The John Hooke Tragedy

to Isle of Wight History Centre
The Scientist, The Grocer, The Governor and Grace. Full commentary
Hooke's Diary Extracts from Robert Hooke's diary 1672-1680
Newport Corporation Documents relating to the suicide of John Hooke.
Hooke Family Tree
John Hooke Timeline
Hooke Family Home
Freshwater area in the 17th century
Hooke and Geology
Freshwater Parish
Robert Hooke Timeline
Sir Robert Holmes Timeline
Character Glossary


Family Tree

( Including the Giles family tree )

John Hooke,clerk
Buried 17th October 1648 at Freshwater.
1. Margaret Lawson,widow : Brading 1615
Died January 1616 Brading.
2. Cecelie Gyles : Brading 1622
Died 1665 Newport.
Buried 14 April
1661at Newport.
Baptised 11th May
1628 at Freshwater
Baptised 9th May
1630 at Freshwater
Baptised 19th July
1635 at Freshwater
Married Elizabeth Maynard
2nd August 1658 at Freshwater
Born 2nd May 1660 at Newport.*
Died 1687 in London.
*= "Grace ye daughter of Mr. John Hooke born ye 2d of May 1660" (NPT/REG/COM/4)

A Note on John Hooke, curate and father of John and Robert Hooke

When John Hooke senior actually came to the Isle of Wight is unknown but it can be tentatively dated to around 1610. On 25th July of that year, a licence was issued stating that "John Hooke to be allowed to act as curate for reading prayers in Church of St. Helens till Lady Day next. 25 July 1610." Certainly the church at St.Helens, in the north-east of the Island, had been having problems finding curates in 1607 and 1609. In the Visitation Book for 1607 [21M65/B1/23], St. Helens is listed down as supposedly having a "cur." meaning 'curate'. However there is no name written down - just a blank space but with the following margin comment: "null per 2 mens ult." (none for the last 2 months). The 1609 Visitation Book [21M65/B1/24] also fails to include a name for St. Helens but adds the comment: "null per bini anni. ult." By the time of the next visitation in 1617, St. Helens was being served by a curate called Samuel Wilkins.It would seem that John Hooke was put in to St. Helens as a temporary 'fill-in' measure until a permanent vicar or curate could be found.

Sir John Oglander writes that he employed John Hooke as a tutor for his son, George.

"aftorwardes I tooke Mr. Hooke Curate of Bradinge into my Howse to teache him his axedance [accidence] in which my owne Care, and paynes wase not wantinge" [OG/90/4]

George Oglander was born in 1609, so presuming the earliest age for George to have a tutor was four or five, then John Hooke was working for the Oglanders around 1613 or 1614. Also Oglander quite clearly states he was 'curate of Brading' so presumably John Hooke was deputy to the minister of Brading, a Mr. Edward Gilbert.

In 1615, John Hooke married the twice-widowed Margaret Lawson in Brading Church. She had married Edward Lawson of Brading in 1611 as "Margaret Cordray, widow". They had two daughters - Alice in 1612 and Rebecca in 1614, both baptised in Brading church. In December 1614, Edward Lawson died. Neither daughter out-lived their father by very much, Alice dying in 1618 and Rebecca in 1625. After five months Margaret married John Hooke, "minister". However their marriage was short-lived, for Margaret died in January 1616, when Hooke was described in the parish registers as "minister and curate of Breading". In 1622, he married Cecelie Gyles at Brading. The birth date of his first child, Anne, is not known but Katherine, his second child, was born in May 1628 at Freshwater.

In 1623, there are several references in Sir John Oglander's Commonplace and Account Book to John Hook (OG/90/1).

Other debtes for spendinge mony october the 20th 1623
Mr. Hooke    4li - 0 -

To Mr. Hooke for my proxie tithe    3 - 0 - 0

May the 20th
To Mr. Hooke for    0 - 0 - 0 (sic)

This dates his move from Brading to Freshwater at some point between 1623 and 1628. Presumably, he moved to Freshwater to take up the position of curate of Freshwater parish church. It is not known whether Sir John Oglander recommended him or even procured him the post, but this is a possibility, given an age when patronage was often a very important factor in a person's professional advancement.

Freshwater Church in the early 19th century

Freshwater parish church as it was when John Hooke was curate.
Freshwater Church today

Freshwater Church today.

A Note on the Gyles/Giles Family

Robert Hooke's mother, Cecillie, was a Giles [Gyles]. Her father, Robert Giles, a merchant from Brading, had at least four children: Richard, Constance, Thomas and Cecillie.

