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Stephen Carleton of Ashe

a snapshot of life in Kent around the year 1600

- Rick Carlton (1985)

[ILLUSTRATION TO BE DONE at the making of Stephen's will June 6th, 1630 in an upper chamber of his dwelling house at Ash to show him making his mark in the presence of Stephen Huffam (of Ash, gentleman of Kent, aged 22 years) and William Mesdaye (of Ash, husbandman of Kent, aged 55 years) to show his son Stephen, age 18, sick in bed (immediately prior to his own death before July 23rd) in another room off to the side to show his son William, age 20, also present in the room obviously grief stricken, to show his daughter Ann Hatcher, aged 25 years, with her husband, Thomas Hatcher, aged 27 years, also present and obviously sad.]

Stephen Carleton was baptised April 10, 1578 in Lower Hardres. There is not much question that he grew up in Lower Hardres and, probably between 1598 and 1604, he married Mary Stookes, a widow. More likely than not the marriage was a financial arrangement with Stephen agreeing to look after Mary, her property and her children from her marriage with Stookes in return for Stephen's increased possessions. Mary had at least one child from her previous marriage, a son named John, who was remembered by Stephen in his will of 1630 when he gave, "unto John Stookes my wives sonne five pound within one whole yeare next after my decease." Stephen also left 5 pounds each to Nicholas and Henry Stookes, who were brothers, but does not give their relationship to him. It is possible that they were additional stepsons or even stepgrandsons (who owed Stephen for 14 seames of barley in 1630). In addition, he bequeathed, "unto Nicholas Stookes that my executors shall freely deliver unto him by bedd or beddinge that hee shall demaund to be his one without any lett or molestation." This was probably the majority of Stephen's household furnishings as furniture was usually simple and few in number (remember Stephen's grandfather's, John Charlton, 1571 inventory). Stephen also mentions Anthony Stookes, from whom he held a lease of some sort, but again his relationship in unknown. What does appear certain is that Stephen and Mary remained close to the Stookes family throughout their lives.

There is not much question that Stephen did not live in Lower Hardres because his brother William held the family land there. What is unusual for this time is that Stephen was the oldest son, yet he may have chosen to leave. It may also be that Stephen's marriage to Mary Stookes improved his situation or simply required that he husband properties in other areas, thus leaving Lower Hardres to William. Most men who married widows did so for the financial advantages of their inherited estate more than anything else.

The 1590s exposed every town in Kent to the worst strains of migrational pressure from both poor and respectable immigrants, however it is probable that Stephen was considered a husbandman (working farmer), certainly not a poor immigrant, during this time in his life. These were the peak years of the first major price revolution in Europe's history. Primarily because of the influx of precious metals from the new world, prices had risen at least 300% since the early 1500s. Although this may not seem a major problem for a 100 year period to the modern mind, it must be remembered that prices had remained relatively stable for the previous two centuries. For our ancestors this was a large and mysterious problem that affected daily life and no doubt contributed to the moves made by the Carltons between 1610 and 1663.

Stephen lived in Petham (just across the Roman Road from Lower Hardres) from at least 1608 through 1617, although he may have been there longer. At one time there had been family ties between the lords of the Lower Hardres and Petham manors and it is possible that Stephen found employment or land to be held there. It is also possible that the Stookes were from this area or had family that drew Stephen and his wife to the parish. On November 16, 1617, while they were living in Petham, one of Stephen's servants, John Wylson, and another man stole geese, chickens and sacks (the record doesn't specify the contents) worth a total of 11 pence. Apparently Wylson ate one goose and they gave the other animals to some friends. Stephen prosecuted the two thieves and the three who received the other animals and obtained verdicts of guilty for them all. The record from the Kent Quarter Sessions (a court that was held quarterly) reads:

"Nicholas Sturgis and John Wylson, both of Petham, husbandmen, at Petham, on 16 Nov. 1617 stole 'two geese' worth 4d, 'foure chickens' worth 4d and 'two sacks' worth 3d belonging to Stephen Carleton and John Williams of Longport (Canterbury) and Elizabeth, his wife and Tomasina Powell alias Fennall of Longport, spinster, on 20 Nov. 1617 received the same knowing them to have been stolen. (Sturgis, Wylson and Elizabeth Williams all acknowledge the indictment. John Williams and Tomasina Powell deny the indictment but found guilty)."

