Sir William Phips: A Sea Tale in Which Something’s Very Fishy

Below is the strange tale of William Phipps, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony, and his successful search for fabulous sunken treasure in the Caribbean, as written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Before we get into that tale, here are some odd facts:

Although the story appears, for the most part, to have been authentic, the part that seems questionable has to do with William’s extremely humble, stereotypically humble, beginnings. Even if he was born in poverty, one would think, wasn’t his family likely connected in some at least distant way with other individuals named Phipps, some of whom were persons of wealth and position?

Hawthorne, in his account, places William Phipps into an association with two highly unlikely individuals – King James and the Duke of Albemarle. This is an association which seems outrageously unlikely if there was not more to the tale than Hawthorne tells us.

Hawthorne has Phipps first going to King James for funding for his sunken treasure recovery venture. Actually, it wasn’t King James who first outfitted Phipps, but instead King Charles II. But Charles only lived to 6 February 1685.

Then his brother King James II enters into the picture, having taken the throne by that time. When Phipps returned to the king, asking for funding for a second expedition, it was King James II who refused funding, which brought the Duke of Albemarle into the picture.

The second creation of the Dukedom of Albemarle involved George Monck, the first Duke of Albemarle (1608-1670), and Christopher Monck, the second Duke (1653-1688). Then Henry FitzJames (1673-1702) was styled the so-called first Duke of Albemarle (1673-1702), as the first Jacobite creation, in 1696. FitzJames was an illegitimate son of James II, and this is where it begins to get very interesting.

James II was born in 1633. The first Jacobite Duke of Albemarle was an illegitimate son of King James II. An illegitimate daughter of King James II was Catharine Darnley. She is referred to in printed histories as James’s “natural” daughter, which means his illegitimate daughter.

She married James Annesley, which made her the Countess of Anglesey. Then because of her second marriage, which was to John Sheffield, she became Duchess of the County of Buckingham and of Normanby.

James Annesley and his wife Catharine Darnley (again, the daughter of King James II) were the parents of Catharine Annesley, born in 1701. She married William Phipps in 1718.

That William Phipps was born in 1698 and was christened in Middlesex. He was a son of Constantine Henry Phipps, born in 1655 or 1656 in Reading, Berkshire, England. His father, in turn, was Francis Phipps, born in 1610, who is positioned as a patriarch in the Four Visitations of Berkshire.

Francis, according to heraldry sources, married Anne Sharpe, but appears to have also remarried later to Sarah, widow of Col. John Jeaffreson of St. Kitts in the Caribbean.

What is going on here? William Phipps didn’t marry Catharine Annesley until about 24 years after Sir William Phips/Phipps had died. And yet here are some amazing oddities:

  • Sir William Phipps supposedly comes from a dirt-poor family with presumably no social connections, yet marries into high society.
  • Then he starts a business of transporting goods from the West Indies to Boston.
  • He approaches King James II, who just happens to father a woman who later married a Phipps of supposedly an entirely different Phipps family but with connections to the West Indies.
  • That woman’s brother just happened to be the Duke of Albemarle, apparently the same one who financed Sir William Phips’s second expedition.
  • The William who married the daughter of King James was descended from the family of Francis Phipps of Reading, Berkshire, England, with West Indies connections.

This clearly suggests something going on that was covert and that has escaped the history books. Just what, exactly, will take some more digging. It even makes one wonder whether Sir William could have been the immigrant who “got in a fight with some big wheel in England and killed him.” At least, there seems to be some hint of a possibility that this was a man with connections who, for whatever reason, had fallen from grace.

From Nathaniel Hawthorne, Grandfather’s Chair: True Stories from New England History and Biography (New York: University Publishing Company, 1901), pp. 46-52:

Chapter 10: The Tale of the Sunken Treasure.

“And what became of the chair?” inquired Clara.

“The outward aspect of our chair,” replied Grandfather, “was now somewhat the worse for its long and arduous services. It was considered hardly magnificent enough to be allowed to keep its place in the council chamber of Massachusetts. In fact, it was banished as an article of useless lumber. But Sir William Phipps happened to see it, and, being much pleased with its construction, resolved to take the good old chair into his private mansion. Accordingly, with his own gubernatorial hands, he repaired one of its arms, which had been slightly damaged.”

“Why, Grandfather, here is the very arm!” interrupted Charley, in great wonderment. “And did Sir William Phipps put in these screws with his own hands? I am sure he did it beautifully! But how came a governor to know how to mend a chair?”

