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Richard Watts 1513-1579

  • Believed to have been born in 1513 in West Peckham.

  • Deputy Victualler of the Navy in 1554 & 1559.

  • Surveyor of Works at Upnor Castle, appointed by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1560.

  • During this time he was also Paymaster to the Wardens of Rochester Bridge.

  • Represented City of Rochester in the 2nd Parliaments (1563-1571) of Queen Elizabeth.

  • He lived at Satis House, Boley Hill in Rochester where he entertained Queen Elizabeth in 1573.

  • Died aged 66, 10th September 1579, leaving a widow, Marian but no children.

  • Buried in Rochester Cathedral, as a wealthy man he laid aside five pounds for the poor who attended his funeral, as was the custom of the period.


Richard Wattes, (in the records the family name is always spelled Wattes rather than Watts) gentleman, by his own sworn statement was born in 1513 in the parish of West Peckham and had been living in Rochester since the early 1550s. In June 1572 Richard Wattes witnessed a codicil to the will of Thomas Milles, who had granted custody of his underage daughter to John Wattes, alderman and mayor of Rochester in 1569 and lay clerk in Rochester Cathedral. The deposition of Richard Wattes during the probate of the will states that he was “lix yeares of age or thereaboutes”, had been living at Boley Hill for “twentie yeares or thereabout”, and before that at “little Peckham” where he was born.


The other three men, who also witnessed the codicil and made depositions, were like John Wattes lay clerks in the cathedral. Richard Wattes may have been included in this group, because he was a distinguished relative of John Wattes, but no definite link can be established.


The only known member of Richard’s immediate family is his younger brother Edward, remembered in his will with a bequest of £100 to "my Brother Edward Wattes and unto his children and unto the Survivors of them." Described as “Edward Wattes, gentleman”, in the sources, he had migrated during the 1560s from West Peckham in Kent to the parish of Britford, southeast of Salisbury in Wiltshire. There he married first Jone Vaughan from the adjacent parish of Coombe Bisset, with whom he had three daughters: Ursula, Agnes, and  Katherine. After Jone’s death in April 1580, he remarried in July 1580 to Joane Symson from Salisbury, with whom he had three further daughters: Alce, Frances and Joane, before his own death in 1588.

The Somers and the Nicholsons

Richard Wattes married into the Somer family, a landed gentry family in High Halstow, connected by marriage in the 1530s to another landed gentry family, the Nicholsons of Wouldham. In 1537 Thomas Nicholson had named his son-in-law Thomas Somer one of the overseers of his will; and Thomas Somer had in turn named William Nicholson, his brother-in-law and the son of the late Thomas Nicholson, as overseer of his own will in 1543. When he died later that year, Thomas Somer left two older children, Johanne and John, and four underage children, Maryanne, Margaret, Anne, and William. The surviving evidence suggests that Thomas Somer’s wife Agnes may have been his second wife and mother of his four younger children and that his first wife and mother of his two older children may have been a sister of William Nicholson, unnamed in the will of Thomas Nicholson in 1537, because she had already died.


Richard Wattes married into this extended family, possibly not just once, but twice. Although their wedding date is unknown, Richard’s marriage to Marian Somer and her part in establishing the Richard Watts Charity after his death are well known. What is less well known is that Marian was Richard’s second wife. The only surviving evidence for his first wife comes from deeds for the first property that Richard Wattes purchased: the  Cock Inn and adjacent tenements on Long Lane in the London parish of St. Botolph without Aldersgate, which were conveyed by John Pope and Anthony Foster on 6 October 1544 to “Richard Wattes and Johanne his wife”. The date of Richard’s marriage to this unknown Johanne and the date of her death remain a mystery. However, it is tempting to identify this Johanne with Johanne Somer, the oldest daughter of Thomas Somer, for his will dated 17 March 1543 implies that unlike her three younger sisters she was already married or about to be married. Did Richard marry Johanne Somer and then after her death marry her younger sister Marian?