The same series of court records indicate that during this time there were many instances of theft of foodstuffs. Apparently 1617 was a very bad year and those who were starving were stealing from their neighbors. Many farmers and merchants went to court to stop the growing number of thefts.

During this time men wore their hair short, much as they did in the 1980s. Middle class men usually made no attempt to ape the fantastic fashions of the wealthy, the huge ruffs and the silk and satin cloaks and doublets that were so characteristic of this era. An average man, such as Stephen, might wear a russet doublet, kersey stockings with knitted hose, a plain leather pouch and heavy shoes with 200 hobnails. Women wore cloth petticoats over their shifts and lined them with fur if they could afford it. They would pin the train of their gown behind or in front. The sleeves of the gowns sat close as possible and were long and unslashed. On their heads they wore caps with lappets hanging down behind and over their shoulders. The fashions of the time required that hair never be seen and some women would even pluck their hair to make a high hairless forehead visible. Stockings were always black and shoes were double soled. Children were dressed in the same style as their parents, as elaborately as possible.

In 1603 Queen Elizabeth had died (thus ending Tudor rule) and James I ascended the throne (beginning the reign of the Stuarts). James I had been King of Scotland for several years and had been heavily involved in English politics, including the death of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots. He believed that Kings ruled by divine right and the people had no right to infringe upon these rights. His unwillingness to consider Puritan requests for changes in the Church of England did much to precipitate the coming civil war. James I's reign was characterized by antagonism with parliament over who had the powers to carry out the functions of government. One item worth noting is that in 1609, under charter from King James I, a small group of Englishmen and women made the first, ill fated, attempt to establish a settlement in North America, at Jamestown in Virginia. Beginning in 1618 England was also involved in the Thirty Years' War, the first of the great European Catholic versus Protestant wars. In 1625 James I died and his son became King Charles I.

Stephen gave his residence as "Ashe next Sandwich" and his occupation as yeoman (in 1628) and husbandman (in 1630). Exactly what transpired in the years between 1617 and 1628 is unknown. The early 1620s were bad years with poor harvests, however Stephen's improved situations must have contributed to his change in residence from Petham to Ash or vice versa (his move improved his situation). At any rate he was most likely considered prosperous, although certainly not wealthy. From his will we know that the Carlton house in Ash was a two story residence, although probably poorly furnished as the family had little money by 1630. One thing that must be kept in mind is the fact that people were much more mobile than is commonly believed today. Some researchers believe that 25% of the rural population of the eastern Kent area moved from their parish of birth during this era, although most moves involved a distance no greater than 20 miles (32 km), and most families moved only once. This phenomena, which included Stephen, has been termed "betterment migration" by Clark and Slack. Although common in Stephen's time, migration of this nature seems to have been less common before 1580 and after 1640. Movement was nearly always linked to extended family of some sort and it may be that the Stookes, or even Stephen's godparents, were the source that drew Stephen and Mary toward Ash and a better life.

An important factor in betterment migration that has remained much the same in the Carlton family throughout the ages, was the gathering of family for special occasions. Christmas, the numerous christenings, weddings, funerals and especially harvest time (when many families would return to their parish of origin to assist in the work) were opportunities for rededication of family ties in feasting, drinking, dancing and folk games. Clark and Slack declare that any family that remained immobile over more than one generation in this period was exceptional; so again the Carltons followed the mood and trends of their times.

It was probably during this period that Stephen obtained some type of lease from the Mayor of Canterbury that he described in his will as:

"my lease that I have from the Mayor and commons of the City of Canterbury without the walles about the dikes from Saint Georges gate and soe it conteynes unto the Posterne Bridge leadinge into Christchurch yard"

This description includes about three city blocks along the east wall of Canterbury (which was easily traced in 1985). In the early 1600s (as in the 1980s) it included some of the most valuable commercial real estate in the city. Stephen held this lease under "murgages . . . I had from Mr Savin by the consent of Christopher Carlton." (Christopher may have been Stephen's cousin, the son of his uncle, Thomas Carlton of St. George's. See the appendix THE CANTERBURY CARLTONS for more information on this branch of the family.)

