Records of the Family of Sclater

Claude Sclater


Anthony Sclater and his Three Sons

Anthony Sclater of Leighton Buzzard, c. 1529-1624

ANTHONY is the first member of the family of whom we have any knowledge. According to the memorial, erected by his grandson in Leighton Buzzard church1, he was descended from an old Northumbrian family and was Minister of Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire from the first year of Queen Mary (1553) to the first year of Charles I but, according to the Lincoln Diocesan records2, his incumbency did not begin until 1571, when he compounded for “the first fruits”3. If, as stated on the memorial, he was ninety-five when he died his birth would have taken place some years before 1538 when parish registers were started, so the chances of discovering his origin are remote. He might have been a son or relation of an Anthony Sclater who was buried at St. Olave’s, York, in 1541, and whose wife Elizabeth was buried there in 1539. He was probably educated in a monastery or chantry school, and there is no trace of his having been at Oxford or Cambridge, though the records are by no means complete. It has not even proved possible to discover when or by whom he was ordained.

Leighton Buzzard was a Prebend of Lincoln and a Peculiar, so Anthony must have been appointed Vicar by the then Prebendary, Gabriel White, who was also Rector and a son of the manor of South Warnborough in Hampshire (a parish with which the family later became intimately connected).

Had Leighton Buzzard not been a Peculiar, and thereby exempt from the Bishop’s jurisdiction, we should have found details of Anthony’s education and ordination in the Diocesan archives, for such facts were recorded about most of his contemporaries in neighbouring parishes at the Bishop of Lincoln’s Visitations.

However we may be sure that Prebendary White would have chosen the best available man for such an important cure - Leighton Buzzard was, outside Bedford, the largest parish in the County with a population of about 1,500 and a very large and beautiful church. We can safely assume that Anthony was a conformist, who kept to the middle path between the conflicting extremes of Romanism and Puritanism.

In those days church attendance was compulsory on pain of a shilling fine and the parson was only required to preach once a quarter, since Queen Elizabeth distrusted sermons, and a Homily was read on most Sundays. Presumably Anthony was, at least towards the end of his life, an infrequent preacher, for in 1621 some of his parishioners appealed to the Bishop of Lincoln to allow a weekly lecture, and among the petitioners was his son Christopher4.

History does not relate whether this petition was immediately granted, but a Lecturer, Nathaniel Reynes, had been appointed by 1633, when Cristopher was Vicar. Many of these Lecturers were fanatical Puritans, who caused much trouble to the Established Church.

In Tudor times the parish superseded the manor as the main unit of local administration, being charged, among other responsibilities, with the relief of the poor and the upkeep of roads. The Vicar, as Chairman of the Vestry where Parish Officers were elected, had an increasing burden of secular duties. Anthony must have been a remarkable man to have held his office for fifty-three years, and we can regard him as a worthy founder of the family.

Anthony was married at Leighton Buzzard on January 20, 1574/5, to Margaret Loughborowe, who must have been deemed a suitable spouse, for in those days, when the clergy were first allowed to marry, although Queen Elizabeth never approved, the consent of the Bishop and of two Justices of the Peace was required. The baptism of their seven children is recorded in the parish register. They are:

  1. William (1575-1627).
  2. Mary (1577-1577).
  3. Mary (1578- ), married on August 27, 1602, at Husborne Crawley, Beds., to Francis Cletherowe (1580-1659), afterwards Vicar of Little Brickhill, Bucks.
  4. John (1580-1635).
  5. Sara (1582- ).
  6. Christopher (1584-1642).
  7. Elizabeth (1588- ).

Either Sara or Elizabeth must have married William Jones, probably the Rector of Cranfield, Beds., whom Anthony mentions as his son-in-law in his will.

