Scandal from the Vicars of Bampton: “Mary, base childe of that incestuous whore Mary Touse”

The Temptation of Adam and Eve, John Lydgate, c. 1450
The Temptation of Adam and Eve, John Lydgate, 14501

The Oxfordshire Family History Society, in partnership with Ancestry.com, just released a new collection of scanned Oxfordshire parish registers. If you have Oxfordshire ancestors, you probably already know about it. If not, the collection is definitely worth checking out. The scanned registers include only the parishes in the pre-1974 county boundaries of Oxfordshire. Therefore, the registers for parishes in the Vale of the White Horse and a few others are not in the Ancestry.com collection.

Oxfordshire, Church of England, Parish Registers from the Oxfordshire Family History Society

I have already done quite a bit of research on our Ward ancestors in Oxfordshire. The Oxfordshire Family History Society has an excellent search service, and the register transcriptions are top notch. I still found some interesting things when exploring the record images.

Mary Touse was baptized on 10 July 1702.

Source: Mary Touse discovered in Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812 on Ancestry.com

Above is record-sharing link from Ancestry.com for a baptism in Bampton, Oxfordshire on 10 Jul 1702.2 Mary’s arrival was clearly not an occasion of joy for whoever recorded her baptism.

Mary base childe of that incestuous whore Mary Touse

Illegitimate children are nearly always noted as such in parish records. The terms vary but may include illegitimate, bastard, base child, or filius populi, meaning “son of the people.” Often, the status of the mother is described as single woman or spinster. Roman Catholic baptism registers routinely list the mother’s maiden surname. Anglican parish records rarely provide this information unless the mother and father are unmarried.

I looked a bit further into the story of Mary Towse. While base child was standard terminology, describing a mother as that incestuous whore definitely was not. Mary had two more children recorded in the Bampton baptismal registers. The baptism on 11 Dec 1697 of Edmund Bartlett of Aston does not reference his mother, but later that fact was confirmed.3 The baptism of Anna Maria on 1 May 1705 lists both of her parents’ full names. Again, it refers to the the union as incestuous.4

11 Dec 1697, Edmund Bartlet of Aston, filius populi
1 May 1705, Anna Maria fs of incestuous Edward Bartlet & Mary Towse

I thought Mary’s story might make an appearance in the Quarter Sessions records for Oxfordshire. Indeed, two entries in the 1702 Trinity and Michaelmas sessions mention Mary Towse and Ed Bartlett. After being threatened with a £40 fine, Mary confirms that Edmund Bartlett, tailor of Aston, is the father of both Mary born in 1702 and Edmund born in 1697.5, 6

I was not able to determine the degree of consanguinity or affinity between Mary Towse and Edmund Bartlett. Mary was born in Bampton to Alexander Towse and and baptized on 6 Jan 1668.7 Alexander died the next year and was buried at Bampton on 9 Dec 1669.8 In his will, written on 8 Nov 1668, he left his house to his son Alexander Towse. Five pounds were to be paid to his daughters Elizabeth and Mary when they reached the age of “one and twenty.” Also mentioned are his wife Mary and his brothers Joseph Towse and Thomas Tomlin.9, 10 I could find no marriage between a Towse and a Bartlett, but not all records from this time survive.

Bampton Church Spire
Spire of Bampton Church11

I only found one other record in the Bampton parish registers that mentions incest. A baptism on 21 Apr 1701 reads, “Leah, dtr of Thos Draper, incestuous.”12 Mary Towse and Edmund Bartlett must have been closely related by either blood or marriage to receive such strong condemnation. Sadly, little Mary Bartlett Towse died in 1704, shortly before her second birthday.13

May 10th Mary ffs incestuous of Mary Touse & Edward Bartlett of Aston

Even the entry in the burial register does not spare Mary this cruel designation which defines her existence as the product of an incestuous union.

Reference Notes


  1. The British Library, Middle Ages Collection items, “Miniature of the Temptation of Adam and Eve,” The Fall of Princes, abriged, c. 1450, South East England, probably Suffolk, John Lydgate, Harley MS 1766, digital image of Manuscript/Illustration (https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/miniature-of-the-temptation-of-adam-and-eve-from-john-lydgates-the-fall-of-the-princes : accessed 3 Oct 2016).
  2. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Mary base childe of that incestuous whore Mary Touse, baptized 10 Jul 1702, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/sharing/9358165?h=c23855 : accessed 3 Oct 2016); citing: original Church of England parish registers deposited at the Oxfordshire Family History Society and Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford.
  3. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Edmund Bartlet of Aston, filius populi, baptized 11 Dec 1697, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/sharing/9358610?h=848d5a : accessed 3 Oct 2016); citing: original Church of England parish registers deposited at the Oxfordshire Family History Society and Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford.
  4. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Anna Maria fs of incestuous Edward Bartlet & Mary Towse, baptized 1 May 1705, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/sharing/9358644?h=ad425f : accessed 3 Oct 2016); citing: original Church of England parish registers deposited at the Oxfordshire Family History Society and Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford.
  5. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions Records 1687-1830, Vol. II Informations, Examinations, Recognisances & Indictments, Easter 1783-Michaelmas 1830, DVD (Cowley, Oxford, 2008), Trinity 1702, “1. Md gd XIX Maii Maria Towse de Aston s.w. & Edm Bartlett recogn— £40 for refusing to declare the father of her child.”
  6. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions Records 1687-1830, Vol. II Informations, Examinations, Recognisances & Indictments, Easter 1783-Michaelmas 1830, DVD (Cowley, Oxford, 2008), Michaelmas 1702, “1. Inform of Mary Touse of Aston s.w. 3 June 1702, Ed Bartlett of Aston tailor is the father of her child as also of Ed. born 5 yrs ago.”
  7. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Mary d. Alex Towse, baptized 6 Jan 1668, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Oct 2016).
  8. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Alex Tous, buried 9 Dec 1669, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Oct 2016).
  9. Oxfordshire Wills Index, 1516-1857, Alexander Towse, glover of Aston, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Registered Will, Inventory, 90.9; 66/4/2; digital images, Find My Past (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 4 Oct 2016); citing: Original wills, 1574-1858 (Consistory) deposited at the Oxfordshire Record Office, Cowley, Oxfordshire.
  10. Oxfordshire Wills Index, 1516-1857, Alexander Towse of Aston, Bampton, Oxfordshire, 1682, 76-89, filed Cons. admons & invs, Administration Bond (2), 107.222, 260; 87/4/28; digital images, Find My Past (http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 4 Oct 2016); citing: Original wills, 1574-1858 (Consistory) deposited at the Oxfordshire Record Office, Cowley, Oxfordshire.
  11. The British Library, Public Domain Photos, “Spire of Bampton Church,” Identifier: 000116825, digital image, (https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary), citing: J A Giles,”The Thames from its Source to the Sea … Illustrated with … engravings … and … etchings, etc,” London: J. S. Virtue & Co., 1886, 31.
  12. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Leah d. Thos Draper, incestuous, baptized 21 Apr 1701, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Oct 2016).
  13. St. Mary the Virgin, Bampton, Oxfordshire, Parish Registers, Vol. II, Mary, incestuous d. Edwd & Mary Touse, Aston, buried 10 May 1704, reference no. PAR16/1/R1/3; digital images, “Oxfordshire, England, Church of England Baptism, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com/sharing/9358754?h=5195f4 : accessed 3 Oct 2016); citing: original Church of England parish registers deposited at the Oxfordshire Family History Society and Oxfordshire History Centre, Oxford.

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