Skipwith pedigree: notes on sources
The accompanying chart and narrative pedigrees of the Skipwith families of
of St Albans and Parkbury have been compiled from various sources, of which the most important are mentioned below.
A pedigree of seven generations was recorded at the Heralds' Visitation of Hertfordshire in 1572
(College of Arms MS G.17). (A version omitting the first generation and most of the heraldry was printed,
from a copy in the Harleian manuscripts, in Harleian Society volume 22.) As discussed below, much of this pedigree seems
to have been compiled on the evidence of monumental brasses in St Peter's Church, St Albans - apparently
without too much scrutiny by the family - and the result is inaccurate in at least two important respects:
- In the earliest generation, Richard Skipwith is shown, beside the date 1400,
with a dash apparently indicating generations omitted between him and
John Skipwith - who is shown 'married' in 1460. In fact, it seems likely that
Richard was a younger son, rather than an ancestor, of John, and that he has erroneously
been shifted back in time by nearly a century (see below).
- Thomas Skipwith (d.1558) is shown as the son of George Skipwith and his wife Mary Newport.
In fact, contemporary evidence shows that Thomas was the son of George's subsequent wife,
Alice, who does not appear in the Visitation pedigree.
Nevertheless, I have assumed that the Visitation pedigree is accurate for the mid to late 16th century.
Another pedigree, in Harleian MS 1412, fo.102b - apparently prepared in connection with a law suit in
the 1630s - gives further details of the descendants of younger sons and the marriages of daughters.
I have assumed these details are essentially accurate.
Origins of the family
The most prominent Skipwiths in England were - and still are -
the descendants of the medieval lords of Skipwith, in Yorkshire; they later lived in Lincolnshire
and Leicestershire. The Skipwiths of St Albans presumably believed they shared the same descent,
as in 1507 they were granted arms very similar to those of the Yorkshire Skipwiths. One of the
later amplifications of the Visitation pedigree (in Harleian MS 1546, ff.81b-83) sets out explicitly
the alleged connection, which begins - in the approved fashion of manufactured pedigrees - with
a younger son of the established family. It duly includes a Richard Skipwith in 1400 as the grandfather
of the first John Skipwith, so - if we accept that the heralds blundered - it is impossible as it stands.
But some of the people mentioned are real, and it may contain some grains of truth.
The part of the alleged pedigree least likely to be untrue
is the identification of John Skipwith's father as Thomas Skipwith
of Selby, Yorkshire. To some extent this is confirmed, or at least made
plausible, by other evidence:
- John is placed as Thomas's third son.
- Thomas's second son is given as Robert, a monk at Selby,
and such a monk's existence is attested in other sources
in the 1430s and again in the 1460s (Harleian MS 669, cited in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol.29;
Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association vol.13, p.348).
- Thomas's son and heir is another Thomas, whose heir is
a son Richard, said to have died without issue. It is tempting to identify these men with
Thomas Skipwith of Willitoft in the parish of Bubwith - about 8 miles from Selby -
whose will of 1468 mentions a wife Joan and five unnamed children (York Registry, vol.4, p.58) and
Richard Skipwith, also of Willitoft, whose will of 1479 mentions a wife Joan and a brother Robert
(York Registry, vol.5, p.170). Richard is the only son of the younger Thomas shown in the pedigree,
but the Skipwiths of Bubwith survived until the 16th century,
and bore arms the same as - or at least similar to - those of Skipwith of Skipwith
(Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association vol.34, p.206).
One further point is a possible identification for an impaled coat of arms on the visitation pedigree,
which are probably those of the first wife of John Skipwith of St Albans. Of three possibilities in
Papworth's Ordinary, one is the family of Freston of Altofts, in Yorkshire, who bore
Argent a fess dancetty between three mullets vert (although other sources give different arms).
As Altofts is only about 15 miles from Selby, this identification would be consistent with the 'Selby' pedigree.
Many of the family were commemorated by monumental brasses in St Peter's church in St Albans,
details of which have been preserved by several antiquaries and historians.
