Helen Langworth and Nathaniel Spurrett

In my post about the Langworth family, I noted that at least two of the daughters of Dr John Langworth (d. 1613), the cleric and poet described by at least one source as a church papist, married into Catholic families. One of these was Helen, also known as Eleanor, who married London citizen and haberdasher Nathaniel Spurrett. To be precise, evidence of Catholic sympathies is to be found in documents relating specifically to Nathaniel and Helen, and to their daughter Frances, who became a Franciscan nun. The information about the wider Spurrett family is (as with the Langworths) rather less straightforward.

I’ve yet to find a baptismal record for Helen Langworth, but (judging by the date of her marriage) I would imagine she was born some time in the 1590s. According to the record of the Kent Visitation of 1619, she was the fourth daughter of John and Frances Langworth, born after Mary and Ann but before Martha. She is described in the record as ‘Helena p’mo nupta Nathaniel Spurrett civis Londiniensis’.

I haven’t seen a copy of John Langworth’s will, but it’s curious that the summary of it in the Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica makes no mention of Helen, though she would have been alive in 1613 when it was made. However, the complete list of John Langworth’s children, beneath the will summary, includes ‘Helen, wife of Nathaniel Spurrett, gent.’

My initial source of information about Nathaniel Spurrett’s background was an article about his father Anthony on a Spurrett family history website. From this I gather that Anthony Spurrett was born in about 1548, in the first year of the reign of Edward VI, to William Sporrytt, a husbandman in Woodhouse, in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. It appears that Anthony attended the school in the neighbouring village of Burnsall, whose vicar recommended him to St John’s College, Cambridge as a sizar – in other words, a student who receives financial support in return for working for the college in some way, for example as a servant to wealthier students.

No record of Anthony Spurrett’s graduation from Cambridge exists, but according to the same source he was at first employed by the Bishop of Worcester, the city where he married his first wife, the parish record describing him as a ‘clergieman’ (clergy had only been allowed to marry since 1548, the year of Anthony’s birth). According to at least two sources his wife’s name was Margaret Unwin. In 1573, in the fourteenth year of the reign of Elizabeth I, Anthony Spurrett was appointed rector of Wolford in Warwickshire, under the patronage of Merton College, Oxford. A year later he took on the additional role of vicar of nearby Icomb, which was then in Worcestershire but is now in Gloucestershire. His first wife having died, Anthony married Ann Wilson in Icomb in 1588.

St Mary the Virgin, Icomb (via roots web.ancestry.com)

St Mary the Virgin, Icomb (via roots web.ancestry.com)

It appears that Anthony Spurrett had three sons, of whom Nathaniel was the youngest. However, his will of 1616 mentions only Nathaniel and his brother George, the executor of the will, though there is also a reference to a Robert Spurrett of Maugersbury, about five miles from Icomb. George Spurrett seems to have been married and to have had at least two daughters, Anne and Susan. Another family tree found online at Ancestry claims that he also had a son named Samuel and that the family lived at Siddington near Cirencester.

Given his son Nathaniel’s later religious affiliation, it would seem reasonable to assume that Anthony Spurrett was also sympathetic to the traditional Catholic faith, even though (like Dr John Langworth) he chose not only to conform but to serve the Church of England as a parish priest. However, his will gives little inclination of Anthony’s ‘true’ beliefs: certainly, the preamble expresses none of the dogged dependence on salvation through Christ’s Passion alone of outright protestants, but neither does it use any of the formulas, such as trust in the Holy Trinity, of Catholic or Catholic-leaning wills of the time. Instead, Spurrett simly commends his soul ‘into the hands of the Almightie’: though perhaps this very simplicity could be interpreted as a way of avoiding showing one’s hand, so to speak? (I’m sure that the subject of will preambles, and what you can or can’t read into them, will be something this blog returns to regularly).

