John Toft was born around 1623 in Norwich, Norfolk, England to parents Thomas Toft (1585-1672) and Susan Chapman (1584-1669).
John was a grocer merchant like his father Thomas, and lived in the parish of St George Tombland.
Tombland was in the centre of industrial Norwich. The name Tombland has nothing to do with graves or tombs. It means an open or empty space. From the late Saxon period Tombland was the site of the main market place in the city.
John married around 1639 in Norwich, Norfolk and had at least five children baptised and buried at St George Tombland in Norwich. His wife’s name is unknown, but his children were –
- Lydia b ca 1640 d 1640 Norwich. Buried at St George Tombland.
- John (Rev) b 1642 Norwich, attended Cambridge Uni matriculated in 1661 BA. His entry states he is the son of John Toft, grocer of Norwich. Possibly married Phoebe Fen in 1677 at St Clements. One son Samuel Toft b 1679 at St Michael Coslany.
- Samuel b 1644 Norwich d 1693. Buried at St Clement, Norwich.
- Thomas b 1647 Norwich d 1710 Norwich. Will bequests to sons John, Thomas, Ben and Timothy, and sister Mary.
John Toft was recorded living in the parish of St Clements and of being a non-conformist, that is a dissenter from the state Church of England religion. In 1644 the dissenters were having to travel 20 miles to enjoy church fellowship so they wrote a letter asking for formal consent to the gathering of an independent church in Norwich which was granted.
In 1653 Daniel Bradford and John Toft were the representatives of this new church appointed to sign the nomination of members to the Little Parliament. Biblical Studies
John Toft’s name also appears in a book published by the Congregational Historical Society Vol II No 1 Jan 1905.
Archdeaconries of Norwich and Norfolk 1669 St. Clement's, in Norwich — at the house of John Toft, grocer — every Sunday and once in the week : Sometimes the same persons meet at the house of Mrs. More, widdow, and John Davy, merchant, in St. Symon and St. Jude's parish. — In- dependents : 300, most women — Teachers : Mr. Thos. Allen,* Enoch Woodyard (? Woodward*), Martin Finch*. St. George's of Tombland, in Norwich — at the house of Goodwyn, a hosier — once a week — Independents — all women.
In 1672 John’s house was registered for independent church meetings.
John also appears in the book entitled ‘The Declaration of Indulgence 1672 – A Study in the Rise of Organised Dissent’ by Frank Bate.
John Toft died in September 1696 at the age of 73 years and was buried at St Clements, Norwich on 24 September 1696.
His will was proved at Norwich in 1696 and his two beneficiaries were his sons Thomas and John. Thomas received land in St Clements from his father.