1. His childhood
Our branch of Mortimers can be traced back to the affluent land-owner and textile manufacturer, Edward Mortimer (1635, Fyfield – 1704, Trowbridge). He lived most of his live at Trowbridge, in the western part of Wiltshire in England.1-5
His origins, however, have not yet been confirmed beyond doubt but it is known that Edward Mortimer was born at Fyfield, Wiltshire in southern England.6 One non-peer reviewed source lists his parents as Susan Benger (1605 – 1670) and Richard Mortimer (1610 – 1670, Fyfield, Wiltshire), who was the son of John Mortimer (1575 – ?).4 They were from Fyfield, but no primary source have yet been found to confirm the parental relationship with Edward. In 1665, however, Edward Mortimer was concerned with a trust for maintaining the infant son of William Mortimer of Fyfield, and this strengthens a more definite family connection with the Mortimers of Fyfield.2
It is known, though, that Edward Mortimer was not a direct male descendant of Sir Roger Mortimer (1287 – 1330), the 3rd Baron Mortimer and 1st Earl of March. Sir Roger served in the royal court of King Edward II and King Edward III, and later himself as regent king of England between 1327 and 1330.7,8
2. His wife
In 1658, at the age of 23 years, Edward married Katherine/Catherine Houlton (1638 – 1702) at Yatesbury in Wiltshire. She was the daughter of Robert Houlton of Bradford-on-Avon and later of Trowbridge, both in Wiltshire.9-11 Robert Houlton, an affluent businessman, bought a house at Trowbridge at 67 Fore Street in ca 1640. The Houltons also owned most of the Conigre area within Trowbridge and by developing this area, generated most of their income from letting out building plots “on leases for lives”.2
NOTE: Some sources refer to the Houltons as the Houstons.
3. His children
Edward and Katherine had six known children who were presumably all born at Trowbridge.
Margaret was born in ca 1662. On 27 November 1680 at the age of approximately 18 years, she married David James (ca 1660 – 27 June 1739). His family owned land in the Llandegley and Glascwm parishes in Radnorshire, Wales – the property lied on the border between these parishes. At the time of their marriage, however, the religious persecution of nonconformists in the late 17th century was at its height. In the fall of 1682 the couple and their firstborn infant child made a hasty departure from Radnorshire and hid out in Bristol for a few months until they were able to leave for the new world. They arrived in Pennsylvania, North America on 28 October 1682, aboard the sailing ship Bristol Factor, captained by Roger Drew and chartered by William Penn, founder of the English North America colony called the Province of Pennsylvania, where they set foot at Penns Landing. The James couple was part of the first Quaker (Society of Friends) -pioneers in Pennsylvania. This nonconformist evangelical movement was founded by George Fox in Wales in the 1650s. Once in North America David and Margaret James became part of the Keithian Quaker Schism, but a few years later converted to Baptists.6,12
The migration and arrival of David and Margaret in Pennsylvania were not without its troubles. They failed to obtain two important certificates before leaving in a hurry – 1) a report from their local Quaker church that they were of good moral standing, not a fleeing indentured servant and not running away to escape financial debt or pending criminal charges, and 2) a certificate of transit granting them passage on the Bristol Factor. Fortunately, a fellow Quaker, Evan Oliver, who was also immigrating with his own family, added them to his party list on his transit certificate. Luckily also upon their arrival, the young James family could meet up with David’s sister, Margaret James and her husband, Samuel Miles, who could vouch for their good moral character to the elders of their new Quaker community. David and Margaret settled on a 100 acres (equivalent to 63 x 63 m) of land on the eastern border of Radnor Township (now an upper-class suburb of the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, United States of America). This piece of land had already been purchased by David James in the summer of 1681 while still in Wales, from Richard Davies, the primary land agent for Sir William Penn. According to folklore, during their first winter (1682 – 1683), David and Margaret lived in a cave near a spring of fine water, which previously was used as a resting place for migrating Red Indians. In the spring of 1683, David started with the construction of a log-house. This was later replaced by a stone house, dated ca 1700.6,12-14
David James died at the age of 79 years in 1739 and was buried in the churchyard of Great Valley Baptist Church, Devon, Philadelphia, where some of his children and grandchildren were also buried. To this date, this church has an active congregation. Margaret died before her husband but it is uncertain when. David did remarry. His will and estate, which included a total land holding of 235 acres in Radnor Township, refered to his wife, Jane NN who died eleven years later on 19 January 1750.6,12,14
Margaret and David had six known children: Mary (<1682 – ?), Thomas (ca 1690 – January 1753), Rebecca (ca 1705 – ?), Sarah (13 February 1710 – 2 April 1805), Isaac, and Evan (ca 1714 – ca 1794).6,12,14 Dr William Hughes James (1852 – 1876), one of their great-great-great-grandchildren, a descendant of their son Thomas,6 became a medical doctor, naturalist and an intrepid traveller, who joined a historically important scientific expedition to northern Queensland in Australia, the Torres Strait Islands and New Guinea. While collecting specimens on the latter, he was murdered by natives. At least 99 bird species, three mammals and some invertebrates are recorded against his name.15 READ MORE on the life and work of Dr James.
