The Dynasty of Dover – Part II – The Wivells

The Restoration: Charles II landing in Dover 25 May 1660. Stone Hall window, Maison Dieu.

The Restoration: Charles II landing in Dover 25 May 1660. Stone Hall window, Maison Dieu.

The second family in the dynasty that has influenced Dover’s development over the centuries from the time of the early 17th century are the Wivells. The dynasty started with the Stokes and centred on William,  baptised on 4 April 1624 at St James old Church – now the Tidy Ruin. William married local girl, Elizabeth Loper but as a staunch Protestant and with the coming of the Civil Wars and the Interregnum (1642–1660), he joined Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and trained as a Master Mariner. For the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, William brought the King to Dover where the monarch was given guarded welcome. During what proved to be turbulent times in Dover, William was elected Mayor six times and one of the two members of Parliament for the town. He died on 6 November 1691 and was buried at St Mary’s Church.

Only one of William’s children, Margery, survived to adulthood. She was baptised on 19 May 1660 in St Mary’s Church, 6 days before William brought Charles II to Dover for the Restoration! During her widowed father’s Mayoralty, Margery presided over the town as Mayoress and proved to be able. Whether she met Edward Wivell, who was the Royal Navy’s Agent Victualler for Dover in this role is unclear but they met and eventually married.

Maison Dieu House, Biggin Street, now the home of Dover Town Council

Maison Dieu House, Biggin Street, now the home of Dover Town Council

Edward, from Croydon, was ambitious, and the alliance would certainly have suited someone who wanted to climb Dover’s political ladder, as only Dover’s Freemen were able to do so. Albeit, the husbands of the daughter of a Freeman could claim the right during her lifetime and this would have suited Edward’s purpose well. It is almost certain that when the couple married they moved into Maison Dieu House, Biggin Street, as it had been built for Agent Victualler in 1665. A small shield can still be seen below one of the upper windows showing the date of construction.

Dover town centre - the Wivell land holdings stretched from Maison Dieu House, south taking in what is now Pencester Gardens - Dover Town Council 2013

Dover town centre – the Wivell land holdings stretched from Maison Dieu House, south taking in what is now Pencester Gardens. This should have been a map of present day Dover but  Dover Town Council, from whom permission was given by a senor councillor,  demanded that I remove it.

It is unclear when Edward quit his job but not long after the couple married he was elected as a Common Councilman, the first rung of Dover’s political ladder and he moved into the property market. In 1650, the farmlands belonging to Maison Dieu were sold by order of Parliament. These stretched from the boundaries of Maison Dieu House to where Stembrook car park is today. This had become meadowland and possibly, because the town was in an economically depressed state, the owner had put his landholdings  on the market. Edward had the finance to buy them and also to build a fine mansion where the couple lived and were later joined by Edward’s mother.

Not long afterwards, Edward was elected by his fellow councilmen to the post of Jurat – senior councillor, one rung short of becoming Mayor. Margery, for much of this time, was either pregnant or weaning their many children of which only two survived to adulthood – Elizabeth and Margaret.

When James II (1685–1688) ascended to the throne, only Catholics or those prepared to renounce their Protestant faith were allowed to hold public offices. The year before, in France, the Edict of Nantes had been revoked that had allowed Protestants or Huguenots, as they were known, to practice their faith. The result was open persecution and slaughter of Hugenots. Of those who survived, many fled to Holland and Germany but a few came to England. Among these was Stephen Minet, of the wealthy Minet family of Calais, who arrived in 1684. His three brothers, along with their widowed mother, came the following year. Stephen stayed in Dover and with the help of Margery’s father and Edward, opened a shop the remaining members of the family went to London.

In 1683, Dover was forced to surrender her ancient Charter and due to the death of the then Town Clerk, John Pepper, a young local solicitor, Philip Yorke, took up the cause for the town – which was lost before it even started. Philip was the son of Simon Yorke, a well known local dissenter and because of his religious views, Philip was not able to take up the post of Town Clerk. Edward, like his father-in-law, supported Philip but the King’s Privy Council appointed Thomas Russell who accepted the Charter. Philip Yorke resigned his seat on the Common Council and refused to have anything to do with local politics thereafter. In the years that followed Edward, like William Stokes, was involved in the political traumas of the time. These eventually led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the ascent of William III (1689-1702) and Mary II (1689-1694), the daughter of James II, to the throne.

Edward and Margery remained friends with Stephen Yorke and also became close friends of Stephen Minet until the latter’s death in 1690. It was following Stephen’s death that Isaac came to Dover and he too became firm friends with the Wivells. Due to the political change in England, the shop that Stephen had started was gaining strength but the permit he purchased ceased on his death. Isaac, was required to buy a new permit ‘to keep shop’ and until such time as it was granted was forced to pay 6s 8d (33p) for every day he opened his business.

Buckland Manor, along with fifty acres of woodland, in the parish of Charlton came on the market in 1691 and Edward bought the estate, but four years later, on 23 October 1695, Margery died aged 36-years. Her mother-in-law, Margaret, having died in February that year. Both were buried in St Mary’s churchyard.

