The Ancestry of the Westcotts of Raddon

The aim of these notes is to correct some fiction and give some facts about the early Westcotts. If I myself have made any mistakes, please let me know.

What do you mean, fiction? Just look at the body of writing on the subject.

I have. Most of it is speculation and wishful thinking. Not to mention deliberate misrepresentation.

Deliberate misrepresentation?

Indeed. For example, Roscoe Whitman says, and I quote word for word; “Affeton, the seat of the worshipful family of Stucley,” according to Thomas Westcott’s “View of Devonshire” (1630), “came to a grandson of St. Leger Wescote who also owned Wescote wherein lived a tribe of the name.”[1]

You might assume from the use of quotation marks that Whitman was quoting Thomas Westcott's “View of Devonshire.” But what Thomas Westcote actually said was:

“Affeton,or Affton, now the seat of a worshipful family of Stukely. It was sometime a parish of itself, and now it stands between the two Worlingtons, east and west. It gave name to a great progeny, whereof Thomas de Affton was Sheriff, 44th Edward III. Agnes, the heir of the house, brought it with a fair inheritance to Stukely. This gentleman married Halse and Coades: his father, Munk; his grandfather, St. Leger.

Westcot: wherein lived a tribe of the name.”[2]

So Thomas mentions first a place, Affeton, and then a man, Thomas de Affton, whose grandfather married someone of the surname St Leger. Finally he mentions another place, called Westcot. He never mentions any person called St Leger Wescote who owned Wescote.

Oh come on, give the man a break. He must have garbled the quotation accidentally. St Leger Wescote must have existed. Whitman even tells us where and when he was born[3].

I will give £100 to charity on behalf of the first person to identify the “positive record available” of St Leger Wescote to which Whitman refers[4].

Whitman wouldn't invent things. He was a well respected author.

More examples. Whitman says that Guido/Guy Westcote (for some reason he spells it Guedo) had a coat of arms registered in 1450[5]. The College of Arms has confirmed to me that no Westcott (by whatever spelling) has ever been officially granted a coat of arms[6].

He says that “early Saxons came ... ... and called themselves Westcote.”[7] The early Saxons came to England in the 6th century, give or take 100 years. Surnames in England only originated in the 13th century, give or take 100 years.

Finally, another misquotation. He says the Harleian Society's edition of the Visitation of Devon “states there were two sons”[8]. It doesn't. See my section headed “Visitation of Devonshire” below.

OK, forget Whitman. Just go back to the pedigree Thomas Westcote himself gave.

Which one would that be? The one on page 306, which says that the children of Thomas de Westcote and Elizabeth Littleton were Thomas, Guido, Richard and Walter, or the one on page 621, which says that they were Thomas, Guido, Edmund and Nicholas?

OK, forget Thomas Westcote. Simply refer to Burke's Peerage.

Oh yes, that would be the entry which appears under Lord Lyttelton or Viscount Cobham, depending on the edition, which says that Thomas de Westcote “served the office of escheator of Worcester, 19th Henry VI, 1450.” No such name appears in the list in The National Archives in England (although that post was held by Thomas Lytylton in 1442[9], and by Robert Westcote in 1448[10]).

Yet another misquotation.

The same entry says that Thomas de Westcote was “the king's servant in court, a gentleman of Devonshire, anciently descended.” This description is credited to Lord Coke[11], and referred to by Westcote[12] and Whitman[13]. The passage is worth quoting, if only for its early reference to a Westcote coat of arms.

With this Elizabeth married Thomas Westcote, esquire, the king's servant in court, a gentleman anciently descended, who bare argent, a bend between two cotises sable, a bordure engrayled gules, bezanty.

But she being fair, and of a noble spirit, and having large possessions and inheritance from her ancestors de Littleton, and from her mother, the daughter and heir of Richard de Quatermeins, and other her ancestors (ready means in time to work her own desire), resolved to continue the honour of her name (as did the daughter and heir of Charleton, with one of the sons of Knightly, and divers others), and therefore prudently, whilst it was in her own power, provided, by Westcote's assent before marriage, that her issue heritable should be called by the name of de Littleton. These two had issue four sons, Thomas, Nicholas, Edmund, and Guy, and four daughters.

