THE DRAKE FAMILY in England and America 1360-1895 and The Descendants of THOMAS DRAKE OF WEYMOUTH, MAS 1635-1691 By Louis Stoughton Drake Privately Printed Boston 1896
The name Drago or Draco, the Latin for Drake, was in use among the Romans, and signifies "one who draws or leads," a "leader." Their standard bearers were called Draconarii. The Romans obtained the name from the Greeks, among whom it is found as early as 600, B.C., when Draco, the celebrated Athenian legislator, drew up the code of laws for the government of the people which bore his name.
As at present written, the name may be found on the English records as early as the middle of the thirteenth century. In 1272 John Drake held lands by grant of Edward I. In 1313 a John Drake received permission of Edward II. "to go beyond the sea." This person went from Devonshire and undoubtedly settled in Ireland, as a family of the name appears there shortly afterwards at Drakerath, County of Meathe, bearing the coat-of-arms of the English Drakes. Richard, a member of this family, was high sheriff of County Meathe in 1368, and one John also in 1422. This same John, or another, was Mayor of Dublin in 1402.
At Shipden, in Yorkshire, a family is found as early as 1806, full accounts of which may be found in "The Histories and Antiquities of York," by Francis Drake, M.D., F.R.S. A third family of equal antiquity is that of Norfolk, doubtless of the same origin, as the arms are the same.
That curious and ingenious antiquary, Sir William Pole, Knight of Shute, in his manuscript makes mention of "Roger le Drak (Gaelic for Drake) that held Hernford cum Terra de la Wood of Derington, at half a knight's fee, thirty-first year of Edward I." (1303, A.D.), and prior to that, of others of the family who were possessed of several lands in Devonshire.
The extreme simplicity of the Drake coat-of-arms is another indication of the great antiquity of the family. The figure in the shied, or escutcheon, is called by heralds a wivern, which is another name for the dragon, and this has always been the arms of the family. The crests furnish the distinguishing mark of the different branches. That of the family of Ashe was originally an "Eagle displayed, Gules." This was laid aside later for "Dexter arm erect, couped at the elbow, ppr., bearing a battle-axe, sable." The families at Oatland, at Shardloes, and at Bucks, County Bucks, at Norfolk, and at Sussex, "A dexter arm erect, ppr. holding a battle-axe, Sable, headed Argent." The Norfolk family also used:-- "A reindeer's head couped." The Yorkshire family used as a crest, a two-headed eagle, wings displayed. The crest of the Irish Drakes was "A wivern displayed," same as the arms. The motto has ever been "Aquila non captat muscas,"--an eagle does not attempt to catch flies.
Mount Drake, the original home of the Drakes, is situated in the manor of Musbury, Axminster, Devon County. Musbury is a pure Saxon name, "Maest Barrow," or "The Biggest Hill." The British name of the place was "Mae Dun," of which Maist Barrow is a translation. The old name, Mae Dun, survives in a cluster of houses about a quarter of a mile from the present village, where it is corrupted into "Mayden-hayne."
Mount Drake is a table-land or plateau of about 160 acres, half way up the great ridge which goes by the name of Musbury Castle. It was one the seat of a British, and then of a Roman, encampment, and was a fortified camp, quite capable of accommodating two hundred persons or more. It was defended on three sides by a natural ravine, and on the upper side by bogs and a tangle of brush-wood, part of which still remains.
There are no records existing to show when or by whom the present church at Musbury was built, but early in the days of Queen Elizabeth, if not before, the Drakes had a mortuary chapel attached to it. In the latter part of her reign, or in that of James I., they lengthened this mortuary chapel into an aisle called the Drake Aisle, which was appropriated by their family, retainers and servants. The church records show that, in the time of Charles I., the rector of the church was a Drake, and, with the exception of a few artisans and laborers, all the inhabitants of Musbury, probably about 160, were Drakes or had married into the Drake family.
