Reflections on the will of Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger (died 1640)

The last will and testament of the Catholic poet and translator, Sir Thomas Hawkins the younger, which I transcribed in the previous post, includes references to a number of members of his family. Notable by their absence from the will (probably for the same pragmatic reasons as their omission from their father’s will of 1617) are Thomas’ brother Henry, the Jesuit priest, and his sister Bennet or Benedict, a nun in Belgium, both of whom were still living. Another significant absence is Sir Thomas’ brother John, the physician and author, and it seems likely that he predeceased him.

Thomas Hawkins appoints another sibling, his ‘wellbeloved brother’ Richard Hawkins, as sole executor of his will. It was Richard who married Mary Langworth, daughter of Dr John Langworth, with whom we began this exploration of connected recusant families. I believe that Thomas’ nephew Charles and his niece Katharine, both mentioned in the will, were the children of Richard and Mary. We’ll return to them in another post.

Panel of the Hawkins monument in Boughton church, showing Sir Thomas the younger and his brothers

Panel of the Hawkins monument in Boughton church, showing Sir Thomas the younger and his brothers

Thomas makes bequests to his cousins Ann and William Pettit. These were members of his late mother’s family; as mentioned in previous posts, the Pettits were another known recusant family, also resident in Boughton under Blean. The will also includes a reference to ‘Ann Breadstreet my Aunts daughter’. The will of Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder had mentioned his cousin Ann Breadstreet or Bradstreet, and also Christopher Bradstreet, who may have been her husband.

Thomas leaves money to ‘my sister Finch’: this is Susan or Susanna Hawkins who married John Finch of Grovehurst, at Milton near Sittingbourne. They were the parents of Thomas’ nephew Clement Finch of Grovehurst, appointed as one of the overseers of the will. ‘My sister Hildesley’ is Ann Hawkins, the husband of ‘my loving brother William Hildesley’ of Little Stoke, Oxfordshire, also named as an overseer. I’ll discuss the Finches and Hildesleys, both of them well-known recusant families, in future posts.

I haven’t been able to find out anything further about the person Thomas Hawkins describes as ‘John Rookes my kinseman’. As for ‘my god sonne Thomas Crompton’, it’s possible he was a relative (son?) of Sir Thomas Crompton, the Member of Parliament and government officer, a number of whose family were said to be Catholic.

Pra del Valle in Padua by Canaletto (via wikimedia)

Pra del Valle in Padua by Canaletto (via wikimedia)

Thomas Hawkins makes a substantial bequest in his will to ‘my lovinge nephew John Kirton doctor of phisicke’. I’ve been unable to discover John Kirton’s precise connection to the Hawkins family. Given his surname, he might have been the son of one of Thomas’ sisters, but I haven’t found any trace of another surviving sister who might have married a man with the surname Kirton. Alternatively, John might have been related to Thomas Hawkins via his wife Elizabeth Smith: perhaps another Smith sister married a Kirton?

Interestingly, John Kirton seems to have studied medicine in Padua, Italy, and then to have been ‘incorporated’ at Oxford in 1633. There is a suggestion that Thomas Hawkins’ younger brother John, who was also a physician, followed a similar path, perhaps because completing his degree at Oxford would have meant taking the Oath of Allegiance. It appears that Padua was popular among Catholic students as an alternative to Oxford and Cambridge, partly for this reason. However, as Jonathan Woolfson explain in his book on English students at Padua in the Tudor period, there were other reasons for the city’s appeal: both Catholics and Protestants were drawn there because of its long tradition of welcoming foreign students, its reputation as a centre for humanist learning, and the fact that it existed outside the control of any civic or religious authority.

Probable likeness of Sir Robert Dudley, c. 1591 (via wikipedia)

Probable likeness of Sir Robert Dudley, c. 1591 (via wikipedia)

John Kirton appears to have a had long association with Italy. He was physician to the explorer and cartographer Sir Robert Dudley, whom he assisted in his chemical experiments in Tuscany. After a colourful maritime career, Dudley had abandoned his family and left England in 1605 with his cousin and lover Elizabeth Southwell, who was disguised as a page. The couple declared that they had converted to Catholicism and Dudley married Elizabeth in Lyon in 1606, after receiving a papal dispensation, and then settled in Florence. Apparently John Kirton was still living in Florence in 1673, at the age of 70.

I’m not sure of the exact identity of the man whom Thomas Hawkins describes as my deare friend Mr Thomas Chester’. He might be the Thomas Chester of Almondsbury, Gloucestershire, the Royalist, described in one source as ‘an old Cavalier’, who was fined and had his property sequestered during the Civil War for ‘having adhered to the Forces raised against the Parliament’.

This entry was posted in Bradstreet, Finch, Hawkins, Hildesley, Kirton, Langworth, Pettit, Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

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