CHAPTER 11 – Henry GEE – Reforming Mayor of Chester




Throughout England during the thirteenth and fourteenth century’s peace was largely kept through the jurisdiction of the local officials and their courts.  They tried to institute the same practice in Cheshire and Derbyshire.  In medieval times the “Lord of the Manor” was responsible for maintaining the peace.  The Lord maintained a bailiff, sheriff, coroner and a notary and each office holder had their specific task within the hierarchy of the judicial system.  Maintenance of the peace during these early centuries was a complicated and problematic business. 

King Henry the first decreed that the method of death for robbers and outlaws was to be by hanging.  However, in Cheshire, hanging was not used.  Amputating heads was. 

Cheshire and Derbyshire were frontier areas during the 1100’s to 1400’s attracting many lawbreakers from other areas of England thereby creating a place of disorder.  A faster more effective method of law and order was required to bring outlaws and robbers to justice rather than waiting for the more time-consuming and sedate judicial system of the local courts and so was born the office of “hereditary master-serjeant”.  In short:  a professional police force. 

Of all of the functions sanctioned by this office, in the 13th and 14th centuries, the most important perquisite the serjeants held was the power to execute outlaws and receive, in the early days, 1 shilling per head. After 1316, the fees increased to 2 shillings plus a salmon for a master-minded outlaw with one shilling for his accomplices.  In still later years the fee increased to 12 shillings for every head amputated.   

Lancashire had such an office:  Hereditary master-serjeant.  And this master-serjeant maintained under him officers called “serjeants” sometimes numbering between 8 and 14.  In short definition, this officer was a legitimized peace officer with the power to be “judge-jury-executioner” parceled under one umbrella.  The office holder of this “title” bypassed all other formalities.  This peculiar office can trace its roots back to at least 1181, and possibly earlier.

In Cheshire, as in no other place in England, the hereditary master-serjeant received his appointment from the Earl with no interference from any other official thereby contributing to the longevity of this system solely in Cheshire, specially the Hundred of Macclesfield. 

For example, in the Cheshire Pipe Roll entries for 1181-1187, payments were regularly made to the officers of the Earl who could have included the master-serjeant. For presenting each robber’s head at the Chester Castle (the King’s domain), the officers of the Earl received a payment of one shilling per head.  Until 1276, the Pipe Rolls did not always link directly, these payments to the master-serjeant; it seems that payments were made to other officials.  However, in the Pipe Rolls of 1276 and later, the master-serjeant was linked directly to the payments and the fee of one shilling per head was by then the established fee.  This office along with its duties became the exclusive use of the man holding the title of master-serjeant. 

And so the practice of making this position “Hereditary” came into being during the latter ½ of the twelfth century.  These “Pipe Rolls” came to be called the “Robber Rolls” with the first one dated as early as 1300. 

The exact nature of the so called “Robber Roll” has never been properly validated nor the contents of it interpreted. 

There was a protection system in place in Medieval England called an avowry.  Under this system if a person owed money to another person for whatever reason, then the individual who was owed the money could seize the offender’s property of any kind, be it land, sheep, cattle, horses, grain without prior court approval.  In today’s society, we first need court approval; then accompanied by a bailiff, to do that. 

The Avowries or Advowries of Cheshire took this practice to a new level, in that the Earl of the era used it as a source of income.  There is very little written about this obscure feature in Cheshire although this reference from Ormerod’s “History of Cheshire” states:  “….the bailiff-ships of the Advowries of the county were offices of importance and profit….” 

But then the Pipe Rolls support this claim in that there were regular entries stating payments for severed heads and to whom the payments were made.  During the early eras, 1100 – 1200, when the serjeant took his severed head to the Castle for payment of his shilling, he didn’t have to justify what he confiscated, if anything, from the outlaw.  That practice came later, whereby he was required to make a claim of anything that he confiscated. This began to erode the system, in that the serjeants be-headed robbers or outlaws, for something such as the “taking of two stags” or “assault”.  This entry “William le Taillor assaulted Roger de Stanylondes by cutting off Roger’s hand with a sword and so maltreated him that his life was despaired of.  William fled to the church of Macclesfield.    The serjeants went to William’s house and appointed a day for him to come and make his peace.  On the appointed day the serjeants sought William at his house, and not finding him there, took all of the goods that they found in his house and presented them to their mistress (Queen of England at Cheshire Castle).  [William’s] son Robert came and claimed that the goods were his not his father’s, but an inquiry judged them to be rightly forfeit to the Queen.”  Presumably William was beheaded for his dastardly deed and his son, Robert, never retrieved his father’s property. 

This system of “Avowry” was intended to be used only if a debtor owed money to the debtee.  However, the decline of the office of the hereditary master-serjeant began to happen in the fourteenth century due to the lawless activities of the acting serjeants and the misuse of the power of the avowry.   The office lost its original nature. 

In most places in medieval England, the only sentence of death that could be affixed without police was “Outlawry” and this could be done in the county court.  However, Cheshire had the advantage of the system of master-serjeant who was an all encompassed “Judge-jury-executioner”.  

