimations of the local people around Abingdon, who had benefited greatly from the building of the bridge over the Thames in the town, which he had helped to sponsor and finance. He fought in France with Henry V in 1417, staying on to manage the conquered territories for the king until 1419. He married three times altogether, twice into the Yorkist de la Pole family, despite his service to the Lancastrian kings. His first wife, the daughter of Sir Edmund de la Pole, Elizabeth, died in childbirth in 1403, together with his only child. His third wife, Margaret Heveningham, whom he married in 1434, was the widow of Sir Walter de la Pole.
According to Roskell and Woodger’s History of Parliament, 1326-1421, Sir John Golafre died childless in 1442. Inside the church of St Nicholas on the other side of the Green from the manor, there is a Golafre Chapel and a large tomb showing the third and last Sir John Golafre of Fyfield as a skeletal figure. As a courtier of Richard II, it was probably also this man who donated two unusual stained glass pieces to the parish church in Wytham. These are not roundels, but depictions the figures of royal saints, complete with halos, which bear a resemblence to the King and his wife, Anne of Bohemia, the sister of the Hungarian King Sigismund. Foxe (author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) later claimed that it was through Anne of Bohemia that John Wycliffe’s works and ideas were taken to Bohemia, influencing Jan Huss and the Reformation in the Hapsburg Empire. Like King Richard, Golafre was a great lover of Gothic art forms from across Europe. Apparently, although he died childless, he was not not heirless. Agnes Wytham, who died in 1444, was his second cousin and was named by Sir John as his heiress. In All Saints, Wytham, there is the remainder of a brass memorial to Robert de Wytham (d. 1406) and his wife Juliana Golafre (d. 1408), showing their likenesses. They had several daughters and one son, Richard, who was Agnes’ father. Since she was referred to as ’the last of the de Wythams’, she would also have been the last of the Golafres of Fyfield. There followed a struggle within the wider family, who traced descent back to the first Sir John Golafre of Fyfield, who had married Elizabeth de Fyfield. The Fyfield Estate was eventually sold to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, in 1448, by purchase, but he and his wife Alice, granddaughter of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, continued to live at Ewelme in Oxfordshire.
William was imprisoned in the Tower of London and then exiled by Henry VI. He was murdered on his ship in the Channel and his body was washed ashore near Dover in 1450. Alice brought his body home. No doubt embittered by his treatment, she continued to consolidate the family’s estates, perhaps fatefully, by abandoning their Lancastrian connections and building up their Yorkist ones. She retained direct control of Ewelme until her death in 1475, when the manor passed to her son John (d. 1492), 2nd duke of Suffolk and brother-in-law to both Edward IV and Richard III. He was succeeded by his second son Edmund, who was demoted to the rank of earl by Henry VII and fled abroad in 1501, prompting the seizure of his estates. Formally attainted in 1504, he was imprisoned from 1506 and executed in 1513. Ewelme was one of several manors vested in trustees for the life of Edmund’s widow, but it was controlled by the Crown and granted to the new Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon, in 1525. Henry VIII took it back in 1535, and in 1550 it was among the estates settled by Edward VI on the Princess Elizabeth. It remained in royal possession until 1628.
There was also a landed Golafre family in Worcestershire and Herefordshire in the fourteenth century, perhaps connected through John Golafre (senior). A half-hide of the manor of Ryall was given by the crown to Roger Golafre in 1299. In the fifteenth century, William Golafre gave or sold the land to Robert Aderne, possibly a member of the Arden or Ardern family to which the Golafres were related at that time. The last recorded victim of the plague was John Golafre, vicar of Little Marcle, near Ledbury, in 1349. There was also a William Golafre (possibly the same as that of Ryall) who married Margaret de Berrow: Her brother, Thomas, had no issue and therefore wanted his sister to inherit the estates of Berrow in Worcestershire and Coldborough in Herefordshire. However, the Prior of Worcester disputed Margaret’s wardship and marriage to the extent that he kidnapped her and locked her up in the Priory. The Court of Fines in Westminster ruled in Thomas’ favour in 1394 and his sister was allowed to marry William Golafre. However, they had no children before William died, and the estates passed by default to the Ruyhales of Birtsmorton. Margaret appears to have re-married the son of Baldwin Huddington’s, John, giving birth to Walter Huddington in 1415. At this point, she seems to have changed the spelling of her name to Gollafor (see below).
