Transactions of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts

    February Meeting, 1947

    A STATED Meeting of the Society was held, at the invitation of Mr. Samuel Eliot Morison, at No. 44 Brimmer Street, Boston, on Thursday, 20 February 1947, at a quarter after three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Augustus Peabody Loring, Jr., in the chair.

    The records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.

    The President reported the death on 21 January 1947 of Allyn Bailey Forbes, a Resident Member, and that on 3 February 1947 of Wilbur Cortez Abbott, a Resident Member.

    Mr. Kenneth John Conant then read a paper entitled “The Newport Tower.”

    The Editor communicated by title the following paper by Mr. Louis Dow Scisco:

    Sir Christopher Gardyner

    FOR three hundred years romance and mystery have surrounded the personality of Sir Christopher Gardyner, so-called Knight of the Golden Melice and early sojourner at Massachusetts Bay in the days of the Puritans. Where the wilderness touched the sea he reared his cabin home, ensconced therein a comely consort from Old England, and tried to cultivate the friendship of his colonist neighbors. But those neighbors, being mostly serious-minded Puritan persons, made no pretense of liking Sir Christopher or his ways. Despite his assertion of social quality he was courteously but firmly ushered out of the country, leaving in local records no clear reference to his identity.

    So, for three centuries students of colonial history have wondered who he was and whither he went after he left New England. The aura of romance that lay about him led Longfellow to write a pleasant poem on Sir Christopher and his lady fair. Some writers of fiction have made him a character in their tales. In a more serious way the scholarly Charles Francis Adams wrote a historical treatise about his brief stay in New England, but failed to reveal his identity otherwise.

    Thanks to the accumulation of printed historical material in England in the last few decades, historical research into the identity of mysterious English gentlemen is not so difficult as it was in former times. Governor John Winthrop, writing about Sir Christopher in 1631, said “I never intended any hard measure to him, but to respect and use him according to his quality.” Winthrop knew him to be a man of social standing and possible influence. Evidence now reveals that Sir Christopher was a member of a respected family of English gentry in Surrey, that he was a nephew of Sir Thomas Gardyner, a friend of the royal family, and that he was a brother-in-law of Sir John Heydon, trusted official of King Charles, holding the position of lieutenant of ordnance. All of which was good reason for the Puritan magistrates to avoid meting out any “hard measure” toward him.

    The ancestry of Sir Christopher is revealed by the visitation pedigrees of the heralds, three of which show his position in the family.1 The founder of the family, as shown by the pedigrees, was one William Gardyner, who removed from Hertfordshire somewhere around 1540 and established himself on the Surrey side of the Thames, in the Southwark area of modern London. King Henry had then sequestrated the lands of Bermondsey Abbey. The abbot’s farm, called Bermondsey Grange, was granted to the Earl of Salisbury, and he in turn transferred it by some form of long-term lease to William Gardyner. In the published records William emerges from obscurity in 1542, when he is mentioned casually in a royal grant of abbey land as being abutting owner.2 The Bermondsey parish register records the burial in June of 1549 of William, described as “farmer of Bermondsey Grange.”3 A son, also named William, then inherited the family property. When Sir Christopher was in New England he boasted that he was of the same family stock as Stephen Gardiner, formerly bishop of Winchester and lord chancellor of the realm.4 His assertion is believable. The bishop was contemporary with William of Surrey, and was a native of Suffolk, not so far from Hertfordshire as to make relationship unlikely.

    The second William of the family line was somewhat of a public figure in his county. In 1569 he appeared as arquebus man at the militia muster.5 In that same year he was collector of assessments for the drainage commission of Surrey and Kent, resigning because the farmers with whom he had to deal were largely his own tenants.6 Later, in 1574, he was made disbursing officer for the commission. On this occasion he is described as “William Gardner, gentleman,” which shows that he had acquired armorial bearings and ranked with the country gentry.7 The arms thus obtained were “Azure, a griffin passant, or.”8 In 1588 he subscribed £50 for defense against the Spanish armada.9 He may have been the member of parliament of that name chosen in 1588 and in 1592. In 1592 the privy council put him on a commission to suppress disorders in Southwark,10 and in 1594 he was criticized for not doing well thereat.11 Meanwhile he was assessor of subsidies in 1593 and 1594.12 About this time he bought property at Dorking. The parish register notices his burial in December, 1597,13 and his will is recorded, describing him as of Bermondsey and Dorking.14 Of his four sons, the eldest died just before his father. Two other sons became local notables known as Sir Thomas of Peckham and Sir William of Lagham.