There is no evidence that the Thomas who married Elizabeth Littleton was a servant at court, or that he had any connection with Devonshire. And indeed, if you look again at the correct quotation, you will see that Coke did not use the words “of Devonshire”. They have been inserted later, some time between Coke and Burke. Note also, in view of my previous comment, that bearing a coat of arms does not imply any right to do so.

OK, forget Burke's. Is there no-one I can believe?

Of course there is. You can believe someone who quotes all his or her sources, once you have checked them for yourself. All the books I have referred to have been digitised and can be read on the internet.

But surely nothing remains from those early days.

An immense amount has survived. Wills, charters, chancery court cases, parish registers (after 1537), land deeds, close rolls, fine rolls patent rolls, inquisitions post mortem, common pleas, king's bench cases, and much more.

But doesn't it show that the Westcotts came from Devonshire?

Not all of them. There were Westcotts in Devonshire of course, hundreds of them. But the ones who intermarried with the Littletons and Grenvilles were from anywhere but Devonshire. In particular, they were to be found along a line running from Buckinghamshire in the south east, up through Oxfordshire and Worcestershire, and ending as far north as Staffordshire, and Tanworth-in-Arden in Warwickshire.

Whitman says, “the speculation, far-fetched as it may appear to some, is that Stukely Westcott probably descended from Stephen Westcott…”[14]. This is indeed far-fetched speculation. As far as I can see, he simply chose the Westcotts of Raddon because they were the best documented. Admittedly, he didn't have the advantage of computer searches. But nowadays we do, and if you just enter “Westcott” and the dates (say) 1550-1650 into a program such as Ancestry or Familysearch you will see just how many other families Stukely could have come from.

But the Westcotts of Raddon originated in Marwood, in Devonshire, right?

Thomas Westcote the historian said that his ancestors came from Marwood. But he offered no evidence, and as early as 1845 Oliver and Jones were casting doubt on this. In their edition of the “View of Devonshire”, they say:

From the silence of Sir William Pole we are disposed to think that the subject of this memoir was not descended (though he himself entertained such a belief) from the Family in the Parish of Marwood.[15]

We have to remember that Westcote was writing in the 17th century about things that happened in the 15th century. Let's see exactly what he said.

View of Devonshire page 620

“Westcote, (alias Lyttleton, or Luttleton,) of Frankley in Worcester, knight.” Some researchers have taken this to mean that the Thomas de Westcote who married Elizabeth Littleton was a knight. But that Thomas did not have the alias Lyttleton. The phrase must be referring to their eldest son, who took the surname Littleton rather than Westcote, became a Judge, was knighted, and is better known as Sir Thomas Littleton.

View of Devonshire page 621

“Arms – Argent, a bend cotized sable, with a bordure bezanty gules.”

This is a slight variation on the arms as described by Lord Coke. The arms he described had the border engrailed.

View of Devonshire page 622

“Westcote of Westcote and Raddon in Devon, and Brankley in Worcester”. Brankley is of course a misprint for Frankley.

Thomas is saying that the Westcote from which his family took its name was in Devonshire. On page 305 he specifically says that it was Westcott in Marwood.

Well then, that settles the matter.

I don't agree. If Thomas de Westcote came from Marwood in Devonshire and moved to Frankley in Worcestershire, why were he and his wife buried in Buckinghamshire? Look at this description of the church at Ludgershall in that county:

An ancient sepulchral slab, long deprived of its brasses, has been removed to the north door. This was probably a memorial of the family of Westcote. Thomas Westcote and Elizabeth his wife, and others of the same name, were buried here; and their arms were formerly in a chapel on the south side of this church;
Argent within a border engrailed gules a bend sable bezanty, impaling two coats per fess:
1. Argent a Chevron between three escalops sable
2. Gules a fess between four hands or
Another coat of these arms, differenced by an annulet, and over it Christopher Westcote, (whose name was inscribed under all the windows, as having repaired them) and with the date 1536.

The arms described in the first italicised paragraph above are Westcote impaling Littleton and Quarterman, so there is no doubt that they relate to married couple Thomas de Westcote and Elizabeth Littleton (whose mother was a Quarterman). They are closely related to the arms described at the top of this page; the only differences are that the bezants are on the bend instead of the border, and the bend is not cotised.