Sadly, none of the brasses now survives - the last mention of a Skipwith monument
is in an account of the church written in April 1799:
'A long stone which seems to have been pompously ornamented with brass, of which all that remains is a Shield
of the Arms of Skipwith ... This is the only vestige of the Family of Skipwith remaining' (annotation in
an edition of Chauncy's History of Hertfordshire: British Library, Additional MS 9063). Possibly the remaining
brass shield is the one now in the British Museum (noted in Mill Stephenson's
A list of monumental brasses...).
A close examination of the visitation pedigree suggests that its compilers
relied heavily on the Skipwith monuments for information about the first few generations shown.
As well as the main shield, which shows the quarterings brought into the family by Joan Rowlett,
the pedigree includes sketches of a number of smaller shields,
nearly all containing impaled arms, representing the marriages of members of the family.
It seems likely that these arms were taken from the monuments, and that in some
cases the heralds used them to guess the identity of the Skipwith wives.
The evidence is discussed, generation by generation, below.
- John Skipwith (d.c.1478).
We know that when John made his will in 1477 he had a wife Katherine, and that
his previous wives had been buried in St Peter's church.
Weever's Ancient funerall monuments ... records, in the church, a Latin verse:
Hic duo consortes Skipwith que Ioanna Ioannes
Compausant una, generosus & unus, et alter:
Vt pariter pausant in pace precare quiescant,
Tu qui metra legis, sic quod requiescere possis.
The visitation pedigree, on the other hand, shows a first marriage to Joan,
with 3 unnamed children, and a second to an unnamed daughter of ... Godfrey, armiger,
with 8 named children. Above are drawn two shields, containing
Skipwith impaling Argent a fess dancetty between three mullets ...,
and Skipwith impaling Argent a griffin rampant sable.
Probably these two shields, and the figures of the first two wives and their children,
were on a monumental brass, and the heralds deduced from them the details in the pedigree
(perhaps the second wife's children were named, like the children on William's monument, below).
Thus, the first wife, Joan, is named in the verse, but it seems the heralds could not
identify her arms. Apparently there was no inscription naming the second wife, but
she was identified from her arms as a member of the Godfrey family.
In reaching this conclusion, the heralds seem to have been correct: the identification
is confirmed by the appearance of the Meppershall arms (below) - Henry Godfrey of Northill
having married the heiress Joan Meppershall - and by a reference in the will of Richard Godfrey,
Henry's son, to his kinsman (consanguineus) William Skipwith.
Chronologically, John's wife would be a daughter of Henry Godfrey, and her name ('Elene')
is given in the will of her younger son, John Skipwith of London.
One possibility for the identification of the other impaled arms has been mentioned
above, under 'Origins'.
- Richard Skipwith of New Inn.
Immediately preceding the Joan/John monument in Weever's account is an epitaph in English verse:
In the yere of Crist on thowsand fowr hundryd ful trew wyth fowr and sixteen
I Rychard Skipwith gentylman in birth, late felow of new Inne
In my age twenti on my sowl partyd from the body in August the sixtenth day,
And now I ly her abyding Gods mercy undyr this ston in clay,
Desyring yow that this sal see, vnto the Meyden prey for mee
That bare both God and man.
Like as ye wold that oder for yee shold,
When ye ne may nor can.
This seems to explain the Richard Skipwith who begins the visitation pedigree. The date
1400 given there would be (approximately) the date of his birth, if he died in 1420 aged 21. And if
he was to be the ancestor of the later Skipwiths, there would - perhaps - be an intervening generation
before John Skipwith, as the pedigree indicates.
But there are some difficulties: 1420 is rather early for an epitaph to be written in English;
'four and sixteen' is a rather perverse way of expressing 'twenty'; and - most difficult -
New Inn (one of the Inns of Chancery in London) is believed to have been founded in the late,
not the early, 15th century.
The pedigree provides some clues as to what has gone wrong here.
It shows two shields, attached to Richard's name and to the date 1400: one contains
Skipwith impaling Argent a griffin rampant sable [Godfrey] and the other is identified as 'Mepurshall'.
So the arms, which presumably came from this Richard's monument, relate to the marriage of John Skipwith
and Ellen Godfrey. Surely, the solution is that a word has been omitted from the inscription. If we read
instead 'four score and sixteen', Richard's dates become c.1475-1496, and he can be identified as the
Richard who appears as a younger son of John Skipwith on the pedigree. The associated arms, then, are the
impaled arms of his parents, and those of his maternal grandmother.
