1 THE WOODROFFE'S of REMPSTONE and COSTOCK
T Thomas Woodroffe of Rempstone was buried on 22nd. May 1625. T The parish register records the baptism of his eldest child, William, in 1589, and this is the earliest authenticated record of the family. Earlier history is speculation, although pieces of information do somtimes turn possibilities into probabilities. The information in this record is the result of my research carried out over more than thirty-five years and represents all that I have discovered of Thomas' descendants and their history to the present day.
The research has been greatly helped by a large collection of T papers from my second cousin, Peter, now the senior partner of Messrs. Woodroffes Solictors. This consisted partly of research which he had done himself and partly of papers handed Tdown through our great-uncle, Charles Gover Woodroffe, which contained information gleaned, apparently, during the last century. Much of the details from this latter source I have been able to authenticate, some I have not, some has been found to be inaccurate. It is not known who compiled this information or where it came from. Throughout this report I have called this information " The Woodroffe Papers".
Much time has been spent trying to go back beyond Thomas of Rempstone to the earlier origins of the
family, but nothing can be established and there are two conflicting possibilites. I think it is beyond reasonable doubt that the origin of the name in all its various spellings was "WOOD-REEVE".
A REEVE was an official of a court, town or a village - a steward or principle agent of a higher authority. A 'Wood- Reeve' therefore was a person responsible for a tract of woodland; a head forester or forest warden. As there were many forests, royal and private, throughout England, it is likely that same name could have originated independently in different areas, and one Woodroffe is not necessarily connected with another.
There is a note in the Woodroffe Papers which says:- "There is a tradition that originally the family were wood-reeves or forest wardens of the Royal Chase of Charnwood and resident at Rothley, Co. Leicester, which is situated near Woodhouse and Mount Sorrel, now known as Rothley Temple".
Peter Woodroffe's research, on the other hand, has led him to conclude that Thomas was a member of the family of Woodrove or Woodroffe of Woolley, near Wakefield in Yorkshire.
The Woodroves were an influential family and one of the largest landowners in the West Riding from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth century. A history of the Woodroffes of Woolley compiled by the Rev. David Matthew. M.A., D.Litt.,F.S.A., edited and revised by Brigadier J.H.P. Woodroffe, is on file; this recounts the series of misfortunes which caused the break- up of the family estates in the latter half of the sixteenth century. Francis Woodroffe sold the Woolley estates to his cousin, Michael Wentworth, of Wentworth Woodhouse on 5th.November, 1599, for 6,OOO. Francis Woodroffe had a brother, Thomas, who married Elizabeth Cookson of Stanley,near Wakefield. Thomas is reported to have had no issue, but there was a possibility that this report is incorrect and that he was, in fact, Thomas of Rempstone. Peter Woodroffe's notes supporting this theory are on file.
Where did Thomas of Rempstone come from ? The Parish Register goes back only to 157O, and he was probably born about 1555-6O, so if he had been born in Rempstone his birth would not be on record. But if his parents had lived in the village it is reasonable to assume that at least one would lived beyond 157O and there would have been a record of the death. There is none.
There was already a connection between Woolley and Rempstone. About 143O John Woodroffe of Woolley married Joyce, only daughter and heiress of Richard Burdett of Denby and in the mid-sixteenth century George Woodroffe of Woolley married Alice, daughter of Richerd Burdett of Denby. Miss Pat White of Loughborough, who has written a history of Rempstone, notes that a Sir Francis Burdett lived for a time in the village, probably in the manor house. There is one more T[2O8] supporting clue. When Soloman William of Costock died in T 19O3,he bequeathed to his son Frederick Arthur, his T kitchen clock. Frederick's daughter-in-law Phoebe, writes that this clock is still in the family. It is a long case clock decorated with the carving of a woodcock. The woodcock was the crest of the Woodroffes of Woolley.
This is still one of the areas of research remaining to be done. I doubt whether the origins of Thomas of Rempstone will ever be established now, but there is always a chance that some researcher with much time and tenacity may succeed.
In some other areas the story remains incomplete: Many of the more recent branches of the family have still to be brought up to date and one or two generations added to locate many Woodroffes alive today. This applies to this country and, particularly to Australia. Most of the information is available, but will necessitate many hours in the crowded search room of St.Catherine's House and, in view of present level of charges for certificates, some considerable expense.
