Henley Hall, Shropshire

Henley Hall, Ludlow, Shropshire

This manor was the home of Edward Littleton (1675) family. Edward was the father of Nathaniel and many other children, and husband of Mary Walter. Edward was the Chief Justice of North Wales and Mary’s father was the Chief Justice of South Wales.

Nathaniel Littleton (1605-1654) is referred to as Colonel Nathaniel Littleton in his family records. He was born at Hopton Castle several miles from Ludlow, Shropshire and resided at Henley, the son of Sir Edward Littleton and Ann Walter Littleton. Nathaniel was baptized December 22, 1605 at Hopton Castle. He was the 6th of the eight sons of Edward and Ann Walter Littleton. Sir Edward was the Chief Justice of North Wales. Ann’s father, Sir Edward Walter, was the Chief Justice of South Wales. Nathaniel’s eldest brother, Lord Littleton of Munslow, was Chief Justice of the common pleas court and lord keeper of the Great Seal of England. This qualified Lord Littleton as a big shot in London Society. Feeding the Great Seal three times a day was challenging given the Lord’s incredible schedule. I jest, of course, the keeper of the Great Seal, traveled in the King’s entourage, had an office just down the hall and he served as the Notary Public for the King. Any legal paperwork that crossed the King’s desk was not official without that seal fixed securely in place. It might be said that the guy responsible for the King’s seal was much like the guy who carries the nuclear codes around for the President of the United States.

The family dabbled in law so deeply that it went way beyond dabbling. This fact was demonstrated by one of the most celebrated jurists in English history. Sir Thomas Littleton the author of Treatise on Tenures  (c. 1460) is highly acclaimed to this very day.  The book, both historically and from its intrinsic merit, is characterised as the first textbook of English property law. Thomas is my wife’s 12th Great Grandfather and a great grandfather to Nathaniel as well.

The Littleton family maintained a Pedigree Chart for legal purposes and it contains this note:

“Nathaniel emigrated to Virginia in 1635, a gentleman of the Earl of Southampton’s Company in the Low Countries, 1625.”

The Low Countries included Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. It was in Netherlands that the English Protestants fought against the Spanish Catholics.  It was a war that our ancestors among the Pilgrims knew was coming when they fled Holland in 1620. It was a lose-lose situation for the Pilgrims: the Church of England vs. Spanish Catholics in the Pilgrim’s alleyway of Leiden. It was a war that caused my ancestor, Wolphert Gerritse von Couwenhoven to rethink his financial plan and 401K.  He and his wife, Neeltje, also left Holland for New Amsterdam in the 1620s. The von Couwenhoven’s were the first of the Europeans to legally purchase property from the Native Americans in New England. True story and documented in the New York public library. The deed still exist and is on display there.

The Earl of Southampton, referred to in the above quotation, is not our relative, but was a player in the lives of our ancestors. And, one of the most controversial men of his time: a lothario, brawler, vulgar, academic gentleman and drunk.  He was reviled by Queen Elizabeth, condemned to death for rebellion against the Queen and saved only by her death and the rise of King James I. Southampton was a patron and subject of several of Shakespeare’s sonnets and the work of numerous other poets and playwrights.  Apparently being a patron of a writer could earn a person a verse or two; an early version of building one’s brand and maintaining a public image.

Nathaniel Littleton established his plantation, Nandua, in Accomack County on the Delmarva peninsula of Virginia. He lived in that part of Accomack that would later be incorporated into Northampton County. The division of one county into two became a ‘family matter’ as we will see later.

Speaking of family: Nathaniel methodically plotted his course toward a family of his own once he was situated at Nandua. In 1638 he purchased land from Colonel Edmund Scarborough, who may have married Nathaniel’s sister, Mary, in 1635. The 1635 wedding indicates that Edmund and Mary were either united in England shortly before her arrival in Virginia in 1635, or had a short courtship with the Colonel after she landed here. There is a bit of a scrum forming among those who wish to claim Scarborough as a member of their family tree. For more about that click on the preceding link and ask yourself, “Do I really want this guy in my family tree?”

Our Nathaniel Littleton married Ann Southy Harmer, the widow of Charles Harmer.  Ann was the daughter of another Virginia scion, Henry Southy and Elizabeth Eldy.  Henry Southy (also found spelled as ‘Southey’) came from Rimpton in Somersetshire, England in 1622. The London General Court of the Virginia Company agreed to grant land to Henry for the transportation of settlers to Virginia.

In 1626, The Council of James City approved this order:

Whereas Mr. Henry Southy arrived in this Country in the good ship the “Southampton” Ano domini 1622 with his wife and six children and ten servants it is ordered that his heir Henry Southy shall have nine hundred acres of land and to be taken in any place not already chosen and taken up.

I don’t have to repeat the name of the ship, do I? One gets the impression that families by the name of Southy, Littleton, Scarborough and Southampton had close ties while also living in England. Please note that there were more servants in the Southy enclave than family members: there were eight Southys and ten servants. Do the math. They had two complete baseball teams and awaited the invention of the game.

