The Tilghman(Tillman) Family


In recent years Snodland has welcomed many members of the Tilghman family, which believes its roots are here. The Tilghmans have two remarkable genealogical tools: First: Stephen Frederick Tillman, ‘Spes Alit Agricolam (Hope Sustains The Farmer) Covering the years 1225 to 1961 of the Tilghman (Tillman) and Allied Families’ (4th edition, Washington, D.C., 1962). This provides details of 5677 members of the family, gleaned by the writer ‘from old English records to be found in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Revolutionary War records in the library of the DAR and in the National Archives; U. S. Census Returns; and from data furnished by living members.’ Second and more recently, the indefatigable research of an English member of the family, Miss Elizabeth M. Tillman, has cleared up much confusion concerning the English members present in the American accounts and her exhaustive work must surely make them one of best documented of all families. Her book is ‘Getting to the Roots of the Family Tree: The Story of a Saxon Family’ (Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, Maryland, 1997 (3 vols.) ISBN 0-7884-0627-2. This account draws heavily on Miss Tillman’s research and I am indebted to her for so willingly sharing her discoveries.

Some American families have difficulty in tracing the moment when their forebears left England, but the Tilghmans find precise details recorded in a family manuscript dating back to 1540. (Its present whereabouts is unknown.) Richard Tilghman (1627-1676) obtained a grant from Lord Baltimore of a manor in Maryland and sailed to settle there in 1661. The old manuscript was among his possessions brought from England and it includes notice of a birth on board the ship. The gist of the Latin original is as follows:

Near Bermuda, latitude 34.43, longitude 34.55, in the ship Elizabetha & Maria, captain Richardo Hobbs, the 21 January 1662, before 2 in the afternoon, Richardus Tilghman was born, and he was baptized on the 28 of the same month.

From this Richard, a surgeon, many of the American Tilghmans are descended. But what of the family before they emigrated, and of those first thirty (English) members listed in Spes Alit Agricolam? John Philipott’s Villare Cantianum (published after his death in 1659) includes the following (p.322):

‘There is a second seat in Snodland called Holoway Court, and in the Book of Aid mention is made of one Henry de Holoway that held it in elder times, about the beginning of Henry the Third, but upon a serious perusal of the evidences and muniments which did relate to this Mansion, I found it, as high as they reached, that is to the reign of Edward the Third, to be the Inheritance of the Tilghmans; and several very old Panes of Glasse are coloured with that Coat of Arms which the Tilghmans are entered with in the last Visitation of Kent [1619], and in this Name was the Possession for many Descents permanent till some forty years since or more it was by sale conveyed to Clotworthy.’

Philipot’s statements cannot be dismissed lightly. Clearly he visited the families in drawing up the 1619 Visitation and presumably took the opportunity to consult documents held by them. Unfortunately we do not know what these were so far as Holloway Court is concerned, but those currently known indicate a somewhat different state of affairs. Miss Tillman has found that the family originated in Norfolk before establishing bases in the West Country and in Kent. In the fourteenth century Tilghmans were living in Pluckley and it is here that we must seek the origins of the Snodland branch. She suggests that Philipott may not have looked too closely at names on the deeds in the Tilghman chest and that it is likely that the early ones derived from previous families.

Those lists of Snodland parishioners which have come down to us (particularly tax returns), and other early documents such as wills, indicate that we need search no earlier than the late fifteenth century to find when the Tilghmans came to Snodland. The key figure is a William Tilghman who died in London in 1493/4. This man held the post of Clerk to the Privy Council and thus was among the most important ‘civil servants’ of his day. Official documents, beautifully written by him, are preserved in the Public Record Office. Miss Tillman has traced his activities to as early as 1446, so he must have been an old man at his death. His will shows him to have been a prosperous man, a pupil of Thomas Kent, one of the founders (with John Kent) of a Chantry in Headcorn Church in 1466. He requested that he be buried in the church of St. James Garlickhithe and clearly he was, for John Stowe recorded a monument to ‘William Tiligham’ in his Survay of London of 1598. He appears to have died childless, for none are mentioned in his will, and it was his nephew William to whom he bequeathed land in Snodland, Halling, Paddlesworth and Birling:

