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)(1)
EARLY MONKS (11)
We have not been able to find Thomas’s origins with any certainty. We should expect his birth to be in the early 1660s. The nearest baptisms we have found to this are the following:
Baptism. Bierton with Broughton.
1665 Aug 21 Thomas son of Richard and Elizabeth Munk.
1667/8 Mar 18 Thomas son of Joseph and Hanna Monke.
Both these villages lie to the NE of Aylesbury. Bierton is one mile away and Hulcott is two.
The second baptism is of particular interest, because the name Joseph features frequently among Thomas Monke’s descendants.
Nevertheless we should treat these with caution. His baptism may be in an early register that has not survived, or has pages missing or illegible.
There is a further possibility that he may have been born into a Baptist family that did not practice infant baptism. Such congregations usually kept a register of the children born to members, but no such register has been found for the Aylesbury area.
Monks from this area played a major part in Baptist history.
Richard Monk was a Dissenting Lollard who was leading the Buckinghamshire reformers as far back as 1428. The Lollards were followers of John Wyclif, who prioritised preaching and reading the Bible over the Catholice sacraments.
Monk was a priest who was tried for heresy, and is said to have abjured. He was tried at St Paul’s Cross. In front of a large crowd he repeated the words of recantation written for him.
The Lollards were forerunners of the Protestant Reformation.
More relevant is Thomas Monk of Bierton, just outside Aylesbury. He was both a farmer and a Baptist theologian. He are is best known as among the Twelve Confessors of Aylesbury, probably the last English Protestants to be sentenced to death for their faith.
Some time before 1654 he was elected and ordained Messenger or Bishop of the General Baptist churches in Mid-Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
The 1660s were a dangerous time for Dissenters. Charles II had been crowned king at the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. He was unlikely to look favourably on the Puritans like those who had executed his father in 1649.
With twelve other Messengers and twelve Elders, Thomas Monk signed the “Humble Representation and Vindication”, professing willingness to submit to the civil power and to assist in public affairs, provided that liberty of conscience was maintained.
In March 1661, the year after King Charles’s accession, Thomas Monk was the third of 41 signatories to a rather defiant confession of faith, which was “lately presented to King Charles II, and set forth by many of us who are falsely called Anabaptists, to inform all men in these days of scandal and reproach of our innocent belief and practice; for which we are not only resolved to suffer persecution to the loss of our goods, but also life itself, rather than decline the same.”
In July 1662, the, Bishop of Lincoln began his primary visitation of Buckinghamshire. He demanded that churchwardens supply detailed information concerning Anabaptists and other sectaries. Thomas Monk was among fourteen dissenters (five Roman Catholic and nine Protestant) who were denounced on.24th September by one of the Bierton churchwardens. He was charged with “contemptuously absenting himself from the publique congregacon” and having four children unbaptized.
Others accused were his wife Mary, William and Elizabeth Monk, and Thomas and Mary Whitchurch. On 11th October the Bierton churchwardens reported that “William and Thomas Monke who usually do absent themselves from divine service are now in the goale .for this county by the order of the justices of the peace, but whether for that reason or for being taken at conventicles wee are not certainly informed.” A conventicle was an unlawful religious meeting.
Twelve General Baptists were arrested while assembled for divine worship. They included a pastor, a teacher, a glover, a linen draper, a tallow chandler, a shoemaker, a widow with six children, a spinster and Thomas Monk, farmer.
On 30th September proceedings were started against twenty-one Aylesbury Baptists. The Buckinghamshhire magistrates decided not to wait for the ecclesiastical courts. Within a few weeks they filled the county gaol with nonconformists and had to secure two large houses to turn into prisons. The magistrates set out to get the penalty of banishment or death inflicted.
An Act of 1593 provided that such conventiclers could, after three months’ imprisonment, be declared felons, unless they either conformed or left the country after swearing not to return without permission. Proceedings were taken under this statute. Those charged included Thomas and William Monk.
The prisoners threw themselves on the mercy of the court, declaring that they could neither conform nor abjure their native country. After a short adjournment, during which several magistrates left the bench in protest, the chairman sentenced them to death.
