St. Boniface Church, Bunbury, Cheshire


The Spurstow line in my family goes back to a William de Spurstowe who was the Sheriff of Cheshire in the year 1281. At that time, during the reign of Edward I, the sheriff was the chief official of the county.1

The district of Spurstow lies about twelve miles from Chester and was the Spurstow family home from the 13th century down to the 17th century when the estate was sold by Charles Spurstow to Sir John Crewe of Utkinton and then passed to the Crewes of Crewe, also from Cheshire. Family members after this time moved mostly to Chester, the county seat. Spurstow Hall, the family home, Spurstow Hall, was torn down in 1757 and another hall, Houghton Hall, was built in its place.2

Many generations down from William de Spurstowe is George Spurstow, son of George Spurstow and Alice Norbury. They are listed on a Spurstow family tree in a book on the history of Chester. According to this chart George and his wife, Alice, were both buried on 26 September 1603 in the churchyard in Bunbury.3

The church in Bunbury, not far from the village of Spurstow, was dedicated to St. Boniface and dates mainly from the 14th century. Many generations of Spurstows were christened or married here and many are buried in the churchyard.

George and Alice Spurstow had a son named George who was married to Elizabeth Anne, daughter of Thomas Brooke of Norton by his second wife.4 Elizabeth Anne and George were both buried in the churchyard at Bunbury, she in 1661 and he in 1664/65, according to the family tree. They had ten children, the oldest being George, christened in 1605.

This George, christened in 1605, has been confused with his son, George, christened in 1634. There are two reasons for this confusion. One is the family tree published in The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, by George Ormerod.5 In this family tree, George (1605) is married to Susanna, daughter of Sir John Corbet, and he dies in 1669.

The second reason is a memorial plaque in the Spurstow Chancel of St. Boniface Church in the village of Bunbury which reads:

"Heere lyeth ye body of George Spurstow of Spurstow in ye County of Cheshire Esqr: who married Susanna daughter of Sr: John Corbett of Adderley in ye County of Salopp Baronet, he dyed 20th of July 1669"6

Family historians have taken these two sources to be true, but a little digging will show otherwise.

Briefly, George, born 1605, had several children and he lists those living when he wrote his will in 1651: George, Penelope, Mary, Ann, Elizabeth, John, Peter and Charles. George’s will was probated in 1665 – a few years before he supposedly died in 1669.7 Susanna Corbet, said to be this George's wife, was the 17th of twenty children born to Sir John Corbet and his wife Anne who married in 1618. Their first child was born in 1620.8 Even if Susanna were the first child in the family, she would still have been too young to have been the mother of Penelope, George’s second child, born in 1630.

The George born in 1634 was the one who married Susanna Corbet. They had ten children. The 10th child was Catherine who was born in 1669. She was in the baptismal record in April of that year as the daughter of George Spurstow. When she died later that year, in November, the burial entry read: Catherine, daughter of Susannah Spurstow, relict of Geo Sp. Esq. Susanna was the widow, or relict, of George who died between April and November 1669. A George Spurstow did die on 20 July 1669, but it was not the one born in 1605 who wrote the will which was probated in 1665. For more detail about this confusion: Errors in the Spurstow Family Tree of the Spurstows of Cheshire.

George, born in 1605, was married but we know nothing of his wife. He wrote his will in 1651, died in 1665 and was most likely buried at the church in Bunbury where many of his ancestors were buried.

His son, George, born in 1634, married Susanna Corbet sometime before 1655 when their first child, George, was christened. No marriage for George and Susannah has turned up yet.

George and Susanna had ten children, The first three sons, George, George and John, died fairly young, leaving Charles, christened in 1662, as his only male heir.

Charles Spurstow, born 1662, was the fourth son of George Spurstow and Susanna Corbet. His three older brothers all died young. Charles did not live very long either and was buried in Bunbury on 17 June 1685 when he was in his twenties. He did marry; we don’t don’t her name, but he had at least one child, John. After Charles’ death in 1685, the family’s estate was sold to Sir John Crewe. Charles’ descendants moved to nearby cities. His son John was a merchant and lived in Chester. John’s sons also lived in Chester. George was an apothecary and John was a merchant.

John, Charles’ son, whose christening record has not been uncovered, married Elizabeth Illidge, the daughter of George Illidge of Nantwich, Cheshire.9 They married in Bunbury on 4 November 1716, by license. John, Elizabeth and family were living in Chester – no longer living on the Spurstow estate – and the christenings of their two sons, George and John, took place at St. Martin’s Church in Chester.

