I was sorting through some Merry files and came across an item from "Notes and Queries," an old British journal.An item reports that according to the "Visitation of Sussex, 1633-34," Jane Merry was the daughter and heir of Robert Merry, son of Thomas Merry of Hatfield.Her first husband was Thomas Bowyer of London.Her second husband was Alexander Nowell (c. 1507-1602; more about him, shortly).
I wasn't sure where Hatfield is located, so I did a search and found several.There is one in Hertfordshire, which I seem to remember being mentioned in other early English sources.I wasn't sure where Hertfordshire is located, so I downloaded a map.It's just north of London and close to Walthamstow, where Sir Thomas Merry had a residence in the early 1600s.
When I checked a detailed map of Hatfield, a place called "Colney Heath" was located adjacent to the village.Where had I seen that before?In the 1654 will of Thomas Merry, uploaded to a website by Sonia K.
Sir Thomas Merry also died in 1654, but this was not the Thomas Merry of Colney Heath.(As Sonia points out, it is just the printed index that refers to the location, not the will itself.)The Thomas Merry of Colney Heath is a merchant, and his will says that he was born in Cherington, Gloucester, the other side of the country.I am always amazed by how much traveling the English did back then, even if the country was flat and there were plenty of rivers and coastlines to follow.
I would date Jane Merry's marriage at around 1540. If her birth was in 1520, her father Robert Merry's birth would be no later than 1500, and her grandfather Thomas Merry's birth would be no later than 1480.I think it's significant that the Merry family was apparently well established in London at that early date.
Now, some details about Nowell -- although he is not a Merry, the fact that he married one shows the social stratum that both families occupied.
Alexander Nowell took his B.A. in 1536 and was elected a Fellow of Brasenose in 1545, although he held the post in plurality with others.He was Master of Westminster School in 1543 and Prebendary of Westminster Abbey in 1551.He lived in exile during the reign of Queen Mary I, returning under Elizabeth I.He was made Dean of St. Paul's in 1560 and Canon of Windsor in 1594.
In 1595 he was elected Principal of Brasenose, holding the post for just three months.He was a great benefactor to Brasenose, leaving his Library, founding scholarships and persuading Queen Elizabeth to endow the College as well.
His interest in fishing is recorded by Izaak Walton in The Compleat Angler , who says that he spent a tenth of his time fishing, giving the fish to the poor living near the rivers where they were caught.
During the eighteenth century it became fashionable for gentlemen to have their portraits painted with the trappings of their favourite pastime, be it hunting, shooting or fishing. Many distinguished portrait painters including William Hogarth undertook such commissions. However, the earliest English portrait involving angling is that of Alexander Nowell. His portrait, painted in 1595 by an unknown artist, now hangs in an Oxford college hall.
A pleasant tale ascribes the discovery of bottle conditioning toDr. Alexander Nowell.A keen fisherman, one day while enjoying his hobby he happened to leave a bottle of beer on the river bank, probably just in the water to keep it cool. Coming back some time later to what was clearly a favourite fishing spot, he discovered the bottle he had left behind. On opening it he found "no bottle but a gun, so great was the sound at the opening thereof". Bottle conditioned beer had been discovered. Izaak Walton recounts the story.
Nowell was elected in September 1553 member of parliament for Looe in Cornwall in Queen Mary's first parliament, but in October 1553 a committee of the house reported that, having as prebendary of Westminster a seat in convocation, he could not sit in the House of Commons. He was also deprived of his prebend, probably as being a married man, before May 1554, and sought refuge at Strassburg and Frankfort, where he developed puritan and almost presbyterian views. He submitted, however, to the Elizabethan settlement of religion, and was rewarded with the archdeaconry of Middlesex, a canonry at Canterbury and in 1560 with the deanery of St Paul's. His sermons occasionally created some stir, and on one occasion Elizabeth interrupted his sermon, telling him to stick to his text and cease slighting the crucifix.