Ferriers in ruins, dated 1933
Ferriers dated 2009
Ferriers and the Pelham family
As a resident in the Parish of Bures St
Mary on the Suffolk, Essex border I wandered into the parish church of
St Mary the Virgin one day and, upon reading the pamphlet sold there,
which contains the history of the church from earliest times, I became
aware of the two floor tombs beside the South Porch.
In these tombs are remains of the members of the Pelham family who were,
in their day, parishioners of this church. The pamphlet to which I have
referred tells us that the persons entombed there were residents of Ferriers
in Bures Hamlet, a part of the parish across the County boundary in Essex.
It also says that they were descended from an earlier Pelham who emigrated
to America in the early 17 century. Like many who live in this part of
East Anglia I was aware of the close association of this area with New
England and in particular with the contribution made to the development
of Massachusetts by John Winthrop (1588-1649) who came from Groton near
Boxford in Suffolk.
This man, who became Governor of Massachusetts in 1629 and was thereafter
re-elected, has been said to have had "more influence, probably,
than any other high forming political institutions of the Northern States
The village of Groton with its church, houses and a lone tree dating from
his 'lifetime', remains a place of pilgrimage for New Englanders to this
Returning to the two floor tombs in Bures village church, they mark the
place where, in one, are buried the remains of Herbert Pelham (c.1669-1746)
and his wife, Sarah and in the other, their son William Byatt who died
The Herbert Pelham who is entombed in the first of these floor tombs was
the grandson of an earlier Herbert Pelham (1600-1674) who did emigrate
for a time to America and who was known as "colonist"
There are two articles about him in successive versions of the Dictionary
of National Biography both of which describe him as such. I had always
looked upon this work as one of historical accuracy, but the two accounts
of Herbert Pelham disclose such a large number of discrepancies as to
remind one of these tests of ones powers of observation hi which two identical
pictures are set side by side and one is challenged to spot the differences!
However, both articles agree that he was a "colonist" and that
he was born in about 1600, the son of yet another Herbert Pelham and his
wife Penelope - daughter of Baron de la Warr. In 1626 he married Jemima
Waldegrave of Bures-ad-Montem now known as Mount Bures.
Jemima came from the very well known and respected family of Waldegrave
who lived in and around Bures.
By the time of their marriage the Waldegrave Chantry known as the Waldegrave
Chapel, had been situated in Bures church for over 100 years.
Herbert and Jemima had a number of children - five in one version of the
Dictionary of National Biography and seven in the other. In any event
they must have been a considerable responsibility for then: parents. Meanwhile
the future colonist, Herbert Pelham was becoming increasingly interested
in North America. In 1629, three years after his marriage, Herbert became
a member of the Massachusetts Company. At some stage he with others was
engaged in framing oaths of office for the Governor, his deputy and counsel
of that company.
In 1630 John Winthrop sailed across the Atlantic in the 'Arabella' he
being, by then, Governor of Massachusetts. From his journal it appears
that Herbert Pelham was due to sail with him. For some reason, perhaps
his obligation to his wife and children, he did not go on this voyage.
Meanwhile his younger brother William did travel with John Winthrop and,
therefore remained in America until his death in 1667.
While there he purchased property for Herbert
in Sudbury, Massachusetts, but Herbert does not seem to have ever lived
hi about 1639 Herbert's wife, Jemima, died leaving him with five (or seven)
children - and free to travel to New England - which he did. What became
of these children in unclear. One of them Penelope, so called after her
grandmother, married Josiah Winslow, one time Governor of the Plymouth
colony in America, so it seems that she did well and maintained her interest
Once in Massachusetts, Herbert remarried to a widower, Elizabeth Harlakenden,
and had more children. In one version he had another five and in the other
seven, so that he had ten or fourteen children in all and must have led
a very busy family life.
Once hi Massachusetts Herbert Pelham was heavily engaged in the life of
the community. He lived in Cambridge later home to Henry James, where
his house was burnt down and he was fortunate to escape unhurt. He never
lived at Sudbury, where his brother had acquired property for him, but
he was involved in the settlement of that town.