Ludgershall is about two miles west of a village called Westcott. It seems obvious to me that Thomas de Westcote was one of a family which took its surname from that village. In 1483 Guy Westcote took legal action against one Thomas Adynggrove, who clausum ipsius Guidonis apud Ludgareshale fregit [broke the close of the same Guy at Ludgershall].[17]

About 25 miles to the south, but still in Buckinghamshire, is Marlow, and there were Westcotts there in Elizabethan times. “Old George Westcott” was buried at Great Marlow in 1609. I sometimes wonder whether Thomas the historian confused Marlow with Marwood, or the Westcott Barton in Oxfordshire with the Westcott Barton in Marwood, Devonshire.

After the Westcott/Littleton marriage the Lytteltons perpetuated the Westcott arms as described by Coke, that is, with an engrailed border, as a quartering in their arms.

The Westcotts of Raddon used the variation described by Thomas Westcott, that is, with a border with a straight inner edge. This is clearly closely connected with the other two variations, but as far as I know these arms were not in use in Devonshire before the Westcotts moved to Raddon.

The “three covered cups” Westcott arms used by Whitman as a coloured frontispiece belonged to the family of Sir Richard de Westcote, whose monumental effigy can still be seen in the church at Binsted, near Alton in Hampshire. This family would warrant an essay of its own, being well documented in the 14th century, but it appears to have no connection with other families of the name Westcott.

Westcott alias Lyttelton or Westcott alias Heuster?

Elizabeth Littleton's husband is sometimes referred to as Thomas de Westcote, sometimes as Thomas Heuster[18]. This has caused some people, including Whitman, and the 1620- Visitation of Devonshire, to assume that Elizabeth married twice. But two of the Lyttelton family documents, previously at Hagley Hall and now in Birmingham City Archives, refer to Thomas Westcott alias Heuster[19],[20]. So Thomas de Westcote is identical to Thomas Hewster. If further proof be required, one of the charters refers to “Thomas Littulton, son of Thomas Heuster”[21].

As will be seen from the footnotes, Thomas Westcote/Heuster is described as “of Collesden” (i.e. Cowsden), “of Lichfield”, “of Worcester”, but never “of Marwood”.

The generally accepted family history posits that Thomas Westcote, a farmer from Devonshire, upped sticks, moved to Lichfield[22], became a cloth-dyer, adopted a new surname to match his occupation, became the King's servant in court, and married a rich heiress. This all seems highly implausible to me.

The name Heuster/Hewster is not unusual in the Midlands, and one John Hewster, probably from Shropshire, even became a Member of Parliament[23]. It seems much more likely to me that one of the Westcotes from Buckinghamshire married a Heuster and Thomas adopted or inherited the name Westcote alias Hewster for that reason. Aliases were often used in the same way that we use hyphenated surnames today. John Hewster MP is referred to as “alias Brampton” in one document.

As another researcher has pointed out, Thomas Westcote alias Hewster might just as easily be Thomas Hewster alias Westcote. There is nothing to say that the arms over the tomb in Ludgershall relate to the surname Westcote rather than Heuster.

In a nutshell, to me the Heuster alias is simply further evidence that Thomas Westcote originated somewhere in the Midlands, not Devonshire.

View of Devonshire page 622 continued.

“Guido Westcote (second son of Sir Thomas, of Frankley, esq, and Elizabeth his wife,) married Alice, daughter of Richard Grenvile, of Gloucester …”

I do not know why Thomas the historian gives Thomas de Westcote a knighthood here. The Grenviles whom he goes on to describe came from Gloucester, and prior to that, Cornwall. Wikipedia repeats this in the entry for Sir Thomas Littleton, quoting Burke, who was quoting the 1620 Visitation of Devon. I have never found any connection between the Westcotes and those Grenviles.

On the other hand, an early Chancery Court case in the National Archives mentions John Westcott of Kingsey, Christina his wife, and Alice their daughter[24]. Kingsey is about six miles south of Westcott in Buckinghamshire. Richard Grenevile of Wotton under Bernewode in the county of Buckinghamshire (now known simply as Wotton Underwood, about two miles south east of Ludgershall), in his will dated 28 July 1419[25], mentions Christine his wife and Alice Westcote (no relationship stated, but presumably his stepdaughter). I believe that the Westcote/Grenvile connection came about by a marriage between Richard Grenvile of Wotton Underwood and Christina the widow of John Westcott.

