ID: KGM_007 / Kay Gilmour

TitlePeldon in Essex. The New Rich. Chapter 7.
Abstract NEW RICH

The Reynolds Family
Amongst the rich bay makers who emerged from the rigours of the Siege of Colchester, not only unscathed, but apparently very wealthy, was one Mr. Thomas Reynolds, gent, to whom Countess Rivers' Trustees conveyed her property in Peldon.

The exodus of Countess Rivers, Viscountess Rocksavage, from the Peldon scene, had paved the way for the entry of the new type of manorial lord - the industrialist and the merchant: and the Reynolds family is typical of the new squirearchy which arose during the seventeenth century.

Morant tells us that Thomas Reynolds was born near Ipswich, of good parentage, and having settled in Colchester, became an "eminent clothier". He married Margery, daughter of Samuel Decoster of London, whose father had fled from Ghent during Alva's persecution. They had four sons and four daughters.

In due course Reynolds built himself a large brick house "with-out Eastgate" in East Hill, Colchester, in more modern times occupied by Dr. Ryan and Mr. Stopes, and issued his Trade Token. [Note 36]

Reynolds appears to have played quite an important part in the Corporation, being the leading opponent of Henry Barrington, the moving spirit on the Puritan side.

Elected an Assistant, February 1646-7, and Alderman Sep. 1652 he first sat as Mayor 3rd October 1654.

By Cromwell's Charter 1656 he was expelled as an Alderman and nominated a Common Councillor, but with Alderman Millbank, refused on 22nd December to take the oath.

He was one of the Aldermen who resumed their seats when Cromwell's Charter ceased to operate in 1659 and again held office of Mayor in 1662 (ibid).

He acquired a coat of arms which Morant describes. [Note 37]

In the meantime the Priory and Manor of West Mersea had passed, on October 4th 1649, into the hands of the Rector of Shenfield, Mr. John Kidby (d.1694) whose son and heir Edmond, Rector of East and West Hanningfield was manorial lord in Salmon's ** time; and Pete Hall with Fingringhoe had been purchased by George Frere, a London merchant, for "one thousand pounds of lawfull monie of Englande" on October 24th 1648. [Note 38]

** [Editor's Note] Nathaniel Salmon (1675 - 1742) was an antiquarian and historian who wrote The History and Antiquities of Essex (published 1740).

Frere, who died in 1655, bequeathed in his will dated September 20th 1653 to the churchwardens of the parish on trust; 52 shillings a year charged on the manor of Fingringhoe, for bread to be given to six of the oldest poor people in the parish each Sunday in the chancel of the church.

His alabaster effigy at Fingringhoe, a half-length portrait bust over the Vestry door in the chancel of St Andrews, described by J. Booth in his comments on Salmon's history as "large as life, his right hand on a Death head", appears to have been taken from a death mask. Below the white marble inscription panel is a shield bearing the arms of the Levant, or Turkey Merchants' Company.

Thomas Reynolds died in 1665, the year of the Plague, "when the Almond tree was in bloom," as an alabaster memorial to him in the south wall of St James' Church, East Hill, Colchester, records in Latin, successful and honoured.

The translation given in the Parish magazine runs:

"Sacred to Almighty God. Beneath this wall is buried Thomas Reynolds, at one time an eminent magistrate of Colchester. He married Margery Decoster, daughter of Samuel Decoster a merchant of London, who bore him eight children, four of either sex. She laid aside the corruptible burden of the body on April 15th 1649. He, however, enjoyed to the full the fruits of his works, and then, abounding alike in riches and in length of days, when his cup was overflowing, faithfully and peacefully fell asleep in Christ when the Almond tree was in bloom, April 29th in the year of our Lord 1665, aged 61.

'"Wealthy he was, and bless'd with riches and nobly born children Though in the dust lies the flesh, yet dwells in heav'n his soul. Reader, begone; here, silent our record, no more could it utter Always the rest will remain written upon life's scroll."

It is recorded that Thomas Reynolds held his first manorial Court at Peldon Hall on September 10th 1650.

Whether the lot of the working man or woman was improved by the change of ownership from the great families to the industrialists is not easy to estimate.

