The Woodforde Family

A History of the Woodforde Family from 1300


THE DIARY OF ROBERT WOODFORDE - THE FATHER
 

 

The Children of Robert Woodforde

Parish registers indicate that Robert fathered at least twelve children.  Of these it is known that five children, all born between 1640 and 1648,  pre‑deceased both their parents.  The three eldest children, born between 1636 and 1639 survived to adulthood.  Only the baptismal dates of three other children are known.

Sarah, the third child and first daughter of Robert and Hannah Woodforde had been born on 29 August 1638.  Despite much illness in her years of infancy she too survived to adulthood and married a member of the Gifford family of Northampton.  Another member of the same family,  Stephen Gifford,  had served as man‑servant to Sir Richard  Knightley of Fawsley and had thus been implicated in the Marprelate conspiracy. 

It is evident that a high rate of infant mortality was normal at the time,  in that there is a tone of tacit acceptance in the amount of serious illness and the number of malformed babies.  In diary entries recording either the birth of his own children or of his friends' and relatives' children,  the writer frequently praises God that the child has "right shape and form" as if a malformed child was a frequent occurrence. 

Indeed, a diary entry on 29 December 1637 reports that the new‑born daughter of a friend had been born with  " two additional fingers cominge out of her little fingers",  presumably a congenital deformity,  and on that occasion the diarist was prompted again to thank God for the physical wellbeing of his own children.  

In his prayers there is the tacit implication that a child born of godly parents should be a "good and perfect gift from above"  and that deformity was a sign of personal sin and the sins of the nation. 

In addition to the ailments and infections of infancy, Robert Woodforde's children were prone too to the domestic accidents in the home.  Chief amongst these was the constant hazard of fire and a naked flame.  On 17 November 1637,  Samuel,  the eldest child narrowly avoided a potentially serious injury: 

 

"  The Candle fell uppon Sams face near his eye, Lord be blessed that it burnt not his eye. "


But on 13 July 1639,  his younger son John was less fortunate:‑ 

 

 "  My child John in my absence had a sparke fell into the corner of his left eye, & the eye is so scarred that it was much doubted whether it were put out, but the Lord p(re)served it, & hath in a great measure healed it ... "

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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© Stephen Butt 2004 - rev 29/02/04
 

 

 

Robert Woodforde, the Father

The first recorded event in Robertís diary is the baptism of the diarist's second child John,  ho had been born on 8 August 1637.   The diarist expresses much anxiety over the health of his child who was born with considerable physical weakness  and continued to suffer with poor health and sickness until well after its first birthday.  His wife also took much time to recover from the birth and was unable to breast‑feed her new‑born son:‑  

" My wife is ill in her breast ... Oh Lord  heale her and grant she may bring up the poor infant with comfort, and grant that it may thrive and prosper ... I did beseech the Lord for my poor wife who was very ill with her breast and in agony ... "

27 August 1637.  (12 days after birth).

" When I came home I found my dear child very ill and in my apprehension not likely to live. "

29 August 1637.  (21 days after birth).

" My child still as it was, asleep, and I hear with ... (illegible) as if I fear, not likely to live."

30 August 1637.  (30 days after birth).


On this day,  the father sought the assistance of a wet‑nurse who was required to feed his child.  For several days,  the infant John was fed regularly and his health and strength improved.   However the apparent cause of his feeding difficulties was discovered by accident on 12 September 1637,   35 days after the infant's birth:‑ 

" We were much affrighted for in dressing of the child John, we found a deep hole in the throat of it, which came we supposed by the carelessness of the nurse."  " After Mr Spicer had been here and the throat was dressed, he (John) tooke the breast presently, though before he had been very averse to it."

For the remainder of the autumn the child continued to suffer ill‑health,  though Hannah,  his mother,  gradually recovered her strength.  Throughout October and November various diary entries record that John continued to suffer.   On 17 December 1637 for example,  the diarist recorded:‑ 

" Little John is very ill with a cold in his lung and head."

Despite his frailty and despite the plague epidemic that was to reach Northampton during John's infancy,  the child was to prosper.  In adulthood he took Holy Orders, and his descendants formed a branch of the Woodforde family which became the  Baronetcy of Carleby.            