I will and ordeyne…that…my…feoffees at such tyme as they shall be desirid or required on the behalf of my godson William Tilghman the younger, oon of the soones also of the said Thomas my said brother, shall make or do to be made unto the same William or unto such p[er]sons as he will thanne assigne a sufficiant estate in the law of and in all my landes and tenements, be made unto the same William or unto such p[er]sons as he will thanne assigne a sufficiant estate in the law of and in all my landes and tenements, rentes, medowes, pasture, leses and woodes wt [with] their appurtennces sett lying and beying as well in the p[ar]ish of Snodland, Hallyng and Paddellesworth as in the p[ar]ish of byrling in the said countie of Kent, to have and to hold the same londes and ten[emen]ts, rentes, medowes and pastures, leses and woodes wt their appurtennances unto the said Willm Tilghman and to his heires and assignes forev’more condicionally as it folowyng that the same Willm Tilghman the younger his heires and assignes shall kepe or do to be kept yerely from that tyme forth during the terme of 80 yeres thence next ensuing in the said parish church of Snodland an obite solemply by note after salisbury use for my soule and the soules of margarett late my wiff and of Thomas Saundre sumtyme her husband and for all cristen soules att such tyme of the yere as it shall fortune me to departe out of this wreched worlde expendying in the said obite so yerely to be kept as above to preestes, clerkes, children, almes to poure people, bred, ale, chese, wax and Rynging of belles to the sexteyne durying the said terme of 80 yeres by the oversight of the p[ar]son there or of his deputee there for the tyme beyng 4s.

One’s impression from the will is that William Tilghman of London considered that Pluckley rather than Snodland was his home: he bequeathed an altar cloth and book to the church there, he left money for the keeping of a yearly obit and for a priest, and virtually all his other bequests of land were in that parish. Tilghmans continued to live in and around Pluckley for some considerable time thereafter.

Nevertheless, together with his nephew, William had bought land in Birling from ‘John Boteler of Snodland’ on 7 October 1489 and the will shows this was just part of a larger holding in the area. The seventeenth century list previously mentioned also records that John Holway conveyed his properties to Bennet Phillip and others in 1468 (one of whom may have been Bennet Phillip’s relation, William Alisander) and that these had passed to William Tilghman the younger by 1504/5. More was added as time went on.

Enough evidence survives to show that William Tilghman the nephew settled in Snodland, establishing himself as one of the principal parishioners. By the late fifteenth century he was a churchwarden and he is mentioned in several wills: John Andrew 1491; Margery Canon 1503; Andrew Berrard 1505; John Ussher 1522; John Taylor 1527; Walter Stonyng 1532; Agnes Stonyng 1540. Tax lists for 1524 and 1538 show him to have been among the most prosperous villagers. He was married twice: first to Isabel, daughter of Thomas Avery, and second to Joan Amherst. A brass memorial now in the South aisle of All Saints church, Snodland, records them:

Pray for the soules of William Tilghman thelder & Isabell & Joane his wyves, which William decssyd the xxvij day of August ano dni MCCCCCXLI, on whose soules Jesu have mercy.As you ar so was I, and as I am so shall you be.’

The memorial also incorporates the Tilghman arms. William’s will shows that he leased the mill and forge at Holborough from the Bishop of Rochester and that he farmed much of the land in the village. William’s son and heir, Richard (of Snodland), had died in 1518. Richard was married twice according to the Visitation. His first wife was the daughter of William Pordage, his second was Julian[a] Newman. Two sons, Thomas and William are mentioned in his will, but further references to Thomas have not been traced among the Snodland records and evidently he lived at Pluckley. William, on the other hand, succeeded his grandfather in the Snodland estates and developed them further. He married four times and some of the first entries in the Snodland church registers refer to his growing family. The Tilghmans were undoubtedly the most prosperous and important land-owners in the parish at this time and when William made his will in 1593 he incorporated a long list of houses and lands which he had acquired, the rents of which mostly passed to his fourth wife, Susan. He was careful to attach certain of these to the tenement called Nasshenden ‘where I now dwell’ and others to ‘Hollwayes’. He concluded:

my minde and desire ys that the litle mesuage and garden at Holberth in the parishe of Snodland nowe devided into twoe dwellinges wherein widow Blacke and Johane Valentyne do nowe inhabit and dwell shall allwayes be ymployed as an Almeshouse to the use of the poore for ever by my said wife or such myne heir as shall from tyme to tyme inherit my mansion house wherein I nowe dwell and that she or such heir shall allwayes nominate and appoynte twoe poore persons to have theire severall dwellinges therein paying none other Rent to my sayed wife or heir but only twoe pence yerelie which cometh to a penny a peece for the Lordes rent therof.

