South Walsham Norfolk

21. Mary Howorth – my 6x g. grandmother

In which I take a look at some newly-found information about my 6x great-grandmother, Mary Howorth, who married Samuel Backler, Vicar of Ashwell (and Newnham), Herts.  Not too much progress is made, but perhaps it will trigger some more information from some source, about who her father was!

I have been stimulated in recent weeks to unearth some ‘Backler’ Wills, printed out some years ago at the National Archives.  Ray Backler (see has been digging into Essex/Suffolk Backlers in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries – and later – to try to make links between the various Backler lines.  He is moving to crediting the parentage of ‘my’ Samuel Backler (c. 1662-1720) to a senior Samuel Backler and his wife Anne Ede (variously Eede, Eades), who married in 1660 in Huntingdonshire.  If this is indeed ‘my’ Samuel’s parentage, then it would lead to links with the later Haverhill Backlers, through the couple’s son John Backler and his descendants.  I have yet to investigate this further…

BUT – I got carried sideways by re-acquainting myself with the Will of John Howorth, proved in 1692, naming both ‘my’ Samuel Backler and his wife Mary [Howorth] and citing as his Executor John Somerscales, who married Mary’s sister Elizabeth Howorth on the same day as Samuel and Mary’s wedding.

I had for some years been unable to trace the parents of the Howorth girls, but in a new search of PCC Wills, I came across that of their Mother, Margarett (or Margret) Howorth, widow, proved in April 1687.  This Will named her children, coinciding exactly with the siblings mentioned just a few years later in John Howorth’s Will.  Thus I am able to locate my 6x gt. grandmother’s siblings and mother, though not yet her father!

This is a period in which it is easy to be confused by dates.  The Backler/Somerscales/Howorth marriages were in January 1686, which one might assume to be 11 months prior to the date of the girls’ mother’s death in November 1686 and her burial in Newnham, Herts.  But we need to remember that the calendar year before the change from Julian to Gregorian styles in 1752, changed to the New Year at the beginning of April, not the beginning of January.  Thus, January 1686 was about 6 weeks after their mother’s death in November.  For more information about Mary, we can now turn to her mother’s Will.

Note that the name Howorth may sometimes be spelt Haworth

Margarett Howorth: some questions and facts:  the questions first – who was her husband? When had he died? Where was she born, what was her maiden name, and when and where were she and her yet-to-be-named husband married? When and where were her children born?  Why were Samuel and Mary married in London?  How and why had Elizabeth Howorth met John Somerscales, gent?

Some facts: She was buried in Newnham, Herts 28 November 1686, about 6 weeks before the marriage of her two daughters.  She left a Will, naming her children, and showing that she was a very prosperous woman.  The Will also shows that the more senior the child, the better pickings they had from the estate!

Her burial in Newnham was by her soon-to-be son-in-law, Samuel Backler.  Could the Howorth family have had anything to do with his tenure there?

Margarett Howorth’s Will:  Here I extract information from the Will (PROB 11/387/38):

Margaret Howorth, Widow, of Hertford. Will dated 8 November 1683.  She was buried in  Newnham, Herts, 28 November 1686.  Probate in London 13 April 1687 to Elizabeth Somerscale [Howorth] wife of John Somerscale    NB: most commas and all bullet points are mineIt appears that three sons, Richard, Austin, and Nicholas were all under age 21 at the time Margarett wrote this Will.  Her legacy first to Richard, then Austin [named as Augustus in John’s Will written 9 years later], then Nicholas was that the recipient of all the ffarme and messuage in Hardwick in the County of Cambridge [1] bought from Ambrose Benning and now in occupation of Robert Challis, should pay £200 to each of the other two, on attainment of their 21 years of age.   If none of them were to pay the £200 apiece to the other two, then the legacy should be divided equally among them, in a life share and proportionally to them and their heirs forever.  If one were to die before coming of age, then his share to be divided equally among the other two.  But if two were to die, then the share of the second deceasing to be shared equally among all the surviving sisters.  If all three brothers die without coming of age, then the oldest son John shall have a share of the third brother deceasing equal to the shares of the sisters, and the other half divided equally among all the surviving sisters.

  • To my daughter Elizabeth Howorth [who would marry John Somerscales] I bequeath £320, my great tankard, my great plate, and half a dozen spoons, all my Childbed Lynnen with a spreading Mat and three Pillowbeers[2] thereto belonging, the best suite of Diaper [3] Table Lynnen being made up of two Cloths and a dozen and a halfe of Napkins, four paires of household sheets and one paire of fine Holland ones, my watch and my best ring.
  • Also to my daughter Mary Howorth [who would marry Samuel Backler]I bequeath Two Hundred Pounds, two ??? Silver [Cupp?], a silver plate, halfe a dozen Spoones and my Red ston’d ring [is this ?wedding?], two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins, five paires of household sheets and one Paire of Holland sheets, two paires of pillowbeeres
  • Also to my daughter Katharine Howorth I give two hundred pounds, my great Silver Salt Seller, one of my two [???] [Dupps? Cupps?] without a Cover, halfe a dozen Spoones, a gold ring, two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins and halfe a dozen Paires of household sheets
  • Also to my daughter Margaret Howard [sic – was she married, or was she the daughter of a previous marriage? or is this a mis-writing of the name Howorth] I five ffifty pounds and all my Household Goods, a gold ring, a Silver Sugar box, halfe a dozen Spoones, two diaper cloths and a dozen of Napkins, halfe a dozen paires of Sheets
  • To my oldest son John Howorth I give the newest Silver Tankard, the newest Silver Porringer and one Spoone, my biggest Watch and my biggest Plaine Ring
  • To my second son Richard I give a Silver Skillet with a Porringer and one Spoone and a Ring
  • To my third Son Austin Howorth I give a silver [two-ear’d Cupp??] without a cover, a silver [??], one silver Spoone and a gold ring
  • To my fourth Sonne Nicholas I give my little silver Tankard, my little Salt, four silver Spoones, and a gold ring.

