Nicholas BROME & the Three Murders: Part Five

Nicholas BROME stained glass depiction at St Michael Baddesley Clinton


The above window at St Michael Baddesley Clinton [previously St James] gives some important details of Nicholas BROOME’s life: ” Nicholas BROME Esq. Lord & owner of Baddesley Clinton. Married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Rawfre ARUNDELL of Eggleshole in the County of Cornwall, Knight Anno Domini 1473 and died the 10 October 1517 leaving issue Isabell and Constance his two daughters and lieth buried at the church dore.” This stained glass and those around it [see photo below] were commissioned by his daughter Constance who married Sir Edward FERRERS and inherited Baddesley Clinton Manor. This of course shows a pious Nicholas BROME in prayer. Perhaps praying for the souls of his father John BROME; John HERTHILL, who murdered his father and whose death Nicholas avenged by killing him; his soul [Nicholas], and that of the priest that Nicholas murdered [assumed to be William FOSTER].

St Michael’s Baddesley Clinton

We have already noted that Nicholas BROME’s penance for the killing of the priest of Baddesley Clinton, was that Nicholas agreed to raise the walls of the Church at Baddesley Clinton by 10 feet and add a bell tower and he also agreed to fit nearby St Giles Packwood with a new bell tower as well. This is immortalized in the Bell Tower at Baddesley Clinton thus:

Inscription in the Bell Tower at St Michael Baddesley Clinton

According to Dugale there was a window at Packwood St. Giles with this inscription: “Orate pro anima Nicholas Brome , qui campanile de fieri fecit” Translated: “Pray for the Soul of Nicholas BROME who built the bell tower.” These two towers known as the towers of expiation were built during his lifetime. Nicholas appointed 4 priests to Baddesley Clinton in his lifetime:

  • William FOSTER 29 Nov 1478 [believed to be the priest he murdered c1485, after which there was a period of no clergy]
  • Ale AWEN 23 May 1493
  • William SNELESTON 14 Nov 1499
  • Robert BANKE 8 Oct 1501


But of all the records of Nicholas I find his Will is the most illuminating. It tells us a fuller story of this man’s conscience and the burdens he carried. Nicholas BROME writes his will the 3rd day of October 1516, a year before his death. He does not mention his third wife Leticia so it seems likely she predeceased him, likely shortly before the Will was written.:

Woodloes Manor where Nicholas lived out his days courtesy of Google

I Nicholas BROME of Woodlow Esqr. beninge of hole of mynde [mind] and of good memory thanked be almightee God do make and ordeyne [ordain] this my present testamente and last will in manner and forme hereafter follwinge. First I bequeathe my soule unto almightee God my creator and saviour to our Lady St Mary and to all the saints and my body to be buried within the church doore of St James [Now St Michael] in Baddesley there as the people may tread upon me when they come to churchI also will that there be ordeyned [ordained] and layed upon my grave a flat stone of marble with an image of Latine of a meetly quantitee with a scripture mention of the day and yeere of my deceasde and my armes therupon to the intent I amy hereafter be the better remembered and prayed for.”

Bell Tower of St Michael Baddesley Clinton

What we have seen in Antiquities of Warwickshire by Dugale, there was indeed a stone of marble and a likeness in brass of Nicholas. According to John Jarman, first tour guide of the National Trust property at Baddesley Clinton, “in 1870 there was a restoration of the church by Lady Chatterton and they found there were a number of tombstones on the floor of the nave of the Church, including Nicholas’ in the doorway”, which was a large marble stone and on it was a figure of a knight in armour…” Upon further excavation it was discovered that he had been buried vertically. While his will does not specifically say this it may have been his intent to be buried thus, as a final penance, where he shall never lay at rest. I can find only 2 other vertical graves in the 16th and 17th century England, both after Nicholas BROME’s burial. The first was Sir John SPELMAN of Narborough, Norfolk, Judge of the King’s Bench who died 26 Feb 1543. The second, is the playwright and poet Ben JOHNSON who died in August 1637 and was buried at. Westminster in the Poet’s corner. He is said to have remarked “I am too poor for that and no one will lay out funeral charges upon me. No, sir, six feet long by two feet wide is too much for me: two feet by two feet will do for all I want.” It is certainly unusual for the time. As a patron of the church Nicholas was entitled to be buried there, the fact that he spells out his desire to be ” buried within the church doore of St James in Baddesley there as the people may tread upon me when they come to church” seems significant.

Threshold of St Michael Baddesley Clinton with newer marker for Nicholas Brome

Nicholas asks that a Mass be said for him at Baddesley Clinton for ten years by the parson. He asks that the following religious institutions sing mass and dirge for “my soule”. These include:

  • Corpus Christie Geeld [Guild] in Coventree [Coventry]
  • Grey Friers of Coventree [where I am a brother]
  • Gueeld [Guild] of Warwick; The Guildhall now Lord Leycester’s Hospital was built in 1450 by Richard Neville “The Kingmaker”. It was a place where members met to discuss religion, politics and trade.
  • Black Friers of Warwick [where I am a brother]
  • Convent of St Mary’s in Worcester [where I am a brother]
  • Priest of Aston Cantlow [where I am a brother]
  • The Prioresse and Convent of the house of Wroxall [Where his sister Joyce BROME was Prioress]
  • The Warde and prieste of the Geeld of Knoll [Guild of Knowle] [where I am a brother]

The concept that prayers for the dead, by the living, could aid the dead in purgatory and affect their ultimate salvation was a common belief during this period. Christian burial demonstrates that death was not the deadline for salvation and there was still hope of redemption. I think it is safe to see poor Nicholas believed he needed all the help he could get in avoiding eternal purgatory or worse. Whatever we think of him using today’s metric in his time the avenging of his father’s death would have been a private matter, and viewed as honorable. The killing of a priest, no matter the circumstance would have been perceived as most unfortunate. Not only would the church extract its price in the funding of the two towers of expiation there appears to be a moral price that Nicholas paid as well.

Below are photos of some of the religious or affiliated institutions Nicholas BROME mentions in his will. Three were 3 Guilds: Coventry, Warwick and Knowle; 2 Convents: Worcester and Wroxall; 3 Monasteries: Coventry, Knowle and Warwick; and 2 parish churches: Baddesley Clinton and Aston Cantlow. He was either a generous man or felt he needed all the help he could get, or both.

Black Friar (Dominican) from Antiquities of Warwickshire
Lord Leycester Hospital previously Warwick Guildhall © CC by David Dixon
Monastic remains St Mary’s Worcester © CC by Chris Allen
Aston Cantlow Guildhall © CC by David Dixon
Remains of Wroxall Abbey © CC by Robin Stott
Knowle Guildhall © CC by Noisar

He also mentions the Manors at Woodloe, Upper Woodcote, Nether Woodcote, and lands at Norton, Offchurch, and Eathorpe and that the profits be used for the marriage of his daughters and the same to be given to his son Edward reaches 21 years of age. His son Raufe to receive his lands and tenements at Yardley and Shirley when he reaches 21. All properties and religious institutions are within about 9 miles of Baddesley Clinton save the Convent of St Mary at Worcester. This map shows their locations.

Bartholomew’s 1903 annotated map of Warwick

I think it is safe to say he was a conscientious father making arrangements for all of his children to be well settled. His father was murdered and he avenged his father’s death. His brother died and he inherited his brother’s inheritance. He was thrice married and had at least seven children survive to maturity. He died about the age of 67 and lived through 6 Kings of England: Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII. Nicholas BROME was a man of the tumultuous times through which he live, but he was also a man with a conscience.

“O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!”

