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Article I
Article II
Article III

Deacon Stephen Hart
Historical Issues #3

by David L. Hart

The Lyon

The 15th century house group where 'Ipswich' Stephen Hart was born. Experts think it was the right dwelling

The ancient houses on Silent Street stand as a mute witness to the handiwork of builders laboring nearly 500 years ago. As I quietly gazed at their Tudor-style outward walls, I couldn't help but wonder what momentous events they had witnessed in the lives of those living within. Silent Street--the very name evokes the image of holding secrets forever. Stepping through the low doorway of one house now converted into an antiquarian book shop, I inspected the old beams supporting the upper story. I wondered if the Hart family that lived in this structure was my actual bloodline. That is what it comes down to. Is Deacon Stephen Hart who was mentioned in the Judith Morris will and the Stephen Hart who was born on Silent Street, Ipswich, one and the same person?

In the second article of this series, I introduced the christening record for the man I call Ipswich Stephen Hart. He was christened in St. Nicholas parish, Ipswich, on 25 January 1602/3. In this final publication I will share more information about the Ipswich Hart family and give a brief glimpse at other Hart records in the Essex area.

Will Silent Street Reveal Her Secrets?

John Graham deserves credit for finding the deed to the old Silent Street houses. This genealogy researcher for Dr. A. B. Hart of Harvard College, spent considerable time around 1930 digging into the old Ipswich records. Rather than retell his story about finding the deed, I will quote from an undated letter to Dr. Hart:

...I proceeded to search for his home there [St. Nicholas parish, Ipswich]. I rather dispaired of success, as 300 years had elapsed, and few houses of the peasantry survive so long. Deeds of conveyance often locate the sites, and they are the first points of contact. Here again came the disappointing result of H. F. Waters, who found that there had been a wholesale destruction of legal documents and great carelessness in preservation of what existed in Ipswich. My own enquiry at the Registry of the Archdeaconate of Suffolk was also discouraging, as well as many other searches. Good fortune attended me, after the reading of heaps of material in the Ipswich Public Library. The Court Rolls, so far as they survive, had been copied in MS [manuscript] and indexed by the former Librarian, Mr. V. B. Redstone. The following is from the Court Rolls of Ipswich:

Deed conveying to J. Bond messuage and tenement occupied by Stephen Hart:

Robt. Cole of Ips. [Ipswich] tanner and w. [wife] Eliz., Thos. Cole of Wenham Magna [Great Wenham] grocer and w. Mary release to Jn. Bond of Ips. grocer a messuage late in occ. [occupation] of Ric. Baddison now of Steph. Hart in St. Nich. [St. Nicholas] Ips. abutting N. on Colehill Lane, S. tent.[tenement] late of Wm. Jefferie afterwards Rich. Crashefeld dyer, E. tent. late of sd. Wm. Jefferie, W. upon the high street. 28 Mar 1603; enr. [enrolled] 26 Sept 8 Jas I.

The modern reader may need some explanation of the old terminology and abbreviations. N. S. W. & E. refer to points on the compass locating tenancies surrounding the Hart home. Enrolled means enrolled in the Court. 8 Jas I is the way they expressed the eighth year of the reign of James I (1611). A messuage includes a house and the enclosed land and outbuildings. Occupation refers to tenancies where rent is paid to the owner of the property. Stephen Hart did not own the house, but rented it for £3 per year, according to Graham.

John Graham also uncovered the different names Silent Street has had down through the centuries. It was originally called Colyhil or Colehill Lane, then Half-Moon St. (after an inn formerly there), and finally Silent St. for the last two centuries. The latter name came about because the town crier was forbidden there when the old houses were used as a hospital for the wounded during the Napoleonic wars. Furthermore, he discovered why the old houses were preserved when all those around were torn down and replaced with newer structures. No, it wasn't because Stephen Hart lived in them! It was because Cardinal Thomas Wolsey lived in one of them as a boy and owned the group of buildings when he was lord chancellor of England under King Henry VIII between 1511 and 1530!

Graham also found another deed of Stephen Hart (the father of Ipswich Stephen) in occupancy of a messuage in nearby St. Margaret’s parish, Ipswich in 1611. It appears that the Stephen Hart family moved to the new house in about 1607 and Richard was the last child to be christened in St. Nicholas parish (April 28, 1605). There were two more Stephen Hart daughters christened in St. Margaret’s: Sarah on September 27, 1616, and Mary on February 7, 1619. The eleven-year gap between Richard and Sarah is unexplained.

Finally, John Graham reports the marriage of a Stephen Hart, single, to Rebecca Cave of Ipswich at St. Clement’s parish on August 4, 1640. This is obviously not Deacon Stephen since he was in New England by then, and it may not have been Ipswich Stephen who would have been 38 years old at the time. This is rather late to marry for the first time and Graham concluded that this marriage record must be for a cousin of Ipswich Stephen Hart.

John Graham also concluded that Ipswich Stephen is Deacon Stephen. When he first discovered the Ipswich Hart records he was uncertain and raised the question in a letter, "May not Steven in the 1602 Ipswich record be the emigrant [Deacon Stephen]? After further search in Essex did not turn up any other Stephen Hart candidates, he convinced himself that Ipswich Stephen was Deacon Stephen. He then wrote, "On comparing this [St. Nicholas records] to the Judith Morris will it proves to be exactly the same in lineage... The point is that there is no clash of evidence throughout." The absence of a clash of evidence is a rather weak argument and I would like to see positive verification.

Deacon Stephen's Grandfather?

