Sidney Alfred Parsons and his Ancestors

The Parsons Family and the Gale Family of Malmesbury

The Gales of Malmesbury and the Parsons family of Dorset and Somerset, with whom this series of web pages is mainly concerned, were joined by marriage on several occasions, some directly and some indirectly. The first direct link between them occurred in 1839 when Elizabeth Ann Gale married the farmer, businessman and entrepeneur George Parsons, but four years before then there had been an indirect connection when George’s cousin Julia Peters had married Elizabeth’s brother Frederick. The Gale and Parsons families were both of good standing: Frederick Gale was a surgeon and George Parsons was, at that time, a Steward to Lord Portman who was a major landowner in Somerset and Dorset. The next matrimonial connection came thirty five years later when one of Frederick and Julia Gale’s daughters, Elizabeth, married George Parsons’ nephew Charles Parsons. The final connection between the families came in 1890 when George and Elizabeth Ann Gale’s granddaughter Elizabeth Parsons married Frederick and Julia’s grandson Frederick William Gale in Christchurch, New Zealand.

George Parsons’ family had been farmers in south-eastern Somerset and the adjacent parts of Dorset for several centuries when he married Elizabeth Gale. His earliest known ancestor, Richard Parsons, had grown up just after the Civil War in the small village of Kington Magna in North Dorset’s Blackmoor Vale. George was born in 1806 and grew up in the Manor House in Charlton Horethorne in Somerset which was his parents’ home. His mother Jane (née Peters) had a brother John Weston Peters who was a Steward for Lord Portman and whose daughter Julia Susannah Peters had married George’s wife’s brother Frederick Gale. In later life George and his wife Elizabeth emigrated to New Zealand to join their sons.

The first two marital connections between the Parsons and Gale families are shown in this diagram. George and Jane Parsons’ other children have been omitted for clarity.

The earliest member of the Gale family that we know of is Elizabeth Ann Gale’s great-great-grandfather Isaac Gale who was born in or about the year 1646. The first record we have of him is in 1679 when he got married at St Philip and St Jacob’s church in central Bristol but he and his wife spent their married life in the village of Corston which is within the parish of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. Many of their descendants remained in that area, near to the border between the counties of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, until the 19th century. They lived in comfortable circumstances and most of the men took up professions such as medicine, the church, or the law. Isaac’s wife, Grace Estcourt, came from the ancient Estcourt family who had been major land-owners in the area since at least 1303 when Walter de la Estcourt acquired the estate which is now called Estcourt Park near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. Grace was a niece of Sir Thomas Estcourt of Sherston Pinkney.

The area where the Gales lived is in south-west England in the Cotswold Hills. It is about thirty miles north-east of the city of Bristol and twenty miles south of Gloucester. During the middle ages the area’s wealth was founded on wool with both Tetbury and Malmesbury being important market towns.

Malmesbury was fortified against Danish attacks during the reign of King Alfred. At that time it was a border town in the Kingdom of Wessex with Tetbury, although only five miles away, being in Mercia. Malmesbury later had a strong association with King Æthelstan of Wessex, who was King Alfred’s grandson, and the men of the town had helped him achieve a decisive victory at Brunanburh in 937 against the Norse King of Dublin. Nine years before Brunanburh Athelstan’s victories in the north of England, and against the Welsh, had enabled him to build an alliance of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and proclaim himself the first King of a unified England. He proudly referred to himself as Rex totius Britanniae. King Æthelstan died in Gloucester in the year 939 and was buried, at his own command, in Malmesbury Abbey.

The map on the left shows the area. Places which have been associated with the Gale family are underlined in red.

Isaac Gale (1646 to 1726)

On the 26th of May 1679, at the church of St. Phillip & St. Jacob in Bristol, Isaac Gale married Grace Estcourt. He was about 32 years old and she was about 25. Grace came from the wealthy Estcourt family; her father, The Revd. George Estcourt D.D., was a brother of Sir Thomas Estcourt (1607 to 1683) of Sherston Pinkney who was a Master of His Majesty’s High Court of Chancery and had been, from 1641 to 1659, High Steward of Malmesbury. Grace’s mother, Ann Machen, was a great-granddaughter of Thomas Machen who had been mayor of Gloucester, served as member of parliament for that city, and is commemorated by a magnificent memorial in Gloucester cathedral. Isaac came from a respectable and successful family but he was not especially wealthy and leased his home rather than owning it outright. He was probably related to the Gales who had been merchants in Bristol for several centuries some of whom became plantation owners in Jamaica.