William Shakespeare ‘Richard III’ Act 5, S. 3


If there is a silver lining to Nicholas’ death perhaps it is that he did not live to see the Act of Supremacy of 28 November 1534, which formally made King Henry VIII head of the Church of England [with the help of Thomas Cromwell]. This led to the dissolution of the monasteries and religious houses from 1536-1541 which would have been unthinkable to Nicholas at his death. His daughter, Constance and son-in-law, Sir Edward FERRERS held Baddesley Clinton and remained devout Catholics. Edward FERRERS’ great-grandson Henry (1549-1633) was a lawyer at the Middle Temple, London and in 1586 he rented the house to the devout Catholics, Anne VAUX and her sister Eleanor BROOKSBY had “priest holes”constructed at Baddesley Clinton Manor. Below are photos of two of several priest holes at Baddesley Clinton Manor. During this time there was a network of travelling priests who visited many of the Manors held by Catholics. Masses were strictly forbidden so this forced these services to be held secretly. A turn of events Nicholas could have scarcely envisioned.

In 1591 a raid was made on the Manor at Baddesley Clinton, but it failed to find any Jesuits hiding there. However, on the 8th of July 1603 a Mr BURGOYNE, magistrate, who was living at the desecrated priory of Wroxall [where previously Nicholas’ sister had been prioress] sent a constable bearing a warrant to search a Catholic house at Poundley End, Rowington. He did not find the priest he was looking for, however, on the road back, not far from Baddesley Clinton he came upon Robert GRESWOLD in the company of the venerable John SUGAR, priest. The two were arrested and committed to the Warwick gaol where they were confined for over a year.

Section of the 1895 Ordnance Survey Map showing the route from Poundley End to Baddesley Clinton
note Wroxall to the right

Both were offered the opportunity to renounce their Catholic faith. They both refused and were executed by hanging on 16th of July 1604. They were both beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987. This was immortalized in a painting by Rebecca Dulcibella ORPHEN who married Marmion Edward FERRERS in 1867. The painting was destroyed however a photo of it can be found here. There are some new Frescos of Robert GRESWOLD and John SUGAR which you can read about here. They were painted by Martin Earle at St Francis of Assisi Baddesley Clinton in 2020.

Robert GRESWOLD [a distant cousin] is listed as a husbandman and servant to a Mr SHELDON of Broadway. This is most certainly William SHELDON (c1562-1626) who held the Manor of Broadway beginning in 1584. William SHELDON (1562-1626 or later) took over Broadway Manor in 1584. This suggests a strong network of Catholic loyalists among the gentry of Warwickshires and Worcestershire. I expect a future blog post will delve more into this. As some of you know we suspect the SHELDON’s of Broadway may be the progenitors of 2 branches of American SHELDONs.

Today I count myself among the many descendants of Nicholas BROME. I came upon Nicholas, almost by accident when searching for ancestors in Warwickshire, preceding a trip there in 2019. I hope that I have done Nicholas justice in fleshing out more about him. It is my fervent hope that Nicholas found peace in the afterlife.

Stairway and Timber frame construction at Baddesley Clinton Manor

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

Earlier parts of the Murders of Nicholas Brome:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

NICHOLAS BROME & the Three Murders: Part Four

When last we left Nicholas BROME we had fixed on the approximate date of the murder of the priest as about 1485. One of the challenges of trying to understand Nicholas is to understand the time and the circumstance in which he lived. Trying to do so with someone who lived 500 years ago presents challenges. I also alluded to the fact that the murders Nicholas BROME committed he paid for dearly, and not just in money. I will treat that in detail in Part Five. In this, Part Four I hope to flush out the rest of Nicholas’s life after the murders. If you are not interested in the family—then stay tuned for Part FIve.

The biggest challenge with Nicholas has been discerning the most accurate details from conflicting information. Below are the Arms of John BROME & ELizabeth ARUNDELL (left) and Sir Edward FERRERS & Constance BROME from Baddesley Clinton Manor.


There is no doubt as to Nicholas’ first wife and the two daughters born of that marriage. He was married to Elizabeth Arundell, daughter of Sir Renfrey “Ralph” ARUNDELL and his wife Joan COLESHULL. Elizabeth was about ten years his senior. We know from the records that this was Elizabeth’s second marriage as she had previously married to William WHITTINGTON who died in 1470. She brings to the union with Nicholas, her 5 children (surnamed WHITTINGTON) son John, 16, and 4 daughters ages 8 to 14. She does not bring an estate or sums of money. They marry 10 Feb 1474. To this union two daughters are born: Isabel the oldest born about 1475 and Constance born about 1478. Isabel marries Thomas MARROW(E). Constance marries Sir Edward FERRERS to whom the Baddesley Clinton estate passes upon Nicholas’ death. Below are the drawings showing the Arms of Nicholas BROME and intermarried families from the College of Knowle.

Coats of Arms from the windows at the Chapel at Knowle from Antiquities of Warwickshire by William Dugale 1656 pg 703 Including BROME, ARUNDELL, FERRERS and MARROW


The BROME Family tree from The Antiquities of Warwickshire Illustrated Dugale Vol 2 pg 971

I am indebted to Anne Elliott author of ‘My Husband’ for providing me documentation, that the second marriage was to Katherine LAMPETT (LAMPECK) and NOT Letitia C. The above tree has all 3 wives, unlike the Visitation of Warwickshire that has only two [ARUNDELL & CATESBY]. I believe this accurately places the first two daughters and the two male heirs: Edward and Ralph to their appropriate mothers, Katherine and Letitia respectively. It is missing the later female offspring Elizabeth, Joyce and Anne. In a deed 10 Feb 1506 at Warwick Records Office (CR0023/1/1/65) it mentions Nicholas Brome, esquire and Katherine his wife. We know that their son Edward BROME son of said Katherine LAMPECK is buried at the Baddesley Clinton church according to Norris 1897 and Dugale 1730. We also know that Elizabeth BROME is buried there as wife of Thomas HAWES of Solihull and she is believed to be her daughter as well.

Antiquities of Warwickshire Vol 2 Dugale 1730

We learn from Dugale that Edward BROME is buried at Baddesley Clinton Church, son of Nicholas and Katherine (LAMPECK) BROME. Also next to Elizabeth (BROME), believed to be his full sister. The “fair portraiture, of a man in armour of Nicholas BROME has since been removed.” So unfortunately the brass likeness of Nicholas BROME was removed and we know not where it resides. Here is a brass of Thomas BEAUCHAMP of at Collegiate of St Mary, Warwick, so it may have been something similar.

Thomas BEAUCHAMP Collegiate of St Mary, Warwick, England


In a deed of 11 Jul 1511 it mentions “Nicholas BROME, esquire of the manor of Wodelowe [Woodloes], for the term of his life, then after his death for the terms of his male heirs by his late wife Katherine, and then of his heirs by his present wife Letitia…” So we know by Jul 1511 Nicholas is married to his third wife Leticia CATESBY. So we can estimate a death date of Katherine of about 1507 and the third marriage likely shortly thereafter due to the young children Nicholas had with Elizabeth. Men traditionally found an eligible bride in a timely manner after a wife’s death. A marriage to Ms CATESBY would be opportune as it would be an opportunity to settle property disagreements with the adjacent CATESBYs. The will of Nicholas mentions the following children: Edward, 3 daughters namely Elizabeth, Joice and Anne and his two daughter [from first wife, Elizabeth] Dame Constance FERRERS and Dorthea MARROW and finally his son Raufe [Ralph] assumed to be of his third wife Letitica.


