Searching for the parents of Bridget Parvis

A couple of years ago I started to look down one of my husband’s lines in his tree – Emery. Paul’s maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Emery and the family hailed back to Sussex on the south east coast of England. I have written about part of the Emery family in this post – Eliza Emery – A Case of Don’t Believe Everything You Read.

My research into the Emery family took me back to a Peter Emery born in Bolney, Sussex in 1724 – base born (illegitimate) son of a Mary Emery. He went on to marry a woman called Mary Broad in 1748 in nearby Twineham. Mary had been baptised in East Chitlington in Sussex in 1727 daughter of Thomas Broad and Sarah Sharp.

As I followed the trail of Sarah Sharp I discovered she was baptised in Wivelsfield, Sussex in 1701 the daughter of Samuel Sharp and Mary Stammer. Continuing with the female line, Mary Stammer was baptised in 1668 in Cuckfield, Sussex daughter of Stephen Stammer and Mary Tredcrafte (spellings vary with Tredcraft, Tredcroft(e) etc.) and in turn Mary Tredcrafte was baptised in 1635 in Shipley, Sussex – the daughter of Edward Tredcrafte and Bridget Parvis who had married in 1622 in Wisborough Green, Sussex.

For a time I was quite fascinated by the Tredcrafte family, Edward had gone to Brasenose College in Oxford having matriculated from there in April of 1616. He became a church clerk and was ordained in 1621. He went on to become the Rector of Warbleton.

Edward and Bridget had a number of children; John b. 1623 in Wisborough Green, Susanna b. 1625, Edward b. 1627, Nathaniel b. 1629, daughter Frances b. 1631, Bridget b. 1633, Mary b. 1635 and Thomas who was buried in 1639/40 – all born in Shipley. Edward died in 1644 in Warbleton with Bridget being buried in 1646/7.

I puzzled over Bridget for a period of time. Their marriage entry actually spelled her surname as Parnys and as I looked in the Wisborough Green area for names that were similar I came across Parvis. If you imagine old style handwriting – you can imagine how similar the two would look. I could not locate a baptism for Bridget, I estimate that she was born sometime around 1596 to make her the same age as her husband – but could have been several years either side of that – but enough to have been of age when she came to marry Edward in 1622. When I was searching the records for Parvis I kept coming across a name – Jewell Parvis. He was buried in Wisborough Green in 1622 and his name cropped up occasionally as a witness to wills of men in the area.

There was a will for him proved in 1635 which had been written in 1617. I requested a copy of his will from the Sussex Records Office and got it rather quickly. It showed he was a fairly well to do man, bequeathing some money to his servants early on in the writing of his will – before he mentioned his own family. Twenty shillings went to Anthony Hilton, his maid servant Elinor Beale got five shillings, with other servants Mary White and Joan Holloway – three shillings and four pence each.

His will went on to name his well-beloved wife Mary, and he wished that she would be given two hundred pounds on his death, with his executors paying her twenty pounds a year for the rest of her life in four instalments each year as long as she remained unmarried. His will went on to name his daughters, Bridget, Dorothy and Elizabeth. It mentions he has sons but does not name them – but going by the names found in records in Wisborough Green I believe he had a son Robert and a son William. He also goes on to mention his well-beloved brother in law Mr Drue Staple.

Section of Will of Jewell Parvis

Section of the Will of Juell/Jewell Parvis written in 1617

So now I knew that Jewell Parvis was Bridget’s father. He mentioned about giving his daughters twenty pounds apiece, over what their brother’s would get and referred to it being held for them until they were over twenty one and also mentioned about helping to pay for his children’s education – denoting they were still young enough in 1617 to be in school, or at least being sent to colleges.

I had not found a marriage for Jewell Parvis anywhere so his wife’s name given in the will was a great piece of information – Mary. Coupled then with the details around his brother in law being Mr Drue Staple – then this was a clue to her surname. Of course terms such as brother in law and sister in law were often interchangeable with things like step siblings and may have also referred to Drue being a husband of a sister of Jewell too. I then went on to contact the Sussex Family History Society who offered a look up service of people named in wills and I had asked them to search for Parvis and variations of the name. One find stood out – there was a mention of Jewill Parvis in the will of a William Stapley from 1602 – being his son in law. This tied up with Mr Drue Staple – I imagine the name Stapley might often be written simply as Staple from time to time. I had also found reference to a Drew Stapley as being a Grocer in London in the 1600s, so Drue Staple was more commonly known as Drew Stapley.