George Spurstow, the older son, was christened 10 February 1716/17 and married, on 2 May 1754, Elizabeth Hayes (or Heays), the daughter of George Hayes and Elizabeth Bagnell.10 They were married in St. Alban’s Church in Tattenhall, about halfway between Chester and Spurstow. Elizabeth Hayes was George’s second wife. He had been married before to another Elizabeth who died in 1753.

According to our family history, there were three children born to this George and his first wife: John, about 1737, Ellen, about 1739 and George, who was buried in 1750 in Chester. The names may be correct but the dates are not nor the number of children.11

Information about the first wife and her children is rather murky but we know that she existed because there is a burial record for her in 1753 and she is listed as Eliz., wife of George Spurstow, Apothecary. In all the christening records that exist for this George, his name is always followed by his occupation: apothecary, even in his burial record. He is listed in The Rolls of the Freemen of the City of Chester: 1700-1805 for July 13, 1747: George Spurstow, apothecary, s. of John Spurstow of Chester, merchant.12

George and his second wife, Elizabeth Hayes, had a daughter, Mary, 1756, a daughter Elizabeth, 1759, a son, George, 1761, and a daughter, Dorothy, 1763. Dorothy, the younger daughter, would have been about seven or eight when her father died in 1770. Her mother died eight years later, in 1778. Mary and Dorothy’s brother, George, died in 1783, not long after their mother. Elizabeth did not leave a will and her daughter Mary was appointed to administer her estate.13

Mary and Dorothy both married. Mary married William Miller, a mercer and draper of Liverpool, at St. John the Baptist Church in Chester on 21 September 1779. Dorothy married Dr. John Tomlinson, of Plemstall, Cheshire, a surgeon and apothecary.14

Mary’s son, Joseph Dundas Miller, and Dorothy’s daughter, Elizabeth Tomlinson, married each other in 1821, raised their family in Liverpool and Brazil, and the Spurstow line ends there for our family.

Mary Spurstow, 1756-1832
Daughter of George Spurstow & Elizabeth Hayes of Chester, Cheshire
Wife of William Miller, 1751-1826, of Kendal and Liverpool
Dorothy Spurstow, 1763-1828
Daughter of George Spurstow & Elizabeth Hayes of Chester, Cheshire
Wife of Dr. John Tomlinson, 1759-1808, of Plemstall and Chester

Related Links
Spurstow descent report showing twelve generations from George Spurstow, Esq., & Alice Norbury who both died in 1603.
Will of George Spurstow of Spurstow, Esq., 1651, Cheshire, England
John Spurstow & Elizabeth Illidge, parents of George Spurstow, 1717-1770, apothecary
John Spurstow & Elizabeth Illidge, Marriage allegation bond, 1716, Bunbury, Cheshire
Christening of George Spurstow, 1717-1770, apothecary
Marriage of George Spurstow and Elizabeth Hayes (Heays), 1754
Burial of George Spurstow, 1717-1770, apothecary
Burial of Elizabeth Hayes/Heays Spurstow, 1778
Mary Spurstow, christening, 1756
Dorothy Spurstow, christening, 1763
Dorothy Spurstow Tomlinson, will, 1820
William Miller and Mary Spurstow
Marriage Certificate of William Miller and Mary Spurstow, 1779
Photo of painting: Mary Spurstow Miller holding her son Joseph Dundas Miller
Dr. John Tomlinson and Dorothy Spurstow
Marriage record of Dr. John Tomlinson and Dorothy Spurstow, 1786

The photo of St. Boniface Church in Bunbury, Cheshire, was taken by Peter I. Vardy, 13 June 2006, and released to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons website.

The portraits of Mary and Dorothy Spurstow Miller are from photos of oil paintings, Glendale Studio, London. The original portraits were in the possession of Barbara Barker and then Jack Barker, her son. Photographs courtesy of Hope Healy Koontz.

  1. The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, by George Ormerod, London, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1819. This history includes the Spurstow family tree, on p.158, going back to William de Spurstowe, the sheriff of Cheshire in 1281.

  2. The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, by George Ormerod, London, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1819, p.158. This information was also in a letter written in 1936 to his cousin Frederick Spurstow Miller, 1898-1987, by Adm. Francis Spurstow Miller, 1863-1954 and may have come from this source.