John Drake, at the time of his marriage to Christian Billett, although living at Mt. Drake, and presenting to the living of Musbury, was engaged in trade and shipping at Exmouth, near by. His son, John, who succeeded him, was engaged in the same business at Otterton, and his successor, John Drake, although making his home at Mt. Drake, where both he and his son jointly presented to the living of the Musbury Church, was a ship-owner and trader at Exmouth.
There was a fortified house at Mt. Drake, before Ashe--an ancient seat in the parish of Musbury, adjoining Mt. Drake--was built. Ashe is about one mile and three quarters to the south of Axminster, in the eastern confines of Devon County, the barton belonging thereto comprising about 180 acres, lying partly in the parish of Axminster, and partly in the parish of Musbury. It was brought into the Drake family, together with the Kilmington estate of Hampton or Kampton, about 60 acres, by the marriage (1420) of John Drake of Mt. Drake and Exmouth--the first from whom lineal descent can be traced--to Christian, daughter and heiress of John Billett of Ashe, and remained in the family for about 400 years. John Prince, in his "Worthies of Devon" (1701), gives the following in regard to the ancient history of Ashe:--
"Ashe was sometimes the dwelling of Quandus de Ash, the most ancient inhabitant that I find there, who gave to, or took name from the place, after whom it was given by John Lord Courtenay, Lord of the manor of Musbury, unto Henry de Esse, or Ash, who gave it to Julian (likely his daughter), wife of John de Orway, of Orway, in the parish of Kentisberr, nigh Cullompton, in this shire; whose son Thomas had issue: John, o.s.p., and two daughters, Joan, wife of John Stretche; and Phillippa, wife of Warren Hampton. Stretch left issue, that died without issue, upon which Ash fell to Hampton, who had issue: first, Joan, thrice married, to Bonvile, Sachvile and Farringdon; and, secondly, Alice, wife of John Billett, unto whom Ash was allotted; John Billett and Alice, his wife, had issue: Christian, their sole daughter and heiress, who married John Drake of Exmouth."
Ashe was not inhabited by the family until the time of Sir Barnard Drake, Kt., who, during his youth, lived at Mt. Drake, and his father, John, although possessing Ashe, apparently lived at Exmouth. This John Drake was acting as Steward of Newnham Abbey at the time of its dissolution, and he enriched himself by the purchase of some of the Abbey lands, both in Musbury and across the Axe. Two of his sons were then Abbey tenants, and they both became freeholders. One of them, Robert Drake, married into the family of Prideaux, and John Drake either gave or sold to him an abbey estate in the parish of North Leigh, about eight miles distant.
On the death of his father, Barnard Drake rebuilt Ashe, and what remains of the house to-day bears witness that it was built with the stones of the ancient Abbey of Newnham, close by. During the construction of the house he lived at Colyton, and on his removal to Ashe, Mt. Drake was occupied by Henry Drake, a relative. The latter, however, was only a tenant as were all the subsequent residents at Mt. Drake, till the house was pulled down about seventy years ago.
The estate of Trill, about a mile distant in the parish of Axminster, was acquired by Sir John Drake of Ashe, who married Elinor Butler, or, as sometimes called, Helen Boteler. He was the god-father of John Prince, Vicar of Pomroy, born 1643, author of "Worthies of Devon." At the present time this is a lovely estate, mostly heath and moorland. The house, which still stands, is about the size of a modern English farm-house, and it had a walled court, lodge and loop-holed towers. At the death of John Drake, in 1636, he left the estate of Trill to his eldest son Sir John Drake, knighted by James II. His will may still be seen, in which he left the rest of his property to his widow Elinor, with certain provisions to be made for his large family at his death.
Prince seems to be incorrect in his account of the destruction of Ashe during the civil wars, and that it "long lay in ruins."