“I will tell you a story about the early life of Sir William Phipps,” said Grandfather. “You will then perceive he well knew how to use his hands.”

So Grandfather related the wonderful and true tale of The Sunken Treasure.

Picture to yourselves, my dear children, a handsome, old-fashioned room, with a large, open cupboard at one end, in which is displayed a magnificent gold cup, with some other splendid articles of gold and silver plate. In another part of the room, opposite to a tall looking-glass, stands our beloved chair, newly polished, and adorned with a gorgeous cushion of crimson velvet tufted with gold.

In the chair sits a man of strong and sturdy frame, whose face had been roughened by northern tempests and blackened by the burning sun of the West Indies. He wears an immense periwig flowing down over his shoulders. His coat has a wide embroidery of golden foliage; and his waistcoat, likewise, is all flowered over and bedizened with gold. His red, rough hands, which have done many a good day’s work with the hammer and adze, are half covered by the delicate lace ruffles at his wrists. On a table lies his silver-hilted sword; and in a corner of the room stands his gold-headed cane, made of a beautifully polished West India wood.

Somewhat such an aspect as this did Sir William Phipps present when he sat in Grandfather’s chair after the king had appointed him governor of Massachusetts. Truly there was need that the old chair should be varnished and decorated with a crimson cushion, in order to make it suitable for such a magnificent-looking personage.

But Sir William Phipps had not always worn a gold-embroidered coat, nor always sat so much at his ease as he did in Grandfather’s chair. He was a poor man’s son, and was born in the province of Maine, where he used to tend sheep upon the hills in his boyhood and youth. Until he had grown to be a man, he did not even know how to read and write. Tired of tending sheep, he next apprenticed himself to a ship-carpenter, and spent about four years in hewing the crooked limbs of oak trees into knees for vessels.

In 1673, when he was twenty-two years old, he came to Boston, and soon afterwards was married to a widow lady, who had property enough to set him up in business. It was not long, however, before he lost all the money that he had acquired by his marriage, and became a poor man again. Still he was not discouraged. He often told his wife that, some time or other, he should be very rich, and would build a “fair brick house” in the Green Lane of Boston.

Do not suppose, children, that he had been to a fortune-teller to inquire his destiny. It was his own energy and spirit of enterprise, and his resolution to lead an industrious life, that made him look forward with so much confidence to better days.

Several years passed away, and William Phipps had not yet gained the riches which he promised to himself. During this time he had begun to follow the sea for a living. In the year 1684 he happened to hear of a Spanish ship which had been cast away near the Bahama Islands, and which was supposed to contain a great deal of gold and silver. Phipps went to the place in a small vessel, hoping that he should be able to recover some of the treasure from the wreck. He did not succeed, however, in fishing up gold and silver enough to pay the expenses of the voyage.

But, before he returned, he was told of another Spanish ship, or galleon, which had been cast away near Porto de la Plata. [Footnote: “A seaport of Haiti.”] She had now lain as much as fifty years beneath the waves. This old ship had been laden with immense wealth, and hitherto nobody had thought of the possibility of recovering any part of it from the deep sea which was rolling and tossing it about. But though it was now an old story, and the most aged people had almost forgotten that such a vessel had been wrecked, William Phipps resolved that the sunken treasure should again be brought to light.

He went to London and obtained admittance to King James, who had not yet been driven from his throne. He told the king of the vast wealth that was lying at the bottom of the sea. King James listened with attention, and thought this a fine opportunity to fill his treasury with Spanish gold. He appointed William Phipps to be captain of a vessel called the Rose Algier, carrying eighteen guns and ninety-five men. So now he was Captain Phipps of the English navy.

Captain Phipps sailed from England in the Rose Algier, and cruised for nearly two years in the West Indies, endeavoring to find the wreck of the Spanish ship. But the sea is so wide and deep, that it is no easy matter to discover the exact spot where a sunken vessel lies. The prospect of success seemed very small, and most people would have thought that Captain Phipps was as far from having money enough to build a “fair brick house” as he was while he tended sheep.

The seamen of the Rose Algier became discouraged, and gave up all hope of making their fortunes by discovering the Spanish wreck. They wanted to compel Captai Phipps to turn pirate. There was a much better prospect, they thought, of growing rich by plundering vessels which still sailed in the sea than by seeking a ship that had lain beneath the waves full half a century. They broke out in open mutiny, but were finally mastered by Phipps and compelled to obey his orders. It would have been dangerous, however, to continue much longer at sea with such a crew of mutinous sailors; and, besides, the Rose Algier was leaky and unseaworthy. So Captain Phipps judged it best to return to England.

