Ancestry of Dorset Peasants – Napier

The following article by Charles Herbert Mayo, M.A., R.D. Vicar of Longburton with Holnest was originally published in Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset in 1903 of which he was the Dorset Editor.

There are living at the present day in the parish of Minterne, Dorset, persons of the name of Napier, now occupying a lower position in the social scale, who claim to be descended from the distinguished family of the name, formerly landowners there and at More Crichel, whose estates have descended through a distaff to Henry Gerard Sturt, Lord Alington. This claim appears to be well-founded, and the writer has been able to trace their line of descent from Sir Nathaniel Napier (or Napper as the name was usually written) of Middlemarsh and More Critchel, knighted at Newmarket 1617, Sheriff of Dorset, 1620, and its representative in Parliament, 1625.

Sir Nathaniel had a younger son, John Napier, as appears by his will dated I4th Feb., 1632, proved i Feb., 1635-6 (15 Pele, P.C.C.) a short abstract of which has been kindly sent us by Mr. G. S. Fry.

“Nathaniel Napper of Moore Crichell, Dorset, Knight. My three daughters, Elizabeth, Jane and Frances. My son Robert. To my youngest son, James, the perpetual donation of Mintern Magna. My son Nathaniel. To my son, John, my burgages in Dorchester. My son, Gerard. My son, Robert, to be executor. My son [in law] Thomas Clerke, Mr. Edward Hooper, and my kinsman, Mr. Peter Sainthill, to be overseers.”

This son, John Napier, is stated in Hutchins’ Dorset, 3rd edit., vol. iii., p. 125, in the Napier pedigree there given, to have died without issue. This is proved to be incorrect by the following abstract of the said John’s will, for which we are also indebted to Mr. G. S. Fry.

“John Napier, the elder, of Great Minterne, Dorset, gent. 12th April, 1693. My daughters Elizabeth Woodnott, Jane Cooke, Frances Kiddle, Margaret Browne and Mary Dunne. My granddaughter, Mary Napier. To my grandson, John Napier, an estate in Buckland Newton. My grandsons, Robert, William and Gerard Napier. My son-in-law. Anthony Browne, of Winton, South’ton, gent. My late father, Nathaniel Napier, Knt., of Moore Crichell, Dorset. My son, John Napier, and Nathaniel Napier of Grange [Middlemarsh, Minterne] Dorset, to be executors. Codicil, ist May, 1693. My son, John Napier, to enjoy the estate at Buckland Newton given to his son John Napier, until the said John Napier be 21.”

Proved 3rd March, 1693-4, (61 Box, P.C.C.)

So far with the aid of these two wills. On turning to the help of parish registers the following additional information is gained.

At Glanvilles Wootton were baptised three of the children of “John Napper, gent.,” (the son of Sir Nathaniel,) — viz. John, 15th Sept., 1645; Margaret, 11th Feb., 1647 ; and Mary, 11th March, 1648. These are three of the children mentioned in their father’s will. John Napier, the father, was buried at Minterne 3rd Feb. 1693-4, as “Mr- Jonn Napper.” He is called “the elder” in his will, to distinguish him from his son —

JOHN NAPIER, called ” Mr. John Napper, junior,” in the Minterne Register, 1685 and 1689. He married Mary, buried 16th Feb., 1699, as of Tyly, and had issue —

  1. Mary, bapt. I4th Feb. 1677.
  2. Robert, bapt. 22nd Sept., 1680.
  3. John, bapt. 3rd Nov., 1681, and perhaps the John brought from Chetnole and buried 29th Nov., 1762.
  4. William, bapt. 1st Feb., 1685. buried 6th March, 1732-3.
  5. Gerard, bapt. 12th Dec., 1689.

WILLIAM NAPIER aforesaid married Elizabeth (perhaps buried 30th Aug., 1763.) She is probably “ye widow Napier,” who received three shillings, part of the forfeit paid for burying in linen Wyndham Napier, the eldest son of the squire (another Sir Nathaniel Napier,) who was her late husband’s second cousin, 28th May, 1734. Her name occurs in “The account how ye fifty shillings arising from ye burying of Windome Napier, Esqr’ in linnen was disposed of.” It should be noticed that in the list of the recipients of this forfeit, ” ye widow Napier “received sixpence more than any of the other poor — which may be taken to be a recognition of her relationship to the deceased. William Napier had issue —

JOHN NAPIER, baptised 9th Oct., 1730, and buried i8th April, 1810. He had issue by his wife (apparently Sarah, buried 12th Oct., 1813, aged 80) a daughter Susanna, bapt. 24th April, 1764, and a son —