After being a Jurat for nearly thirty years Edward was at last elected Mayor in 1698 but it was immediately challenged. Technically, he was no longer a Freeman due to Margery’s death. A major debate in council ensued and the outcome set a precedence that still holds today, that ‘The death of his wife, Margery, did not make void his being a Jurat, Justice of the Peace and Mayor.’ In other words, the Freedom of Dover, gained through marriage, carries on after the wife’s death. On 20 January 1699, during Edward’s second Mayoralty, he presented Isaac Minet with the Freedom of Dover. Over the following years his business flourished and by 1721 he owned four packet boats running regularly between Dover, Calais and Boulogne.

However, at the time that Isaac gained his Freedom, the harbour, the main source of the town’s livelihood was in a dire state at this time, forcing the council to sell some of its precious artefacts – three silver maces. The main problem was a phenomenon known as the Eastward Drift, which caused shingle to be deposited outside around the bay and blocked the harbour entrance. This was particularly bad at neap tides when the tidal flow was weak. One of the first orders of the new King was for Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel and Captain Whiteham to make a survey of the harbour. Their report was published on 28 April 1689 recommending that £500 should be spent on repairing the North Pier and £7,350 on the harbour wall and sluices but nothing happened. Ten years later, in 1699, as Mayor, Edward successfully petitioned the King for the renewal of the Passing Tolls Act -the payment made by ships for going through the Dover Strait.

 Anne Queen - before 1713 - Godfrey Kneller(1646-1723) Oil on Canvas - Dover Museum

Anne Queen – before 1713 – Godfrey Kneller(1646-1723) Oil on Canvas – Dover Museum

Men working for the town’s Water Bailiff – who was contracted by the council – collected the passing toll money. Up to 1606, when Dover Harbour Commissioners were created the revenues went into the Town coffers. Since 1606, the revenues collected had gone the Commissioners for harbour maintenance but this they were failing to carry out adequately. When Queen Anne (1702-1714) ascended the throne, the Mayor, John Hollingbery, along with the Jurat’s including Edward, petitioned the new Queen and she listened. She upheld the Harbour Commissioners argument that the revenues collected by the Water Bailiff belonged to them but insisted that the money was to be used for harbour repairs and that the recommendations of 1689 were to be carried out.

Dover Harbour 1738 glass slide artist Nathaniel & Samuel Buck. Dover Museum

Dover Harbour 1738 glass slide artist Nathaniel & Samuel Buck. Dover Museum

To help to pay for the work she renewed the Passing Tolls Act to 1718 and a wooden Crosswall was built under the direction of Sir Henry Seers by Master Carpenter Ockham. This created an inner harbour, the forerunner of the present Granville Dock, then called the Bason, and the main outer Tidal harbour. Gates were fitted in the Crosswall opposite the mouth of the Tidal harbour and during neap tides, the gates would be opened in the hope that the whoosh of water would wash the shingle bar away. It was not very effective.

Although in the town annals the Queen’s proclamation was referred to as a Charter in reality it was a ‘Letter’s Patent’ and can still be seen in Maison Dieu House. In it, the Water Bailiff, was given an additional role of ‘Keeper of the Gaol with the profits on the fees paid by prisoners for their upkeep to go into the town’s coffers. This proved lucrative to the town from a highly unlikely source for in 1701, change in legislation encouraged spirit drinking and alcohol related crimes soared. In an attempt to put a stop to this, the government imposed heavy taxation and the smuggling of brandy from France became a major source of revenue to Dover’s seafarers. If they were caught, the smugglers were confined to Dover’s prison, where they paid for their keep. When their case came up before the Chief Magistrate – who was also the Mayor – he imposed a fine that went into the town‘s coffers! In gratitude, the town purchased a painting of Queen Anne by Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), which is now looked after by the Museum.

Edward was elected Mayor for three consecutive years from 1707 and although the town was becoming increasingly prosperous, his second re-election caused discontent. The Common Councilwith the backing of the non-elected Freemen petitioned Queen Anne forbidding the re-election of a mayor until he had been one whole year out of office. This became Statutory and that was the last time Edward was elected Mayor. He died on 14 February 1716 and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard alongside his wife and mother.

Two years before Philip Yorke’s son, also called Philip and following a legal profession like his father, had been called to the Bar. He had been entered into Middle Temple on 29 November 1708 and subsequently appointed law tutor to the sons of Lord Chief Justice Thomas Parker. On 3 October 1718, young Philip was appointed the Recorder of Dover an office he held for forty-six years. However, that was not all, Philip Yorke of Dover, was eventually appointed Lord Chancellor of England and as Lord Hardwicke, he held that post for twenty years.

  • Published:
  • Dover Mercury 16 October 2008

About Lorraine

I am a local historian, whose love of Dover has lead to decades of research into some of the lesser known tales that this famous and beautiful town has to tell.
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