George Hedd

Generation 15 George Hedd About 1580 – 1636

George Hedd was born about 1580 in Great Woodford. His father was William Hedd and his mother was Elizabeth Hedd, formerly Brownjohn. The Brownjohns, sometimes called Brown, were a family closely connected to the Hedds. George had a brother, William, and a sister, Anne.

George was a yeoman farmer, holding a lease of land which his father had held in Great Woodford. On 20 July 1607 he married Alice Thornton in Winterbourne Gunner, a village across the Avon and to the east of Woodford.

George and Alice had five children; William, born about 1608, but buried in 1624; George, born 1610; Robert, born between 1613 and 1618; Alice, born 1613 in her mother’s village of Winterbourne Gunner; and Elizabeth, born 1618.

On 20 December 1635, George says in his will that he is ‘sick in body’, and by 18 May 1636 he had died, and the inventory of his goods was taken in preparation for probate. The inventory describes a well-furnished farmer’s house, with two upper chambers, a lower chamber adjoining the hall, a buttery, a barn, a garden, an outbuilding with wood and lumber, a stable for three horses, another lumber room, 4 pigs, 4 cows, 2 yearling bullocks, sheep and lambs, 64 and a half acres of grains, geese and hens, etc. The total value was assessed at £240, a very substantial sum, and sufficient for George to be called a yeoman, whereas someone with no more than £150 would have been called a husbandman.

At this period land was rarely owned, but was usually held by lease from the lord of the manor, and eventually from the Crown, although George’s kinsman, Robert Hedd, appears in 1607 in the list of Wiltshire Freeholders. George held his land, four ‘yardlands’ – 120 acres, from the Dean and Chapter of Salisbury Cathedral. This lease was renewed in 1635, and for a consideration of £25 the lives (those holding the lease during their lifetime) were altered to Alice, wife of George, and George and Robert, their sons. But the next lease in 1661 makes no mention of the Heads.

Clearly the Heads were a well-to-do family in Woodford at this time. When George’s brother William died in 1617, he also was described as a yeoman, and left considerable property, but whereas George farmed arable land, William was mainly a sheep farmer. In 1622, Hugh Head, yeoman, a kinsman of George, left the lease of an orchard and a house, and freehold land, to his son Robert, or to George if Robert should die. His brother, Robert, left a house and a garden, lands he had bought from Hugh, a dwelling called the White House in Little Woodford and yardlands there. John Head, husbandman, of Wilsford left everything to his wife Alice in 1630, and when she died in 1647 she left property worth £147. When Robert Head, yeoman of Amesbury, died in 1632, he left property worth around £200.

We have records of the Heads in the Woodford valley in George’s time as follows:

in Salisbury; Alice and George, John, Christina, Robert, Joane, Richard, James and George, Dorothy; in Amesbury; Richard, Alice, Thomas and Margaret; in Durnford; Richard and Jane; in Wilsford and Lake; John, Robert and Margery, William and Margerie; in Little Woodford; Robert and Hugh; in Great Woodford; Agnes, William and Elizabeth, George, William and Anne, John, Robert Anne and Agnes, Richard.

These thirty-four individuals, in twelve families, must have constituted a considerable presence in the area, and between them they farmed and owned a good part of its land and property. Yet within two generations they had disappeared from the valley. All that then remained were the Richard and Henry Heads of Amesbury, who became professional men in the Church, and the descendants of George, who migrated to Great Wishford and worked on the land or sought their fortune in the thriving city of Southampton.

Note: from Barbara Butterworth 2005