Cecillie married John Hooke senior in Brading. Her brother, Thomas, married a Jane Greenwoode and they had eight children at least, one of whom was Robert Giles, born in 1632/33. This Robert Giles, cousin of Robert Hooke, is the one often alluded to by Hooke in his diaries. He had at least nine children, one of whom was Tom Gyles, the boy who went to live with Robert Hooke in London. This therefore makes Tom Gyles the second cousin of Robert Hooke.

THE GILES FAMILY TREE, showing the link between the Hooke and the Giles cousins.

Robert Gyles was described as a "shoemaker" in his will and inventory and lived in Brading, a small borough town in the east of the Island. He lived in a house of two hearths but had added another by 1673 (Hearth Tax 1664, 1673 & 1674).

Robert Gyles remained in regular contact with Robert Hooke until his death in 1692/93. Initially, contact concerned his son, Tom. Like John Hooke with Grace, Robert Giles sent this son, Tom, up to London to live in Robert Hooke's household.

12 July 1675
Tom Gyles came by carrier on Thursday, a pretty boy, good at Reading Arithmetic etc. his mind for sea.
Hooke used Tom as an errand boy, but also taught Tom alongside Grace and the two youngsters seem to have become good companions. Although at one point in March 1676, Hooke wanted to send him home to Brading, it would seem that he gave in, when Tom broke down in tears, begging not to be sent away. Then, after Tom's death in September 1677, so poignantly described by Hooke in his diary, communication between the two cousins concerned the rent of the property which Robert Gyles was leasing from Hooke. It would seem that Giles was renting his Brading property from Robert Hooke. In February 1688/89, Hooke "instructed him about repairing his house".

However, the relationship between Gyles and Hooke was more than just that of a tenant and landlord. In April 1689, Hooke paid "Yarwell 4s. for 3f. telescope for R. Gyles", while in May, he bought "Newspapers for R. Giles 4d" and sent them down to him. Again, as with his brother and his neice, we find Robert Hooke showing concern for some of his more humble family members, and a willingness to help them out. Indeed, it was Hooke who organised the funeral of Tom Giles. Given the fact that Hooke tended to write very brief, succinct entries in his diary, it is clear that he felt a good deal of affection for his second cousin from the amount of space he devotes to Tom's illness and funeral in his diary. However, this loyalty and regard did not extend to giving them free hand-outs, for he took account of all money they owed him and expected all financial affairs to be conducted in a business-like manner. On occasions, he was quite happy to send them expensive gifts, but rents and loans were expected to be paid.

Robert Giles died in 1673 and Robert Hooke was informed of this by Nell Young, who even at this date was Hooke's main channel for news from the Island. However, the Giles connection did not end there, for in 1707, Thomas Giles, the twin brother of Robert Giles, started an action in Chancery to recover his rightful inheritance from Elizabeth Stephens and Anne Hollis, both women also being cousins of Robert Hooke. Thomas, who was living in Virginia at the time of Robert Hooke's death, claimed that Elizabeth Stephens and her daughter's husband had taken advantage of his absence from England by conspiring to rob him of his part of the estate of Robert Hooke, due to him as inheritance.

Robert Hooke's Isle of Wight property.
It is clear that, on his death, Robert Hooke possessed property on the Isle of Wight, one of which was a house leased to Robert Giles. The other property was a house rented to a tenant, called James Way. Once again, information about this new tenant reaches Robert Hooke through Nell Young, who, in 1689, tells him "that new tenant Wey was an able man." Robert Hooke required both Giles and Way to pay their rent money to Capt. Charles Newland, one of the merchant Newland family, who lived in East Cowes. Newland had close business links with a certain Captain Peter Paggen of London. Paggen seems to have kept regular contact with Newland by ship, presumably for the purpose of trading. Paggen also took letters for Hooke to Newland, which he then passed on to Robert Giles. Giles in turn paid his rent to Newland and then sent a bill of exchange on to Hooke, whereupon Hooke presented this bill to Capt. Paggen, who duly paid him the money.

James Way was required to use the same proceedure to pay his rent, which was 8. 18s. 6d. a year. In the Hearth Tax records, there are several listings of a James Way in both the Quarr and Wootton areas. However, in 1689, Way was described as a "new tenant", so he may well have moved from Quarr or Wootton to Hooke's property, so its location still remains unsure.