Sidney Alfred Parsons and his Ancestors

The Goldfinch Family of Compton

The Goldfinch family of Compton were connected to the Parsons family whose history is documented in these web pages through Elizabeth Goldfinch and her husband John Complyn. Elizabeth and John’s daughter Mary was a grandmother of Faith Newlyn who was the wife of John Boyes of Owslebury. And John Boyes’ granddaughter Harriet Eliza Boyes was the wife of the Southampton publican John Parsons who was Sidney Parsons’ father.

Compton is a small village about two and a half miles south-west of the city of Winchester in the county of Hampshire in central southern England. On the map to the right Compton is underlined in red.

The Victoria County History of Hampshire describes the location of the parish as follows. — "The Roman road from Winchester to Southampton running south-west almost parallel with the River Itchen cuts through the whole length of the eastern part of Compton parish. On either side of the road are the chalk downs which rise to the south of Winchester, Compton Down on the right just outside Winchester and Shawford Down on the left beyond Compton village, which lies in the valley between the two. The whole parish consists of 2,803 acres, of which 17 are water."

An old rumour says that the body of King William Rufus, who was shot while hunting in the New Forest, was carried through Compton while on its way to be buried in Winchester Cathedral. The Hampshire Advertiser told the story in 1858 —

“Apropos of traditions, there is a popular one connected with Compton worth mentioning. Most of our readers have probably, in the summer season, strolled about the green and narrow lanes of Compton — lanes so throughly English, and evidently having an existence as old as, if not previous to, the Norman Conquest. One of these, called ‘Church Lane’ passes in a southward direction close to the old and very primitive Norman, or it may be Saxon, church, leading to the adjacent down. The tradition of the village says that this is the old forest road, by which the Norman hunter kings rode from their castle of Winchester to their distant and extensive hunting grounds; and that up this lane the body of William Rufus was brought from Malwood in the cart of Purkiss, the charcoal burner, in the month of August, A.D. 1100. That this tradition is true is pretty evident from the fact that the continuation of this lane, or ancient forest road, can be traced to Dean Lane, and from thence to the interior of the Forest, and in a direct line with the spot where Rufus was killed - Stoney Cross.”

We cannot know when the Goldfinch family first settled in Compton but we do know that during the First Civil War (1642 - 1646) they were living there in the manor house as tenants of Compton Farm. The earliest name in the surviving records is that of Richard Goldfinch who was buried in the churchyard of All Saints Church on the 11th of May 1682. Two years earlier he had donated two shillings and sixpence to a parish fund for the “redemption of English captives in Algiers, Sally and other places on the coast of Africa”.

A curious story was passed down through generations of the Goldfinch family. A book called ‘The Civil War In Hampshire (1642-1645)’ published in 1904 by Rev. G.N. Godwin B.D. tells the tale: — “A tombstone in Compton churchyard bears the following inscription : ‘To the memory of Elizabeth and her child, the wife of Barnard Goldfinch, who died 15th September, 1683’.
The Goldfinch family lived at Compton in the old Manor House for centuries. It is said that after the capture of Winchester in October 1645, some Roundhead troopers were quartered upon them. The visitors consented to spare a cask of ale which had been brewed for a christening, on condition that the expected child should, if a boy, be named Barnard, after the captain of the troop. Barnard Goldfinch might well be a family man in 1683. His initials may be seen in his old home.”

The newspaper report on the right, from the 6th of February 1858 edition of the Hampshire Advertiser, also tells the story.

These events took place in September 1645 when, having taken Devizes, Oliver Cromwell advanced with his army to Winchester which was defended by a garrison of 700 men under the command of Lord Ogle. Cromwell stationed his main force on Compton down, above the village of Compton and overlooking the city, in an area which is now known as Oliver’s Battery. On the 29th of September Cromwell’s army occupied the city and Lord Ogle retired into the castle which was then besieged. Heavy bombardment began on the 4th of October and when, on the following day, the defences were breached, Ogle agreed to surrender. During this whole episode Cromwell was eager to gain the support of the local population and any soldier caught plundering or harassing civilians was summarily hanged.

Barnard Goldfinch grew up in Compton and lived there for a while after he married. In 1676 he was involved in a dispute over some property in Owslebury, an adjoining parish, and took the matter to court. After his father Richard died in 1682 Barnard became a churchwarden and in 1683 he helped to organise a several charity collections. For example, an entry in the parish register dated April 1st 1683 reads — “Collected in Compton towards the relief of some poor inhabitants of the Parish of Charlton Horethorne in the County of Somerset who suffered by fire - three shillings and ten pence. Edw Woods & Bernard Goldfinch Churchwardens.”

