Vexed and Troubled Englishmen

vexed and troubled

I am currently working on a prequel to my dark historical novel ‘The Black Hours’, focusing on Maggie Prentice and her daughter Elizabeth. Looking for a suitable name for the mother of Samuel Pendle, I did a quick Google search for popular names of the time (my research is usually far more involved than that, honestly!) I stumbled upon a 1968 book ‘Vexed and Troubled Englishmen’ by colonial historian Carl Bridenbaugh, concerned with the period from 1590-1642 and using sources such as parish and court records to give an idea of the circumstances that caused people to leave the country and settle elsewhere. Mike Foster compiled a list of names using the book for Besides each name he has given an extremely brief summary of the reason for their inclusion in the book. It is this brief sentence that makes compelling reading, giving as it does a little snapshot into the lives of these real people. Some of them are sad, some baffling and others completely hilarious. Here is a very small selection:

Awdy Bartholomew, South Elmham, Norfolk – vicar, unlearned & useless

Ayres John, London – “poor man”, called Hanna Mobbs a whore

Banks William, Wetherby, Yorks – begat bastard 1614, whipped

Barrett Bridget, Lewes Ct – stuck pins in Mrs Dumbrell in church

Benbury Christopher, Southampton brewer – bad beer 1630

Brooke Ralph, Arlington, Sussex – wore horns in churchyard at wedding

Cauker Katherine, Somerset – had bastard child, whipped 1617

Dell Ann, wife of Sditch butcher – unlicensed surgery 1615

Lincolne Marie, Swanton Morley, Norfolk – jilted 1597

Merrett Thomas, Somerton, Somerset – bawdy thievish alehouse 1627

Laney Julius – branded as dangerous beggar aged 7yrs

Johnson Otilwell, Manchester – lacked chimney for hovel fire

Why on earth did Ralph Brooke wear horns in a churchyard? And what kind of unlicensed surgery was Ann Dell, butcher’s wife, carrying out? Then there are the clutch of unfortunates; poor, jilted Marie Lincolne, and Otilwell Johnson, lacking a chimney! Behind each of these sentences there surely lurks a story and some of these characters will hopefully be turning up in one of my future novels. In the meantime I chose the name Bridget for Samuel’s mother. As a character, she is definitely the type of woman who would stick pins in someone in church!

You can see the full list here

And you can even buy the book here (if you have ninety quid to spare!)




  1. I’ve a couple of books of transcripts from workhouse records, and the writers’ observations are similarly brutal. I’m never sure whether to be impressed at them telling it how it is, or whether to be horrified at their lack of humanity!


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