|Jack of Newbury (c.1465-1519/20)
Jackwas born in the latter half of the 15th century as John Smalwode (various spellings). By the time of his death in February 1519/20 he had become John Smalwode the Elder alias Winchcombe.
Most of the information which made him a legend comes from Thomas Deloney who wrote, some 100 years after Jack's death, "The pleasant History of John Winchcomb. In his younger years called Jack of Newbury" The title page describes Jack as "the famous and worthy Clothier of England" and the ensuing 'pleasant History' "declares his Life and love together with his charitable deeds and great hospitality?..and how he set continually 500 poor people at work to the great benefit of the Common-Wealth."
Deloney was himself employed in the cloth trade and the great clothiers of the past seem to have been his heroes. The 'pleasant History' is a series of anecdotes illustrating Jack's eminence (with his entertainment of Royalty), his prosperity and his altruism. The anecdotes may have some basis in fact - but with the facts charmingly embroidered!
Jack's origins are a matter of conjecture. Theories abound. One such theory is that he was born in the village of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire although any available records do not substantiate this. My feeling is that, should it be true, he would have more commonly been known as John Smalwode of Winchcombe (to differentiate him from another John Smalwode?) rather than John Smalwode alias Winchcombe. His son, John(2), also called himself Smalwode alias Winchcombe but the Smalwode was dropped during his generation.
Another theory describes him as a 'poor runaway' who, being a scholar at the Benedictine Abbey in Winchcombe, became disenchanted with the cloistered life and 'ran away'. He 'ran' as far as Newbury and got himself an apprenticeship (who paid for it?). Again, if this is true, why 'alias' and not 'of'?..and why assume the alias anyway when he had obviously not enjoyed his stay at the Abbey and had certainly left no mark there?
Herbert, who wrote "History of the Great City Companies" in 1837 suggests that he was descended from Simon de Winchcombe who was a Sheriff of London in 1379. Simon certainly married and had children but no connection has yet been made to prove any relationship.
Once in Newbury, the story goes, his apprenticeship was to a clothier. At some point after this apprenticeship commenced the clothier died leaving his widow, Alice, with the business. Jack had presumably proved his worth by now because he married Alice and, with the business now in his hands, he became someone of importance. He prospered and the legend was born.
Could this be when he took on his alias? It may be that Alice was either a Winchcombe by birth or by marriage (the family name existed well before Jack adopted it). According to the Herald's Visitation she was Alice Hyde whether this was her family name or married name is unknown. It would have done Jack a power of good to take on his wife's name as an alias if he wanted to ensure that the business remained in his hands following Alice's death and that it passed to his heirs of the same name following his own death. This scenario fits well with the pattern of ownership and inheritance in the past.
Alice gave him 3 children - 2 sons (John and Henry(?)) and a daughter. The only real evidence for the daughter is the Memorial Plaque in Newbury Parish Church with representations of himself, Alice, 2 young men and a girl. The latter is presumed to be his daughter. Neither Henry, his second son, nor a daughter are mentioned in Jack's Will.
He married again after Alice's death. This second wife was called Joan and Deloney suggests that she worked in his household prior to their marriage and that she was the daughter of a poor but decent family from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. There is no evidence that she bore Jack any children. She outlived her husband who left her well provided for.
The clothing business passed to Jack's son and heir, John (2).
His descendants (listed on the following pages) mixed with numerous landed and famous families - Fermor,Boleyn, Howard, Knollys, Norreis, Verney,Goddard,Hungerford, Bradshaw, Vampage, More, Roper,Dunch,Cromwell - to name just a few.
|The Family memorial plaque|
|Jack of Newbury window in Newbury Parish Church|
|1. Second Generation
2. Third Generation
3. Thomas 1520-1574
Can you solve the mystery?
4. Fourth Generation
The Ghost of Noke
5. Fifth Generation
6. Sixth Generation
7. Seventh Generation
The Boleyn Connection
8. Eighth & Ninth Generations
9. Genealogical Site Ring
10.Really Useful Stuff(Links)
11.The Gloucestershire Winchcombes
12.Nathaniel Winchcombe 1757-1817