The same Richard Grenvile had a son called Eustace who also lived in Wotton, Bucks. In 1464 Eustace married Elizabeth, daughter of Baldwin Bottiller and niece of Richard Quartermain. When Eustace made his will on 13 November 1479 he appointed Guy Westcote as his executor[26].

Soon afterwards Guy, together with Joan, the widow of Sir Thomas Littleton the judge, was involved in a Chancery Court case concerning the advowson of Tixall, Staffordshire[27]. Guy was a trustee for Thomas Littleton in 1465[28]. He clearly had close links with families in Buckinghamshire and Worcestershire, but in 1472[29] and 1476[30] he was Controller of Customs in Bristol.

Aha - Bristol is near Devonshire, isn't it!

Yes, but not near enough. Despite Whitman's claim, Guy had no connection with Raddon. As Thomas Westcote points out, the first of what we might call the “Littleton Westcotes” to come into Devon was Guy's grandson Thomas. Even then, Thomas did not own Raddon. He leased it from Hugh Culme and John Tawton with effect from 1 April 1539, as is clear from his will[31].

View of Devonshire page 622

Family tree according to this page:

  • Thomas
    • Philip
    • Thomas
      Alice, dtr of John Walter of Comb
      [NB she was also the widow of John Culme]
    • Stephen

Family tree according to the will mentioned in the previous paragraph:

[Name not given]
  • Thomas
    Alice, widow
    of John Culme
    • Philip
  • Henry
    • Stephen
    • Agnes

It is possible that both family trees are correct, and each simply mentions people whom the others omit. It is also possible that Thomas Westcote the historian simply slotted his cousin or great-uncle Stephen into the wrong place on the family tree. He says that Thomas, the testator in question, died on 28 March 1549, but in fact his will had already been proved by then, on 13 June 1548.

Visitation of Devonshire; another Westcott family tree

In his attempt to link Stukely to the Westcotes of Raddon, Whitman says, discussing Thomas who married Alice, the widow of John Culme;

Harleian Society ‘Visitation of Devon’ (1620) states there were two sons, but names only Philip.[32]

As ever, he is being disingenuous. Let's see what the Visitation really says. The numerals in this extract are positioned exactly as they are in the original[33].

Thomas Westcott
  • Philip Westcott filius et haeres, de Porlock
    [i.e. son and heir, of Porlock]
  • Stephen Westcott
    3 sonne
  • Thomas Westcott
    of Raddon, 2 sonne
    bur 28 Mar. 1549
    at Shobrooke
    [That date again!]
    Alice, widow
    of John Culme
    • Philip Westcott of Raddon

Notice that it says “3 sonne” and “2 sonne”, not “3 sonnes” and “2 sonnes”. Clearly the numerals relate to the order of birth of the brothers, not the number of sons they had. As we have seen above, in his will the Thomas who married Alice mentions only one son, Philip. “My son,” he says, not “my elder son”, “my younger son” etc. There is no suggestion of any other son. That doesn't mean there wasn't one. But neither does it mean you can invent one just to fill a gap. To be fair to Whitman, on page 8 he does distance himself from “some [who] contend that he had two sons”, forgetting that he made that very contention on the previous page.

Remember, the Visitation of Devonshire is not an independent source. The genealogies given were supplied by the families concerned. And who would have supplied the Westcott genealogy? Quite possibly Thomas Westcote the historian.

Incidentally, Thomas Westcott says (page 622):

Thomas Westcott ... was much desired in marriage by Ann, daughter of Wilson, the relict of John Raddon of Shobrook, whom he married, sans issue; secondly he married Alice, daughter and heir of John Walter of Comb, and of Alice his wife, daughter and heir of John Collacot, of Collacot in Winkleigh ...

The Visitation of Devon concurs. So why does Whitman say:

Thomas Westcott ... was much desired in marriage by Anna, daughter of John Walker, the relic of John Raddon of Raddon in the parish of Shobrooke in Devon, and heir of John Collacutt of Winkleeigh in Devon. ... Secondly Thomas married Alice, daughter and heir of John and Alice Walker, a sister of his first wife.