Anthony died in 16245 and was presumably buried at Leighton Buzzard, but the register for the period 1622 to 1650 is missing. In his will6 dated June 16, 1624, he left ten shillings to each of his sons and their wives, and his daughters and their husbands; twenty shillings each to his grand-children and god-children. William, son of William Sclater; Edward, son of John Sclater; William, son of Christopher Sclater; Thomas, son of William Jones; and Samuel, son of Francis Cletherowe; and five shillings each to all his other grand-children. He left his five acres of freehold land in the fields of Leighton to his eldest son William; three pounds six shillings and eightpence and the furniture in his parlour to his son Christopher; the furniture in the hall, the rest of his goods and his bull to his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Cletheroe; and his best cow to his grand-daughter, Frances Sclater. He also left sums of money to be distributed to the poor on the day of his funeral. He appointed his son, John Sclater, and his daughter, Mary Cletheroe, joint executors, and his son, William Sclater, and son-in-law, William Jones, overseers of his will.

Anthony’s estate seems small, even by the standards of the times, but it must be remembered that his income as Vicar was derived solely from church fees and the lesser tithes, which had to be collected in kind. The annual income of the Vicar was estimated soon after his death at £50, and this was higher than in many livings, being equivalent to about £1,000 in modern currency [1966]. Furthermore he had provided dowries for his married daughters and an excellent education for his three able sons, two of whom gained scholarships to Eton and King’s, and the third to Corpus Christi, Oxford. All three became Fellows of their College and followed their father into the Church.

William Sclater (1), Prebendary of Wells, 1575-1627

ANTHONY’S eldest son, William, was born at Leighton Buzzard and baptised there on October 25, 1575. A King’s Scholar at Eton, he was admitted as a Scholar of King’s College, Cambridge, on August 24, 1593, and three years later was elected a Fellow. He graduated B.A. in 1597 and proceeded to the degrees of M.A. in 1601, B.D. in 1608 and D.D. in 1617.

He was ordained in 1599 and in the same year resigned his Fellowship to become “Preacher” or Lecturer at Walsall in Staffordshire, where he began his sermons, afterwards published, on the Epistle to the Romans.

On September 4, 1604, he was presented to the Rectory of Pitminster in Somerset by John Colles, the patron. Here in the quaint words of the worthy Dr. Fuller7,

“he met with manifold and expensive vexations, even to the jeopardy of his life; but by the goodness of God, his own innocency and courage, with the favour of his Diocesan, he came off with no less honour to himself than confusion to his enemies.

He was at first not well affected to the ceremonies of the Church, but afterwards on his profound studying of the point, he was reconciled to them, as for order and decency and by his example others were persuaded to conform.

Constancy of studying contracted stone on him, which he used to call flagellum studiosorum. Nor was his health improved by being removed to a wealthier living when John Lord Pawlet of Hinton (at the instance of Elizabeth his lady, in whose inheritance it was, a worthy favourer of piety and pious men) preferred him [September 1619] to the rich parsonage of Limpsam in Somersetshire where indeed there was scarce any element good, save the earth therein.

Whereupon for his own preservation, he was repersuaded to return to Pitminster there continuing till the day of his death.”

William became a Prebendary of Wells Cathedral in 1619, and retained both livings, Pitminster and Lympsham, until his death. He was also for a time domestic chaplain to Lord Stanhope of Harrington.

He published a number of theological works and others were edited after his death by his son William (2). Some of his books were widely read and went through several editions. A complete list is given in Appendix II.

It is clear from his early writings that William had come under the influence of Calvinism at Cambridge where it was prevalent. In the course of time his outlook became less Puritan and, in the words of Fuller, he was reconciled to “the ceremonies of the Church”, which were being introduced by Laud and the High Church Party. These ceremonies included the removal of the communion-table to the East end and its enclosure by railings, the wearing of surplices and the bowing by the Clergy. In 1623 William published The Question of Tythes revised in answer to the arguments of the learned lawyer, John Selden, who in his History of Tithes objected to the payment of tithes merely because Abraham had paid them to Melchisidec.

William was married twice; his first wife was a Miss Johnson, sister of Humphrey Johnson, Vicar of the near-by parish of Luppitt, Devon, whom William describes as his brother-in-law in his will. Humphrey Johnson is recorded as B.A. of Merton College, Oxford, and formerly of Staffordshire when he was at Walsall.