This suggestion must remain speculative, but it would explain why Marian was much younger than Richard. It would also solve the mystery of Johanne’s disappearance from the family records. Other members of both the Somer and the Nicholson families continued to figure prominently in Richard’s later history. His brother-in-law John Swalman, husband of Margaret Somer, and his cousin John Nicholson of Wouldham, son of William Nicholson, served as overseers of Richard’s will in 1579 and were involved in the subsequent founding of the Richard Watts Charity. When John Swalman himself died in 1584, he appointed his brother-in-law John Somer as overseer of his will, which was witnessed by his brother-in-law William Somer, by his two sisters-in-law Marian Wattes and Anne Moore, and by John Nicholson of Wouldham. The only person missing from this tightly knit family group in the sources is Johanne Somer.

Marian Wattes and Thomas Pagitt

On Ascension Day, 12 May 1586, seven years after Richard's death in 1579, Marian married Thomas Pagitt (c.1540-1614) at the London church of St. Botolph without Aldersgate. He was an experienced barrister at the Middle Temple in London (called to the bar in 1576, made a bencher and reader in 1583) with expertise in conveyancing and a widower since 1584 in need of a wife and stepmother for his young family. She was a widow with property and money and in need of expert legal advice concerning the property bequests in Richard's will.


After their marriage they continued to live in Satis House in Rochester and also in London. In the lay subsidy of October 1593, Thomas Pagitt was assessed for lands in both London and St. Margaret’s, Rochester. As well as continuing to practice as a barrister in the Middle Temple (reader in 1595 and treasurer in 1599), he completed all the property transactions for the establishment of the Richard Watts Charity, ending with the Quadripartite Agreement signed on 26 April 1593 by Marian and Thomas Pagitt, the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Rochester, the Dean and Chapter of Rochester Cathedral, and the Wardens and Assistants of Rochester Bridge. He also contributed to the civic life of Rochester, serving as an Assistant of Rochester Bridge between 1593 and 1594 and as one of the foundation governors of Sir John Hawkins Hospital named in the charter of 27 August 1594.


On 31 December 1598 Marian Pagitt died. Both Marian and Thomas's first wife, Barbara Bradbury, were buried together, along with some of Thomas and Barbara’s seven children, in the Pagitt family tomb in the old parish church of St. Botolph without Aldersgate.

Wall monument in the old church of St Botolph without Aldersgate recorded by William Maitland in The History and Survey of London (London, 1756), p. 1076. The church survived the fire of London but, having become architecturally unstable, was demolished and rebuilt in 1739.

“The family of Barbara Bradbury, and also of Marianna Somer, are buried together in that tomb beside you: both joined by marriage to Thomas Pagett, the one dying left behind a husband with seven children, the other was barren, in equal manner also a wife for the times. The life of both was devout, and a blessed death has followed for the first on 24 February in the year of the Lord 1583/4, for the other on the last of December, in the year 1598.”



Property Owner

1543 Richard Wattes first appeared in the records on 10 April 1543, having signed a lease from Henry VIII for a public house named The Cock and four tenements in the London parish of St Botolph without Aldersgate,     premises formerly part of St. Bartholomew's Priory, at an annual rent of £4 13s. 4d. for 21 years from        Michaelmas 1542.

​1544 Like many men of his generation Richard profited from the national sale of monastic land. On 26 September 1544 Henry VIII sold various lands to John Pope and Anthony Foster including “The Cock Inn”, subject to the lease to Richard Wattes. On 6 October 1544 John Pope and Anthony Foster in turn sold the freehold of “The Cock Inn” to Richard Wattes and Johanne his wife for £30. In 1562, when the initial lease had expired, Richard let the property to Thomas Smith for 99 years at £8 annual rent. The Richard Watts Charity subsequently owned this central London property at the corner of Long Lane and Aldersgate Street until 1865, when it was compulsorily purchased by the Metropolitan Railway for the extension of the Finsbury line. It now forms part of the site of the Barbican Station.