Unfortunately we do not know the nature of this lease. The archived papers of the City of Canterbury from this period include only one document relating to the Carltons and none relating to a Savin. (The one document is a lease to Christopher Carlton.) Consequently, we can only speculate as to the type of business Stephen was involved with in Canterbury. It is not impossible that, being a yeoman or husbandman, the lease was for the selling of produce in this area, although it was common for the Mayor to lease everything from trash collection to property tenancy. The lease could just as well have been for repairing the walls or dikes or any number of other services or rights. At this time Canterbury was a city of about 6,000 with a decaying economy. Stephen also mentioned in his will that he held some type of lease "of Anthony Stookes with the consent of Sir Robert Lewkner." (The City of Canterbury documents from this period do not include any papers relating to Stookes or Lewkner either.)

Stephen was the last illiterate Carlton. We have two instances where he made his mark, both late in life, but there are no known instances of him actually signing his name. He was present as a witness at his daughter Ann's marriage to Thomas Hatcher in 1628 (he gave bond of 200 pounds) where he made his mark on the marriage licence.

In the summer of 1630 the plague struck the Canterbury region and nearly wiped out the entire family. Mary was the first to die; she was buried April 16, 1630 at Ash next Sandwich. Stephen made his will June 6, 1630 "lying sick in his bed in an upper chamber of his then dwelling house in Ash." His will states that he was "sicke in body and perfect memory thankes be to God." Several persons who gave witness to the will later testified they read it to him and after he approved of it he set his mark on it (the 2nd time his mark was recorded). Stephen's will was probated on July 17th, indicating that he died between June 6th and July 17th, at the age of 52. His place of burial is unknown but since he died of the plague he may have been buried according to whatever ordinances were in effect concerning infected corpses. During the 18 months between December 20, 1628 and June 12, 1630, his father William, his wife Mary, his son Stephen, his brother Richard and a servant (probably his brother's) were all buried. The Canterbury Corporation Archives Bunce Abridgement "Concerning the Infection of the Plague and the Orders made for preventing its Increase" records that beginning on June 8, 1630 through January 18, 1631(?) there was a plague rampant in the area. It is very probable that our 6 Carltons deaths should be included in the casualties from this visitation of the plague.

Stephen's estate totaled about 20 pounds, much less than his father William's in 1628 (about 80 pounds), or his brother Richard's in 1629 (over 200 pounds). Stephen and his wife had at least four children, two of whom died:

Ann Carlton Hatcher

Ann was born in 1605. She married Thomas Hatcher, a bachelor husbandman of Staple on October 28, 1628. Thomas was born in 1603. Ann's brother William witnessed (and signed) her marriage record along with her father (who made his mark). Ann may have been pregnant in 1630 as her father left "two of my best ewes or twenty shillings of money which they thinke most convenient" to "my grandchild my daughter Hatches child" in his will of that year. He also gave, "unto my daughter Hatcher tenn pounds within two yeares next after my decease." Ann and Thomas probably had at least one child:

unknown Hatcher.

He or she was probably born in late 1630.

Mary Carltonn.

Mary was buried November 13, 1608 in Petham. She was probably an infant and is known only through a single entry in the parish register for burials in 1608, "Mary Carltonn y dauyghter of Stephen 13 November"

William (II) Carleton (of Ash).

William was born in 1610. He is the ancestor of the main line of this history and his story is included in the next chapter.

Stephen (II) Carlton (of Ash).

Stephen was baptised July 5, 1612 in Petham. His father left him one half of his estate when he died in 1630, but Stephen himself died at about the same time, most likely of the plague. He was buried on June 12, 1630 at Ash.

Thomas Carlton (the infant of Petham).

Thomas was baptised June 27, 1614 in Petham and was buried there July 6th.

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