Revd Henry Morice and Family

Revd Henry Morice preaching
Painted by his Daughter Charlotte Morice (Ratcliffe). Painting held by Ashwell Museum
Mary St Aubyn Morice
Painted by Daughter Charlotte Morice (Ratcliffe)
Charlotte Morice (Ratcliffe)
Self Portrait
Sir William Morice 1602-1676
Engraving by Jacobus Houbraken
Colonel Pride refusing admission to the Presbyterian members of the Long Parliament. (Engraving, c. 1652)
Catherine St Aubyn Molesworth (Artist) - great aunt of Charlotte Morice Ratcliffe
National Trust
Catherine St Aubyn Molesworth (Artist) - great aunt of Charlotte Morice Ratcliffe
National Trust
Sir John St Aubyn - father of Mary St Aubyn Morice
National Trust

Henry was born 12 February 1777 in Holborn, London, the youngest of eight children of Dr William Morice MA and Hannah Voyce.  Henry’s father was Rector of Wennington, Essex and also chaplain to King George III.  Henry is decended from the Sir William Morice 1st Baronet of Werrington, Devon, who was High Sherrif of Devon 1651 (Henry’s gt gt grandfather).

On 31 Dec 1801 Henry married Mary St Aubyn at St George’s, Hanover Square, London (Henry is recorded as a Clerk).  As Mary was a ‘minor’ she was given away by her Guardian Sir John St Aubyn 5th Baronet of Clowance, Cornwall.  There is no mention of her parents on her marriage record.

Henry and Mary’s families married into each other in a number of generations so in fact they were related – Sir William Morice was Mary’s gt gt gt  grandfather.

Curate in Essex

Henry was initially a Curate in Essex helping with the refurbishment of St Peter and St Paul’s Dagenham after a devastating fire, moving to Ashwell in 1812 as Vicar of St Mary’s living in the Vicarage, which he had built, with his family until his death in 1850, he is buried in the churchyard along with his wife Mary and some of his children.

Henry and Mary had the first of their eight children, Mary (1803) and Henry William (1807) at Dagenham.  Then Charlotte (1810) and Frances Dorothy (1811) were born at Chipping Ongar.

New Vicarage

When Henry and Mary arrived in Ashwell, the vicarage was probably a Tudor farm house which Henry had demolished reusing the timber to build the current ‘old’ Rectory house which has a timber frame with a Georgian appearance.  I wonder what the villagers made of this?  It seems history is repeating itself today!

They had three more children, Elizabeth Ann (1815), Williamina Hebe (1818) and Sophia Octavia (1820) all born in Ashwell.  The family were comfortably off and did the “Grand Tour” of Europe.

Henry was a Canon of Lincoln (1846-1850) and sat as a JP for Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Morice Family and History 

Sir William Morice (1602-1676), secretary of state and theologian, born in St Martin’s parish, Exeter, 6 Nov 1602, was the elder son of Dr Evan Morice of Carnarvonshire, who was chancellor of Exeter diocese in 1594, and died in 1605.  His mother was Mary, daughter of John Castle of Scobchester in Ashbury, Devonshire;  she became in 1611 the third wife of Sir Nicholas Prideaux of Solden, Devonshire, and died on 2 Oct 1647.

His younger brother, Laurence, died young, and the whole property came into the possession of the elder boy.

William was educated ‘in grammar learning’ at Exeter, and entered at Exeter College, Oxford, as a fellow-commoner about 1619, when he was placed under the care of the Rev. Nathanael Carpenter (q.v.) and was patronised by Dr. Prideaux, its rector, who prophesied his rise in life.

He graduated BA on 27 June 1622, and gave his college a silver bowl weighing seventeen and three-quarter ounces.

For some years his life was spent in his native county, first at West Putford and afterwards at Werrington, which he bought of Sir Francis Drake in 1651.  We also made considerable purchases of landed property near Plymouth, including the manor of Stoke Damerel.

In 1640 he was made a county justice, and in 1651 he was appointed high sherrif of Devonshire.  On 15 Aug 1648 Morice was returned to parliament for Devonshire, but never sat, and was excluded in **‘Pride’s Purge.’  On 12 Jul 1654 he was re-elected, and he was again returned in 1656, but was not allowed to sit, as he had not received the approval of the Protector’s council, whereupon he and many others in a similar position published a remonstrance (Whitelock, Memorials, pp. 651-3, 698).

