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Origin of Medes of Clavering in Essex, England

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Essex, Englandmap
Surnames/tags: Mede Meade
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Medes of Clavering, Essex and their origins


Wikitree has shown Thomas Meade/Mede and William Meade/Mede as born in Somerset and sons of Thomas Mede, brother of Philip Mede who was mayor of Bristol, and his wife Johanna, last name at birth unknown, without giving a source for the parentage. No record has been found for Thomas’s birth or parentage. Thomas’s Will[1] makes it clear that he lived at Clavering in Essex. Legal records which have now become available online through the Anglo-American Legal Tradition (AALT) project[2] provide firm evidence of people with the surname Mede living in the Clavering area earlier in the 15th century, and this strongly suggests that Thomas was likely to have had a local origin in Essex.

In More Detail

The belief that the Mede family of Clavering in Essex came from Somerset or Bristol is an ancient one for which reliable evidence is lacking. Its origin and basis is the Visitation of Cambridgeshire 1575/1619, which has a Meade pedigree starting with Thomas Meade said to be of Somerset, whose sons are named as George Meade and John Meade of Great Easton. No indication is given of Thomas’s parentage.[3] Thomas is Thomas Mede of Clavering, (PCC will 1504)[1] but John is the father, not (as the Visitation states) the brother, of George: in 1561 a license was granted[4] for John Mede of Great Easton to alienate lands in Great Easton, late of the monastery of Tiltey, to George Mede of Great Easton his son and Christine his wife. There is no record indicating where Thomas Meade was born to support his description in the Visitation as being of Somerset, and Visitation evidence is often unreliable, especially for people who lived more than a generation or two before the date of the Visitation. As will be clear from what follows, apart from the Visitation, there is really no source to link Thomas Meade of Clavering to Somerset.

The idea of a Somerset origin was taken up in a 1900 book by George Master[5], who noted that the Mede family in Essex came to use the same Coat of Arms as the family in Bristol and who referred to the Visitation pedigree but did not add any new evidence.

John Mead, in a tract written in 1977[6], suggested that the link was Isabel Meade, wife of Maurice Berkeley and daughter of Philip, saying that Isabel and Maurice had their home in Great Chesterford, Essex, about two miles from Elmdon and five miles from Clavering. John Mead gave this as the motive for Thomas Mede’s move from Bristol. John Mead describes this as a "presumed" link, not a proven one, and clearly did not trust the Visitation. He states that Isabel "provides the only definite link between Somerset and the east of England." It was not, though, Isabel and her husband who held Great Chesterford, but her brother-in-law William Berkeley; by a deed of 1491/2 William bequeathed the manor to the King after his and his wife's deaths[7], and on William's death the manor passed, for the short period until her death in 1497, to his widow and her second husband Thomas Brandon.[8] So the connection between Isabel and Great Chesterford is doubtful and Isabel is not the "definite" link between Somerset and the East of England that John Mead believed. Isabel and her husband held property in Gloucestershire from 1474, and, from at least the 1490s, extensive lands in Somerset and elsewhere.[9]

No reliable evidence has been found for Thomas Mede or his brother Philip of Bristol having children named Thomas and William.

The AALT project[2] has put almost ten million images of original documents online, enabling new information to be brought to light. The rolls of Common Pleas record people named Mede in Clavering before Thomas and William.

  • In a lawsuit beginning in 1435, Thomas Adam, ostler, sued Richard Mede, of Clavering, husbandman[10], and John Mede, of Clavering, husbandman[11], for breaking into his house in London and taking goods and chattels worth ten pounds.
  • In 1485 John Mede, of Clavering, yeoman[12], was accused of taking goods and chattels worth twenty pounds that had belonged to the estate of John Carter of Clavering. This may be the John Mede son of William Mede who appears in the manorial court rolls of Clavering in 1483[13].
  • In the same court rolls the names of William Mede and William Rambold appear separately in the bottom right corner of one membrane. They may have been manor bailiffs.