Before leaving the West Indies, he met with a Spaniard, an old man, who remembered the wreck of the Spanish ship, and gave him directions how to find the very spot. It was on a reef of rocks, a few leagues from the Porto de la Plata.

On his arrival in England, therefore, Captain Phipps solicited the king to let him have another vessel and send him back again to the West Indies. But King James, who had probably expected that the Rose Algier would return laden with gold, refused to have anything more to do with the affair. Phipps might never have been able to renew the search if the Duke of Albemarle and some other noblemen had not lent their assistance. They fitted out a ship, and gave the command to Captain Phipps. He sailed from England, and arrived safely at Porto de la Plata, where he took an adze and assisted his men to build a large boat.

The boat was intended for the purpose of going closer to the reef of rocks than a large vessel could safely venture. When it was finished, the captain sent several men in it to examine the spot where the Spanish ship was said to have been wrecked. They were accompanied by some Indians who were skillful divers and could go down a great way into the depths of the sea.

The boat’s crew proceeded to the reef of rocks, and rowed round and round it a great many times. They gazed down into the water, which was so transparent that it seemed as if they could have seen the gold and silver at the bottom, had there been any of those precious metals there. Nothing, however, could they see; nothing more valuable than a curious sea shrub, which was growing beneath the water, in a crevice of the reef of rocks. It flaunted to and fro with the swell and reflux of the waves, and looked as bright and beautiful as if its leaves were gold.

“We won’t go back empty-handed,” cried an English sailor, and then he spoke to one of the Indian divers. “Dive down and bring me that pretty sea shrub there. That’s the only treasure we shall find.”

Down plunged the diver, and soon rose dripping from the water, holding the sea shrub in his hand. But he had learned some news at the bottom of the sea.

“There are some ship’s guns,” said he, the moment he had drawn breath, “some great cannon, among the rocks, near where the shrub was growing.”

No sooner had he spoken than the English sailors knew that they had found the very spot where the Spanish galleon had been wrecked so many years before. The other Indian divers immediately plunged over the boat’s side and swam headlong down, groping among the rocks and sunken cannon. In a few moments one of them rose above he water with a heavy lump of silver in his arms. The single lump was worth more than a thousand dollars. The sailors took it into the boat, and then rowed back as speedily as they could, being in haste to inform Captain Phipps of their good luck.

But confidently as the captain had hoped to find the Spanish wreck, yet now that it was really found, the news seemed too good to be true. He could not believe it till the sailors showed him the lump of silver.

“Thanks be to God!” then cries Captain Phipps. “We shall every man of us make our fortunes!”

Hereupon the captain and all the crew set to work, with iron rakes and great hooks and lines, fishing for gold and silver at the bottom of the sea. Up came the treasure in abundance. Now they beheld a table of solid silver, once the property of an old Spanish grandee. Now they found a sacramental vessel which had been destined as a gift to some Catholic church. Now they drew up a golden cup, fit for the king of Spain to drink his wine out of. Perhaps the bony hand of its former owner had been grasping the precious cup, and was drawn up along with it. Now their rakes or fishing-lines were loaded with masses of silver bullion. There were also precious stones among the treasure, glittering and sparkling, so that it is a wonder how their radiance could have been concealed.

There is something sad and terrible in the idea of snatching all this wealth from the devouring ocean, which had possessed it for such a length of years. It seems as if men had no right to make themselves rich with it. It ought to have been left with the skeletons of the ancient Spaniards who had bene drowned when the ship was wrecked, and whose bones were now scattered among the gold and silver.

But Captain Phipps and his crew were troubled with no such thoughts as these. After a day or two they lighted on another part of the wreck, where they found a great many bags of silver dollars. But nobody could have guessed that these were money-bags. By remaining so long in the salt water they had become covered over with a crust which had the appearance of stone, so that it was necessary to break them in pieces with hammers and axes. When this was done a stream of silver dollars gushed out upon the deck of the vessel.

The whole value of the recovered treasure – plate, bullion, precious stones, and all – was estimated at more than two millions of dollars. It was dangerous even to look at such a vast amount of wealth. A sea-captain who had assisted Phipps in the enterprise utterly lost his reason at the sight of it. He died two years afterwards, still raving about the treasures that lie at the bottom of the sea. It would have been better for this man if he had left the skeletons of the shipwrecked Spaniards in quiet possession of their wealth.