She gave him seven children whose births are recorded in the Pitminster register:

  1. Sarah (1605- ), who married in 1624 Humphrey Gaye, Rector of Gidleigh in Devon.
  2. John (1607-1612), buried at Leighton Buzzard.
  3. William (2) (1609-1661).
  4. Elizabeth (1611- ).
  5. Mary (1613- ).
  6. John (1616- ).
  7. Susanna (1618- ).

William’s first wife died about 1619, probably at Lympsham8, and he married again in 1621 Mary Hill of Taunton. Their marriage licence dated May 26, 1621, is entered in a Wells Diocesan Licence Book, preserved in the Somerset County Records Office. Mary gave him three more children: Edward (1622-1622); Jane (1626- ); and Margaret whose baptism is not recorded at Pitminster, but who is mentioned in his will.

William died in 1627 but no record of his burial has been discovered. In his will9 he divides his property between his widow and eight surviving children, appointing his eldest unmarried daughter Elizabeth, then aged 16, as sole executrix. His monetary bequests total £150 and he mentions property at Mells, Woodrome10, and Dudbeare11, articles of furniture, silver, pewter and brass, together with farm implements and livestock. His eldest surviving son William (2) receives £20, all his books and papers, two silver spoons and his gold ring.

His widow Mary was married again at Pitminster on April 15, 1635, to Robert Rich, who was probably the Rector of Brushford, Somerset, from 1631 to 1640, but there are no entries concerning the family in the Brushford register.

John Sclater of Church Lawford, 1580-1635

ANTHONY’S second son, John, was born at Leighton Buzzard and baptised there on July 31, 1580. Like his eldest brother, William, he was a Scholar at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, where he was a Fellow from 1601 to 1608. He graduated B.A. in 1601 and proceeded to the degrees of M.A. in 1606 and B.D. in 1614. He also incorporated as M.A. at Oxford in 1607. He was never at St. John’s College, Cambridge, as is incorrectly stated on the memorial in Leighton Buzzard Church12.

Having been ordained at Lincoln on December 22, 1605, he became successively Vicar of Holford, Somerset, on May 14, 1610, and Rector of Church Lawford, Warwickshire, on May 18, 1612. He was presented to Holford by Sir Henry Savile, Provost of Eton, and to Church Lawford by Christopher Hoddesdon, Lord of the Manor of Leighton Buzzard.

On April 11, 1611, he married at Leighton Buzzard Joan Smith and had one son, Edward, who pre-deceased him. His wife Joan died and was buried at Church Lawford on September 4, 1632, and he married again at Church Lawford on July 8, 1633, Elizabeth Simmes.

John died at Church Lawford, aged 54, and was buried there on May 19, 1635. The following memorandum, which was proved as a nuncupative will, is preserved, together with an inventory of his property valued at £467.14.8, in the Record Office at Lichfield, Staffordshire:

“Memorandum that Mr John Slater, Vicar of Church Lawford, manie tymes before he died wch was upon Ascention Day in the yeare of our Lord god one thousand six hundred thirtie and five, did speake these words unto his wife or words to the like effect, vizt: Lamb thou art my executrix, I will not give anie thing from thee.”

The inventory is headed “An Inventory of the goods cattles and chattels of John Slater Batchelor in Divinity taken the 9th day of May Anno: Domini 1635 by us whose names are here under the same written”, and proves that he was a man of cultivated tastes. In his study the books and presses for them are valued at £80. The contents of the panelled parlour include a pair of virginals, in addition to a drawing table and frame13, 3 chairs, 4 stools, a pair of tables, a court cupboard, a turkey carpet and 9 turkey cushions. His plate consists of 2 silver bowls, 2 silver salts and 12 silver spoons. That he farmed his glebe is shown by the quantity of farm implements and livestock listed. He had 14 sheep, 4 lambs, 3 swine, 5 cows, 2 steers, 2 heifers, 4 calves, 2 mares, 1 colt and 2 nags. The brewhouse contains equipment for brewing his own beer. His “wearing apparel” is valued at £15 and “all the money in his purse” comes to £26.