So to the best of our available information

Children of Elizabeth and Nicholas

  • Isabel BROME born c1475; married c1495 to Sir Thomas MARROW
  • Constance BROME Born c1477; married c1497 to Sir Edward FERRERS; she died in 1551

Children of Katherine and Nicholas

  • Edward BROME born c1500; married c.1525 to Margery BEAUFO; no issue; he died 1531
  • Elizabeth BROME born c1506; married Thomas HAWES; she died before 18 Mar 1567
  • John BROME c. 1509 assumed to have died young not listed in Will of Nicholas [not sure about his existence]

Children of Leticia and Nicholas

  • Ralph BROME born c1511; married 2 Jun 1539 to Alice DIGBY at Coleshill, Warcs.; he died 20 Oct 1568
  • Joyce [Joice] BROME born c1512; Unmarried; died after 1567 [mentioned in Will of brother Ralph BROME]
  • Anne BROME c1514; mentioned in will of father so alive in 1516

TIMELINE, dates approximate:

  • 1440 Elizabeth ARUNDELL born (Nicholas’ future wife)
  • 1447 Thomas BROME born (older brother to Nicholas)
  • 1450 Nicholas BROME born
  • 1458 Elizabeth ARUNDELL first marries William WHITTINGTON
  • 1468 John BROME (father of Nicholas) is murdered by John HERTHILL at Whitefriars in London, eldest son Thomas BROME inherits Woodloes, Brome Place etc
  • 1470 WIlliam WHITTINGTON dies (leaving 5 children 8-16)
  • 14 April 1471 Richard NEVILLE “the Kingmaker” dies
  • 20 Dec 1473 Settlement between Nicholas, Beatrix & John BROME & Elizabeth Whyttyngton sister of John ARUNDELL DR3/264 Shakespeare Trust
  • 10 Feb 1474 Nicholas BROME marries Elizabeth (ARUNDELL) WHITTINGTON, widow
  • 1471 Nicholas kills John HERTHILL;
  • 16 Mar & 18 Mar 1472 Settles with HERTHILL’s widow
  • 1475 Isabel BROME born to Nicholas & ELizabeth
  • 1478 Constance BROME born to Nicholas & ELizabeth
  • 1478 Nicholas BROME appoints William FOSTER as priest at Baddesley Clinton
  • 1483 King Edward IV dies as does his mother Beatrice (SHIRLEY) BROME
  • 1485 Nicholas kills the priest at Baddesley Clinton
  • 1486 Thomas BROME (Nicholas’ brother) dies without issue Nicholas inherits his father’s estate
  • 1495 Isabel BROME marries Sir Thomas MARROW
  • 7 May 1496 Nicholas BROME receives Pardon from King Henry VII
  • 1497 Constance BROME marries Sir Edward FERRERS
  • 5 December 1497 Elizabeth BROME mentioned in deed (still alive)
  • 1498-99 Elizabeth BROME’s death
  • 1500 second marriage to Katherine LAMPETT [LAMPECK]
  • 1500 birth of son Edward BROME
  • 21 January 1501 Indenture between George Catesby, esq., and Nicholas Brome [aka Broune] of Baddesley, esq., concerning the manor place of Brome with lands and appurtenances in the parish of Lapworth MS 3525/28 Birmingham Archives
  • 10 Feb 1506 Deed Nicholas BROME, & Katherine his wife, of the manors of Wodlowes and Wodcote, …to the legitimate male heirs of Nicholas and Katherine, then to the legitimate heirs of Nicholas and his late wife Elizabeth. CR0026/1/1/65 Warwickshire Archives
  • 1506 birth of daughter Elizabeth BROME
  • 1509 birth of son John BROME (assumed died young)
  • 1510 estimated death of Katherine and 3rd marriage of Nicholas to Leticia CATESBY
  • 11 Jul 1511 Deed mentions current wife Letitia and late wife Katherine CR0026/1/1/67 Warwickshire Archives
  • 1511 birth of Ralph BROME
  • 1512 birth of Joyce [Joice] BROME
  • 1514 birth of Anne BROME
  • 1516 assumed death of wife Letitica who is not mentioned in will; Nicholas is Escheator for Warwickshire CR0026/1/10/54 Warwickshire Archives
  • 13 Oct 1516 will of Nicholas BROME written
  • Oct 1517 death of Nicholas BROME; The Inquisition Post Mortem took place in 9 Henry VIII (April 1517 to April 1518)

In part five we will examine Nicholas in light of his murders and the price of his conscience.

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – ALl Rights Reserved

NICHOLAS BROME & the Three Murders: Part Two

“Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens” by Henry Albert Payne based on a scene in Shakespeare’s Henry VI

“This late dissension grown betwixt the peers
Burns under feigned ashes of forg’d love,
And will at last break out into a flame:
As festered members rot but by degree,
Till bones and flesh and sinews fall away,
So will this base and envious discord breed.”

William Shakespeare, 
Henry VI Part 1

When last we left young Nicholas BROME in 1468, he was 18, and his father, John had been murdered while attending Mass at Whitefriars church in London by John HERTHILL, steward to Richard NEVILLE, aka ‘The Kingmaker.

The Kingmaker “Richard Neville” at the Collegiate of St Mary Warwick, Beauchamp Chapel ©2023 Mark Sutton

We must note that the HERTHILL’s and the BROMEs were on opposite sides in the War of the Roses. Although both the families had been previously under the protection of the Beauchamp family now they are adversaries: The Yorkist, HERTHILL and the Lancastrian, BROME. Quite a backstory for our young Nicholas! By 1450 the manor was under attack by Yorkist aligned forces. Whereas, John BROME had enjoyed successful trade with King Henry VI his fortunes were tied to the King’s rise and fall. When Henry VI was deposed in 1461 by Edward IV he lost his important connections to the crown. Although he loses some of his land in Lapworth, due to well placed friends Simon Mountfort of Coleshill and Sir Richard Verney he manages to retain his other lands in Baddesley Clinton and Warwick.

This was a period of incredible tumult and danger. From the article Violent Death in Fourteenth- and Early Fifteenth-Century England by Barbara A Hanawalt we learn that death by homicide in the cities of Oxford and London was more likely than death by accident in the 14th and 15th centuries. And we learn that Sunday was the most dangerous day, for most murders occurred on Sundays and by those with whom the person was acquainted. John BROME was attacked on a Sunday by someone with whom he was well acquainted who also had a grudge. We must note that enforcement of both church and civil law was lax during this period. “We must also note that while the Yorkist King Edward IV was in power, “the Kingmaker’s” steward John HERTHILL would have enjoyed his protection. But the tides take a change as Edward IV becomes unpopular and Henry VI’s wife, Queen Margaret, who has been exile in Scotland, works a secret deal with “The Kingmaker” which leads to Henry VI retaking the throne in October of 1470. [Not hard to see why Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick came by that moniker.] But alas the Kingmaker meets his maker 14 April 1471 and with his death John HERTHILL’s protection dies.


1892 Map showing Warwick Castle to Barford and Longbridge as well as Brome Place at Bridge End
The View looking South East of Warwick Castle

The 11th of April 1471, Edward VI is back on the throne. John HERTHILL is a free man and traveling regularly between Warwick Castle and Barwick, the court of the Earl of Warwick. HERTHILL would have left Warwick Castle and travelled on the west side of the River Avon perhaps with views like the one above. On his way to Barford he would travel through Longbridge field picture below.

Longbridge Field courtesy of Robin Stott Geograph

On one such day someone else was marking his travels. Young Nicholas BROME confronts John HERTILL and an argument ensues. We must suspect that young Nicholas had vowed to avenge his father’s death since the law had not. And now he had reached the age of majority and the Kingmaker is dead, he must have felt it was his duty. In an event young Nicholas is successful and John HERTHILL is no more.

“Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

Early 15c illustration of Longsword

So what happens to our murderer? According to James William HAWES in his book Edmond Hawes of Yarmouth: “In wreaking private vengeance Nicholas BROME did nothing contrary to the habits of the time. During the Anglo Saxon period and for a century or more under the Normans private vengeance was recognized as a legal right and the injury done by a homicide could be compensated by payment of money (weregild).” Weregild otherwise known as “blood money.” So we find, not surprisingly, Nicholas in Arbitration at Coventry , 18 March 1472, is ordered to pay for a priest at Baddesley Clinton to say daily prayers for the souls of both his father, John BROME and John HERTHILL. Additionally he is to pay Elizabeth HERTHILL, John’s widow, 33 shillings and fourpence recompense. No matter which side the BROME family was on it, they retained friends in high places. The BROMES were benefactors of the church and had an extensive network of friends. In 1471 Simon Montford of Coleshill was appointed sheriff of Warwick and Leicester. He along with Richard Verney were good friends of his Nicholas’ father.