Issac and Grace lived at his estate, which was known as Collers House and was in Corston in Wiltshire; the village was within the parish of Malmesbury but about three miles south-west of the town with its famous abbey. It is about 30 miles from Bristol.

They had four children — William, Edmund, Ann and Isaac. Their first two did not live to become adults and were commemorated by an inscription in Corston church which reads:- “Near this Place lies interred the Bodys of William ye Eldest Son of Isaac and Grace Gale, who dyed ye 23rd of December, 1691, Aged 12 years. And Edmund, their second Son, dyed July ye 17th 1685, Aged 19 months.”

Isaac and Grace’s third child, their daughter Ann, was baptised in Malmesbury in August 1691. In Cirencester, in 1717, she married a wealthy widower called William Holbrow. He was a clothier from Uley (underlined on the map above) who in 1741 was appointed High Sheriff of Gloucestershire. Ann lived in Uley with him and died there in 1768.

Isaac and Grace’s youngest child was their son Isaac of whom more below.

In 1711 Isaac was appointed sole executor of the estate of Edmund Estcourt of Milbourne who was his wife Grace’s cousin and a son of Sir Thomas Estcourt. Isaac inherited Edmund’s land at Millbourne however a dispute over the inheritance arose when Edmund’s niece Elizabeth and her husband Richard Cresswell claimed it. Richard was an unstable character with a questionable reputation who was sometimes known as ‘Black Dick’ Cresswell. He was, however, very wealthy and he was the Member of Parliament for Bridgenorth. After taking legal action Isaac managed to secure the land he had inherited.

When Isaac wrote his will in 1721 he was unwell; he described himself as “sick and weak in body”. Despite that he lived for five more years before dying in June 1726. His memorial inscription in Corston reads as follows: “Under also Lyeth the Body of Isaac Gale, gent, who always lived on earth as a true disciple of Jesus Christ, in all humility, in Patience, in Wisdom, in Goodness, and in Love and Charity with all men. He departed this Life the 24th day of June, in the year of our Lord 1726, in the 81st year of his age.”

Isaac left his leashold estate in Corston to his wife for five years after which it was to pass to his daughter Ann Holbrow. His son Isaac received his gold signet ring and, after the decease of his mother, his silver tankard.

A copy of Isaac’s will can be read by clicking on the following link — The Will of Isaac Gale of Corston

Isaac’s wife Grace died in Corston in April 1734 and was buried in Malmesbury. Her memorial inscription reads: “Sacred to the Memory of Mrs. Grace Gale, Widow of Isaac Gale, Gent, youngest Daughter of George Estcourt, of Swinly, D.D. She dyed April 18th, 1734, in the eighty-second year of her age. In every station of her life she was truly Christian and Charitable, Loving & beloved of all, Mors est janua vitae.”

The Revd. Isaac Gale (1693 to 1742)

Isaac Gale was born in Malmesbury in Wiltshire in 1693 and baptied there on the 7th of April. He was the fourth and youngest child of Isaac Gale and his wife Grace Estcourt who was a daughter of the Revd. George Estcourt D.D. Grace’s family were the wealthy Estcourts of Shipton Moyne.

Isaac attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he was awarded a B.A. degree in 1713. He was ordained by the Bishop of Salisbury in September 1715 and was appointed curate of Hankerton, a village near Malmesbury (underlined in red on the map above). At about that time he married, his wife was called Ann but we do not know her surname. Soon afterwards he was appointed Rector of Lasborough, an appointment which he held for the rest of his life. The small settlement of Lasborough was on land owned by Isaac’s mother’s relatives one of whom had rebuilt the manor house there in about 1610 and established a park.

The small church near the manor House at Lasborough in Gloucestershire where the Revd. Isaac Gale was Rector is shown to the right.

