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The Ponder Family

from the Kettering Leader – Friday, August 15, 1924

Glimpses of Rothwell History


The Ponder Family

For two hundred years the family of Ponder evidently played a prominent part in Rothwell affairs.

The first Ponder of which a note exists is one Nicholas Ponder, who died about 1527, but whose will is unfortunately missing from the Northampton Registry. The will of Nicholas Ponder, who died in 1573, is there, however, and it is not unreasonable to suppose he was the son of the first-named Nicholas. This will •was made on 18th August, 1573, and as there is no mention of children it is presumed Nicholas had no issue. He is there described as a husbandman, and proceeds: “I give and bequeath my soule to almigtie God my maker and redeamer and my bodie to be buried in the church of Rothwell. . . I give to the Churche of Rothwell vis. viijd. Item I give to the Schole-house xxd. I give to the Abbey bridge five theaves and to the three other bridges vs. I give and bequeath to be given to the poore in Rothwell on my buriall daye viijs. ivd. I give yearlie for so longe as my yeares last in this ferme to the poore one stryke of malte when they mend the high waies. And I give yearlie also so longe as the lease of my farme endureth iijs. iiijd. to be bestowed on Rogation Mondaie of them that goe about to sett meare stones betwixt meare and meare and neighbour and neighbour.” To his brother William he gives xxs. and to his children vs. each and a shepe apece. To his brother in law William Ley of Thorpe xs. and to his sister his (Ley’s) wife xxs. To his brother John £3 6s. 8d. Other curious bequests are the following:— “To my brother William Ponder my best coate my best doublett my best shirte my best hoose and my best Jerkyn. I give to my brother Ley my second doublett my second shirt.” To his sister Ley he gave his “best hatte to Marie Ley one brass pott that I left bought of my cousin Wall.” He makes his wife Margarie his ful texecutrix and gives her the residue. She proved the will 26th November, 1573.

Coming now to William Ponder, the brother of Nicholas, we find that he made his will on 6th November, 1579. He is described as a yeoman, and proceeds: “I give and bequeath my soule unto almightie God my Maker and Redeemer in whom I rnust be saved by his precious bloode sheddinge and my bodie to be buried in the Church of Rothwell.” To such church he gives vis. viiid. He gave “unto the mendinge of the hygh wayes yearlie one strike of malt unto the end and term of xxi years.”

Then he goes on: “Item I give iiis. iiijd., to be given amongst the people which doe goe about a fields in Rogation weeke commonly called Crossa weeke and that iijs. iiijd. to be payd yearlie for ever by hym or them that shall have the farme in occupation wherein I now dwell.” To Marie Ponder his wife and to John Ponder his brother he gave all lands which he bought of Mr. Udall during their natural lives then to Thomas Ponder his son except a cottage called the Chauntrey House adjoining the Churchyard and that he gave to Owen Ponder his son with another house in Nassington after the deaths of his wife and brother. He refers to the lease of a house and six arable lands at Thorpe Malsor, which he ultimately gave to another son, John, and gives £20 each on their marriage to his daughters Constance and Agnes and further sums of £5. He further willed that bis executors should “give unto Owen my sonne some £5 yearlie to keep him at the Universitie so long as he doth apply his books and shall bave need of the exhibition. To his son Thomas Ponder he gave a Cupboard “that standeth in the wall, the formes, and tables with all the sealinge in the hall and parlour.”

The residue of his estate he gave his wife Marie and his brother John and he made them executors. The will was proved on 3rd June, 1580.

John. Ponder, William’s brother, made his will on 3rd June, 1601. Ha does not appear to have been married, as there is no reference to children or a wife. Ha gave unto his Parish Church xxs. “when they doe begin to build the Steeple,” Legacies were given to the children of his nephews Thomas and Owen and to his sister Margery, who presumably was the wife of William Ley There was also a bequest to Elizabeth Ponder tha daughter of his nephew Thomas of his bedstead in the greate chamber and feather bed with all that belongeth thereto and one paire of sheetes. The residue went to Thomas his nephew, and tha will was proved 7th October, 1601.

Thomas Ponder, the son, of William, made his will 22nd October, 1630. He desires to be buried in the Parish Church of Rothwell neare unto his predecessors, and refers to his sons Thomas and Owen, his daughters Elizabeth, Susan, Annie and Sara. He also refers to Thomas and Mary the children of his son William and also to his brother Owen and sister Agnes Harrison. His cousins John and Elizabeth are also mentioned, The nesidue went to his son William, who as executor proved the will 26th February, 1630.

Then we have the will of Owen Ponder, presumably the son of William Ponder, which was proved 30th April, 1661. He refers to his eldest son Ralph his .second son John, and his youngest son Thomas, and to his wife Dorothy, to whom he gave all his goods and chattels and all his houses for life and towards the bringing up of his children and the finding of such trades as their dispositions stand to. This Owen is probably the Owen Ponder who at the Church Survey of 14th September, 1637 did “confess that sometymes he doth not stand up at the gospell And doth not bow when the blessed name of Jesus is mentioned” and he “being admonished to conform therein for the tyme to come” answered obstinately “that he would not tell whether he would reform or noe.”