Although much remodeled Baddesley Clinton today and below as it may have been in Nicholas BROME’s time.

Interior Courtyard Baddesley Clinton ©2019 Kelly Wheaton
Baddesley Clinton as it may have looked c. 1460


Marriage, at this time, was often a strategic decision involving lands and dowry. Young Nicholas, at 23, agrees on a marriage settlement the 20th of December 1473 with the widow of William WHITTINGTON who died in 1470. Born Elizabeth ARUNDELL and about 10 years Nicholas’s senior she comes with a son John, 16, and 4 daughters ages 8 to 14. An odd marriage considering that there was no large payment or land acquisition involved. His wife was heiress to her brother, John ARUNDEL a cleric, who is party to the agreement. Perhaps John ARUNDELL was looking to settle his sister in a good estate and Nicholas is hoping to make further amends in the eyes of the church by marrying a widow and taking in her children.

Shortly before 12 January 1474. Nicholas’ brother Thomas BROME dies without issue. This means Nicholas inherits all the lands of their father, that had previously passed to Thomas. [Thomas was married to Johan (Joan) MIDDLEMORE. She later married to Sir John MYTTON, and litigation ensues over the Manor of Woodloes.]

So widow Elizabeth and Nicholas are wed 10th of February 1474 likely at St Michael’s Baddesley. This map of the church shows only the Nave was extant at that time.

This shows the reverse view from the opposite side.

St Michael’s Baddesley Clinton ©2019 Kelly Wheaton

To this marriage we know two children are born: Isabel about 1474 and Constance about 1478 when her mother would have been 45. Also in 1478 Nicholas appoints William Foster to be the new parish priest at Baddesley Clinton. The 9 April 1483 King Edward IV dies suddenly and his son Edward V succeeds him.

Window at Baddesley Clinton

The window at Baddesley Clinton showing the black and yellow of the BROME Coat of Arms. And the Red with yellow diamonds of FERRER family. Elizabeth and Nicholas’s daughter Constance marries Edward FERRER 1 Dec 1497.

We have another murder to contend with in our next chapter.

Kelly Wheaton @2023 – All Rights Reserved

NICHOLAS BROME & the Three Murders: Part Three


Bosses at St Peter’s Church Coughton Court
Cystus Scoparius 1806 Curtis

The Plantagenet Kings represented the richest family in Europe and they ruled the English throne from 1154 to 1485 while also holding Anjou in France. The name Plantagenet comes from “planta genista,” Latin for the yellow broom plant. A symbol of humility, the broom sprig was chosen as the badge of the royal house of Plantagenet and was worn by the Counts of Anjou on their caps. It is believed to have been worn during the crusades to the Holy Land. So the surname BROME has a connection to both the crown and to the church.

BROME Coat of Arms showing Broom seed pods from A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred,
pg 13-19. 

As you can see above the BROME family Coat of Arms had 3 sprigs of Broom and the seal of Nicholas was a sprig of broom below.

Watercolor of Nicholas BROME Wax Seal on document dated 20 Nov 1503 DR3/289 Shakespeare Archives

As mentioned earlier the BROME family were devout Catholics. Nicholas’ older sister Joyce BROME was the prioress of nearby Wroxall Abbey [see map for proximity] from about 1501-1525. Joyce died there on 21 June, 1528. And Nicholas’s brother-in-law, John ARUNDEL becomes in 1496 Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and later Bishop of Exeter in 1502. The BROME family are intertwined with the church but this devotion to the church is about to take an ironic twist.

1892 Map showing Baddesley Clinton Manor, St Michael’s Church, Wroxall Abbey & Broom Hall

Fragments of cloisters, Wroxall Abbey Together with the north aisle of the abbey, now Wroxall church, this is all that remains of the 12th century Benedictine nunnery at Wroxall by Robin Stott and Plan of Wroxall from A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred


“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger.”

Shakespeare Othello Act 3

Now that we have set the stage let us commence with the telling of the Third Murder. There is not a lot to tell but a short reference in William Dugale’s 1656 The Antiquities of Warwickshire. As follows “of Nich. [‘olas Brome] I have further seen, that comming on a time into his Parlour at Badsley, he found the Parish-Priest chocking his wife under the chin, whereat he was so enraged that he presently kil’d him.” Chocking , or stroking a woman’s chin in the 15th century, would have been an inappropriate intimacy for any man to undertake with another man’s wife and certainly not appropriate for the parish priest. We know no more details with which to fill in the story as it stands, in its stark soberness. So we will take Dugale at his word and can only guess if there were other extenuating circumstances. We do not know the date of the attack, or even the name of the priest for sure, but we know it had to happen between the appointment of William FOSTER as the parish priest 29 Nov 1478, by Nicholas BROME and the later appointment of Alex AWEN in 13 May 1493. We also know that Nicholas’ wife, Elizabeth, is alive 10 July 1496 when she is mentioned in a deed.

William Dugale’s 1656 The Antiquities of Warwickshire.

As you read in the Part Two, Nicholas paid blood money for the life of John HERTHILL to HERTHILL’s his wife. The amount or value placed on a person’s life was based on their status. When Nicholas killed a priest the value was much higher than for other mortal souls. He had to reckon with the church. The price Nicholas BROME paid for the death of the priest, was dear in monetray terms. He was “joyn’d to do something towards the expiation thereof; whereupon he new-built the Tower Steeple here at Badsley, from the ground, and bought three Bells for it and raised the body of the church ten feet higher: all which was expressed in his Epitaph, now torn away : and likewise built the Steeple of Packwood; in which Church Windows was this inscription, Orate pro anima Nicholas Brome qui Campanile de Pacwood fieri fecit” [Pray for the soul of Nicholas Brome who made the Bell tower of Packwood]. This would not been a small sum to renovate Baddesley Clinton’s church and add a tower to it and the church at Packwood nearby. [see map above –NW of Baddesley Clinton] Below are the two towers Nicholas BROME funded—know to some as the “Towers of Expiation [or Atonement].”

We do not know where Nicholas mother resided at this time but we do know she was buried 10 July 1483 in the Chancel at St Michael’s Baddesley Clinton, which at that time would have been in what is now the central section. The tower being added after the murder and the new Chancel wing added by the FERRER’s after Nicholas death.


Nicholas Petitioned the King of England for a pardon for all his crimes he committed before 7 Nov 1485. This date was not long after Henry VII succeeded to the throne 22 August 1485, and his coronation was 30 October 1485. This further narrows the priest’s murder to between 29 Nov 1478 and 7 Nov 1485. In fact I would venture a guess that the murder was in 1485 when Nicholas was about 35. And for his mother’s sake I hope it was after her death in 1483.

King Henry VII’s mother was a Lancastrian and Henry VII was the first of the House of Tudor, combining the Houses of Lancaster and York, when he married Elizabeth of York 18 January 1486. Pardons were very common at this time and were used for political as well as healing purposes. For Nicholas this was a welcome opportunity. His pardon did not specify the crimes, when granted 7 May 1496. In an event getting a pardon for two murders must have been very welcomed by Nicholas.

Nicholas also petitioned the Pope. His pardon was granted by Alexander VI (Rodigio Borgia) who was Pope from 11 Aug 1492- 1 Aug 1503. I would surmise that he may have needed this pardon in order to remarry in the church.

Painting of Pope Alexander VI By Attributed to Pedro Berruguete

But he paid a deeper price which we will cover in part 4.