Captain Phipps and his men continued to fish up plate, bullion, and dollars, as plentifully as ever, till their provisions grew short. Then, as they could not feed upon gold and silver any more than old King Midas could, they found it necessary to go in search of better sustenance. Phipps resolved to return to England. He arrived there in 1687, and was received with great joy by the Duke of Albemarle and other English lords who had fitted out the vessel. Well they might rejoice, for they took by far the greater part of the treasure to themselves.

The captain’s share, however, was enough to make him comfortable for the rest of his days. It also enabled him to fulfill his promise to his wife, by building a “fair brick house” in the Green Lane of Boston. The Duke of Albemarle sent Mrs. Phipps a magnificent gold cup worth at least five thousand dollars. Before Captain Phipps left London, King James made him a knight, so that instead of the obscure ship carpenter who had formerly dwelt among them, the inhabitants of Boston welcomed him on his return as the rich and famous Sir William Phipps.

John Phipps and the Transporting of Convicts

A couple posts back, the remark was made that a Charles Phipps from Dublin and living in Philadelphia evidently couldn’t have been transported as a convict, since he advertised himself as a schoolmaster. Evidently that remark was premature.

Another source of information about the practice of transporting convicts to the Americas is the article “Transported Convicts in the New World” in the Early American Crime site. There it’s stated (in the “Skill Sets” section) that convicts who had been transported to America and who were educated could attempt to portray themselves as school teachers.

In fact, that article also says that planters sometimes purchased convicts or indentured servants to teach their children. That brings to mind Rev. John Phipps, discussed in an earlier post, who was hired, apparently in 1746, as a private tutor by John Mercer, to teach Mercer’s children. This was in Stafford County in the Northern Neck of Virginia. John Phipps had evidently come from Dublin, Ireland

The article further says that most of those convicts who were transported to Virginia lived north of the York River, especially in the Northern Neck between the Rappahannock and the Potomac. This appears to have been right around the area of Stafford County.

Mercer was in the same social social circle as George Washington, who, the article says, “purchased” four convicts in 1774. John Mercer and John Phipps both appear to come to Virginia from Dublin, and John Mercer’s wife married a Phipps who appears to have been related to John Phipps.

The Transporting of Convicts from the British Isles

Since recent posts have mentioned the British practice of transporting convicts to North America and the West Indies, the following might be of interest: The website of the National Archives in the UK includes a helpful page headed “Criminal Transportees: Further Research.”

That page notes that “few” records pertaining to individual convicts who were transported to North America and the West Indies have survived. Such convicts were all sent to North America from 1718 to 1776, according to this source. The same source says that after 1776 no convicts were sent to North America.

That would have been because of the Revolutionary War, but various other sources say that such transportation ceased by 1775.

Evidently far more records are available regarding convicts later sent to Australia, beginning in 1787. Between 1775 and 1787, according to other sources, some prisoners were kept in older ships in various ports. Those ships were used as floating jails.

Shots in the Dark Regarding Ireland

Much circumstantial evidence appears to likely link the Phipps family of Ashe County, North Carolina with the Phipps family of colonial Eastern Virginia, but no direct line back any farther than the supposed/so-called “seven brothers” has been positively identified. What does appear likely is that various lateral lines – perhaps brothers or cousins – have been found.

For what it’s worth (as has been noted before), Jesse Phipps (1914 to 1992) of Washington County, Missouri, great-great-grandson of Jesse Phipps (1786-1788 to 1865) of Ashe County, North Carolina, Owen County, Indiana, and Putnam County, Missouri, claimed that the “old-timers” had said that the immigrant Phipps came to America after killing a “big wheel” in England during a fight. If there’s any veracity to that claim, then the immigrant ancestor must have either come as a transported convict, in which case he would not exactly have been met at the dock in America by a welcome committee, or he escaped, if that was possible, in which case he would have kept a low profile.

Another family legend, which has also been noted earlier, asserts that the immigrant came to Virginia from Ireland rather than England. Earlier posts have discussed the apparent close connection between the Phipps family in England and the Phipps family in Ireland, the latter also going by such various spellings as Phibbs, ffibbs, and the like, in addition to Phipps.