WILLIAM NAPIER, bapt. 28th March, 1762, buried 17th Feb., 1852, aged 91, who married at Buckland Newton, 20th April, 1784. Ann Perrett, buried 6th May, 1851, aged 88, and had issue ten children, viz. —

  • JOHN, bapt. 4th March, 1787, who had by Mary his wife a son Jacob, bapt. 26th Sept., 1813, who, then styled of Hillfield, married at Evershot, igth Nov., 1838, Mary Jessop. Jacob Napier was buried ?3rd Nov., 1896, aged 83, (and his wife Mary, perhaps 2znd, Feb., 1884, aged 71) and had a son John, now of Minterne, woodman, who married 15th April, 1881, Elizabeth Collins, and has issue Annie, bapt. 22nd Aug. 1886.
  • Gerard, bapt. 4th Jan., 1789.
  • Jane, bapt. 10th April, 1791.
  • GEORGE, bapt. 8th Sept., 1793, a woodman, buried 14th Dec., 1875, who mar. 1sth May, 1823, Fanny Foote, buried 4th Sept,, 1843, aged 47, and had issue —
    • Charles, bapt. 4th April, 1823, buried ist April, 1854, aged 30, of Sydling.
    • Elizabeth, bapt. I7th Sept., 1826, mar. Thomas Burden, 24 Oct., 1861.
    • Frederick, bapt. 2ist June, 1829, bur. 11th Nov. 1877, aged 47.
    • James, bapt. 21 Oct., 1832.
    • William, bapt. 20th Dec. 1835, bur, 11th Nov., 1884. aged 48.
    • Fanny, bapt. 4th Sept., buried I3th Oct., 1843.
  • Mary, bapt. 24th April, 1796.
  • Sarah, bapt. i7th Sept., 1797, buried  June, 1798.
  • THOMAS, bapt. 13th Jan., 1799, buried 28th April, 1843, aged 44, who married Hannah, buried 9th October, 1871, aged 72, and had issue —
    • Ann, bapt. 26th July, 1829.
    • Henry, bapt. loth Oct., 1830, buried 28th Jan., 1850, aged 19.
    • Elizabeth, bapt. 28th April, 1833.
    • Frederick, bapt. 9 Aug., 1835.
    • Ellen, bapt. 9th Nov., 1838, buried 7th March, 1840.
    • George, bapt. 8th Oct., 1841.
  • Susannah, bapt. 3rd May, 1801.
  • Anne, bapt. 25th Sept. 1803.
  • JAMES, bapt. 23rd Oct., 1808, of Gorewood, woodman ; buried 1st Sept. 1852, aged 44 ; mar. (i) Emma, daughter of Isaac Fox, 15th Oct., 1838, buried 24th Sept., 1839, by whom he had one child Herbert, bapt. 21st July, 1839. He mar. (2) at Buckland Newton, Caroline Fox, buried 5th Oct., 1881, aged 63, and had issue —
    • Timothy-James, of Lyon’s Gate, woodman, bapt. 5th Dec., 1841, mar. 6th Feb., 1884, Amelia-Martha Rolls, and had issue—
      • James Timothy, bapt. 5th July, 1885
      • Herbert, 10th April, 1887
      • Lily-Rose, 4th Nov., 1888
      • Francis-George, 6th July, 1890
      • Lucy-Ann, 5th June, 1892 (buried 30th Nov. 1897)
      • Alice, 25th Nov., 1896
      • Abdon, 4th April, 1897.
    • Abden-Charles, bapt. 5th Feb. 1843.
    • Lucy- Ann, bapt. i4th April, 1844.
    • Herbert- William, bapt. 2ist Sept., 1845.
    • Caroline, bapt. 7th May, 1848.

The dates of baptisms, &c., where not otherwise stated, are from the Minterne register, for many of which we are indebted to the Rev. W. G. Barclay, Rector. If any apology is necessary for the length of this article, it must be grounded on the fact that a peasant’s ancestry, from a good old stock, though often conjectured, is not to be traced every day.


1 Comment

  1. Keith Herbert Napier said,

    October 4, 2011 at 11:34 am

    On Sunday September 4th 2011, as a grandson of Herbert I visited his and his wife’s grave to scatter the ashes of my father,James Timothy, his son, who died in January 2011.I took my sons Daniel Adam and James William to Herbert and Mabel’s old cottage at the bottom of the lane running down beside the Church. We were fortunate to be able to look around the cottage but my only memories were of the staircase going up and around at the back of the fireplace.

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