10. CRAY

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Fay Sampson’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 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)

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JOHN CRAY.  John began his family in Sandwich in 1670. This suggests that he was born in the 1640s.

We have found two baptisms for John Cray in Kent. One was the son of Thomas Cray, baptised in Cranbrook on 30 June 1644. This is 36 miles from Sandwich, and unlikely to be the right one.

The other is the son of John Cray, baptised in Burchington on 16 Jul 1643. Burchington is close to Margate, 8 miles north of Sandwich.  This is a possibility, but, given that there were Crays in Sandwich from at least 1576, it seems more likely that John was born closer to Sandwich, but that his baptism has been lost.

This was the time of the Commonwealth following the Civil War. Births were registered by a secular Registrar and the baptism register of the local church is sometimes missing.

There were Crays in the Sandwich area from at least the mid-16th century. The first records we have in Sandwich itself is the marriage of John Cray of Sandwich to Lettice Bryce at St Mary the Virgin in 1576. It is reasonable to assume that this younger John came from the same family


Sandwich is one of the five principal Cinque Ports. Originally, these were a confederation of five harbours, Sandwich, Romney, Dover, Hythe, and Hastings. They supplied the Crown with ships and men for over 300 years. In return they received freedom from tolls and customs duties, freedom to trade and to hold their own judicial courts plus many other privileges. This custom goes back to at least 1100.

The leeway given to the Cinque Ports, and the turning of a blind eye to misbehaviour, led to smuggling. Though this was common everywhere at this time, it became one of the dominant industries.


MARY. We know from the baptism register that the mother of John’s children was Mary. Since we cannot be sure of her maiden name, we have as yet no information on her family.


The nearest marriage that has been found is in Saltwood, 16 miles away, on the south coast next to Hythe. On 3 Aug 1668, John Cray married Mary Wood. Both were of Saltwood. They do not appear to have raised a family in Saltwood. There are two families for John and Mary Cray following this marriage. One is even further away at Hawkhurst to the west of Saltwood. The other is in Sandwich.

Given the fact that there were Crays in the Sandwich area long before this, it seems more likely that that there was another marriage for John Cray and Mary nearer Sandwich which is missing from the records.


The baptisms for this couple begin in 1670, so the marriage probably took place in 1669, in the first decade after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

There were three churches in Sandwich. The Cray family used St Peters.

Baptisms. St Peter, Sandwich.
1670 May 17  Sarah
1672 Oct 13  John. John Cray son of John Cray was buried on 13 Oct 1694.
1675 May 20  Thomas. Thomas was buried on 23 Dec of that year.
1676 Nov 19  Mary the daughter of John Cray by Mary his wife.
1681 Apr 17   Daniell
1687 Jul 31  Thomas

They appear to be the only Cray family having children in Sandwich at this time.


It is only at the end of his life that we learn John’s occupation.

Burial. St Peter, Sandwich.
1703 Nov 10  John Cray Town Cryer

In the days before most people could read, the town crier made public announcements in the streets. He rang a handbell as he shouted the words “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez!” before delivering his news. “Oyez” is a Norman-French word meaning “hear ye.” It is a call for silence and attention. He was sometimes called a bellman.

The present-day costume with a tricorn hat and elaborate coat was adopted in the 18th century.


“Having read out his message, the town crier would then attach it to the door post of the local inn, so ‘posting a notice’, the reason why newspapers are often called ‘The Post’.

Proclaiming the news was not however their only role: indeed, their original role was to patrol the streets after dark, acting as peace keepers, arresting miscreants and taking them to the stocks for punishment and posting their crimes to show why they were there. It was also his job to make sure fires were damped down for the night after the curfew bell.

It was also the role of the town crier at public hangings to read out why the person was being hanged, and then to help cut him or her down.

The key requirements of the role were the ability to read, a loud voice and an air of authority. Bellmen would be paid for each proclamation they made: in the 18th century the rate was between 2d and 4d per cry.

Town criers were protected by law. Anything they did was done in the name of the monarch, therefore to harm a town crier was an act of treason. This was a necessary safeguard as the town criers often had to announce unwelcome news such as tax increases!”.[2]


John was probably in his fifties when he died. Without his income, Mary fell into poverty. She lived for another 13 years,


Burial. St Peter, Sandwich
1714 Nov 11 Mary Cray widow poor

She was probably around 60.


[1] https://c8.alamy.com/comp/GHAA09/woodcut-showing-a-bellman-town-crier-of-london-early-17th-century-GHAA09.jpg
[2] https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Town-Crier/




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