The Heraldic Shields in the Armorial Hall
Around the ceiling in the main hall are 40 shields which trace the ancestry of the Reverend William Cotton, who married Hester Maria Tyrell in 1755 and into whose possession Thornton subsequently passed.
Numbered from left to right the shields indicate that William de Cotun who lived in the time of Henry III was the father of Simon and grandfather of William de Cotun. William Cotun married twice, his first wife being named Isabel and his second, Joan. The line of this second marriage died out in female children three generations later.William and Isabel had a son, Edmund Coton, who married Catherine Brett de Dana (Brett: Argent a fess azure): Shield 10.
William Cotton, the child of Edmund and Catherine, married Agnes, the daughter and heir of Walter de Ridware (Shields 6 and 15) of Hempstall-Ridware, Staffordshire, late in the reign of Edward III. He took the estate and also the arms of Ridware (Azure an eagle displayed argent). Shield 15 shows the old coat of Cotton (Argent a bend sable between three pellets).
The child of William and Agness, John Cotton now of Ridware, married Isabel, daughter of William Faulconer (Faukconer: Argent three hawks gules belled Or): Shield (7). William Stoke, Bishop of Rochester gave to John Faulconer the manor of Thurcaston in 1355. (Shield 8: Thurcaston - Sable three owls guardant Or). This estate eventually passed to William Faulconer and the ownership is shown in Shield 14 where Faulconer is impaled by Thurcaston. The marriage of John Cotton and Isabel is shown in Shield 16.
Sir Richard Cotton, the child of this marriage, married Elizabeth Venables (Shield 17), the sister and eventual co-heir of Sir Hugh Venables, Baron of Kinderton. (Venables: Azure two bars argent: Shield 9). There is some disagreement on the name of Sir Richard’s wife; the Staffordshire County History says that her name was Johanna, whereas Burke’s Dormant Baronetcies gives it as Elizabeth.
After this marriage the family divided into three distinct branches. The eldest son of the Cotton-Venables marriage was Richard whose line died out with his son, Richard. The second son, who died in 1463 married twice. He first married Johanna Fitzherbert: Shield 24 (Fitzherbert: Argent a chief vairy Or and gules over all a bendlet sable). He had 15 children by Johanna, a fact commemorated upon his tomb in Ridware Hempstall church by the same number of shields. In order of birth his children were:
1. James “who died in his cradyl”.
2. John who married Alice Langham, the heir of Richard Langham (Shield 23) of that place in Suffolk and who had three sons. (Langham: Argent a fess gules, a label of three points azure). The shield at Thornton appears to have the label as sable. In the William Salt library at Stafford is a manuscript pedigree of the Cotton family prepared after 1721 upon the orders of Edward Coton of Ipswich from various public and private records. This work, registered as SMS 49, is entitled “Cotton family. Stemma et propagationes perantique Cottonorum familiae de comitatibus Cestriae, Staffordiae, Huntingdoniae etc.” and has an achievement quarterly of 19 as its frontispiece. Langham is shown as the l0th quarter.
3. Thomas, a Batchelor of Divinity.
4. William, who died at the age of 20.
5. William, who died at the age of 16.
6. Roger, a vintner and citizen of London, married Anne, the daughter of John Roose of Plymouth (18). (Roose: Sable a pale Or thereon three roses gules). On the SMS shield Roose is given in the text as the 13th quarter, but in the drawing this is “Argent three water bougets gules”. The 14th quarter however is shown as a bend with three roses thereon.
8. Richard (see below).
10. Elizabeth, who married John Sedley (21) (Sedley: Per pale azure and sable three antelopes heads erased argent between a fess chequy Or and gules). Elizabeth was the second wife of John Sedley, his first wife having been Elizabeth Jenks and his third Agnes Wyborne of Hakewell. John Sedley came from a family of great antiquity from Romney Marsh. The family origins are recorded back to 1337 when John Sedley or Sidley was auditor to the exchequer of Henry VII and Lord of the Manor of Southfleet, the family seat. The couple had two sons - William, the elder son, and Martin, who married a Mountney.
12. Margery, who married Richard Belgrave.
13. Jane, who married Thomas Yonge of Plymouth,
a vintner and citizen of London (35) (Yonge: Or three roses gules).
15. Katherine, who married first Thomas Powtrell (25) of Halom in Derbyshire (Powtrell: Argent a fess between three roses gules). Later she married Thomas Molineux (26) of Hawton (Molineux: Azure a cross miline Or with a crescent Or for difference). The Molineux family is traced from the Molines who entered the country with the Conqueror. This achievement is a good example of the canting coat. In addition to his rank of Privy Councillor Thomas Molineux was made a knight banneret in 1482 by Richard, Duke of Gloucester after the expedition into Scotland for Edward IV. Also in 1482 Thomas built Hawton church and house. He died in 1492 leaving a son, Sir Edmund Molineux KB, who died in 1552, having married Jane Cheyney.
