His grandfather, Mark
Pacy, apparently settled in Lowestoft in the mid-16th century. In
the early town records he is described as a "sailor", but in later life
he forsook the sea and soon acquired property and fishing craft in the
town, and died a relatively prosperous man in 1596. Mark married
twice and his second wife, Elizabeth Whight bore him seven children - the
eldest being Nicholas (born in 1581). After the death of her husband
in 1596, Elizabeth continued to expand the family business interests in
Like his father before him, Nicholas
was at first a "mariner" - the town records refer to him as "Captain Pacy".
In 1609 at the age of 28 he married Margaret Eache. His mother died
in 1620 leaving him, as the eldest son, a fishing boat, together with property
(including the large family house) and land in Lowestoft. By this
time he had probably given up the life of a mariner and was establishing
himself as a fish merchant.
In total Nicholas and Margaret
Pacy produced eight children - four boys and four girls - seven of whom
survived into adulthood. The youngest of these was Samuel who was
baptised in the parish church of Lowestoft on January 8th 1624.
Nothing is known of Samuel
Pacy's early days in Lowestoft. He obviously received a good, formal
education - probably at Annott's Grammar School which had been established
adjacent to the parish church in 1570.
Samuel grew up in Lowestoft during
turbulent times. In March 1643 he would have witnessed the bloodless
"assault" on the town by Oliver Cromwell who arrived with mounted troops,
a force of "foot volunteers" and five pieces of ordinance. This parliamentarian
force entered the town only a few yards from the Pacy family home,
arrested eighteen Royalist "strangers" and uncovered a large cache of weapons.
The following year Pacy would have been privy to the activities of the
puritan iconoclast, Francis Jessop, who entered the parish church and stripped
it of all its monumental brasses. During all this activity he would
also have witnessed, in 1644, the "great fire" which swept through the
northern part of Lowestoft causing tremendous damage. However, this
fire left the Pacy homestead untouched . . . .
More importantly, he was no doubt
aware of the witch-finding activities of Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled "Witchfnder General" who, in the Summer of 1645, was invited by
the Bailiffs of the neighbouring town of Great Yarmouth to come and "discover"
witches in that town. Hopkins, aided by members of the non-conformist
clergy of Great Yarmouth, found fifteen "witches", six of whom were hanged.
It is not without note that Pacy himself espoused the non-conformist cause
and that his sister Margaret (who gave
evidence at the trial of Rose and Amy) was a member of the Yarmouth Congregational
church at this time . . . . and also that Samuel's eldest brother, Nicholas,
had emigrated a few years earlier to Salem, Massachusetts with a party
of non-conformists from the Suffolk town of Wrentham
In 1647 at the age of 23 Samuel
Pacy married Elizabeth Bardwell from the Norfolk parish of Topcroft-with-Denton
situated some 20 miles to the west of Lowestoft. Very little is known
about Elizabeth, except that with the marriage she brought 56 acres of
land in Topcroft which she had inherited from her father. Samuel
and his new bride returned to Lowestoft and moved into the family home,
situated in Lowestoft's High Street. That same year Samuel's ageing
father transferred the property to Samuel and Elizabeth. This house,
parts of which still stand, was one of the largest in the town.
The following year Susan,
the first of Samuel and Elizabeth's nine children, was born. She
was followed by Elizabeth (1650), Deborah,
(1654), William (1656 - died in infancy), Mary (1657 - died in infancy),
Samuel (c.1659 - died in infancy), Samuel (c1661), William (c.1663) and
Samuel's father died in 1652
and his mother the year after - leaving Samuel in charge of their affairs,
this despite the fact that he was their youngest son. Obviously the
parents placed their hopes in their youngest son. He apparently lived
up to their expectations. In 1647 he was appointed as a Trustee of
the Lowestoft Townlands, and is described in the original document as one
of the ". . . . most best and sufficient inhabitants of the town
. . ." He served in many other semi-official capacities including
Church Warden, Jury Man or "Chief Pledge" at the Manor Court and Overseer
of the Poor. He also helped manage Lowestoft's long legal battle
with neighbouring Great Yarmouth during the 1650's and 60's - a position
which brought him into direct contact with Sir Matthew Hale, the judge
who later tried Denny and Cullender.
By the mid 1600's he styles himself
a "merchant", but his business interests went beyond this. In the
1650's he became a "property developer" in Great Yarmouth. He also
owned three fishing boats, a merchant vessel called "The Red Lyon" together
with part shares in four other merchantmen. He was also the biggest
fish merchant and "curer" of herring in town. By the time of his
death in 1680 he was wealthy enough to leave nearly £2,580 in cash
As already noted, Samuel was
a supporter of the local non-conformist movement (a "puritan") which was
very active in this corner of England. In 1664 he along with others
was arrested for holding illegal religious meetings in the "north parlour"
of his Lowestoft house. He was bound over to appear at the Summer
Assize at Bury St. Edmunds in the same courtroom where, two short years
earlier he had given evidence against Rose Cullender and Amy Denny.
Unfortunately the court records for this Assize are missing so the outcome
of this case is not known.
The names of those who were arrested
with him leave no doubt that he was in direct contact with those who, less
than 20 years earlier, had assisted Matthew Hopkins in his Suffolk witchcraft
"purge" which in the Summer of 1645 led to the arrest of over 200 people
- many of whom were hanged . . . .
Pacy, Merchant - a man ". . . who carried himself with much soberness
. . ",
died at Lowestoft on the 17th of September, 1680 and was buried
three days later in the chancel of St. Margarets church, Lowestoft.
His grave together with those of his family are situated in a prominent
position immediately in front of the altar rail and steps.
His wife, Elizabeth, who seems
to have played no part in the persecution and prosecution of Rose and Amy,
died at Lowestoft two years later on August 4th 1682. She was laid
to rest next to her husband two days later. From their Wills it is
obvious that the family were very wealthy by Lowestoft standards.
We will never know exactly why
Samuel Pacy decided that Rose Cullender and Amy Denny had "bewitched" two
of his daughters . . . . but one thing is certain, without his influence
the two ageing widows would probably never have been brought to trial .
. . .
Lowestoft Parish Registers
- Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft.
David Butcher: The
Development of Pre-Industrial Lowestoft, 1560 - 1730, M.Phil. thesis.
Norwich. University of East Anglia, 1991.
Lowestoft Manor Court Books
- Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft. [194/A1/1 - 12].
Perogative Court of Canterbury
Wills - Public Record Office, London.
Quarter Sessions Record Books
- Suffolk Record Office, Ipswich.
Edmund Gillingwater - An
Historical Account of the Ancient Town of Lowestoft. London,
J. Duncan - Original Records
of the Yarmouth Congregational Church: 1642 - 1685, original
ms. in Dr. Williams Library, London.
John Browne - History
of Congregationalism and Memorials of the Church in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The Records of the First
Church in Salem Massachusetts, 1629 - 1736. Salem, Essex Institute,
Assorted mss in the Suffolk
Record Office, Norfolk Record and Public Record Office, London.