In 1643, aged 22, (Admiral Sir) William Penn (1621-1670) was appointed as a Captain in the Royal Navy. In the same year he married Margaret Van der Schure (Jasper). At the end of this blog entry there is a short pdf slideshow relating to the life of Margaret Penn.
Margaret van der Schure has been described as a ‘gay widow’. Her father might well have been John Baptist Jasper, a merchant of the Strand, London who became a “prolific purchaser of confiscated royal goods“. He “may have been a leading London Merchant “ (so his affairs could have been complimentary to the Penn family’s own mercantile interests – see previous blog entry on Giles Penn). Perhaps the two families had on-going business/trading connections?
In 1642, (Admiral Sir) William Penn was on leave in London so it may have been then that he met Margaret. They married in 1643 at St Martin-within-Ludgate, 40 Ludgate Hill, London and close to Margaret’s family home in the Strand.. The church of St. Martin-within-Ludgate was destroyed by the Great Fire of London of 1666 and was rebuilt by Christopher Wren. There is reported to be a display by the door which commemorates Admiral Sir William Penn.
Their marriage is recorded thus: “1643. June 6th. Williame Penne and Margaret van der Schuren, by Dr Dyke, Lecturer…witness Mr Roach, churchwarden then”
The marriage is also record in the City of London Guildhall; perhaps this second certificate was needed for Penn to claim the compensation for Margaret’s loss of Irish estates: “1643. June 6. William Penne and Margaret van der Schuren by Mr Dyke, Lecturer.”
The use of Mr Dyke, a Lecturer (a holder of a stipend for preaching) to officiate the marriage shows the couple’s Puritan dissatisfaction with beneficed clergy.
After their marriage they lived in “Tower Gardens and the navy quarters where they were only able to afford two rooms”. When (Admiral Sir) William Penn was promoted in 1644, he and Margaret moved to a house that belonged to Charles II:
“…built with brick linings backward and adjoining to the east side of a former tenement, consisting of one hall, a parlour and a kitchen…with divided cellar underneath same and, above stairs, in first storey two fair chambers and on second storey two more and two garrets over the same with a yard before the same, now in possession of William Penn.”
It was in this house that the Quaker, William Penn (1644 -1718), was born on 14th October, 1644. With his father frequently absent at sea for long periods of time, It was Margaret who was to have the greater influence on the emotional and religious development of her son.
Margaret and her husband were, no doubt, a plain, Purtian couple, and, when they were married, lived in moderate circumstances in lodgings near the Tower of London. The diarist, Samuel Pepys, who had a close association with the family over a number of years, wrote of their beginnings with information he obtained from a Mrs Turner:
“She [Mrs Turner] says that he was a pityfull [fellow] when she first knew them; his lady was one of the sourest, dirty women, that ever she saw; that they took two chambers, one over the othr, for themselves and child in Tower Hill; that for many years together they eat more meals at her house than at their own that she brought my lady who was then a dirty slattern with her stockings hanging about her heels so that afterwards the people of the whole Hill did say that Mrs Turner made Mrs Pen a gentlewoman.”
Although plainly dressed the Penn newly weds still had a capacity for high spirits. (Admiral) Penn is described by Pepys as one whose pranks included “drinking the susceptible into a stupor, singing bawdt songs and supping at midnight off bread-and-butter on the roof” Pepys found Penn “a very merry fellow” with a wife with a similar approach to life. Pepys also described Margaret’s pranks as including “flinging Pepys on a bed at a party and heaping female guests upon him”.
Pepys describes his first meeting with Margaret Penn in August, 1664:
“At noon dined at home and after dinner my wife and I to Sir W Pen’s to see his lady, the first time, wo was well looked, fat short old Dutch woman, but one that hath been heretofore pretty handsome, and is now very discreet and I beleive hath more wit than her husband. Here we stayed talking a good while and very well please I was with the old woman at first visit.” At a later date Pepys says that Margaret is “mighty homely and looks old.”