Apart from John's frailty and continuing illness, the diarist also recorded  the occasional domestic accidents and infections which have befallen small children of every age.   The chief of the illnesses were Consumption, Smallpox and Measles:‑ 

" Poore Sam hath bene very ill this morninge with vomitinge ... "

12 January 1637/8. 

" I have this day receaved from my deare & good wife a letter wherein she desires my prayers for her in the Condicon she is in beinge nere her time, & informes me that little Sam is not well. "

4 August 1638.

" My deare child Sam is very ill with an extreme cough and sniffinge, and I am doubtfull least it should be Consumption."

8 May 1639.

" Oh Lord ... heale my deare children, Sam of his cough; John of his weake and sore eyes & blesse us all."

15 May 1639.

" The Lord hath in some measure graciously remembered my child Sam, of his lamenesse."

26 June 1639.

"  Little John's eyes are much amisse .. but I have prayed unto the Lord for him & for Sam who hath a dangerous cough & for my little girle (Sarah) who is or hath bene very ill."

4 May 1639.

" Poore Sam hath bene very ill this morninge with vomitinge ... "

12 January 1637/8.


The Woodforde's fourth child was another daughter who was born on 16 August 1639 and was named Sussanah.  She was baptised by Charles Newton,  the curate at All Saints,  on Saturday 24 August 1639.  Mrs Susan Pentlowe and Mrs Anne Coles acted as witnesses to the baptism, and the influential puritan minister at Wilby,  Revd Andrew Perne,  preached at the ceremony.  Again, Hannah was unable to breast‑feed the infant who was taken for a while to Goodwife Iveletty.

The fifth child to be born to Robert and Hannah Woodforde failed to survive.  Thomas Woodforde was born on Tuesday 18 August 1640 and died on Thursday 27 August 1640, ten days later.

On the day preceeding the birth, the diarist recorded that his wife fell ill at about 7.00pm.:‑

" The women are with her & we suppose it is her travail & the midwife Goodwife Edwards is now come."

Less than eight hours later,  in the early hours of the following morning Hannah gave birth to Thomas.  There is no further reference to the child or to Hannah until Sunday 23 August when the diarist expressed his concern for the infant's wellbeing:‑

" .. and now the little infant is very ill. I pray thee Lorde heale it if it be thy will ... "

The entry ends with news that the child had begun to take nourishment during the night after the diarist had gone to bed.   There is a further note added at a later date which reflects the parents' growing concern for their child's wellbeing:‑

" My wife & I prayed afterward for the poore child."

There was no improvement on the following morning when a long and emotional prayer to God is preceeded by the following diary entry:‑

" The Child I heare sucked very well in the night but since that is very ill & we & others much feare that it will dye."

That evening at about 9.00pm Robert went to the home of his minister, Revd Thomas Ball and requested the ordinance of baptism:‑

" That eveninge about 9 a clock I went for Mr Ball to desire him to come & baptise my poore child who was ill, & so had bene from Saterday so he came & Baptysed it in the Chamber."

For two more days,  Robert and Hannah prayed earnestly for the child's deliverance,  but on Thursday 27 August the infant lost the struggle for life:‑

 " This morninge about 7 a clock after my deare wife & I had commended o(u)r poore child Tom into the armes of the Lord by prayer it dyed.  The first app(ea)rence of afflicon in this kind which we have had, Lord sanctify it to us ... It was buryed this afternoone. Dust I am & to dust I shall returne."

There is no further reference to Thomas in the diary.  On the day following the child's burial, the diarist travelled to Scaldwell on legal business, and continued with his duties for the remainder of the week.  There is no mention either of the mother's physical condition or her state of mind.  The next reference to his family is on 4 September,  over a week later,  when Robert was again concerned about John's health.  Hannah was churched at her home by Mr Holmes. Mrs Crick and Goodman Ivelety on 13 September and the routine of family life continued.

No other child was born to Robert and Hannah within the time span of the diary but the closing pages of the document indicate that yet another child was due.  The entry for 29 July 1641 again reveals the diarist's concern for the well‑being of his wife and his unborn child:
 

" Lord many have lately dyed in Childbed, wee shall the better see & acknowledge thy great mercy to us in p(re)servinge thy handmayd(en) ...  "