No other reference to these almshouses has come to light. Indeed, the picture of the Tilghmans, who are well documented in wills and deeds of the sixteenth century, now becomes somewhat blurred. Susan Tilghman, assured of a steady income from the rents, may have moved to her family home in East Peckham, where she died and was buried in 1619. She is listed in a Snodland tax assessment of 27 March 1613, but was only valued at a quarter of the amount charged to Edward (1542-1611), William’s eldest son by his first wife, Mary. The outcome of a lengthy court case between Susan and Edward concerning their respective inheritance of land in Snodland is not resolved by extant documents. Edward’s wife, Margaret (d.1613), came from the Brewer family of Ditton, and was bequeathed his estate with the proviso that she paid £14 a year to their son Francis for his maintenance. In 1610 Francis had already received a substantial amount of land and property in Snodland and Birling from the estate of his godfather, John Trevett. Probably Francis soon sold up, for on 15 June 1615 he married Margery Sprackling of Ellington-in-Thanet and they set up home in Sandwich. This would explain how about half of the Tilghman property in Snodland may have come into the hands of a London lawyer, Thomas Clottery of the Inner Temple, passing at his death in 1631 to his sister Elizabeth Williams and then to her son Thomas. In the meantime the lease of the mill ‘and the two little houses over against the said mill’ (could these have been the almshouses?) had been taken over by William Gyles (d.1614).

The other half of the land descended to Susan Tilghman’s eldest son, Whetenhall, named after her family from Hextall’s Court at East Peckham. A 1634 map of the Bishop’s manor of Halling (printed as the flyleaf of Across the Low Meadow: A History of Halling in Kent, by Edward Gowers and Derek Church, (Christine Swift, 1979)) shows fields occupied by ‘Mr Clottery’ and by ‘Mr Tillman’. A deed of 1 December 1640 transfers Whetenhall’s property, including the house in which he was then living, to his eldest son and heir, Isaac, and all this passed in turn to Isaac’s only daughter and heir Elizabeth, wife of Rev. Samuel Symonds of Murston, Kent. Finally, in 1682, she sold the farm of Nasshenden and the other land to Sir John Marsham of Whorne’s Place, Cuxton, who was gradually acquiring most of the land in the parish.

Of the other sons of William, it is probable that Henry (b.1543) died young, for nothing further is heard of him. Similarly both boys called Lambert/Lambard, after William Lambarde the famous Halling lawyer and historian, died in infancy. Charles was buried at Snodland, aged 26, on 25 May 1608. Oswald moved to Wood Street, London and became a grocer and member of the Grocer’s Company. He made his will on 6 January 1629, desiring to be buried in the churchyard of St. Mary Abchurch. To his daughter Abigail he bequeathed

the Cheste of Lynnen in my upper Chamber, next the streete, and the vallence for a Bed and wrought Cupbord cloth, and Cubbard cloth of Holland marked with A:T: and all the plate marked wth AT wch were given to my Daughter Abigail by her grandmother and mother and a wine cup wch her Grandfather gave her .


= (1) Abigail Tailor, St. Michael Bassishaw, London, 13 Jan 16 (she died 29 June 1621) daughters Abigail, Mary; sons Francis, John

= (2) Elizabeth Packham/Packnam, 15 Nov 1625 or 1626 (she died c.1634) son Richard, bapt. St Mary Abchurch, London, 23 Sept 1627

Oswald buried, St. Mary Abchurch, 1628

Three other children by his first wife are not mentioned and probably died young. Nor does he mention Richard, his infant son by Elizabeth his second wife. The latter would appear to have been orphaned in 1634 and his guardianship was entrusted to his step-sister Abigail during his minority. This Richard became a surgeon and married Mary Foxley. A daughter Mary was christened at St Olave, Hart Street, on 14 December 1656 and and unnamed infant of ‘Mr. Tilmans the chirugeon’ was buried at St. Dionisius Backchurch in 1661. Within the year he and his family were on the ship Elizabeth & Mary intent on starting a new life in Maryland.