There is, too, the will of Ralph Ponder of Rowell Labourer dated 28th March 1663 (proved at Kettering 7th April 1671) who refers to his wife Anne and his daughters Elizabeth, Dorothy and Anne. Also the will of Thomas Ponder of Rowell Gentleman dated 4th March, 1730, in which he mentions his late brother-in-law the. Lord Chief Baron Ward, and his grandchildren, the daughters of his late son-in-law John York, who was Vicar of Rothwell 1690—94, and Rector of Stoke Doyle 1717—30. The will was proved 24th April, 1752, and the inventory was sworn at £408 0s. 1 1/2 d.

Which Ponder was the founder of Ponder’s Charity does not appear from any will. The Commissioners in their report of 1830 state that “six small tenements which were erected in or about the year 1714 by T. Ponder Gentleman were appropriated by him, together with three roods of land adjoining, for the use of the poor widows of Rothwell,” and it seems just possibly that the Ponder in question was the one just mentioned as having died in 1732. Paul Cypher states that in the Lady Chapel is a monumental inscription, scarcely legible, to the memory of Thomas Ponder, the founder of the Almshouses. This stone is still in existence, but the inscription is now indecipherable.

These wills are interesting, as are numerous entries in the Church registers, but it is most difficult to construct a pedigree from them.

John Ponder was a notable member of the family. Exactly what relation he was, however, to the Ponders already mentioned it is at present impossible to say. He was quite a sturdy Puritan. In 1634 or thereabouts he was charged with divers offences connected with religious exercises and opinions which did not accord with the views then current. He was one of the founders of the Independent Church at Rothwell, and was the first elder. He was apparently in a good way of business as a chandler, and issued two tokens, one dated 1655 and the other 1664. These are illustrated, being reproduced from a plate, in Bridge’s “Northants” of the Dash Collection of Tokens. He made a nuncupative will on 7th April, 1665. He is there described as a chaundler, and he thereby gave Dorothy Ponder his wife all his messuage at Rothwell and goods for the purpose of portions for his children, that is to say. his son John £5, son Nathaniel 5s., and to the rest of his children, Susanna, Elizabeth, Mary, Martha, Dorothy, Sarah, and Thomas to each of them £50 to be paid on days of marriage. His wife was appointed executrix. Dorothy Ponder died soon after, however. She made her will on 22nd May, 1665, in which, after referring to her husband’s will and desiring that its provisions should be carried out and the por¬tions paid, directed that her son John was to receive £45 more.

The burial entries are:—”1665, 10 April John Ponder Chaundler.” “1665 28 May Dorothy Ponder widdow.” It will be noted that Nathaniel Ponder is only left 5s. He was probably well provided for, however, as he is believed to be the London publisher of many of John Bunyan’s works, though the publisher in question is described as the son of John Ponder, of Rothwell, mercer, and was apprenticed to Robert Gibbs, Bookseller, of London, on 2nd June, 1656. He it was who first published the “Pilgrim’s Progress” in 1678 at the sign of the Peacock, in the Poultry, near the Church. The eleventh edition was the last which came out in his name. The twelfth, issued in 1689, bore the name of Robert Ponder. Nathaniel Ponder was, says Dr. Brown, in his “Life of Bunyan,” “knewn among his brother craftsmen of the Stationer’s Company as ‘Bunyan Ponder.’ He was an agreeable man to have dealings with. He had ‘sweetness and enterprise in his air which plead and anticipate in his favour.'” Nathaniel was “also the publisher in 1679 of “A Treatise of the Fear of God”; and “The Life and Death of Mr. Badman” in 1680. He did not escape trouble in respect of some of his religious publications, but he was quite an active Independent, and took steps to obtain licences for several local Nonconformists in 1672.

The Rev. H. Isham Longden, M.A., to whom thanks are due for his assistance, states that on 15th October. 1666, a licence was issued by the Vicar-General of the Archbishop of Canterbury for “Nathaniel Ponder of St. Dunstans West Citizen and Stationer bachelor about 26 to marry Mary Guy of Isham Spinster about 20, with the consent of her Father.” There is moreover, says Mr. Longden, an entry in the Kettering register of the baptism on 14th May, 1645, of Mary, daughter of Robert Guy Gentleman; while on the 17th October, 1687, there is an entry in the Rothwell register of the burial of Elizabeth Ponder, daughter of Mr. Nathaniel Ponder of London.

Mr. Longden mentions two other Ponders First, Samuel Ponder, who was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, matriculated 1655 and took his B.A. 1659-60. He is spoken of in Calamy as a Northampton man eminent for piety and humility. A Samuel Ponder buried at Rothwell 4th December, 1662, may have been the Samuel in question. Secondly, there is William Ponder, of Clare Hall, Cambridge, B.A., 1629-30, M.A. 1633, who intruded as Rector of Courteenhall 6th May, 1648, and was buried there 18th December, 1660. Whether he was a Rothwell man cannot be stated.

Tradesmen’s Tokens


The Tradesmen’s Tokens here illustrated are three out of the five issued by Rothwell tradesmen. They are shown about double the actual size. The centre of the obverse in Ponder’s earlier Token represents a row of candles, while in the centre of the reverse in the 1664 one are the letters “O.B.,” an abbreviation for “obulus”—a halfpenny. The obverse of the Bebee Token has a wheatsheaf.


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