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

NICHOLAS BROME & the Three Murders: Part One

Back in 2019, I was doing some genealogical research, before a trip to Warwickshire and it led to the discovery of Nicholas BROME, my 13th great-grandpa. I was researching all the possible connections I had in the area which led from my grandmother Helen Mildred SHELDON to her 3rd great grandmother Sylvia SHERMAN and her grandmother Jedidiah HAWES, all the way back on the HAWES line to Elizabeth BROME, daughter of Nicholas BROME, who married Thomas HAWES. [See below MY CONNECTION] I am indebted to Anne Elliott’s book mentioned below, articles by the first tour guide at Baddesley Clinton, John Jarman, the lovely staff there, the Shakespeare Trust in Stratford Upon Avon, innumerable books and my newly acquainted cousin Mark Sutton.

So please let me introduce to you, my 13th great grandpa, Nicholas BROME. I promise you won’t be bored.


Nicholas BROME was born in the late medieval period about 1450 to parents John BROME and Beatrice SHIRLEY. They are believed to have married about 1431. His father, John BROME Esq., was a member of Parliament, representing Warwick, and was for a time the Under Treasurer of the Exchequer of England. He was a wealthy landowner and it seems, a successful entrepreneur. He raised cattle and sold hides to Henry VI at Kenilworth Castle, he had a rock quarry from which headstones were fashioned and owned a tile factory. He held manorial court at Baddesley Clinton and added to his land holdings, but it seems he made enemies in the process. The Manor of Baddesley Clinton is assumed to be where Nicholas was born. In the delightful, historical novel by Anne Elliott, My Husband: The Extraordinary History of Nicholas Brome, she recounts the possible circumstances of Nicholas’ birth. Although part fiction I highly recommend it. Nicholas’ mother Beatrice SHIRLEY was the daughter of Sir Ralph SHIRLEY Lord of the Manor at Ettington and grand daughter of Sir Hugh SHiRLEY who fell at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. The SHIRLEY family held this manor back to the time of the Norman conquest. This is a view of the 13th c. Tower of St. Nicholas at Ettington Park, now the grounds of a posh hotel.

The 13th c. Tower of St. Nicholas

A deed dated 2 June, 6 Edward IV, [1466 UK Archives E 40/4493] names the children of John BROME and his wife Beatrice: Thomas, Nicholas, and John, Isabella, Elizabeth, Agnes, and Jocosa [aka Joice or Joyce who becomes the prioress of nearby Wroxall Priory from 1501-1525]. On Saturday 11th of July 1450 Brome Place in Warwick is attacked by marauders. The next morning the Manor House at Baddesley Clinton while Beatrice and the terrified children were inside. It is said they escaped to the farm of one of their tenants. During this time Richard NEVILLE, known as the “Kingmaker”, is instigating the men of Warwickshire to rise up against King Henry VI. The same King with which John BROME is aligned. Trouble is definitely brewing. In 1453 King Henry VI takes ill but recovers by 1455 when the civil war known as the War of the Roses, begins. The factions fighting for the throne are the Houses of Lancaster and the House of York. The war spans the years 1455-1487.

So into this cauldron of strife our young Nicholas arrives. The second son after his brother Thomas. In 1454 his father is having additions made to Baddesley with a Southwest Wing and renovations made to Brome Place at Bridge End in Warwick. With his father’s many businesses and properties there is likely much to keep young Nicholas entertained. Not to mention that Brome Place lies across the river from Warwick Castle. Early 20th c. Postcard and woodcut from Historic Warwickshire 1893 Burgess.


As a nobleman’s son Nicholas likely had private tutors at home before receiving a more formal education, perhaps at the Collegiate of St Mary or within Warwick Castle proper or both. Please click on the photos below for expanded views.

Views around Warwick above and the postcard below would be the view of castle as approached from Bridge End.

The view of Warwick Castle from Bridge End side of the River c. 1891
Google aerial map annotated to show Proximity of Brome Place to Warwick Castle
1885 Map of Warwick annotated.

Interestingly, with the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII the collegiate of St Mary Warwick was dissolved in 1546, and the church was granted by the crown to the burgesses of Warwick. This would have been antithetical to the Brome family who were loyal Catholics. In any event life, for Nicholas, would have been busy and perhaps more exciting in the bustling market town of Warwick rather than the manor at Baddesley Clinton. It is likely young Nicholas was back and forth between the two, frequently.


Whitefriars Church London 1563

Nicholas’ father was often in London. On one such occasion in 1468 he was attending Mass at Whitefriars church when John HERTHILL, steward to Richard NEVILLE, aka ‘The Kingmaker,’ summoned him outside. Called out to the porch and after some words exchanged between them, John HERTILL ran him through with a sword. The argument was ostensibly a dispute about lands, and the redemption of the manor of Woodloes which John HERTHILL had mortgaged to John BROME. I suspect that there was much more of a political undercurrent involved since John BROME and Richard NEVILLE were backing opposite sides. In John BROME’s will written between the time of his wound and his death shortly thereafter he used this Expression : ” that he forgave his son Thomas who smiled when he saw him run through by HERTHILL in the Whitefriars Church Porch.” It is said he is buried there. This was in 1468 which if estimates are correct Nicholas would have been about eighteen. According to Dugale John BROME’s epitaph read [roughly translated]

“Lo! Here lies as dust the body of John Brome, a noble and learned man, skilled in the law of the Realm, a child of genius, witness the County of Warwick, who fell by the sword in this church, slain at the time of the mass by the hands of wicked men. He was buried in the tomb November 5, 1468. Kindly father, it is better for him to have eternal rest.”

Very little of the monastery remained after the dissolution and today the area is covered in modern buildings. However an architectural firm preserved some of the old excavated crypt. I received permission to visit it and here are the photos I took. Click on each for larger image. It was quite dark so resolution not great.


We shan’t leave this chapter without a note on Nicholas’ inheritance. Where his older brother, Thomas is forgiven though smiling during the attack on his father at Whitefriars, as the eldest son Thomas inherits Woodloes, Brome Place in Warwick along with other Warwick properties. However the manor at Baddesley Clinton goes to his mother, Beatrice, for her life. At her death Baddesley Clinton Manor would pass to Nicholas. Things don’t work out well for Thomas, as he dies at Woodloes in 1473 without heirs we shall assume as all of the properties he inherited from his father John BROME pass to Nicholas. Beatrice, their mother, dies and was buried 10 July 1483, in the chancel of St. Michael’s church of Baddesley Clinton. The window shown below with panels of many family members was commissioned by Nicholas’ daughter Constance who married Edward FERRERS in 1507. The Window panel on the bottom 2nd from left is of Nicholas BROME. The Chancel was added after his death.

Chancel of St Michael’s Church Baddesley Clinton


  • Nicholas BROME 1450-151713th great-grandfather
  • Elizabeth BROME 1501-1566
  • William HAWES of Hillfield Hall Solihull 1531-1611
  • Edmund HAWES 1580-1655
  • Edward HAWES 1612-1693
  • John Capt HAWES 1636-1701
  • Benjamin HAWES 1682-1722
  • Jedidah HAWES 1709-1764
  • Benjamin SHERMAN 1734-1805
  • Sylvia SHERMAN 1765-1831
  • Justus SHELDON 1796-1871
  • Elmer SHELDON 1819-1898
  • Justus Warren SHELDON 1845-1923
  • Helen Mildred SHELDON 1889-1948 who was my grandmother

To be continued…

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

The Intersection of Gardening and Genealogy

The idea for this post came after my recent migration from the “bird site not to be named'” taken over by a megalomaniac, to the much pleasanter and helpful, not for profit, social media site Mastodon. While this blog post is not about Mastodon I do want to put in a plug to fellow genealogists and gardeners to check it out. The desktop version works great but you may want to use one of the apps for Mastodon like Toot or Tusky as they seem to lead to less frustration for newbies.