Can he not even copy?

(And note, marriage to deceased wife's sister was illegal in England until 1907!)

What other Westcote/Littleton/Grenville connections are there?

Eustace Grenville, to whom Guy Westcote was executor, owned land in Haddenham[34], about four miles south of Westcott, Bucks. His son, Richard Grenville, married Joan, daughter of Edward Lyttelton, and died in 1518. Christopher Westcott of Ludgershall was leasing a water mill in Haddenham in 1541 and 1558[35]. He was appointeed a Justice of the Peace on 26 May 1547, on the same day as John Lyttelton of Frankley. This Christopher Westcott was executor of the wills of both John Lyttelton of Frankley (dated 1532) and Edward Grenville (died 1536). He paid a subsidy of 20 shillings in respect of land at Ludgershall and Ashenden in 1549[36].

The close connections between these three families near Westcott in Buckinghamshire, enduring over at least a century (Thomas de Westcote and Elizabeth Littleton married before 1417; Christopher Westcott named as executor of John Lyttelton's will in 1532) contrast with the total absence of any similar links between Devonshire Westcotts or Gloucestershire Grenvilles and the Lytteltons of Frankley.

More Heusters and Westcotes

The earliest reference to the name Heuster that I have found is in 1383, to a Thomas Heuster, Collector of Taxes in Shrewsbury. Next we have four references in the 1430's which at first glance appear to have no connection with each other: in Kent, London, Oxford and Worcester. But there is in fact a connection. They concern the actions of a Justice of the Peace, an administrator acting on behalf of the Crown. Later, in 1454, John Heuster and William Noort were possessed of the manor of Kingston Blount, Oxfordshire. Finally, in the 1460's, we have a series of references for one Humphrey Hewster in and around Chichester, Sussex, including one for a Humphrey Hewster acting as sequestrator for Bosham: another Crown appointment.

Crown appointments did not usually require physical presence. Often they were just a way to reward service. A wardship, for instance, involved collecting the rents and profits of a minor, but not necessarily administering the estate in person, or even taking care of the minor! Where the duties had to be performed in person the grant would say so, as it did in the case of Guy Westcott and the Bristol customs[37].

There is one vital document connecting Humphrey Heuster with the Westcotts. That is the Inquisition post Mortem upon the death of John Gunter, taken in 1474[38]. This shows that John Gunter enfeoffed Thomas Westcote and Humphrey Heuster (among others) in the manor of Fenny Sutton, Wiltshire.

Guy Westcote's younger brother Nicholas had a son Richard whose daughter Anne married a Gunter[39]. In 1547 a pardon of alienation was issued to James Gunter and Henry Westcott[40]. And in 1538 a Henry Westcote married a Mary Gunter. So there were connections between the Westcotes and the Gunters. The IPM mentioned above recites that John Gunter, in the ninth year of Edward IV (ie 1469 or 1470), transferred the manor of Fenny Sutton in Wiltshire to ten trustees, including Thomas Westcote, gentleman, and Humphrey Heuster, gentleman. The involvement of Humphrey Heuster with the Gunters and the Westcotes is surely not just coincidence.

A Devonshire connection at last?

In 1425 an Inquisition post Mortem was held upon the death of Robert Westecote, who was seised of the manor of Milton Damerel[41]. His heir was his son Humphrey, aged 7 at the time. At first glance this appears to be a straightforward case of a Devonshire Westcott. But the IPM shows that this land had been in the possession of the Courtenay family and was leased to Robert Westecote in 1410. The fine rolls indicate that this was simply a wardship[42], and the close rolls show that these lands reverted to the Courtenays on the death of Robert Westcote[43]. Richard Courtenay, Bishop of Norwich, died in 1415, and Robert Westcote in 1419. Both IPM's were held in 1425, on the same day and before the same jurors, and Courtenay's IPM shows that the 1410 lease was signed in Oxford.

It appears that this Robert was a crown servant, and I believe that he is identical to Robert Westcote of Oxfordshire, in whose name writs of supersedeas were issued in 1406[44] and 1413[45]. He may have been an ancestor of the Robert Westcote who was Escheator of Worcester in 1448.