The online Urban Dictionary, in its definition of “Phibbs” (a source which was mentioned in an earlier post) makes several bold claims:

(1) The source emphasizes the hatred that the English had for the Phibbs family in Ireland, although other sources appear to suggest an extremely high likelihood that this was simply another branch of the Phipps family in England.
(2) The source says that the English killed some of the family, while banishing others to Australia and Tasmania. That might have occurred late, other sources indicating that transporting convicts to Australia and Tasmania didn’t begin until 1787 and 1803, respectively, but could there have been transportation to America earlier, involving this family, or is the writer only referring to relatively late events?
(3) The source claims that various materials associated with the Phibbs family were destroyed, including statues, memorials, and “nearly all records” of the family. This, it was said, occurred during the battle for Irish independence. Does this pertain to 1798 and later, or what? Could this be applied to an earlier era as well? This would seem to likely be referring to much later events; see here.
(4) The source says that during the American Revolutionary War, the Phibbs family fought against the British. Is this true? If so, who is being referred to?
(5) Perhaps most significantly for our purposes, the source refers to three brothers who “escaped” to “the Americas” about 1753.

“The Americas” is a bit vague. That could mean Virginia, or it could even mean the Caribbean. As noted earlier, a forum post referred to these brothers as supposedly coming to the Eastern “USA” (obviously referring to what later became the USA) in 1753.

One reply claimed that this family settled in New Market Township, Highland County, Ohio, while another reply claimed that they actually left Sligo, Ireland about 1790, and that William Phibbs, born in Sligo in 1762, settled in Guilford County, North Carolina and married Margaret Maxwell in 1796. Guilford County is, of course, the same location where families who used the spelling Phipps lived beginning in that same century, and who are assumed to be related to the Phipps family of Ashe County and the surrounding area.

1790, however, is much later than 1753, and would place this family as having much less genealogical significance to the question of the origin of the Ashe County Phipps family. Could the 1790 claim have referred to a different set of brothers, however? Could there still have been a 1753 emigration?

Regarding Margaret Maxwell’s surname, the Maxwell family appears closely associated with the Phipps family in the Ashe County area.  The Maxwell family married into the Phipps family, the Toliver family, and the McMillan family, all of which families were associated and connected through intermarriages.

Even if the claims about the 3 Irish brothers are true, those claims might not concern the immigrant ancestor of the two Jesses, if he came to America because of his own actions. On the other hand, three brothers supposedly “escaped.” Escaped from what? Would there be any record pertaining to this, anywhere?

Did the ancestor of Jesse Phipps and his father Samuel of Ashe County escape to America from Ireland? Would that have even been possible? A printed record of Irish crimes in the county of Sligo, the place associated with the Phibbs family, refers to several Matthew Phibbs “offenses” (listed under homicide) in 1860. On the same page is mentioned someone else (Henry Culkin), who fired at someone, then escaped to America. If it was possible in 1860, then how much more so in the previous century?

As a parenthetical note, A Charles Phipps is said to have come from Dublin to Philadelphia in 1729, or at least by that year. He doesn’t appear to have escaped or to have been transported as a convict, since he advertised himself as a schoolmaster. Further, Henry Ramsay Phipps (died 1949), who wrote a manuscript on the Phipps family of primarily the county of Berkshire in England, appears to have regarded them as connected to family members in Ireland.

Capt. Phipps, the Turbervilles, and the History of Barbecue

The following British lineage has already been noted earlier:

  • Constantine Henry Phipps, born 1655/6 probably Reading, Berkshire, father of William and Ann, both below
  • William Phipps, son of Constantine Henry Phipps above and brother of Ann below, christened 1698 Middlesex, m. Catharine Annesley in 1718, granddaughter of James II
  • Ann Phipps, sister of William Phipps above, married George Reeves he came to Virginia where he died
  • Constantine John Phipps christened 1722, son of William Phipps above
  • Constantine John Phipps born 1744, son of Constantine John Phipps above; member of Parliament, attempted to reach the North Pole in 1773; godfather of Betty Tayloe Corbin born 1764 apparently in Virginia; she married George Lee Turberville of, apparently, Westmoreland and Richmond Counties, Virginia

This of course yields the following direct line:

  • Constantine Henry Phipps, b. 1655/56 prob. Reading, Berkshire
  • William Phipps, chr. 1698 Middlesex
  • Constantine John Phipps, chr. 1722
  • Constantine John Phipps, b. 1744

Regarding Betty Tayloe Corbin of Virginia who had the later Constantine John Phipps of England as her godfather and who married George Lee Turberville of Virginia, this family is discussed in a published collection of the writings of Philip Vickers Fithian. That book is by John Rogers Williams, ed., Philip Vickers Fithian: Journal and Letters, 1767-1774 (Princeton, New Jersey: The University Library, 1900). The book is subtitled “Student at Princeton College 1770-72 Tutor at Nomini Hall in Virginia 1773-74.”