The church and the manor house stand near the head of a valley leading down from the hamlet of Newington Bagpath a few miles west of Tetbury.

Isaac Gale and his wife Ann lived at The Grange at Cowfield (or Cowfold) which was a mile or two south of Malmesbury, near Corston. Their home was close to the present day Lawn Farm and Grange Farm. There was a large house nearby, Cole Park, which had been a Royal stud farm in Tudor times but in Isaac’s day was the seat of the Harvey family.

Isaac and Ann had at least five children between the years 1718 and 1735 (roughly). Those that we know of are shown here.

The line of decent to Elizabeth Ann Gale, who married George Parsons, is through their son Edmund Estcourt Gale of whom there is more information below.

In 1736 Isaac was ordained as priest of the villages of Garsdon and Lea which are a short distance east of Malmesbury and, to be closer to his work, he moved to Milbourne on the eastern edge of Malmesbury. However he retained his estate at Cowfold.

Isaac died in August 1742 and was buried in Malmesbury on the 8th of that month. In the register of deaths his name was recorded as “Isaac Gale of Milborn, Clerk”.

Jane Gale outlived her husband by more than nineteen years. She lived at their home near Corston until she died in April 1762 and was buried in Malmesbury. She did not leave a will and seven years after her death her youngest son, George Gale, applied for probate and was appointed as the administrator of her estate.

The Revd. Edmund Estcourt Gale (1721 to 1770)

Edmund was a son of the Revd. Isaac Gale and his wife Ann and was baptised in Malmesbury in Wiltshire on the 28th of July 1721. He was educated at Oxford University and was awarded a B.A. degree from Jesus College in 1742, the year in which his father died. He decided to follow his father into the priesthood and was ordained in Oxford in 1745. In February 1750 he became Rector of both Lasborough and Long Newnton, which appointments he continued to hold until his death. The manors of Lasborough and Long Newnton both belonged to the estates of his grandmother’s family, the Estcourts (they are underlined in red on the map above) and the decision of who to appoint as rector was theirs.

Edmund married Sarah Wilkins, who was a daughter of a Malmesbury apothecary, and they lived together in Long Newnton. Long Newnton is by the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border, near the town of Tetbury and very close to Shipton Moyne where the main estate of the Estcourt family was situated. About a hundred years later, in 1868, Long Newnton was described as follows — “A parish in the hundred of Malmesbury, county Wilts, 1½ mile E. of Tetbury, in Gloucestershire, and 4 miles N.W. of Malmesbury. It was called by the Saxons Newantune, and had right of common granted by King Athelstane. The parish is bounded on the W. by a branch of the river Avon. The village, which is small, and wholly agricultural, is situated on the road from Gloucester to Portsmouth”.

Althought Edmund and Sara lived at Newnton he retained the property near Malmesbury which he had inherited from his father.

Edmund and Sarah had three children:
  •   Jane, who was baptised in 1755, never married and when she died, aged 62, she was buried in Malmesbury;
  •   Sarah was baptised in 1758 but died when she was only ten months old;
  •   Edmund Estcourt was baptised in 1760 — there is more information about him below.

Amy Haddon and Ann Estcourt, daughters of Sir Gyles Estcourt, the 1st baronet of Newnton, who had died in 1695 and 1704 respectively, had each instructed their executors to pay a sum each year to enable poor boys and girls to be apprenticed to a trade. In 1762 the annual payment of £10 from Anne’s bequest had not been paid for nine years. A vestry meeting was held and Edmund, as rector and a friend of the family, was “ordered and empowered to employ any person he should think proper to claim and receive from Edmund Estcourt, esq.”  to recover the £90 owing. He was successful and the debt was paid in full. The Estcourt Charity of Long Newnton is still in existence.

Edmund Estcourt Gale died on the 20th of July 1770 and was buried at Long Newnton.

Sarah, Edmund’s wife, returned to their house at Milbourne near Malmesbury and lived there until she died in 1810. She was buried in Malmesbury. Her memorial inscription reads “Sacred to the Memory of Sarah Gale, Wife of the Rev. Edmund Estcourt Gale, Late Rector of Newnton, who died July 31st 1810, aged 85 years”.

