Alan March’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)

Monk Tree



JOHN CLIFFE is the third generation we have found in the West Essex village of Barnston. This lies just south of Great Dunmow.

John was “of Barnstone” when he married in 1694. This gives us the following baptism.

Baptism. Barnston.
1670 Jun 14  John son of William and Martha Cliffe.

He was the third of five sons.

His mother was Martha Adams, a yeoman’s daughter, as was his wife Mary Browne, and his son William became a farmer, so it is likely that John was too.


MARY BROWNE. Mary too was “of Barnstone” when she married, but no baptism had been found for her there. We do not have the full details of her father’s will, but we know enough about his beneficiaries to identify him as John Browne and her sister as Sarah Judd, née Browne. This leads us to the baptisms of Mary and Sarah in Thaxted in the 1660s. This would explain why Mary’s wedding took place in Thaxted, although she was by then resident in Barnston.

There was more than one John Browne having children in Thaxted at this time. There are two possibilities, both in 1665.
Baptisms. Thaxted.
1665 Apr 16  Mary daughter of John and Martha Browne
1665 May 29  Mary daughter of John and Anne Browne.

Her sister Sarah was baptised in April 1663, but the baptism index tells us only that she was the daughter of John Browne. It does not give her mother’s name. Probably it was on a damaged page of the register. However, John and Anne Browne had a daughter Anne baptised in January that year, making John and Martha the likely parents. Sarah’s birth would fill the gap between their daughter Martha in 1661 and Mary in 1665.

This means that her mother was Martha Freeman.

Mary was the middle one of five children, four girls and one boy. Unlike most parish registers, the burial index we have to rely on does not distinguish between the deaths of adults and children, so we are unable to say how many of these survived childhood, though we know that her sister Sarah and brother William did.

Thaxted is a town in NW Essex, 6 mile north of Great Dunmow. It lies in the valley of the River Chelmer, not far from its source. Surprisingly for its rural setting, it was a noted centre for the making of cutlery in the Middle Ages. By the 17th century, however, this was in decline, as was the wool trade.

Before her marriage, at the age of 29, Mary had moved south to the village of Barnston, where she met John.

 Marriage. Thaxted.
1694 Oct 22  John Cliffe, single, of Barnstone and Mary Browne of Barnstone.

They began their family in Barnston.

Baptisms. St Andrew, Barnston.
1695 Nov 8  John
1697 born Aug 8 1698 bap Jan 14  Mary and John. The first John seems to have died, but we have no record of this.
1699 born Oct 2 bap Oct 12  William
1701 born Dec 11 bap Jan 26  Joseph
1703 born Feb 8 bap Feb 29  Sarah

They then moved 5 miles SW and continued their family in Aythorpe Roding. This is one of a cluster of villages collectively known as the Rodings. They lie either side of the River Roding, not far from the border between Essex and Hertfordshire. The most northerly is High Roding, followed by Aythorpe Roding, White Roding, Morrells Roding (now part of White Roding), Leaden Roding, Margaret Roding, Abbess Roding, Berners Roding, with Beauchamp Roding in the south. The contemporary writer Daniel Defoe described them as “famous for Good Land, Good Malt, and Dirty Roads”.

Baptisms. Aythorpe Roding.
1706 Jan Elizabeth
1708 May 4 Stephen. Stephen was buried on 30 July 1710, aged two.
The second John was buried here on 16 Jul 1710. He was followed by a third.
1711 Mar 3  John
This John too was buried on 3 Mar 1713.
1714 Dec 27  James.

The Cliffes would have seen the building in 1707 of the public house The Axe and Compasses in Aythorpe Roding. It served the stage coaches on the Dunmow-London road.

The Axe and Compasses, Aythorpe Roding[1]

 This was a good time for farmers, with the proximity to London providing a fast-expanding market for food.

In 1724, Mary’s father John Brown died. In his will he left £10 to “my daughter Mary Cliff wife of John Cliff of Aythorp Roding”. There were similar bequests to grandchildren, and a smaller one to his maid servant. If two under-age grandsons died before reaching the age of majority, then their legacies were to be divided between Mary Cliff and two others. The largest bequests were £50 to his son-in-law Henry Judd and £30 to his granddaughter Mary Judd. These were the widower and daughter of Mary’s sister Sarah.

Mary was the only one of his children to receive a legacy, suggesting that all her siblings had predeceased her father, as had her mother.

John and Mary were both buried in Aythorpe Roding. There are two possibilities for Mary’s burial. Our information comes, not from the parish registers, but from an index of burials which gives less personal information. When the parish registers become available online they will probably tell us which of these was the wife of John Cliffe.

Burials. Aythorpe Roding.
1740 Jul 28  Mary Cliffe
1751 Feb 28  Mary Cliffe
1755 Mar 31  John Cliff sen.


[1] Facebook. The Axe and Compasses/Dunmow




Monk Tree