The borough of Newport in Cornwall, where he enjoyed great interest, chose him in 1658 and again in April 1660, when he preferred to sit for Plymouth for which he had been returned ‘ by the freemen,’ and he continued to represent that seaport until his death.

Morice was related, through his wife to General Monck, whose property in Devonshire was placed under his care.  The general possessed ‘a great opinion of his prudence and integrity,’ and imposed implicit reliance in his assurance that the residents in the west of England desired the king’s return.”   (Taken from the dictionary of National Biography Pages 943-5)

Pride’s Purge was an event that took place in December 1648, during the Second English Civil War, when troops under the command of Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents.  It was arguably the only military coup d’etat in English history.


1648, King Charles I was in captivity at Carisbrooke Castle and the first stage of the English Civil War was over.  The Long Parliament issued a set of demands for the future government of the Kingdom and sent commissioners to negotiate with the King over the terms of the putative Treaty of Newport.  The leaders of the New Model Army had previously tried to negotiate with the King themselves in 1647, shortly after the end of the first civil war in 1646.  Its leaders, the “grandees”, were sorely disappointed when Charles stalled these negotiations by quite clearly attempting to play different factions in the Parliamentary alliance off against others.  He eventually escaped captivity, leading to the second civil war that raged between 1647 and 1649.  By the time Charles was recaptured, most of the army leaders were convinced that they could no longer trust him.  So the army sent in a remonstrance on 20 November 1648, which was rejected by 125 votes to 58 in the House of Commons on 1 December.  When the Commissioners returned with the King’s answers, which were far short of what was hoped, the House of Commons eventually declared them acceptable by 129 votes to 83 early in the morning of 5 December 1648 (though this was technically a vote on whether the vote should be called).

The Purge 

On Wednesday 6 December Colonel Pride’s Regiment of Foot took up position on the stairs leading to the House, while Nathaniel Rich’s Regiment of Horse provided backup.  Pride himself stood at the top of the stairs.  As MPs arrived, he checked them against the list provided to him;  Lord Grey of Groby helped to identify those to be arrested and those to be prevented from entering.  The purge was not over in one day, and a military watch was kept on the entrance until 12 December.  By then 45 members had been imprisoned of which 25 were released before Christmas.  It is not known exactly how many were excluded as many, once they heard of the purge, voluntarily stayed away, either because they feared they would be arrested but more usually as a sign of protest.  Pre-purge the number of members who were still eligible to sit in the house was 507 but 18 seats were vacant and a further 18 members had not sat for a long time which meant that there were 471 active members.  After the purge just over 200 members sat in what would become known as the Rump Parliament.  Of the 200, 86 absented themselves voluntarily, 83 were allowed back in Parliament after formally dissenting from the decision to accept the King’s proposals, and 71 were supporters of the army from the outset.

The imprisoned members were taken first to the Queen’s Court within the Palace of Westminster, and then to a nearby public house.  There were three public houses next to the Palace in 1648, called Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.  The imprisoned members were taken to Hell where they spent the night.  On the next day they were moved to two inns in the Strand.  By 12 December the first of the imprisoned members was allowed home;  many more were released on 20 December.

The Rump now had a mojority that would establish a Republic.  Any doubts the remaining members may have had over the wisdom of this course were suppressed by the presence of the Army in great numbers.  On 4 January 1649 an Ordinance was passed to try the King for treason;  the House of Lords rejected it.  The House of Commons then passed an ‘Act’ by itself for the same purpose, and the King was beheaded on 30 January.  On 6 February the House of Lords was abolished;  the monarchy went the same way on 7 February, and a Council of State established on 14 February.  Between the purge and the King’s trial and execution only about 70 attended the Commons and attendance in the Lords rarely reached a dozen.


Pride’s Purge was reversed on 21 February 1660 when all the surviving barred members were restored to the Long Parliament which, as law required, voted for its own dissolution.  It was followed by the Convention Parliament (1660) which proclaimed Charles II King and restored the monarchy.