It is possible that, with the acquisition of a coat of arms, hallmark of the landed gentry, Reynolds developed a deep sense of social responsibility. We do not know. From his treatment of the work people from whose labours he derived his wealth, however, it is doubtful, for, in spite of Reynolds' success story, his large town and country houses, his coat of arms, and his fulsome memorial, the means by which his "considerable fortune" was acquired, appears to have been questionable.

The petitioners alleged misery on account of the smallness of their wages and that Thomas Reynolds, a master bay maker of Colchester oppressed his workers by paying in kind. The workmen complained to the Sessions, and the Mayor and Justices ordered Reynolds to pay in money, but he refused. A second appeal was made but Reynolds, through his Attorney, said he would spend £100 in law rather than pay one penny to the disaffected workmen. The petitioners prayed for relief and protection, and Reynolds was ordered to appear on May 5th by the "Inner Star Chamber" on a warrant. He pleaded that he had never forced any men to take commodities for their work; he accused some of the weavers of deceitful dealing. Moreover, he complained that his house had been burnt, he suspected maliciously, and his loss had amounted to £500.

Although Thomas Brown and 95 others certified that they had known Reynolds, some having been employed by him, and that he had dealt honestly with them, and been much wronged, he was committed to the Fleet prison, until he should pay the petitioners twice the amount of the wages of which he had defrauded them, withdraw all actions against them, and pay reasonable costs.

This caused Reynolds to come to terms promptly with his men, and he was released on May 17th.

That Reynolds' household spinners and weavers must have been sorely tried before they ventured to bring allegations against him is certain; for, not far from his town residence, stood the Town gallows as they had stood even before the year 1378, in the Gallowfield at the foot of East Hill. A menacing reminder of the power of the lords and masters over their dependents

It is only fair to Reynolds to recall that his great enemy was Henry Barrington, the Puritan leader, who may have had a hand in trying to discredit him, and to stress the fact that the petitioners against him themselves stated that his lawyer, William Arwacre, was "the only cause of our trouble."

When Thomas Reynolds died in the year of the Plague, he was succeeded by his son Samuel, born 1642. We have no record of Samuel's education but his elder brother Thomas was admitted to Colchester Grammar School in 1643.

Samuel was a magistrate and captain of Militia, when, in 1679, he first contested the borough unsuccessfully.

In 1681 he was elected one of the Burgesses in the last parliament of King Charles II and again in the 1st and 2nd Parliaments of William and Mary (1688 and 1690). [Note 39]

It will be recalled that King James II not only claimed liberty of conscience, but in defiance of law and public opinion attempted to force Romanists into highest offices of Church and State. [Note 40]

In 1688 James, deserted by his followers, had fled the kingdom he was unable to govern, to the court of Louis XIV and his son-in-law, William of Orange was invited to come over.

To the Convention, summoned by William to settle the situation thus created, Colchester, on January 16th 1689, returned Isaac Rebow and Samuel Reynolds.

It must have been a momentous meeting of Parliament at which Samuel took his seat, when Tory and Whig united to declare the throne vacant and offer it to William and Mary. Much of the liberty of thought we in England enjoy today is due to the third great charter of liberties, the Declaration of Rights, which passed into the Statute Book in October 1689, and reaffirmed the "true ancient and indubitable rights of the people of this realm".

Samuel took up residence in his father's house in East Hill, and had the honour of entertaining King William on his first visit to Colchester. [Note 41] He married Judith, daughter of Thomas Samford, by whom he had four sons and two daughters. He died August 23rd 1694, and was buried near his father in St James' under a black marble gravestone with an epitaph:

"Here lieth the Body of Samuel Reynolds, Esqre.,
who after he had long served his Country, and this
Town as their Burgesse in divers Parliaments,
departed this life August 23 Anno Domini 1694
Aetat 52."

Another Samuel, a man to whom Essex historians owe much, succeeded to the Reynolds' estate.

"Born in the country in the year of the plague" on July 25th 1666, as the St. James' Baptismal register records, Samuel, son of Samuel and Judith, was admitted to Colchester Grammar School at the age of ten on 19th March 1677 and to Grays Inn six years later.

