(originally published - June 2010)

A brief entry in the Parish Registers can suggest a longer story. On September 19th1662, a baptism was held for five children from two families – an unusually corporate event. The children were Emanuel, Love and Wright, the sons of Robert Makepeace, and Nathaniel, Daniel and Hester, the children of William Walton. It is possible, if unlikely, that the Makepeace trio were triplets, but more is known about the Waltons, and these children ranged in age, and had not therefore all been baptised as babies.

The Commonwealth period 1649 – 1660 had put considerable restrictions on traditional ceremonies, which were rejected by the Puritans as ungodly. Persistent families could with difficulty find a minister prepared to officiate. (In Deptford in 1652 the diarist John Evelyn arranged for his mother-in-law a burial service “with all decent ceremonie” the first there for seven years.) However it was during the preceding Civil War period of the 1640s that Oxhill itself suffered most disruption, and consecutive blank years are left in the Registers. The only burial between 1645 and 1650, was that of the son of Matthew Clarke lord of the manor and relative of the Rector, Walwyn Clarke. Marriages were affected in both Wars and Commonwealth; there were no church weddings here from 1640 to 1656.

The level of christenings was however maintained, and it seems unlikely that the Rector took a Puritan stance. The more likely explanation for the late baptism of Makepeaces and Waltons is that they were dissenters. William Walton and his family are known to have been Quakers, and the names of the Makepeace children suggest a similar Puritan influence. The Quaker movement was then growing fast in the Midlands. Their bulk christening has the appearance of a “mopping up” operation by the Rector, bringing his flock back into line after the Restoration had re-established the Church’s authority.

The development of colonies across the Atlantic later gave the Walton brothers the opportunity to seek more religious freedom. Their father, William, (while himself remaining in Oxhill), bought a holding in the Proprietary of West Jersey, entitling him to land which he left to his four sons, who had already emigrated to America c1682. These four - Nathaniel and Daniel, (baptised 1662), an intervening brother Thomas whose baptism is not recorded, and William, (baptised 1664) - settled in Byberry, (named after Bibury in Oxfordshire, with which the family also had links), and formed a dynasty which has flourished and spread. Other Waltons and their descendants stayed on in Oxhill until the early nineteenth century, with one isolated later burial in 1922 of a Richard Walton who lived at Nolands Farm.

What happened to Emanuel, Love and Wright I cannot say. (There was a Wright family in Oxhill so Wright’s name may be a pun rather than a misspelling.) Makepeace entries continue in the Registers but not with these distinctive names, nor that of their father Robert. If my supposition that they were Quakers is correct, they may later have become members of the Ettington Meeting House, built with burial ground c1684, or – (and I speculate) – like the Waltons have sought religious freedom in the New World.

Ann Hale
June 2010