Some sources also refer to a Golafre ’daughter and heiress’ of Fyfield who became the second wife of John de la Pole (1462-1487). He was grandson of William and Alice, and eldest son the elder John de la Pole (d. 1491), and Elizabeth Plantagenet of York, therefore in direct line to the throne. Elizabeth’s brother was Edward IV, who made her son John, Earl of Lincoln. Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville, whose two sons, Edward V and Richard Duke of York were imprisoned in the Tower of London when Richard of Gloucester had the Woodville marriage declared illegal, thus enabling him to replace the young king whose ’protector’ he had been. When Richard III lost his only son, the Earl of Lincoln became ’de facto’ the next Yorkist in line to the throne. Although never clearly declaring him as his successor, Richard gave him the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, titles reserved for the heir. He also ensured that Lincoln gained possession of Fyfield from his father. Lincoln fought for Richard at Bosworth Field, surviving the battle. Following the ’Tudor Takeover’, both Lincoln and his father, Suffolk, at first made peace with Henry VII, who visited Ewelme to reassure them of his goodwill towards the family.
However, Lincoln was then introduced to Lambert Simnel, and a plot began to form by which he hoped to secure the throne for the Yorkists, perhaps himself. Simnel bore a striking resemblance to the young Edward, Earl of Warwick. Edward was born (in 1475) as Edward Plantagenet, to George, Duke of Clarence and Lady Isabel Neville, elder daughter of the 16th Earl of Warwick. Richard Neville, ’The Kingmaker’, who had eventually been been killed in battle in 1471, had no sons, so Richard III had Neville’s grandson created Earl of Warwick in 1478 and knighted at York in 1483. On seizing the Crown on the battlefield at Bosworth in 1485, Henry had re-imprisoned the boy in the Tower, where he had already spent much of his young life, hence the possibility of impersonation.
However, early in 1487, when he first heard of the plot, all Henry VII had to do was to produce the real Earl of Warwick. As the Plantagenet heir, Warwick would have possessed a stronger claim to the throne than both Henry and Lincoln, and was only prevented from acceeding to the throne by the act of attainder by which Richard had usurped it. With Richard deposed, Lincoln knew that Parliament could easily be persuaded to change its mind and reinstate the boy’s claim, especially if Henry were also forced to disclose that Edward V and Richard Duke of York were no longer alive. Lincoln may have known this himself, especially if they had died on the orders of Richard III, since he had been Richard’s heir. To scotch the rumours of Warwick’s escape from the Tower, put about by Lincoln’s supporters, Henry had the boy paraded through the streets of London, but Lincoln had already fled before Henry could force him to recognise the real Earl or reveal his treachery. Some historians have suggested that this shows that Lincoln was intending to take the throne for himself. He raised an army of German mercenaries in Burgundy, with the help of Margaret, the sister of Edward IV, and landed in Ireland. Margaret then declared Simnel to be her nephew and Lincoln told of how he had personally rescued the boy from the Tower. He was proclaimed and crowned in Dublin, by its Archbishop, as Edward VI, at the end of May 1487. Having acquired Irish troops, led by Sir Thomas Fitzgerald, Lincoln landed in Lancashire on 4th June and marched his troops to York, covering two hundred miles in five days. However, the city, normally a Yorkist stronghold, refused to yield to him, perhaps because they did not wish to be governed by a king, even a Yorkist, who depended on German and Irish mercenaries. Gathering troops on the way from Coventry to Nottingham, the Tudor king met Lincoln’s forces on their way to Newark. Although the Germans under the command of Martin Schwartz fought with great valour, Fitzgerald, Lincoln and Schwartz were all killed, together with over four thousand of their men, at the Battle of Stoke on 16th June, 1487.