- William Skipwith (d.1509).
We know from William's will that he died in 1509, and from a Chancery suit soon afterwards (C1 294/68) that
his widow Joan, the mother of his son and heir George, afterwards remarried to William Cressy.
This is confirmed by her will, made in 1515.
William's monument was described by Ashmole (Bodleian Library, Ashmole MS 1137, fo.45b). The
stone bore the Skipwith arms at its head, with the couple represented, in the ghoulish fashion of the time,
by '2 Skelletons in Shrowdes', and beneath them their twelve children, also skeletons in shrouds, and all named. The inscription read
(with abbreviations extended):
Orate pro animabus Willelmi Skipwith armigeri & Johanne Consortis sui
qui quidem Willelmus obijt 23 die mensis Aprilis anno domini 1429 & predicta Johanna obijt - - - - - -
The day and month of death agree well enough with that of William's will - they fall ten days later - but the year
has obviously been
misread. (An abbreviated version of the same epitaph, given in Salmon's History of Hertfordshire, gives instead 1480,
which, strangely, is the same date written under William's name in the visitation pedigree.)
The visitation pedigree identifies William's wife as 'Johan da. of ... Buckland', and gives 12 children. The sons are
numbered, in the same order as in Ashmole's description of the monument; the daughters are unnumbered, but
the order is similar. A shield shows the arms of Skipwith, impaling Argent a double-headed eagle displayed sable,
by which the name 'Buckland' has been written but then erased. It appears that, once again, heraldry has been used to guess at Joan's surname.
A Buckland family originating in Kent, but apparently with a branch in Hertfordshire, bore similar arms, but their eagle had only one
head. Perhaps the erasure indicates that the heralds had second thoughts about this.
Later versions of the Skipwith pedigree give a different identification of Joan's father, as 'Laurence Baldock'. The fact
that he is given a Christian name suggests that some documentary evidence may have been available. Moreover,
there was a Baldock coat of arms incorporating a double-headed black eagle, although on a field more complicated than
shown on the pedigree.
- Elizabeth, daughter of William Skipwith
Weever describes a monument to Elizabeth from St Peter's church:
Hic iacet Thomas Astry gener. filius Radulphi Astry militis, et Elisabetha uxor eius
filia Willelmi Skipwith Armigeri, qui quidem Willel. ob. .... Mcccccvii
In the visitation pedigree, Elizabeth is singled out among the Skipwith daughters
and younger sons, having her marriage and father-in-law separately indicated
- described in terms identical to Weever's - and a shield containing
the arms of Astry impaling Skipwith - which was presumably copied from the same monument
- George Skipwith (d.1522)
We know from contemporary evidence that George Skipwith married, before the death of his father
in 1509, Alice (C1/859/48), that he had by her a son and heir Thomas Skipwith, who was born in
1511 (REQ2 6/202). Alice survived George, and remarried to Gregory Warren of St Albans, but
died around Pentecost 1536 (C1/922/15; REQ2/3/258; see also Gregory's will).
Alice is identified in a 17th-century Warren pedigree
as the daughter of William Pulter of Hitchin (British Library Harleian MS 1546,
printed in Harleian Society vol.22) and in confirmation
of this, William Pulter appears as the overseer of Gregory Warren's will.
George Skipwith is the last of the family known to have had a monument in St Peter's church,
and only a very abbreviated version of the inscription is preserved by Weever:
Hic iacet Georgius Skipwith Ar[miger]
In the visitation pedigree, George's wife is identified as 'Mary da. of Robert Newport',
who is shown as the mother of Thomas - George's marriage to Alice, the real mother of Thomas,
is omitted entirely. In the discussion above, all the shields drawn on the pedigree have been accounted for
except one. This shows
Skipwith impaling arms which were, apparently, first drawn as Per pale azure and gules
a lion rampant argent, and then changed to Gules a canton azure a lion rampant
argent. Although the arms are not quite correct, they almost certainly represent the arms
of Newport of Furneux Pelham, which are usually blazoned Quarterly gules and azure
a lion rampant argent, or Per pale gules and azure a lion rampant argent.
Presumably in this case the first wife has been identified by a monument, from which the
second is absent.
