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JOHN F0X 1621


Died 1st February 1621



This John is our first ancestor that we can be absolutely certain of, as his Will shows clearly his place of residence as “Burnscale”.  The second house on “Scale” still has the same name.  It is interesting to speculate, though on his origins, and who his father and siblings may have been.


The principal source we have to this early period is “A Sixteenth Century Survey & Years Account of the Estates of Hornby Castle, Lancashire” compiled about 1581.

The first reference in this book to assist with our research is a list of Freeholders under Hornby Castle in 1537, where the “Heirs of Richard Foxe” is listed.  Thirty six others are shown too.  This Survey was very complete and detailed, and the background information gives us some insight into our ancestor’s background.  To quote from page 26; “The rents varied greatly: Roburndale, which was originally a forest, and had just been inclosed and the land was rented at about three and a quarter pence an acre, whilst in Tatham and Wray the rents were three shillings ten pence an acre.”


The 1581 list of Free Tenants in Roeburndale does not appear to include at first glance any reference to Foxe.


            “Robrondale:  Theres of Hamond Harrington now Tho Sedgwick holdeth there certain Lands in Roborondale by the service aforesaid and payeth therefore 10s.

            Tho: Croft the like and Tho: Croft the younger.”


Under the heading of “Ergholme and Cawood” we find the following listing.


            Theres of William Nelson and Richard Fox now Henry Bracken and Anthony Fox holdeth there by Knight Service and payeth yearly 39s2d.


Under the heading of “Tenentes ad Voluntatem” and the subheading of “Ad huc Hornby we have the following entry.


            “Thomas Fox holds there one Tenemt with 4 bays  and 6 outsetts one Garden one croft and two Barns and pays yearly 12d

            The same Thomas Fox holds one close of arable and Meadow Ground in Bearside five acres and a half and pays yearly 8s.”


We have not been able to positively locate these holdings to check their proximity to Scale to confirm a more certain connection to our John Foxe.


The next entry of interest is under the heading “The Boundary of Caton” with the subheading “Elliall---Tennts at Will.


            “John Fox holds there one Tenemt with 14 bays & 8 onsetts and also 2 Gardens of 8 fall and also 6 acres 2 roods and 10 fall of Land viz: in Arable Ground 4a: 3r:,in Meadow 1a:1r: and in Pasture 2r: 10: f: and pays yearly 15s.”

            “John Fox the younger holds there one Tenemt with 5 bays and 4 onsetts and also 6 acres 2 roods and 10 fall of Land viz: in Arable Ground 4a: 2r:, in Meadow 1a:  0 r: 10f: and in Pasture 1a: 1r: and pays yearly 8s.”


            “Richard Fox holds one Tenemt with 5 bays and 4 onsetts and also 3a: 1r: 16f: of Arable and Meadow Ground and pays yearly 4s.”


Interestingly the entry before Richard’s is for a Richard Winder, surely named after the area we interested in for the second family of Fox’s of High Winder in the parish of Caton.


There is a further entry for a Richard Fox in the same area.  Is it the same Richard or a different one?


            “Richard Fox holds there at the will of the Lord and of Mr Mullinax one Cottage of 4 bays and 4 onsetts with the Lathe built of new and one Garden containing one Rood whereof my Lord hath the third part and Mr Mullinax the other two parts and pays yearly to my Lord 6d.”


It is interesting to speculate that Anthony is the son of Richard, as he assumes ownership of the land in Arkholme, and that his father was deceased in 1581.  We also know that a father and son, both called John were alive in 1581. Anthony is also of special interest in that he holds his tenancy by virtue of Knight service, the only mention of a Fox to do so.  Peter Stanford provides the following explanation on Knight Service.  "At the time in question this was a from of tenancy rather than liability for actual military service of the individual concerned.  Directly after the Conquest (1066) it had been, but even in the first century after the Conquest it was becoming commuted to "Socage" - money rent in lieu - because personal knight service was not a practical long-term proposition.  Men grow old, or have only daughters, for example.  However, the money rent paid to the superior lord enabled the latter to discharge his obligation to provide fighting men by paying them wages for their services.  Thus soldiery became a separate profession and the connections between soldiering, knightly status (of itself was always a slippery concept to define) and landholding were gradually but radically changed.