In Lancashire, the serjeantries became hereditary by 1150.  In Cheshire, by 1200.  The earliest documentation of a hereditary charter in Cheshire was the one whereby Ranulf de Blundeville, granted the office of master-serjeant to Vivian de Davenport and his heirs circa 1217.  Vivian heired this office to two later generations of Davenport’s, his son and grandsons.  Prior to this date, this office was held by Adam de Sutton. 

Robbers or outlaws where never executed in Lancashire or Derbyshire.  Outlaws were only beheaded throughout the forest or the Hundred of Macclesfield and sometimes short distances from the western boundaries of the Hundred of Macclesfield.  The river DEE seemed to one of those borders.  Some beheadings also took place in bordering Staffordshire.  This may mean that perhaps the serjeants chased robbers outside their jurisdictions and took it upon themselves to behead their quarry outside of their actual boundaries.  

Between 1217 and 1320, 170 cut-purses, thieves, outlaws and murderers were executed and their severed heads presented.  In September 1377, a well-known robber, John Fraysell, confessed his crimes and the serjeants amputated his head.  They then confiscated his horse, which was valued at 10 shillings.  The serjeants were entitled to demand a proportion of the chattels and goods confiscated from felons as part of their fee.  This updated system differed greatly than in earlier periods (1100-1200) where the serjeants simply kept the goods they took from the alleged felon.

 It is worth noting here that a necessary prior condition to beheading outlaws was the right to be able to make an arrest.  The serjeants had “an ex-officio power to arrest or place under attachment, on their own suspicions or upon that of others communicated to them.” 

In 1307 the holder of the office of master-serjeant who was Thomas de Davenport either because he became too large of a land-owner with too many other duties or because he became involved in royal and military affairs, leased the sergeantry to Henry de COTTON for a period of two years, at £10 per annum.   He then successively leased it from thereafter at the rate of £10.13.4 per year.  The office became an item of wealth, like a piece of land.


   Bramhall, as shown left,  is an example of the half-timbered architecture of the era.  Bramhall, like other contemporary   halls of its class was originally built in quadrangular form.  When peaceful times came, the owners wanting a more open look did this by doing away with one side of the quadrangle and swept away the gatehouse.  The south east wing contained a domestic chapel and a banquet room.  One of its most noteworthy features, “the long gallery” disappeared.  Bramhall was originally owned by Geoffrey de Bromale (Bramhall)  but passed to the Davenports when John de Davenport married one of his two surviving children, Alice de Bramhall [1340-1403] circa 1360. 

The Davenports built what is primarily the “Bramhall” of today.

 This picture came from an old book entitled “Memorials of Old Cheshire” written in 1841 and published in 1910.  There are more hand drawn pictures in this book of the Old Bramhall.

Thus began the decline of this “police force”.   Some of the acting serjeants occasionally partook in lawless activities themselves.  One such incident: “in 1360, John de Davenport of Bramhall [the 1st Lord of Bramhall 1320-1401] and William de Tulgreve of Teverton and at least a hundred other men, cut turves at Tilston within the forest area….. and carried them in carts to Teverton outside the forest and while they were digging they kept watch night and day with bow, arrows, swords and shields.” 

There are many more instances like the one mentioned, involving John de Davenport of BRAMHALL.  In a book about the Davenports of Davenport, on page 21 the author states: “John de Davenport’s (of BRAMHALL) position in the Davenport pedigree is problematical.” The author doesn’t exactly state what the problem was.  One might infer from this comment that part of the problem was John de Davenport was a legitimized  thief and murderer, who used his office to prey on innocent people for profit and power. 

Another incident dated the 10th February 1365:  “A John de Damport, serjeant of the peace of the Hundred of Macclesfield and over 45 other Cheshire men, were accused in an inquiry on a complaint by Elizabeth, widow of Nicholas de Wortelay, Knight, of having come by night to Wortelay Yorkshire to ravish her, and inflict other evil on her, broke her gates, doors, windows, chests; threatened her so that she fled through a window and hid for a night in a thicket…….they broke the seals of her deeds and writings, tore some in pieces, carried goods away, assaulted her men and servants………..” This was John de Davenport.  It should be noted here that John never inherited the office of hereditary master-serjeant.  It was possible that he either leased it or was simply appointed “serjeant” by one of his relatives. 

~Artist rendition of Old Bramhall Cheshire~

Between 1362 and 1446, there were hundreds more persons recorded accused of crimes, some more serious than others, and the usual punishment was meted out, with goods, chattels, property, etc. confiscated.  The system and its enforcers had become corrupt.  Men who had stolen a loaf of bread were beheaded and yet “eight Cheshire murderers were given pardons for military service.”  

Towards the latter part of the 15th century, the duties of “hereditary master-serjeant” were becoming more redundant, with the amounts of money collected being less and less each year.  By the time of Henry GEE’S first tenure as sheriff of Chester, the office of the sheriff seemed to be a better solution to maintaining law and order. 

Information about John de Davenport of BRAMHALL (1st Lord Bramhall) is stated here because he was the great grandfather of Isabel and Margaret Davenport, one of whom married Anthony Shallcross circa 1520.  Another of his great granddaughters, Margery Davenport married Leonard Shallcross in 1553.  Henceforth, the GEEs of Derbyshire are related to the above John, as great grand-children, slightly removed. 