    Third in the family line was Christopher Gardyner, eldest son of the second William, and father of Sir Christopher. His birth was about January, 1563, but his baptism does not appear in the Bermondsey parish records. Of his personality there is hardly a trace. In 1581 he is recorded as a youthful law student at the Inner Temple,15 and then he disappears from view for some years. In June of 1594 he reappears as a bridegroom. The bride was Judith Sackville, daughter of a good Sussex family.16 He now became a resident at Dorking,17 where his father owned the estate called Sondes Place. However, when their first child came, a daughter named Frances, they seem to have been in London, for their girl was baptized there.18 Their second child was a boy, named after his father. Christopher himself died in 1596 according to the visitation pedigree. As his father William outlived him by a few months, Christopher never possessed the family estates. His widow married again later and had a daughter known in the records as Mary Phillips.

    The younger Christopher Gardyner was born probably in 1596. Both date and place are uncertain, as the Dorking parish register has no mention of his arrival. Of his boyhood there is no direct information. Apparently the widow kept Sondes Place and brought up her children there, for young Christopher was his grandfather’s heir and it is known that Sondes Place remained with the Gardyner family for many years. The first definite glimpse of young Christopher reveals him as beginning student life in 1613 at Cambridge University.19 But seemingly he did not fit well with the scholastic atmosphere, for, a year later, in November, 1614, he started the study of law at the Inner Temple,20 following in his father’s footsteps. But even this did not hold him, and in July, 1615, the privy council minutes show that one Christopher Gardiner and his servant Alexander Darby were allowed license for three years of travel, with the usual proviso that they should not go to Rome.21

    If the three-year period were observed by the travelers, they got back to England in 1618 and the matured young man was ready to assume control of his inheritance. The elder Christopher seems not to have had much money of his own, but, being an eldest son, he had been named in his father’s will for a double portion of the father’s estate. When death claimed the elder Christopher just prior to the father’s death, this legacy devolved upon the younger Christopher as grandson and heir. Sir Thomas of Peckham tells this and complains about young Christopher. He says that he had been partner of the elder Christopher in some transaction that left them £2000 in debt. Of this, £600 was the elder Christopher’s obligation, which Sir Thomas had to bear, and when the younger Christopher came into his inheritance he showed no inclination whatever to repay Sir Thomas that amount.22

    At some time about 1620 both young Christopher and his sister Frances assumed matrimonial bonds. Frances married her cousin William Gardyner, son of the peevish Sir Thomas, and the latter is irritable also about this marriage. He says that he had hoped to marry his son to some woman of property whose money could be used in making jointures for William’s sisters, and as it was, William’s marriage was not helpful. Sir Thomas admits that Frances brought her husband money, for she had £400 in cash and £200 in annual income, all of which William scattered to the winds, as well as an allowance of £55 a year that Sir Thomas himself gave for support of the family. Evidently William had his faults, but nevertheless he moved in high circles and in 1626 attained in some way to the honor of knighthood.

    Young Christopher seems to have married more happily than did his sister. His bride was Elizabeth Onslow, daughter of Sir Edward Onslow, a resident in Surrey. The wedded pair lived at Dorking and two children came to them, a son named Onslow and a daughter Judith. Both of them are shown in the visitation pedigrees. Then, on 12 April 1624, the young mother died. A mortuary brass in her memory was set up in the Dorking church by the bereaved husband. It bore a commemorative inscription and the combined arms of Gardyner, Onslow, and Sackville.23 In the latest of the family pedigrees the date of the wife’s death is stated and a third child is indicated by a dash,24 from which it may be supposed that she died in childbirth. This last child presumably is another Christopher, who appears in the records in later years.

