Reynolds Family History in North Essex A small site devoted to the Reynolds family history from in and around North Essex in England.

Reynolds Family History/Ancestry 1500-1711


My first provable ancestor is James Reynolds (1) of Little Bardfield. He married Susannah Wood, at Little Sampford in 1711. There was at that time, a Peter Reynolds, of a similar age, also living at Little Bardfield.

At Great Sampford there lived a Simon Reynolds, who was an Innkeeper. Simon baptised two daughters, Elizabeth in 1716, Anna in 1721 and a son, Richard in 1722. He died in 1727 and his will was published in 1728. In his will Simon left forty pounds to each of his three children, and a further ten pounds each to pay for their education. He also made small bequeathes of one pound each to his father, James Reynolds and his mother Anne. In the will he also mentioned his two brothers, James and Peter Reynolds, his wife Elizabeth, his father in law Richard Philips and mother in law Joanna Philips and his two brothers in law, John and Henry.

I have not found the births recorded of Simon, James or Peter, and feel there is a strong possibility that Simon, Peter and our James were in fact brothers . In now feel that this is the link to our earlier past but I have found no proof to substantiate that idea. Simon left a pound each to his parents, James and Ann Reynolds, so one must presume that they were still alive in 1727, when he wrote his will. Although the earlier records are incomplete in many respects, they appear to be complete in most placed after that date, so his parents burials should be recorded somewhere. I have searched all available records and the only record of a James and Ann being buried after that date is at Hempstead. Unfortunately, the entries give very little information. They say simply, James Reynolds buried April 15, 1728 and Ann Reynolds buried June 24, 1735. To make it even more difficult, although the records at Hempstead begin in 1664, after the civil war, the baptism records are missing, and do not commence until 1693. Therefore, James and Ann could have well baptised a good number of children before 1693, including three sons, Simon, Peter and James, at Hempstead.

A James Reynolds of Hempstead married Ann Wyllins of Birdbrook at Stambourne on 16th October, 1674. Stambourne is a small village about six miles east of Great Sampford and Hempstead. They are all within easy walking distance of each other. This is surely the James and Ann who were buried at Hempstead, as mentioned above. Simon Reynolds married Elizabeth Philips, by banns, on September 23rd, 1714. (DP 11/1/3) at Great Dunmow. They were both shown as resident in Great Dunmow at that time. There were a number of Philips in Great Dunmow at that time. An Elizabeth Philips was baptised there in 1689, but her parents were shown as James and Elizabeth. There was no record of a Henry or a John being christened. I am sure that Richard and Joanna were part of that clan, and lived in another village, nearby. Unfortunately, these records are not at present available on the internet.

When Simon died in 1727, he had three young children and he left money for their education. James (1) started producing children in 1712 and Peter`s first child was baptised in 1717. They were all of a similar age. I think that they were all born in 1680-1690. As there are no records of births at Hempstead before 1694, and no records at all at Little Bardfield between 1630-1680 (and virtually none from 1681-1700) they may have all three been born in either place during the time of no records.. There had been Reynolds family members in Little Bardfield in the early 1600`s, before the civil war. Robert Reynolds was a yeoman. Perhaps, we shall never know.

Although many of the villages had lost the records during the civil war, in all the villages searched, the registers were complete from 1670 onwards, except:

  • Great Saling which began in 1715 There was only one family recorded in the name of Reynolds, beginning with a marriage in 1743. No burials in the name of Reynolds indicating that there were Reynolds there before that date.
  • Little Dunmow, which began in 1696. There were no Reynolds recorded there after that date
  • Sible Hedingham, which begins in 1680. There appear to have been no Reynolds there until 1721 when a Stephen Reynolds of Cogglesham married and produced three children. There Are no records of burials of any Reynolds that might have been living there before.
  • Stebbing, these records begin in 1712 and the first entry for a Reynolds was a baptism in 1728. It appears to be one family which settled there. There are no burials recorded indicating previous settling there by the Reynolds clan.
  • Tilty, records began in 1673 There were no entries in the name of Reynolds from that date on. No Reynolds were buried.
From the information available, none of these villages appear to have any connection with our James Reynolds, or the Reynolds clan.