Something written by Fithian on Saturday, 3 September 1774 (p. 242) has been often quoted in connection with, of all things, the history of barbecue:

“I was invited this morning by Captain Fibbs to a Barbecue: this differs but little from the Fish Feasts, instead of Fish the Dinner is roasted Pig, with the proper apendages, but the Diversion & exercise are the very same at both – I declined going and pleaded in excuse unusual & unexpected Business for the School . . . . “

For some odd reason (perhaps they know more than we do), at least a couple web sources which quote from this passage refer to Captain Fibbs as “Captain Fibbs (Gibbs).” Is this correct, or are they just assuming this? Perhaps a Gibbs was found in the area in records but not a Fibbs. Perhaps that was because he was actually Phipps. And perhaps that was because he was only visiting from England.

Support for this as a real possibility stems from the fact that the writings of Fithian frequently refer to the families of Turberville and Corbin. Again, Captain Constantine John Phipps (Captain Fibbs?) was the godfather of Betty Corbin who married George Turberville. Also keep in mind that the surname Phipps was commonly rendered as Fibbs or Phibbs, at least in Ireland.

The George Turberville who Betty Corbin married appears to have been of Westmoreland and then Richmond Counties in Virginia. The introduction to Fithian’s writings notes that Fithian was a tutor at Nomini Hall in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and that it was there that he associated with the Turbervilles as well as the Tayloes.

Betty Corbin was actually born Betty Tayloe, born 28 Mar 1764 with Constantine John Phipps as one of her two godfathers. Then a marriage license was issued to George Turberville in Westmoreland County, Virginia dated 4 Jan 1782 for him to marry her.

The Turberville family appears to tie into the Lee family, which is likely where George Turberville’s middle name, Lee, came from. A footnote on p. 141 says regarding the Turberville family that “The correct spelling is Turberville, from the French Tour de Ville. The Virginia Turbervilles are said to be descended from the English Family of Bere Regis, Dorset.”

Also in 1774, a Mr. Turberville invited Fithian to one of the “fish feasts” that Fithian had mentioned in connection with the barbecue. One 1774 mention by Fithian has “Mrs. Turberville, Miss Jenny Corbin, and Miss Turberville” all visiting together. Another reference from the same year has Fithian dining at “Mr. Turberville’s,” with “Miss Corbin” present and looking as “fresh & plump as ever.”

Keep in mind that the Phipps family of Ashe County, North Carolina was closely associated with the Reeves family which plenty of circumstantial evidence linking that Reeves family back to southeast Virginia. (That is contested, with supposed DNA proof and the like.) At the same time, Capt. Phipps’s aunt Ann married a Reeves who came to Virginia and died there.

Also, keep in mind that Lucy Turbyfield or Turbyfill, said to be the same surname as Turberville, married Benjamin Phipps in 1791 in Brunswick County, Virginia.

Phip/Phips: A Bold Stand for Protestant Reformation

The registers of Bishop Longland in The Church Historians of England, Reformation Period: The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, Carefully Revised, with Notes and Appendices, Vol. 4, Part I (London: Seeleys, 1856), refers to several persons named “Phip,” but spelled also as “Phips.” The same material, or at least some of it, also appears in Writings of the Reverend and Learned John Wickliff, D. D. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1831), and in some editions of the well-known Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, also known as Fox’s Book of Martyrs.

These persons dared to believe and to teach others that one should be able to read the Bible and other religious literature in English, and that one should worship God rather than statues and images.

Bishop Longland was evidently John Longland. He was the Dean of Salisbury from 1514 to 1521 and served as Bishop of Lincoln from 1521 to 1547. He investigated the Lollards, an important reform movement of the time, and brought charges against Agnes Ashford, who who dared to teach someone part of the Sermon on the Mount in English, and who had spoken against the worship of saints’s images.

Could these activities, which took place between 1518 and 1521, have dovetailed into the later Quaker activities associated with the immigrant Joseph?

