Archive for August, 2009

Products_330_371_9780330371063_m_f Thomas Inskip, a watchmaker and clockmaker from Shefford in Bedfordshire was an interesting man.  He was responsible for the clock at Greenwich Observatory, left his archaeological collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and was a friend to labouring-class poets, Robert Bloomfield (who Thomas is buried next too in Campton Churchyard), and later John Clare.

Bloomfield and Clare are also known as ‘peasant or pastoral poets’ and are currently enjoying a revival: I recently met Jonathan Bate, author of a new biography on Clare which has used Thomas’ correspondence with Clare as a source.  (Unfortunately,  the correspondence of Clare to Inskip is lost.)

It seems Thomas befriended Robert Bloomfield when Robert, down on his luck, moved to Shefford in 1812. Thomas met Clare in London around 1820 “amongst the Cockneys, whom we both equally admire!”.  Clare related to Bloomfield as a kindred spirit, and Thomas tried to organize a meeting between them, as he regarded them as “the nation’s great poets of humble life”; but Bloomfield died “in pain and poverty” in 1821 before the wished for meeting could take place; much to John Clare’s regret.

Described in a poem by John Dalby as “kind Inskip”, Thomas  promoted John Clare’s work in the Northampton Mercury.  When Clare was  in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum “the elderly” Thomas became his outside advisor and confident.  They shared discussions about poetry and sexual desire, “the days when we were young! And the arms-full of Petticoats we rumpled!”. Thomas was also instrumental in the publication of Clare’s poetry in the Bedford Times between 1847 and 1849.  “Inskip offered what Clare always craved from his editors: a mixture of practical advice and confidence-building encouragement.”

Thomas Inskip was born in Kimbolten, Northamptonshire in 1780, the son of Edward Inskip a Farmer from Old Warden, and Mary Handscombe from Clifton. He married twice, the last to Isabella Wright in 1815, and died in 1849 in Brighton of Cholera.  His watchmaking business was taken on by son Hampden Inskip, and eventually grandson Alfred Inskip.

Book – John Clare, A Biography by Jonathan Bate ISBN 978-0-330-37112-4

Correspondence from Inskip to Clare is in Northampton Central Library.


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medievaljpg I have always suspected that Inskip bowmen went to France with Henry V and that was a reason for their appearance in Sussex in the fifteenth century.  So,  Henry’s muster lists have always been on my list of documents to look at.

However, thanks to a collaboration between Dr Adrian Bell of the ICMA Centre and Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton, who have been building a database of medieval soldiers to challenge assumptions about the emergence of professional soldiery between 1369 and 1453, I now have confirmation that an Inskip archer did go to France with Henry V in 1415.

His name was Roger de Inskyp, and he served as an archer under a captain called Sir James Harrington, and commander Henry V.  In 1422 he is listed as a foot archer under captain John Harpeley at a garrison – where is not given.

In the Normandy garrison database for the years 1415 – 1453 there is listed two archers,  Roger and Richard Inskip,  both serving in 1429 and 1430 at the Rouen town plus bridge garrison,  under Lieutenant Richard Curson and Captain Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.

So was Roger one of the bowmen at Agincourt who raised the two fingered salute?  That and the background to both men is still to be established

(Information on soldiers has been taken from from the AHRC-funded ‘The Soldier in Later Medieval England Online Database’, http://www.medievalsoldier.org, August 2009)

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394px-Port_Sunlight_war_memorial_4 Many people contact Terry and I by email to help with their Inskip research,  but spirits don’t have email access and find other ways to draw our attention.  Such was the case recently when on a visit to the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight on the Wirral, I decided to go and look at a rather splendid war memorial.

Port Sunlight was built by William Lever for his workers at the turn of the twentieth century, it’s a lovely garden village enhanced by the founder’s love of art.  Unfortunately Lever Brothers Ltd lost 4,000 of their staff during the First World War, and erected a beautiful memorial to their memory in the middle of a rose garden – underneath is a book with all their names in.  (The memorial for the Hillsborough Disaster victims is at the end of the garden.)  I started to read the names just out of interest and was most surprised to find an Inskip G. F.  I had not known we had Inskips on the Wirral.

I was even more fascinated when, on looking young George Fredrick Inskip up, I found out that he is related to Terry.  George was born in 1895 and was a private in the 13th Battalion Cheshire Regiment (No 282) – he died of wounds and is listed at the Bertrancourt Military Cemetery near the Somme.  His date of death was even more strange – 3rd August 1916 (my birthday,  which the trip to Port Sunlight was celebrating.)

George was the son of William Inskip from Seabridge, Staffordshire a joiners labourer in 1891, and Martha Baxter from Rock Ferry, Wirral,  he had siblings Annie, Jessie, William, Samuel and Gertrude Hannah.  The family had arrived on the Wirral in the 1860’s when William’s father, also William Inskip (born 1829 at Forsbrook), and mother Hannah had moved there.  Father William died in 1868 leaving Hannah, a Laundress, to bring up the three children.

Anyway, I know Terry has the rest of the family history,  so just to say Terry,  George says hi!!