In searching for Jewell’s parents I came across details for the will of a Mr Henry Parvis, Gentleman of Soley, Chilton Foliat in Wiltshire in 1588. It mentioned a son Joel and there was a mention of the family in the Victoria County Histories in a section talking about Soley and how it had been sold to Henry Parvis in 1567 and how it had passed to his son Jewell and how in 1594 his widow Jane had given Jewell her life interest in the estate. So far I haven’t found any marriage for Henry and Jane, or baptisms for their children, but the children named in the will were; sons Joel, John, Richard and Thomas, daughters Joan, Anne, Mary and Valentine as well as a married daughter Elizabeth Gunter. It also mentioned goddaughters Miss Bridget Essex and Miss Ann Gunter and a godson Humphrey Gunter.

When I looked further into Jewell Parvis’s wife Mary’s family, hers opened up a wealth of ancestry. She is what you might refer to as a gateway ancestor – someone who has links to wealthy aristocratic families which often have royal links. Mary was the daughter of William Stapeley of Twineham, Sussex and Joan Culpeper daughter of John Culpeper of Wakehurst, Sussex. The Culpepper family have a rich history, with links to Nicholas Culpepper the Herbalist and Thomas Culpepper, who was cousin to Katherine Howard and became a gentleman of the privy for her when she was the Queen of England – having been Henry VIII’s fifth wife. He was executed for having had an improper relationship with her in 1541.

Through searching pedigrees and other sources I traced the Stapley/Stapleigh line back to around 1360 all still in the county of Sussex. 

As for the Parvis family, it has so far proved difficult to find out much more about Paul’s 12x great grandfather Henry Parvis beyond his will and some other mentions of him. I have not found much about all of his children, but we know from his will that his daughter Elizabeth’s married name was Gunter, and it gave the name of a godson Humphrey Gunter and goddaughter Ann Gunter, this was his grandson and granddaughter, Elizabeth’s children with her husband, also named Humphrey. They married sometime before 1582 and lived in North Moreton and then Fawley in Berkshire. They had at least nine children, Humphrey, Edward (died in infancy), Ann, Henry, Elizabeth, John, William (died in infancy), Edward and Dorothy. Elizabeth died in 1626 in North Fawley.

Section of John Speed Map of Berkshire

Section of a John Speed map of Berkshire dated 1610 (copy made in 1970s)

Humphrey Gunter was the son of a Geoffrey Gunter and he had a brother Brian Gunter who was a lay preacher in North Moreton. He was reputed to have caused the deaths of two brothers, John and Richard Gregory after hitting them both on the head with the pommel of his dagger during an altercation at a football match in May 1598. This, understandably, started a bitter feud with the Gregory family.

In the summer of 1604, Anne Gunter, the daughter of Brian Gunter appeared to fall ill. Her symptoms consisted of having fits, falling into a trance, rolling her eyes, walking on her ankles, vomiting, producing pins from her nose whilst her clothes would fall off spontaneously when people visited her. She also claimed that she saw familiars. At that time it was believed that familiars were demons which would propagate the will and message of their master Satan to spread lies and deceit in order to thwart the Kingdom of God. The above manifestations encouraged a large number of people, from peasants to learned men, to make the journey to see for Anne for themselves. During the manifestations Anne made utterings about Elizabeth Gregory the sister-in-law of the two dead Gregory boys and also about Agnes Pepwell and her daughter Mary, also other members of the Gregory family. 

Agnes Pepwell had long been reputed to be a witch and so the story quickly arose that poor Anne Gunter had been bewitched by the three vengeful women in retaliation for the death of the two Gregory boys. The three women were then officially charged with bewitching her. Agnes fled, but Mary and Elizabeth were tried, although the case at the Abingdon Assize Courts in 1605 failed to obtain a conviction. Brian Gunter decided to push the case further when Anne did not make a recovery and requested an audience with the King. King James I referred the case to the Archbishop of Canterbury – Richard Bancroft who referred it in turn to Samuel Harsnett who determined there was no case. However, Harsnett and the Dean of Westminster, Richard Neile, instead raised a case in the Star Chamber in 1606 against Brian and Anne Gunter.