The Plague of 1665

The Bubonic plague had been around in England for many years. In 1348-1350, the Black Death caused the death of 1.5 million people, out of an estimated population at that time, of 4 million.

The plague became endemic again in 1665, in London, York, and many more places. It began, in London, in the poor, overcrowded parish of St. Giles in-the-Field. It started slowly at first but by May of 1665, 43 had died. In June 6137 people died, in July 17036 and at its peak in August, 31159 people died. In all, 15% of the population perished during that terrible summer.

The Great Fire of London, the following year, killed the rats and fleas that carried the disease. However, it was not restricted to London. Many villages in Essex were infected. Few records survive, but one, a list of towns and villages, given rate relief because of the plague, show that many died in Colchester, Braintree, Stebbing and in thirty eight listed villages. The bodies were burned. No church burials took place, and we have no records of who died in the villages.

A document that has survived shows that the plague victims in Braintree were in 1663 to 1656. They totalled 865 from a population of 2,300 inhabitants. Colchester had 4,731 deaths from a population of 8000. Many of the surrounding villages suffered just as badly, as people escaped from the towns and sought refuge in the nearby villages, thus spreading the infection.

I have found no records with details of the loss of life in any of the villages where the Reynolds's lived, but a number of families seemed to disappear at that time, and the plague would be a reasonable explanation. When a house had the plague, the family were kept inside. Food and water would be left on the doorstep each day. After a given time, anyone in the house who had survived would be let out. Bodies were disposed of by burning or burial in mass graves called plague pits. People who contracted plague usually died within one week.

The Civil War

The civil war 1649 to 1660 caused some changes in the countryside, although the actual fighting passed most people by. It was during this struggle that many of the churches were affected. Priests, who would not accept the new protestant ideas were thrown out of their churches and many of the registers were lost. Of the forty two church registers I have researched, eighteen churches have lost their registers for the years before the time of the civil war. The registers for Little Bardfield, which has a place in our history, has no entries from 1630 until 1680.


Between the years of 1499 until 1653, over 700 Essex women (and men) were accused of being, or consorting with WITCHES. Many were found not guilty, but many others were hanged or more often died in prison. The practice of burning witches was a continental idea. Most witches in England were taken before a court and, if found guilty, either hanged or imprisoned.

I have found no evidence of a Reynolds witch, but there were many unfortunates in the nearby villages that were accused. During this period there were eight accused witches taken before the court in Finchinfield, six in Great Barfield, six in Great Sampford, nine in Great Dunmow, five in Braintree, eight at Stebbing, and three at Barfield (Little) Saling. Closer to home, there were three in South Ockendon, two in West Tilbury and one in each of the villages of Orsett, Bulphan, East Tilbury, Stanford le Hope, Aveley, Dunton and Horndon.

East Anglia suffered more than most of the UK in cases of persecution for witchcraft. Part of this is due to the reign of terror in 1644-5 of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. He operated at a time of Civil War, when many courts were closed, people were generally frightened, and he was under the protection of the Puritan roundheads. In 1645 alone, there were 131 witches taken before the court in East Anglia.

The Great Freeze 1684

Between 1350 and 1850 in the UK, there was a Little Ice Age. Freezing winters were a fact of life and the freezing of the River Thames in London in 1684 led to that year's Great Frost Fair, which was held on the River itself. The records show that much of the English channel between Dover and Calais was completely frozen over. Many crops failed and the following summer, England experienced the last recorded food famine. People died of hunger in the towns, but, those people from the country fared much better.

Transportation 1778 until 1850's

I have also searched the records, kept by the Queensland State Library, where the records of every convict who were transported to Austalia are kept. Of the 50,000 miscreants so transported, only 126 had the name of Reynolds. Mostly, they came from London or Warwickshire. Only two were sent from a court in Essex. Most offences like theft could carry the death penalty. Persons convicted of such offences, were often offered transportation as a less final alternative.