Pride’s Purge was arguably the most significant political event of the English Civil War, directly leading to the execution of Charles I and thus a permanent end to hostilities between the King and Parliament.  Historians argue over the extent to which this was an independent action by Pride’s regiment.  Army chief Sir Thomas Fairfax and his second in command, Lieutenant-General Oliver Cromwell, stayed aloof from the proceedings.  But Cromwell’s swift journey to London from Pontefract on the day of the purge implies that he may have been involved in its planning.  He most certainly benefited from and supported the outcome of the purge after it had taken place.


Mary St Aubyn

Mary St Aubyn is descended from the St Aubyn Baronetcy of St Michaels Mount Cornwall.

Henry and Mary’s daughter, Charlotte, was a good artist and a book of her drawings, now in the County Record Office is our main source of images of Ashwell in the early 19th century. There are a few more drawings by her in the museum.

Charlotte also produced a series of prints to raise funds for the building of Ratcliffe House on the High Street, which was opened as a girl’s school in 1841. There is also a portrait ‘Girl in pink dress’ (Sarah Thorne – later Mrs James Pack – of Ashwell who was a Teacher at the school) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Charlotte’s youngest sister, Sophia Octavia was the ‘baby of the family’, she lived in Ashwell Rectory until Ratcliffe House School was built.  It is believed she helped in the school whilst receiving an annuity.  She died about March 1852 in Ashwell and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard.

Charlotte’s great aunt Catherine St Aubyn, sister of Sir John Aubyn, is also recorded as an artist.  The St Aubyn family had connections with a number of well known artists including Sir Joshua Reynolds (there are a number of family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds) and John Opie (Sir John was a close friend and pallbearer at Opie’s funeral).

Charlotte married the Revd Thomas Ratcliffe in 1846 at St George’s, Hanover Square, London. They had three children Mary St Aubyn Ratcliffe (1848), Henry Morice Derwent Ratcliffe MD (1850) and Charles Edward Stewart Ratcliffe (1855).  Thomas was a Curate at Rushden, Northamptonshire.  Charlotte was living with her son Charles, who was also a clergyman, and his family when she died in June 1891 at Meriden.

St Aubyn Family and History

The first member of the St Aubyn family to move to Cornwall was Guy St Aubyn who married the heiress of Colquite in the mid fourteenth Century.

His son, Geoffrey, married even more advantageously, his wife Elizabeth being the only child of Piers Kemyel of Clowance (near Helston). Clowance became the principal family home until the mid-19th century and the Kemyel inheritance included lands at Lamorna and St Levan which form part of St Aubyn Estates today.

During the English Civil War, Colonel John St Aubyn was a Parliamentarian who in 1647 was appointed Captain of St Michael’s Mount with a remit to secure the peace in the neighbouring area. Twelve years later he bought the Mount from the Bassett family, who had been temporarily impoverished by erecting extensive defences on the island for the Royalist cause. His son – also John – was made a baronet, and was the first of five successive Sir John St Aubyns.

For almost two hundred years, St Michael’s Mount remained a subsidiary home, although the third Sir John retired there and rebuilt the harbour, leading to a revival of the island as a trading centre until it was overtaken by the coming of the railway and development of Penzance’s harbour. He also served as a MP, earning the exasperated respect of Sir Robert Walpole, who said of him “All these men have their price save the little Cornish baronet”.

His grandson, the 5th Sir John was an extremely cultured man, but he led an exotic private life. He had fifteen children, all illegitimate, although he did marry Juliana, the mother of the last nine, once she was past child bearing age. One consequence was that Clowance passed through the terms of its entail to his sister’s son, although Sir John was free to leave St Michael’s Mount as he wished

Mary was one of his children by Martha Nicholls, that is why he is recorded as ‘guardian’ on her marriage certificate.

Two generations on, the family fortunes had revived sufficiently for another John St Aubyn to build the Victorian wing onto the castle, and complete its transformation from a priory via a fort to a mansion house. This John was also a MP for thirty years, and on his retirement was made Lord St Levan in 1887 for his political services. It was his grandson, the third Lord St Levan, who gave St Michael’s Mount to the National Trust, under an unique arrangement whereby the family have a 999 year lease to live in the castle and a licence to operate the visitor business.

In 2003, James and Mary St Aubyn moved to the castle with their four children. They in their turn became Lord and Lady St Levan when the previous Lord, James’s uncle died in 2013.
(Taken from the St Michael’s Mount NT website)





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