And if the names Westcote and Heuster are interchangeable, his 7 year old son Humphrey might have grown up to be Humphrey Hewster, the sequestrator of Bosham and/or Humphrey Heuster the co-feoffee of Thomas Westcote in Fenny Sutton.

Who's this Robert Westcote, Escheator? He isn't mentioned by Westcote, Coke, Prince, Whitman or Burke.

No; but he is possibly the most important figure in the whole Westcott/Heuster/Littleton relationship. He was the first of the Westcotts to hold office under the Crown. The purchase of cloth to make liveries for him is recorded in the accounts of the royal household in 1442[46]. In 1442 he was granted the use of land in Oxford for life[47], and in 1453 this was enhanced by the addition of a shop and two upper rooms there[48]. He was a King's Serjeant (a law officer) in 1445[49], nine years before Thomas Littleton the future judge. At that time he was one of the Yeomen of the Crown. In 1447 the collection of the taxes on cloth in Worcester was entrusted jointly to him and Thomas Lyttelton[50]. Unfortunately it is not possible to identify just which Thomas this is. Robert was Escheator of Worcestershire in 1448[51], and had died by 1466[52].

It is difficult to fit this man into the Littleton/Westcote family. As I said, he could be the son of the Robert Westcott who died in 1419. Both men have a connection with Oxfordshire. He could be a younger brother of Thomas Westcote who married Elizabeth Littleton. I say younger because the Thomas Westcote/Heuster references pre-date the Robert Westcote ones.

Indeed, the interval is large enough for Robert Westcote to be a son of Thomas Westcote/Heuster – another brother for Thomas, Guy, Edmund and Nicholas. In this case he would appear to be the eldest brother, as Thomas, Guy and Edmund did not start to fill public offices until the 1450's, 1460's and 1470's respectively. This would spoil the story about the eldest brother adopting the name Littleton to preserve his inheritance. But if Robert as eldest son inherited land in Oxfordshire, and possibly Buckinghamshire, from his father, it is quite possible that Elizabeth's wealth went to Thomas as second son, with the change-of-name condition.

And a final thought. Robert Westcote genuinely was the King's servant at court and Escheator for Worcestershire. His profile seems to have been wrongly attached to Thomas Westcote who married Elizabeth. Was it in fact Robert who was the ‘king's servant in court, a gentleman anciently descended’?

And Christopher Westcott?

He is another ‘loose end’ who cannot be tied into any family tree. He lived about 100 years after Robert the younger. But he too was a Crown Servant, being a Royal Messenger. My feeling is that the two Robert Westcotes originated in Buckinghamshire and Christopher is a descendant who stayed put.

And where does Stukely Westcott fit in?

Nobody knows. At his marriage, in Yeovil on 5 October 1619, he was described as ‘of Ilmister’. That is as much as we know for sure. Attempts to link him to the Raddon Westcotts strike me as misguided. The Raddon Westcotts have been given an importance they do not deserve by Thomas Westcott. He was an amateur historian and herald, and not very good at either. He was reprimanded for arranging a heraldic funeral without authority in 1619[53]. He made it his business to get the family recorded in the Heralds' Visitation of Devonshire in 1620.

The printed pedigrees of the Westcotts of Raddon omit many of the family; Henry and his children Stephen and Agnes for example. A Westcott of Raddon deed in my possession mentions ‘[blank] Westcott widdowe and Walter Westcott’ and ‘James Westcott of Showbrooke aforesaid yeoman’. This deed is dated 15 February 1665, far too late to be of direct relevance to Stukely Westcott, but it does demonstrate that even within the parish of Shobrooke there were many more Westcotts than the printed pedigrees show.

There are three ‘Ancient Deeds’ in the National Archives which connect the Stukely and Westcott families[54]. Numbers A12436 and A12528 relate to a demise in 1544 by John Syddenham of Nettlecomb, Somerset, to Nicholas Turner, of land in Clyst Honiton called Axhayne which Edward Westcote formerly held. Number A12555 concerns a demise in 1551 of the same land by the same John to Christopher Stucley. Edward Wescote acts as attorney in this transaction. If I were researching Stukely Westcott's ancestry I would focus on these dates, people and places.

There is no substitute for research, and if the research fails to produce anything, that is the end of the matter.