Regular readers will know that I am currently researching the life of the seventeenth century pamphleteer, newsbook editor and preacher Henry Walker. If you look up Joad Raymond’s article on Walker in the ODNB, it gives his dates as fl. 1634-1660. Nearly all that has been known about him relates to his activity during the 1640s and 1650s.
After a lot of digging, I think I have managed to find out the dates of his birth and death. Getting there has been a long story but I thought it might be interesting to explain the steps I’ve taken along the way.
It started with Walker’s records from his time at Cambridge. He went there relatively late, in 1639, after serving an apprenticeship as an ironmonger and setting up in business. The record of his matriculation at Queens’ College state that Walker was from Derbyshire. This got me searching for wills of Henry Walkers in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records, on the assumption that he would have stayed in London or the south east after the 1650s.
I didn’t find a Henry Walker from Derbyshire. But I did find a Henry Walker, Clerk of London who had made his will in 1685. He left £20 to the poor of Derby, and £200 to his sister Anne Marshall of Derby.
And a subsequent dispute over the will described him as Henry Walker of Derbyshire. Could it be the same Henry Walker? It would mean him having lived a fairly long life if it was.
To find out I started combing through Derbyshire parish registers. Walker was made free from his apprenticeship in 1634. If he served the average of 7 years, he would have started it in 1627. That would give him a birth date some time between 1609 and 1613 or so. Eventually I found a Henry Walker who had been baptised in All Saints, Derby on 1 March 1612. Crucially, he had a sister called Anne. He was the only candidate who matched the description.
In itself, however, this wasn’t enough to match him to the Henry Walker Clerk who had made his will so many years later. What I needed was something to connect him with the Henry Walker from before the civil wars. I found it in the library of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, in a 1634 edition of Andrew Willet’s Synopsis Papismi:
It was donated by Henry Walker in 1681, and made clear that he was still alive at this point, and the same person as the Henry Walker of the 1630s. It also linked him to Petersham in Surrey.
My next stop was the parish registers for Petersham. These revealed that Walker had been appointed as curate by the vicar of Kingston in 1667. This nearly sparked a row when the Countess of Dysart stepped in and claimed the right of appointment as her own. However, she was happy to confirm Walker’s appointment:
On Tuesday 11th June 1667 Mr Henry Walker was by Mr Twetty of Kingston apointed to the cure of Petersham whither he went and tooke possession of the church where he marryed a coople that morning. Mr Walker went to the Honble the Countess of Disart, & acquainted her of his being sent by Mr Twitty but she said the right was in her & Mr Walker being allowed by her honour had afterwards licence from my Lord Bishop of Winchester and was confirmed in the place. His first day of preaching there was June 16. 1667 upon approbation.
Four years later, the parish registers mention Walker’s wife:
Mary the wife of Henry Walker minister of Petersham died 15 May 1671 at Petersham and was carred to be bured in the church of St Giles Crepplegate London.
I had known Walker was married but hadn’t known anything about his wife until this point. I then dug through the registers for St Giles Cripplegate and confirmed that she had been buried there:
This confirmed that the Henry Walker Clerk who had made his will was likely to be the same as the Henry Walker of the 1630s. It also gave me the first piece of detailed information about Mary: that she had died of a fever.
If Mary had been buried at St Giles Cripplegate, despite dying in Petersham, it seemed likely the family had strong connections with the parish. Starting with 1685 I dug through the entries on burials and quickly found an entry for Henry in February 1686/7:
He is described as ‘Dr in Divinity’, which fits with the fact that he took a theological qualification at Cambridge in 1639. The register also reveals that he died of the stone.
I then wanted to find out when they were married. Apprentices were not allowed to marry so it seemed likely it would have been after 1634, the date of Walker’s freedom. After some digging I found their wedding recorded in the register of St Gregory by St Paul’s – just round the corner from the shop of Robert Holland in Newgate, to whom Walker had been apprenticed.
This gave me Mary’s maiden name – Fotheringall. Looking through the registers of St Giles Cripplegate, I found an entry that confirmed this:
Henry’s will mentioned three daughters – Anne, Christian and Sarah. Anne was their first child, baptised on 15 September 1639. The register mentions that she was born in the house of Anne Fothergill, an apothecary in St Botolph’s. Anne Fothergill was Mary’s mother – she mentions her daughter and her husband ‘Henry Walker clerk’ in her will of 1665. Her husband was James Fothergill, who had died in 1635 while Warden of the Society of Apothecaries. Anne inherited his business. It was a profession that must have come in handy when Mary came to give birth: and the reason she was at her mother’s house was because by this time, Henry was in Cambridge studying theology. Clearly he did not take his family with him.
Their second child was Sarah, baptised at St Giles Cripplegate on 31 July 1642:
Cripplegate’s registers helpfully give professions of parishioners at this time. The mention of Henry’s trade as being that of an Ironmonger is revealing about his status on the eve of the civil war. By this time he was writing and vending anti-episcopal pamphlets. However, he was clearly doing it while holding down his existing trade. It is not unusual to find members of the Ironmongers Company acting as stationers and selling books alongside their other goods – much to the irritation of the Stationers’ Company, who saw them as interlopers on their trade.
This time Henry was present for the birth, but only just. With weeks to go before the due date, he was in prison for throwing a printed petition into Charles I’s carriage. In May 1642 he petitioned the Lords to be released, stating not only that he was sorry but that:
His poore wife bigg wth child, and a young infant besides.
Luckily for him and Mary he seems to have been released in time for the birth. On 5 July he stood trial in the Old Bailey. Fortunately his charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanour and he got away with standing in the pillory at Cheapside.
On 7 September 1645 the couple had their first son, Henry, baptised at Cripplegate. However, he seems to have been dead by the time his father made his will. He may have been the same Henry, son of Henry and Mary Walker who was buried on 23 December at St Anne and St Agnes, although I am not completely sure why the family would have been living there at this point. By 1655 Walker was pastor of a gathered church in St Martin’s Vintry, just south of St Anne and St Agnes, but I have not come across evidence for his involvement earlier than that.
What does fit more strongly is evidence of other children. Christian, mentioned in Walker’s will, was baptised on 20 February 1653 in St Margaret Westminster. This makes perfect sense as by this point Walker was living and working out of the Fountain in King Street, just up the road. A Mary Walker, baptised 1 June 1656 in St Clement Danes, and Elizabeth Walker, baptised on 17 February 1660, may also have been his children but I have no evidence to confirm this.
Why does all this matter? Partly because it allows us to see a much more rounded picture of a significant mid-seventeenth century puritan preacher and writer. By reconstructing Walker’s childhood in All Saints, Derby, and his teenage years in Newgate, we can get an idea of the influences he must have had from his family and the vicars of his parishes. This in turn can help us to explain his actions in the 1640s. By looking at Walker’s record after the Restoration, and his continuing attachment to the puritan parish of St Giles Cripplegate, we can also get a fascinating insight into how an Independent and staunch Cromwellian managed to reconcile himself to the Restoration. Clearly he was able to hide enough of his faith to survive as a member of the clergy.
But it also matters to me because I’ve had a great time finding all of this out. I am about 20,000 words into writing a biography of Walker at the moment, and even if the pressures of work and family mean I end up taking years to finish it, it’s still been a fantastic experience researching it.