    When Gardyner in after years was in Plymouth Colony as an unwilling guest he lost a notebook which contained “a memorial what day he was reconciled to the pope and church of Rome, and in what universitie he took his scapula, and such and such degrees.”25 From middle 1624 to middle 1626 there is a gap in references to Christopher. Apparently these experiences might fit into this gap, assuming that he went to the continent after his wife’s death. More intriguing is the fact that about this time he became a papal knight, by reason of which he assumed a little swank with a “Sir” before his name. Governor Bradford of New Plymouth called him Knight of the Holy Sepulcher and said he acquired knighthood at Jerusalem, all which seems somewhat doubtful. Governor Winthrop seems more accurate when he calls him Knight of the Golden Melice, meaning the papal Milizia Aurata, an order of merit conferred at that time on Catholic laymen of minor distinction. The recipients of this honor were usually called knights of the golden spur.26 Just why an obscure Englishman should have obtained this distinction is not clear, unless one may suppose that Christopher was rewarded for some service done for the new king in England who succeeded to the throne in 1625.27 Perhaps also a clue exists in the fact that on the mortuary brass set up in Dorking church Christopher’s father-in-law is described as equitis aurati.28 Gardyner is noticed in England again in 1626. Royal license of 9 June authorizes John and Henry Gage to convey to Christopher Gardyner their holding of Haling Manor at Croydon in Surrey, for which the buyer is to pay £2850. The premises were conveyed on 12 July and John Gage died on 6 December.29 Presumably Gardyner then took possession. Whether Christopher’s mother was still living at Sondes Place is not in evidence. If living, she probably came to Haling Hall, for in March, 1627, Christopher’s brother-in-law William Gardyner was living at Dorking and pleading poverty as his excuse for not paying a subscription that he had formerly given.

    In 1628 Christopher appears in the position of guardian or trustee for his half-sister Mary Phillips. Her father had died, leaving her some money. On the scene arrived Sir John Heydon as suitor for Mary’s hand and her money. Sir John was about forty years old and Mary was probably considerably younger, but he held a government office of some importance, and probably he had courtly manners, so his suit was quite successful. Sir Christopher signed an ante-nuptial contract to pay over £1500 to Sir John and the marriage took place in December, 1628.30 That contract by Christopher became a matter of contention years later because Gardyner was remiss in living up to his agreement.

    In 1630 Christopher ventured to visit America. He sailed in some ship going to Newfoundland or Maine, and from one of these places went onward, reaching Massachusetts in the spring of that year, bringing with him a woman as companion and housekeeper. He set up his house on the shore of Neponset River, where North Quincy is now located. Charles Francis Adams, in a monograph of many years ago,31 states that one of the sons of Sir Ferdinando Gorges had a claim on the land where the Puritans aimed to settle, and evidence indicated that Gorges sent Gardyner from England as an observer of Puritan activities. John Winthrop and his shipload of colonists arrived a few weeks after the coming of Gardyner.

    For several months Gardyner lived quietly in his cabin home, keeping friendly relations with his neighbors and, according to Bradford, even offering to join with them in worship. Nevertheless, he was held in suspicion by the colonial leaders. Their disapproval came to a head when, in February, 1631, they received a report about him from England. They were informed that Gardyner had left behind him in England two wives, each of whom was earnestly wishing to get him back to her particular hearthstone.32 Inasmuch as he had still another consort with him in New England the situation was felt to be one that needed correction, and an order for his arrest was made. Gardyner had friends, however, and was warned in time. As the enemy came to view he rushed from his cabin, swam the river, and vanished in the woods. Later, when in England, he declared that he had been “driven to swim for his life.”33 Safe in the forests, he remained about a month “and traveled up and down among the Indians,” as Winthrop says. Then some of the Indians, troubled by his presence, notified the governor of New Plymouth and were told to bring the wanderer to town. They had a lively fight with Gardyner before they were able to club him into submission, but they finally tied him up and brought him to Plymouth town, where he was held until officers from Boston came and took him away.34

    The Puritan leaders at Boston had intended to send Gardyner back to England, but the ship chosen for that purpose sailed before they brought Gardyner from Plymouth. So he remained at Boston, or perhaps at his own cabin at times. It is mentioned that at one time he was present in court and argued with the magistrate during the course of a trial. While awaiting departure, letters to him were relayed from Piscataqua, whereupon the magistrates seized them and read them. Winthrop says they came from Sir Ferdinando Gorges, but he abstains from telling their import. Finally, about August, Gardyner was allowed to sail for Maine. Winthrop says later that “he was kindly used and dismissed in peace, professing much engagement for the great courtesy he had found here.”35 The next twelve months must have been unhappy ones for Sir Christopher. His girl friend married a Maine colonist, and the long winter that followed was unusually severe. It would be interesting to know how he passed the time, but there is no record of it. Not until August, 1632, was he able to get back to England. He finally landed at Bristol, uttering loud complaints about the way he had been treated. One Thomas Wiggins wrote from Bristol to Boston that “an unworthy person, Sir Christopher Gardiner,” had arrived there and was telling about swimming the river to escape Puritan malevolence.36

    Except for the unkind comments of Puritan critics there is nothing on record about Gardyner’s amatory affairs. Had there been any actual evidence of legal criminality in the way of bigamy, most certainly Winthrop would have recorded it, but evidently there was none. Wiggins, in Bristol, had heard rumors about Gardyner’s women and understood that they lived in London, knowing no more than that. None of the many references to Gardyner from 1624 onward indicate that he ever entered into matrimony a second time. He may have been a gay widower but it is most unlikely that he was a bigamist.