Crepe Myrtle Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

I couldn’t help but notice in the lists of interests posted in Introductions on Mastodon [new to me social media site] , the number of genealogists who are also gardeners and that got me to thinking of all the ways that the two hobbies overlap. That’s not to say that all genealogists are gardeners or vica versa, but it seems like a very high percentage are. It is certainly true for me. My interest in gardening goes back as far as my memories stretch to fuzzy caterpillars and beautiful garden flowers. My serious involvement with genealogy began at 17. Our garden whether cultivated or that which nature provides has always been my sanctuary. And it seems that the lives of my ancestors also provide a sanctuary from the cruelties of life.

So what things might they have in common. Gardeners and Genealogists are:

  • Hopeful: the act of planting a seed or adding a new branch to the tree
  • Patient: both gardening and genealogy take patience
  • Dirty: they both reveal secrets and they both get you on your knees
  • Colorful: Gardens and Family trees are colorful
  • Tools: Gardening and Genealogy can be practiced by everyone whether tending to a potted African violet or spending hours researching an archive from afar.
  • Rules: Good gardeners and genealogists often break the rules and tolerate chaos becasue it feeds their souls
  • Stories: The best gardens are filled with stories, like the best genealogies
  • Love: What’s not better with love?


There is nothing more HOPEFUL than planting a tree that you will never see reach its maturity, knowing that its branches will harbor future creatures and provide shade to people you will never know. And no genealogist finishes a family tree —we are ever hopeful that the gardens we make and the family history we uncover will blossom in the future and somehow the failures and brick walls will eventually be overtaken.


Anyone who sticks with gardening or genealogy will either make their peace with PATIENT or give up the pursuit. Some of my brick walls have taken 40 years or more to come tumbling down—and as a gardener I cannot possibly add up all the failures and dead plants that a lifetime of gardening entails. Yes, the weeds keep coming and yet I have spent the last few weeks a couple of hours a day on my knees weeding—in a rather futile attempt to win the war in favor of the native wildflowers. Similarly I am ever patiently plodding along hoping to make a new discovery or DNA match which will unlock the origins of my third great grandparents John MERRITT and Margaret GEARY.


Gardeners and genealogists get their hands DIRTY—I mean that literally. Your hands lead you to places you never expected and your searching for the right plant or the right resources unlocks untold secrets of our connection to the natural world and to our past. We get down and dirty and on our hands and knees in archives and libraries and gardens. We learn dirty little secrets someone worked hard to bury. We just keep digging.


Even if you garden is currently covered in a blanket of snow or all shades of green, there’s no denying gardens are COLORFUL. Even if most of the color is plays of light and comes on the wings of those who visit it. Genealogy is colorful both in the characters we meet, the places they come from and for some the color coding we often use to separate this family from that one.


This goes without saying, both endeavors have their own sets of favorite TOOLS. And there is a large degree of overlap. Books, libraries and the internet being repositories of knowledge and inspiration. Metaphors abound in raking and shaking the leaves and trees. Pruning branches, cross pollinating and simply mucking about in gardens or graveyards.


Anyone reading my blog, knows I both like rules, and like breaking them. The best RULES are like paths, they are more interesting when they meander. The rules give structure and orderliness but they can also constrain and discourage. A gardener should always look forward to surprises as should the genealogist. The rules are guideposts. They are not fences nor gatekeepers and don’t let anyone tell you different!


I say it again and again, who cares about all those names, dates and places and neatly organized files? Well you do. However, what is important is the STORIES. Even in the garden, it is telling its story. Plants that fail to thrive and others that spread with reckless abandon. My grandfather had a Japanese maple from which my parents had a seedling. Many gardens later the progeny of that maple carry on in my garden today.


Arguably gardens and family history grow stronger with LOVE. Our time on earth is transient. We garden and compile family history, best watered with love and perseverance. It is both a solitary act of selfishness indulging in our love of growing things and the selflessness of helping and providing a path for others. Only fellow gardeners or genealogists will appreciate what it took to get there. We did it for love.

“Time is to slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice…
But for those who love,
Time is Eternity.”

― Henry Van Dyke

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

New Speculations on the Origins of Robert WHEATON: Part One

Many years ago I wrote an article TItled Conjectures on the Origins of Robert WHEATON. At that time all of the indications were that he was descended from the Wheatons of Devon. This turned out to be 5 different DNA WHEATON/WHEADON/WHIDDEN lines in Devon, England: Wheaton of Sidmouth; Wheadon of Axminster; Whidden of Buckfastleigh; Wheaton of Exeter; and Wheaton of Winkleigh and Brixham. After lots of DNA testing in England with not a single DNA match, I highly suspect Robert WHEATON, who settled first in Salem, Massachusetts in 1636, did NOT come from Devon.


In April of 2015 I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Den and Jean Wheaton and spend 3 days visiting parishes in Devon and Somerset where WHEATONs were known to have lived in the 16th century and into the 17th century. On this trip Den and Jean WHEATON and I met up with David WHEATON of the Branscombe WHEATONs. So we represented 3 distinct WHEATON lines—none of them DNA related. We visited many churches from the southern Devon ie. Exter, Branscombe, Sidmouth, to mid Devon parishes like Tiverton, Honiton and Loxbeare. Each unique and beautiful in its own right. As we climbed higher and higher onto Exmoor I began to feel we were closer to the ancient Robert Wheaton homeland. When we went reached Wheddon Cross, Watchet and Stogursey I said, “this feels right.” Now of course a “feeling” can be meaningless but in this case it has led down some very circuitous gopher holes. In 2019 and continuing through Covid I have not let up in researching—although I have been remiss in not writing it up. So without further procrastination here goes.

I am not sure what it was I feeling or even what I was looking for— it just felt right. The topography had similarities to where Robert Wheaton settled in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. The area of the original “Ring of Green” settlement of Rehoboth, where Robert spent most of his life, is actually located on the East side of the Seekonk River in what is today Rumford, Rhode Island [adjacent East Providence]. Robert owned a homelot on the Ring of Green as well as a farm/woodlot on present day Wheaton Ave. in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. The Seekonk River adjoining Rumford feeds directly into the larger Providence River which in turn flows into Narragansett Bay which exits into the Atlantic Ocean. The area is a mix of woods and wetlands. Similarly, in North Somerset, the Avil and Washford Rivers empty into the swamp lands of Minehead and Watchet which border the Bristol Channel and out into the same Atlantic Ocean. Both areas show a marine influence and the North Wheddon Coast and Exmoor have more similarity to Rehoboth than the Midlands and South Coast of Devon, my earlier focus. This may mean nothing at all, but when clutching at straws that’s where we will begin.

Compare the two areas adjacent waterways and nearby major waterways leading both to the Atlantic Ocean.

Minehead in the North on the Bristol Channel with Dunster on the Avil River and further south Cutcombe and Wheddon Cross from 1913 OS Map
Part of 1836 Tanner Map of Rhode Island Rehoboth (now Rumford underlined in Red)

A little while later we got a bit of a nudge in this same direction when 3 anonymous samples of YDNA from the Bristol, England area, matched a key mutation of our Robert Wheaton [R-FGC22501]. The only other person other than our Headless Warrior in York to be positive for this SNP. To be fair this could just be a coincidence, but for now it is all we have. When Robert first appears in Salem the spelling appears to be abbreviated Robt. Wheato and then Robert Wheadon and Robt. Wheaden. Note in the later two instances the name is written Wheadon. It would be a bit ironic if Robert was a Wheadon and not as he was later known Wheaton. However, as I have pointed out elsewhere the dialects in southwestern England make d’s and t’s nearly interchangeable. In two instances a Farm called Wheaton later becomes Wheddon Farm. In many early documents a name will be spelled multiple ways in the same document.