1550 Richard purchased from James Bere on 1 October 1550 a piece of land with houses, garden, and orchard called Meriells Hole aka Marians Hole on Boley Hill in Rochester and let the premises to Robert Taylor for 99 years.


1554 Richard purchased another messuage and garden on Boley Hill (the future Satis House) from James Bere on 6 October 1554, premises described in the will of John Bere in 1542 as “my Mansion place at bully hill”.


1557 Richard leased from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester land in Frindsbury known as Reed Court Manor and woods comprising 250 acres for 99 years. During 1586 and 1587 Marian and Thomas Pagitt purchased part of this holding called Reed Farm and in 1593 conveyed it to the Mayor and Aldermen of Rochester for the use of the Richard Watts Charity in exchange for Satis House.


1557 Richard purchased from John Prideaux, serjeant at law, a tenement and 40 acres of land in Chatham for £57 8s., land formerly belonging to the Charterhouse Carthusian monastery in London.


1558 Richard purchased from Richard Lee, gentleman, a further 10 acres in Chatham bordering his previous purchase on the south and west.


1559 Richard leased from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester the water and tidal mill on the edge of Rochester Common for 60 years at £6 10s. annual rent.


1562 Richard leased from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester a garden called Larke Hawe in St. Margaret’s parish next to Marian’s Hole for 60 years at 12d. annual rent.


1562 Richard purchased from John Litlehare a tenement and garden on the south side of Court Hill Lane, site of the present day Courthill Terrace and Numbers 12 to 20 St. Margaret’s Street.


1567 Richard leased from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester a marsh along the Medway below Satis House called Dewpers and Balles Marshe for 21 years at 7s. annual rent. The lease was renewed by Marian Wattes in 1584 and renewed again by Thomas Pagitt in 1601.


1569 Richard purchased from John Smith of Chatham, husbandman, 3 parcels of land in Chatham containing 9 acres.


1575 Richard purchased from George Hickmott a windmill and land containing 1a. 0r. 2p. at Shorne Hill for £100.


1578 Richard purchased from Robert Dene, gentleman, a field called Bubes Land containing ½ acre in Chatham.


The English Navy

Although he may have started as a mere junior clerk, Richard’s first known job was joint-Surveyor General of Victualling with Edward Baeshe for the navy of Edward VI between July 1547 and June 1550, supplying biscuit, beef, beer, and all manner of provisions for ships at London, Gillingham, Dover, Ipswich, and Portsmouth. Richard had special responsibility for "victualling of the King's Majesty's ships at Rochester" and often travelled from London to Rochester and Gillingham to receive consignments from the naval storehouses in Deptford and Woolwich. When Baeshe was appointed General Surveyor of Victuals for the Seas in 1550, Richard continued to work under Baeshe as victualler in Ireland during 1551.

It was for this naval provisioning work that Richard received his grant of a coat of arms designed by Thomas Hawley Clarenceux King of Arms on 2 April 1552. The blazon "chevron engreiled sable between thre Wattes hedds" is a pun on his name, “watt” or “watte” being a 16th-century word for a hare, while the pansy or "pawnsey in his proper cowler stalked and leved verte" is a pun on an archaic meaning of "pawn" as a warehouse or magazine where items are stored and displayed for sale.

How long Richard continued to work as victualler for the navy remains unknown, but on 6 October 1554, having apparently decided to settle in Rochester, he purchased a messuage, garden, and orchard on Boley Hill for £40.


Rochester Cathedral

Sometime during the tenure of Walter Phillips, dean of Rochester Cathedral (1541-1570), Richard was awarded a patent for life to be one of the sextons of the cathedral, a position that carried an annuity of £6, from which he no doubt hired a substitute to ring the bells and dig the graves as required.


