The Lucas family was prominent in Hungerford during the first half of the 17th century.
John Lucas (the elder) was Constable of Hungerford in 1600 and 1617, and his son Jehosophat was Constable in 1634, 1637, 1639, and 1647.
In 1612, after the local borough and manorial rights had been granted by King James I to two London entrepreneurs John Eldred and William Whitemore, John Lucas was one of the four local men who became feoffees and purchased the rights on behalf of the town on 27 May 1612.
Norman Hidden wrote a paper on the Lucas Family, which includes significant details about the 1617 feoffment:
Lucas was a family prominent in Hungerford affairs during the first half of the 17th century. The first Hungerford Lucas was John ("the elder"). We have no record in the parish register of his birth or marriage nor of the birth of his two eldest sons, John and Jehosophat. His next son Onesimus was baptised on 1st January 1604, and his youngest son Timothy in 1609. He also had daughters Elizabeth, Naomi and Deborah who were baptised in 1605, 1606 and 1612 respectively. We may assume therefore that John Lucas moved into Hungerford at some date prior to 1604. At the time of the 1609 town survey he held two tenements on lease, one of them belonging to the church. In the 1591 survey his name did not appear and the two tenements were then held by others. His name is not among those of the 39 freeholders listed in the Hocktide Court Book for 1600. Yet a year later, in 1601, John Lucas is Constable, a post he occupied on three further occasions.
His tenancy of the church tenement which had been leased to Richard Maile involved him in the legal controversy between Henry Maile and the church wardens which continued for several years with suits and cross suits and in several courts (1620-24 - see Lawsuits, Hungerford, Vol.1: Court of Chancery). Henry Maile, in his complaint, describes John Lucas as "petty chapman", the defence witnesses as "mercer". It is this latter term by which his is known in all other documents. Maile alleges that Lucas, who had acquired the remnant of a sub-lease granted by his father Richard Maile to William Pottinger, when Maile's own head lease was due to expire, entreated him to show the deeds relating to this lease (originally granted in 1557) to the vicar, John Wirrall. In fact, this was a course the Church Vestry had been urging for some time. Maile, however, alleged that Lucas had "combined himself with John Wirrall and his son Thomas and so "did by his persuasions draw Henry Maile to the house of John Wirrall as well as other places and made him bring with him all his evidences", Lucas persuading Maile that John Wirrall and Thomas Wirrall were "two very deep and learned men and knew the law as well as any lawyers whatever and would tell him his own right title" etc and so persuaded Maile to produce the deeds and leave them with the vicar, who then urged Maile to approach the church wardens for a new lease. Maile had a bad case and also a bad record. The upshot was that the parish church retained its properties, and these continued to be leased to the Lucas family, as the references to the two widow Lucases in the 1676 town quit rent rolls show.
Lucas' capacity to act as a negotiator was shown also in the complicated business involved in the town's purchase of the borough and manor rights which had been granted by James I to two London entrepeneurs, John Eldred and William Whitemore. He is one of the four feoffees who purchased these rights on behalf of the town on 27 May, 1612. In March 1613 by a legal shuffle the original four feoffees were able to expand the number of quality of the feoffees by including Sir Thomas Parry, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sir Francis Knolleys of Reading, John Wirral the then vicar of Hungerford, Drs Thomas Sheaff and Erasmus Webb, canons of the prebend of Windsor. In June 1614 Lucas and the other original feoffees issued a declaration that it was agreed by them and the rest of the inhabitants that the conveyance made on 27 May 1612 was to be for the benefit of all the inhabitants of Hungerford. Implicitly there must have been some public anxiety concerning the concentration of power which had come into the hands of the four local tradesmen. They therefore pointed out that it was in pursuance of this trust that the subsequent conveyances of 1613, to a wider and more distinguished body, had been made. Criticism, however, must have attached itself to this new body, although perhaps from a slightly different angle, for the feoffees went on to acknowledge that they were feoffees only in trust for the inhabitants of the town (exluding the tenants of the Dean and Canons of Windsor), and to that intent they would account for their management of the town before the Constable and burgesses on the occasion of the next Court Leet. They declared further that when their present numbers fell below 4 or 5, they would allow the inhabitants to appoint 12 or 13 men to choose additional feoffees to bring the total to 9 or more. The signatories promised to satisfy the actions of this body until such time as a corporation should be established and the inhabitants thereby enjoy its privileges in their own right.
Clearly the protracted legal complications in setting up a satisfactory trust were disturbing to some townsmen to whom such legal complications or delays were unfamiliar. In 1617, however, a transfer sale took place which transferred the manor and borough to a full representative body of burgesses. John Lucas was not among them, but this was not for any lack of confidence in him, for in that year they elected him as Constable, the first of the new corporation and then re-elected him in 1618 and 1620.