A more fascinating and more difficult task is to unravel the tangle of family relationships in East Leake, Stanford, Quorn and Burton Overy in the period roughly from the mid-eighteenth century until 184O. The various families were all prolific and, with little regard for the convenience of later researchers, chose from a very restricted range of christian names for their children. The multiplicity of Johns, Daniels, and Thomases, Marys, Elizabeths and Hannahs will take some sorting. The problem is typically illustrated by the correspondence between me and Mrs.Doris Harris of Camp Hill, PA,.U.S.A; this is on the file.
A smaller but interesting problem in the identity of T[2O8] William Illesley. In his will Soloman William of Costock left the alarm clock in his bedroom to his son-in-law, William Illesley. William Illesley is also named as one of the plaintiffs in the Settlement of Claim in the case of Woodroffe v Woodroffe in the Chancery Division of the high court in 1911. But no record of a marriage between a William Illesely and any of Solomon William's daughters has been found.
Another gap to be filled is the absence of any personal details of the family at Costock during the nineteenth century. The family was one of the largest
landowners in the area and had lived for centuries in what was, after the Manor House, the most prestigous house in Costock. It is difficult to believe that events such as marriages and funerals would not have been reported in the local press. Several newspapers still being published were in existance at the time, but no reports have been found.
During my research, several Woodroffe families, with various spellings and with no obvious connection with Rempstone, have been found. The family of Woolley has already been noted. A history of the Manor of Woolley and the families who held it was published in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 27 in 1923. From Woolley descended the best documented branches to bear the name Woodroffe.
The family of Woodroffe of Ufcombe, Devon, which included James, Mayor of Barnstable (1545-16O9), were descended from James, third son of Sir Richard Woodroffe of Woolley (1447-87). This family later moved to Ireland and were ancestors of some of the many Woodroffes in that country. A family tree among the 'Woodroffe Papers' gives much detail of this branch, and Philip Woodroofe of Philadelphia has brought the history up to date with "The Woodroofe family in Ireland and their Descendants" published privately in 1986. A copy is on file. From James of Woolley were also descended the families of Poyle, Surrey, and Plusterwine, Gloustershire. James' son David, was sheriff of London in 1554 and David's son Sir Nicholas was Lord Mayor of London in 1579; he purchased the Manor of Poyle in 1581. "A full pedigree of the Woodroffes of Poyle Park, Surrey", was published in "Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica" of August/September, 1873. A copy is filed.
From Thomas Woodroffe of Glossop, fourth son of Sir John Woodroffe of Woolley, circa 14OO, are descended the Woodroffes of Hope, in Derbyshire; this branch became extinct in the seventeeth century. Some information about this branch can be found in "Notes from a Peakland Parish" by William Smith Porter, MD, published by J.W.Northend Ltd., of West Street, Sheffield, in 1923. A pedigree extracted from the Heralds' visitation of the county of Derby made in 1634 is on file. It is interesting to note that a public house in the village of Hope is still called "The Woodroffe Arms."
In the course of research, other groups of Woodroffes have come to light in various parts of the country, but nothing has been found to connect any with Rempstone or Woolley. These are in :- Horncastle, Lincs.; Abbots Bromley, Staffs,; Devizes, Wilts.; Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight; Soham, Cambs. These and many other apparently unconnected individuals are noted in the 'Index to Wills' in the 'Wills' file and in the publication "Memorials of the Woodrooffe Family" in the general file. Two other Woodroffe families are of note and deserve further investigation:- The Hon. James Tisdall Woodroffe, Advocate-General of Bengal (1899-19O4) and a member of the Governor-General's Leglistative Council (19O4-O4). One of his sons, the Hon.John George, was counsel to the Government of India (19O2-3) and a judge in Calcutta (19O4); Another son Alan J., founded the Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, Dorset, in 1923. The second is the family of Charles Edward Woodroffe of Harrow Road, London, who died in 1864. His son and four grand-sons were educated at Marlborough College; three of the four grandsons were killed in action in France in the space of thirteen months, 1915-16, and the youngest, Sidney Clayton Woodroffe , was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross on 6th.September, 1915. Fuller information on all the above will be found in the files.