Since Nathaniell Spurrett was a London citizen and haberdasher, I would imagine that he was sent to London as a young man to be apprenticed, as a number of my ancestors would be later in the same century. For example, my 8 x great grandfather John Byne (1651 – 1689), a stationer at Tower Hill, was also the son of a rural clergyman, Magnus Byne, rector of Clayton-cum-Keymer in Sussex. And John Byne’s father-in-law, Thomas Forrest (died 1678), was himself a haberdasher in the same district, having been born in rural Worcestershire. In fact, it’s possible that Nathaniell lived in the same part of London as my ancestors, since he married Helen Langworth at St Botolph, Aldgate, the church which they also frequented. The parish register of St Botolph records that in October 1611 ‘Nathaniell Spurrett, and Hellen Langworth, were marryed the xxith day, by a Licence’. This was in the eighth year of the reign of James I, the same year that the King James (Authorised) Version of the Bible was published and six years after the Gunpowder Plot. Two weeks after the Spurretts’ wedding, Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’ would be staged for the first time.

st botolph aldgate n.w.

We know from a number of sources that Nathaniel and Helen Spurrett had only one child – a daughter named Frances. She is mentioned in the family history article that I’ve already referred to, and in the wills of both her parents, as well as this bequest in the will of her paternal grandfather Anthony Spurrett:

I give unto the daughter of my son Nathaniel ten pounds of lawful money of England to be sett forth unto her use at her age of ten yeares by my Executor and the use of it to be payed to her selfe, but if she die before her age of ten yeares, then I appoint the money to returne to Susan Spurrett the youngest daughter of my sonne George Spurrett.

I’ve found a christening record for a Frances Spurrett on 22nd August 1613 at Ringmer in Sussex. The parents’ names are not given, but both the date and the location make it very likely that this is the daughter of Nathaniel and Helen. Helen’s father John Langworth had been vicar of nearby Buxted, while her uncle Arthur Langworth had actually lived in Ringmer, at Broyle Place, until his death in 1606.

Parish church, Ringmer, Sussex (via panoramio.com)

Parish church, Ringmer, Sussex (via panoramio.com)

So one possibility is that Ringmer had sentimental associations for the Langworth family. Another is that the church was chosen, as must sometimes have happened, because of its incumbent. The vicar of West Firle and Ringmer until his death in 1604 had been John Motley, who was appointed as one of the overseers of the will of Magnus Fowle, my 12 x great grandfather. Motley was followed by Edward Wood, with Marmaduke Browne as curate, until the appointment in 1611 of Simon Aldrich. He was the son of Francis Aldrich, registrar of the Archbishop’s Consistory Court of Canterbury, and he was married in the parish church of St George, Canterbury. This was the parish church of the playwright Christopher Marlowe, who seems to have been an acquaintance. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to discover anything about Simon Aldrich’s religious or political sympathies, but the Canterbury connection (given that Helen Langworth grew up in the city and her father held an appointment at the Cathedral) might be relevant.

Nathaniel Spurrett died in February 1614 at the age of 33, less than a year after his daughter’s birth and after less than three years of marriage. I’ll share my transcription of his will in the next post.

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6 Responses to Helen Langworth and Nathaniel Spurrett

  1. John Kay says:

    There were still LANGWORTHs at Broyle Place, Ringmer, in 1613. It wasn’t sold to the Puritan SPRINGETT family for a couple of years after that. The LANGWORTHs had strong theatrical connections too, with leading Elizabethan actors visiting them at Broyle Place.


    • Martin Robb says:

      Thank you for this, John, and apologies for the delay in replying. I’d be very interested to hear more about the Langworths’ theatrical connections, if you have more information. Best wishes, Martin.


      • John Kay says:

