The Hodsolls were lords of the manor in Ash, Kent during the medieval period. Later, they owned considerable amounts of land and property in Kent, Sussex and London.
My 12 x great grandfather, John Hodsoll, was born in Cowfold, Sussex in 1534. His first wife, Anne, died at a young age and he married his second wife, Faith Thomas, in Cowfold in 1557.
A gentleman farmer, John enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. With Faith, he produced at least eight children, seven of them girls, along with my direct ancestor, William Hodsoll.
John enjoyed a long life, dying in 1618 in Cowfold, aged 84. He left a detailed Will, which offers an insight into his life.
John left approximately £2,000 in his Will, mainly to his ‘beloved wife, Faith’, and their children. That sum equates to 110 years of a skilled craftsman’s wages. He also left his vast estates to his family.
A servant, Caesar, and the poor people of the parish were also beneficiaries of John’s Will. Caesar received £5, the equivalent of 100 days wages for a skilled craftsman, while the poor received ‘the summe of three pounds sterling apeece’.
The affectionate tone of John’s Will suggests that he truly loved Faith. Along with money and land, she received ‘all such mares kyne and calves with all such hay corne fodder and provision of victualls for houshould as shalbe belonginge unto me at the tyme of my decease, plate and houshold stuffe, and her weddinge ringe and one paire of Braceletts of goulde w’ch I lately gave her and one ringe of myne with a deathes heade lately belonginge to my first wife.’
John lived most of his life durning the Elizabethan era and would have witnessed the devastating plague of 1563, which claimed the lives of 80,000 people, William Shakespeare’s plays, the exploits of Francis Drake, the Anglo-Spanish war, the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the death of Elizabeth I.
Faith was the daughter of the Reverend Tristram Thomas, Rector of Alford in Surrey. Her name and upbringing suggest that religion played a key role in her life, in this instance Protestantism. In regard to religion, she lived during a turbulent time, but doubtless benefited from Elizabeth’s support for the Protestant Church.
John and Faith lived during the glory days of the English Renaissance, when literature, art, music and architecture flourished. A remarkable time to be alive.
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My 11 x great grandfather, William Hodsoll, was born in Ash by Wrotham, Kent in 1560. A gentleman farmer, William married Ellenor Dudley in Ash in 1587.
Ellenor was a widow. Born in Ash in 1562, she married Henry Parker in 1580 and gave birth to their son, Richard, a year later. Two years after that, Henry died and four years later Ellenor married William Hodsoll.
In his Will, dated 30 September 1616, William left his wife, Ellenor, a yearly rent of £50 plus his lands, tenements and inherited items.
William also deferred a loan to his wife, a debt accrued by his stepson, Richard Parker. The loan totalled £27 2s 6d, which Richard had to pay to Ellenor, his mother.
William was buried on 5 October 1616, so this Will was just about the last act of his life.
William’s horses also found they way to Ellenor along with his riding furniture. The Will strongly suggests that Ellenor was fond of riding, “furniture wch my sayd wyfe doth vse when shee rydeth or iornyth abroad.”
Ellenor probably rode sidesaddle, a form of horse riding that developed in Europe in the Middle Ages. Sidesaddle allowed a woman to ride a horse in modest fashion while also wearing fine clothing.
William instructed Ellenor to offer board and lodgings to their son, William, my direct ancestor, and to give their other son, John, £300 “upon condition that, at or on the Feast of St. Michael 1618, he makes release by sufficient conveyance to said “sonne William” of all right and title “of & in all my Mannors, messuages, etc.”
A third son, Hewe, received £300 “at or on” 29 September 1620. While the executor was to pay “my sayd sonne Henry” £10 a year upon his making similar release to “my sayd sonne William”. Daughters Hester and Ellenor, at age 24, were to receive £100 each.
Much of William’s original Will is damaged, but the pages that remain ofter an insight into his life. Although not as wealthy as his father, John, who outlived him by two years, William was still an extremely rich man who could afford a comfortable lifestyle.
William was a contemporary of William Shakespeare (both died in 1616) and it’s possible that he saw the original performances of the Bard’s plays. Certainly, he was aware of them.
Ellenor’s name is recorded in various forms across a range of documents, including Elianora, but in his Will, William writes her name as Ellenor. She died in Ash on 29 July 1631, aged 69 and survived at least three of her daughters.
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My 10 x great grandfather, William Hodsoll, was baptised on 21 July 1588 in Ash by Wrotham, Kent. A gentleman farmer, he married Hester Seyliard in 1609, in Ash, Kent.