Anne was born on 27 Augustus 1663 and never married.9,10 Nothing more is known about her life.
She was born on 2 April 1667 and later married Samuel Watts.9,10,16
Their first son and heir, John (29 May 1669 – 1715) also became a clothier like his father.2,9,10,16 Our Mortimer family line continued with him. He became my husband’s great-grandfather 7x removed. READ MORE on John Mortimer.
No information about Edmund, another son that was born to Edward and Katherine, could be found.16 He was presumably born between John, his elder brother, and Edward, his younger brother. It is likely that he died young.
3.6 Edward jr.
Edward jr. (≈22 February 1677 – ca 1743) followed in his father’s footsteps as a clothier and became a very affluent man.2,11 Three years after his marriage in 1699, he acquired from his father a plot of 40 yards by 24 yards as part of the orchard and the garden on a site in Trowbridge Lane (now Bradford Road) on 13 October 1702 where he had built a house.11 At the time of his death in ca 1743 (his will dated 16 October 1743, probate date 22 September 1744), he owned farmlands in Bradford-on-Avon and North Bradley, all in Wiltshire. He also owned dwelling houses with outbuildings and land at Trowbridge, Bulkington, Phillips Norton (or Norton St Phillips), Telsford (now Tellisford) and Farley in Somerset and Wiltshire, as well as leasehold estates at Froom (now Frome) and Oldford, both in Somerset.16,17
He married Eleanor Axford (ca 1674, Erlestoke, Wiltshire – ca 1719) on 7 November 1699 at Devizes, a small town 190 km west of Trowbridge.1,9,18 Eleanor was the daughter of Eleanor Somner (1643 – 16 October 1726, Erlestoke) and Isaac Axford (1647, Erlestoke – 17 November 1729, Erlestoke), who were interred in the churchyard of the then St Margaret’s Anglican Church at Erlestoke, which lies approximately 15 km south-east of Trowbridge. The bronze memorial plaque has now been moved inside the current church building. Isaac Axford, who was a master mason, and his wife were “committed to the ground without Christian burial” because they were non-conformist Quakers.18,19
Eleanor and Edward Mortimer had six children who were all born at Trowbridge. They were Eleanor (≈16 December 1701, Ω10 June 1752, Erlestoke, Wiltshire), Edward (≈26 August 1703 – ca 1755), a wealthy man who at the age of 50 years married Hannah Wadman in 1753 and died without issue two years later, William (≈16 October 1705), Joseph (≈10 September 1707) who married Anne Phillips, Mary (≈28 November 1708 – ca 1785, Clifton, Gloucestershire), who married Isaac Elton of Bristol who became mayor of Bristol in 1761, and Anne (ca 1710 – ca 1799, Clifton), who never married.16
4. His career
It appears that Edward Mortimer sr. had arrived in Trowbridge before 1660 as an already prosperous man.2 He bought a house in 1670 from the Lovells where he lived until his death in 1704. This house was occupied by his descendants until 1789 – almost 120 years – when his great-grandson Joseph Mortimer jr. (? – 1789) who lived in the house, passed away.1
Trowbridge is situated on the River Biss and is about 12 km south-east of Bath, North East Somerset, and 32 km south-east of Bristol, Avon (now County of Bristol) in the south-western part of England.4,20 As a wealthy woollen producing businessman, Edward invested his profits into the purchase of real property. He owned several dwelling houses and pieces of land in and around Trowbridge and a farm with buildings called Week (or Wick) Farm at Norton St Philip, a very small village near Tellisford and situated 10 km west of Trowbridge, 8 km north of Frome and 9 km south of Bath.1,16