  3. The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, by George Ormerod, London, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1819, p.158.

  4. The Spurstow family tree in Omerod says that Elizabeth was the widow of Thomas Brooke. Another sources notes that she was the third daughter by his second wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1604, and was not his widow, and that the daughter, Elizabeth, married George Spurstow. Cheshire and Lancashire Funeral Certificates: A.D. 1600-1678, John Paul Rylands, Ed., The Record Society, 1882.

  5. The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, Vol. II, by George Ormerod, London, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, and Jones, 1819, p.158.

  6. Notes on the Churches of Cheshire, by the late Sir Stephen R. Glynne, bart., ed. by Rev. J. A. Atkinson. Published 1894 by Printed for the Chetham Society in [Manchester], p.19.

  7. Will of George Spurstow of Spurstow, Esq., written 28 December 1651, Chester County Council, Cheshire, England. W.S. 1665.

  8. The Family of Corbet, Its Life and Times, by Augusta Elizabeth Brickdale Corbet, London, St. Catherine Press, 1914, vol. II, pp.352-357.

  9. Elizabeth Illidge's parents are, according to our family tree, George Illidge and Mary Croxton. A couple by this name did marry on 15 Apr 1693 in Wybunbury, Cheshire. This marriage date is after Elizabeth's christehning in 1687, so Mary Croxton is probably not Elizabeth's mother. There is a diary, which can be found on the internet, written by Lieutenant Richard Illidge who was born in Weston in the parish of Wybunbury in 1637 - according to the diary. Weston is east of Nantwich and not far from Wybunbury. His son George put him in touch with his friend Matthew Henry who wrote up Richard's diary. The diary gives a few details of his life, and the change in his life from a drunk and wicked life to one of morality, religion and social concern. According to his diary, Richard was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Nantwich where he married Mary Price, daughter of Richard Price. He eventually leased a farm called Cheer Brook near Stapeley. He died 12 June 1709, age 72, and was buried in Wybunbury churchyard. He mentions three granddaughters and notes that their mother died when they were very young. Elizabeth Illidge was from the Stapeley/Nantwich area and her father was named George in her christening record and he was a shoemaker. It is most likely that her grandfather is Richard Illidge who kept the diary. Who her mother might be is another question. Mary Croxton might have been a second wife to George if Elizabeth's mother died when Elizabeth was very young. There are several possibilities for George's first wife. A George Illidge married a Mary Child in Wybunbury on 26 Dec 1865. A George Illidge married an Ellen Seavill on 27 July 1686 in Nantwich. There is a christening of a George Illidge in Nantwich on 4 Jan 1662; the father is Richard Illidge.

  10. According to a family tree that was handed down in the Miller family, Elizabeth Bagnall, or Bagnell, was the wife of George Hayes (Heays) and they were the parents of Elizabeth Heays who married George Spurstow in 1754. So far, though, no christening as been found that shows Elizabeth to be George and Elizabeth's daughter. Additionally, a document in the Cheshire Archives, DHL/41/1 3 July 1801, states that Elizabeth, wife of George Spurstow, apothecary, city of Chester, was the only daughter of John Heays, "heretofore of Eastham, yeoman, deceased..." So it seems that Elizabeth's parentage according to the family tree handed down is probably not correct. For now, Elizabeth's father is probably John Heays/Hayes, mother unknown, and the Bagnell ancestry is in question.

  11. No baptismal record has been found for John, but Ellen's was found and turned out to be in 1750, not 1739, so John's date might not be correct either. A burial record for George was found in 1751, but not a baptismal record. Another daughter, Elizabeth, was christened in 1752, so that makes a fourth child for George and his first wife. This Elizabeth, christened in 1752, must not have lived long as another Elizabeth was born to George and his second wife, Elizabeth Hayes.

  12. The Rolls of the Freemen of the City of Chester, Part II, 1700-1805, transcribed and edited by J.H.E. Bennett, printed for The Records Society, 1908.

  13. Probate records: Elizabeth Hayes Spurstow, 1781, Consistory Court, Diocese of Chester, Cheshire, England, 18 Nov 1781. Cheshire County Council, W.S. [Supra Will], Mary Miller, wife of William Miller, one of the three signers of the administration bond, and "one of the natural daughters [&] next of kin," was appointed to administer her mother's estate since her mother died intestate.

  14. Also known as Plemonsall.

Anne Healy's Genealogy, Created October 2002
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11 May 2013
Updated 16 Jan 2015