The Phip/Phips individuals mentioned seem to have been associated with Hichenden, which is not a name that surfaces much in modern sources. This was evidently in Buckinghamshire. A 1575 record at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust refers to several locations, including Hichenden, as being located in “co. Buckingham.”

The name Hichenden also appears in The Historical Gazetteer of England’s Place Names. That source associates it with Hughenden, a settlement located in the parish Hughenden in Desborough Hundred in Buckinghamshire.

The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1831, Part II: Original Papers, links the Phipps family of Lincolnshire with a Col. Phipps who fought in the Civil War on the side of the Cavaliers and whose great grandson married a daughter of the heiress of the Duchess of Buckinghamshire. That brought Mulgrave Castle into the family (cf. the Constantines, with links to the West Indies and possibly Virginia and North Carolina).

The book mentioned, The Church Historian, refers to various persons who were “detected” as believing that one should be able to read the Bible in English and that worshiping images was wrong. John Phip, a physician, is mentioned on page 225 as having been “detected,” apparently, as hving such tendencies, although details are lacking at that point.

The next page mentions Thomas Holmes as having “denounced” various individuals for similar behavior. There it is said that he also denounced John Phip or Phips (both spellings appear), although the wording is unclear. Following a list of persons “denounced,” appears the following:

“Also John Phipps. He was very ripe in the Scripture. Emma wife of Richard Tilseworth. John Phip. He was a reader or rehearser to the other.” (This is followed by more names.)

Then on page 230, appears a statement that “John Butler was also compelled by his oath to detect Henry Vulman and his wife, of Uxbridge; Rafe Carpenter, of London; a daughter of John Phip; a daughter of William Phip. This Rafe Carpenter was detected for having certain books of the Apocalypse [i.e. the Biblical book of Revelation] in English. Also for that this Carpenter and his wife did bring him, and the wife of Henry Vulman, to a corner house of Friday-street, where the good man of the house, having a stump foot, had divers [i.e. various] such books, to the intent they should hear them read.”

Later on the same page is mentioned that John Phip was “compelled by his oath to detect Thomas Stilman, for that he told William Phip, how that he, being in Lollards’ tower, did climb up the steeple where the bells were, and there, cutting the bell-ropes, did tie two of them together, and so by them slipped down into Paul’s church-yard, and escaped.”

Page 231 then mentions that “John Mastal detected the daughter of John Phip, of Hichenden, for saying, that she was as well-learned as was the parish priest, in all things except only in saying of mass.”

According to page 237, in a discussion of Roger Dods of Burford, accusations were also brought against the following:

“John Phip, of Hichenden; for reading unto the said Roger Dods a certain Gospel in English.

“William Phip, of Hichenden, and Henry his son. This William had exhorted Roger Dods that he should worship no images, nor commit idolatry, but worship one God; and told the same Roger, that it was good for a man to be merry and wise, meaning that he should keep close that ws told him; for else strait punishment would follow.

“Roger Parker, of Hinchenden. This Parker said to John Phip, for burning of his books, that he was foul to blame, for they were worth a hundred marks. To whom John answered, that he had rather burn his books, than that his books should burn him.

“The wife of Thomas Widemore, daughter of Roger House, of Hichenden; old Widemore’s wife, sister to John Phip, of Hichenden. Also John Ledisdall, of Hungerford, for reading of the Bible in Robert Burges’s house at Burford, upon Holyrood day, with Colins, Lyvord, Thomas Hall, and others. . . . “

At the end of page 237 and the beginning of 238 appears the following:

“Also Henry Phip. The crime and detection against this Henry, was, for that he, being asked of this Dods, A. D. 1515, whether he would go to Wycombe or not? answered, that he was chosen roodman, that is, keeper of the roodloft, saying, that he must go and tind a candle before his “Block Almighty.’ . . . “

The rood loft was a loft or gallery in churches that was above the rood screen, the screen which extended from the floor to the rood beam, the beam that supported the roof. Statues of Mary and St. John were typically exhibited in this loft. Evidently the reference was to tinding a candle before a statue, sarcastically referred to as “Block Almighty.” Wycombe, the place mentioned in Dods’s question, is a town in Buckinghamshire.

Edward Phipps: 1849 Co-Conspirator

A web page about Warwickshire explains the system of transporting felons from 18th and 19th century England. That page refers to Edward Phipps, who was arrested along with John Jones of Coventry; Phipps got off lightly with just 6 months in prison with hard labor, since he didn’t already have a record.