THE SUSSEX MUDDLE FAMILIES
THE MAYFIELD MUDDLES
Chart of the Overall Family Tree for the Mayfield Muddles
The Mayfield Muddles were very much the wealthiest and most upper class of the Muddle families, particularly from the mid-16th to mid-18th centuries. Many of them owned considerable amounts of land and married off daughters to baronets. By the 19th century the lines still carrying on the Muddle name were very much reduced in wealth and status and the Muddle name finally died out in this family when a spinster daughter died in the late 20th century.
This family originates with a John Muddle, who was probably born about 1520 in Sussex and died at Balcombe in Sussex during 1562. Though Balcombe was probably not where he originally came from as his will shows that the property he owned was not at Balcombe but further east in Sussex at Mayfield, Herstmonceux and Battle. He had two sons whose descendents carried on the Muddle name for several generations.
His eldest son, another John, who was born about 1546, inherited his father's properties at Mayfield and Herstmonceux and lived at Mayfield where he had four sons and a daughter. The eldest of these sons, another John, who was born about 1568, had only one child that survived childhood, this being yet another John, and this John had only one son, Abraham born 1627, who survived to marry and have children, though these were two daughters. Abraham's wealth is indicated by him making a loan to the Treasury of King William III of £750 and giving £600 to each of his daughters, these being large sums of money at this time. This branch of the family was still living at Mayfield when the Muddle name died out in this branch with the marriage of Abraham's second daughter in 1704.
The second son Thomas born 1571 became Liberty Bailiff in 1591 of a liberty at Mayfield held by Queen Elizabeth I that after her death passed to the Rives family who were holding it when Thomas last held this important position in 1609. It was only Edward, the eldest son of Thomas, who carried on this line at Mayfield by having nine children, though what happened to his three youngest sons, Thomas, John and William, is a mystery, and it remains to be seen if this line died out with them.
The third son Edward born 1578 became Rector of Ewhurst in Sussex in 1605, a position that he held until his death in 1647. He married twice and had eight children though it was only his eldest son from his second marriage who married and had a child; this child being a daughter and with her marriage in 1689 the Muddle name died out in this line.
The fourth son William born 1581 also moved to Ewhurst to live. He inherited most of his father's properties and owned land in Sussex and Kent. He married and had seven children. He held the advowson of Langley Church in Kent and when his eldest daughter married Freegift Tilden he had him installed as Rector of Langley. William married his second daughter to Nathaniel Powell who was an extensive land owner in eastern Sussex including the Manor and Castle of Bodiam. During the English Civil War Nathaniel was a Justice of the Peace and a supplier of iron cannon to the state. But he later joined the royalist cause and after the restoration of Charles II the king made him a baronet for his help in the restoration. The Powell family later moved to Wierton Place in Boughton Monchelsea, Kent. William's eldest son married twice but didn't produce children, and he was fined during the Civil War period for being a Roman Catholic. William's other son to survived childhood also married twice and managed to produce four children, three sons and a daughter, from his second marriage, but only the daughter married so with this marriage in 1705 the Muddle name also died out in this line.
Returning to John the originator of the Mayfield Muddles, his second son Hugh, who was born about 1549, inherited his father's properties at Battle. After living at Mayfield and Cranbrook he finally settled at Frant on the Sussex/Kent border where he owned and operated an iron forge. Hugh married three times, from his first marriage he had two sons, the eldest, Edward, lived at Sydenham in Kent, now part of London, and married a widow with children but didn't have any children of his own. The second of Hugh's sons, Harbert, lived at Mayfield; he married and had four daughters.
From his second marriage Hugh had three sons and three daughters. It's not known what happened to Richard, the eldest of these sons, but the second son, Thomas, seems to have inherited the properties at Battle where he lived and worked as the steward of Bodiam Manor. During the Civil War period he was a tax collector for the Parliamentary Army, and possibly a not a very honest one as there are records of him not passing on taxes he had collected. He married and had a daughter.
It is with the descendents of Hugh's third son, John born 1588, that the Muddle name was to continue down to the 20th century. John inherited his father's properties at Frant that included the iron forge; he didn't live at Frant but at Bromley, Buxted and Mayfield, and sometime during his ownership the iron forge stopped working and was demolished. He married and died about two years later but had one son, Thomas, who was born about 1628. Thomas was a wheelwright at Mayfield and inherited the properties at Frant, now minus the iron forge, and sold them in 1668. He married and had a son, John born 1657, and two daughters.
