Unlike most of our English ancestors, we actually know a fair amount about our Robert Bartlett’s family history. The Bartlett family is linked to the village of Puddletown as it is known today. I prefer the traditional name of Piddleton which fell out of favor after WWI when the first part of the name became an inconvenient slang term. I am not offended so I will use the name our ancestors would have known. Piddleton is the basis for Thomas Hardy novel, “Far from the Madding Crowd”.
Alice and Robert Bartlett had their son Robert baptized on May 27, 1603 in Piddleton. The Piddleton Parish records tell us that Robert Sr and wife Alice held deeds to Muston Manor and farm. Rev. Thomas Genge, vicar of St. Mary’s included in Alice’s 1605 obituary the following: “Alice Bartlett, ye onlie wife of Robert Bartlett deceased, kepte great hospitalitie in this parish fifty years, eight months and eight dayes, all of which time the poore wanted no necessarie sustenance either in sickness or health.”
Records indicate that the Bartletts never occupied Muston since both manor and farm were leased to Collier and Lowman, then to the Churchills to whom the estate was sold by Nathanial Bartlett in 1612. It appears that the family lived instead at Ilsington House until sometime in the 17th Century. The current house is probably a bit larger than the Bartlett’s residence.
It does get a bit more mysterious since Robert Bartlett (our Robert Bartlett’s dad) was married to Alice Barker in 1569 and she passes soon after the birth of our Robert in 1603. Senior Robert also used an alias of Hancock. Given our Plymouth Robert’s family, it is not surprising that he would name a son Benjamin in 1635. Benjamin Bartlett of Piddleton held a license to sell wine at the same time. It is very probable that this Benjamin was a close relative or even a brother. It is also probably not coincidental that our Plymouth Robert was a wine cooper (barrel maker). How much wine was produced in the early 1600’s in Plymouth? By the way, the Nathaniel Bartlett who sold Muston Manor to the Churchills also using the name of Hancock.
Could the sale of Muston Manor in 1612 be connected to the immigration of our Robert Bartlett of the colonies in 1623? This sounds like a good mystery story. I should also acknowledge that heirs to a large estate from the mother’s side of the family, required the use of both names. The first Robert Bartlett (1521-1578), our Robert’s grandfather was the was the son of father John Bartlett (1494-1558) and Agnes Hancock (1498-1552). Agnes left probate records that are still in England (These I have to find). Her father Sir Richard Hancock who died in 1536 at the age of 56 and is probably the source of the large estates the Hancock-Bartletts owned. Sir Richard lives during the time of both Henry VII and Henry VIII. It is also probably worth noting that John Hancock of signature fame was also a descendent of this Sir Richard. It is probably this Hancock whose father lived in the middle of the Wars of the Roses that received this bit of land from Henry VII as a thank you.
Under whatever circumstances Robert leaves England to throw in his lot with fellow Pilgrim passengers of the Anne in 1623. He receives an acre of land and receives a division of the community cattle in 1627. He also marries 22 year old Mary Warren, Richard’s daughter, in 1627. The wedding and cattle dates are no accident. In order to receive a part of the communal herd, you had to be married. They will have eight children and receive a portion of the Warren holdings possibly as a dowry in . His land holdings include land along the Eel River that run adjacent to the present day Plimouth Plantation to Pine Hills. It is clear from records that Robert systematically expanded his holdings so that when he passed in 1676 his estate was valued at 170 pounds. His widow Mary then sold the estate to her son John for 300 pounds. Robert serve many times on juries and as the surveyor of highways. Wife Mary will join him in the Old Burial ground in 1686.
By the way, there is a Bartlett society for descendants. Interestingly, they jump over the widely accepted Piddleton episodes and jump to “family crests” and the middle ages. I am always suspect of Family Coats of Arms that were wildly generated by antiquarian marketers in the 19th Century and continued to push product today. I prefer the use of church and probate records.