Samuel became Clerk of the Peace at Chelmsford 1702-22 and appears to have been "an unusually zealous officer". [Note 42]

He it was who rescued the Quarter Sessions Rolls for posterity, when, in 1718, it was found that these Rolls, then kept over the church porch in Chelmsford (the Parish Church of St. Mary, now the Cathedral) "lay in the utmost confusion there, and had received damage by the wet and were likely to receive more", and permission from the Custos rotulorum of the county had been obtained to remove and put them in order. It was to Samuel Reynolds that the task was entrusted. It took him four years to complete and earned him an honorarium of £80 "for his trouble and paines therein".

Samuel married Frances, daughter of Charles Pelham, described by Morant as "of the noble family of Pelham, Duke of Newcastle," and was succeeded by his second son Charles, who, dying in 1760, left no direct heir.

By now the Reynolds family had disposed of the town property. Shortly after his father's death on December 27th 1694 Samuel II had sold the old historic Swan Inn, where now stands East Hill House, which Thomas the Baymaker had purchased on October 12th 1627, to Benjamin Dikes.

The Mansion on East Hill (No. 86), including the castle lands of 80 acres passed to the Whaley family for £4500.

William Samuel Powell
Their country estates, however, the Reynolds retained, and on Charles' death Peldon passed (by Samuel's will) to the son of his youngest sister, by her second marriage, William Samuel Powell, D.D

The Reverend William Samuel Powell, D.D.,F.R.S. (1717-1775), who had been born in Colchester and educated at Colchester Grammar School, inherited the Manor of Peldon Hall in 1761. He was a distinguished scholar, Master of St. John's College, Cambridge 1765-1775; and Vice Chancellor 1765-6.

A contemporary poem refers to "gentle Powell's placid mien".

Under-the "placid mien" however, must have lain an iron character, for two of his publications, especially a sermon preached before the University on Commencement Sunday published 1757 and reprinted 1758, 1759 and 1772, entitled "A defence of the Subscriptions required of the Church of England" provoked serious controversy: and under his strict discipline St. John's College secured the leading position in the University. His fame rests on his introduction of examinations in the College, the papers for which he drew up himself, and he attended the examination in person. It is curious that his interest in examinations was limited to a certain field, for he vigorously opposed Dr Jebb's proposition that annual examinations for the whole University for all students in general subjects should be established. Except for a short time in London shortly after he inherited his cousin's estates, he spent most of his days at Cambridge, "in great splendour and magnificence".

He died there, unmarried, leaving his property to the niece who lived with him, Miss Susan Jolland. The Peldon estate inherited by her - she was a daughter of the Reverend George Jolland of Leigh, Staffordshire, and a lady of considerable means - consisted of the Manor of Peldon, with three farms and a cottage, namely, Peldon Hall, then tenanted by Robert Keye, Peldon Lodge and Billetts, occupied by Benjamin Cook, and Rolls' Farm with the land, Stockfield and Paites, occupied by George Wayland and a cottage also used by George Wayland and Bullock at yearly rent of £12.

By her will made August 21st 1775 and proved May 25th 1776, Susan's property passed to her father for life, after which it was to be divided between her three brothers, the Manor, Peldon Lodge and Billetts going to Charles; the Hall to William; Rolls Farm, Stockfields, Paites and the Cottage to her youngest brother Francis.

Thus was the manor divided; and with the passing of the large landholder the pattern of feudal village life shows the final signs of disintegration, whilst the blueprint of the new democratic era begins clearly to unfold.


36.   Reynolds' token is not very informative, viz:-
Colchester Bay Maker Tr
Ancient Tokens of Colchester, by E.N. Mason, 1902
37. Sable, a chevron chequey argent and sable, between 3 crosslets fitche argent, on a chief sable, 3 estoiles argent: Crest: On a torse of the colours and a closed helmet, a wolf's head erased collared sable .(Morant i,419).
38. Benton, Gerald Montague 'Manor of Finginghoe', Essex Archaeological Society Transactions p.23
39. Essex Review vi, 174 & Morant ii,15.
40. Essex Review vi,17, George Rickword (1897).
41. Essex Review vi, 174
42. Emmison, Guide to Essex Quarter Sessions p.v.

Kay Gilmour Contents
Chapter 6
Chapter 8

AuthorKay Gilmour
SourceMersea Museum