Research Report No. 6

17 May 1978


by Barry Elmore Hinman, M.A.


It is a well known fact of Connecticut history that Francis Stiles, sent by Sir Richard Saltonstall to establish a "particular plantation" at Windsor, Connecticut, for Puritan gentry of England, was a master carpenter. (See Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History, I, 364n, 500n). Since the time of Ezra Stiles, President of Yale University in the 18th century, who caused enquiries to be made in England, it has been presumed that he was born in Millbrook, Bedfordshire, but no real proof had been offered. The records of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, now deposited at the Guildhall Library, London, offer precise information on both of these subjects.

Ms. 4329 is the Carpenters' Court Book for the period 4 Aug. 1618-Sept. 1635. It records, among other things, the admission of apprentices and the granting of the freedom of the company, i.e., advancement to the rank of master carpenter. There ve find the following information:

     At a Court holden on Thursday the xith daie of decembr
     1623 Re of Hugh Standish for prstinge ffrancys Styles
     sonne of Thomas of Milbrook in C Bedford carpenter
     deceased for seven years from thannunciation next

f. 100 verso

The same information is repeated in the Account Book for 1623-1647 (Ms 4326/8) under the year 1623:

     Re of Hugh Standish for presting ffrancis Styles the
     sonne of Thomas Stiles of Milbrook in the County of
     Bedford carpenter deceased to serve for seaven years
     from the feast day of the purification of our lady 1624

And again in the Wardens' Accounts for Sept. 1617-Sept. 1647 under the date 1623-1624:

     Rec of Hugh Standish for presting ffrancis Styles
     sonne of Thomas Stiles of Milbrook in the C of Bedford
     carpenter deceased for 7 yrs as afforesd (from the
     feast of the purification of our Lady of 1623) ijs ijd

f. 108 verso

Seven years later, the same Court Book records the following:

     At a Court holden on Wednesday the xith day of
     May 1631 Re of ffrancis Styles for his habling
     by Hugh Standish iijs iiijd

f.260 verso

And the Account Book lists under "Receipts of freeman" for the year 1631 those of "ffrancis Stille", and the same are listed in the Wardens' Accounts:

    Receipts of freeman 1631
    Rec of...ffrancis Stilles...iijs iiijd

f. 180 verso

It is clear from the foregoing that Francis Stiles was apprenticed to Hugh Standish 11 Dec. 1623, and that he became free of the
company 11 May 1631. The folloving year, in 1632, the Wardens' Accounts contain the following entry, under the heading "extraordinary receipts":

     Rec. 30 May of ffrancis Stiles for a fine for
     evill speaches against his mrXS

f. 191

This last entry is rather unusual, since as he was now a master carpenter himself, he should not have had a master. Although the records definitely say "mr", there are several other cases where carpenters are fined for speaking against "his mjtie", so perhaps this was a slip of the pen by the recorder.

Here then is formal proof of the parentage of Francis Stiles and his place of birth. The parish register of Millbrook has been published as vol. 20 of the Bedfordshire Parish Registers. It covers the years 1558-1812, and the introduction states that no other parish records exist before 1812. The following entries are found concerning the Stiles family:

1581  JN 19     C  Rich s. Rich Stylles
1591  MR 12     C  Mary d. Thos Stylles
1592            C  Rich s. Thos Stylles (this entry has been struck through)
1593  NO 27     C  Hen s. Thos Stylles
1595  DE 25     C  Jn s. Thos Stylles
1600  MR 28     C  Chris s. Thos Stylles
1602  AU  1     C  Francis s. Thos Stylles
1604  JA 13     C  Joan d. Thos/Mary Stylles
1605  JA 22     B  Joan w. Thos Stylles
1607  DE 28     C  Eliz d. Thos/Mary Stylles
1612  FE  7     C  Thos s. Thos Styles (Mary occurs in BT)
1614  MR  6     B  Thos Styles, carpenter
1614  MR 20     B  Styles, widow (Mary occurs in BT)
1635  JA 13     M  Wm Heddye and Joan Styles
These birth dates can be compared with the ages of the four brothers as they were written down at "Mildred Bredstret" 16 March 1634 (i.e., 1635):
    Francis Stiles      35 yeres
    Tho: Stiles         20 yeres
    Jo: Stiles          35 yeres
    Henrie Stiles       40 yeres
(Hotten, Emigrants to America 1600-1700, I, 42-43).

