William Wolcott

William Wolcott

Thomas Wolcott

f a m i l y
John Wolcott
Thomas Wolcott
  • Born: Abt 1500, Tolland, Somerset, England
  • Died: Abt 1555, Tolland, Somerset, England

    pict2397.jpg [193x115] WATERSMEET FARM (Picture taken in the 1930s)
    Thomas Wolcott, c.1500-c.1555, tucker, is the only Wolcott on the Tolland tax rolls in 1550. He was apparently the same Thomas who was on the tax roll of 1525. Tucking and fulling were names for the finishing process of cloth making, in which newly woven wool cloth was prepared for sale by soaking and beating, usually by means of a water driven mill. Thomas Wolcott apparently leased the fulling mill from the Sellacks. Thomas Wolcott's name is also found in several wills of the period. The will of Elizabeth Hervye of Tolland, dated 1550, has Thomas Wolkot as a witness. The will of William Howe of Tolland, dated 1551, has Thomas Wolcott, the elder, as a witness, and mentions a debt due from John Wolcott for eleven yards of raw cloth. The will of John Seller of Tolland, dated 1553, also has Thomas Wolcott, the elder, as witness. Thomas was a property owning adult in 1525 and still alive in 1553, so he was probably born sometime between around 1500. The information in the 1986 Wolcott Genealogy that he was born in 1487, died 5 June 1554, and was married to a Margaret Welling, appears to be fabricated, as he left no will, and birth, marriage, and death records don't begin at Tolland until 1598. Thomas appears to have been the father of all of the next generation of Tolland Wolcotts, Thomas Wolcott, John Wolcott, Henry Wolcott, and Roger Wolcott, who were all adults living in 1572. An Elizabeth Wolcott died at Lydiard St. Lawrence in 1565. The will of Elizabeth Woolcott of Lawrence Lydiard, widow, is dated 1565 and was proved 26 September 1565. In it, Elizabeth asks that she be buried at Tolland, and bequeaths all her property to Thomas Winter, her servant, who she appoints executor of her will. No one else is mentioned. She may have been the widow of Thomas.
    Among documents which belonged to Henry Wolcott, the immigrant, is an ancient manuscript dated 1618, conveying to Henry's brother, Christopher Wolcott, land in the parishes of Tolland and Lydiard St. Lawrence in the county of Somerset "which now are or lately were parcel of the Manor of Gauldon." Henry Wolcott inherited these lands when Christopher died in 1639.

    American Wolcotts came to believe that the property Henry Wolcott inherited from his brother was the principle residence at Tolland known as "Gauldon Manor". An Inquest Post Mortem, taken at the time that Christopher Wolcott died, however, shows that the property purchased by Christopher was only part of the manor, consisting of three houses and a mill. One of these houses, with the adjacent mill, was the home of Henry's father and grandfather, and probably Henry's birthplace. This house has been renovated and is now a residence called Watersmeet Farm.

    Most of the remainder of the lands that once were the manor of Gauldon, including the main farm called Gauldon Farm, a fulling mill adjacent to it, twelve acres of wood, and two enclosed lots of eight acres called Serles, was purchased by John Turberville of Sampford Peverell, Devon, in 1615. Gauldon Farm was refurbished by the Turbervilles with the ornate plaster decorations with the Turberville coat of arms that distinguish the house today. The house remained in the Turberville family until 1731, after which it passed to successive owners. The house is known today as Gauldon Manor and has recently been renovated and beautifully landscaped. It is now open to the public on certain days for a fee.

    The only records, other than the will of a William Wulcote of Dulverton written in 1500 and proved in 1530, that have been found in Somerset dating prior to1550 are from the parish of Tolland. Most of Tolland parish lay within the manor of Gauldon. In the fourteenth century, the manor of Gauldon was given by Andrew de Bovedon to Taunton Priory, a house of the Knights Templar. The Templars still owned the manor when the Wolcotts first appeared there in 1525. On 12 February 1539, Taunton Priory surrendered all its lands, including Gauldon manor, to Henry VIII. In 1544, the manor was sold by the Crown for 212L to William Standish of London, with remainder to his daughter, Alice, and her husband, Francis Southwell of Norfolk, and their heirs, and failing such heirs, to John Mynne and his heirs. William Standish died in 1553, and the manor went to his daughter, Alice Southwell, who died childless. Gauldon then went to the Mynne family in accordance with the original deed.

    The manor of Gauldon never had a conventional manor house with a resident "lord of the manor." Instead, the Priory at Taunton appears to have leased out the properties and collected the rents. In 1520 John Selleck obtained a lease on the principal farm in the manor and a fulling mill adjoining it for life, with successive leases to his wife Agnes and their sons, John and Henry. This is the house known today as Gauldon Manor. In 1525, John Selleck and John Stodden were the largest landowners in the Tolland parish. Selleck paid a tax of 26 shillings, and Stodden 30 shillings. John Stodden left the parish soon after, but the Selleck family stayed on. John's grandson, Robert Selleck (1554-1623), lived in the house that had been his grandfather's. He married Elizabeth Blake, aunt and probably namesake of Elizabeth Saunders, wife of Henry Wolcott, the immigrant. Robert Selleck was also a witness to the will of Roger Wolcott in 1592, and acted as an agent for Robert Mynne when he sold a portion of Gauldon Manor to Christopher Wolcott in 1618.

    The names of William and Thomas "Wolcot" appear in 1525 on the earliest lay subsidy tax roll found for Tolland. Thomas was taxed on land valued at 5 pounds per year with a tax of 2 shillings 6 pence, and William on land valued at 3 pounds per year with a tax of 18 pence. As far as is known, they were the only Wolcott heads of families living in Somerset at this time. Both William and Thomas Wolcott's names also appear on the Tolland subsidy rolls of 1535 and 1539. The 1535 and the 1539 tax rolls are nearly identical, with the exception that the tax for William Wolcott was substantially changed, from 17s 1/2d in 1535 to 1s 5 1/2d in 1539, while Thomas, like most others, paid the same tax each time; in his case, 8s 1 1/2d. William apparently increased and then decreased his Tolland land holdings. Interestingly, the Sellacks and Wolcotts are the only surnames from 1525 that remain the same on the Tolland tax rolls of 1535. The 1539 tax roll is the last time William's name appears at Tolland, so he either died or left Tolland soon after this. He appears to have been older than Thomas, and so was probably either Thomas' father or older brother. Thomas appears to have been the ancestor of all other Tolland Wolcotts.

    Thomas was formerly thought to have been a descendant of the Walcott family of Shropshire. Recent research has found no evidence to support this. It seems likely that he was related to the Wolcott's of Devonshire. For information on this family, see "The Wolcott Family of Devonshire".

    {see http://www.wolcottfamily.com/index.html for more information on the history of the Wolcott family)
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