Peter Toovey

Peter Toovey, yeoman of Turville, in Buckinghamshire died in 1668 leaving a will, probate granted 17 Jul 1668.  This will indicates he left a widow, Elizabeth and a young family of four daughters and one son Peter. The trail of land documents D-X977 in the Buckinghamsire archive would strongly suggest that he was therefore the father of Peter Toovey of Wormsley (1665-1741) and Ann Rolles (1660-1739). We can also surmise that he is the Peter Toovey who is baptized in Turville Parish Church on 28 Jul 1622, the child of Edward and Ann Toovey and he is therefore one of the young children each bequeathed a sheep by their grandfather Peter Toovey’s will of 1636, where it mentions Edward and his brother Jeffrey.

However these earlier Toovey ancestors are clearly simple yeoman farmers with small holdings in the Chilterns and were generally illiterate. Peter Toovey who died in 1668 at the age of 46 was a literate man and seems to have strong radical religious connections formed in the days of The Commonwealth and also cemented by his marriage in about 1651.

In his will, he not only mentions his ‘wellbeloved wife Elizabeth’, who becomes his sole executrix, but also his ‘wellbeloved brother Mr James Forbes’, who becomes one of two overseers of the will. This suggests that his wife is likely to be Elizabeth Forbes.

His son Peter Toovey of Wormsley who lived until 1741 mentions in his own will of 1739 that he had purchased land of his cousin James Delamaine. This ties in with documents in D-X977 that mentions Richard Delamaine and would suggest strongly that Richard Delamaine is related to Peter Toovey’s family as early as 1654. Digging further reveals a number of interesting facts. Richard Delamaine, son of a court mathematician to Charles I, was a radical preacher in Hereford who left a will of 1657, yet held property in Turville Buckinghamshire, purchased off a Richard West. This land was left first to his wife Mary and then to his two children Elizabeth and Wroth Delamaine, both named in the 1657 will.

We can trace Wroth Delamaine all the way to Jamaica where he dies intestate in 1680 aged 27. Administration of his estate is passed to Elizabeth Jelly (wife of Richard) and it is noted that there are two sons, James and Charles Delamaine. There is a recorded marriage between a Richard Jelly and Elizabeth Delamaine, aged 18, in London on 19 May 1671 and this must be the daughter Elizabeth, sister of Wroth, mentioned in the will of 1657. Wroth’s son James Delamaine would therefore be in line to inherit land in Turville and hence be in a position to sell it back to his cousin Peter Toovey (jnr) some time before 1739.

One would expect from this that Mary Delamaine, widow of Richard when he dies aged 30 in 1657, is either a sister of Peter Toovey (d 1668) or, more likely, of his wife Elizabeth Forbes.

The research of Mr (sic) James Forbes is also revealing as there are few Forbes outside Scotland until the civil war. There is, however, one documented James Forbes whose career in many ways matches and exceeds that of Richard Delamaine. This is James Forbes, a ‘divine’, who was born in Aberdeen and taking an MA in Scotland, then comes to Oxford University at the height of the Civil War in about 1648. Just as Richard Delamaine was despatched to preach Commonwealth ideology from the pulpits of Hereford, James Forbes was sent to preach a similar message from the pulpits of Gloucester. The eighteenth century theologian and historian Edmund Calamy cites James Forbes as one of the finest example of evangelical ‘divine’ in his relentless preaching of god’s message through adversity and imprisonment. James Forbes survived all this persecution and lived to the age of 82. He left his library of 1300 books and letters to trustees and these are now in the University of Toronto. These documents significantly came to the market in the 1960’s from ‘E Jelly’ and had seemingly been in the Jelly family’s possession since 1722.

As James Forbes, the divine, does not appear to have any children we can speculate (for the moment) that Mary Delamaine is a sister of his and Elizabeth Toovey is another sister, both presumably born in Aberdeen.  Mary Delamaine’s daughter was Elizabeth Jelly and the Jellys would therefore be some of the closest relatives of James Forbes, at his death in Gloucester in 1712. This family held James Forbes book collection for over two centuries and this offers a concrete connexion between the Delamaine and Forbes family and hence to that of Peter Toovey.

Another indication of radical beliefs comes for the Buckinghamshire Quarter Sessions. Here with numbing regularity (7 times), the  names, Elizabeth Toovey and Elizabeth West, both widows, come up for fines and punishment for failure to attend church (1678-1680). The two are described as widows of Tirfield with Ibstone and, given the background picture painted above, would seem to be Peter’s widow, Elizabeth Toovey and the widow of Richard West, called Elizabeth, as mentioned in the will of Richard Delamaine in 1657. From the Turville register, Peter Toovey has a sister Elizabeth baptized on 24 Feb 1627.

The support network of dissidents and radical non-conformists extended to John Toovey of Turville, Peter’s ‘cousin’. His apology for his disobedience to the established church is recorded in the Turville Parish Ragister 12 Apr 1663. John Toovey was a clerk to the minister in Turville and clearly felt the need to pull back from the radicalism associated with the likes of Richard Delamaine and James Forbes.

We can presume that Peter Toovey and his son Peter held similar pragmatic views. The tomb of Peter Toovey (d 1741) and his family bears witness to how much this branch of the family was brought back into the Church of England establishment. It would appear though that John Toovey, Peter’s cousin, who had received such an admonishment in 1663 did however revert to Quakerism and was buried a Quaker in Henley in 1698. In his will of 1698 he mentions Peter Toovey of Turfield Heath as his cousin.

We can conclude, even if some of the links above may be considered somewhat tenuous that Peter Toovey (snr) had family links with at least Richard Delamaine and probably James Forbes too. Without evidence of the two marriages, perhaps performed in the heady days of liberated Oxford in 1649-1650, it is difficult to prove.

Sadly the tomb from the 1740’s of Peter Toovey (jnr), whose details were recorded, was removed from the interior of St Mary’s Turville in a refurbishment around 1903.

Selected Sources

  • Will of Peter Toovey of Turville, probate 1668, National Archives
  • Will of Richard Delamaine, Clerk of Hereford, 1657, National Archives
  • Will of Peter Toovey of Wormsley, probate 1741, National Archives.
  • Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies – D-X977/5/1-3 Purchase of land by Richard Delamaine, Toovey family land documents.
  • Jamaica Family History Search: Caribbeana Vol 6 Part 1 Folio 153 Administration of Wroth Delamaine, Oct 1680, 27, to Elizabeth Jelly alias D. (wife of Richard H.), friend of G. of James D. & Charles D., children of W. D., of Jamaica.
  • Buckinghamshire Sessions Records: Volume 1. 1678 to 1694 – Repeated indictments of Elizabeth Toovey and Elizabeth West
  • Gloucestershire Archives: D6026/6/46 Letters to Rev James Forbes, 1699/1700-1708/9 (mentions documents owned by Jelly family)