According to court records of Accomack, Nathaniel was first listed as a commissioner at the May Court of 1637, succeeding the deceased John Howe to the title of Commander at the May Court of 1638. We will see the name Howe again in the Revolutionary War, commanding British forces on land and sea.

The Pedigree Chart found and maintained at the manor of Lord Hatherton reveals that Nathaniel and the Littleton clan descended from the famous bad guy in Mel Gibson’s epic Braveheart: King Edward I of England (1239-1307) and Ed’s father King Henry III. King Henry III was the son of King John whose signature graces the very famous Magna Carta. The pedigree chart was an important tool defining the distribution of family castles and wealth. Nathaniel came to Virginia with all the apparent attributes of a Royalist: 1) He descended from Kings and Queens; 2) served as an officer in the military and 3) his  father, Sir Edward, was an entitled member of the nobility, as was he. The date of Nathaniel’s arrival in Virginia in 1635 jives with the timing of the great migration of Puritan Protestants into the colonies. Our family tree is populated by protestant congregations and preachers, including Puritans, who came to the colonies to escape persecution at the hands of the Anglican Church and the notorious Archbishop Laud. Laud took great pride in disfiguring, dismembering and disemboweling those citizens who failed to adhere to the King’s proclamations.

A look at Nathaniel’s ancestry reveals that his grandfather, John Littleton, was a protestant preacher in Houndslow, England. I am curious as to the role religion played in Nathaniel’s migration. In all likelihood we will find his status as the sixth son of Sir Edward was the chief reason for his migration. The legal procedures of primogeniture took the greater share of Sir Edward’s wealth, at his death in 1621, and locked it into the pocket of Nathaniel’s eldest brother, the Lord Littleton of Munslow. Nathaniel’s financial future would be determined by his ability to acquire new wealth in Virginia. It was the plight of the younger sons in British society.

Nathaniel and Ann were parents of:

  • Edward Littleton who married Sarah Douglass who died in childbirth. He married second, Frances Robins.
  • Southy Littleton (1646-1679) m. Sarah Bowman
  • Hester Littleton (1648-) m. John Robins of ‘Salt Grove’, Northampton, VA.

Please note that two of the three Littleton children married the Robins family kids. Looks innocent enough on paper, but the wedding receptions had to be very interesting. It was like bringing together two Mafia Dons for a dinner.  I picture the Hatfields and McCoys, Frazier and Ali, Bruce and Caitlyn Jenner. All guns had to be left at the door. Pat downs required. Purses opened. You get my drift. ‘But why?’ You ask.

Edward and Esther Littleton were the niece and nephew of Mary Littleton Scarborough and the Colonel. Frances and John Robins were the children of Obedience and Grace O’Neill Waters Robins. For every Yin there is a Yang, for every Darth Vader there is a Luke Skywalker. The notorious Colonel Scarborough had his arch rival. His nemesis was Obedience Robins. For 40 years they were at each other’s throat, a cockfight of all cockfights in the county. But I digress.  I will tell that story on another page.

Little is recorded regarding Nathaniel’s early days in England. He lost his father in 1621 when he was 16 years of age. He emigrated 15 years later in 1636. That much we know. In 1640 he is noted as the Chief Magistrate of Accomac. In 1648, he was the joint collector of revenues for Northampton Co, VA with his brother-in-law, Colonel Edmund Scarborough. If you have not yet read the chapter on Edmund, I suggest you do.  Once you have read it you might wonder as I do, “How did Nathaniel ignore the behavior of Scarborough? Or did he? Was he complicit? Did Nathaniel play first mate to the Pirate?

Littleton is identified as a member of the House of Burgess in 1652. He also served on Governor Bennett’s Executive Council. His signature is fixed on the Oath of Allegiance to the Parliament of England. Virginians threatened rebellion following Oliver Cromwell’s execution of King Charles I and Cromwell demanded their allegiance or else! Nathaniel signed the Oath on March 25, 1651. His name appears along with family members Scarborough, Whittington, Bowman, Southy and others.

Littleton’s allegiance and devotion to Virginia Governor William Berkeley is evidenced in a simple note Berkeley sent to Nathaniel:

Collonel Littleton

I pray (upon sight hereof) deliver unto Mr. Edmund Scarbrugh two of your best Ewe Lambs which I have given him, for his daughters Tabitha & Matilda, charge ye same to Accott, fr.