John, the son of Thomas lived at Mayfield; he married and had five sons and a daughter. The eldest son, John born 1689, lived at Wadhurst and had four daughters and a son; the son married but was childless. It's not known what happened to the second son, James, but the next two, Hugh and William, died young. It was with the fifth son, Phillip born 1701, that the Muddle line continues. Phillip lived at Mayfield; he married and had two daughters and a son, James.
Phillip's son James, who was born at Mayfield in 1734, moved to Biddenden in Kent where he married in 1760 and had three sons, but by 1773 James, his wife and his two younger sons were all dead, leaving just his eldest son to carry on the line. This eldest son, another James, married at Biddenden in 1789; he had a son born at Benenden in 1791 and then moved to Staplehurst were he had five daughters and another son.
The daughters of this second James mostly ended up living in Tunbridge Wells and the fate of their younger brother is unknown, so the continuation of this Muddle line was again in the hands of the eldest son, yet another James. This third James married at Staplehurst in 1816 and had five sons. He must have had some education because he was clerk to Staplehurst solicitor James Ottaway until Mr Ottaway died in an accident in 1825. James then tried to setup a school in Staplehurst but this venture seems to have almost immediately failed and led to ruination and lost of status for James. By 1828 James was recorded as being a labourer and in 1840 his family were living in a small rented cottage in Staplehurst. James died in 1853 and his wife in 1867, and they were both buried in Staplehurst Churchyard.
Of the five son of James, the eldest, again called James, and the third, Henry, both enlisted in the 21st Regiment of Foot. Henry died at sea in 1839 on the way to Van Diemen's Land only 3 months after enlisting, and James died in the Crimea during 1855 after serving for 16 years. The second son, Thomas, died in infancy. The youngest son, John, moved to Strood near Rochester where he married in 1854, worked as a labourer, and had ten children, six of whom died in infancy. Of the four surviving children the only daughter stayed a spinster and looked after her father after her mother’s relatively early death. The youngest son joined the army and became a Sergeant Major but never married. The other two sons married, one was childless and the other had just one child, a son, this son married and again had just one child, this time a daughter called Betty Joan Muddle, who was born in 1920 and married in 1948.
The fourth son, called George, of the third James married Eliza Wright in 1844 and had a son the following year but then the next year he died of tuberculosis aged only 21. His son, also called George, joined the Royal Marines, serving from 1860 to 1874. After leaving the marines George settled in the Birkenhead area of Cheshire, married and had four children there. His only son, John George, became a Gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery and died a bachelor when HMS Indefatigable blew up and sunk at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
After the early death of her husband Eliza Muddle, née Wright, never remarried, but went on the have four illegitimate children all born in workhouses, the first at Hollingbourne Workhouse in 1847, who died when only six months old, and the other three at Maidstone Workhouse in 1849, 1858 and 1861. Eliza and her children, including her legitimate son, seem to have lived in the workhouse, with the children being educated in the workhouse school, until some time during the 1860s when Eliza became the housekeeper to bachelor John Bright. Eliza, and those of her children who were still living with her, lived with John Bright at Maidstone and then Tovil near Maidstone until his death in 1884. Eliza continued to live at Tovil, as did her two daughters who had both married. Eliza died at Maidstone in 1897.
Eliza’s youngest son, John James Muddle, joined the army in 1878; he saw active service in Egypt in 1882, and his rapid promotion over 6½ years resulted in him becoming a Colour Sergeant in The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment in 1884. This was also the year that he married Eleanor Isabel Pobgee, a marriage that resulted in six children. Their two sons died aged nine months and eighteen years, one daughter died aged four, two died spinsters when about eighty, and only their eldest daughter married. John was made a Staff Sergeant at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in Berkshire in early 1891, and he served there until his discharge from the army in 1899, after 21 years of service. After his discharge John continued to work for the College as a gatekeeper and mess waiter until at least 1923. After retiring John and Eleanor continued to live near the College, Eleanor died in 1946, aged 83, and John died in 1952, aged 90. It was with the deaths of their two spinster daughters, Agnes Maud Muddle and Eveline Grace Muddle, in 1968 and 1981 that the Muddle name finally died out in the Biddenden Branch of the Mayfield Muddles.
Copyright © Derek Miller 2005-2011
Last updated 5 November 2011
Top of page