Further, it is my Will that if there shall happen to be any loss in my moneys above given to my daughters that such loss the three Oldest shall bear an equall share but there shall be noe deduction made from the youngest.  And further it is my Will that if any of my daughters dye before Marriage their whole Portions shall be equally divided amongst the remaining Sisters. Or if anything herein given shall happen to fall short it shall be borne by all alike in equall shares except as before in Moneys given of which the youngest is to receive her fifty pound notwithstanding.  All the rest of my Goodes if anything shall be found remaining more than is before bequeathed I give to my daughter Elizabeth Howorth whom I make the sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament made upon the Eighth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Six Hundred Eighty and Three – the rent of Hardwick Estate until my sonnes Richard Austin and Nicholas shall come to age and the Interest of my Children’s Moneys to be received by my Executrix until their ages for their respective maintenances all just charges of my Executrix to be boarn out of my Estate.  In witness whereof I have hereto sett my Hand and Seale the day and Yeare above written. Margrat [sic] Howorth/ Published with the addition of her Last Will in the presence of Ralph Battell Eliz Battell Hannah Sowter.

The Will of Margarett’s son John Howorth [PROB 11/414/55]:  Written in February, 1692 and proved in March 1692, this is the Will of John Howorth, Gentleman, of St. Matthew, Friday Street, London.  It confirms the relationships between the various siblings.  And presumably it takes account of the fact that the mother’s Will had previously provided for the various siblings, including what appear to be unmarried daughters.

  • I give my brother in law John Somerscales ‘allthat my Capitall messuage or tenement lands and appurtenances thereunto belonging situate lying and being in South Walsham and elsewhere in the County of Norfolk and all other my estate Real and Personal.  John Somerscales shall be my sole Executor.
  • John Somerscales to ‘satisfy and pay unto Samuel Backler Clerke the summe of fifty pounds with Interest now due to him from me by Bond
  • ‘I doe give and bequeath unto my sister Elizabeth wife of my said Executor John Somerscales and Mary the wife of the said Backler and to the said Samuel Backler to my brother Richard Howorth Augustus Howorth Nicholas Howorth and to my sisters Katharine and Margarett Howorth the summe of five pounds apiece to buy their mourning and to each of them I give a ring of tenn shillings’
  • Lastly I revoke all previous wills etc.

Signed 25 February 1692. Witnesses Peter Alder, James Wright and Cooke.

The Howorths: what happened to the other siblings?  When did John Somerscales and his wife Elizabeth die?  As far as I can see, they had only one surviving daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1696.

[1] Hardwick, Cambridgeshire: In 1609 Thomas Dove, bishop of Peterborough, held 180 a. of free land, formerly owned by John Pecke, (fn. 60) and 60 a. of copyhold in Hardwick, (fn. 61) including Ward’s close which had earlier belonged to Barnwell Priory. (fn. 62) In 1642 the estate was in the possession of William Gilbert. (fn. 63) Ambrose Benning, owner in 1680, was followed by the Haworth family between 1684 and 1694. (

[2] A ‘pillowtie’ is the outer cover of a pillow – now called pillowcases and as such is nearly always listed with other bedding such as a ‘coverled’ or ‘rugg’. The word pillow was spelt in many different ways other examples e.g. from Rosmary Milward’s Glossary of Household farming and trade terms that she took from probate inventories and as ever are affected by local accent. She quotes:- Pellowbere, pelo berys, pealobeare, pillow beer – or- pelowes, peylowes, pyllas, pillues, pelys. In Dorchester in the 16th 7 17th centuries most of this cloth was imported from holland by the Dorchester Merchants  ((


‘Diap’ is a common abbreviation used in wills for ‘diaper’. Linen diaper and damask were a self patterened fine white linen that had been used in western Europe since the 15th century for tablecloths, napkins and handtowels. These linens were described in various ways but in England in the mid 16th century they were classed, notably in probate inventories, as either ‘diaper’ or ‘damask’. This classification was descriptive rather than technical, ‘diaper’ and ‘damask’ being differentiated solely by the complexity of the pattern: small repeat patterns often of a geometrical form were described as ‘diaper’ and figurative patterns with longer repeats as ‘damasks’. Source The Grove Encyclopedia of materials and techniques in Art (