Having said that, the annual money rent (which it undoubtedly was and proof if one were needed) of £39s 2d was an awful lot of money, even divided by two, which of itself suggests that Anthony was a man of substantial means and status of the middle class - I should think probably a yeoman like the ancestor whose heir he was."




The Will of John’s is the only document we have that gives us a glimpse of his life and family relationships.


The Will is written in a form of English known as “Secretary Hand”.  It consists of a half page of bequests, followed by half a page of debts payable and debts receivable.  The Will is dated 20th December, 1620, and does not appear to be signed.  On the back of the Will, or a second page, we have the Inventory of John Foxe as at the 15th of February following, so we presume this is the date of death.  He lived less than two months after making his last Will.


We have a literal translation of the Will prepared by an expert in the Latin of this era, followed by a modern interpretation of the Will prepared by our researcher.


What does his Will tell us?


Firstly he was “sick in body” and most probably elderly.  He also makes a bequest to the children of his two daughters, so he is old enough to be a grandfather.  One would be tempted to speculate that he was born in the decade of the 1550’s.


He mentions the tenancy rights to Burnscale, which locates him to the family farm just south of Wray, and so definitely an ancestor.


John passes the tenancy to Gilbert, whom he mentions as his eldest son.


His will also mentions a son Thomas, and two daughters.  Elizabeth is mentioned specifically as a daughter, and a heifer is left to Margaret, who our researcher feels must be the other daughter.  The will indicates that both daughters are married.  “And to each of children six lambs,”.  The will mentions 'hogges' but this is more likely to be yealing lambs than pigs our researcher, Peter Stanton now believes.   Strangely though Margaret is referred to as Margaret Foxe, and no mention of a married name is there, for Elizabeth or Margaret.


The terms of the Will also indicate that Gilbert is still single at the date of making the will.  We have a marriage of a Gilbert to Isobel Swan in Tatham on the 3rd June 1621, and in all probability, this is the Gilbert that John  refers to in his Will.


Some other points of interest to a modern reader are worth mentioning.


There are a considerable number of debts owing and due.  This undoubtedly indicates the lack of liquidity generally in the community, and that much commerce was on a barter system. The fact that no attempt to collect these funds prior to death appears to be made, indicates that debts might only be settled when there is a harvest or a sale of stock.


The personal assets appear meagre by today’s standards, and his total net worth, excluding any value for the tenancy, was just over 105 pounds.


One of the witnesses to the will and also a creditor was a Laurence Foxe.


There are a number of Skerow’s mentioned, who become related by marriage a century later.


One of the debtors is “Black William Bateson”, most likely a Negro from Africa.


John’s wife remains a mystery.  We have a record of a marriage of a John Fox to Ellen Allinson on the 14/10/1593 at Caton.  If this was the marriage of the John who died at Burnscale in 1621 he would have been married just over 27 years when he made his last Will, just time enough one would suppose to father four children, two of whom are old enough to be parents themselves.  The other difficulty with this is that the marriage took place at Caton, and not at Melling, which was the church used by the Scale branch of the family.



Historical Content


About the time of John’s birth the retribution by the Catholic Queen Mary was gathering pace and the burnings began in 1555.  A total of 220 men and 60 women were burnt at the stake.  John Foxe (no relation) in his ‘Book of Martyrs’ sets out the trial of their unfortunate victims. 


In 1588 the Spanish Armada sailed to Britain but were destroyed, mainly by storms.


Queen Elizabeth I died on the 21st March 1603 and the same year was the return of the plague, and the appointment of James I from Scotland as the new King, who ruled until 1625.


The gun powder plot was exposed on the 5th November 1605 which further fuelled the divisions between Catholic and Protestants.


Although remote from London, it is difficult to believe that the major divisions in English society would not have impacted in what was still a staunch Catholic area and affected the lives of the occupants at Scale.