He became a freeman of the Massachusetts
Company, a Captain of Militia and a member of the Court of Assistance
and he was active as one of the commissioners of the United Colonies in
arranging a treaty with Narragansett and Niantic Indians. In 1643 he became
the first treasurer of Harvard University, which was close to his home
in Cambridge - a fact which I have had confirmed by the Associate Secretary
of that body. In about 1646 he returned to England but it would seem that
he was expected back hi Massachusetts for sometime because he was elected
an assistant in the following three years, "in absentia'. What became
of his second wife and his numerous children is unclear, save that she
had died in 1659.
By 1648, and possibly before, he was living at the Manor of Ferrers (now
Ferriers) a property which had come to him through his first wife Jemima
nee Waldegrave, of Mount Bures. These were savage times in England. The
Civil War raged. The King was executed hi 1649 and prior to this the Archbishop
of Canterbury, William Laud had suffered the same fate circa 1645.
The effect of these troubles locally on the churches of Bures and Mount
Bures was significant. While Herbert Pelham had been in America, the year
that he became treasurer of Harvard University, two events affected the
churches of Bures and Mount Bures which were significant, hi
Bures the village church was visited on
February 23 1643 by the dreaded Will Dowsing, the well known, iconoclast,
who 'broke down' 600 superstitious pictures, 8 holy ghosts and no doubt
removed the arms on the monument raised to remember a William Waldegrave
who had died ha 1613. Meanwhile in the same year the vicar of the church
in Mount Bures was removed from his benefice on charges that "he
would not come out of the alter rails to administer the sacrament that
he swore by his faith and "troth"', that he suffered the youth
of the parish to use sports on the lords day as scales and football; that
he took the Archbishop to be wise and holy man, wishing himself as godly;
and (most of all) he prayed not for parliament". The Archbishop was
clearly a reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, who
was trying to unify the forms of service to be used by the Church of England
and seeking to Romanise them. The Archbishop was in the tower awaiting
trial in 1643. He was executed two years later.
What Herbert Pelham would have thought of these events is impossible to
surmise save that he, and others who went to New England, did so, very
largely to avoid the high Church influence of Archbishop Laud and to settle
there as a Congregational Church with the institutions and character of
the English race. That he was interested in religious matters is made
clear by his efforts, after his return to England to form a society for
the religious instruction of American Indians.
In 1654 he was a member if Cromwells Parliament for Essex. His second
wife died in or before 1659 and he lived on till 1673 or 1674 leaving
property in Essex, Lincolnshire, Iceland and New England. The two versions
of his life in the Dictionary of National Biography differ as to the year
of his death and as to whether he still lived at Ferrers. However, his
grandson, also Herbert Pelham and his wife, entombed with him hi one of
the floor tombs, certainly did so at the time of his death in 1846. They
had seven children one whom Elizabeth married the Reverend John Gordon
who came from Assington Hall and who was rector of the Mount Bures parish
for 50 years, a remarkable span and Vicar of Bures for 35 years. He died
in 1784 and his wife Elizabeth some eight years later. Both are buried
in the middle of Mount Bures Church. On a plaque in this church is a description
of the Rev. Gurdon as "most amiable and benevolent". As a young
girl from her house, Ferriers, Elizabeth could see the spire of the church
across the fields which was to be her burial place - a short distance
which she must have walked or ridden many times.
I have touched on the Pelham family over five generations. There remains
a town in Massachusetts called Pelham but this coincidence does not indicate
any connection with the Bures Pelhams, save for the possible family relationship.
In the 1740's this town was engaged in establishing itself and acquiring
a name. "New Lisbon" had been proposed. The then Governor was
a friend of Lord Henry Pelham (1696-1754) who was passing through New
England. This friendship resulted in New Lisbon being abandoned as a name
and Pelham, in honour of Lord Henry, being adopted. The Colonial Act establishing
the town was passed by the Colonial House of Representatives on 28th December
1742 and was enacted in the following January. Incidentally the Lord Henry
Pelham concerned was, at one stage, Secretary of State which was equivalent
to the office of prime minister today, as also was his brother the Duke
of Newcastle. Although Bures cannot claim any direct association with
the town of Pelham, it can certainly take pride in its connection, through
Herbert Pelham, with the early colonisation of the state of Massachusetts.
Editor - I have this scanned text on
file, but no record of where it originated from, or the author
Later 20th cent residents of Ferriers
Taken from "The
Peerage" web site
His Honour Francis Petre, resided at Ferriers between 2003 (?)and 2015
more about the Pelham family who set sail to America in 1620
updated 25/06/2017 with "Find my Past" material