Edward sr. lived during politically interesting times in the history of England. In his own lifetime there were in total eight different rulers on the English thrown. He was born during the rule of Charles I from 1625 to 1649 and was seven years old when the English Civil War between the royalist and English parliamentarian supporters broke out in 1642. Edward saw the formation of the Commonwealth of England in 1653 when Britain was declared a republic by commoner Oliver Cromwell, and its collapse six years later in 1659 under Oliver’s son, Richard Cromwell, as well as the restoration of the monarchy to the throne of England when Charles II became king from 1660 to 1685. Charles II was succeeded by James II from 1685 to 1688, followed by the co-regent rule of William III (and his wife, Mary II) who reigned for three years from 1689 to 1702. Edward died two years into the reign of Queen Anne who ruled from 1702 to 1714.21
I wonder what Edward Mortimer’s political views were; most likely a parliamentarian if one considers his religious convictions. England was ruled by its royal kings and queens, yet parliamentary views among the people were so strong that it led to open civil conflict – the English Civil War (1642 – 1651) and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Also, most of the monarchy of England associated themselves with Roman Catholicism, but the Dutch Protestant, William of Orange (William III) and his Protestant wife, Mary II, changed the scenery.21 Although the Anglican Church of England was established in 1534 by King Henry VIII more for political reasons rather than for theological convictions, it was Queen Elizabeth I who finally directed the Anglican Church into an independent, moderate Protestant entity. The structure and theology of the church, however, remained a matter of fierce dispute for generations. After the Glorious Revolution various non-conformist churches (not confirming to the Church of England) emerged. Even then, conflict between the Catholics and Protestants carried on for several decades thereafter.22
One of the non-conformist (or dissenter) sects was the Congregationalist Church,23,24 also known as Anabaptists (defined as “a Protestant sectarian of a radical movement arising in the 16th century and advocating the baptism and church membership of adult believers only, nonresistance, and the separation of church and state.”) 25 Edward Mortimer was a firm believer in these principles. In 1669, he was mentioned as a principal abettor of the Conigre Congregational Church at Trowbridge.23 Conigre Church (now known as General Baptist Unitarian Church) at that time had between 140 and 150 members and were meeting at the house of Edward Grant, an affluent clothier.23,26 It seems as if the Mortimers knew Edward Grant well, as he acted as a witness at the official signing of a property transfer contract between Edward Mortimer sr. and his son, Edward jr.11 By ca 1700, a church building (chapel) was build after a site was acquired in 1699. This site had formerly been occupied by a church meeting-house, which was on the private property of the Houlton family. A minister’s house, known as the Conigre Patronage, was built, as well as a dissenting academy, since non-conformists weren’t allowed to enroll at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. In the 1730s, the church drifted into Unitarianism.21,26,27
5. His death
In his will, dated 14 February 1702, Edward bequeathed the dwelling house in Trowbridge to his wife, and then to his son John and then Edward (1690 – 1744), son of John. Week Farm was bequeathed to his wife, then his son John, then his grandson Edward (1703 – 1755), son of his son Edward jr. (1677 – 1743). The probate date of his estate was 16 January 1704.1,16 By then his wife Katherine had already passed away in late 1702 in Pennsylvania,6 possibly while visiting her daughter Margaret and son-in-law, David James.
