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THE ANTIQUARIAN FAMILY

Revised: July 15, 1999




        "Investigations confirm a belief which already exists," says Hon. J. Russell Bullock (1886) of Stukely Westcott, "that his ancestors are to be found of that old nobility who ruled England prior to the Conquest, but whose rank and whose political importance were measurably lessened by the coming of those titled Normans into the land, coincident with the advent of William the Conqueror."

        "Thrust down though those Saxon nobles were," as Freeman says, "yet they lost nothing of their ancient pride and independence, but became in time the stout gentry and the sturdy and prosperous freeholders, who were and yet remain the strength of the realm."

        Stukely Westcott doubtless derived his somewhat unusual Christian name from the ancient family of Stucley of Affeton Castle in the parish of Ilfracombe. The Westcotts, or Wescotes as the name was spelled in those ancient days, were related to the Stucleys through the Wadham and Cantelupe families, according to Harlain Society (p. 352). The name is of Saxon derivation. In that tongue it was written Stycle, meaning stiff clay.

        Early historians in England used the spelling Stuckly and Stukley, while in this country, historians have generally spelled the name Stukeley, as did Bullock. The Founder of the family, Nov. 19, 1644, signed an old colonial document, "Stuckley Westcott." His grandson signed his name, "Stukley," while in the inscription on the head-stone of the Founder's great-great-grandson at Cheshire, Mass., it is spelled "Stukely." The grandson of Stukely (V) of Cheshire, sone of Benjamin (VI), was the only one of the Christian name to dwell in Milford township and he spelled his name "Stukley." In so far as this research has revealed, there are but two descendants living today who bear the name, and in each instance, for a middle name.

        While it seems that the spelling in this history should be the same as that used by the Founder, the fact that it especially records Stukely Westcott (V) of Cheshire, and his sons, James, Benjamin and Reuben, who settled in Milford township, and their posterity, the spelling will be adhered to as used by the ancestor at Cheshire.

        The family or surname is believed to be derived from Wes in Wessex (or kingdoms of West Saxony), and cot or cote, meaning a protected home or cottage, field or enclosure. Thus, early Saxons came and settled in a protected field or enclosure near Barnstaple in Devon and called themselves Wescote, later spelled Westcott.

        There is a legend in connection with St. Leger Wescote, the first of the name of which there is authentic record, to the effect that he descended from the family of Leger, of whom a member attained to ecclesiastical distinction and became Saint Leger. This legend, however, has never been verified.

        That the Founder, Stukely Westcott, after reaching America, called himself "Stukeley of Wescote" is fiction, is borne out by two facts. First, it is probable that he was not born at Wescote, and secondly, being a younger son, did not inherit estates or rank, and furthermore, his sharing of the opinions of Roger Williams, placed him quite outside any desire to be reminded of the land of titles he had abandoned.