John Graham made many discoveries, but he didn’t find everything there is to uncover in the records. Our present day researcher, Sue Rodwell, excited me several years ago with her own discovery of a record of the birth of a Stephen Hart on November 14, 1568, in the little village of Capel, south of Ipswich, roughly half way to Dedham. The date is right for this to be the elder Stephen Hart of Ipswich who rented the house on Silent Street and who is the father of Ipswich Stephen Hart. The records give the name of his father, mother and three siblings. They are listed below:

1568 May 30 John Hart and Jane Alderton married

1568 Nov. 14 Stephen son of John Hart baptised

1570 Jul. 6 Frances daughter of John Hart baptised

1571 Aug. 17 John son of John Hart baptised

1577/78 Jan. 11 Priscilla daughter of John Hart baptised

1585 Jun. 26 Elizabeth daughter of John Hart buried

Could this Stephen be the father of Ipswich Stephen? The date is right, the location is close to Ipswich, and people did move around quite a bit back then, so it is possibly the man! However, just to show us that there are enough twists and turns in the old records to throw our guesses off, up popped a mysterious record. I saw an index entry for a will of a Jane Hart from Capel in the records. It was probated in 1619, and upon seeing it I immediately thought it could be for Jane Alderton Hart, wife of John Hart. If she married around 20 years of age, she'd be about 70 in 1619. However when Sue looked it up she found the contents of the will simply mentions two sons, John and Henry Thorne, and no Harts at all! What are we to make of this?

My family and I visited Capel (now called Capel St. Mary) a few years ago and found it to be a bedroom community for Ipswich with not much of the old town center left. The church is still there and is well preserved as the St. Mary's Catholic parish center. An old house across the street from the church, Jubilee Cottage, bears the date 1577 at the peak of the eaves. It was certainly there when this Hart clan lived in Capel.

The End of the Line?

This brings us to the end of the information in the Ipswich records, and to complete this description of Stephen Harts in the records, I will share a few more items that Sue has uncovered. The first is for a Stephen Harte in Romford, Essex (near London). He is mentioned in the will of Daniel Reynolds of Romford made in 1600. This will is published in Essex Wills: The Archdeaconry Courts 1597-1603, printed by the Essex Record Office in 1990. Stephen Harte is said to be the son of John Harte from Oldbury farm in Great Wakering. John's children are listed as Stephen, Mary and Edward. An Agnes Harte is also named in the will. The Great Wakering connection for John Harte makes another will listed in the same book for an Edmund Harte of Great Wakering in 1599 of interest as they may be from the same family. Furthermore, this John Harte was undoubtedly a Puritan as he was presented in court in 1602 for not paying his assessment towards the church in Hornchurch parish, Romford and Havering. His sentence was excommunication from the church, a normal punishment for such an offense.

The main problem with this Stephen Harte from Romford is that he is too old to fit the known age of Deacon Stephen Hart. His father could not be the John Hart of Capel as the names of the children stated in the wills do not match. What this does show is that there was at least one other Stephen Hart living in Essex when Deacon Stephen was born.

Up in Stalham, Norfolk there is a 1610 will of a Stephen Hart and another for a Stephen Hart in Hempstead, Norfolk in 1635. They turn out to be father and son and the wills contain no clues that they are related to the Harts in the south.

We have now come to the end of the discoveries. How I would love to end this article with the triumphant statement that a definite connection has been discovered and that the Ipswich bunch is the Deacon Stephen Hart family! Alas, we have no such news and instead we conclude with the faint hope that further digging will uncover the threads to tie the whole lot together. Should this happen, the readership of HHN will be among the first to hear of it. If anyone is moved to help support further research by Sue Rodwell, it would certainly be welcomed by all parties. The search goes on.


The material in this postscript actually goes with the first article in this series, but I include it here as it is quite speculative.

When we first visited the Farmington, Connecticut, cemetery, I recall the excitement of seeing the old tombstone of Stephen Hart Jr., son on Deacon Stephen. I took a photo of it and later studied it carefully. It is cryptically marked as: "SH : AG 55 . DSED 18:7:1689." It was then that the mystery of it struck me. His grave marker in the Farmington cemetery gives his death date as 1689 and his age at death as 55. This means that he was born in 1634, after Deacon Stephen's family landed in New England and while they were living in Cambridge! How could this be if he was mentioned second in the Judith Morris will which implies he went to New England with his family? This is a very difficult question and I don't pretend to have the right answer. However, let me propose the following scenario.

Deacon Stephen's wife bears a son, Stephen, in England. Because of the tension between the Puritans and the established Church of England, Deacon Stephen does not have his son baptized in a Church of England parish and hence the event is not registered. Then Deacon Stephen decides to take his family to New England in 1631. Sometime after their departure on the Lyon the son, Stephen, dies, and the son born in New England in 1634 is named for him.

Although neither this death nor birth is recorded in any New England record, the record keeping was not good at that time and the records may not have been preserved. For example, the name of every individual who died during the first few years of illness and famine when the Winthrop group landed in 1630 is not known today.

One report of the death of a young child caught my eye in John Winthrop’s journal. Winthrop mentions that during the voyage of the Lyon in the fall of 1631, two children died during the crossing. One was his own daughter and the other was not named. Could it have been the young Stephen Hart, son of Deacon Stephen?

A frequent custom was to name a newborn child after an older sibling who previously died. So, since the tombstone indicates that Stephen was born in 1634, he could have been named for the older brother who died earlier and is mentioned in Judith Morris’ will. Yes, it is much speculation, but it is possible. Any thoughts from HHN readers?