If we assume for the sake of conjecture that I am right about my suspicions about Robert WHEATON in Somerset, we need look to the first record in Somerset of a Wheaton/Wheddon etc. which is in the year 1201, when a Walterus of ‘Watesden‘ paid scutage on half a knight’s fee which is held of the honour of Dunster, the lands of William de Mohun. William de Mohun [also spelled Moion or Moyon] was a knight in the service of William the Conqueror who received as many as 68 manors in the west of England including 55 in Somerset. His home estate consisted of the ancient hundreds of Minehead, Cutcombe and Dunster. He built his castle upon an earlier fortified castle in Dunster [shown below] originally called Tore. He was engaged in breeding horses at Cutcombe and Nunney [near Frome]. [Planche, James Robinson The Conqueror and his companions London 1874]

Dunster Castle and Yarn Market Postcard

William de Mohun held two manors in Cutcombe both mentioned in the Domesday Book:

  • Cutcombe [Udecombe, Codecombe] William de Mohun and 3 men at arms from him. Mill, 36 brood mares, 250 sheep. 22 villagers. Later 11 smallholders. 6 slaves. 6 pigmen 1.5 lord’s lands. Meadow 8 acres. Pasture 2 1 leagues & 0.5 leagues 5 furlongs mixed measures. Woodland 1 0.5 leagues & 14 acres mixed measures. Cutcombe is Somerset’s highest parish in elevation. [Uda = wood; combe = deep valley] Manor Value in 1086 £7.8
  • Oaktrow [Wochetreu] Durand from William de Mohun. Oaktrow Wood. (in Cutcombe parish) Manor later known as Cutcombe Mohun, half a virgate of land. 1 plough. In demesne is 1 ferling and half a plough, 2 villeins, half a plough, 1 ferling, 4 acres of wood(land). 6 beasts and 50 sheep, 20 she-goats and 8 swine. 4 s. [och = oak, treu or treow = wood]

Map showing location of Cutcombe-Raleigh Manor, Cutcombe Mohun Manor aka Oaktrow
and Wheddon Farms Annotated OS map

A bit more on perhaps the first of Robert’s line.

“The early history of a small estate at Wheddon is obscure, It seems to have begun in 1201, when a Walter of ‘Watesden‘ paid scutage [Scutage: money paid by a vassal to his lord in lieu of military service] on half a knight’s fee [Knight’s fee: a unit measure of land deemed sufficient to support a knight approx. 1,000-5,000 acres] which is held of the honour [honour: Barony] of Dunster.”[Lands of William de Mohun]. “Walterus de Watesden reddit compotum de j. marca de feodo dimidii militis de honore de Dunstore de scutagio. In thesauro liberavit. Et quietus est.[original Latin]”

Lyte, Sir H.C. Maxwell. Historical Notes on Some Manors formerly connected with the Honour of Dunster 1931 p .88


Our next mention of a Wheddon in the Somerset records is in the year 1243 where a lawsuit mentions Robert de Wotedon, a son William, a Richard Whadden and a tenement called Whetendene in Cutcombe. In 1253, ten years later, we see three spellings Whetedon, Whetden and Whedden all different from the earlier three. This is not at all unusual as early documents may have multiple spellings in the same document. Although these spellings may seem very different, the alleged meaning is similar. In Proto-indo-european (udén), wodor, and wodon means water. Variations include waden [to wade], wader, weden, wedene again all meaning wet, wade or water. With den or done meaning valley. So we have Walterus of water valley or the wet valley.

In the Inquisition of Sir John de Mohun from 1285: “Wadendene [alias Uhetnedene, Wetdene]. 1/2 knight’s fee held by Walter de Wadedene [alias Wetendene]. This seems an apt description given all the waterways and springs I have marked on the map below. This area is bordered on the West by the Quarme River and the North the Avil River and everywhere you look are water courses and freshwater springs. Also note a place called Watercombe adjacent Cutcombe. Essentially Watercombe and Wheddon are the same thing. Water + combe = water valley.

Remains of an earlier tower at Dunster Castle

Map showing approximately 1.5 square Miles near Wheddon Cross with Rivers and Springs circled

There are several other mentions of Wheddons in the 13th century but this one is of particular note. “In 1253, Alice of Wheddon, daughter of William of Wheddon laid claim to a third [of the] manor of Wheddon, whereof her father had been seised in demense when he set out for the Holy Land [Henry III Seventh Crusade 1248-1254]. Robert Wheddon, the tenant in actual possession hereupon vouched his overlord, Reynold de Mohun [Reginald de Mohun 1206-1258, 3rd great grandson of William de Mohun], to warrant his title, but soon afterwards recognised the plaintiff’s right, and agreed that she and her heirs should hold of him and his heirs at a rent of 12d. Which, it will be observed, was a third of the rent payable by him to the lord of Dunster. [Lyte, Sir H.C. Maxwell Documents and Extracts Illustrating the History of the Honour of Dunster Somerset Record Society Vol 33 1918 pg 89] This is the only mention I have found of an actual manor and it may be construed that this is probably the Oaktrow, later known as Cutcombe Mohun. It later seems to fade into oblivion.

Oaktrow Farm [Cutcombe Mohun] by Jay Pea used with permission Creative Commons

Also noteworthy that Alice’s father was a “Knight on Crusade in the Holy Land.” This William Wheddon may be the son or grandson of Walter de Wheddon who was the first of that name recorded. As is the case with William de Mohun there are 4 generations of that same name. So too we find a Walter de Wheddon son of Walter de Wheddon. In the 13th century other forenames include for Wheddon’s include: William, Robert, Richard and Alice. It is likely that the Walter de Wheddon mentioned in 1333 and 1335 as “regarder” of the forest of Exmoor would be a descendant of the original Walter since the first mention is 132 years earlier. A regarder was an ancient officer of the forest, whose duty it was to take a view of the forest hunts, and to inquire concerning trespasses, offenses, etc. It may have been a duty that was passed from father to son over many generations. In 1348 we find a Walter de Wheddon as a witness to a deed in Kilton some 20 miles to the East. In 1376 there is a debtor Alexander Leygh alias Alexander Wheton of Tiverton, North Devon. Creditor John More, citizen and mercer of London. [National Archived C241/164/8]


Then the record is silent for nearly 185 years! There are mentions of the place name Wheddon but none of that name or similar in the area. Then the 23 November 1559, Agnes Littlejohn and William Whetton are married at St. Mary Bridgewater [about 30 Miles east of Cutcombe]. In 1571 is a deed of Thomas Luttrell Esq to and a Thomas Withey alias Wheddone. [In 1376 Lady Elizabeth Luttrell purchased Dunster Castle from Sir John Mohun and it remained in Luttrell family hands until 1976 when it become part of the National Trust]

To Close Part One I share with you some photo of Cutcombe. The church of St John was constructed in the 13th and 14th century probably built upon an earlier church from the early 12th century. It sits at a high elevation with lovely views of surrounding countryside.

Entrance to St John Cutcombe
View from Cutcombe Church near Wheddon Cross
North and South Wheddon Farms , Wheddon Cross Postcard

And for comparison I offer this photo taken in 2021 of Robert WHEATOn’s land in Rehoboth. The trees follow “Clayey Brook” which will make an appearance later in our story.

The location of Robert WHEATON’s woodlot and farm in Rehoboth (east of The Ring of Green)

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All RIghts Reserved

Genealogy: What’s It All About?

“What’s It All About Alfie?”

Song title Burt Bacharach & Hal David

In genealogy we use lots of metaphors for what we are trying to do when faced with a dearth of evidence, and often what we have is circumstantial at best.

  • Reading Tea Leaves
  • Following Bread Crumbs
  • Fitting Pieces into a Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Putting Flesh on the Bones
  • Going on Treasure Hunts, without a Map
  • Scrambling Down Rabbit or Gopher Holes
  • Firing up the Old Time Machine
  • Crystal Ball Gazing
  • Communing with the Dead, hoping they will speak to us somehow, someway

After nearly half a century I am quite familiar with all of them and I am not at all embarrassed to admit that I will use anything to get at the truth of an ancestor’s story. I know in some circles these methods will be met with eye rolling or disdain. No both, we do what we have to do. Sometimes breadcrumbs are all we have. And even as breadcrumbs do not a loaf make…we do what we have to do. Clamber over stiles, plough through muddy fields, name your metaphor, the intrepid genealogist has done it, in metaphor or in fact.