According to the Dictionary of National Biography, had the Simnel Rebellion been successful, the Golafre ’heiress’ would have become Lincoln’s Plantagenet Queen, assuming that he had always wanted the throne for himself (the real Earl of Warwick was still in the Tower, where he remained until executed in 1499 after pleading guilty to plotting his escape with Perkin Warbeck). His first wife, Margaret Fitzalan (d. 1493), was the daughter of Thomas Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel and Margaret Woodville, Elizabeth’s sister. She may have borne Lincoln a son, Edward, but he died young. Although Lincoln was young and healthy, this may not have been the case with Margaret Fitzalan, hence the remarriage to the Golafre heiress. But who was she? Neither the DNB nor any other source provides us with names or dates. In any case, she would have to have been quite old, in 1487, to have been the daughter of the last Sir John Golafre of Fyfield, who had died forty-five years previously, apparently without issue. The estate had been bought by the de la Pole family in 1448, so if there was a second wife named Golafre, this must have been a relative from another Golafre house, hence the confusion among antiquarians and historians. In addition, we know that Agnes Browning (née Wytham), granddaughter of Juliana Golafre and Robert de Wytham, was the last of the Fyfield Golafres, the disputed heiress in 1442, and that she had also died without issue in 1444.
This Golafre ’heiress’ may therefore have been a family ’daughter’ in a general sense, perhaps descended from one of Juliana’s seven daughters, so that she would have been of sufficiently noble blood and fertility to attract the attentions of the young Earl of Lincoln, who had acquired Fyfield some time after the death of his grandfather, possibly in 1483, and held the manor and lands until they were seized by the Crown in 1487. This is when there may have been a young Golafre ’daughter’ living in the manor. Henry Tudor had Lincoln posthumously attained, so that the Fyfield estate was confiscated by the crown. If there was a second surviving wife, she would have lost her claim to Fyfield, been forced to leave, and would probably have needed to ’lay low’, like the other Yorkist survivors of the Simnel plot. After all, despite the fact that the last surviving legitimate male Plantagenet claimant to the throne, the Earl of Warwick, had died on the scaffold in 1499, the de la Poles did not give up their claim to the throne until 1525, when the younger of the two surviving brothers was killed at the Battle of Pavia. This shows how fragile the Tudor royal heritage really was, descended through the illegitimate child of John of Gaunt. Henry VIII carried on a vindictive campaign against the Pole family after the son of Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury’s son, Cardinal Reginald Pole, penned a stinging attack against the King’s divorce, from exile in Italy. This resulted in the execution of one of his brothers in 1539 and the suicide of the other. Margaret, the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, was an old woman in 1541, once the governess to Mary Tudor, whose mother’s betrothal to Arthur, Prince of Wales, had caused the execution of her brother, Edward Plantagenet, the rival claimant to the throne. Despite this, she became a loyal Tudor courtier. However, because she was a Neville, she was accused of complicity in the Northern Rebellion, and sent to the Tower without trial. From there she was executed in May, after ten or eleven blows of the axe. When Mary became Queen, her son became the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and she herself was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. Her granddaughter became a close friend of Elizabeth I.
