The Moreton Papers - William and Edward

A Tudor Pun

Our research volunteers have been using their spare time wisely whilst the property is closed due to Covid. They have been working on a project to transcribe the Moreton family letters, held at the British Library. Abigail Greenall, our resident ESRC funded PhD researcher from the University of Manchester, shared her photographs of the letters with the volunteers and has been on hand to assist the team. The project is still underway, but the team have already discovered much of interest in connection with the Moreton family. This is the third in the series of articles, and this time we are taking a closer look at William and Edward's letters.

William Moreton 1598 - ?

William Moreton, one of Peter’s older brothers, was originally going to follow a career in law but decided it wasn’t for him. He therefore had his heart set on travelling at sea.

It was perhaps not what his father had in mind for him as, in this letter written in March 1618, he seems to be asking his father’s permission to go to sea:

Wherefore loving father I entreate you now to fulfil and graunt mee my desire, that is to give mee leave to follow the sea, which kinde of life I ferst undertooke, and you gave your consent to, for there my minde is, and I hope that if you will but give mee your blessing and your good will I shall bee both a comfort to you, and to all my frendes.

Things moved rather slowly, but in November of 1619 he was about to set sail on the East India Company ship The Unity with his ‘Cousin’ Matthew. He thought he was bound for India, but we actually know he was going to the East India Company factory in Java. It seems his geography was not brilliant.

My cosen is now bounde for the East India in a ship called the Unytie of London, and hath a promisse for to have a pursers mates place for mee, w[hic]h will bee a place of good meanes to mee

His letter to his father of March 1620 shows it took about five months to get to Java, which was not unusual for a 17th century sailing ship. Not only did progress depend upon wind direction, but they also had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope.

Wee aryved heere in India within 6 monthes after our departure from England in good health and safety god make us thankfull. My cosen Mathew hath an intent to place mee in a factorye as an under marchant….

If you could by the next shiping send mee some coulered hats, and a paire or 2: of silke stockings and wosted by that time I dare presume to returne you the doble worth in Indian commodityes

It appears that coloured hats and silk stockings were essential wear for the East Indies in the 17th century. Hopefully William was not desperate for the new clothes; this letter would have had to go on the next ship back to England, then make its way on horseback to Cheshire. The clothing would have been sent back down to the south coast to go on the next ship to Java. All in all, that’s the best part of a year to receive his request!

We only have eight letters written by William and the last one is from Virginia where he was on a tobacco plantation. Once again, he asked for a delivery of clothes:

I was never in the like wante for linen, shooes and stockings, and the other wearinge clothes: but seeing I did not heere from you this yeare, I hope you  will not bee unmindefull of mee the next, for it is not for one to live heere with out hee hath something to begin with all, two servants now would get one, (now tobaccoe beares a prise)

Edward Moreton (1599 – 1674)

Edward, like Peter, was well educated, firstly at Eton and then Cambridge. He went on to study for an MA in Divinity and later became a priest.

In November 1626, he wrote to his father from King’s College, Cambridge. In the tradition of William’s sons, he asked for money, in this case for books:

now the defect is supplied, by my wants & necessities at this time: ffor my place in the Colledge is of that quality and nature, as also my initiation in Divinity, that they doe necessarily require a great addition of bookes, to that small store which I have lying by mee; for the effecting of which I must entreate your helpe & assistance, by sending mee 8 or 10 pounds, with what speede convenientlie you can, for I am unwilling to borrow any more money of Mr.Chappell, till such time as the 12 pounds borrowed of him about Midsummer last, bee discharged. My fellowship is of that small value, that without an augmentation of my yearelie pension, or some other meanes found out elswhere, I can not live answerable to my Degree.

Despite the education he received, he had difficulty in finding a position and, like his brothers, he moved down to London to seek work. Lord Goring, MP for Lewes, was known to the Moreton family and tried (unsuccessfully) to help him find employment.

In October 1631 Edward wrote:

My Lord Goring hath at last given a ffinal answere unto mee, that at this removeall of Byshoprickes he can effect nothing in my behalfe, no not so much as the obtaining of a purse Prabendaine, but hath made mee large & rash promises for the future. I have more confidence in my Lord Keeper, from whom I doubt not to obtaine a Lyving, if I could have the happiness to prevent a suiter; which occasioneth mee to sollicite your care in the inquist after the deaths of such Incumbents as are now possessed of such Lyvings as your Note doth specifie.

He was later appointed Rector of Tattenhall in Cheshire in 1637 and the following quote is from a letter dated 27 August 1648:

Yesterday I returned from Tatnall, whither I was invited the last weeke by  most of the Parish; I was by them solicited to take possession of the Church, they being thereunto encouraged by the first Declaration of Sir Thomas ffairfaxe; but upon the perusall of a 2nd sett letter out by him, I would not adventure so far; yet gave the Parish so good an Account of my Denyall, that the most of them I thinke will reserve their tythes for my use; the present Incumbent coming in by force, to the generall distaste & dislike of the Parish. (The name of this Intruder for so he may justly, in regard of violence, bee named) is one Mr. Francis Smyth, who I suppose will shortly repair to the Comittee in London for a confirmation of his Title.

In 1639, he became Vicar of Sefton.

This letter written to his brother shows that he took his health seriously and believed prevention was better than cure. It also tells us that Edward and his wife Margaret had children – we know from other sources that they had three sons and two daughters.

I am now entred into a course of Physick, proscribed by Dr.Bently, not out of the sense of any present distemper, but to prevent them this ensuing winter. Those accounts betwixt you & mee I have given order to my Son, at his coming back to Morton, to examine, & send them hither at the returne of my daughter. I have nothing els at present, but my thankes to my Sister Jane for her long entertainment of Alice, & my respects to all at Rode, bee remaining.