10 years after their marriage (Admiral Sir) William Penn petitioned for restitution of wife’s estates in ‘County Clare, Rneanna and Jasper’s Bridge’. He appealed to Oliver Cromwell, who acted and passed an order in Council on 1st September, 1654:
“On consideration of the petition of General William Penn one of the admirals at se; Ordered, by his Highness and the council, that as a mark of favour to him and in consideration of his sufferings in an estate of his wife’s in Ireland, lands in Ireland yet undisposed of be set forth to him and his heirs of three hundred pounds per annum value, as the same worth in the year 1640; and that, for empowering the Lord-Deputy and council to set forth the same accordingly, an ordinance be brought in.”
Cromwell himself also addressed a letter to the Lord-Deputy and council in Ireland on 4th December:
“Gentlemen, Ourselves and council having thought fit, in consideration of the great losses sustained by General Penn and his wife by the rebellion in Ireland, and as remuneration of his good and faithful services performed to the Commonwealth to order that lands to the value of £300 per year, in Ireland as they were let in the year 1640, to be settled on General Penn and his heirs; and for such as he is now engaged in further service for the commonwealth in the present expedition by sea, and cannot himself look after the settling of the said estate, it is our will and pleasure, that lands of the said value be speedily surveyed and set forth in such place where there is a castle or convenient house for habitation upon them and near to some town or garrison, for the security and encouragement of such as he shall engage to plant and manure the same, and if it be, such lands as are already planted … We do earnestly and specially recommend the premises to your care, and remain, your loving friend, [Signed] Oliver Cromwell”
The castle that was awarded was Macroom, near the town of Cork. Margaret Penn often went to Ireland and lived there for long periods of time on one or other of the family’s estates. Post the 1661 Act of Settlement in Ireland it was Margaret Penn, in her husband’s absence, who dealt with the legal transference of Macroom Castle to the Earl of Clancarty and the Penn appropriation of the estates of Shanagarry in East Cork & Konakilty in West Cork and the appointment of the Admiral as governor and captain of the castle and fort of Kinsale.
When the Great Plague hit London in 1665 the Admiral was working for the British Naval Board, Margaret and the family remained in London until September in which month they moved to safer lodgings in Woolwich.
On the 11th January, 1666 Pepys wrote:
“All of us by invitation to Sir W Penn’s and much company, among others the Lieutenant of the Tower and Dr Whistler and his [prospective] son-in-law Lower, servant to Mrs Margaret Penn”. Anthony Lowther later married William & Margaret’s daughter, also named Margaret and referred to in the family as ‘Peg’. (This couple will be the subject of a future blog posting)
The Penns acquired a country house at Walthamstow (now in London, E17) as did their close family friend and Bristolian, Sir William Batten (d. 1667), a surveyor of the Navy. They both often entertained Samuel Pepys there, probably in Marsh Street (now High Street) where Margaret Penn was rated as living. Another theory suggests that they lived in Clay Street (now Forest Road).
When the Admiral resigned from the Navy Board in 1669 he gave up his house in Navy Gardens. London. The family went to live in the countryside at Wanstead (now part of North East London) and it was there that Margaret’s husband died on 16th September, 1670. His will stated:
“And first I doe will and devise unto my deare Wife Dame Margaret Penn to be paid unto her immediately after my decease the Summe of three hundred pounds sterling together with all my jewels other than what I shall hereinafter devise … the use during her life of one full moiety of all my plate … and all Coaches and Coach-horses or Coach-mares.”
Margaret accompanied the Admiral’s cortege from Wanstead to Bristol for his burial in St Mary Redcliffe Church, Bristol.
Margaret’s son, Richard , who had been left one hundred and twenty pounds a year until he was twenty-one, and then four thousand pounds, by the Admiral, survived his father by only three years. He died on 9th April, 1673, and buried at Walthamstow.
Margaret Penn died, twelve years after her husband’s death, in 1682.
1. An Uncommon Sailor – a portrait of Admiral Sir William Penn, Lucie Street, The Kensal Press, 1986.
Click on the following title to download a pdf slide show on Margaret Penn – Wife of Admiral Sir William Penn