Evidence was taken from the aristocrat Sir Francis Stuart who had seen Anne in her fits. Neile received £300 for bringing witnesses to the court. The Gunter’s had to answer charges of “making vexatious accusations of witchcraft”. Her brother-in-law, Thomas Holland (one of the translators of the King James Bible from Latin to English, and married to Anne’s sister Susan), refused to believe that she was possessed by the devil as her father claimed. It was said that Anne could read with her eyes closed but she failed to demonstrate this ability. Under examination Anne admitted that the witchcraft idea was her father’s invention. He was annoyed at the Gregory family and had persuaded his daughter to act out the symptoms of being cursed. He had given her various liquids to drink including a mixture of sack (wine) and salad oil (sallet), as well as what was described as ‘green water to his daughter to induce her to vomit to add to the evidence against Elizabeth Gregory and her two supposed partners. The case resulted in Brian Gunter being locked up for a short while in Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury when Anne finally admitted that Brian had bullied her into feigning all her illnesses, manifestations and attacks.

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace from archbishopofcanterbury.org

It is thought that the case became so high-profile because the clergy involved wanted to discredit those who gained from the belief in demonic possession by performing exorcisms. It is not known what happened to the Gunter’s as a result of the case, though it is likely that Anne, having been forced, was pardoned. This seems to be confirmed, given that James I wrote in October 1605, that Anne had fallen in love with a servant of Archbishop Bancroft, Asheley, and that it was reciprocal. The couple planned to marry with royal blessing and a dowry provided by the monarch. Anne was said to be about to marry in 1605 and her father died in Oxford in 1628. There is a marriage in North Fawley, Berkshire on Valentine’s Day 1605/6 for an Anne Gunter to a Hemfrey Carter however I believe that is for Brian’s niece – the daughter of Humphrey Gunter and Elizabeth Parvis. I have not found a marriage for an Ann(e) Gunter to anyone with the surname Asheley or variants as yet. There is indeed a will for Brian Gunter – Gentleman of Oxford in 1628, which mentions his son Harvie/Harvey and his children, his daughter Susan, wife of Thomas Holland, his married daughter Marie Fleet as well as other people whose relationship to Brian is not clear, but no mention of his daughter Anne so it could be that she died before him or perhaps the whole fake bewitching saga had damaged their relationship and they had become estranged? 

The information relating to this case comes from a few sources, Wikipedia and http://www.north-moreton.com/history.html – which does not seem to be available anymore. There was also a book written The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Deception, Witchcraft, Murder, and the King of England by James Sharp. We found a second hand copy of it last year and my husband Paul read it. I am yet to read it though. 

Bewitching of Anne Gunter Book

Bewitching of Anne Gunter – image from Amazon

Perhaps one day I will uncover more information about the Parvis family as they do intrigue me. With both Henry and his son Jewell seeming to have been lawyers, so must have come from some sort of wealth to have gone to university to study law. I wonder how much the Parvis family were drawn into the case of Brian and Anne Gunter and whether any kind of shame or dishonour leached from it into their own lives? Certainly it seems that there were ripples within Brian Gunter’s immediate family with his son in law Thomas Holland testifying against him at the Star Chamber, but seemingly didn’t cause him to write his daughter Susan and the Holland children out of his will. 

Tree 2

Family Tree depicting the key people mentioned in this post and the family link to my husband Paul

This has been my 100th blog post – quite a milestone. I hope you have enjoyed this post and indeed any of the 99 previous posts! Have you found any accounts in your ancestry relating to witchcraft trials?

4 thoughts on “Searching for the parents of Bridget Parvis

  1. Wow, witches and demons! That’s not what I expected when I started reading this post. I also am amazed that wills that old still survive. That first will looks so hard to read. Fascinating, Alex!

    • Thanks Amy. We are pretty lucky in this country to have wills dating back even further than the 1600s, and the further back they go the harder they are to read! Especially when they are written in latin!
      I started reading the Bewitching of Anne Gunter book last night. Really interesting. Trying to dig around some more into the Parvis family but it is hard as I am sure the name spelling was different in several ways over the years, Parves, Parvise, Parnys, Pervis etc. I would love to know where they came from before Henry appeared in Chilton Foliat in Wiltshire and what became of some of the other siblings of Jewell like his sister Valentine.
      Henry Parvis’s will also mentioned he had a god daughter called Miss Bridget Essex, she was connected to a well to do family in Lambourn, Berkshire, her paternal grandparents being Sir Thomas Essex and Margaret – daughter of Sir William Lord Sandes/Sandy who was the Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII. It seems Henry was good friends with Bridget’s father Humphrey Essex. Would love to understand more about who Henry was and how he came to be connected to people like the Essexes.

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