If there was a Golafre heiress married to the Earl of Lincoln, John de la Pole, and living at Fyfield until he was killed in battle and posthumously attained of treason, it was a cruel twist of fate that another traitor’s wife, albeit of royal blood, was given Fyfield in 1510. Lady Katherine Gordon was Perkin Warbeck’s impoverished widow and a kinswoman of James IV of Scotland. She was granted permission to live at Fyfield until death, provided that she did not visit Scotland or any other foreign country without licence. After Warbeck, she married three times more, and was living at Fyfield in 1531. She was known as The White Rose of York and Scotland, and was buried in the parish church of St Nicholas in 1537. Her fourth husband, Christopher Ashton, was placed beside her in the handsome Tudor tomb, contrasting with the medieval stone tomb of Sir John Golafre nearby. By 1555, Fyfield Manor had come into the possession of Sir Thomas White, the founder of St John’s College, Oxford. He endowed the college with the manor, ending its connection with the Golafre and de la Pole families. All that was left to remind local people of its former associations was the tomb of Sir John himself, and this seemed to have the desired effect. In 1870-72, Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Fyfield like this:
Value, £125. Patron, St. John’s College, Oxford. The church is good; and contains the tomb and effigies of Sir John Golafre, popularly called Gulliver. Charities, £23. A grand elm-tree is here, 36 feet in circuit, described by Arnold as ’a resort of Maidens, who from the distant hamlets come, to dance round Fyfield elm in May’.
This connection between the two names was confirmed by The Battle Abbey Roll with some Norman Lineages:
Fyfield in Berkshire was was formerly the property and seat of the family of Golafre. John Golafre was a knight of the shire in 1337. Sir John Golafre was employed in an embassy to France in 1389…a ’son’ of the same name died siesed of the manor in 1442. The same year a licence was granted by the Crown, for the foundation of a chantry, at the altar of Saint John the Baptist, persuant to the will of Sir John Golafre, who is styled in the charter servant to King Henry V, and King Henry VI. Francis Little, in his MS. History of Abingdon, says that the daughter and heir to the last mentioned Sir John married John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who lost his life at the battle of Stoke, and was attainted of treason. In the N. Aisle of the parish church is the monument of this Sir John, who died in 1442. His effigies in armour lies on an open altar tomb, beneath which is the figure of a skeleton in a shroud. The common people call it Gulliver’s tomb, and say that the figure on the top represents him in the vigour of his youth; the skeleton in his old age; the arms of Golafre are on the tomb, and in the windows of the church…. The name occurs afterwards in Oxfordshire and other parts of England.
Therefore, although there may have been an the heiress to Fyfield who married the Earl of Lincoln, she seems untraceable in the Fyfield line, the last surviving female member of whom would appear to be Sir John’s second cousin Agnes Browning (née Wytham), granddaughter of Juliana Golafre, who died childless long before Lincoln was born, and his widow, Margaret Golafre, who survived him by thirty years, but had no children by him. The Margaret Golafre, or Gollafor, who married into the Hodington (Huddington) family was probably from a prominent gentry family herself. There does appear to be a link with the older, aristocratic family, however, in that her descendents, the Huddington heiresses, Joan and Agnes, married Robert Winter and William Strensham. By these marriages, both the Winters of Huddington and the Russells of Strensham were entitled to bear the Golafre arms. The brothers Robert and Thomas Winter (Wintour), were executed (hung, dawn and quartered) in 1606 for their part in the Gunpowder Plot and Midland Rebellion of the previous year. They had both grown up at Huddington Hall.
The association of the Golafre name with the plots and rebellions of the Tudor and Early Stuart period may have been one reason why the other members of the family were glad to adopt more anglicised and ’gentrified’ versions of the name. Significantly, there is evidence that there was a deliberate change made after the Gunpowder Plot, when the sub-manor of Aston Manor in Bampton, Oxon., had its name changed from ‘Golofers’ to ‘Gullivers’ in 1608, when it was let to Sir Laurence Tanfield, chief baron to the Exchequer. A William Golofre had acquired a life-share of two-thirds of Aston at some time before 1339. He died in 1358, and the land was sold to John Laundels in 1359 . It then comprised a chief house (not the present one, which was built in the late sixteenth century), a dovecote and a fishpond, together with fifteen tenant yardlands and a demesne of two hundred acres. It continued to be known as ‘Golofers’ Farm’, then ‘Gulliver’s Farm’, tenanted land of five yardlands, until the twentieth century, when it was sold as a separate part of the Aston Manor Estate.