- John Skipwith of St Albans, dated 22 December 1477 and proved 13 January 1477/8 (Archdeaconry of St Albans)
An abstract, printed in S. Flood, ed., St Albans Wills, 1471-1500, erroneously refers
to the testator's (late) wife being buried in St Peter's church, whereas the will definitely mentions wives
- Richard Godfrey of Northill, Bedfordshire [Ellen Godfrey's brother], dated 11 September 1500 and
proved 24 October 1501 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- John Skipwith, citizen and draper of London [son of John Skipwith and Ellen Godfrey], dated 20 April and
proved 30 August 1501 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- William Skipwith of St Albans, dated 13 April and proved 9 September 1509 (Archdeaconry of St Albans)
- Joan Cressy the wife of William Cressy [formerly the wife of William Skipwith],
dated 7 July and proved 11 August 1515 (Archdeaconry of St Albans)
- Elizabeth Skipwith (alias Saxby) [widow of John Skipwith of London], dated 4 July and proved 3 December 1516
(Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- George Skipwith of St Albans, dated 1 August and proved 15 October 1522 (Archdeaconry of St Albans)
- Gregory Warren the elder, of St Albans [who married Alice, the widow of George Skipwith],
dated 6 March 1539/40 and proved 3 April 1540 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
'Thomas Skipwith Gyntilman' is one of the executors,
and a velvet doublet is left to 'my sonne Skipwithe'
- Thomas Skipwith of 'St Marie magdales nighe the towne of St Albons',
dated 31 October and proved 9 December 1558 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Richard Skipwith of Westminster [son of Thomas Skipwith and Joan Rowlett],
dated 27 November and proved 6 December 1592
(Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Elizabeth Skipwith of Westminster [widow of Richard Skipwith of Westminster],
dated 8 October and proved 24 October 1593 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Edward Skipwith of Westminster [son of Thomas Skipwith and Joan Rowlett],
dated 8 December 1599, proved 12 March 1599/1600
(Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Henry Skipwith of Knightsbridge [son of Thomas Skipwith and Joan Rowlett],
dated 20 February 1610 and proved 22 February 1613/4
(Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Edith Skipwith of High Holborn [widow of Ralph Skipwith], dated 18 October 1614
and proved 28 November 1615 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Rowlett Skipwith of St Olave, Bread Street, in the City of London,
dated 20 August 1620 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- John Skipwith of St Albans [possibly the son of William Skipwith and Joan],
7 August 1528 (Archdeaconry of St Albans)
- Ralph Skipwith of Parkbury in the parish of St Stephen, St Albans, 7 June 1577
(Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- William Skipwith, 1595 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Ralph Skipwith, of St Andrew, Holborn [son of Ralph Skipwith of Parkbury],
30 January 1608/9 (Prerogative Court of Canterbury)
- Stephen Skipwith, 1644 (Archdeaconry of London)
Stephen died 12 December 1641 and was buried the following day at St Andrew, Holborn;
the parish register describes him as 'Steiven Skipworth a man Gent died in Francis Berisfords
house in Plowgh yard in Fetter Lane'
- Early Chancery Proceedings (C1 294/68; between 1509 and 1515).
In the bill of complaint of William Cressy and Johane, his wife, late
the wife of William Skypwyth, George Skypwyth is described as the son and heir of William Skypwyth and of Johane.
- Court of Requests (REQ2 6/202). Depositions taken on 27 October 1532, to establish Thomas Skipwith's age, show that
he had been born on Low Sunday (27 April) 1511
- Early Chancery Proceedings (C1/859/48; apparently late 1532).
In Gregory Warren's answer it is stated that George Skipwith's father, William Skipwith, settled 'Bullas' (in Great Offley and Kings Walden)
on George and Alice and their issue
- Early Chancery Proceedings (C1/922/15; soon after September 1536).
In William Warner's bill of complaint, Thomas is described as 'sonne & heire to the said George & Anne'; Anne [Alice] being the
late wife of Gregory Warren and previously the wife of George Skipwith.
- Court of Requests (REQ2/3/258; between 1536 and 1540). In Robert Ivery's pleading,
Thomas Skipwith is described as having been in December 1535 the 'sone & here apparant of the said Alice', the wife of Gregory Warren.