Dionysis Williamson nee Hale c1610-1685
The Lady Dionysis Williamson owned Hales Hall at the time of her death, but according to her will it was occupied by Anne Philipes Widdow and her own main residence was a house that she had recently built, presumably nearby.
She obviously attended services in Loddon Holy Trinity as she had her pew there in the north aisle near which she wished to be buried, “and that there bee a marble stone laid upon my grave and an handsome monument erected over it and that the church and my house bee hung with mourning and Scutcheons.” Her own chaplain was to lead the funeral service, and she was to be carried to her grave by clergymen.
Her funeral must have been a grand affair albeit February would not be the best time of year to assemble the fine company she desired to be there. Her executor, nephew John Hoskins, will I am sure have done his best.
So who was this formidable and wealthy lady?
Her tomb gives the basic information. She was the 4th daughter and tenth child of William Hale of Kings Walden in Hertfordshire and Rose Bond his wife. Also she was the widow of Sir Thomas Williamson Baronet of East Markham in Nottinghamshire.
She was obviously extremely wealthy as, after the Great Fire of London, she donated significant sums to the rebuilding of Saint Paul’s Cathedral(£2001), St Mary le Bow (£2000) and Saint Dunstans the Hale family church in London(£4000) and of course she was a local property owner.
Her father William Hale and grandfather Richard Hale were London grocers. They made money by wholesale dealing of spices (and other goods) from abroad and selling within Great Britain
The Worshipful Company of Grocers, which ranks second of the City Livery Companies was originally known as The Guild of Pepperers, whose earliest records date from 1180. The Company was formed as a religious and social fraternity of merchants and moneyers trading in spices, gold and other luxury goods from Byzantium and the Mediterranean.
The Company probably derives its name from the Latin, grossarius, one who buys and sells in the gross, in other words a wholesale merchant: since its earliest days the members were wholesale dealers in spices and foreign produce. The Company reportedly supported the restoration of Charles II
They bought property both within the City and in the Home Counties especially Hertfordshire. Their wills leave the new family base of the manor of Kings Walden to their respective heirs and legacies to other children. Her Grandfather Richard actually listed 11 grandchildren in his will
Tracking the family is confused a) because of the period and the need to rely on parish registers but also b) because there seem to be two branches of the family living in Hertfordshire, not to mention a distinguished emigrant branch in New England.
Suffice to say that Dionisis’ Grandfather Richard was granted permission by James I to found a Grammar School in Hertford which opened in February 1617 and is still educating children. Richard Hale gave an endowment of £800 to be invested for the provision of the school’s income; other family members attended the school and continued the endowment.
By the time her father William came to write his will in September 1632 his family seems to be reduced; daughter Alicia has married (to John Minn) as has Ann (to Charles Hoskins), Dionisia is still unmarried and Winifred died in 1616. Sons Bernard, William, Rowland, John are mentioned, but not George, Thomas or Richard. It is possible that Thomas went to America. Her father died in 1634 and Dionisis finally married on 5th May 1647 at St Bartholomew the Less in the City, she became the second wife of Sir Thomas Williamson Baronet of East Markham in Nottinghamshire, by this time she was aged about 37.
Sir Thomas Williamson already had a family (two sons and a son in law were named in Dionisis’ will, she gave them £20 each to buy mourning) and was a known Royalist. The marriage took place during the Civil War, two years before the execution of Charles I.
Sir Thomas died in 1657(during the rule of Oliver Cromwell 1653-59) the majority of his estate was left as bequests which were listed in an unpublished Indenture; however he left Dionisis his coach and four horses. Sir Thomas’s family had had a long association with East Markham, but later with Monkwearmouth Hall in County Durham,
So Dionysis lived a wealthy widow for nearly 30 years.
She is noted as Lady of the Manor of Hales Hall by 1666, having bought it from William Humberstone whose father bought the property from James Hobart about 30 years earlier.
