The interesting ancestry of Ann Skipwith: the Royalist and the Quaker

Anne Skipworth was the daughter of Willoughby Skipworth and Honora Saunders—a Royalist and a Quaker.1 Willoughby was born in January 1613 in Ormsby, Lincolnshire, the son of William Skipwith and Anne Portington. Both William Skipwith and Anne Portington had royal ancestry, well documented through the Lincolnshire Pedigrees, the Complete Peerage, and other sources.2 The “best royal line”, that is the shortest descent, places William as the 8th generation from Edward III and his wife Philippe of Hainault. As his first cousin Anne Portington had the same descent.

The illustrious background did not make an easy life for William He “suffered from the pecuniary misfortunes brought upon his family by his father [Richard]. He is found in several instances joining with his father in mortgaging, or selling, the family property, probably to pay his father’s debts. At one time he was in the Fleet Prison for debt.”3 William and Anne had nine children, of whom Willoughby was the eldest son.4

Willoughby inherited the family manors when his father died in 1622. The following year his mother Anne married Francis Guevara of Stenigot, from a Spanish family that settled in Lincolnshire. In 1634 Willoughby married Honora Saunders, daughter of Patrick Saunders and Sarah Smith. The same year Willoughby’s father-in-law Patrick had paid off a debt for him, secured by the manors of Skipwith and Menthorpe in Yorkshire.5 Two years later Willoughby, Honora and Patrick mortgaged the manor of Ormsby to Sir Charles Harbord. They forfeited on the mortgage, but “Sir Charles Harbord does not wish to take advantage of this, and for a sum of money conveys all his rights to Drayner Massingberd.”6 The same year Willoughby moved his family back to their old manor of Skipwith, Yorkshire.

During the English Civil War, Willoughby sided with the king and “took an active part on the King’s side in the wars between King and Parliament, and was heavily fined as a delinquent when the Puritan party got the upper hand.”7 He “laid down his armes… in March 1644”. He died in Skipwith in 1658, and letters of administration were granted to his widow Honora.

Honora brought her own history to the marriage with Willoughby. Her father Patrick Saunders was a Doctor of Physick, who had been admitted as a candidate for the College of Physicians in 1620.8 His degree as a doctor of medicine was granted by Franeker in 1619. Franeker University was the second-oldest university in the Netherlands, later disbanded. Patrick is supposed to have acquired some of the books of John Dee, the scholar of science and the occult, who assembled one of the largest libraries in England.9 Many of Dee’s book were stolen from his house in 1585 and dispersed. Some of them ended up in “the hands of John Pontois and Patrick Saunders.”10  Pontois was Dee’s executor; Saunders may have worked for Dee. “Since John Woodall and Dee’s servant Patrick Saunders were Pontois’s heirs, they must have been responsible for the final dispersal of Dee’s belongings in 1626 or 1627.”11

Patrick married Sarah Smith in 1613 at St. Saviour’s Southwark.12 They lived in St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, where he died in 1638. Sarah died before him, in 1632.13 They had a daughter Honora and at least one other child who died young.14

By 1662 Honora had become a Quaker, along with her daughter Ann. Honora was imprisoned in York Castle, where she died in 1679. She is considered to be a Quaker martyr. As George Goforth put it, “The early Quakers were of two main types – those who followed the pacific teachings of George Fox, and those who felt they must force their beliefs on others. The latter were frequently subject to severe punishment, even imprisonment, for disturbing the peace.”15

Known children of Willoughby and Honora:16

John, b. ab. 1634, d. 1680 in Hemingbrough, Yorkshire. He married and had four sons.

Patrick, b. 1635, no further record.

Anne, b. 1642, d. 1723 in Philadelphia, m. 1) William Goforth, 2) William Oxley. Ann immigrated to West Jersey with her husband William Goforth and their sons when it was opened for settlement as a Quaker refuge from persecution. Goforth died six months after they landed at Burlington and Ann married another Quaker, William Oxley. They moved to Chester County and had three children, a daughter Honora and two sons. The Goforth sons fell away from the Quakers, which would surely have dismayed their grandmother Honora.

  1. Martin Hollick, “The Royal Line of Ann (Skipwith) (Goforth) Oxley ca. 1642-1723”, in two parts, on Hollick’s blog at: https://mhollick.typepad.com.
  2. Hollick, part 2.
  3. W. O. Massingberd, History of the parish of Ormsby-cum-Ketsby in the Hundred of Hill and county of Lincoln”, 1991, on Ancestry. Massingberd was the rector of the parish. His family intermarried with the Skipwiths.
  4. Massingberd, p. 112.
  5. Massingberd, p. 113.
  6. Massingberd, p. 113.
  7. Massingberd, p. 114.
  8. William Munk, Roll of the Royal College of Physicians, vol. 1, online at Internet Archive.
  9. Julian Roberts, “John Dee”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online at http://www.oxforddnb.com.
  10. Julian Roberts, “Additions and corrections to ‘John Dee’s Library Catalogue”, online through Springer.com.
  11. Roberts, “John Dee”.
  12. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 29, 1898, p. 171
  13. Publications of the Harleian Society, vol. 31, p. 292, 288, on Google Books.
  14. A daughter Anne died in 1621. (Publications of the Harleian Society, vol. 31, p. 280)
  15. George Tuttle Goforth, Goforth Genealogy, 1981, p. 3.
  16. Massingberd, p. 115; Goforth Genealogy.

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