Pettypool Family in the 1300s: Thaxted and Wimbish

extracts from: English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia

©Carolyn Hartsough

Those Pettypool family members for whom we have any knowledge appear to have remained in the northwestern region of Essex, centered near the villages of Thaxted and Wimbish. If others of the extended family lived elsewhere, documents recording their whereabouts have not surfaced. The continuing presence of early Pettypool family members in the general area of Thaxted and Wimbish during this period may not be coincidental. They may have been riding the tails of an economic boom — there had been a rapid economic and perhaps population expansion in the town of Thaxted in the 1200s and 1300s. This expansion followed the establishment of a thriving cutlery industry that had a wide geographic reach in the sale of distinctive products, thereby benefiting the nearby agricultural sector and others supplying products to a likely growing urban population. 1

The earliest record featuring Pettypools tells of the sale of property in Wimbish inherited by Johanna, wife of a John de Potepol. We read:

7 July 1303 Know present and future that we Thomas Ladde, John de potepol, walter Ewayn and Roysia, Johanna and Agnes our wives, daughters and heiresses of Roger son of Walter Le Porcher of Taxsted and of Mabil his wife, have granted and by our present deed confirmed to John son of Heruic Cook of Wymbisse for his homage and service and for a certain sum of his money which he has paid us into our hands, all the meadow called Bernildesmade which he sometime held and claimed to hold of the said Roger and Mabil in the parish of Wymbisse... Rendering therfor annually ... the service customary and due, to wit, six pence yearly at two terms of the year, namely, at the feast of saint Michael three pence and at Easter three pence in lieu of services, aids, customs, court Fines and secular demands. And we, Thomas Ladde, john de Potepol walter Ewayn and Roysia, Johanna and Agnes our wives aforesaid and our heirs or assignes warrant all the aforesaid meadow with all its appurtenances to the said John son of Heruic &c. Seals. ... Given at Taxsted.2

While it is not possible to link this John de Potepol with earlier members of his family, we finally have evidence of a female family member, John’s wife, Johanna le Porcher, daughter of Walter and Mabil le Porcher.

Perhaps Johanna’s husband John, is the same person who was required to contribute to one of the royal taxations levied between 1290 and 1376. Most of these levies, a tax on a man’s personal property, were sought by English kings in order to finance foreign wars. The one for which John Podipol is assessed in 1327 had been granted to King Edward III by Parliament “for defence of the realm against the Scots”.5

For the 1327 round of assessments, the tax was to comprise one-twentieth of an individual’s moveable goods, that is, such things as livestock in rural areas and articles such as household goods (cookware and eating utensils) in urban areas. We read:

UTTLESFORD HUNDRED Villata de Wymbishe ⁄ Wymbysshe et Thunderle ⁄ Thunderlee Johanne Podipol vj qr.6

We can observe from this tax roll entry that John was residing in (or near) the village (villata) of Wimbish and that he paid the rather trifling amount of six quadrans. A quadrans was a Latin term denoting one quarter of a pence (penny), or a farthing in old English money.7 Using this assessment we compute for John a rough estimate of the value of his personal property at 120 farthings (6 x 20) or 2 shillings 6 pence.

Yet another property transaction confirms the continuing presence of Pettypools in the Wimbish-Thaxted area during the mid-1300s. We read:

22 February 1347 To all Christian people whom the present letters shall reach John son of John colle of Thaxstede, greeting in the Lord. Know that I have demised, released and entirely for myself and my heirs for ever quit claimed to Luke son of Henry Lucass of shaldeford his heirs and assigns, to the same Luke in full possession, my entire right and claim which I had or in any manner might have in three acres of land and pasture and in one acre of meadow with their appurtenances, in wymbich, whereof three acres of land and pasture lie between land of Robert Cunsentere on one side and land of Thomas potepol on the other side and one head reaches upon land of John de Hegham and the one acre of meadow lies in length next land of John de Hegman. So that neither I the aforesaid John nor my heirs &c. renunciation of claim. Warranty. Seal. Witnesses: - William Jerdele, William parlebyen, Thomas potepol, John Parlebyen and others given at Wymbich.9