They were returned to gaol and their goods were seized. One, overcome by his wife’s entreaties and by the fear of death, recanted and took the oaths, but later returned in the most abject distress to the prison and asked to be allowed to die with the others.
Many, perhaps most, of the Aylesbury townsfolk had Puritan sympathies; shops were closed and business came almost to a standstill.
Meanwhile, Thomas Monk’s son of the same name had ridden to London. William Kiffin, an influential Particular Baptists, introduced him to Lord Clarendon, who laid the case before King Charles. The King, who genuinely disliked persecution and needed Kiffin s money, seemed surprised that such a sentence was possible and granted an immediate reprieve. With this, young Monk rode back immediately to Aylesbury.
His father and the others remained in prison until next the Assizes, when a royal pardon arrived and they were released.
The King’s Head, Aylesbury
Assizes were held here in the 17th century
After his release Monk continued to preach assiduously in all parts of his diocese.
In 1672 Charles II issued his Declaration of Indulgence, allowing dissenting ministers to practice by licence. Thomas Monk and the elders of his churches decided not to apply for licences. Their fears were justified. The licenses were soon recalled and sometimes used as evidence against those who had accepted them.
Also in 1672, Thomas Monk wrote a book about the nature of Jesus Christ. Copies of this work were treasured in humble Baptist homes for generations,
On 30th January, 1679, fifty-four General Baptists met, probably at Aylesbury, to sign the Fifty Articles drawn up by Thomas Monk, Messenger in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. The intention was to unite all General Baptists, but not Particular Baptists, in a confession of faith.
Thomas Monk probably died soon after his Confession was adopted, and certainly before 1685, when his widow Mary was again charged with absence from church.
In 1699 a Thomas Monk represented Aylesbury at the General Association . This is likely to be his son. This Thomas Monk the younger acted as crier of Quarter Sessions until 1686, when he resigned. In a lease of a cottage in “Coblers Rowe in Castle Fee” dated 30th June, 1682, he is called” scr.” (? scrivener). He was constable of the Parson’s Fee in Aylesbury in 1688 and of Bierton in 1695.
Monk the younger was still living at Bierton in 1706, when he served as a juror. Another Thomas Monk, who assisted the church at Ford about 1741, was perhaps his son.
Other members of the family included Benjamin Monk junior and James and Joseph Monk, all of Bierton, presented by the grand jury on 30th April, 1685 for absence from church.
Joseph Monk of Hulcott, who was presented in 1680 for “a new errect cottage,” was perhaps also related. Under an Elizabethan law it was illegal under to build a house without laying out four acres of land. It is highly likely that this is the same Joseph Monk who had a son Thomas baptised in Hulcott in 1668, and is a possible parent of our Thomas Monk.
After the Glorious Revolution brought William and Mary to the throne in 1689, the meeting at Bierton was held at the house of Elizabeth, widow of William Monk.
Richard Monk of Aylesbury is mentioned in 1679 and was assisted financially by the Buckinghamshire Association in 1703.
Susan Monk was baptized at Amersham in 1704·5.
Arnold H J Baines, who wrote “The Signatories of the Orthodox Confession of 1679 “, says: “Anyone should be proud to claim descent from Thomas Monk, that “remarkable farmer” who was a martyr in will though not in deed and a true Father in God to the churches which he fostered.”
It is highly likely that our Monks are part of the same family, though we cannot say how closely they are related. It is even possible that our Thomas Monk, who had children baptised in Aylesbury and Hartwell, is the same as the younger Thomas Monk who galloped to London to win a stay of execution for his father.
If that were true, then he did not follow his parents’ belief about baptism, but had his children christened as infants in an Anglican church.
Or he may the son of Richard Monk of Bierton, where the theologian and farmer Thomas Monk also lived, or of Joseph Monk of nearby Hulcott. Alternatively, he be may not have been baptised as an infant, or the record may no longer exist.
Whatever the truth, Thomas and Mary Monk of Aylesbury would have shared in the town’s revulsion to the sentence of death and rejoiced when it was revoked.
 Spooky Isles.
NEXT GENERATION: 10. MONK