It was into this atmosphere, that Henry GEE was born.  Did this shape his puritanical beliefs and his indignant sensibility of right and wrong?  

I am including a small chapter on Henry GEE of Manchester and later of Chester in Cheshire.  Historical data placed Henry GEE in Manchester about 1500, as a merchant; then placed him in Cheshire in 1527, as sheriff of Chester. 

Although we cannot say for sure, it is possible that Henry GEE is related somehow to Robert GEE of Lydgate in Chinley, Derbyshire. Robert GEE possibly originated in Manchester and settled in Chapel-en-le-Frith circa 1500. And who was their father?  Possibly Alexander or Dicon GEE.  However, DNA testing may be the only true way to prove or disprove parentage. 

Also included are some records in this narrative that show some very prominent GEES in Manchester between 1500 and 1600, with some of them holding public office.  

The old map of 1673 shows Cheshire and Derbyshire bordering each other.  The city of Chester is about 52 miles from Chapel-en-le-Frith,    about 41 miles from Manchester; Chapel-en-le-Frith is located 20 miles from Manchester.  These three places form a triangle.  

By the 16th century, the GEE family was well connected, both in Derbyshire and Cheshire.  They married into leading families such as the Shallcross family;  Calverley, Sneyd, Davenport, Booth families. 

  1. Henry GEE was born circa 1475 possibly in Manchester and he died in Chester, Cheshire on the 6th September 1545.  It is believed he married at least twice.  His first wife is unknown but it is possible that he married a cousin. His second wife was Elizabeth SNEYD. She was also married twice.  Her first husband was Sir William CALVERLEY. 

Merchant's Mark of Henry Gee of Chester (d. 1545).Henry Gee’s Merchant mark.

On Henry’s brass monument in Holy Trinity Church in Chester there is a plaque that commemorates him:  “Here under lyeth the body of Henry Gee twoo tymes mayer of this cetye of Chester whyche decessyd the vith day of September an. Dui. MV XLV on who is soulle Jhu hve mercy.”       

~Children of Henry GEE and first Unknown wife were~ 

  1. Edmund Gee B.   Died 1551.  Edmund married a sister of Richard Shallcross.  (Brother and sister married brother and sister, creating two sets of double cousins).  They had one known child, Elizabeth GEE.  Elizabeth GEE married Edward CONWAY. 

       Merchant's Mark of Edmond Gee of Chester (d. 1550)  Edmund Gee’s Merchant mark.

A UNIQUE EVENT:   One of Britain’s oldest festivals is Chester’s “Midsummer Watch” which began circa 1498.  The parade was organized by the city’s guilds and took place every year except when the Chester Mystery Plays were performed. The parade and plays took place originally during the summer solstice. The most outstanding feature of the parade was the enormous giants made out of buckram and pasteboard and carried by 2 or more men.  The city paraded a whole family of giants:  a father, mother and two daughters.

In 1564 the midsummer watch parade included: “4 gyants, 1 unikorne, 1 dromodarye, 1 luce, 1 camell, 1 dragon, 6 hobbyhorses and 16 naked boys.“  Eventually, the naked boys were dropped from the parade.

      2.     Anne GEE was born ? and died circa 1593. She married Henry HARDWARE in 1560, who has been described as a “godly, zealous man…” Henry was the son of  William Hardware (Allcock).  Henry was a puritan.  Henry cancelled the “Mystery Plays” in 1575.  Henry was mayor of Chester in 1559 and then again in 1575.  Anne inherited “Peele Hall” in Little Moldesworth from her father, Henry Gee.  Henry Gee purchased Peele Hall, which was originally built within a moat. In his will dated1545 he leaves to Anne: “….to have all my lands in MOLDESWORTH….” Anne and Henry had 13 children.

~Children of Anne GEE and Henry HARDWARE were~

  • Henry HARDWARE who was Mayor of Chester in 1599. In 1600  Henry cancelled the Midsummer Watch Parade because he thought the festival was an ungodly gathering that encouraged people to have a good time and behave badly.    Henry thought the giants looked like pagans and ordered them broken up.  Fortunately, his successor restored the festival along with the parade and rebuilt the giants.
  • John HARDWARE who died young.
  • Elizabeth HARDWARE (Circa 1551-18th January 1596) was married twice.  First to John Cowper (Alderman of Chester); second to John Bruen circa 1579.  Elizabeth was buried in Tarvin, Cheshire, England.  They had nine children.
  • Jane HARDWARE married Thomas HARBOTTLE (sheriff of Chester in 1587 – 1588).
  • Margaret HARDWARE (1563-1626) married Edward DUTTON in 1584 (Mayor of Chester 1604).  They had 4 girls and 2 boys.
  • Eleanor HARDWARE married Gerard MASSY (Rector of Wiggan).
  • Catherine HARDWARE married Reverend Matthew HENRY.  His father was Reverend Phillip Henry (1631-1696) and his mother was Catherine MATTHEWS.
  • 8 – 13 Unknown

       3.    Margaret GEE.

      4.    Rondell (Randle) GEE.

      5.    Elizabeth GEE.  Elizabeth married Richard SHALLCROSS (? – 1555).  They had one known child, Elizabeth SHALLCROSS.  Richard was the son of James SHALLCROSS (? – ). 

