John Mackerell and Abigail Anton

John Mackerell was born in 1618 in Norwich, Norfolk to parents Nicholas Mackerell / Macquerelle 1572-1631 and Abigail Dackett 1575-1648.

John Mackerell Coat of Arms Norwich

John was baptised at the Dutch Church (sometimes called the Dutch Strangers Church) in Norwich on 13 July 1618. The church was founded sometime before 1600 and closed before 1830 and was located at Blackfriars Hall – St Andrews Hall Plain in Norwich.

In 1564 Norwich suffered a harsh winter and economic hardship, and the Mayor of Norwich realised the economy of the city could be improved by inviting skilled textile workers from the Spanish Netherlands to settle in Norwich. Large numbers of immigrants, fleeing persecution in their homelands left Flanders and by 1568 large numbers of Flemish and Dutch strangers were living in Norwich, and it appears John’s parents were part of this migration to search for a better life.

Strangers Hall, now a museum in Norwich

At the age of 14 John was apprenticed to Richard Kell, a mercer (merchant) of Norwich and on 25 February 1643 he was admitted as a Freeman Mercer of Norwich, granting him the right to practise his craft and business in Norwich.

Those who paid taxes in Norwich were eligible for freeman status, and to trade freely in the city, membership was essential.

Candidates could obtain admission in three ways – by patrimony – father to son (if the father was a freeman), by apprenticeship with a freeman (such as John did) and by purchase (payment of a fee after they had practised their craft in the city for a year and a day).

On 4 February 1642 23 year old John Mackerell married Abigail Anton at the parish church of St Gregory, Norwich. Abigail was the daughter of John Anton 1597 and Mary Wydoot 1597-1663. Mary’s father John was a merchant grocer, and also a Dutch Stranger. She was one of five children born to the couple.

St Gregorys, Norwich marriage register 1642

John and Abigail had eight children –

  1. John b 1643 & d 1723 Norwich. Marr Anne Browne and had 11 children.
  2. Abigail b 1648 & d 1648 St Peter Mancroft, Norwich
  3. Ann b & d 1652 St Peter Mancroft, Norwich
  4. Francis d 1657 St Peter Mancroft, Norwich
  5. Nicholas b 1659 & d 1659 St Peter Mancroft, Norwich.
  6. Mary d 1711 St Gregory, Norwich. Marr James Hawys. Will 1709.
  7. Peter d 1672 St Gregory, Norwich. Will 1672.
  8. Jane (mentioned in father’s will in 1659).

In 1645 the richer members of the foreign congregations made compositions with the Corporation of Norwich to be discharged of the duty of acting as constables. John Mackerell paid 40s to be free in the parish of St Peter Mancroft. The Militia Companies records.

Mackerell Coat of Arms in St Peter Mancroft Norwich Norfolk

In 1659 a petition was submitted by John Mackerell junior stating that he was son of John Mackerell of Norwich. He and his father having for fourscore years past, used three Mackerell naiant as Arms family came out of the Low Countries and settled in Norwich in the reign of Elizabeth I.

The petitioner was born in 1644 and no pedigree or coat of Arms is registered for him at the College of Arms; and he therefore seeks a confirmation of the Arms with colours assigned, and the grant of a Crest. College of Arms.

John Mackerell died in January 1659 in Norwich and he was buried at St Gregory’s, Norwich on 27 January 1659. He is indexed under John Makkerell.

His will states that John Mackerell, mercer of Norwich left bequests to his wife Abigail, his sons John and Peter, his daughters Mary and Jane, and his brother in law Peter Anton and several other people including his siblings Ann and Henry.

St Gregorys Norwich

Abigail Mackerell died in October 1698 in Norwich and was buried at St Gregory’s Norwich on 10 October 1698.

The burial register states she was Abigail Mackerel of St John Maddermarket, widow. Letters of Administration were proved by her son John Mackerell in 1706.

Unfortunately the graveyard of St Gregory’s was cleared a century ago, and now forms a town square onto Pottergate. St Gregory is famous for some of the finest wall-paintings in East Anglia. The best known is at the west end of the north aisle. It depicts St George killing the dragon, a magnificent city behind with the princess watching. It is fully twelve feet high, and still vibrant with colour.