March 10, 2016 by auntkatefirmin
Very early parish registers survive for Wootton Bassett starting about 1594 for baptisms, and 1584 for marriages and burials. The family of Henry and Edith Horsell first appear in 1595 with the birth of their son Humfrie. It’s pretty amazing to have a paper trail that leads this far back, but I can’t help wanting to puzzle out the family even farther back.
Was Henry born in Wootton Bassett? What was his occupation? What about Edith – what was her surname and where did she come from? When and where did they marry? It’s hard to find the answers to these questions; I suspect that the parish registers are far from all inclusive and I hope to find out more about that issue. Unfortunately, not much else in the way of paperwork from Wootton Bassett has survived from their era. There could be something in a manor roll or perhaps a deed might turn up, but as far as I can tell the tax and other lists have not survived. (There is a “ship money” list from 1635 but no Horsells are listed.)
In part, my curiosity was piqued by a Henry with a son Ruben who was apprenticed in London on June 13, 1610. The boy’s father was a clerk who lived in Purton – only five miles from Wootton Bassett. Ruben was apprenticed to Alexander Thurman as a cutler. The traditional age for an apprentice was 14 and Ruben, the son of Henry & Edith of Wootton Bassett, would have turned 14 some time before May 1611. Given how common the two names are in the family, we can’t be certain if there was one boy named Ruben with a father named Henry Horsell or a two boys living about four miles apart.
I do like the idea that Henry the clerk is “our” Henry. In this scenario Henry had business in both Purton and Wootton Bassett and provided for his oldest son, Ruben, by setting him up for a career in London and for his second son Bartholomew by providing him with property Wootton Bassett. This surmise has not been backed up by property records as I’m not yet certain when the Horsell family first became freeholders in Wootton Bassett. It also leaves uncertainty about the other children presumed to have survived childhood: Nathan, Anne, and Christian.
So far the evidence is too scanty to make any claims about Ruben the apprentice cutler and consists mostly of the absence of records. The Ruben of Wootton Bassett does not appear to have a burial recorded in Wootton Bassett. I haven’t yet found the profession of the Henry in Wootton Bassett – if he was a clerk and an educated man it is quite possible his family lived in Wootton Bassett where the children were baptized and he traveled to Purton to conduct various business affairs and there was only one Henry. I haven’t found any official church appointments for Henry Horsell of Purton – I think he was an administrative clerk rather than an clergyman. I haven’t found any evidence for Ruben as an adult in London.
Other early sightings of the name Horsell in Wiltshire:
-Millicent Horsal, buried in Wootton Bassett in 1603.
-Mathew Horsell, buried in Clyffe Pypard in 1606 (about 5 miles south of Wootton Bassett)
Please add a comment if you’ve found another Horsell in or near Wootton Bassett at this time, or you know of possible clues to the identity of any of these individuals, or you have ideas about other sources of information.