March 14, 2016 by auntkatefirmin
At this point I’m quite confident that the second wife of Henry Horsell, cordwainer of Wootton Bassett, was Sarah Skull of Tockenham and that Sarah survived Henry. For the moment, I will simply begin with some speculations about Sarah’s family and ancestors. I will stick with the spelling Skull, though Scull was also used. For this post I will refer to the village of Tockenham, the related settlement of Tockenham Wick and the parish of Tockenham simply as Tockenham as not all the sources are consistent in their use of “Wick” to describe the community in the north of the parish.
In 1697 a list of the individuals in Tockenham was compiled which includes Sarah and her parents. If the 1697 list of the inhabitants of Tockenham is reasonably correct all of Charles’ children were living at that time. After reviewing the later tax lists, I am confident that Charles’ second wife was named Susan. My best guess is that in 1697 there were three Skull households in Tockenham parish, one headed by Charles and one by Francis, and the third with only the widow Christian Skull, wife of Geoffrey Skull. Finding the whereabouts of the children of Francis and his relationship to Charles is an exercise for another day.
I have not reviewed the corresponding tax lists for Lyneham; the Lyneham-Tockenham parish boundary was once the main street in Tockenham village and those on the west side of the street were in Lyneham so I expect to find more Skulls there. There were also Skull families in Brinkworth and Grittenham (a “tithing” of Brinkworth) who are most likely related. I have a sense that the Skull family properties were located in more than one parish or manor and while the Charles Skull baptised in Tockenham in 1654 was a son of a Jeffrey Skull, and his mother was probably Christian Skull, I haven’t found any siblings for Charles or parents for Jeffrey of Tockenham.
There is a baptismal record from 1696 for Sarah, daughter of Charles Skull. If I have interpreted the records in the tax list and the parish register correctly, her father was married twice. Charles’ first wife Alis was buried in early 1690 and he appears to have married again right away. Charles and Alis had at least three children: Charles, Alis/Alice, and Elizabeth. Charles and his second wife had a number of children including: Susan/Susanna, Jane, Jeffrey, Sarah, Mary, possibly Ruth, and Thomas. If there is a record for either marriage, it has been elusive. Charles’ son Charles also had a large family and his oldest children are older than his father’s youngest children – I think I have them mostly sorted out correctly, but time will tell.
As mentioned above, Sarah’s father Charles was baptized in Tockenham in 1654; he was the son of Jeffrey/Geoffrey. Before I draw any conclusions about this particular Jeffrey, such as when he died, I will need to do more work as Jeffrey was a very common name in the Skull family. My sense is that the Skull family was relatively well-off and had a number of freehold and leasehold properties in Tockenham, Brinkworth and Grittenham, and I wonder whether or not the other children in the family might have been baptized elsewhere.
So far the clues regarding Charles’ mother suggest the following story; Christian Skull is hardly a common name so I will act as if all references are to the same woman. Working backwards, she was buried in Tockenham in 1705 as a “poor widow.” She was documented in the Tockenham tax lists in 1697, 1700, and 1701. The next reference jumps back in time to 1646 when the will of Thomas Willis, yeoman of Tockenham Wick, was proved in the Perogative Court of Canterbury; in the probate abstracts the widow of Thomas was named as “now wife of Geoffrey Skull.” A John Skull was a witness to the will. Since we don’t know where or when Christian and Geoffrey were married, the location of Geoffrey’s primary residence is not clear. The will of Thomas Willis gives the name of his father-in-law as Symon Gleed, so Christian’s maiden name was Gleed and she may have married Thomas about 1638 after obtaining a license. The only issue with this scenario is that she would have been as old as 88 when she died, which is possible but uncommon.
There are transcribed will extracts and manor records that provide glimpses of earlier members of the Skull family, though not the branch in Tockenham. It is even possible the Skulls of Tockenham were descendants of Sir John Skull, a Norman knight who was granted a manor in Brecon, which was in that era part of the so-called “Welsh Marches” or borderlands between England and Wales.
Returning to Sarah and her immediate family, her parents moved to Wootton Bassett before 1705 (see tax list post) and a number of her brother’s children were baptized in Wootton Bassett. She was in the right place, she was the right age, and confirmations continue to emerge for the conclusion that she was the wife of Henry Horsell and the mother of all his children after Ruben.