Lucas had had a difficult set of negotiations to handle; and whoever had handled them would surely have had a rough ride. In his "Story of Hungerford" W.H. Summers fails to make use of documents other than those immediatley accessible to him among the Borough MSS then in the Town Hall. By such limitation he omits the lawsuit launched against Lucas and his co-feoffee Ralph Mackerell by such luminaries as the Earl of Rutland, Henry Sadler esq, Edward Hungerford esq, together with townmen Ralp Harrold, John Bradford and John Burch who claimed to be acting in the interests of "all other the inhabitants, copyholders and freeholders" of the borough.
This suit (PRO C2/JasI/Rl/7) was presented in May 1613. The plaintiffs' bill describes how, following the purchase of Eldred and Whitmore, the freeholders and inhabitants of the borough had "divers meetings and conferences concerning the purchasing of the said borough", and a sum of money was agreed, and the four feoffees were chosen by the inhabitants to "undertake the purchasing and contracting for the said borough". The real problem which confronted the inhabitants was how to raise the purchase price of £285. Various courses were proposed but at length it was considered that the money could be raised by demising "for some small time" the borough commons or waste land, in which some of the suppliants had an interest of the soil and freehold and others had rights of common.
What disturbed these townsmen was that the sale to Elgar and Field seemed to have been made so that the interest in the property was sold to them not as trustees but so they became possessed of the estate in fee simple. Similarly, when Elgar and Field transferred to the extended body this was again without any mention of trust. In the light of these charges it is easy to see why the feoffees issued their declaration in June 1614. The plaintiffs continued their case by alleging that John Lucas was the principal "director" of the transaction and that he was "a man of not good note" - unlike, say, the Earl of Rutland, Henry Sadler esq, and Edward Hungerford esq, gentlemen whose social status clearly made them of "note". How far these non-resident gentlemen were concerned with the active prosecution of the suit is unclear; it is likely that they were brought in primarily because of their particular interest as freeholders and that the real thrust of the suit came from the "residents" Harrold, Bradford and Burch. The argument is brought forward that the feoffees - or the survivors of them - may make claim "as they already begin to do (if they survive the suppliants) to the absolute inheritance of the just right and lawful title". The suppliants, or plaintiffs, therefore request that the trust may be set down in writing and that a new set of responsible trustees be appointed.
In answer Lucas and Mackerell state that they were the chief representatives of the townsmen and that Lucas went to London to deal with Eldred and Whitmore for the purchase of the patent which the Crown had granted them for the sum of £285. This sum they raised by various loans at interest for three months. Such a short term loan suggested that they may have been anxious to clinch the deal before some other purchaser or prospective purchaser might deprive them of it. At any rate they could not repay this short term loan within the 3 months, and so a further loan of £300 was raised in London, repayable within 4 months. This seems to have been cleared by "leasing the downs or waste for £240 for a certain term yet to run" and by felling trees and woods to realise a further £60. Finally, all the deeds were properly delivered and executed in the town hall and in the presence of the inhabitants.
This was the law suit to which the Charity Commissioners in 1906 referred when that stated that "legal proceedings followed, which have unfortunately not been traced". The details of this suit reveal the difficulties - and the opposition - which confronted those townsmen who were willing to take an active part in bringing about a new constitution for the borough; and of these activists John Lucas must be regarded as the chief. The preliminaries of the town's new status took five or six years and its final achievement then led to the election of Lucas as Constable to steer the new constitution for three of its first four years. Thus altogether almost a decade of his life was spent more or less full time on this affair. It is appropriate, though quite coincidental, for the builders of the present town hall in 1870 did not know this, that the present town hall should stand on the very site of one of the two adjacent houses which John Lucas tenanted during all those years.
It is also notable that, although Constable on four occasions, he never held freehold property and so does not appear in the lists of freeholders from 1600 onwards. He is one of a number of instances where a Constable has been elected from non-freeholders. Moreover, if he came to Hungerford from without the parish (as the lack of parish register entries regarding his birth, marriage and the baptism of his two eldest sons suggests) then it is difficult to see how he could have been Constable in 1601 and have passed successively through the qualifying offices of port reeve, bailiff and tithing man, precedent to his Constableship.
He was a mercer by trade and, as his will shows, a man of some financial substance. He left cash bequests to his children totalling £700 - each of his three daughters received an equal amount as each of his four sons, with the exceptions of his second son Jehosophat and his third son Onesimus. Jehosophat however, not the eldest son John, was appointed executor of and received the remainder of his estate (after some further small bequests) and the care of the deceased's wife, Elizabeth who is "to have her maintenance with my executor in the best manner he can, as I have done". Onesimus received £200, double the amount of each of the others. Although the eldest son John received £100, the relative coolness shown to him is obvious, especially when it is considered that another son is the one entrusted both with the executorship and with the care of his mother. A late addition to the will is in the form of an admonition to his executor, which seems to say "Also let not Thomas Mundy enjoye that goods that he hath unjustly or if by law you may get it but let my son John have the most part of it because he is accustomed to it (when you have it)".