At the death of John (9) Drake, in 1636, his widow Elinor remained at Ashe with her numerous family, her eldest son, Sir John Drake, first baronet, then occupying Trill. On the breaking out of the civil war she took zealously the side of the Parliament, and in 1644 sent for soldiers from Lyme and began to fortify her house, whereupon Lord Paulet came and attacked the house, and took it, firing the chapel and destroying the fortifications. The wing of the house, which touched the chapel, was set on fire and much damaged, but was extinguished on the surrender of the Lady, which, as she had ten small children with her, she was very glad to make.
That Elinor Drake did not then make her abode at Trill, as stated by Prince, is proved by the parish register of Musbury, which gives positive evidence that she was residing at Ashe, in 1646, when she applied to Parliament to be reimbursed for the damage to her house, and that she resided there as late as 1668.
In 1648 her granddaughter, Arabella, child of her daughter Elizabeth and Sir Winston Churchill, who were then living with her, was baptized in the hall of Ashe House, and John, the illustrious Duke of Marlboro, son of the same Elizabeth and Sir Winston Churchill, was baptized in the chapel of Ashe House in 1650, by which time it had been repaired. Thus the family never went to Trill, and Sir John Drake, first baronet, never lived at Ashe.
At her death, in 1668, Elinor Drake left Ashe House to her nephew, Sir John Drake, second baronet, eldest son of Sir John of Trill, who spent his short tenancy beautifying Ashe, and, as Prince says, "bringing it to greater perfection than it was every before. He enclosed the park adjoining the house with a good wall, made fish ponds, walks, and gardens well furnished with a great variety of choice fruits, so that now it may vye for beauty and delight with most other seats in those parts."
Sir William Drake, sixth baronet, having no issue by his marriage with Ann, eldest daughter of William Peere Williams, the baronetcy, at his death in 1733, became extinct. There being no surviving male descendant of Sir John, first baronet, Sir William left the whole of his property of Mt. Drake, Ashe, Trill, Hampton, &c., to his widow, in her free and absolute disposal, to the exclusion of his own family. About four years after his death she married George Speke, Esq., of Whitelackington, in Somerset, by whom he had a daughter, who married Frederick, Lord North. Soon after his death, which occurred in 1793, the Ashe property, the advowson of the living, and all the estates which had been bequeathed to his widow by Sir William Drake, sixth baronet, were sold by Lord Guilford in parcel, and passed into various hands.
Ashe House, part of the original house and chapel still existing, is the property of an Axminster grocer, and Mt. Drake is now owned by the Rev. John Vaughan Payne, Lord of the manor of Musbury. In this matter the homes of the family became extinct, and the ancient possessions alienated, but there remained a representative and supporter of its name in the Yardbury branch, which was derived from William Drake, a brother of Sir John Drake, Kt. (the father of the first baronet), and father of Thomas Drake, of Weymouth, Mass., the emigrant.
John Drake,*Esq.., of Mount Drake and Exmouth, in the county of Devon, "a man of great estate, and a name of no less antiquity," says Prince in his "Worthies of Devon," married in the time of Henry V. (1413-22 A.D.), Christiana, daughter and heiress of John Billett of Ashe. By this alliance the estate of Ashe, in the parish of Musbury, came to the Drake family, and was handed down in the name from father to son for fully four hundred years, although the most usual residence was Mount Drake, a mansion previously built by them in the same parish, and undoubtedly the original home of the Drakes, they having occupied it before the coming of William the Conqueror. This John Drake, or possibly his father, was reported in Exmouth in 1360.
At the death of John, his widow married second, Richard Frankcheney, thus unlawfully excluding from the estate of Ashe her son John Drake.2 She had Christopher Frankcheney, who had Richard, who was the father of Simeon, from whom John Drake,5 by a suit at law, recovered Ashe, which had been so long and unjustly withheld from his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
* "Visitations of Devon in 1620," Harl. MS. (British Museum), 1163, folio 220, and "Visitations of the County of Devon," by Lieut.-Colonel J. L. Vivian.