        The text below comes from my (much longer) file on Broyle Place, Ringmer

        LANGWORTH family (owners 1586-1615):
        Broyle Place was owned by Arthur LANGWORTH (owner 1586-1605/6), his son John LANGWORTH (owner 1605/6-1612) and his son Thomas LANGWORTH (owner -1615). One of Arthur’s younger brothers was the successful cleric John LANGWORTH, MA, DD, STP, son of Lancelot LANGWORTH of Kirtlebury, Worcestershire, educated at St John’s College, Cambridge (matriculated 1566, BA, 1567-8, Fellow 1568, MA 1571, BD 1577-8) New College, Oxford (DD 1579). Rev G. Hennessy’s Chichester Diocesan Clergy Lists identify him as appointed rector of Folkington in 1573 (next appointment 1574/5); rector of Buxted in 1573/4 (next appointment 1574); archdeacon of Chichester 1580 (next appointment 1586); archdeacon of Wells (1589-1609) and rector of Rotherfield (1592, next appointment 1613/4). He is noted by Dunkin [Sussex Archaeological Collections vol.26, pp.18-19] as a son of Lancelot LANGWORTH of Worcester, and parson of Buxted in 1574 & 1595, a prebendary of Worcester & Canterbury Cathedrals, and in 1589 archdeacon of Wells. He was later a prebendary of Canterbury. He died on 8 Jan 1613/4 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral, with as his heir a son Thomas LANGWORTH, aged 2, leaving lands in Buxted & Ripe or Eckington. His will refers to his brother Adam LANGWORTH and to Rose, his brother Arthur LANGWORTH’s wife, and her children Jane, Anne, Arthur, Nicholas & Edward. Was it him, or the John LANGWORTH below, who in 1611 was the John LANGWORTH of Ringmer, who nominated the incoming rector of Buxted, though the advowson apparently belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury?
        Arthur LANGWORTH (owner 1586-1605/6): The will of John LANGWORTH above suggests he was another son of Lancelot LANGWORTH of Kirtlebury, Worcestershire. Described as of Buxted, armiger, though noted as already in occupation here when he purchased the Broyle Place estate, including Moor Park, from James THATCHER in 1586. On 4 Jul 1580 Arthur LANGWORTH, his wife Rose and their son John were granted a lease for lives of the rectory of Framfield, in late held by the Lady Anne of Cleves [Margaret Post (ed) ‘Calendar of Patent Rolls’, no.1462]. In 1584 Arthur LANGWORTH of Buxted sold Bridge Cottage, Uckfield, to the registrar of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Court of Arches [website of the Uckfield & District preservation Society]. In 1592 Arthur LANGWORTH & Rose his wife were deforcients in a fine concerning the manor of Owborne, Buxted, for which the plaintiff was John LANGWORTH S.T.P., and on 2 Apr 1599 Arthur LANGWORTH & Rose his wife were granted a royal licence to alienate lands and pasture for beasts in Bucksted to John LANGWORTH, S.T.P. [Cal. Patent Rolls, 41 Elizabeth]. Rose the only daughter of William DURANT of Cottesmore, Rutland (d.1578) by his second wife was the wife of Arthur LANGWORTH of The Brill in Sussex, esq, at her father’s death [John Lodge, ‘The Peerage of Ireland’ (1754)]. By his death he owned some woodland in Little Horsted as well as Broyle Place and land in Ringmer & Laughton. He is noted as having, together with an Adam LANGWORTH of Buxted, gent, (his brother) sold the lease of the rectory of Harlington, Middlesex, for £1,300 in 1592 [Warwickshire RO/L6/956]. On 5 Jul 1596 he purchased the lease of the rectory of Firle for £8,000 from the actor-manager Edward ALLEYNE and his wife (contemporaries and friends of William Shakespeare), paying him £150 p.a. for 20 years, though it appears from an article in The Athanaeum that he may previously have acquired this same parsonage from Robert SACKVILLE, sold it to ALLEYNE, and that it was later again sold by ALLEYNE to John LANGWORTH, and then bought back from him again – these deals may perhaps have represented mortgages or securities for loans rather than outright sales. Arthur LANGWORTH entertained ALLEYNE and his wife at the Broyle from Jun-Sep 1598. Arthur LANGWORTH was also a friend of the theatrical entrepreneur and courtier Philip HENSLOWE (c.1550-1616), as noted in the latter’s diary, and on 16 May 1595 had agreed to buy a house & land (location unspecified) and goodwill from HENSLOWE for £100, an arrangement witnessed by ALLEYNE & the mark of ALLEYNE’s wife (who was HENSLOWE’s step-daughter). HENSLOWE’s sister was the wife of the Buxted ironmaster Ralph HOGGE. HENSLOWE’s diary is one of the most important sources for the history of the Elizabethan & Jacobean theatre. HENSLOWE, born in Lindfield, was brought up in Sussex, and his sister was married to the Buxted ironmaster Ralf HOGGE. HENSLOWE financed the theatre company called ‘The Admirals Men’, for which ALLEYNE was the chief actor and which performed plays by authors including Christopher Marlowe & Ben Jonson, though William Shakespeare was connected primarily to the rival ‘Lord Chamberlain’s Men’. The two companies joined forces briefly when the playhouses were closed by the plague in Jun 1594. ALLEYNE and HENSLOWE were also partners in unsuccessfully seeking the office of Keeper of the Queen’s Games, which ran bull & bear baiting in London, and 1598 letters from Arthur LANGWORTH to ALLEYNE and from HENSLOWE to ALLEYNE at ‘The Brill’ about this purchase, in which LANGWORTH used his influence to help HENSLOWE and ALLEYNE gain this post, survive. An Edward ALLEN owed Arthur LANGWORTH £100 at his death. Arthur LANGWORTH was buried at