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century was the home of most of those bearing the name of Steere was Surrey, but a few miles southwest from London.
An ancient will of John Steere of Ockley, a copy of which is found in the British Museum,* was transcribed verbatim et literatim for this work. It is dated 1544. It reads as follows : —
In the name of God Amen. In the yere of oure Lord God a M'VcXLiiij.
I, Iohn Steare of the paryshe of Ockley, weke in my bodye & hole and p'fecte of remembraunce order and make thys my testament and last wyll in this maner folowing:
ffyrst I bequethe my sowle vnto Allmigtye Gode & to of lady seaynt Marye and to all the holye companye of heauen and my bodye to be buryed in the chyrche yard of sanyte Margaret of Hocleye. also I wyll haue iij massys at my buryng and iij at my mownthes mynd and euerye pryste to haue for hys labor vjd- the resydue of all my goods my debtes payde I gyue and bequethe to Alice my wyffe and she to be my sole executrice. Wytness hereof Syr
Willis Stere w' mee
Translated into modern English this wouid read : —
In the name of God. Amen.
In the year of our Lord God 1544.
I John Steare of the parish of Ockley, weak in my body, and whole and perfect of remembrance, order and make this my testament and last will in this manner following:
First, I bequeath my soul unto Almighty God and to our lady Saint Mary and to all the holy company of heaven and my body to be buried in the church yard of Saint Margaret of Ockley. Also I will have three masses at my burying and three at my month's mind and every priest to have for his labor sixpence; the residue of all my goods, my debts paid, I give and bequeath to Alice my wife and she to be my sole executrix. Witness hereof
Sir f Richard Wilson, Witness me
William Stere. John Steare.
The "Surrey Genealogies," a folio volume by Berry, published in 1837, gives a record of the descendants of Henry Steere, who died in 1659, in the line of his son John. The coat of arms given on p. 7 is found in the record of this family. Another coat of arms bestowed upon the branch at Jayes, County Surrey, is thus described in Burke's " General Armory," p. 967: "Ermine, two bars sable, the first charged with two bezants, the other with one, on a canton argent, a chief of the second, thereon between two martlets a cross pattee of the third. Crest, A lion passant guard, gules, the dexter forepaw resting on an escutcheon ermine
* B. M. 24,925 fol. sb- t The minister was called "Sir" down to a period
in the next century.
thereon two bars, charged as in the arms." This Henry Steere had a brother Thomas who died in 1645, giving most of his property to John Steere, son of his brother Harry; also a brother John, and probably a brother Richard, certainly a sister Jane who married a Risbridger. These would seem to have been children of a John Steere who died in Ockley, September 26, 1613, and whose property came under an "Inquisition Post Mortem." This property, situated in Hawley and Ockley, in Capel, etc., and enumerated in the Inventory,* amounting to nearly three hundred acres, included the estate known as "Courts," which came down in the line of Lee Steere, though disposed of out of the family at a later date. Henry Steere, above mentioned, was of Capel, and Ockley, a parish near the head of the river Mole and in proximity to the old Roman way called Stone Street, famous for the great battle between King Ethelwulf, the son of King Egbert, and the Danish invaders. Ockley is supposed to derive its name from the number of oaks that grow there.t The independent character of the inhabitants of this parish from early times is illustrated by an extract from " Magna Britannia," published in the year 17304 "In the parish of Ockley are five famous families of yeomen, named Evershed, Steer, Harp, Hethor, and Aston. Of the first of whom, who have a seat here, and are said to have held it from before the Conquest, this story is told: When the Heralds made their visitation into these parts (as was usual in all countries in the days of our forefathers) one of the family of Eversheds was urged to take a coat of arms, to make him and his posterity gentlemen; but he refused, saying he knew no difference between gentlemen and yeomen, but that the latter were the better men: for he thought that they only were really gentlemen who had preserved their patrimonial estates longest in the same places, without waste or dissipation. An observation very just, says our historian. There are divers other families hereabout who have held their estates coeval with the Conquest, and of the same degree." The church dedicated to St. Margaret is a strong building of stone, with a tower at the west end of it. It was erected in 1313 upon a spot where the ruins of a former church stood. It has since been restored, the south wall of the roof timbers being the same from the year 1313, and a few of the lights of glass. A window was cut in at the time of the Puritans. "In the church are several
Arms. Per pale sable and gules, three lions passant argent.
Crest. Out of a mural crown per pale gules and sable a lion's jamb erect argent, armed of the first.
Motto. "Tu ne cede me."
monuments, viz: for John Evershed the elder, John Evershed the younger, and Anne his wife, John Evershed, Esq.; John Steer the younger and Ellen Steere the wife of John Steer the elder, William Steer of Jays in the parish of Wotton, Gent, & two of his daughters, John Steer the elder," etc. Manning and Bray's "History of Surrey"* gives the monumental inscriptions in full of some of the above mentioned, as being on stone tombs in the churchyard, and the same monuments are spoken of in the fourth volume of Aubrey's "Natural History and Antiquities of Surrey." t Henry Steere, above mentioned, lived at " Trouts," an old farm-house of the Tudor period which dates back to 1540, and which is still in existence and is owned by Sir Leopold Heath of Anstis Grange. The picture of this house, reproduced in print from a photographic view, faces the opening of this chapter. "Youngs" was another ancient residence of the Steeres. Arepresentation of this old homestead, built between 1600 and 1700, is also given. . Another branch of the family lived at Ockley Court, where now resides Colonel Calvert, a descendant of the illustrious Sir George Calvert, afterwards Lord Baltimore, upon whom a royal patent of the territory of Maryland was bestowed. In many respects and in many parts these parishes have not altered for the past two hundred and fifty years.
The Manor of Cudworth (or Cudeford), dating back to 1299, was purchased by Lee Steere, Esq., in 1775, and the Manor of Ockley by the same in 1784, but Mr. Steere died before the latter was conveyed to him. In his will, however, he directed the purchase to be completed, and that this and his other estates should be settled to provide a jointure for his wife, an annuity for life to his daughter Elizabeth who had married Mr. Richard Witts, and that the son of the latter should inherit this extensive property by assuming the surname of Steere instead of Witts, which he did in 1795, on his coming ofage.ij: At Wotton, in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, a handsome tablet serves to denote the vault of the ancient family of Steered
Not far from Ockley and Cudworth, in the parish of Newdigate, in the Church of St. Peter, the Rev. George Steere officiated as rector for fifty-three years, from the year 1609 to the year 1662, when he died. He was a very liberal benefactor to the parish, building a school-house, and leaving after him a fund for the maintenance of poor students in Trinity College, Cambridge. The parish register is written " in the very fair hand" of Mr. Steere.|| His wife Joanna, daughter of Thomas Smallpeace, died December 7, 1634, and was buried in the Newdigate Church. They left no children.
Manning and Bray's " History of Surrey" also describes T the monuments
* Vol. 1, p. 165. Hist, of Surrey as "the representative of an opulent
f 5 vols., Lond. 1719. and honorable family of great antiquity."
t Manning and Bray's Surrey, vol. I, p. 175. Mr. § Ibid. vol. 2, p. 56.
Lee Steere, a descendant, is now living on this prop- || Allen's Hist, of County of Surrey, vol. 1, p. 211.
erty, at an advanced age. He is spoken of in Allen's T Vol. I, p. 177.