The Wardens of Rochester Bridge

Between September 1558 and August 1561 he was also working as paymaster for the Wardens of Rochester Bridge, until the royal commission appointed in July 1561 to report on the administration and repair of the bridge chose John Wattes to succeed him as Clerk of the Works.


Upnor Castle

During these years he was also working at Upnor Castle, having been appointed paymaster, purveyour, and clerk of the works by royal patent on 26 March 1559 to oversee the fortification of the castle to defend the naval dockyards at Gillingham. His accounts for this work run from October 1559 to September 1564, and a second set of accounts as surveyor for Upnor Castle dates from 1567.



As a result of this work "for the Savegarde of our Navye", queen Elizabeth granted to "our well-beloved subject Richard Wattes gentleman" a patent to be one of her Gentleman-at-Arms. A step below the Gentlemen Pensioners who escorted the queen wherever she went, the office of Gentleman-at-Arms carried an annuity for life of £26 13s. 4d. with no need to wait on the monarch unless she requested his service.

Member of Parliament

During the second Parliament of Elizabeth I Richard Wattes was returned along with Edward Baeshe to represent Rochester. Assembled on 12 January 1563, the Parliament sat until 10 April 1563 and was re-convened for a second session between 30 September 1566 and 2 January 1567.


Royal Visit

In September 1573 during her progress through Kent Elizabeth I visited Rochester, lodging at The Crown for four days and being entertained on the final day of her visit by Richard Wattes at his house on Boley Hill. The traditional story that she expressed her satisfaction at his hospitality by naming his house "Satis" is attested by the inquisition post mortem held at Rochester on 4 March 1587 to establish who owned the property mentioned in the will of Richard Wattes. That official document, written just 14 years after the royal visit, describes his two houses on Boley Hill as "vocatis et nominatibus per dominam reginam nunc Satis" (called and named by the present lady queen “Satis”).

Satis House in the 19th century from  Robert Langton, The Childhood and

Youth of Charles Dickens (London, 1891), p. 233

On 10 September 1579 Richard Wattes died, leaving behind his will that established the Six Poor Travellers' House and guaranteed for Richard Wattes a lasting place in the history of Rochester.


Remaining Mysteries

Some mysteries about the man still remain. Take, for instance, the full-length portrait painted by Dutch painter Daniel de Coning sometime between 1690, when he arrived in England, and 1735, when a description of the painting appeared in the journal of a tourist visiting Rochester Guildhall, where the portrait still hangs in the Council Chamber. Who commissioned the painting? When was it painted? And why? Not a word appears in the city records. Even more intriguing is why Richard Wattes was depicted wearing the legal dress of an18th century barrister. And why was there a tradition in the 19th and 20th century secondary sources that Richard Wattes was the Recorder of Rochester? No evidence has yet been found that Richard had any legal training; nor can this legal appointment be verified, because most of the city records for the 16th century do not survive.


Another mystery is the Richard Watts, councilman (1727-1734), alderman (1734-1739), and mayor of Rochester (1735-1736), during whose mayoralty the City of Rochester commissioned the monument to Richard Wattes in the cathedral. Although not a direct descendant because Richard Wattes had no children, was the 18th century Richard Watts (1683-1739), who migrated to Rochester sometime before his marriage in 1705, a distant descendant of his 16th century namesake? He can be traced back to a Richard Watts who married Elizabeth Godden at Thurnham in 1672, but before that the trail goes cold.


At least one mystery, however, has been solved: the reason why Richard Wattes in 1579 excluded proctors along with rogues from a night's lodging in the Six Poor Travellers' House. The 16th century definition of a proctor was enshrined in legislation of 1 Edward VI in 1547 as one licensed to collect alms on behalf of lepers who were prohibited from begging for themselves. Due to the possibilities for fraudsters to abuse this system, Holinshed's Chronicles (1577) classified rogues, idle persons and "all proctors that go up and downe with counterfeit licences" as the "thriftless poor", undeserving of aid from parish officers.

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