~An exciting moment at the Roodee during the races at Chester circa 1850~ 

The city of Chester lies on the River Dee and is close to the border with Wales.  Chester was granted city status in 1541, one year after Henry GEE’S last term as Mayor.  Chester has four main roads:  Watergate, Northgate, Eastgate and Bridge that were laid out almost 2000 years ago.  Besides containing many medieval buildings, it also boasts of the most complete Roman medieval wall still intact in England and of the oldest race track in England.  This race track is 1.6 kilometers long and the first horse race held here was in 1539. 

In the mayoral days of Henry GEE and his son, Edmund GEE, Welsh was spoken in the streets of Chester. 

Chester, in the early 1500’s used to host a very bloody and violent game called “Goteddsday footeball” or “Mob Footeball” with a ball made out of leather.  Sometimes this game was played by different towns or different guilds, such as shoemakers and saddlers (not coincidentally men who worked with leather); sometimes feuding families; the game originated at the Roodee and the object of the game was to get possession of the ball and to take it to the house of the Mayor or the Sherriff.  This game had an unlimited number of players on both sides.  This game used to become bloody and violent, people being trampled, breaking arms and legs, concussions, endangering lives in the meantime; therefore it was banned in 1533. 

Then a similar game was played whereby the saddlers tossed a wooden ball into the crowd and the crowd fought over it.  This game too was banned and on the 9th February 1539 the first horse race was held.  

“In the tyme of Henry Gee, Mayre of the King’s citie of Chester, in the XXXI yere of King Henry Theght, a bell of sylver, to the value of IIIs IIIId, is ordayned to be the reward of that horse which shall runne before all others.” 

Henry GEE was the founding father of the Chester races, called the Henry Gee Stakes and was run every Shrove Tuesday until 1609 in Chester. Thereafter they were run on St. George’s Day.   He was also in his second term of mayor of Chester – 1539-1540.  His name is still remembered today for the running of this race. 

Henry GEE was also one of about 40 merchants operating in Chester between 1500 and 1550.  It was noted that Henry GEE “shared a cargo which included canvas, buckram, glass, honey, black soap, velvet, trenchers, a round table and a bed case.”  He also left “7£ to a Spanish business acquaintance” called Salse who he said in his will “for the good love that I bear unto him…” 

By the early 16th century, men from Manchester were becoming more active in the textile trade.  Closer ties were forged by members of the Gee and Aldersey families marrying into Manchester families.  It is suggestive that Henry Gee hailed from Manchester. 

Henry Gee is also known as “The Reforming Mayor of Chester.”  He served two terms:  1534-1534 and 1539-1540.  In his first term, Henry Gee was determined to change how the government operated. 

Henry Gee was puritan in outlook.  Both as Sheriff and Mayor, Henry Gee “acted against unlawful gaming, drink, and excessive celebrations on Christmas Day. He introduced regulations concerning women’s proper dress and parties accompanying childbirth and churching. He proposed to list legitimate beggars by ward, and required the able-bodied to present themselves for work each day and all [boys] aged six to attend school. He even forbade women aged between 14 and 40 to serve ale, invoking the need to preserve the city’s good reputation in order to attract visitors”.   

Accusations of county interference in civic elections also surfaced under the mayoral term of Henry Gee, which he tried to correct. 

The first Assembly minute book was begun on the initiative of Henry GEE during his second mayoralty, 1539-40. It seems to have been intended as a reference book, for the first folios contain copies of earlier records, for example a list of mayors and sheriffs from 1326; a description of the city boundaries and streets; a list of officers’ fees; and a list of Corporation property. Assembly orders dating from c.1453 are also copied in and it is not until c.1570 that decisions taken at Assembly meetings begin to be recorded on a systematic basis. 

Henry Gee was concerned about the quality of government.  One of the changes he tried to make was to prevent mayoral nomination of aldermen.  Gee also reformed the way the elections were carried out.  He set it so that the elections had to be carried out at the assembly meetings. 

In his second term (1539-1540) he addressed further abuses of the governmental system.  That was the favoritism on the part of the Mayors giving civic office to non-qualified persons.  He gave power to the Mayor and the Sheriffs to remove anyone incompetent and not qualified and gave more power to the aldermen.    

During his second term he also took control of the purse strings, accusing the previous mayors of being irresponsible and wasting money.   He instituted the reform that the entire council be consulted about expenditures.  He also instituted that “only honest men be allowed in the city’s exchequer.” 

He stopped the sale of the city’s common lands and issued regulations for the appointments other lesser city officials. 

Most of his attempts to reform the government met with little success. 

Most of the above information was taken from the site:   “A history of the County of Cheshire, Volume 5”.