Might Thomas be a descendant of the John Potepol of the 1327 deed? Their presence in the same village only 20 years apart strongly suggests such a possibility although there is currently no documentary evidence to verify such a conclusion. Also note in this transaction that a William Jeredele (a variant of Yardley) appears as a witness, denoting him as a probable near neighbor of Thomas. Recall also that it was likely Thomas’s property for which we noted the presence of Jeredeles in the transactions from the section describing the history of Pedipolfeld. Thus, there is evidence that it is the family of this Thomas who left for posterity the Yardley farm field that has been known through the ages by place-name variations arising from “Podipolfield.”

A final entry from the Wimbish-Thaxted area completes the presentation of currently known records documenting the presence of Essex Pettypools in the 1300s.

26 December 1364 Quitclaim of dower Amiscia, once wife of Thomas Petipoil of Wymbissch, widow, to Walter Hamelyn and Margaret, his wife 2 pieces of arable which Margaret once had by the gift of Thomas Petipoil in Thaxted in the field called Hofeld Witnesses: John Benge, John ate heg’, Richard Calle[?], John Pleven, John Hobkyn10

This transaction allows us to learn a bit more about Thomas of fourteenth century Wimbish. We know that his wife was called Amiscia, and that their likely daughter was Margaret, wife of Walter Hamlyn. Also notice that this clerk has, for the first time, spelled the fore part of the surname with an “e” in the second position rather than an “o”, thereby also further obliterating association with the Pooty Pools origin.

Since Margaret was the recipient of this quitclaim deed from Amiscia, it may be that Thomas and Amiscia had no sons to receive such a bequest. This would accord with what is currently known, for with this record we come to an end of information about the Thaxted-Wimbish branch of the Pettypool family. We are left to wonder what became of Thomas and his descendants. Might he and ⁄ or any male heirs have perished in the Black Death, the bubonic plague that arrived in England from Asia in 1348 and is estimated to have killed, on average, 50 per cent of the population?11 If Thomas did have male descendants who survived, they did not continue with the forename traditions of the 1300s.

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This page contains excerpts from English Ancestry of the Pettypool Family of Colonial Virginia by Carolyn Hartsough. To read the complete document:

[1] Christopher Dyer, Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain 850-1520, 205. The meaning of “urban” as applied to medieval towns implies something different than we might expect for population levels encountered today. According to Dyer, most English “urbanized” medieval market towns like Thaxted might have had populations ranging between 600 and 2000 souls.

[2] Essex Record Office. Document D/B 2/4/58.

[3 Mark Antony Lower. Patronymica Britannica: A Dictionary of the Family Names of the United Kingdom. (London: J. R. Smith, 1860), 273.

[4] Sabine Baring-Gould. Family Names and Their Story. (London: Seely & Co., Limited, 1910), 252-253.

[5] Jennifer Ward (Editor). The Medieval Essex Community: The Lay Subsidy of 1327. (Chelmsford: Essex Record Office, 1983), i.

[6] Jennifer Ward (Editor). The Medieval Essex Community: The Lay Subsidy of 1327. (Chelmsford: Essex Record Office, 1983), 55.

[7] In England of the 1300s, money was divided into the following denominations:

4 farthings = 1 pence (penny)

12 pence = 1 shilling

20 shillings = 1 pound.

The farthing was no longer considered legal tender after 1960. See “Farthing British coin.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 June 2014, accessed 10 July 2014.

[8] Christopher Dyer. Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social change in England c. 1200-1520. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 170.

[9] Essex Record Office. Document D/B 2/4/89, accessed 18 December 2002.

[10] Essex Record Office. Document D/P 16/25/17, accessed 18 December 2002.

[11] Christopher Dyer. Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social change in England c. 1200-1520. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 272.