Many more 15th-century people named Mede have been found in the plea rolls within a few miles of Clavering.[14]

Family connections are rarely given in the plea rolls and it would be rash to assume a family relationship based only on proximity. On the other hand, without strong evidence, it would be even more rash to presume a connection with a family that lived more than a hundred miles away.

There is a stronger presumption that this was a family of husbandmen and yeomen in the 15th century that acquired wealth and property in the 16th, particularly after the Dissolution of the monasteries. By the end of the 16th century, many of them were styled gentlemen and therefore required a coat of arms and a more exalted pedigree. The Heralds were not above providing them with one.

There was one person in Hertfordshire who probably did come from Somerset: Simon Mede of Gilston, father of Alice (Mede) Mott, who also, according to Master[5], had the same arms as the Bristol family. In his 1546 will he left iiii d to “my mother church of Wells”, but no connection has been found between him and Clavering, nor has any other evidence of his link to Somerset. In any case, he was described as husbandman in Common Pleas rolls and was taxed in 1524-5 on goods worth two pounds, so he was not entitled to a Coat of Arms.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Will of Thomas Mede, 1504, Mead Family History website, image of PCC copy at Ancestry
  2. 2.0 2.1
  3. The Visitation of Cambridge, Harleian Society 1897, pp. 69-70, Internet Archive
  5. 5.0 5.1 George S Master. Collections for a Parochial History of Wraxall, Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Northern Branch, 1900, p. 63, Internet Archive
  7. Thomas Dudley Fosbroke. Berkeley Manuscripts, John Nicholls and Son, 1821, p. 161, Google Books
  8. Steven J Gunn. Henry VII's New Men and the Making of Tudor England, Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 215, Google Books
  9. Douglas Richardson. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 4 vols, ed. Kimball G. Everingham, 2nd edition (Salt Lake City: the author, 2011), volume I, p. 184, BERKELEY 10
  10. second entry: 1435 Michaelmas/dorses 1761: London. Thomas Adam, ostler, versus Richard Mede, of Claveryng, Essex, husbandman. Trespass: close and taking, at London.
  11. fifth entry: 1435 Michaelmas/dorses 2221: London. Thomas Adam, ostler, versus John Mede, of Claveryng, Essex, husbandman. Trespass: close and taking, at London.
  12. sixth entry: 1485 Trinity/fronts 170: Essex. John Carter, of Claveryng, administrators of (Alice Carter, widow; John Waren, senior, of Claveryng) versus John Mede, of Claveryng, yeoman. Trespass: taking.
  13. Clavering Manor rolls TNA: SC 2/171/54

Comments: 2

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There are other websites and records showing extensive evidence that some of the Medes of Essex include Thomas Meade/Mede, William Meade/Mede and Isabel Mede, after she got married to Lord Berkeley. These people DO have ancestors from Somerset, and they do have records of their parentage and their forefathers, some of whom lived in Medes Place, with the last name Mede and atte Mede, from the years 1500 back to 1200, in Bristol and Failand, Somerset, with records from ancient files in Somersetshire.
posted by Charles Meads Jr.
I need time to show what I've researched, but here's evidence that Isabel Mede & some Medes moved from Somerset to Essex; that's why the family crest is the same- they lived in Failand, some moved to Essex, & some moved to Warwickshire-- "Philip Mede and Thomas Meade III were KNIGHTED in the 1400s! Sir Philip Mede's daughter Isabel married Lord Maurice Berkeley and moved along with Thomas IV & William to Essex. After Thomas IV had to move out of Medes Place, the building was destroyed and ornaments were confiscated by the King of England in the 1500s. It was near Failand Hill House. The old Medes Cemetery is now in parish of St. Mary Redcliffe's church, England. The Medes Chantry was built in honor of St. Stephen about 1450. "
posted by Charles Meads Jr.