1501:  In 1501, Robert Chetham enfeoffed him [being Dr. James Stanley, whose mother Eleanor Nevill was sister of King Henry VII] and others with houses and lands for the endowment of a Chantry within the Collegiate Church, the Warden and one of the Vicars to be perpetual feoffees, this was the Second Chantry at the Altar of S. George.”- Lancashire Chantries, vol. i., p. 46, note.  James Stanley was Bishop of Ely (1506) and he built Stanley Chapel located in Manchester Cathedral.

1501:  Chantry is the English term for a fund established to pay for a priest to celebrate sung Masses for a specified purpose, generally for the soul of the deceased donor. Chantries were endowed with lands given by donors, the income from which maintained the Chantry priest. 

The early 1500’s century saw the construction of an almost complete sequence of Chantry Chapels for local guilds along both north and south sides of the church (Manchester Cathedral).  One of those was St. George aforementioned. 

In 1501 Henry GEE and James SHALCROSSE (whose father was possibly Benedict SHALCROSSE) were to receive this income to maintain the Chantry of St. George.  Charles GEE, who was a priest, was the cantor (a cantor was either a choir leader or one who leads in prayer) at St. Nicholas at the Manchester Cathedral.  Henry GEE and James SHALLCROSSS are possibly two of the perpetual feoffees (acceptor of a fee) mentioned above in Robert CHETHAM’S will.

1517:   Great visitation of Bubonic Plague; grass grew a foot high at the High Cross and other streets in the city. Many, it was said, died “whilst opening their windows.” A silence descended upon the city, relieved only by the cry of the watchmen calling “bring out your dead” as they went their rounds with the Dead Carts. Before the plague bore down upon the city, many citizens claimed they witnessed a fiery halo of light in the heavens above.

1521:  11th June an indenture was issued by which John Leichestire gave a grant of all his messuages in three townships to Humphrey Newton and Henry Henshawe.  Edward GEE was one of the occupants of one or some of those properties.

 1523:     20th August 1523, Isabell CHETHAM died, and part of her will reads:  “…..And whereas the said Isabell lately by my deed have enfeoffed Sir Alexander RADCLIIFE knight; Sir Hugh M’LER; Roger M”LER; Henrye GEE and Richard WOLSTENCROFT and their heirs forever and in certain burrages, lands, tenants, and ii lands with appendages lying upon the acres within the town of Manchester…..” 

Enfeoffed means to be put in possession of land in exchange for a pledge of service (feudal terminology).  

Isabel CHETHAM left lots of money and land to maintain several Chantries.  And it appears that Henry GEE was one of the perpetual grantees to whom she and her husband, Robert, entrusted their money to at least for 25 years.  

This bit of history I found on page 42 to 46 of the book “Lancashire Chantries” and validates the stories that have been written about Henry GEE and his un-wavering honesty and charitable good works that he performed in his lifetime. 

It needs to be noted here that the Manchester Grammar School was founded circa 1500 on a site adjacent to the Manchester Cathedral and was totally funded from private sources.  It was free to boys between the ages of 7 and 18 years of age.  The founder of this school was Hugh Oldham.  It is probable that this school planted the seeds of change in Henry GEES mind, for when he later became mayor of Chester, this was one of his goals – free education for boys over the age of 6 years. 

1527:  Henry GEE served as sheriff of Chester.

1533:   The Mayor of Chester, Henry Gee, ordered that “no manner person or persons go abroade in this citie mumming in any place within the said citie, their fayses being coveryd or disgysed (because) many dysordered persons have used themselves rayther all the day after idellie in vyse and wantoness then given themselves to holy contemplation and prayre the same sacryt holye and prynsepaul feast.”  He also ordered that ale, beer and wine were not to be sold after 9 pm on any day or after Divine Service on Sundays. The reforming Mayor Gee also had much to say regarding the activities of Chester’s citizens on the Roodee, the name of the race track.  “Roodee” is a deviation of the name “Rood Eye – meaning Island of the Cross.”

1534:  an inquiry was held by the King on the 8th February if Randle GEE and 35 others held a riot on the Moor of Plumley. 

1537:  Chester’s religious houses were suppressed on the order of the Mayor, Ffoulk DUTTON. 

1534 to 1540:   In the Chester and Cheshire archives, there are numerous entries (too many to list in detail here) of Henry Gee, Mayor and Draper (cloth merchant), issuing directives for various actions.  He issued precepts to summon jury’s totally 24 persons to sit in judgment for crimes committed such as felony and murder; ordering inquests for coroners to determine cause of death for certain deceased people, usually murders; and issuing what we call a warrant (precept) for the arrest of suspected criminals. 

1542-1543:      Edmund GEE, Henry’s son, served as sheriff of Cheshire. 

1544:  Edmund GEE merchant, asked that the hull of a certain ship called the “Barbara”, with three masts. “le boll sprete, iio aeale yards” of a certain John Whyte should be valued.  Edmund GEE, merchant asked that 6 silver spoons be appraised.  

1546:  Edmund GEE, son of the incorruptible mayor, Henry Gee, was importing wine with a Spanish partner, into Liverpool. 

1550-1551:   During Edmund Gee’s term as Mayor of Chester, he issued much the same type of precepts as his father before him.  Edmund died during his reign as mayor to the “black death”. 

