Richard Parsons was the earliest known ancestor of Sidney Parsons who bore the Parsons name. He was a great-grandfather of William Parsons of Holton. And William Parsons’ son Charles Parsons of Marston Magna was a great-grandfather of Sidney’s.
Our first record of Richard is an entry in the parish register for the village of Kington Magna in North Dorset. It records that he and his wife Elizabeth baptised a child in October of the year 1673. Unfortunately a corner of the register has been torn away and the child’s name has been lost. Over the next few years there are entries for baptisms of three more of their children and also the burial of one of them, called Dorothy, who died very soon after she was baptised.
Kington Magna, marked on the map by a red cross, is a small village on the edge of the Blackmore Vale in Dorset in the south west of England. The nearest towns are Wincanton, Shaftesbury and Gillingham. It can be seen from the parish register that during the 17th century there were significant family links with Wincanton.
The village is situated on the slope of a hill overlooking the valley of the River Cale, a tributory of the Stour. Wincanton, which in earlier years was called Wyndcaleton or Wincalnton, is also on the River Cale and was a thriving market town known for wool and linen weaving. At the time Richard lived there flax, from which linen is made, was the most important commercial crop in the area. A process of controlled rotting, known as “retting”, was used to soften the fibres before they were woven and the clay soil in the valley would have created conditions suitable for this.
Richard must have been born around the middle of the 17th century which was a turbulent period. The Civil War lasted from 1642 to 1651 and it is hard to know how much it disrupted the lives of ordinary people who were not involved in the fighting. But towards the end of the war and in the years immediately following there was a period of “contagious sickness, plague and pestilence” and poor harvests. For example in Yeovil in 1647 it was said that “manie hundred soules died, and the sickness growing soe daungerous that noe living would undertake to bury the deade infected bodies”.
The period of puritan rule under Cromwell would certainly have affected young Richard’s day-to-day life. The keeping of Sunday as a holy day was strictly enforced, there were compulsory fasting days, and Christmas was a purely religeous festival with no feasting or jollity. That was the austere environment in which Richard grew up. By the time Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 most people were thoroughly fed up and the restoration of the monarchy two years later came as a great relief to many. Cromwell had been buried in Westminster Abbey but his body was disinterred and posthumously ‘executed’ by being hanged and then beheaded.
Richard Parsons was probably born in Kington Magna some time in the 1640s, but if a parish register for that period was kept it has not survived; nor has any record of his marriage to Elizabeth been found. There were several other Parsons families living in the village at the time and it seems likely they were related to each other. Another probable relative was a flax dealer and weaver who had spent most of his life in Wincanton but died in Kington Magna in 1682 and may well have been born there. His name was also Richard Parsons.
Other than their un-named child mentioned above who was baptised in 1673 we know of three more of Richard and Elizabeth’s children:
• Dorothy, who was baptised in December 1676 and buried on Christmas Eve;
• Edward, who was baptised on the 21st of April 1681.
By about 1700 there were three younger men called Richard Parsons living in or near Kington Magna. It is entirely possible that one of them was Richard and Elizabeth’s eldest son. One of them had a wife called Martha, another married Jane Shewin, and the third married Miriam Ridout.
Richard’s wife Elizabeth died in January 1711 and two and a half years later, in August 1713, Richard died. They were both buried in Kington Magna.
Descendants of Richard and Elizabeth Parsons
Three generations of known descendants are shown below.
Richard’s son Moses also lived in Kington Magna with his wife Mary until he died in 1736 leaving his property to his wife Mary for the duration of her life and then to his only surviving son who was also called Moses Parsons. The younger Moses lived at Bow Bridge which is in the western part of Kington Magna parish close to Henstridge Marsh and the WW2 training airfield there.
Richard’s great-grandson William Parsons, who lived from 1751 to 1837, lived for most of his life in Holton, near Wincanton, but kept the land in Kington Magna which he inherited until he died and passed it on to his sons.
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.
Mike can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Copyright © 2013 Mike Parsons. All rights reserved.