Bishop Robert Humston-Plantation of Ireland

An Eminent member of the family was Bishop Robert Humston, whose birth is obscure but perhaps was in Cheschire in a year before 1550. It is not certain where he received his education, but later records give him a master of arts degree. (…Rob. Humpston, master of arts, but whether of this university I cannot tell.” Woods, Anthony A, “Athenae Oxoniensis, II, 845, ed. Philip Bliss.)

His early life in the church was spent in preaching through a number of the English shires. Lincoln Episcopal records give the following admissions in Leicester and are interpreted as referring to Robbert: (Lincol Episcopal Records in the Time of Thomas Cooper, Bishop of Lincoln , 1571-1584. Ed. E. W. Foster.)

Robert Humpston, cler, presented 9 Nov., 1576, to the vicarage of Ratcliffe, vacant by resignation. Patron—the queen ( Elizabeth (1558-1603), restored the Church of England at the beginning of her reign.) on the petition and recommendation of Mr. Stokes. (Lansdowne MS. 443, folio 240d.) No proof of his admission has been found.

1578. Sir Julius Watson, clerk, to the vicarage of Shakerston, vacant by the resignation of Sir Robert Humpston. Patron—Arthur Barford, gent. At Bugden, 21 Nov. (folio 60d.).

1578/9. Robert Humpston, cl., presented 20 March, to the rectory of Hyngham on the Hill, vac. By death. Patron—the queen.

1579. Abkettelbie vicarage. Robert Humperston, (Lansdowne Ms. 443, folio 270, has “Humpston”.) clerk, to the vicarage of Abkettelby, vacant by resignation. Patron—the queen pleno jure. Admitted 13 Oct. (P.D., 1579, No. 16).

Ten yars later, in 1589 in London, he published a book, “A Sermon Preached at Reyfham in the Countie of Norfolke the 22 of Sept. 1588, and eftsoons at request published by R. Humston, Minister of God’s Word.” The text, based on Heb. iii 3, was printed by John Wolfe for E. Aggas, a famous London bookseller. A copy exists today in the British Museum. This volume was dedicated to Edmund, Bishop of Norwich. (Presumably Edmund Scambler, born at Gressingham, Lancashire , about 1510. Educated at Cambridge ; to Norwich 1585; died 1594. “Dictionary of National Biography,” XVII, 885. The spelling of Robert Humston’s name is considered authentic in this record as the book probably was under his supervision. Sometimes, however, individuals permitted more than one spelling of a name.)

In 1597, Robert, returning to the scenes of his yuth became rector of Barrow, in Cheshire.

During these years an attempt was being strenuously advanced to plant English politics and instiutions in Ireland, to settle Englishmen there for the lands and wealth to be derived from that undeveloped country. The Irish tribal chiefs resisted bitterly and the English invaders resorted to sufficiently stern measures to carry on. Being separated by only the Irish Sea from Ireland, the activity evoked a natural echo among the people in Cheshire.

Some time about 1600 Robert Humston crossed toCarrickfergus, in Ulster, and became a preacher at the garrison and a missionary to the native Irish.

In 1600, the campaign to suppress the “rebels” was being pressed vigorously. Sir Arthur Chichester laid waste the country within twenty miles of Carrickfergus, sparing neither “house, corne, nor creature….of what quality, age, or sex soever; he slew all four-footed animals in their farmyards, burned the stacks of grain, and in the spring time mowed down the growing crops.” Famine, expected and dreadful, caused many thousands to die of hunger the following year, as Chichester’s relentless campaigns continue. (McSkimmin, Samuel, “History and Antiquities of the County of the Town of Carrickfergus,” New Edition 1909, p. 32.)

Sir Arthur, born in Devonshire in 1563, educated at Oxford, and commander of a ship against the Spanish Armada in 1588, had been sent to Ireland in 1598 as governor of Carrickfergus. He succeeded the Earl of Essex as head of Ulster in 1601. Chichester is said to have been a moderate and enlightened individual, but was obliged to obey the stern orders of the ministers at home in England.

With the death in 1601 of John Charden (or Charldon), bishop of Down and Connor, which embraced the port of Carrickfergus, Robert Humston sought to head the diocese and his efforts wre rewarded. He was nominated bishop of Down and Connor, being advanced to the see by the Queen’s letter, dated July 17, 1601 (Pat. 43), but was not consecrated until the following year on April 5, being then also restored to the temporalties. (Works of Sir James Ware Concerning Ireland , I, 207.)

Dublin, 1601, April 30. The Lord Deputy Mountjoy to Sir Robert Cecil, recommending the bearer, Mr. Humpston preacher to the garrison at Carrickfergus, for the Bishoprick of Down and Connor. Sir Arthur Chichester has earnestly moved on behalf of Humpston. “The zeal he hath in establishing in the minds and understanding of those blind and ignorant people, with his desire to settle himself in those parts for the good of them, hath caused him at this time to undertake the obtaining of the aforesaid Bishoprick. And his learning, honesty and course of life, by the report of Sir Arthur, whom I credit, hath prevailed so far with me, as to write these my letters in commendation of his great deservings.” (Calendar of State Papers (Ireland), 1600-1601, p. 300.)

