William Howcutt – the forebear we share

 

William, son of James & Mary (Ward) Howcutt, was christened at Brixworth on 11 December 1726. He is the person through whom all the people called Howcutt who are now living in the British Isles have their surname.

 

William was ten years old when his mother died when giving birth to her tenth child and just over eleven at the time of his father’s marriage to Anne (Satchwell) Ekins. His step-mother and his father followed each other to the grave within 37 days early in 1742/3, leaving William an orphan in all senses of the word at the age of 16. If the provisions of his father’s will (which was not proved, probably because it appointed Anne as executrix and she had already died) were followed, William would have shared the value of property at Brixworth and Holcot with his surviving siblings. These were his older sisters Sarah and Anne, Elizabeth (who died unmarried in 1743) and a younger brother Joseph.

 

William evidently retained ownership of at least some of his father’s freehold property as the poll book for the parliamentary election of 1748 lists him as a voter who qualified as a Brixworth freeholder. [1] However, William was not living there at the time as his residence was recorded as "Thingdon" (i.e. Finedon, which is about 13 miles east of Brixworth).

 

On New Year's Day 1757, William Howcutt, a miller of Brixworth, obtained a licence for his marriage to Sarah Allom. The ceremony was performed at Brixworth on the next day. William was 30 years old but his wife only 17, having been baptised at Brixworth in 1739. It appears that both her parents, Thomas Allom (1712-1786) and Eleanor (formerly Poole) (1713-1781) were living in the village, as were many of her other relations.  Both the bride and groom made a mark in the parish register. As at a later stage of her life Sarah signed her name, it is quite possible that she was already literate when she first got married but chose not to sign the register because her considerably older husband could not do so.

 

 

William and Sarah lost no time in starting a family; their first child, William being baptised on 25 September 1757. The Brixworth parish registers and bishop’s transcripts - if read on their own - create problems in accounting for all of their other children. Between 1757 and 1770 various children of William & Sarah Howcutt (a miller) are recorded in those sources and between 1766 and 1776 children of James & Sarah Howcutt (a miller) also make their appearances. But William's brother James had been buried as a baby in 1737. How can this problem be solved? The answer is found in an index analysing the parish register prepared by James Jackson, who was vicar of Brixworth from 1735 to 1770. [2] The children whom the parish register and bishop’s transcripts ascribe to James and Sarah are shown in Jackson’s index as William and Sarah's offspring. The accuracy of the analysis is confirmed by the will of John Allen - the second husband of Sarah Allom - that refers to Thomas Howcutt as his "son in law" (i.e. step son), whereas when Thomas' baptism was recorded in the parish register and bishop’s transcript in 1776, his father's name had been written as "James". It seems likely that William was nicknamed James and this name found its way into some of the church records.

 

William and Sarah's children who were recorded in one form or another in these documents are:

 

 

Baptised

Married

Buried

William

1757

 

1759

Elizabeth

1761

 

1766

James

1763

[3]

1828

William

1765

Anne Franklin 1792

1813

Joseph

1768

 

1768

Joseph

1770

[4]

[4]

Thomas

1776

Elizabeth Martin 1800

1844

 

William and Sarah had another son, George. He does not appear in the Brixworth parish records. This son was left Ł20 both by his stepfather John Allen (1811) and by his brother James (1828) and was probably the same person as George Howcutt who married Ann Smith at St Leonard's Shoreditch, London in 1801. [5]

 

Towards the end of William’s life, the open fields of Brixworth were enclosed on the authority of an Act of Parliament. This provided for commissioners to apportion the land involved between the various proprietors of rights in those fields. Amongst the parcels of land allocated by the award which they issued on 18 May 1781 was one of 1 rood 27 perches with a yearly value of 8s. 8d. at the south-west corner of what are now known as Harborough Road and Kennel Terrace which was awarded to “William Holcot”. The award also listed the properties at Brixworth that had been enclosed before the recent Act. This largely consisted of houses within the built-up area of the village and their immediate grounds. William Howcot was one of the 68 proprietors of the ancient enclosures, his being described as:

a messuage or tenement with the yard garden and appurtenances thereunto belonging the property and in the possession of the said William Howcot containing ten perches is of the yearly value of one pound one shilling and six pence.” [6]

 

The award does not say where in Brixworth the property was located.

 

William Howcutt’s tombstone

On 17 September 1782, William Howcutt was "very weak in body" and made his will, leaving everything to his wife. A codicil dated 23 October 1782 stated that he had received a bequest of Ł30 from Richard Britten of Pitsford and that this also was to go to Sarah. Richard Britten left bequests to a number of William's relatives (on the Ward side), so he was probably a kinsman. William Howcutt did not live to enjoy that money, as he was buried on 1 November 1782. His tombstone, which stands to the right of the path just before the entrance to Brixworth church and close to the tombstone of his grandfather Thomas Ward (1670-1731) was still partly legible in 2011. The exact date of William's death is uncertain, but his tombstone seemed to record it as 29 October 1782. [7] William made his mark to confirm both the will and the codicil.

 

Sarah remained a widow for just over a year, as on 11 January 1784 she married John Allen at Brixworth. On that occasion, she clearly signed the register. John Allen was a farmer who had been allocated land in the enclosure award that lay immediately to the west of the plot that William had received.

 

 

It was not long before disputes arose between John & Sarah Allen and William's oldest surviving son, James. These disagreements were settled by an Indenture dated 24 December 1785 by which the windmill "near the Great Turnpike Road" at Brixworth which had been occupied for many years by his father went to James, subject to a rent charge of Ł3.10.0 a year for life to James' mother. [8]

 

Sarah (Allom) (Howcutt) Allen outlived her second husband and was buried at Brixworth on 4 February 1821, aged 81.

 

Notes

 

[1]    The county franchise at that time was, with few exceptions, restricted to freeholders with a freehold value of 40 shillings a year. See “The History of the Parliamentary Franchise” House of Commons Library research paper 13/14. By Neil Johnston, 2013. Pages 7 to 9. URL: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/RP13-14/RP13-14.pdf [accessed 9 November 2016]

[2]    Northamptonshire Record Office: ML 380.

[3]    James had children with Hannah Murden, to whom he was not married.

[4]    He was probably Joseph Howcutt who married Elizabeth Linnett at St Dunstan, Stepney in 1804 and who died at Lambeth Workhouse in 1841, aged 70.

[5]    George & Ann Howcutt had at least eight children born and/or baptised in the London area between 1801 and 1827.

[6]    Northamptonshire Record Office: Inclosure Volume 1, pages 93 to 203; those relating to William Howcot are pages 165 & 189.

[7]    The exact date of William’s death is uncertain. In 1964, the date on his tombstone was transcribed as “22 October 1782”, but this is before the date of the codicil to his will. The plausible numbers that are most readily confused with “22” are “28” and “29”.

[8]    The Howcutt windmill stood to the south of Spratton Road, a short distance south-west of the Workhouse which was erected in the 1830s. The location of the windmill is shown precisely on a map of the parish made in 1846. The site is now occupied by houses on the west side of Brampton Way. A road called Windmill Glade, which is situated further south, off Froxhill Crescent, presumably commemorates the Howcutt mill, though it does not occupy the site.