William Rolles

William Rolles was baptized on 30 Oct 1648 in Garsington in Oxfordshire, the second eldest son of Ralph Rolles and his wife Jane. This branch of the Rolles family had been living in Turville from the mid 16th century but it is almost certainly a junior branch of the Rolles family of nearby Lewknor, where they briefly had tenure of Lewknor Manor and where there is an impressive eighteenth century monument to the full Rolles ancestry in the local church. Indeed William Rolles ‘returned’ to Lewknor and died there in 1711 leaving a will, describing him as a ‘yeoman of Lewknor.’

He married Ann Toovey in All Hallows, London Wall in 22 Jul 1686. It is presumed this is a first marriage, even though William would have been aged 37. It is possible William was connected to a livery company in London. The Tooveys were a similar family to the Rolles with a slew of ex-manorial land holdings around Turville on the Buckinghamshire/Oxford border. Both had relatives who had made or attempted to make careers in the City of London. For example, William’s uncle Jasper Rolles (bap Turville 2 Aug 1607) was buried in St Botolph’s Aldgate on 15 May 1650.

Both Toovey and Rolles families would almost certainly have had parliamentary sympathies during the civil war but it is difficult to place William and Ann on the spectrum. Later, some of the Tooveys were active Quakers in the three main Quaker meeting houses in in the area Warborough, Henley-on-Thames and Turville Heath (1690-1720) The Rolles family, some Baptists, later celebrated their struggle in the difficult times of war in a poem, whose text from about 1800 survives.

William’s father, Ralph Rolles had been baptized in Turville on 9 May 1613 and his grandfather is almost certainly the Henry Rolles of Turville who has frequent mention in land ownership and other Buckinghamshire papers of the late sixteenth century alongside Tooveys even at this early date.

What caused the Rolles family to obtain an estate and settle in Garsington about fifteen miles to the west is a mystery. At a time of tumult it brought them far closer to Royalist Oxford and these events must have coloured William’s early life. William’s mother Jane may have come from Garsington but there is no marriage record to be found.

The estate in Garsington was not insubstantial. In his will dated 14 Oct 1668 William’s father, Ralph (snr) does not mention the bequests to his oldest son Ralph (bap 1642), who we can presume had been passed the tenure of lands in Turville Heath at the age of 21 in 1663. William, as the second son and some six years younger was bequeathed “all my mansion house and capital messuage, Arable lands [etc]..being in the township of Garsington”

At the age of 21 William therefore inherited these farm lands. Just as it is not clear what William Rolles was up to in the period up until his marriage, it is not exactly clear as to how Ann Toovey fits into the myriad of Toovey records of the late seventeenth century. The large number of Toovey wills that have survived can build an impressive, if somewhat confusing picture.

Ann’s father’s first cousin was probably William Toovey (1620-1700), maltster of Henley, and a prominent Quaker through very difficult times. William Rolles’s younger sister, Jane,  also married  into the Toovey family. His brother-in-law John Toovey was also a maltster who died in Turville Heath in 1727 (will probate 19 Sep 1728) although his blood relationship to Ann is not obvious. Ralph Toovey, a tailor, was one of William Rolles’ nephews by that marriage and he too became a quaker before he died and was buried in the Quaker burial ground in Henley in 1737.

Despite all this there is no indication that either William Rolles, or his wife ever engaged with the Quaker movement. Their children and subsequent generations by and large embraced non-conformism in its later forms.

All of William and Ann’s children were baptized in Garsington and the move back to Lewknor was very late in his life. His mother Jane died in 1692 leaving a will (probate 23 Jan 1692/3). This indicates that she was living in Turville Heath and her son Ralph Rolles, William’s brother was the sole executor. It mentions her younger sons Samuel and John Rolles, who received £10 each. William Rolles, together with his two brothers-in-law Thomas Cox and John Hollis all received a mere shilling.

When William died at the age of 63 in 1711 he left money to each of his six children, the youngest John Rolls was still only 19. He also mentions his brother-in-law Peter Toovey of Wormsley.

There is no burial record to be found and that again raises question about the nature of William’s possible non-conformity.


  • Will of William Rolles, yeoman of Lewknor, 1711, Oxfordshire Wills
  • Garsington and Lewknor Parish registers OFHS
  • Turville Parish Registers, Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Aylesbury
  • Probate of Jasper Rolles of Turville, 1650
  • Will of Ralph Rolles, of Turville Heath, 1669, Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Aylesbury
  • Will of Joane Roules of Turville Heath, 1693, Aylesbury
  • Will of Ralph Rolles, of Turville Heath, 1716, Aylesbury
  • Correspondence with Miriam Smith – Poem about Ralph Rolles.