Among minor bequests in his will were the customary sums to be distributed to the poor and to the parish church, there was a bequest of £10 "towards the setting up of a school in Hungerford or Sandon - provided it be built or set up within the ten years". The provision of a local free school was very much in the minds of forward looking townsmen about this time and the establishment of such a school is usually attributed to the bequest in Dr Sheaff s will of a piece of land in Church Field. Sheaff, it will be remembered, was a colleague of Lucas on the board of feoffees set up in 1614. W.H. Summers describes the old Grammar School (p.160) as "Sheaff s Charity". He seems not to have known of John Lucas' will and earlier bequest. The legacy shows Lucas' continued concern for the town and its townsmen: it also shows in its conditional clause an awareness of their natural tendency to dally unless pushed - or led. Fortunately, the further bequest of Dr Sheaff probably ensured that the £10 left by Lucas was able to be utilised within the conditional term.
From 1604 onwards all of John Lucas' five children born after that date were baptised in the parish church. His wife Elizabeth was a frequent witness or godparent at others' christenings. In his will he left a small sum to the church. It is clear therefore that he accepted the Anglican Church. There are however in his life and work traces of a work ethic and a social welfare ethic which may suggest that he was in time with the developing Puritan thought and feeling shown at this time by so many of the prosperous middle or merchant class. A further indication is the naming of his children - each one of them was given a Christian name based on Biblical characters. John and Elizabeth are perhaps not outstanding as such, and Deborah may be more common or familiar today than it was then; so too perhaps Naomi; Timothy might also be unremarkable had it not been given as Tymotheus. But there is no questioning the Biblical and therefore probably Puritan tone of Jehosophat and Onesimus.
Of John's male children two, Jehosophat and Timothy, became local worthies and were each Constable of the town. Onesimus and John were not cast to be businessmen like their two brothers.
We know little of Onesimus other than what is told us in his will. His father's legacy, double that of the cash bequests to any of his brothers and sisters, shows a concern for him which may derive from special affection, a realisation of his relative incapacity to make his living by trade, or a knowledge of ill-health which would cut short his years; or, of course, a combination of these concerns. In fact, Onesimus died young, aged only 34. He was married but had no children. His wife's name was a good Puritan name, Rebecca. And his will is full of extreme Puritan sentiments.
It was drafted 20 September 1638 and he was dead before the year was out. It was signed by him, but there were no witnesses; and the composition would seem to have been personal - the work of a person with a scholarly, introverted, and bookish bent. Indeed of personal possessions books are one of the few items which he has to leave (bonds, books, clothes). This personal preamble to his will is such a good example of a certain kind of Puritan thought and feeling which was affecting others in the country - and in the local area of Hungerford - that 1 reproduce it verbatim. He begins by stating that he is the son of John Lucas late of Hungerford deceased and, having thus identified himself, proceeds:
"I commend my soul to God that gave it in the name of merit and mediation of Christ Jesus my lord and only saviour and Redeemer, adhering to, professing and confessing and ending my life in the truly ancient authentic and orthodox faith which is contained in the most sacred and revealed will of God in the writings of the old and new testaments, abhorring and detesting those superstitions (?) and patches (?) of opinions which have lately been superadded to the most holy and ancient faith by Rome and her adherents, these I do most religiously reject and do constantly forever refuse them, being repugnant to the work of God and doubtful, damnable, looking only to Christ Jesus the Author and fisher (?) of my faith, not doubting but through faith in his name and him alone according to the Scriptures John 3.15, 16, 18; Acts 4.129 and by his blood-shedding to obtain remission of all my sins and everlasting life whereof he hath given me earnest here by testimony of his holy spirit and assurance, by the fruit and effect of the same, who notwithstanding I confess myself and acknowledge myself to be a vile, detestable and abominable transgressor by reason of my original corruption and actual sins, so that I cannot speak against myself as I deserve, for which cause I abhor myself and repent in truth of heart and for which sins he may justly abhor me and cast me off forever, my conscience bearing me record that I desire to forsake all sin and to embrace all virtue and piety God for Christ his sake doth accept the evil in me, his poor unworthy servant for the deed (?)".
Onesimus requested to be buried in the parish churchyard near to his father and sisters. He left sums of money to his two nephews, John and Jehosophat, sons of his brother Jehosophat. He says they are his nearest kinsmen and the chief supporter of the family. He does not mention his brothers John and Timothy.