Richard, the 6th child, married twice. His first wife was Alice Savage (20), the daughter of Gilbert Savage, by whom he had a daughter, Maud, who married first Francis Repington and afterwards a Willoughby. Originally the coat of Savage was Argent six lioncels rampant sable, but in the third year of the reign of Henry V a grant of the arms of the family Daniers (5 or 6 fusils in pale sable) was given. The family seats were at Rock Savage and Clifton, Chester. Sir John Savage, Kt., inherited Clifton through his mother Margaret, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Daniers.
Richard’s second wife was Johanna St. John (19) the daughter and heiress of Thomas St. John of Charing (St. John: Argent a chief dancettee gules thereon two mullets Or). Through this marriage the branch of the family descended. The first son was John who had four sons and a daughter, one of whom was William, Bishop of Exeter (d.l621). The third son, Nicholas, died unmarried. The middle son, Humphrey, married Anne Kinardsley (32). (Kinardsley: Argent a fess vairy Or and gules between three eagles displayed gules).
Humphrey and Anne had five children; four daughters and a son. The son (the fourth child) was later known as William de Bould. William married first Elizabeth, the daughter of William Mallory (34) (Mallory: Or a lion rampant gules), and second, Margaret, the third daughter of William Yonge of Kenton. It should be noted that a Cotton had already married a Yonge and Shield 35 could be for either marriage. However I assume that the latter Cotton/Yonge union is shown in Shield 36, which has a label of three points gules, in view of the fact that Walter, the eldest son of William, married Elizabeth the sister of his stepmother.
This branch of the family died cut in 1800 when Elizabeth Sheppard (nee Cotton) died.
The second main branch of the Cotton family comes from the second marriage of John Cotton, this time to Mary Poole. Their child was Richard Cotton (d.1497), who married Jane, daughter of Sir William Brereton (27) (Brereton: Argent two bars sable). On a gravestone in the South Aisle of Ridware Hempstall church is an inscription to Jane which mentions the fact that she had eight sons and six daughters. All the sons died and the four daughters who married were:
1. Matilda (or Maud) (d.l55l), who married Anthony Fitzherbert (died 26th May 1539) (28) (Fitzherbert: Argent a chief vairy argent and gules overall a bendlet sable).
2. Eleanor, who married William Venables (d.l541) (31) (Venables: Azure two bars argent).
3. Catherine, who married Richard Grosvenor (29) (Grosvenor: Azure a garb Or).
4. Isabell (or Maud), who married first John Bradburn (30) (Bradburn: Argent a bend gules thereon three mullets argent). The shield at Thornton shows the mullets as Or. She later married William Bassett.
The third or Connington branch of the family, although very interesting historically, is not recorded at Thornton. It is the line which starts with William, the third son of the Cotton/Venables marriage.
The shields mentioned above have all had a direct link with the Cotton family but there are three shields that seem to be based more on history. These are shields number
(3). Gules three lions passant guardant Or
(5). France Ancient.
The Victoria County History of Huntingdonshire vol III, 146, shows that the King of Scotland was at one time Lord of the Manor of Connington. This came about in 1109 when David, later to be King of Scotland became the owner of the manor upon his marriage to the widow, Maud St Liz, the daughter of the Countess Judith. Judith was daughter of Lambert Count of Lens, wife of Earl Waltheof, and niece of William the Conqueror. St Liz was created Earl of Huntingdon by William, The Earldom became extinct in 1237.
Of the shields mentioned earlier these not impaled with the Cotton achievement are all placed in a row. Of these shield (2) “Argent a cross moline Or” is connected with (26) and (4) “Or a lion rampant gules” with (34). When discussing with Sister Annunciata the positions of these shields she said that all the shields had at one time been removed for cleaning and she thinks that some of them were then replaced in the wrong position. This would account for the odd positioning of these two shields and some of the others.
Unfortunately the following shields cannot be lined with the history of the Cotton family that is recorded and must remain in doubt.
(11). Quarterly Argent and gules overall a bend sable.
(12). Sable a pillow (?) argent
(22). Sable a chief Or thereon three lions rampant gules, impaling Cotton.
(33). Gules in fess three lozenges argent impaling Cotton.
(37). Cotton, impaling argent a scythe sable the blade in chief
(39). Cotton impaling sable three stags heads caboshed argent attired Or
(40). Cotton, impaling sable a chevron between Three stirrup and leathers Or.
Of these No 11. Burke, in general Armory, indicates that with the bend azure this achievement could be Rockley. This is one of four purported for this family another being that of “Argent two chevrons azure a bordure engrailed gules” Tirrel!
No 22. The only achievement that has three lions in chief and a plain base is that of Vynall of Lewes in Sussex. However in this the lions are sable.
No 39 This is no doubt Cavendish but the family tree does not show a marriage of a Cavendish female into the Cotton family.
No 40. The Gifford family has as its coat three stirrup and leathers Or but with an azure field. This shield may relate to the marriage of John Cotton the son of Thomas the second son of Thomas Cotton and Elizabeth Shirley (Connington Branch) who married Frances Gifford in 1632.
The descriptions used here are taken from 'The Heraldry of Thornton Manor' by Barry R. Holliss esq.