(Note the spelling of Barnard’s name as Bernard above. This was common. The writers of the parish register entries seem to have made no distinction.)

But tragedy struck. Barnard’s wife Elizabeth died in the September of 1683. Barnard left Compton and moved to Southampton, where he married again in 1686 and raised a family. His second wife’s name was Bridget Newman and together they had at least six children: John (who died as a baby), Anne, Mary, Martha, John and Sarah.

Barnard’s father, John, had an older brother, Richard Goldfinch, who inherited Compton Farm and passed it on to his eldest son, also called Richard Goldfinch, who lived from 1649 to 1729. And the latter Richard had a daughter called Elizabeth who married John Complyn. Their wedding was in Compton on the 29th of November 1709. John was living in Baddesley at the time, a village roughly half way between Compton and Southampton, and the couple started their married life there. By about 1717 they had moved to Morestead which was where John had been born. Morestead is a few miles to the east of Compton. John and Elizabeth spent the rest of their lives there until she died in 1729. They had ten children, one of whom, their daughter Mary, would return to Compton and live there with her husband John Newlyn.

The genealogy of the earliest known Goldfinches, so far as it has been possible to establish it, is summarised in the following chart:

And continuing the chart from the Richard who was the brother of the Elizabeth Goldfinch who married John Complyn we have:

As the charts show, the eldest son of the family was always called Richard and the second son was called John. This tradition continued until Victorian times.

The map to the left shows the centre of Compton village as it was in about 1870. The layout would have been very much the same over 200 years earlier during the civil war. The Goldfinch family home, the Manor House, was near the crossroads in the centre of the village at Compton Farm.

Throughout the 18th century the Goldfinches and the Newlyns were among the most prominent residents of Compton as can be seen from the following entries in the parish register:

  •  On the 29th of December 1751 — “a collection for victims of a fire at Amesbury in Wiltshire”  listed donations of two shillings from John Goldfinch, one shilling and sixpence from Richard Goldfinch and sixpence from Richard Goldfinch jnr. These were the largest donations except for that from his lordship the landowner.

  •  On the 21st of November 1762 — a fund “"For the sufferers by Fire at Wareham in Dorsetshire”  listed a five shilling donation from Farmer Goldfinch and one shilling from Farmer Newlyn. Once again, these were the second and third largest donations.

  •  And in 1771 — “Mr John Goldfinch left £20 by his will to the Poor of Compton; Ten Pounds to be distributed among them at the end of the first year after his death & the other Ten Pounds at the end of the second year. He died March 15 1771”.

Generation by generation the family’s wealth grew. They acquired land as freeholders rather than tenants and by the time of the Richard Goldfinch who married Elizabeth Hockley (he lived from 1727 to 1789) they were primarily landowners rather than farmers and were being referred to as “gentlemen” rather than “yeomen”.

That Richard Goldfinch, while continuing to mind his business affairs, also ran a boarding school for a few young gentlemen at his home where he taught them “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Merchants Accompts, Geometry, Trigonometry, Mensuration, and Algebra”. In the advertisement which he placed he also said “The parents and friends of the youth committed to his care, may be assured that the greatest attention will be paid, not only to their good instruction, but likewise to their morals and health”.

Richard’s daughter Sophia had, in 1774, married John Earle, a man from East Meon in Hampshire. But five years later John was declared bankrupt and Richard Goldfinch arranged and chaired a meeting of his creditors at the George Inn in Winchester.

In addition to Compton Farm, Richard also leased the second largest farm in the parish, New Barn Farm, from Sir William Heathcote. In 1755 he gave up that lease in favour of John Newlyn who was the husband of Mary Complyn, a daughter of Richard’s grandfather’s sister Elizabeth Goldfinch. Another farm which he leased was Badgers Farm which is now a suburb of of Winchester.

In Richard’s role as Churchwarden he and Thomas Newlyn, a son of John Newlyn and the Parish Overseer of Poor, wrote to their Members of Parliament in 1788 urging them to oppose a proposed increase in the tax on malt. They told them that the parishioners — “ desire them to oppose any additional duty being laid on Malt, and further to request them to suggest a commutation tax, for the encouragement of the private Breweries, that the industrious labourer may not toil in sorrow but, like their forefathers, chearfully BLESS the land, with the sweat of their brow”.

The last Richard Goldfinch to live in Compton was the previously mentioned Richard’s grandson. He was born in 1786 and married Frances-Sarah Burcher at St. Cross in 1809. He continued to farm in Compton for some years until he retired to Winchester some time in the 1830s. He died there early in the year 1868. His brother Joseph and his widowed sister Sarah continued to live in Compton until the 1850s but Joseph had no children and he eventually retired to live in London.

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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.