The Seyliards were a noble family that arrived in Britain from Normandy about a hundred years after the Norman Conquest and prospered through to the age of the Hanoverian succession.
William and Hester produced four children, possibly five, before Hester’s premature death in 1623, aged 33. Their eldest son, Captain John Hodsoll, my direct ancestor, inherited the estate.
From 8 May 1598 in nearby Ightham, an example of the incidents that troubled the local court. “William Willmott, yoman, on 7 May, 1598, broke the head of Richard Austin with his dagger and drew blood. Fined 5s.—remitted because he is in the service of the lord.”
The remission of Willmott’s fine looks generous. However, on the same day the court heard that, “Richard Austin, labourer, attached to himself five other armed persons in the night of Saturday, 6 May, 1598, and they assaulted William Willmott in the mansion house called ‘Ightam Courtlodg’, and with an iron-shod stick which he held in his hands he broke the head of William Willmot, and drew blood, against the peace of our Lady the Queen and to the alarm of her people. Fined 5s.”
During William’s lifetime, the Hodsolls ceased to be the only manorial family resident in the parish. Although the family still enjoyed great wealth, there is a sense of slow decline, as a result of turbulent times and the number of progeny produced by each generation.
William lived through the English Civil War (1642–1651) also known as the English Revolution. The war pitted Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, the Parliamentarians, against Charles I’s Royalists, the Cavaliers, which ended with a Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, and the beheading of Charles I.
The Hodsolls could trace their family’s roots back to the English royal family, moved in royal circles and later served in Charles II’s navy, therefore it is fair to assume that they supported the Royalist cause. William was probably too old to participate in the Battle of Maidstone on 1 June 1648, but a victory for the attacking Parliamentarians meant that he had to tread carefully.
The Hodsolls did not lose their lands during the English Civil War and therefore it’s possible that they accommodated, and adjusted to, Cromwell’s victory.
After Esther’s death, William married Elizabeth Gratwick and produced a second family with her. William died on 31 December 1663, aged 75. He was buried not with his predecessors in the nave of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul, but in the former Lady Chapel. This chapel became the Hodsoll chancel and many later generations of the family were also buried there.
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My 9 x great grandfather, Captain John Hodsoll, was baptised on 31 March 1622 in Ash By Wrotham, Kent. A captain in the merchant navy, he married Mary Bucher in 1656.
Little is known of Mary Bucher. She was born in 1629, in Wadhurst, Sussex, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Bucher. Her surname suggests German ancestry and in some documents it features as Butcher or Batcher. There is a suggestion that Mary was a Quaker, but this might be a result of coincidental names and dates. Certainly, Quakers did marry into the Hodsell family, so the idea deserves consideration.
During the 17th century, sea trade experienced significant change. British shipbuilders adapted the superior design of the Dutch fluits to create ships that required smaller crews, yet had larger storage. This resulted in a growth in maritime shipping through trade with the Mediterranean, the East Indies, the North American Colonies and Newfoundland. John became a captain and took advantage of that trade.
Captain John Hodsoll’s sailing exploits established a naval tradition within the family. Two Hodsolls, including an admiral, served in Charles II’s navy and later generations set sail for America where they were among the earliest settlers in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.
In his Will, John mentions his “eldest sonne, William” his “deare and loveinge wife, Mary” and his “two youngerst daughters, Anne and Jane”, bequeathing the girls “the summe of ffifty pounds a peece out of her house in Wadhurst Towne in the County of Sussex.” John also left money to his “Seaven Sonns”, William, John, Henry, Charles, Thomas, Edmund and James. His sixth born son, Robert, died in infancy.
In the Hodsoll chancel in the Ash-by-Wrotham church, a monumental inscription above John Hodsoll reads, “Hereunder rests in hope of a joyfull resurrection the body of Captayne John Hodsoll, of South Ash, esq., who departed this life to enjoy a better (life) on the 6th day of July, 1683, aged 61 years. He was marryed to Mary, the daughter of John Batcher, of Wadhurst, in the county of Sussex, gent., whose Conjugall love hath occasioned this pious memorial of him.”
John and Mary produced twelve children, eight boys and four girls. Their daughter, Mary, my direct ancestor, married the Reverend James Axe, uniting the Hodsoll and Axe branches of my family.
The birth date of William, John and Mary’s first born, looks sound – 9 January 1656 in Wadhurst, Sussex. Equally, their marriage date – 9 September 1656 in Cowden, Kent – is a matter of public record. This begs the question: why did John and Mary wait eight months to get married? Maybe John was away at sea and returned to find Mary cradling a baby in her arms.