The good thing about breadcrumbs is they lead us to places we never intended to go. And this is the very best thing about genealogy. Genealogy is not just filling in boxes on a tree,rather it is being led to new and unexplored places, physical and metaphorical. Oh how I wish, that back in Junior High and High School, I had been able to connect to what I was studying in a more personal way. So much I have learned about geography, history, anthropology, archeology, architecture and so forth is due to my desire and need to see my ancestors in the context of where they lived and what was going on around them. I can accurately fill in a blank map of the United States and do a fair job on the countries of Europe and the shires of England or even the counties of Germany! This is not due to geography coursework, but rather learning through the day to day research on my families and their origins.

Sometimes I muse on what drives a person to spend a half century on trying to unlock mysteries of their long dead kin? I think Maud Newton has some interesting thoughts in her book Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation. She Writes “I, too, believe that our family dead, and our relationship to them, are important, to me as an individual and to humanity as a collective.” At some point we all need to ask ourselves this question: What is Genealogy all About for me? I think I can finally answer that for myself.  I want to understand who I am in the context of my kin. How can their lives inform my own? I want to understand where I, where we, add to the great soup of humanity. Simply I just want to understand in some primordial way, what is it all about?

So crumbs do not a loaf make. However, they provide enough nourishment to see you through. As has been said in many ways it’s not the destination, but the journey. So, while some of my fellow genealogists are busy with lists, filling in names and ticking of boxes give me a few bread crumbs and off I go on another adventure, learning as I go. A few years back my girlfriend, Denise, and I went on a trip to Scotland. Our tour guide, Donald, when asked about times and plans he told us, “It’s guidelines—it is all just guidelines.” I have come to use this as my personal mantra, especially when it comes to genealogy. Whether you are a beginning genealogist / family historian or a more seasoned one, let me suggest that whatever you have been taught, told, etc. that all the rules—-they’re all “just guidelines.”

Everyone has their favorite or “best” way to organize, research, color code, document, etc. And yes there are guides to just about how you should do EVERYTHING that is genealogy related. But the idea that everyone needs to follow the same rules is nonsense. They always start out to be helpful, until they are not. We start out with one idea, one bread crumb, and often end up far from where we started. We make a commitment to log every resource we consulted. I did this for the first five years or so—but after 50 that’s ridiculous, it would take longer to enter all that into a database and check than it would to retrace your steps. I know more than I did back then. I say to myself, “Oh I remember this!” I don’t think oh silly me, but rather, “thank God I came back to this, look what else is here!.”

Let there be no shame in doing genealogy any way that works for you. Even if it is one bread crumb at a time.

“When you walk, let your heart lead the way”

Song lyric Burt Bacharach & Hal David

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

Photos and Postcards: Now and Then Part Two

This is the second post as a follow up to the first Photos and Postcards: Now and Then. I just keep running into more examples in my photo and postcard collection.

This one it will take 3 to illustrate as I obviously wasn’t matching up angles. These are of St. Nicholas Church in Henley in Arden, in Warwickshire. The day of our visit was quite memorable as inside the church was a young couple, who had been married there the day before. They had come back to experience it in quiet of reflection—as it happened as they said, “in a whirlwind.” Please click on images for full image.



This is from Totnes, Devon and is the old Guildhall there. We had a lovely visit in 2017.


A very special Place the Beauchamp Chapel at the Collegiate College of St Mary’s in Warwick, Warwickshire, England. Final Resting place of my 17th great-grandfather Richard BEAUCHAMP Sir , Worcester “13 Earl of Warwick,” “Knight of The Garter,” and “Captain of Calais.”


This next one is a very different vantage point but is clearly recognizable. Dartmouth Castle and St Petrox Church in Devon. This protected port was quite strategic in many battles.


Different viewpoint but discernible.


These two are quite close some 70 years apart.



I stayed at this hotel last October and later purchased this old postcard posted in 1926. The apartment is on the next to the top floor as pictured on the right in the photograph with a Stone balustrade of a balcony on front side and iron railing on the side to the left in photo.


Eventually I hope to write more about this but the photo was my attempt to find Robert WHEATON’s home lot and an old postcard along Ten Mile River. The home lot would have been occupied about 1645 and the back border would have been Ten Mile River, now in Rumford, Rhode Island.

Who know there may be a third part, some day. Hopefully these inspire you to do a few of your own.

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved

The Questions You Wished You’d Asked: Writing Challenge


This is both a Writing Challenge and an exploration. Please complete Part One before reading Part Two. For this Assignment you need to make a list of questions you wished you had asked or were able to ask, a relative who is now dead or unable to be interviewed. What I want you to imagine is that you have been given a miracle opportunity to talk for several hours, once again or for the first time, to a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or even someone further back— This is that one chance you thought you would never get. Most of us wish we had asked our relatives more questions before they departed. Or we wish we had the opportunity to meet someone who died long ago. Here’s your chance.

It is important to think deeply about what you want to know. You can scour the web for a list of interview questions, but before you do that I want you to focus on just one person and what you would ask them. The questions should be tailored precisely to fill in the blanks of their story. Make the questions personal and realize this is your only chance to find out more about them. For some it may be obvious, if you have someone who died and there’s no death certificate and you want to know where to look. But others may be more subtle. “How did it feel when your mother died when you were 6 and you were farmed out to relatives? Was there anyone that made that experience better for you?” Or perhaps it is, ‘What were you told when cousin Judy got pregnant out of wedlock?” Or “what was it like to participate in the Battle of Round Mountain?” These are your questions so they can be anything your heart desires.

Here’s mine: I never met my maternal grandmother as she died of pancreatic cancer before I was born. Here are a few questions I might ask her.

  • What was my mother like as a child? Did you find her difficult as I have the letter you wrote to your mother suggesting she was a handful?
  • Did you ever think when you entered my mother’s photo into the Beautiful Baby contest she would win? Can you tell me more about that?
  • Your sister, Louise, was 11 1/2 years your senior how did you get along with her? She married when you were fifteen, how was that for you?
  • Did you bothe get along with your parents equally well? Or who got on better with one or the other?
  • You went to Michigan Agricultural College and graduated in 1912 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Can you tell me how it was you came to go to college at a time when this was not the norm for women. What were your aspirations. Can you tell me any stories of mischief you may have gotten into?
  • Your daughters contend that you had multiple abortions. Is this true? You were married at the time and I have been told that you had career goals did this factor into your decisions?
  • In 1918 Michigan’s voters approved a state constitutional amendment extending suffrage (the right to vote) to Michigan women. The National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919. Were you involved in either of these movements and can you tell me how you felt when they passed?

Do you have your list written down? If so then you may proceed to Part Two.


So now that you have your list of questions you have several choices with what to do with them. First choice: pretend you are the person you were going to interview and use what you “do” know to answer the questions. Obviously you don’t know the answers, so just guess. See what comes to you. Use your imagination. Second choice: take one question and turn it into a story of creative nonfiction. Take a really intriguing question and flesh out a story about it. “Maybe your question was how did you meet Grandpa?” If you don’t know the answer just contrive a plausible, but interesting story. Was the meeting arranged or was it a “meet cute.?” Third choice: is to turn the questions on yourself. That is recraft them and ask them of yourself. We often don’t tell our own stories assuming that our progeny will know them. They may only know bits and pieces and they will forget—so give them the gift of leaving a few breadcrumbs. And whatever you do, have fun and be playful.

The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.

H.G. Wells

Kelly Wheaton ©2023 – All Rights Reserved