Interestingly, the Golafre family were closely related, through the marriage of Beatrix Golafre of Satley, Warwickshire, to the Arden family, through which the writer William Shakespeare was descended. Beatrix’s grandson, Robert Ardern of Park Hall (b. 1413), was the son of a Worcestershire gentleman, who had been one of the claimants to the Fyfield estate, following the death of Sir John Golafre. In 1452, he had been executed for taking part in the uprising of Richard, Duke of York. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Ardens were continually suspected of being first rebels and then recusants throughout the Tudor Period, and one of them, Edward Arden, was executed in 1583 for plotting against Elizabeth I. It has often been strongly suggested that Shakespeare himself was a Catholic, hence his determination to prove his loyalty, first to Elizabeth and then to James, at a time when Midland gentry families fell under suspicion of harbouring Jesuits in priestholes, such as at nearby Baddesley Clinton, and of plotting against the Protestant monarchy and cause. They were seen as ’the enemy within’ and heavily fined for not attending their parish church and for having private masses said in their homes. The Jesuit priests who ministered to them were ’flushed out’ before and after the 1605 Rebellion, but their confessions in the state papers have left historians with detailed descriptions of the Catholic gentry of Northants, Warwicks and Worcestershire, and of their extensive network across the three counties. These secret religious practices continued among the general south Midland population throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with reports of ’popish dirges’ and baptisms appearing in the Noke parish records. However, on the surface, at least, both Catholic and Protestant dissenters, seemed to be conforming, by sending at least one member of their households to church.
The Golafres of Gnosall in Staffordshire had also married into the Knightleys of the same county, who by the fifteenth century had moved to Fawsley Hall in Northants, from where they married into the Spencer family of Althorp. The effects of early enclosures by the gentry were being felt at this time. In 1498 an inquest jury recorded that sixty villagers had been evicted from the Althorp estate, and left ’weeping, to wander in idleness’ had ’perished in hunger’.
In , the Knightleys married into the Fiennes of Broughton Castle near Banbury. Celia Fiennes (b. 1662) was the the granddaughter of the First Viscount Saye and Sale. She was one of the first women to write a book about her travels, called Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary. In it, she described Banbury in favourable terms. and she is reputed to be the source of the well-known nursery rhyme, ’Banbury Cross’. She was said to have often ridden to London on horseback, passing through Banbury on her way. Not only was she an excellent rider but she also dressed very fashionably, wearing little bells on her shoes. The market-place had an ancient cross, which was destroyed by puritans earlier in the century, but it continued to be called ’The Cross’ because it was in the middle of the wide High Street where the major roads of the time did indeed intersect.
Banbury therefore had an importance both as a market town and strategic centre in times of civil war. The Battle of Edgcote of 1469 had been one of the key turning points in the Wars of the Roses, involving Warwick the kingmaker and possibly Edward IV himself. There is a well-known local rhyme which (probably) refers to this battle, and was passed down in the Gulliver families: If Fenny Compton you can see, the King of England you shall be. It was supposed to have been said by a local wise woman to one of the claimants as they halted near the Rollright Stones. The alternating hills and marshes of Banburyshire created local weather conditions, involving sudden mists, creating eerie conditions for superstitious soldiers and varying visibility for fighting battles. The gradual drainage of the land during the agricultural revolution also lowered the levels, so that local stories of battlefield ghosts refer to soldiers appearing to fight each other in the air!