Bishop Humston assumed his family arms, ( Bedford, W.K., “Blazon of Episcopacy,” p. 168.) but evidently did not have it recorded officially. Inasmuch as it was the Humberston arms, it may be taken for granted that the Bishop lived at a time when the variation in spelling of the name was known, when the memory of man could surely encompass the change. The bishop’s arms, however, bore two bars of sable instead of three, and it is not our of order to believe that he had the bearing changed, that it might be his very own, and yet have a similarity to his ancient family’s coat-of-arms. Such a change would not have been unusual.

April 18, 1605. A concordatum of £15 granted to the lord Bishop of Downe for his repair hither, by direction out of England, and his attendance for effecting special service of his Majesty. (Calendar of State Papers, 1603-1606, p. 283.)

Robert was bishop for about five years. The strenuous activity and responsibility of that office, plus hardships and resulting illness perhaps were contributing causes for his brief tenure. Age also could have been a factor for it is not known how old he was. He died in 1606 at Kilroot, County Antrim, near Carrickfergus, last of the bishops of Elizabeth’s time. The place of his burial is unknown.

During the last years of his service, there arose a dispute over one of his official acts, the leasing of the island of Magee, part of his bishoprick. Some early writers have stated the Bishop made an improvident lease, thereby wasting part of the wealth of the see. Evidence, however, does not indicate any lack of integrity on Robert’s part.

As early as 1601, Sir Arthur Chichester sought to obtain the Island Magee which had been granted to Walter, Earl of Essex. On April 6 in that year he wrote from Carrickfergus to Sir Robert Cecil, mentioning his opinion of the island’s value: (Young, Robert M. “Historical Notes of Old Belfast and Its Vicinity” (1896), pp. 20-21.)

Att my last beinge in Englande, I dealte with one Charles Ogle, servaunte to the Earle of Essexe, for a peece of land lyenge neere this towne, named the Illande Magie, which was land of the said Earles, and by him geven to his servaunte Ogle for the terme of 21 yeeres, yt hath longe layn wast, and considering the traysons of those gentlemen I am doubtfull to deale anie farther therein, and to bestowe anie charge upon hyt, unlesse I have some assurance from her Majestie for possessinge thereof. It is a thing of small valuer, if yt wyll please your honore to get me the sead farme thereof I wyll builde som fortes and castles upon hyt, and keepe yt from annoyance of reables.

Essex’s estates were confiscated, but it was not until 1610 that Chichester obtained a grant of the island.

When the question of the lease flared up, Chichester, then lord-deputy of Ireland, once again intervened in behalf of Robert, and though the firm and lasting friendship between the two men, Sir Arthur by his authority caused the Bishop to be absolved of laxity in the disputed transaction.

Sept. 20, 1606. Dublin. Sir A. Chichester to the Attorney & Solicitor Gneral. Warrant for fiant of pardon to Robert Lord Bishop of Down and Connor for having alienated certain waste lands in the County of Down called Island Majhie, 2 castles, 20 messuages, 500 acres of land arable, 400 acres of pasture, 100 acres of moor and 100 acres of heath and furze in the said Island Maggee, Island Reajh, Island Rawley, Island Magneesh in Ballycaslaneaspecke, Ballynemartyn, Balligavagan, Ballyrennaile, and of the rectories, advowsons and churches of the said towns and villages, with the fishings of Longcon in the county of Down, in fee farm to Henry Persee and Francis Annesley of Dublin, gent., for the consideration of £100, and a yearly rent of £6-13-4 sterl. To be paid to the Bishop’s See for ever, being a greater rent than hath been paid for the premises in certainty in any time within the memory of man. (Calendar of State Papers, 1603-1606, p. 578.)

Many settlers were arriving in Northern Ireland between 1602 and 1612, some from Devonshire at the request or under the protection of Sir Arthur, and others from Cheshire, Scotland and elsewhere. Among the surnames of those receiving grants of land and tenements from the Corporation of the City of Carrickfergus is listed a “Humpston,” but it is not revealed whether this was the Bishop or some other member of the family, attracted there by the adventure or opportunity to increase personal fortunes. (McSkimmin, Samuel, “History and Antiquities of the County of the Town of Carrickfergus,” 1909, p. 153.)

Thus it is not known whether Bishop Humston was the progenitor of the Irish family of Humstons. A son of the Bishop, also named Robert, was a student at Dublin University, where he was presented a bowl on Aug. 2, 1610 (Alumi Dubliensis). This may have been the same Robert mentioned in the Malpas, Cheshire, register:

1619. April 4. Christened: Barbara the daugr of one Mr. Robert Humpston & Barbara his wife of Knock Verges in Ireland. This child was borne in John Heaues house in Malpas.

Dublin marriage licenses list these: 1643, Richard Humstone and Jane Williams: 1674, Mary Humpston, widow, and Francis Goodwin.

On Oct. 6, 1669, John, “son of Thomas Humpston, victuler, and wife Mary, was baptized at St. Michan, Dublin.

Other Dublin records have been found after 1700 and as late as 1800. These meager records gleaned from available source material show that a branch of the Humston family was in Ireland during these years, and perhaps later.

What might have been a valuable find is discovered in the index of Irish wills, wherein is a record of Edward Humston of Cork , whose will was probated in 1674. (Phillimore, W.P.W., “Cork and Ross Wills 1548-1800,” p. 58.) This will was destroyed, however, in 1922 during the Irish troubles, with the burning of the Four Courts in Dublin , the repository of all Irish wills. As a consequence, his further indentification, the names of his heirs and the extent of his family are unknown.


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