A copy of Edmund’s will can be read by clicking on the following link — The Will of Edmund Estcourt Gale, Rector of Newnton

Edmund Estcourt Gale (1760 to 1819)

Edmund Estcourt Gale, the only son of Edmund Estcourt Gale and his wife Sarah, was baptised in Long Newnton in Gloucestershire on the 28th of June 1760. He was just ten years old when his father died after which he, with his mother and his sister Jane, moved to the house in Milbourne near Malmesbury which his great-grandfather had inherited from the Estcourt family.

Edmund’s grandfather William Wilkins and his uncle Edmund Wilkins were both prominant citizens of Malmesbury. They were apothecaries and in 1762 Lord Suffolk, the High Steward, had appointed Edmund Wilkins (senior) as his deputy and by 1775 he was the Hight Steward, a post which he retained until his death in 1804.

Edmund learnt to be an apothecary but also, on the 10th of May 1776, when he was about 16 years old, he was apprenticed to a surgeon in Wotton-under-Edge called John Cooper. Wotton-under-Edge is below the western edge of the Cotswold hills, about 11 miles north-west of Malmesbury.

As an adult Edmund practiced as a surgeon and apothecary in Great Bedwyn, a village about five miles south-east of Marlborough and, in 1794, while he was living there, he married Alice Elizabeth Gooden in London at St. George’s, Hanover Square. Alice’s family were from Speen in Berkshire which is now part of the town of Newbury.

In the early years of their marriage Edmund and Alice lived in Hungerford, a small town about seven miles north-east of Great Bedwyn, and their first two children were born there. By about 1800 Edmund had acquired Edgell’s House in Ashwick in Somerset, about 3 miles north of Shepton Mallet. He also had business interests in Malmesbury and sometimes the family lived there and at other times in Ashwick. His daughter Elizabeth, who would eventually marry George Parsons, was born in Malmesbury in December 1804. Ashwick eventually became Edmund’s main residence and in 1810, on the 26th of June, he had all seven of his children baptised there together.

In July 1819 Edmund was visiting Malmesbury, staying at his late sister Jane’s home in Milbourne, when he died. He was buried in Malmesbury on the 24th of that month and there is a marble memorial on the wall of Malmesbury Abbey which reads as follows:

JULY24th ANN:DOM:1819,

Edmund’s wife Alice continued to live in Ashwick until she died there in 1837.

Edmund and Alice had seven children:

 •  Edmund Estcourt Wilkins Gale — was born in Hungerford in 1795. In 1820 he married Mary Walker in Malmesbury and they lived together in Speenhamland, Newbury, near to his mother’s family. He became a wine merchant and brewer but he suffered financial difficulties and, in 1842, he was forced to sell the business. He was briefly imprisoned as a bankrupt in Reading gaol but in 1844 he emigrated to America where by 1850 he was practicing as a physician in Tonawanda, New York State.

 •  Sarah Jane Gale — was baptised in Hungerford on the 17th of September 1819. She never married and continued to live at Edgell’s House in Ashwick until she died in January 1840.

 •  The Revd. William Wilkins Gale — was born in Ashwick in June 1801 and educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, graduating with an M.A. in 1825. At first he lived in Street in Somerset and in 1832 he married Caroline Tuson there. William and Caroline lived in Kingston Deverill in Wiltshire for about eight years but then William was appointed Curate of Pylle in Somerset. In 1854 William gave his sister Elizabeth’s husband George Parsons a mortgage of £3,500 to develop his business. William resigned his curacy in 1866 (and was replaced by a brother of Lord Portman). He and Caroline then lived in Ilchester where she had relatives. Caroline died there in 1870 and William died two years later in 1872.
A book published in 1888 described William as follows. “A less well-known clergyman, yet withal a genial country gentleman, who knew how to handle a gun, and whose stores of agricultural knowledge were considerable, whatever his stock of divinity, was the Rev. William Wilkins Gale, M.A., Rector of Pylle, near Shepton Mallet. The parish was limited in extent, and the number of souls in charge was correspondingly small; so that, having a margin of time on hand, Mr. Gale, like the Vicar of Wakefield, did a little amateur farming. I have once or twice spoken to the people of his charge in the school-room, under the presidency of the parson; who, like his more popular brother, the Rev. Dr. Gale,and his brother Frederick Gale, the surgeon of Cheriton, was a good strong-in-the-back teetotaler, and just the sort of man to live peaceably among the farmers.