Celia Fiennes’ grandfather, Lord Saye and Sale, lived at Broughton Castle and was a commander of the troops of the Eastern Association for Parliament in the first years of the Civil War. He was one of the ’leading activists’ against Charles I, raising troops for the first battle at Edgehill, near Kineton. Cavalier troops besieged and occupied the castle for a time, and were fought to a standstill on Cropredy Bridge. They later reaked their revenge on the puritan population of the countryside by burning down the manor house at Wormleighton. The village never recovered its former status. By contrast, Noke was loyal to the King, since it had an association with Oxford going back to the plagues, when the Colleges were allowed to quarter their dons there. Oxford became Charles I’s headquarters in the Civil War, and troops were stationed in some of the villages nearby, including Noke. The village saw action in the form of raids by Parliamentarians. In one of these, horses were taken and two soldiers were killed, being buried in the churchyard. The divisions among south Midland families and villages can be detected by the records that remain of these events, in both Cavalier and Roundhead versions!
Before the Civil War, the ’lesser’ Gullivers had become successful traders and respectable aldermen of Banbury, owning shops and public houses in the town and a brewery as far away as Aylesbury. Others were thriving as yoeman farmers in the outlying Banburyshire parishes, hence Swift’s later reference to the family and their tombs in the graveyard of St Mary’s, Banbury, of which there were many, but only three remain.
Among some of the more distinguished members of the recent Gulliver family are George Gulliver (b. Banbury, 1804), an anatomist, physiologist and surgeon, who corresponded with Charles Darwin. It was his ancestors who were buried in St Mary’s churchyard near Banbury Cross, from whose tombs Dean Swift took the pen-name for his books. Charles Gulliver, the Methodist lay-preacher already mentioned, and Harold Gulliver (b. Helmdon, 1908), a farmer, President of the Northampton Baptist Association and Chairman of the Northants National Farmers’ Union, were among the more recent worthies in Susan E Clarke’s branch of the family. A more notorious member of the family was the Dorset smuggler, Isaac Gulliver (b. 1745 in Semington, Wiltshire). He was pardoned by King George III, apparently for helping to foil an assassination attempt and supplying Nelson with information about the movement of French ships along the coast. He was buried in Wimbourne Minster.
Therefore, the Banburyshire Gullivers, including my ancestors, can be traced back eleven generations to the Edward Gulliver I have already referred to, born in Banbury Town in 1590 (Susan E Clarke has traced hers back to John Galover/ Gulliver who farmed land in Warkworth and died in 1570). The line of descent in my family has then be traced in Noke as follows (the details in brackets are of records which are not in the direct line of descent):
Edward Gulliver m. Mary Hawes, in Cropredy, Oxon, 1620>
(Josyas Gulliver, b. 6th November, 1628 in Noke, Oxon.
Alse Gulliver, b. 9th September, 1628 in Noke, Oxon.
Mary Gullyfer, b. 30th May, 1632 in Noke, Oxon.
Jane Gullifer, b. 27th September 1635 in Noke, Oxon.
Anne Gullever, b. 13th April, 1639 in Noke, Oxon.)
Thomas Gulliver, b. 19th April, 1640 in Noke, Oxon. m. Margaret (surname?)>
(John Gulliver, b. 13th April 1643
John Gulliver, d. 1643
Edward Gulliver, d. 1647
Jane Gulliver, b. 14th March 1664
Alice Gulliver, b. 10th December 1666
Edward Gullifer, b. 8th January 1668
Alice Gulliver, d. 1670
John Gullifer, b. 2nd January 1670).