1591:  27th July Humphrey Gee along with 7 others were presented to court for riotous assembly and stealing bark from John Legh. 

1559 – 1593:   The city of Manchester, before the charter of incorporation was granted, was vested in a borough-reeve, a constable and other officers, elected or appointed.  Following is a list of GEEs who were “borough-reeves”. 

  1. 1559  – 1560: John GEE (died 1589).
  2. 1576-1577-1578:  John GEE.
  3. 1580 – 1581:  Henry GEE.
  4. 1592 – 1593:  John GEE. 


The thanks of all Archaeologists of this country are due to Mr. Alderman Gee, Mayor of Chesterfield, for the spirit and enterprise that he that shown in causing the publication, at his own expense, of all that remains of the records of the ancient borough of Chesterfield.  The editor then relates how careless that the caretakers of the records of Chesterfield have been abused “over the past one hundred years.”  The editor states that through the disgraceful loss or purloining of public records much history has been lost. 

The editor then says: “Chesterfield still preserves a remarkable and original series of royal charters, as well as other valuable and interesting documents.  Mr. Gee’s scholarly munificence has caused the whole of these documents to be printed in extenso.”  

What the editor was complaining extensively about was the loss of certain records for a specified period of time at the hands of a Mr. Pegge, amongst others.  This editor was apparently impressed with Henry GEE. 

(Derbyshire Journal of Archaeology and Natural History; volumes 5 and 69, pages 162, 163. Published in 1884.) 

The following will was written in medieval English and was almost non-readable.  So I have translated the will as follows: 

~WILL OF HENRY GEE – 2nd September 1545~

IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN, The Second day of September in the year of our Lord God A thousand five hundred [     ] th and in the year of our most dread Sovereign Lord Henry the Eighth   BY THE GRACE of God of England France and Ireland King the xxxijth and defender of the faith and in inheritor of the Church of England and also of Ireland Supreme Head   I HENRY GEE citizen and alderman of the city of CHESTER being of whole mind and in good perfect remembrance Lord and Praise be unto Almighty God make and ordain this my last testament contending herein my last will in manner and form following  THAT I TO SAY FIRST that first and principally I commend my soul unto Christ Jesus my maker and redeemer in whom I by the merit of whose blessed passion is all my whole trust and clean remissions and forgiveness of my sins  AND MY BODY to be buried where God shall dispose it I will that my wife shall have my dwelling in CHESTER without any rent paying making my repcion with all cupboards coffers bed-stocks tables benches hangings and beds as it does stand now and a standing cuppe that her faith gave me during her life   AND THEN TO remain to my daughter ANNE and to her heirs of her body lawfully begotten and further my said wife and my daughter ANNE to have all my lands in MOLDESWORTH and my farm in LITTLE MOLDESWORTH and  the mills  THAT IS TO SAY two parts of all this same to my wife during her life and the third part to my daughter ANNE and if so be that my brother-in-law do acquit out the lands in MOLDESWORTH then I will that my daughter ANNE shall have to her marriage the one half of the same money, which is a hundred and five pounds  AND THE HALF of my farm in LITTLE MOLDESWORTH and she to receive the same money at the hands of my executors the putting in Surety [bonds] to my wife and other her friends as well for the payment of the same as for to be accountable for her part of the same and my wife to have the other half which is a hundred and five pounds and the custody of my daughter and my executors to have and receive all such her part of lands goods or take unto such time as she be married putting in Surety [bonds] as in above written and paying unto my wife of the same her part iijli vjs viijd for her table and apparel so long as she does keep her  AND I WILL if it please God to call for my wife that my daughter shall have all my lands in MOLDESWORTH my house in CHESTER and the residue of my heirs of LITTLE MOLDESWORTH to her and to the heirs of her body lawfully begotten  AND IF IT PLEASE God to call for my daughter before my wife the said daughter dying without heirs of her body lawfully begotten then I will my executor shall have the part that my daughter had to her performance of her will  AND FURTHER I will that if my brother do acquit out my lands and  my daughter die before she marry my executors to have her part of money to the performing of this my will and to pay my debts  AND FURTHER I  will that my daughter shall not marry without the advice of my wife and my executors and she does to have but the third part of my lands in MOLDESWORTH or the third part of my money that is paid for the same and where I lately purchased the manor in MANLEY and certain lands and tenements in MANLEY, ELTON & ALMONLEY within the county of CHESTER of Lawrence DUTTON late of MANLEY  AND I WILL that Ralph DUTTON of HATTON, Esquire, shall have the same manor and the said lands to him and his heirs and assigns for en’………. or to such person or persons as the said Ralph shall name and appoint  AND THAT MY executors shall do and make all assurance and astat’s for the making sure of the same as shall be devised by the said Ralph DUTTON upon the costs of the same Ralph  AND THAT MY executors shall hold and occupy the said manor and other the premises until the Feast of the Annunciation of our Lady next coming  AND AT THAT time to depart from the same and  no further to meddle therewith  AND FURTHER I will that my executors shall have all my goods, movable and unmovable corn cattle and all other my farm lands or leases  AND ALL SUCH DEBTS as is owing me where should they be or in those lands to the paying of all my debts and to perform and fulfill my will and bequests and my burial  AND FURTHER I WILL that my wife shall make no title nor claim vex or trouble my son EDMOND nor my son-in-law Richard SHALLCROSS for any part of such lands as they have of my gift in CHESTER and MANCHESTER  AND IF SHE DO  trouble or vex them for any part thereof  THEN I WILL that she shall have but the third part of all such lands goods and tacks as I have according to the law  AND FURTHER I WILL that if my daughter ANNE do die without heirs of her body lawfully begotten that then all such lands farms tacks or what money shall be paid for the same, my wife’s part during her life always preserved, shall remain to my son EDMOND and to my daughter MARGARET and to the heirs of their several bodies lawfully begotten  AND FOR DEFAULT of the heirs of the one to remain to the heirs of the other  AND FOR DEFAULT of such heirs then to remain to my right heirs  AND FURTHER I will that my executors shall pay unto Elizabeth SHALLCROSS daughter unto my daughter ELIZABETH xx’ti (42) nobles at her marriage then recompense of all such reckonings and demands between her father and me at the time of his marriage to my daughter  ALSO I WILL  that if my daughter ANNE do die without heirs of her body lawfully begotten that the lands do descend and come to my son EDMOND and daughter MARGARET or to their heirs AND THEN they or their heirs pay to the aforesaid Elizabeth SHALLCROSS xx’li (42) marks more if she be alive  AND FURTHER I will that if John LIGHTFOTTE of BROWNHILL do justly and truly fulfill all such bargains that is between him and me that then my executors shall rebate him at the last payment five marks  AND FURTHER I will that SALSE the Spaniard for the good love that I bear unto him and in compensation of all such reckonings between him and me shall have v’li (7)  I WILL THAT Kathryn CHATHERTON shall have to her marriage in compensation  of all reckonings between her father and me  v (5) marks   I WILL MY wife shall have all my household at the PELE and at MANLEY except such parcel as I do assign to my executors  FURHTER ALL THAT  remains belonging to my body to my executors  ITEM ALL MANNER of work looms as waynes and plows and  other particulars  thereto  belonging  ITEM MY two great pots of Brass   AND I DO MAKE my son RONDELL and my son Edmond Gee mine executors and my brother Edward JANNEY to be overseer  AND IF SO BE my executors will not perform this my will then I will that my brother Edward JANNEY shall have all such goods and be performed this my will   THESE BEING PART  pointe in the making of this my will with my own hand, the day & year above written 

