The development of the UK Southern Branch is in my view quite incredible. This branch was fathered by Rev. Thomas Micklethwait (1538–1593) Vicar of Plumstead, Kent. The youngest son of one of the original Yorkshire Yeomen, he found himself shipped off as a new vicar to a poor parish east of London. He married there and had three sons and a daughter.
Records found at the Guildhall Library in London showed how each of his sons had been educated in turn by one of the 12 livery companies of London. Without this charitable act they might well have died in the gutter before reaching maturity.
The second generation
The eldest Elias (born 1582) married and had one son and four daughters. The second son Paul (1589–1639) did not marry but followed in his father’s footsteps and took Holy Orders. The third son Nathaniel (born 1592) did not marry either, so the line would have died out if the only son of Elias had not had issue. Fortunately for the family he had three sons, two of whom produced sons of their own, so the line continued.
Paul had a remarkable career in that he became Master of the Temple Church in London – at that time a position of great influence. His home, The Master’s House, still stands in the middle of London next to the Temple Church and the Inns of Court.
Over the generations that followed, many of the descendants of Elias became merchants in the City of London. Over time they amassed considerable wealth and relocated to Norfolk, Suffolk and Sussex, where they lived in luxury – often as Lords of the Manor. Photos of some of their homes are on the Homes and churches page.
The following examples perhaps illustrate the extent to which this branch progressed over just nine generations from needing financial help from charity to being extremely wealthy.
The third generation
This included one Nathaniel (1612–1686) London Merchant and member of the Fishmongers Company, who proved his Uncle Paul’s will in 1639. He owned land in Westmeath, Ireland. J.R. Woodhead refers to him in his book, The Rulers of London 1660–1689: A Biographical Record of the Aldermen and Common Councilment of the City of London.
His father-in-law Jonathan Reade is also listed as owning city property and land in Ireland, so this would seem to explain how the Micklethwait family came to own land in Ireland.
The fourth generation
This included another Nathaniel (1662–1728) of St. Laurence, Poultney, London. He was merchant, Freeman of The City of London and a member of The Fishmongers Company in 1708. He owned property in Croydon, High Holborn and in Westmeath, Ireland.
The fifth generation
This included yet another Nathaniel (1693–1758) of Maresfield, Sussex and Beeston, Norfolk. He inherited Westmeath, Ireland for life. He was formerly H.M. Consul in Aleppo, Syria.
The sixth generation
This included one John (1719–1799) of Beeston Hall, Norfolk. Following his marriage in 1756, he became known as John of Iridge Place, Salehurst, Sussex. He was High Sheriff of Sussex in 1770 and inherited land in Westmeath, Ireland from his father. He purchased the Hickling Estate in Norfolk and also inherited land in Suffolk from his cousin and land in Birchanger, Essex.
The seventh generation
The seventh generation included another John (1757–1824) of Iridge Place, Sussex and Hillborough, Norfolk. He left property and land in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, London and Ireland. John divided the Sussex Iridge Estate into two parts: The New Iridge Estate and The Old Iridge Estate. He is referred to as John Micklethwait of Newmarket, Cambridgeshire and died in his house in Cavendish Place, Bath.
The eighth generation
This includes two beneficiaries from the will of John (1757–1824) as follows:
Nathaniel (1784–1856) of Beeston Hall, Norfolk and then from about 1823 of Taverham Hall, Norfolk. He owned Hickling in 1808 at the time of The Enclosure Act and was High Sheriff of Norfolk in 1810. He inherited The New Iridge Estate from his father Nathaniel (1760–86) in 1824 and the 1841 Census finds him at Great Cumberland Place, St Marylebone, London.
Sir Sotherton (1786–1853) of Iridge Place, Salehurst, Sussex (see photo of his home at top). He inherited the Old Iridge Estate in 1824 from his uncle, John Micklethwait (1757–1824). Queen Victoria created him a Baronet as a reward for saving her life along with her mother, The Duchess of Kent, when she was still a princess.
The ninth generation
There were 18 children in this generation: seven boys and eleven girls. Not one of the men produced an heir (act of God?) and when the last of the men died, all the property went to the eldest daughter, Sarah Charlotte. At that time, it automatically passed to the husband of the eldest daughter and then to their descendants.
An amusing epitaph
Whilst these London merchants and their descendants were clearly rich and influential, they seemed very keen to show their connection with titled members of the family.
Firstly, it was reported that they had inherited the lands and property owned by Viscount Micklethwait (1680–1733). However, his will shows that he in fact left his property to another family. It is of course possible that the London merchants bought all the property at a later date. But I have yet to find any evidence to support this theory.
Secondly, a family grave bears the following inscription:
Near this place lie in Hopes of a joyful Resurrection the Remains of JOHN MICKLETHWAIT ESQ. of Beeston St Andrew in the County of Norfolk. Died 27 February 1799. Aged 79 years. Descended from the ancient family of Micklethwait of Swine in the County of York.
The ancient family of Micklethwait of Swine included Viscount Micklethwait, but they were a different branch. So, the connection between John of Beeston and the Swine branch is only a very distant connection.
Thirdly, from the General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales by Bernard Burke, we have the best one, which reads:
I managed to obtain the will of Sir William Micklethwait dated 1535. It turned out that rather than being a Knight of the Realm, he was merely a chaplain of a small Yorkshire chapel at Cumberworth. Apparently at that time, all Chaplains were referred to as ‘Sir’.
My informant also told me that chaplains could not marry in those days. He made the point that any descendants of Sir William would have therefore been illegitimate!
Read the article, Leading family members in the USA, a fascinating story of some of our family members that emigrated to the USA.