Thomas Gulliver, b. 16th February, 1671 in Noke, Oxon. m. Elizabeth (surname?)>
(Thomas Gullifer, b. 29th February, 1672
Richard Gullifer, b. 20th April, 1676
Richard Gulliver, d. 1676
Thomas Gulliver m. Elizabeth Allnut, 1696
Thomas Gulliver, b. 12th December, 1697
Margaret Gulliver, d. 1698
Elizabeth Gulliver, b. 29th October, 1699
Thomas Gulliver m. Sarah Newton, 1700
John Gulliver, b. 14th September, 1701
Thomas Gulliver, d. 1703)
William Gulliver, b. 28th November 1703 in Noke, Oxon. m. Ann Elkington, 5th Oct., 1739 in Overthorpe, Northants.>
(Thomas Gulliver, d. 1704
William Gulliver, d. 1704
Thomas Gulliver, d. 1704
Thomas Gulliver, b. 14th September, 1705
Margaret Gulliver, b. 28th November, 1707
Mary Gulliver, d. 1711
Mary Gulliver, b. 15th January, 1713
Edward Gulliver, b. 13th February, 1714
Jane Gulliver, b. 27th January, 1716
Thomas Gulliver, d. 1727
John Gulliver, d. 1730
Elizabeth Gulliver, d. 1731)
Thomas Gulliver, b. 7th March, 1735 in Banbury, Oxon. m. Sarah Hiorns (?), 16th Feb. 1767 in Banbury, Oxon.
(Note: Protestant dissent appeared early, for in 1739 Robert Dorman’s house was registered as a meeting place for Baptists. Records of dissent are scarce: at the beginning of the 19th century there were two Methodists, in 1811 an ‘Anabaptist’, a few dissenters in the following decades; but in 1854 the rector reported that someone attended church from every house.)
John Gulliver, b. 22nd August, 1773 in Banbury, Oxon., m. Mary Taylor, 21st 1796, in Grimsbury, Oxon.
(John Gulliver m. Rachel Bates, 1791 in Noke, Oxon.:
Note: Between 1574 and 1791, there were 23 Gulliver births, 3 marriages and 12 deaths recorded in the parish, making the Gulliver family or families one of the largest over five generations. Although there were no further records of Gulliver baptisms, marriages or burials in the Noke Parish registers, there was a return in the 1841 Census of a Thomas Gulliver, whose occupation was described as an ’agricultural labourer’. In the 19th century population of Noke increased from 150 in 1801 to 187 in 1831. Even before the enclosures of 1815 and 1829 most of the inhabitants must have been labourers on the half-dozen farms of the parish. In 1823, 28 out of 31 families were engaged in agriculture and only two in trade. In 1850 there were only three tradesmen, the innkeeper, a blacksmith, and a carpenter.)
William Gulliver, b. 27th April, 1803 in Bicester, Oxon., m. Ann (surname ?), Wormleighton, Oxon.
Vinson Gulliver, b. 14th July, 1833, in Hethe, Oxon., m. Hannah Green, 16th October 1855, in Wormleighton, Oxon.
(William Gulliver, b. April, 1856, in Hethe
John Gulliver, b. October, 1858, in Hethe
Henry Gulliver, b. June 1865, in Ufton
Sarah Anne, March, b. 1869
Hannah Gulliver (née Green), d. 1879
Vinson Gulliver m. Hannah Ward, 1880
George Gulliver, b. 1881
(Vinson Gulliver, d. 1892, buried in Ufton).
George Gulliver, b. 5th November, 1862, in Ufton, Warwicks. m. Bertha Tidmarsh, 19th Oct 1887, Great Rollright, Oxon.
This is where the oral tradition in our family takes over from genealogy, and adds many colourful details, not just to the history of the family, but also to the folklore of the localities in which the Gullivers lived. This area, including parts of modern-day Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire, still known, unofficially, as Banburyshire.
British History Online: Reports on Fyfield, Noke, etc. (www.british-history.ac.uk/report.)
The Parliamentary History of the Counties of England:
“The parliamentary history of the county of Worcester : including the city of Worcester, and the boroughs of Bewdley, Droitwich, Dudley, Evesham, Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Pershore, from the earliest times to the present day, 1213-1897, with biographical and genealogical notices of the members” (archive.org/stream/cu31924030495141/cu31924030495141_dj…)
Susan E Clarke (2011), Gulliver Travels Again. Bloomington, USA (AuthorHouse)
Gulliver, and the Economy (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 1 (adityasubhankar.wordpress.com)