1624 - 1680
Merchant of Lowestoft

Samuel Pacy's distinctive signature

Samuel Pacy was one of the richest and most influential men in Lowestoft at this time.  His family had been living in the town for almost century and had originated from the rural parishes some ten miles to the south of Lowestoft.

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 Lowestoft.

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 Here there were witchesby 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 John (1664).

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 bequests alone!

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 . . . .

last resting place . . . .Samuel 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 . . . .

Selected Sources:

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, 1790.
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.  London, 1877.
The Records of the First Church in Salem Massachusetts, 1629 - 1736.  Salem, Essex Institute, 1974.
Assorted mss in the Suffolk Record Office, Norfolk Record and Public Record Office, London.