Dame Jane LEE, my sister-in-law Thomas SEYLLYE Henry WILKENSON John SARVOTTE  James CHATERTON  of MOLDESWORTH   with others. 

The sum of his debts which } lxxxxvjli. Xvjs. 8d.    He dyed owing is in the inventory}


In medieval English, the word “yē” was an archaic second plural pronoun but in fact this was not the same word as was used in Henry GEE’s will.   Yē was pronounced “yee or ye”. (I have also copied his original will, following my translation of his will).  

Y’… (ye, y’t, y’r, y’r, etc) – the y in these words was never pronounced as “y”.  This letter sounded liked (th).  However, when printing presses came to England circa 1470, they came from continental Europe and there was no type set for “th”.  So early printers improvised and substituted the letter “y” for “th”.   So we see such spellings:  “ye for the;  y’t for that;  y’y for they;  y’m for them;  y’r for their;   and so on.  The spellings of these words continued like this until the nineteenth century. 


In the name of god Amen, The Second daye off Septembr in the yere of or lord god  A thousand fyve hundrethe (something)th and in the yere of or moate dred Sourayne lord henry the eyth By the graise of god of England fraunce and Ireland kyng ye xxxijth  and defender of the fayth and in yerthe of the churche  of England  and also of Ireland supreme hed/ I Henrie Gee  citisin and alderman of the citi of Chest being of whole mynd and in good pfecte remebranc  laud and prayse be unto almyghti god make and ordene this my pnt testament cotenyng herein my last will in man and forme followyng that I to saye first and pncipalie I commend my soule vnto christ Jesus my maker and redemer in whoume I by ye meryte of whos blessed passion is all my wyole trust and clene remyssins and forgvnes  of my sines/ And my bodie to be buried where god shall dispose it I will yt my wiff shall have my dwelling in Chest wtout any rent paying making my repcion/wt all cubbarts/coffers/bedstocks/ tables/benches/hangings and leds as it dothe stand now and a standing cuppe yt hir faith gave me  during hir life/ and then to remene to my doughtr ANNE/ & to hir heires of hir bodie law fully begotten/ & furth’ my sayd wif & my dought’ anne to haue all my lands in moldesworth/ & my ferme in litil Moldesworth & the mylls/ y’t is to saye ij pt’s of all this same to my wiff duryng hir liff/ & ye third p’te to my dought’ anne & if so be y’t my broth’ in lawe do acquit out ye lands in moldesworth then I will y’t my dought’ anne shall haue to hir mariag’ ye one half of they same money, which is a hundredth and v. pounds;  & ye half of my farme in litill moldesworth, & she to receue ye same money at ye hands of my execut’s the puttyng in surtie to my wiff & oth’ hir frends as well for ye payment of ye same as for to be accou’table for hir pte of ye same and my wif to haue ye oth’ half w’th is a hundredth & v. pounds & ye custodie of my dought’ and my execut’s to haue & receue all such hir p’te of lands goods or take vnto such time as she be maried, puttyng in surties as in aboue written/ and payeng vnto my wiff of ye same hir parte iijli vjs viijd for hir table & apparrell so long as she dothe kepe hir/ and I will, if it plese god to call for my wif, y’t my dought’ shall haue all my lands in moldesworth/ my house in ches’ & ye residue of my eres of litill moldesworth to hir & to ye heres of hir bodie lawfullie begotten/ & if it plese god to cale for my dought’ affore my wiff ye sayd dought’ dieng w’tout  heres of hir bodie lawfullie begotten Then I will my execut’s  shall haue ye p’te y’t my dought’ had to hir p’formanc’ of hir will/ & furth’ I will y’t if my broth’ do acquit out my lands, & my dought’ die afore she marie my execut’s to haue hir p’te of money to ye p’formyng of this my will & to pays my