Edward Mortimer and four following generations of his descendants remained involved in the clothing trade at mainly Trowbridge for approximately 160 years, from before 1660 until 1822.2
NOTE ON REFERENCE 6: Much gratitude is due to Larry James of West Sacramento, California, United States of America for establishing contact in November 2018, and introducing me to the James Family Archive website that contains a phenomenal amount of well-researched historical information. Additional information was also received in February and July 2019. Without Larry’s input, knowledge of the existence of Edward and Katherine Mortimer’s eldest child, Margaret Mortimer – and her descendants – would have been lost to the Mortimer family’s history. Thank you, Larry!
- Probate and copy of will of Edward Mortimer the elder of Trowbridge. 16 January 1704. Devon Heritage Centre (South West Heritage Trust). http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/5187a012-6019-45a
- Textile history and economic history. Essays in honour of Miss Julie de Lacy Mann. 1973. 1st Harte, N.B. & Ponting, K.G., Eds. Manchester University Press: Manchester, p 145-148. htpps://books.google.co.za
- Bodman, J. 1814 A concise history of Trowbridge containing an account of the Court, Castle & Watch, the Church, Monuments etc. Philip Rose Printers: Bristol. https://books.google.co.za
- Edward Mortimer 17th century? August 2012. http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=609433.0
- Trowbridge. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trowbridge
- James Family Archive. http://www.jamesfamilyarchives.net/page31.html
- Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Mortimer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Mortimer,_1st_Baron_Mortimer
- Edward III King of England. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-III-king-of-England
- Information received electronically in February 2018 from Kenneth Joseph Mortimer of Lebanon, the great-great-great-great-grandson of Edward Horlock Mortimer
- Edward Mortimer. www.records.ancestry.com
- Jamison Family Tree Website by Tony Jamison. https://www.myheritage.com/site-189828082/jamison-family-tree
- Smith, G. 1862 History of Delware County, Pennsylvania. From the discovery of the territory included within its limits to the present time, with a notice of the geology of the county, and catalogues of it’s minerals, plants, quadrupeds and birds. 1st Ed. Henry B. Ashmead: Sansom Street, Philadelphia. https://books.google.co.za/books
- Radnor Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radnor_Township,_Delaware_County,_Pennsylvania
- The Baptist Church in the Great Valley. http://www.bcgv.org/index.php
- Fulton, G. 2017 Dr William H. James 1852-76: Medical doctor and naturalist. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. Vol 137(1), p 71-87. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322215402_Dr_William_H_James_1852-76_Medical_doctor_and_naturalist?fbclid=IwAR06_6cQDgRPv5lSoDbmU13VVGLCiEW5H4xcgf7KybaNFPKC_NtselG00ls
- Edward Mortimer, 1677 – 1743. http://fortunatusfamilia.com.au/getperson.php?personID=I06345&tree=tree1
- Will of Edward Mortimer. 26 October 1743. http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/4efb3cdf-5373-441d-82e0-dcbcaa2b9a68
- Descendants of Jonathan Axford of Erlestoke. http://www.axfordfamily.org.uk/JonA_descendants2012.html
- Axford, I. Aberdeen and Earlstoke Axford families. http://www.axford.org/Genealogy
- Avon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avon_(county)
- Johnson, B. Kings and Queens of England & Britain. http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/KingsQueensofBritain/
- English Reformation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Reformation
H F Chettle, W R Powell, P A Spalding and P M Tillott, ‘Parishes: Trowbridge’, in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 7, ed. R B Pugh and Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1953), pp. 125-171. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/wilts/vol7/pp125-171
- Chilson, M. 10 February 2015. Congregational Church origins: 5 Events that led to the rise of Christian churches. https://www.newsmax.com/fastfeatures/congregational-churches-christians-faith-origins/2015/02/10/id/623717/
Definition of Anabaptist. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Anabaptist
General Baptist Unitarian Church, Trowbridge. Wiltshire Community History. https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getchurch.php?id=341
Conigre Patronage, Trowbridge, BA14. https://www.mouseprice.com/property-for-sale/ref-31216180/conigre+parsonage+trowbridge+ba14+