John’s only child, Edward, was baptised at Leighton Buzzard on July 5, 1612. He was educated at Rugby School and Cambridge where he was admitted Pensioner at Sidney Sussex College in 1633. He died at the age of 21 and was buried at Church Lawford on July 22, 1633.

Christopher Sclater (1) of Leighton Buzzard, 1584-1642

ANTHONY’S third son, Christopher, from whom the present family descends, was baptised at Leighton Buzzard on September 13, 1584. He entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, as a Scholar in 1598 and graduated B.A. in 1603, becoming an M.A. in 1607. He was elected a Fellow in 1609, and incorporated as M.A. of Cambridge in 1612. Among the Royal Manuscripts in the British Museum in a collection of complimentary Latin verses, composed by members of Oxford University on the visit of King Christian IV of Denmark to England in 1606. One of these is by Christopher, which shows that he had some reputation as a scholar.

He was curate to his father at Leighton Buzzard from 1613 to 161614, and on his father’s death succeeded him as Vicar, being presented by Theodore Price, the Prebendary, on November 14, 162415. Some insight into his character can be gained from two letters in the Lincoln Diocesan Archives16. The first is from Christopher to Nathaniel Reynes, Rector of the near-by parish of Battlesden and Lecturer at Leighton Buzzard, who had quarrelled publicly with his patron, Sir Edward Duncombe. Christopher wrote bluntly that until the quarrel was composed Reynes was “not meet to exercise the position of Lecturer of preacher here. Your cursings and railings against him are unchristian.” The Bishop of Lincoln, the famous Dr. John Williams17, who was tolerant towards Puritan Lecturers, rebuked Christopher with the words,

“You must not presume to exclude such from your pulpitt as your diocesan shall have appointed to preach there without acquainting him, and receivinge his directions for the same. And therein, as in all this writinge you shewe much indiscretion. But if Mr. Raynes has behaved as you say then I shall bee of opinion that he deserves a sharpe reproofe.”

Christopher was not popular with the Nonconformist element in his parish as is shown by the following petition to the House of Lords18, dated September 10, 1642, just after the outbreak of the Civil War:

“To the right honoble. the House of Peeres assembled in Parliament The humble petition of the Inhabitants of Leighton in the County of Bedford Sheweth That the town of Leighton is a Market Town and one of the greatest Parishes in the said Country, the parsonage thereof being mostly about 600£ per ann. is impropriate in the hands of the Dean and Canons of Windsor and by them leased unto Sr Thomas Leigh one of the Commissioners of Array in the county of Warwick. The Vicaridge thereof mostly about 50£ p.ann. is in the gift of a Prebendary of Lincoln who is vested and maintained by the Impropriators of the Parsonage or their Tenant.

That Christopher Slater a long time Vicar in the said parish being a promoter of the late superstitious inovations, of a dissolute and scandalous life, and preaching but once upon the Lords day and then very unprofitably the parishioners have been at the charge of 50 or 60£ to maintain a Lecturer for their better instruction in Godliness.

Now the said Vicar is lately dead and the said Parish (without the favour of this honoble. Assembly) in danger to be ill provided for by the said Prebendary and Sir Thomas Leigh.

The petitioners therefore most humbly pray that this most honoble. Assembly out of your pious care for the welfare of many souls would be pleased to appoint Mr Samuel Fisher (at present lecturer in the said Parish by order of the honble. House of Commons) or such other orthodox divine as your Honours shall think fit to be Vicar of the said parish that the Petitioners shall not be left to the provision of the Prebendary or Sir Thomas Leigh from whom they…an opposite to the Parliament and a sower of sedition among the people.”

Underneath is written:

“On reading the petition It was Ordered That Mr Fisher shall be recommended to the Prebend of Windsor to be Vicar.”

Mr. Fisher did not, however, succeed in obtaining the appointment as we find that in 1643 a Mr. Willus Rathband became Vicar.