Ringmer on 24 Feb 1605/6. His widow Rose was still alive but of Glyndebourne in 1615 when the properties were sold, and made her mark on the sale document. The 19 Feb 1605/6 will of Arthur LANGWORTHE, gent, written when he was sick in body and apparently on the day of his death, refers to his wife Rose (the executor who proved the will), his sons John (witness only), Arthur, Nicholas, Richard (executor jointly with his wife) & Edward and daughters Rose (who seems preferred), Jane & Agnes, and his brother Mr J. LANGWORTHE, and is PRO/PCC83 Stafforde, PROB 11/108/339. An inquisition post mortem records that Arthur LANGWORTH esq died 19 Feb 1605/6 [the day he made his will] at Blackfriars, London, and that his heir John was then aged 30 or more [Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol.52, inquisition C.292, no.168], with his lands settled by deed dated 3 Feb 35 Eliz on himself for life, and then on his son John LANGWORTH and Mary CHALLONER, who the said John LANGWORTH intended to marry.
        John LANGWORTH (owner 1605/6-1612): According to a genealogical website he was admitted as a pensioner to Caius College, Cambridge on 5 Oct 1587, aged 15, son of Arthur LANGWORTH, gent [www.combs-families.org/~combs/records/en-cambr; ‘Biographical History of Gonville and Caius College, vol.1, 1349-1897’]. He had been educated at Buxted. He was noted as ‘of Broyle, Sussex’, and it was also recorded that he married a daughter of – CHALLENOR and had issue. His 1592 marriage settlement indicates that he married Marie the daughter of Thomas CHALONER of Kenwards in Lindfield. It was John rather than his father who purchased the Gote Farm [no.833] from James THATCHER in 1594 – this property is not mentioned in his father’s 1605-6 IPM and John may have used his wife’s dowry for this transaction. He was said to be aged 30 or more when he inherited Broyle Place from his father c.1605-6, but if 30 was correct he would have been only a teenager at his marriage settlement, and his age at matriculation at Caius is more likely correct. Mary the wife of John LANGWORTH esq was buried at Ringmer on 28 May 1608. He is presumably the Mr John LANGWORD buried at Ringmer on ? Sep 1612. His 1612 will, which describes him as of Ringmer, and was proved on 9 Sep 1612, is PRO/PCC74 Fenner [or PCC/PROB/11/120/211], and there is a copy with the title deeds of Gote farm [no.833]. It orders that the Gote should be sold, along with lands in Little Horsted, to pay his debts and then divide the proceeds equally amongst his younger children, except for his son John, with John to have a share, less than his brothers and sisters, only if the testator’s wife Barbara considers that his style of living deserves it. An inquisition post mortem of John LANGWORTH esq on 30 Oct, 10 Jas 1 is noted [Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol.52, inquisition C.328, no.161]. His IPM notes that he had died “2 Sep last” at Lindfield, and that his father Arthur LANGWORTH was seized of Broyle Place in Ringmer & Laughton and other lands in Laughton when on 26 Jan 35 Eliz these were settled on the marriage of John LANGWORTH to Mary, daughter of Thomas CHALONER of Lindfield, esq, remainder to Richard, second son of the said Arthur; to Arthur; and then to Adam LANGWORTH, brother of Arthur. On 6 Aug 36 Eliz James THATCHER had settled the manor of Goate alias Gotts in Ringmer & Glynde on John LANGWORTH & Mary his wife, and their heirs, and that they had issue Thomas LANGWORTH, Johan LANGWORTH and 9 other sons and daughters, and that Mary had died, with John LANGWORTH later having a second wife Barbara. Puzzlingly in his IPM his heir was named as his son Thomas, aged 8 years, 3 months & 2 days, which would suggest that his elder children had all been daughters. John LANGWORTH had other sons than Thomas, below, who inherited Broyle Place. An Edward, who surrendered the copyhold Purchase in 1621 was presumably the youngest (or John’s youngest brother) – the very first entry in the surviving Ringmer baptisms register is that of Edward son of Mr LANGWORTH on 25 Aug 1605, his godparents including Mr Thomas CHALLENDER and Mistress Rose LANGWORTH. Dorrity son of John & Mary LANGWORTH was baptised at Ringmer on 21 Apr 1608, just over a month before her mother’s death. There was also a Sir John LANGWORTH of London, knight, who in 1631 was described as the son of John & Mary LANGWORTH, deceased, when he inherited an annuity of £80 p.a. charged on the CHALONER Lindfield estate [including the manors of South Malling Lindfield Dean, Chancellor, Treasurer and Chanter or Precentor] from an CHALONER relative [grandfather?] and promptly conveyed it to other members of the CHALONER family [ESRO/SAS/A138-139&A142-143]. Another beneficiary of the will of Thomas CHALONER of Kenwardes in Lindfield was his cousin Herbert LANGWORTH of London, woollendraper.
        Thomas LANGWORTH (owner -1615): He was said to be aged 8 in his father’s IPM, which named him as heir, and he was ‘of the Broyle’ when he sold Broyle Place to Harbert SPRINGETT. If both Thomas LANGWORTHs are the same man (rather than, say, nephew and uncle) and the IPM age is correct, he was under age when making this sale. Thomas sold Gote Farm and the future Glyndebourne to a different purchaser at the same date. Unlike his grandmother, he could sign his name on the sale deed. The copyhold element of the estate was not formally transferred until 1621, by Edward LANGWORTH, Thomas’s youngest brother.