From the middle of the sixteenth century until the middle of the nineteenth the Woodroffes of Rempstone, and their various branches lived comparatively uneventful lives in South Nottinghamshire and North Leicestershire within ten miles of Loughborough. Their social position appears to have been appropriate either to a junior branch of the impoverished Woodroffes of Woolley or to the descendants of the Wood-reeves of Charnwood Forest, alternating between minor landed gentry and agricultural workers with the rise and fall of agricultural prosperity locally and nationally.
Until the late nineteenth century, the various branches of the family occupied a number of houses in Rempstone, Costock and the surrounding villages, notably East Leake, Normanton and Stanford-on-Soar. Some moved further afield to Nether Broughton, Burton Overy, Quorn and Woodthorpe. The principal family houses in Rempstone are believed to have been what are now called Top Farm and Hill Farm. In Costock the main residences were the two houses called, in various wills 'The Old House' and 'The New House'. The 'Old house' was built about T about 1694 rebuilt by Solomon in 1713, and now called 'Fulwell Farm'. The 'New House', also known as Holme Farmhouse was built T by John in 1748 and demolished in 1957. In the 195Os the 'Old House' was in disrepair, It was bought by Mr and Mrs. Gordon Harris and has been carefully restored to its former elegance. During restoration the name "Edward Bowley" was found scratched on the plaster behind the panelling of one of the bedrooms; this was, presumably, T[1O5] the brother of Mary Bowley who married Solomon in 1778. Also T[2O8] there was found a letter, undated, written to Solomon William from an unknown admirer suggesting marriage. This letter is in the possession of Mr.Harris. It is an interesting indication T[2O8] of Solomon's social position that the letter, although sent through the post, is simply inscribed " S.Woodroffe Esq.". No address was considered necessary.
From time to time great national events did impinge on the peaceful life of the rural community, and the most dramatic of these was the Civil War. In September 1644 the Costock Parish Register records:- " Battle of Costock or skirmish. The Royalists having placed an ambuscade on the road near Costock to intercept a convoy passing under a body of Leicester's troops, were defeated with the loss of eight men killed and sixty taken prisoner in one of Mr.Woodroffe's field s". Local knowledge puts the site of the battle in the fields to the south of the main street to the west of the Loughborough - Nottingham Road; this area is now known as the Warrils (War hills ?). The remains of some slain were found when a road was being made near the churchyard.
These fields certainly belonged to the Woodroffes at a later date, but the T first recorded Woodroffe in Costock is Solomon (1668-1735) The 'Old House' in Costock was built about 1694. It T is clear from his will that Solomons father, Thomas of Rempstone (1628-1711) acquired lands in Costock before 1644 T and that, on his death these passed to his second surviving T son Solomon while the elder, Joseph of Rothley inherited the Rempstone properties. Joseph is given the identification "of Rothley" in the Woodroffe Papers, and also in his will, but no mention of any property in Rothley has been found and his son, grandson and great-grandson all continue to own property and to reside in Rempstone.
The industrial revolution affected the family first in T the early years of the nineteenth century. William Woodroffe of Normanton, in partnership with Thomas Stubbs, who had married his wife's sister, Mary, invented the first lace- making machine and set up a factory in Rempstone. However, the machinery was destroyed in the Luddite riots about the year 1 820, and the enterprise was abandoned. The factory building was still standing in 1985.
It would be interesting to discover, the reason for the T choice of the name Solomon for so many members of the family. T The first was Solomon of Costock, fourth son of Thomas of Rempstone, who was born in 1668 and who, as was noted in the account of the Battle of Costock, was the first recorded member of the family to live in that village. The name is usually Jewish, and it is possible that Thomas's wife, Mary, was a Jewish; her surname might suppport this theory if the date and place of her marriage and the parish register entry could be found. Apart from this possibility, there is no record of any Jewish connection at any time, and certainly, whatever Thomas' reason for the choice, its popularity throughout the following centuries is surprising. Apart from Solomon, and the splendidly named Samuel Bagnall William T  Dechause Quinton Wyld Woodroffe, the family seems to have been unenterprising in the choice of christian names.
The first Thomas of Rempstone was a churchwarden, as was his son, John, and many subsequent members of the family in their respective villages until the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century and into this one, many of them became non- conformists and gave practical support to their new beliefs.