    Gardyner and two others came before the New England Council in November with requests for land grants in New England. The Council was favorable apparently, but it took no action at the time, or, so far as is known, at any later date.37 There is no record that Gardyner ever tried to locate any grant or to convey title. He showed himself active in cooperating with Gorges and others in trying to make trouble for the New England men. In December, 1632, he joined in a complaint to the privy council alleging acts by them indicative of disloyalty, the which complaint was duly considered by the council and dismissed three or four months later as not deserving action.38 One of Gardyner’s companions in this complaint was Thomas Morton, whose New English Canaan, a sarcastic commentary on colonial doings, mentions Gardyner’s experiences. Morton refers to him as “Sir Christopher Gardiner (a knight that had been a traveler both by sea and land; a good, judicious gentleman in the mathematic and other sciences useful for plantations, chemistry, etc., and also being a practical engineer).”39 Gardyner contributed two bits of verse to appear in Morton’s book.

    Morton’s book bears the date 1637. In the next year was printed a pamphlet entitled A True Relation of the Late Battell fought in New England, between the English and the Pequet Salvages, with a Latin dedicatory verse by Philip Vincent.40 This Vincent was a clergyman who had formerly been pastor of the Stoke D’Abernon church, seven miles from Dorking, and he was also a brother-in-law of Sir John Heydon, having married Heydon’s sister. So far as is known, he had no connection whatever with New England affairs. Under the circumstances one must feel a strong suspicion that Sir Christopher had something to do with the printing of this booklet, although his name nowhere appears upon it.

    So far as one may judge from brief glimpses of his life, Gardyner’s tendency to roam was for awhile satisfied by his New England experiences, and he settled down at Haling Hall to the routine of a country gentleman. In the winter of 1636–1637 he seems to have had the company of his half-sister Mary, wife of Sir John Heydon, for her baby was baptized at Croydon in May following.41 Gardyner and Heydon were on very friendly terms. Letters from Gardyner still exist, showing frequent contact and a common interest in the crude chemistry of that day.42 They studied books together and engaged jointly in experimental efforts of their own contriving. Gardyner’s letters of 1637 and 1638 are somewhat on the style of the old alchemists, using symbols for substances handled and for methods of treatment. One vaguely gathers from his messages that he was testing various substances by application of heat in different degrees. His “vaporing oven” and his “digesting oven” seem to have been his chief appliances. One letter reveals that a substance tested came out very yellow and that it “did stinke much.” He then tried a more temperate heat and it still came out very yellow and “it gave a fattish ill smell.” On another occasion the experimenters mixed two substances, which went into the vaporing oven and produced “a goode deale of green matter” which Gardyner dismisses as “superfluous.” The letters give no hint of what goal the two scientists were trying to reach.

    Sir Christopher was not unmindful of his public duties. In one of his chemistry letters to Heydon he adds a postscript. “Here will be a muster very shortly in our Countrie and my Armes are at fault. I intreat you to lett some of your servants direct this bearer to a Armorer to scowre and repaire what is wanting in them and that thay goe on worke upon them on Monday morning and dispatch them with as much speed as may be. The midle of weeke I will see you. I intreat you to excuse me. I am acquainted with noe Armorer and I would have them well donne whatsoever they cost me.”

    Young Onslow Gardyner was sixteen years old in March, 1638, and his father had him registered as a student at Cambridge.43 Like his father in his early years, however, the young man seems not to have remained there long. In January, 1641, a license issued to Christopher Gardyner of Haling Hall and his son Onslow, both being already beyond seas, allowed them to remain abroad three years.44 But England was now beginning to seethe with political antagonisms and it would appear that they soon returned. There is among the English records an undated and unsigned paper to which has been appended the name and address of Gardyner. It may perhaps belong to this period. The anonymous writer offers his services to the government for the discovery of designs and plots.45

    In August, 1642, the king set up his standard at Nottingham and began four years of civil war with parliament. Sir John Heydon, having been the king’s chief of ordnance for many years past, threw in his lot with the king and became chief of the artillery. Gardyner also joined the royal army and his younger son Christopher went with him. Perhaps, in the mass of historical material relating to the civil war, there may be some mention of Gardyner’s military service, but it is not easily to be found. All that is available is the probability that he headed a regiment, for in petitions of after years he styles himself colonel. At the beginning of the war, Gardyner conveyed his Haling Hall property to his eldest son Onslow, reserving to himself the use of rooms therein at his pleasure.46 Onslow seems to have kept out of the army, but he did not go unscathed. His brother Christopher, heading a royalist party, raided his place in 1643 and carried off his horses.47 The household at Haling Hall also included Lady Heydon, for Sir John’s house at Trinity Minories was close to the government arsenal and had to be vacated when he joined the king. These few facts are all that are available in regard to the Haling Hall family. The war ended in 1646 with the collapse of the royal cause and Colonel Christopher was without employment.