      • Martin Robb says:

        Thank you very much for this. I haven’t done anything on this blog for a while, so I’ve only just seen it. Best wishes, Martin.


      • Martin Robb says:

        Thank you very much for this. I haven’t done anything on this blog for a while, so I’ve only just seen it. Best wishes, Martin.


  2. Donald Macer-Wright says:

    I have followed your Langworth blogs with much interest. Do you know where Arthur Langworth owned Iands in Laughton?
    I have a personal interest in the Rogers family of Kingston near Lewes. The Sussex ancestor was the Rev. Henry Rogers of St John’s,Cambridge University, vicar of Selmeston, born 1572 Biddenden, Kent and related to Goldwell Rogers. One of Henry’s sons Alexander married a Thatcher of Selmeston and Ringmer and there were several relationships to the Challoners. Henry married Elizabeth, who left a chest in her will inscribed E L. Henry left a significant block of about 53 acres of land in Laughton and 24 acres in Westham (Pevensey) all the same transaction , the Laughton land sandwiched between the road from Firle to East Hoathly and from the Firle road to Laughton church, at the bottom end of the village and all surrounded by the lands of the Pelhams. This would appear to be Elizabeth’s marriage portion.
    Elimination suggests that Elizabeth was either a Pelham or an unknown daughter of Arthur Langworth – she also had a sister Ellen (very much a Pelham name) which would of course make two unknown daughters if Langworth. Elizabeth and Henry were married before 1604. Elizabeth appears to be the Elizabeth Rogers christened 17th December 1586 Laughton (the only Rogers christening in Laughton). Her will indicates she was a catholic and significantly Henry Rogers clearly brought up under Puritan influence and ministered for over 30 years (d 1639) appears from his will to have died a catholic.


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