The will of Dame Dionysis Williamson of Hales Hall PCC 1685 7th Feb
In the name of God Amen I
Dame Dyonis Williamson of Loddon in the county of Norfolk takeing
into consideration that all men must die but the hower when wee shall depart
this life is uncertain being at present in perfect memory and understanding-
praised bee God for the same Doe make and ordeine this my last wi;; and
Testament in manner following And first I bequeath my soule in to the hands
of my Creator assuredly trusting through the meritts of my Saviour Jesus
Christ to obtaine remission of my sinns my will is that my body bee decently
interred in the Northeast corner of the North Isle of the parish church
of Loddon aforesaid neare my pew and that there bee a marble stone laid upon my
grave and an handsome monument erected over it and that the church and my
house bee hung with mourning and Scutcheons And I give mourning gownes and white Linnen hoods to soe many poore woman as I shall bee yeares old at the time
of my decease to attend my funerall I desire to bee bourn to my grave by clergymen
and my will is that the Chiefe of the parish of Loddon aforesaid and the chief of the neighbouring gentry and clergy bee invited to my funerall and that my Executors herafter named give such entertainment therat as shall bee suitable to my quality and the manner of the times I give to the poore of Loddon aforesaid eight pounds of lawfull money of England to be distributed on the day of my buriall by my Executors herafter named by the advice of the Minister and Churchwardens of the said parish of Loddon among such of the said poore of the said parish as shall have noe mourning gownes I give to the poore of the parish of Hales in the said county of Norfolke fforty shillings to bee distributed among the sdpoore on the day of my buriall I give to thepoore of Bungy and Beclles in the county of Suffolke five pounds apeece to be distributed among the said poore the same day on which I shall be buried Provided the poore of the three last named parishes doe not come to my buriall I give to Sir Thomas Williamson twenty pounds to buy him mourning I also give to Mr Robert Williamson twenty pounds to buy him mourning and I give to Mr Whitl who married their their sister Tene pounds to buy him mourning and I doe give unto my nephew William Hale Twenty pounds to buy him mourning and I give to him that shall bee my chaplain at the time of my decease Tenne pounds to buy him mourning and I will and desire that my Chaplaine preach my funerall sermon and take for his text the latter part of the twentieth verse of the second Chapter of theEpistle to the Galations being these words I live by the ffaith of the son of God who loved mee and gave himselfe for mee and I give to my said Chaplaine Tenne pounds more as a further Legacy I give unto my Nephew Bernard Mynne the ffive hundred pounds which hee
the said Bernard Mynne stands bound to mee for and I likewise give unto my Nephew Rowland Mynne the ffive hundred pound which he the said Rowland Mynne stands bound to mee for and my will is that my Executors hereafter named deliver to each of them his respective bond to bee cancelled and Igive unto their sister my neece Dyonis Davenant ffive hundred pounds to bee paid her within six moneths after my decease I give and bequeath All that my Capitall Messuage or Tenement by mee lately built and wherin I now dwell situate in Loddon in the County of Norfolke aforesaid And all that
my Capitall Messuage or Tenement with the appurtenances called or known
by the name of Hales Hall or by what other name or names the same is called
or known situate in Loddon aforesaid and now in the occupacon of Anne Philipes Widdow, or her assignes and all and singular the Lands Meadowes pastures, ffeedings, woods and hereditaments whatsoever to the said messuages or either of them belonging and appertaineing or to or with the same or either of them now or late used occupied or enjoyed or accepted or taken as part parcell or member of them or either of them lyeing and being in Loddon aforesaid and Hales in the said County of Norffolke or in either of them or in any other Towne or Townes to them or either of them adioyneing now in my occupacon or in the severall and respective occupacons of Anne Phiipo and John Slimon their or either of their Assignes or Assignes with their and evry of their appurtenances And all those my severall Messuages lands meadowes pastures feedings Tenements and hereditaments situate lyeing and being in Hellington in the said County of Norffolke or in any other towne or townes there neere unto adioyneing now in the sevrall and respactive occupacons of Henry Utting and John Cooke their or some of their Assignee or Assignes and All other my messuages ffarmes Cottages houses Dovehouses buildings lands meadows pastures ffeedings Woods Tenements and hereditaments whatsoever situate lyeing and being in Loddon Hales and Hellington aforesaid or in any other townes or parishes in the said County of Norffolke with their and every of their appurtenances unto my Nephew John Hoskins of the Inner Temple London Gent and his heires and assignes forever, and I doe give and bequeath all that my Coppyhold Land that I hold of the Mannor of English in Loddon aforesaid and wchI lately to the use of my last will unto my said Nephew John Hoskins and his heires forever And I doe make and constitute and appoint my said nephew John Hoskins the sole Executor of this my last will and testamt and I doe give and bequeath unto my said Executor the said John Hoskins after my debts Legacies and ffunerall Expences discharged All the rest and residue of my goods Chattells and personall estate I give unto my couzen Alice Mynne the daughter of my late Nephew Sr John Mynne Two hundred pounds to bee paid her with Interest for the same after the rate of ffive pounds per cent pan from the day of the date herof within six moneths after my decease I give and bequeath unto my neece the Lady Austen my Jewell which I call the phenix jewell wch had the large Diamond in the middle of it .I give unto the Two Daughtrs of my nephew Charles Hoskins five hundred pounds apeece together with such Interest and proceeds as shall bee made therof to be paid them at their respective ages of One and twenty yeares and if either of them shall die before shee attaine the said Age then I give the legacy of her soe dieing to the Survivor I give to all my household servants mourning and a quarter wages a peece and I give all my wearing Apparell to bee equally divided betweene my three maidservants Igive unto my two Godsonns Roger Cooper and Williamson Bell fforty shillings a peece I doe hereby revoke all wills by mee formerly made and I doe make and ordaine this my last will and Testament In witnesswhereof I have here unto sett my hand and seale this second day of Aprill in the yeare of our Lord One thousand six hundred & eighty foure Dyonis Williamson Signed Sealed publishes and declared by the above named Dyoins Williamson to be her last Will and Testament in the presence of us who have sett our names as witnesses here unto in the p[re]sence of the said Dyoins Williamson Charles Whitaker Ann Whitaker Wm ffuller John ffarr
Probate in London 7th February 1684(5 in revised calendar) to John Hoskins
So this lady was born during the reign of James 1, lived through the Civil War, married 2 years before the death of Charles I, (was she in London or Hertfordshire?) she was widowed in 1657 during the Commonwealth, survived the plague contributed to the rebuilding of St Pauls and St Dunstans after the Great Fire by when she appears to have moved to Hales, and her death was just a year earlier than that of Charles II.
Elvie Herd October 2010