 •  Alfred Athelstan Wilkins Gale — was born in 1802 and was about 17 years old when his father died. Alfred became a surgeon, qualifying in 1825, and by 1839 he was living in the High Street in Shepton Mallett. In 1842 he married a widow called Mary Ann Welch but they had no children. In 1848 he applied to join the Indian Medical Service but declined the appointment that he was offered. Alfred died in 1850 and was buried in Ashwick.

 •  Elizabeth Anne Gale — was born in Malmesbury on the 21st of December 1804. She was 14 years old when her father died after which she lived with her mother in Ashwick for a while and then in Glastonbury with her younger brother Frederick and his wife Julie (née Peters). In 1839 she married, in Glastonbury, Frederick’s wife Julia’s cousin George Parsons and thus became the link to the Parsons family which is the main subject of these web pages. Elizabeth has her own biographical web page which can be accessed by clicking on this link — Elizabeth Anne Gale’s biography.

 •  Frederick Gale — was born in Malmesbury on the 1st of June 1806. He qualified as a surgeon and joined a practice in Glastonbury. In 1834 he and his partner, George Bond, published a paper in The Lancet on the benefits of using Plaster of Paris in the treatment of fractures. The following year their partnership was dissolved, probably so that George could retire; the official notification described George and Frederick as “Surgeons, Apothecaries, and Men-Midwives”. On the 20th of December 1834 Frederick Gale married Julia Susannah Peters, the eldest daughter of John Weston Peters who was a brother-in-law of George Parsons of Charlton Horethorne. Frederick and Julia had nine children one of whom, Jane (born 1838), married her cousin Charles Parsons, and their grandson, Frederick William Gale (1868-1902), also married a Parsons - Elizabeth Ann Parsons, a granddaughter of Frederick’s brother-in-law George Parsons. By the mid 1850s Frederick and his family had moved to North Cheriton in Somerset where he purchased an ancient oak screen for the church. Frederick’s wife died died in 1864. He died in July 1877. They were both buried in North Petherton.

 •  The Revd. Dr. Henry Gale LL.D. — was Edmund and Alice’s youngest child. He was born in 1806 and was only 13 when his father died. He was articled to an Attorney in Malmesbury and went on to study at Oxford where he married a girl called Mary Hicks. Henry and Mary eventually returned to Malmesbury where he became a prominent member of the community. He was an active teetotaler and was the founder and first secretary of the Market house in that town. Later he became the Rector of Treborough, near Williton in Somerset, and his wife Mary died there in 1870. Henry was then appointed Rector of the United Parishes of Garsdon and Lea, near Malmesbury, and he lived at Garsdon Rectory until his death in July 1877. Dr. Gale was known for his directness and lack of tack when speaking in the cause of temperance and this brought him into conflict with the church authorities so that few pulpits were placed at his disposal.

Return to Sidney Parsons’ Ancestors

You are free to make use of the information in these web pages in any way that you wish but please be aware that the author, Mike Parsons, is unable to accept respsonsibility for any errors or omissions.

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The information in these web pages comes from a number of sources including: Hampshire County Records Office, Somerset Heritage Centre; Dorset County Records Office; Southampton City Archives; the General Register Office; several on-line newspaper archives; several on-line transcriptions of Parish Register Entries; and several on-line indexes of births, marriages and deaths. The research has also been guided at times by the published work of others, both on-line and in the form of printed books, and by information from personal correspondence with other researchers, for all of which thanks are given. However, all of the information in these web pages has been independently verified by the author from original sources, facimile copies, or, in the case of a few parish register entries, transcriptions published by on-line genealogy sites. The author is aware that some other researchers have in some cases drawn different conclusions and have published information which is at variance from that shown in these web pages.