From the parish entries above it is clear that Francis's father was indeed Thomas; that he was a carpenter; and that he was indeed deceased in 1623. As for his mother, no name is given of a wife to Thomas until 1604 when she is called Mary, but in 1605 a Joan wife to Thomas is buried. Either there were two Thomas's or the record is confused, and it is im-possible, probably, to say which until new evidence is found.

Meanwhile, what of the origins of Thomas Stylles, who appears suddenly in Millbrook around 1591? As he was a carpenter, the logical place to look is again the records of the Carpenters' Company at the Guild-hall. But as the earliest of all are printed research is greatly facilitated Vol. 6 of The Records of the Worshigful Comgany of Carpenters is the Court Book for the period 1573-1594. It contains the following entry:

    Courte holden the thirtenth daie of June Anno Dmi 1577     Gilbert Thomplinson ys admitted to have as his Apprentice     Thomas Stiell of the age of xxiiij years the sone of     Edmond Stiell deceased of Samborn in the countie of     Warwik Husbandman for the tearme of seaven years     begyninge at the feaste daie of the Nativitie of St     John Baptiste next ensueng the date hereof

p. 78

And vol. 5, the Wardens' Account Book for 1571-1591 gives, under the date 1577 and the heading "Receipts for presentinge of Apprentices":

   Receaved of Gilbert Thomplynson for psentinge Thomas Styell for vij
   years begyninge at the Nativitie of St John baptiste 1577 ijs ijd

Next to this entry is written "gone", which means that Thomas did not serve his full seven years, and did not, therefore, become a master car-penter. Is he the father of Francis? The only answer is that he could be, but there is no proof that he was. Mr. R. A. McKinley, Reader in the History of English Surnames at the University of Leicester, thinks that Stiell and Stiles could well be the same name. In the evolution of such names, the "s" is a late addition. Moreover, if he were born in 1553 he could still be having children in 1602 and die in 1614. Finally, if he came to Millbrook with the Richard Stylles who appears in 1581 that would explain his not finishing out his apprenticeship.

Whatever the case for Thomas, the trail ends here. Sambourn, a hamlet in the parish of Coughton in Warvickshire, has no early parish records.

Returning to the printed records of the Carpenters' Company, there are four other Stile entries before the arrival of Francis:

    John Stile was buried in St Mary Axe churchyard and
    left a will dated 17 June and proved 27 June 1468;
    John Stile was arrested in 1479 and presented a free brother in 1485;
    John Styll obtained his freedom of the company Oct. 1534;
    Alyn Style made payments for his journeymanship in 1502, 1504, and 1507.

Finally, there is a last entry of interest:

    Court held Monday 26 March 1632
    This day Henry Styles a fforener being here present at
    the request of the right hoble Thomas Lord Coventrye Keep:
    of the Great Seale of England signified unto the courte
    of the Aldermen by his letter in that behalfe for the
    obtayninge of his ffreedome of this cyttye of London by
    an order in the courte of Aldmen the eighth day of March
    1631 tempore Whitmore it was ordered that he should be
    admitted into the freedome of this cyttye by redemption
    in the companye of carpenters payinge to Mr. Chamberlain
    to the cyttye use the somme of VL and he was this day
    sworne a freeman of this companye of carpenters
    And he is to give a cupp unto this companye of silver
    before Whitsundaye next to the value of xls or above
    Re more of him ffor the office of his ffreedom iijs iiijd

(Carpenters Court Book, f. 286)

Is this the brother of Francis, thus introduced into the same company as he by the favour of a powerful nobleman? Again, the only answer is that it could be. The name Styles is, after all, a fairly common one, and in that same year of 1632 Lord Coventry was living in the parish of St Martin in the Fields at Westminister fairly near a Richard Style, gentleman.

The records of the Carpenters' Company prove both that Francis Stiles was a master carpenter and that he was born in Millbrook, Beds, the son of Thomas Stiles, carpenter.

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