It is clear from this petition that Christopher died in 1642 when he was 57, and not at the age of 63 as recorded on the Leighton Buzzard memorial19.

The charges against him need not be taken seriously since similar accusations were being made by the Dissenters against many of the loyal Church of England clergy. In Bedfordshire the population was about equally divided between King and Parliament, but Christopher’s sympathies are clear from the fact that he appointed Edward Wilkes, a staunch Royalist, who built the Almshouses and gave the church its fine Jacobean pulpit, as one of the overseers of his will.

Christopher must have been married twice for his widow Anne refers to his son William in her will as her son-in-law (stepson). A clue to his first wife is given in the register of St. Paul’s, Bedford: “1620, May 4, Married Mr. Slater and my lady Mordant’s20 gentlewoman”. It therefore seems likely that he was domestic chaplain to Lord Mordaunt at the time. By his first wife he had a daughter, Frances, baptised at Leighton on August 8, 1621, who married Richard Snagge on September 20, 1653, at St Margaret’s Lothbury, London21, and a son, William (4), born about 1623. By his second wife, Anne, whose origin is unknown, he had three daughters: Anne, who married Roger Barker, probably of Astwood, Bucks.; Mary, who married Mr. Chapman, probably of Newport Pagnell, Bucks.; and Elizabeth, unmarried in 1658 at the date of her mother’s will.

Christopher’s will22 is dated July 27, 1642, and was proved on August 21, 1646, by his executrix, his widow Anne. He left his books and freehold property in the fields of Leighton to his son William, his crops thereon and his messuage in Leighton to his wife, £20 to his daughter Frances, and twelve pence each to his three younger daughters.

He appointed his friends Edward Wilkes, William Turvey, Francis Winton and William Hanes as overseers.

His widow Anne died and was buried at Leighton on January 23, 1658/9. The entry in the parish register names her as “Old Mistris Slater”. In her will dated August 27, 165823, she desires to be buried in the Chancel of Leighton Church near her husband. She leaves her daughter, Elizabeth Sclater, all her goods and her house value to her daughters, Anne Barker and Mary Chapman. To her “son-in-law” William Sclater, clerk of Barnet, Herts., she leaves “one pound of lawful money of England to buy him a ring”.

She appoints her daughter Elizabeth sole executrix, and Mark, son of Edward Wilkes, and Robert King, shoemaker, overseers.

How long Elizabeth Sclater enjoyed her house at Leighton Buzzard we do not know. There is no record of her marriage or her relations soon after her mother died. No Sclater is shown as a householder in Leighton Buzzard (or Bedfordshire), in the 1671 Hearth Tax Returns.

She may have been the Elizabeth Sclater who married George Tuck at Brampford Speke on July 1, 1663.


  1. See Appendix I
  2. L.R.S.2 p.235
  3. The first year’s income which had to be paid to the Crown
  4. R.Richmond, Leighton Buzzard and its Hamlets, p.73
  5. His death is mentioned in the Deed of Presentation of his son Christopher to succeed him dated November 24, 1624
  6. P.C.C. Barrington, Folio 60
  7. Worthies, 1st ed. p.117
  8. The Lymphsham registers prior to 1750 are missing
  9. P.C.C. Skynner, Folio 94, dated June 27, 1627
  10. Probably Woodram, a hamlet near Pitminster
  11. Not identified
  12. See Appendix I
  13. A machine used for carding wool
  14. Al.Can.
  15. Lincoln Diocesan M.S. P.D. 1624/3
  16. Lincoln Diocesan M.S. Cor.B.3/fol.25
  17. His biography is given in B. Dew Roberts’s Mitre and Musket
  18. H.M.C. 5th Report p.47
  19. See Appendix I
  20. Elizabeth, wife of John, 5th Lord Mardaunt, afterwards 1st Earl of Peterborough
  21. She had three daughters, mentioned in the will of William Sclater (4) and was buried at St. Botolph’s Bishopsgate, on February 28, 1693/4
  22. Beds. Record Office ref. ABP/W 1646/93
  23. P.C.C. Pell, Folio 152

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