T On 5th.December, 1828, John Woodroffe of Costock granted T to trustees, who included his son Solomon William, the lease of a piece of land for 99 years at an annual rent of six pence for the purpose of building a Wesleyan Chapel. This land was part of the ample garden of the 'Old House', and John and his heirs had a right of re-purchase at the end of the lease, or sooner with the agreement of the trustees. Solomon William remained the senior trustee until after his move from Costock to Somersham, Hunts., and he resigned on the 5th.April 1869.
The chapel has now been demolished, but the adjoining street is named 'Chapel Lane'. T Charles of New Malden, third son of George of Costock, T miller, and nephew of John of Costock, moved from Costock to New Malden, Surrey, and found enployment in the City. In 1880, Charles Woodroffe and Charles Derry, whose daughter was to T marry Edward Shrimpton - Charles' youngest son, founded the New Malden Congregational Church. The foundation stone was laid on the 5th.October 1880, and the church opened on 2nd.May 1881. A plaque on the wall of the church commemorates the founders. T In May of 1971, two of Charles Woodroffe's great-grandsons, T[18O] Eric Vincent and Brian Hoult were guests at a 9Oth. birthday celebration at the church. Charles Derry and his friend and neighbour Mr.Toms founded the well known London Store of Derry & Toms.
After Charles Woodroffe's death, his widow, Sarah Shrimpton, moved to Wallington in Surrey and, on 13th.November T 19O9, her eldest son, Charles Gover, acting on her behalf, laid the foundation stone of a new Congregational Church in that suburb. This has been replaced by a larger building and has become a church hall. The foundation stone still exists. T David Woodroffe, brother of Charles and fifth son of George the miller, also left the village of his birth and settled in Rugeley, Staffs., probably between 185O and 186O. He was concerned with the foundation of Heron Court Congregational Church in Rugeley; he was senior deacon of the church and a Governor of the Grammar School. He was a draper by trade.
The drapery trade seems to have been popular with those members of the family forced to leave their local T[38O] environment in the middle years of the nineteenth century. TT[38O] David's son, Frederick David, married his second T[2O2] cousin, Harriet Elizabeth, whose father, William Woodroffe of Bulwell, was also a draper, as were her TT[28O] two brothers, William Joseph Dyche and Thomas Ernest, T and her cousin Maurice Ernest. In the 188Os, both Frederick David, with his wife, and William of Bulwell with his son Thomas emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand. They opened a drapers shop in Fort Street, Auckland, which had the distinction of being the first in the town to be lit by electricity. Frederick later founded the firm of F.D.Woodroffe & Co., Manufacturers' Agents, Importers and Indenters.
Fascinating correspondence has survived describing the voyage to New Zealand and the conditions in Auckland at the time. The many families of Woodroffes living in and around Auckland today are descended from these emigrants. T[9O] On the 18th.August, 1843, William - known as "Sir Billy" - Woodroffe of Costock died, leaving a will which was to be one of the principal causes of the decline and final extinction of the family estates. Agriculture had flourished during and in the decades after the Napoleonic Wars, and there is no doubt that "Sir Billy" owned a considerable estate and was a wealthy man. Some of the clauses in his will and the names he gave some of his children suggest that he was eccentric and possibly of limited intelligence.
Whether the title was bestowed in affection or ridicule we shall probably never know. "Sir Billy's" will runs to thirty three pages, plus six codicils. It contains detailed instructions for the maintenance and education of his grandchildren and the threat T that if his son, John Thomas Fox, married Frances Singlehurst he would lose his rights and legacy. (It appears that he heeded the warning and died unmarried.) But the main purpose of the will was to leave a large number of annuities in perpetuity charged on the estate.
The middle years of the century were disasterous for English agiculture. A policy of free trade brought an ever increasing supply of cheap food flooding into the country from the expanding colonial empire, and thousands of English farmers went bankrupt. The family estate was unable to meet the charges laid upon it.
Instead of agreeing to some reasonable compromise, the many children and grandchildren of "Sir Billy" embarked on a bitter and costly legal wrangle over the division of the estate. This dragged on for some sixty years until the Chancery Division of the High Court finally made an order for the sale and distribution of the estate in 1911. By this time most of it had gone in legal fees and there was very little left to divide.
By the first decade of the present century none of the descendants of the Wood-reeves was engaged in agriculture in the shadow of Charnwood Forest.