    The parliament government distributed penalties widely after the war closed. Sir John Heydon was heavily fined but kept his realty. There seems no mention of Gardyner being fined and he seems to have retained his real property. He is mentioned in 1649 as still holding Sondes Place at Dorking.48

    The old friendship between Gardyner and Heydon developed an open rift in 1650. Sir John was out of office and was not as prosperous as of yore. With diminished resources he remembered the old ante-nuptial agreement of 1628 and started suit in chancery to recover from Gardyner the sum of £600 plus £500 accrued interest.49 Heydon alleges that about 4 August 1642 Gardyner, “then and many other times lodging and often inhabiting in Heydon’s house” did, with his sister, obtain the said contract and kept or disposed of it. This seems to refer to the time that Sir John went into the army and his family vacated the home at Trinity Minories in Middlesex. Sir John says the contract bound Gardyner to pay him £1500 and interest, but that Gardyner paid only £900 and that amount came in portions. Gardyner in response said that he had neither Heydon’s copy of the contract nor his own and he thinks that Heydon has gotten them “by some indirect means by him used in this defendant’s absence from his dwelling house.” He admits that he holds £400 belonging to his sister and suggests that the court let him retain it for the better maintenance of Mary and her children, as Sir John has been niggardly in his treatment of them. This suit seems to have been a result of a separation of Mary from her husband. Some years later, when Heydon was ill, he disposed of his estate by a written statement in which he refers to his wife and “the five children that she deserted.”50 He provides property for her, however, and when he died in 1653 she took over the estate as administratrix.

    Except for the mention of him by his son Christopher in 1656 there is no further record of Gardyner until the restoration of the English king in 1660. Young Christopher appeared at Boston and wrote a letter dated 2 July 1656 to the younger John Winthrop, thanking him for courtesies received and introducing himself with the words “Let me give you to understand that I am son to Mr. Gardyner (whom you were pleased to mention, whose sister Sir John Heydon married).” He sealed the letter with the griffin passant of his family arms.51 The writer states that he is “driven into these parts of the world by the sad misfortune of the times and a very unhappy fate.” Another letter by the same writer exists, showing that he had been living in some place where “cane tops” grew, and that he was then on his way to join the royalist exiles who hovered about Prince Charles in Holland.52

    In 1660 the exiled prince came back to England to be king. Former royalists then joined in a general push for recognition and recompense, and Colonel Christopher Gardyner was among them. In one petition he asked to be appointed keeper of records in the Tower of London,53 but he did not get that office. In another petition of the same year he asked for royal grant of the lease of a farm, because he had been ruined in fortune in the king’s cause.54 Apparently he attained results, for one Cowper protested vigorously against a royal order of October, 1660, allotting to Gardyner a lease at Waddon, presumably meaning Whaddon Manor near Croydon.55

    Paget, the historian of Croydon, says that Gardyner died in 1661.56 His date is probably reckoned by the old-style calendar, for on 11 February 1662 Colonel Gardyner petitions for an interest in certain waste lands in Durham near Holy Island.57 The true date of his death seems to be February or March, 1662, within the old-style year 1661. Paget mentions the former location of the Gardyner family’s burial vault and says no trace of it now exists. Sir Christopher’s dust is probably mingled with the soil that he once trod.

    In 1642, when war began Sir Christopher had given Haling Manor to his son Onslow, and Onslow died in 1658, before his father. The eldest son of Onslow, named Christopher, then took ownership and held the manor for years, but died at some time prior to 1678, whereupon the manor passed to his brother William. It was this William who sold the Sondes Place residence at Dorking in 1678, and who moved out of Haling Hall to another house in Croydon. William died in 1688, still holding ownership of Haling Hall, which fell to his son William, a boy of thirteen years. The old house, however, had seen its best days. In 1696 it was serving as a tavern. Finally in 1708 William sold the property. In after years the old house was torn down.