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John and Margaret Inskip were married in January 1584, a reasonably common month to marry as weddings were not allowed during the Christmas or Lent periods.  John was aged around 28 and Margaret 26 – couples at this time only got married when they had the means to support a family and somewhere to live.  John and tudor6Margaret were relatively young for the time, up to 25% of young people in the early seventeenth century never married because they could not afford to set up a family, including John’s son Robert.

The couple had 8 children, one every two-three years, from Robert (1585) to Dorothy (1604), with no recorded child burials – given the difficult times they were living in in the 1590’s (plague broke out in nearby London in 1592/3, whilst 1596 and 1597 saw the worst harvests for a century, followed nationally by malnutrition)  this is an unusual achievement.  Interestingly conception was usually around December or August, suggesting they were not involved in tiring harvesting work, but enjoyed a rest and feasting at Christmas.

Margaret died in March 1614; she was born around 1558, at a dip in the national population, entered the menopause around age 47, and died age 56, a reasonable lifespan. With death from childbirth, illness and economic conditions around every corner Margaret’s classic female sixteenth century life shows good management.

John Inskip married second, wife, Alice Goodine from Warden Street in April 1615, he was aged around 59 and she was possibly in her late 30’s. Coming a year after Margaret’s death this was fairly late, many men married within months of a wife’s death as the family had to be supported.  However, John’s youngest child was aged 10, five others were likely servants elsewhere, and the two elder girls, who both married in Warden, may have lived at home. In September 1615 John was involved in the court case over enclosure. John had two further children with Alice,  Mary in 1616, who died at birth,  and Henry in 1617.

John Inskip died in late October 1626,  he was probably a committed Protestant who explored Puritan ways along with other Warden townspeople in the years from the 1570’s.  The Old Warden area was part of the cradle for Bedfordshire non-conformist belief that took hold in the mid-seventeenth century.  Evidence for John’s beliefs comes from the christening of his eldest daughter Elizabeth in Southill in 1595 at a time when the village had charismatic Puritan preachers;  and the naming of his second daughter Rebecca in 1598, one of the new biblical names beloved of Puritans and given to around 10% children instead of their godparents names.   The majority of children in Old Warden, as elsewhere in southern England, where given one of the popular names of  Elizabeth, Mary, Ann or John, Thomas, William and Richard.

Picture source:  A summer rural scene showing a sheep being dipped and in the background a maid milking a cow. © Folger library

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Map picture

For the last nine months I have been deep in old parchments trying to find out why the Inskips first moved to Old Warden, Bedfordshire in the late sixteenth century.  The result has been a village reconstruction of all the families in Old Warden between 1537 when Warden’s Cistercian Abbey was Dissolved, and the 1660 Restoration of the Monarchy.

So what of the Inskips? Well, John Inskip, born around 1556,  is still the earliest Inskip in the village, with his 1584 marriage to Margaret Pope – the Popes were in Old Warden at the Reformation.  John Inskip set out, probably from the Lancashire Fylde, around the 1570’s to seek opportunity.  He was part of the migration of young men from the North to the South-East of England at a time of great economic and cultural change in the country.  I found evidence of other young men in Old Warden from Lancashire and Yorkshire.

It is likely that he was the son of a husbandman – a rank in Elizabethan society- and may well have taken out a contract as a farm servant in Old Warden.  Very many young people in those times became farm servants, often on annual contacts, from age 11 – that is how they learnt how to earn a living and maintain a family.

Margaret Pope inherited her fathers copyhold tenement.  She and John lived next to what was the vicarage (possibly now the Old Post Office) on a small plot of land with a three bay cottage, a garden, an orchard and a two bay barn.  They had common rights to graze two oxen and a cow. Unlike other Warden cottagers, they didn’t keep sheep.  They paid 5 shillings a year for a copyhold worth 10 shillings in 1605 and 30 shillings in 1622.  However, they could not possibly have lived off such a small holding and so John must have had a trade and/or wage employment.  The documents were reluctant to provide that information so I have speculated on the following:

Ø Drovers or carters – based on their travel and keeping oxen with only a smallholding.

Ø Weavers or tailors – Alice Inskip’s kin (John’s second wife) were tailors, as was John Inskip’s grandson. They may have had expertise in flax weaving from Kirkham in the Fylde.

Ø Horticultural labourers – based on the family predominance in market gardening from the late seventeenth century and land fertility expertise in the Fylde, plus John’s orchard and barn.

Many ancient copyhold tenancies in Old Warden were brought out and merged into larger farms during the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century – as was the case in many areas of the country, as land was made more productive in order to feed a growing population.   However,  John held on to his copyhold and in 1615 was one of a group of men who took a local landlord to court for enclosing common land.  The documents of the case are still in the National Archives in Kew.  John must have won the case (that part is not in the archive) as when he died in 1626 he passed his copyhold to eldest son Robert.  When Robert died unmarried, around 1651,  the copyhold – one of the last remaining in the village – went to sister Elizabeth Mathie and husband Thomas.

At a time when Old Warden was going through a huge amount of economic change with land investment and shrinking smallholdings, when poor harvests, due to the little ice age of the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, brought death and disease,   the Inskips were one of the families who survived and even to some extent thrived.  That was very much through good management.

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