April 10, 1652.  Your Llovinge frend      William Berkley

I struggle when I read Olde English. Shakespeare’s language is as confusing to me as an Arabic or Japanese script, requiring numchuk skills, an enciphering ability that is hard for me to summon. But this much I know. With this note Berkley bought two sheep from Littleton and had Nathaniel send them to Littleton’s brother-in-law’s (Scarbrugh’s) home. Colonel Scarbrugh’s daughters (Tabby and Matty, Nate’s nieces) were getting a gift from the governor.  Who gives sheep as a gift? And yet we do find such gifts as a precious treasure in the Last Will and Tesatment of a number of our ancestors. I have yet to determine the occasion for Governor Berekley’s gift. But imagine father Edmund’s surprise when he opened the front door and found two ewes on his door step! Imagine the carpet if the kids decided to entertain the muttonheads in the house! I recall the look on my own father’s face when Grampa Leb sent us a puppy on a Christmas long ago.  Two ewes?! Wow.

The Governor’s ‘Llovinge’ note ends with a very business like direction: ‘Bill the sheep to my account.’ The word ‘Accott, fr’ does not escape my fascination. However determined I might be to frame that as ‘account,’ (knowing the British tendency to shorten some words and eliminate unnecesary letters at that time in verbiage history) I am also aware that ‘fr’ could mean ‘friar’ or ‘father’.  ‘Accott’ could refer to a family name that was found in the colony at that time. Regardless, who cares? Let’s go back to the original concept: Imagine two sheep in your house! Perhaps they were a 4H project that would eventually end up on the dining table. Knowing Colonel Scarborough’s propensity for turning everything into a profit, these sheep were doomed and eventually cashed in. (The surname ‘Scarborough’ is spelled in a wide variety of patterns, some of which make sense.)

And finally we come to the matter of slavery, that institution so vital to creating wealth among aristocrats on a tobacco plantation.  If we find a wealthy ancestor in Virginia who hails from England in the 1600’s we can assume they owned slaves. I could be wrong, but I have yet to find the family that didn’t.  Henry Southy and Nathaniel Littleton owned 13 slaves and Henry sold one for 1200 pounds of tobacco. I have read that Nathaniel Littleton was the first in America to sell a slave to another man.  I doubt that. Nathaniel did sell a slave to Garrett Anderson for 1,000 pounds of tobacco. We also find Anderson’s in our family tree as direct line ancestors.  But I doubt that Nathaniel was the first to sell a slave and who in God’s good name would want that written on the record of their life’s work? It is not that I want to launch into a Ben Affleck kind of mentality and pretend the transaction didn’t happen. But, I have found a claim elsewhere that Captain Whittington, another great grandfather in the family tree, was the first to sell one of his slaves to another plantation. It pains me to come across these findings in history. And I am sorry to report that Natives were being kidnapped in the forests of New England and sold into slavery in the West Indies and Spain long before there was a Jamestown or Plimouth Colony. At any rate, it really does hurt to find these facts in one’s family history.


Hopton Castle

While Nathaniel’s immediate ancestors maintained quarters in County Salop in England, British historians track the family migration over the centuries from Worcestershire, England to Salop and then across the Atlantic to Virginia. The family shares a Coat of Arms with the Royal Family of Plantagenets.

The crest appears at the top of this page and the descent from the good Kings and Queens is found below. For more about these characters feel free to click on the links when and where I make them available. Or do your own online search. I don’t care. I’m not doing this to make your life easier.

I do want to point you in the direction of another link within this blog though that articulates the link to monarchs from another direction in the Whittington family. That trail leads us through the Grandmother Laurel Sulllivan to the Osbornes, eventually through New England families in the 1600s, including Obadiah Bruehn to King Edward I. The Sulllivan to Obadiah Bruehn link takes the family history to the second of Edward’s wives, Eleanor of Castile.  So, both Whittington lines (via Bruehn and via Littleton) end up in the bed of King Edward I, with two different mothers, each legally betrothed (Marguerite after the death of Eleanor) to King Edward I. Note the lineage does go back to William the Conqueror and Charlemagne, etc.

  1. King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane
  2. King John Lackland, he of the Magna Charta of England (1215) m. Isabella of Angoulême
  3. King Henry III of England (Plantagenets) m. Queen Eleanor of Provence
  4. Edward I King of England (1231- 1307) m. Marguerite de France (1279-1318) his name was also    Longshanks, Hammer of the Scots.  She was a Capetian Family member, daughter of King Philip III of France and Maria de Brabant
  5. Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk (1300-1338) m. Alice de Hales
  6. Margaret, Duchess of Norfolk (1322-1399) m. John de Segrave (1315-1353)
  7. Elizabeth de Segrave m. John de Mowbray
  8. Thomas Gray m. Joan de Mowbray
  9. John Gray m. Joan Cherleton
  10. Henry Gray m. Antigone of Gloucester
  11. Elizabeth Grey m. Roger Kynaston
  12. Jane Kynaston m. Roger Thornes
  13. John Thornes m. Elizabeth Astley
  14. Richard Thornes m. Margaret Fychan
  15. Alice Thornes m. Rev. John Littleton
  16. Sir Edward Littleton m. Dame Mary Walter
  17. Nathaniel Littleton m. Ann Southy
  18. Southy Littleton m Sarah Bowman