detts/ & furth’ I will y’t my dought’ shall not marie w’tout  the advise of my wif &  my ex- ecut’s, and she dothe to haue but ye thrid part of my lands in moldesworth or ye thrid p’te of my money y’t is payed for ye same & where I latly purchased ye manor in manley & certene lands & teneme’ts in manley, elton & almonley w’tin the cou’tie of chest of lawrenc dutton late of manley/    I will y’t rauf dutton of hatton, esquire, shall haue ye same manor & ye sayd lands to hime & his heires and assinges for en’/ or to such p’son or p’sons as ye said rauf shall name & appoynt/ & y’t my exuct’s shall do & make all as- surance & astat’s for  ye makyng sure of ye same as shallbe devised by ye sayd rauff dutton apon ye costs of ye same rauff/ & y’t my execut’s shall hold & occupie ye sayd mano’r &  oth’ ye p’myses vntill ye feast of the an’unciacio’ of o’r ladie next cumyng/  & at y’t tyme to dep’te ffrom the same, & no furth’ to meddell y’with. And furth’  I will y’t my execut’s shall haue all my goods, movable & vnmovable corne cattle & all oth’ my fermes lands or leases/ and all such detts as is owing me where soeu’ the be or in those lands to ye payeng of all my detts & to p’forme & fulfill my will & bequests & my burial/ & furth’ I will y’t my wiff shall make no titill, nor clame, vex or trowble my sone Edmund nor my sone in lawe ric’ shalcross for any p’te of such lands as y’e haue of my gyfte in chest’ & manchest’ And if she do trowble or vex them for ony p’te y’of/ then I will y’t she shall haue but ye third p’te of all such lands goods & tacks as I haue acco’dyng to ye lawe & furth’ I will y’t if my doughter anne do die w’tout heres of hir bodie lawfully begotten/ y’t then all such lands farmes tacks or what money shall be payed for the same, my wiffes p’te durying hir life alwayes p’sved, shall remene to my sone edmond & to my doughter m’geret & to ye heires of y’r seu’all bodies lawfully begotten, and for defaulte of ye heires of ye one to remene to ye heres of ye oth’r/ & for defaulte of suche heires, then to remene to my right heires/ & furth’ I will y’t my execut’s shall paye vnto elsabth shalcrosse dought’r vnto my dought’r elsabth xx’ti nobles at hir marriage, yn recompence of all suche rec’onyngs & demands betwixt hir  fath’r & me at ye tyme of his mariage to my doughtor/ Also I will y’t if my dought’r anne do die w’tout heires of hir bodie lawfully begotten/ y’t ye lands do discend & com to my sone Edmond & dought’r m’geret or to y’r heires/ and then y’e or y’r heires paye to ye foresayd elisab shallcrosse xx’li marks more, if she be aliue/ & further I will y’t if john lightfotte of of brownehill do ius’tly & truly fulfill all such bargens y’t is betwixt hyme & me y’t then my execut’s shall rebate hime at ye laste payme’te five marks/ & furth’r I will y’t Salse ye spanyerd for ye good loue y’t I bere vnto hyme & in reco’pence of all suche rekenyngs betwixte hym & me shall haue  v’li/ I will y’t katheryn chatherton shall haue to hir marriage, in reco’pence of all rekenyngs betwixt hir fath’r & me, v marks/ I will my wif shall haue all my household at ye pele & at manley except such p’cell as I do assign to my execut’s/ ffyret all ye reme’t belonging to my bodie to my execut’s/ It’m all man’ of workeloomes as waynes & plowes & oth’r p’ticulrs y’rto belonging It’m my tow grett potts of Brasse and I doe make my sone Rondell & my sonne Edmond Gee myne executors & my brother Edward Janney to be ou’sear and yf so be my executors will not p’forme this my will then I will that my brother Edward Jannet shall haue all suche goods and be to p’forme this my wyll These beinge p’nte in ye making of this my will wi’th my oune hand, the day & here aboue written,Dame Jane lee, my slster in awe,Thomas seyllye, henry wilkenson, John Sarvotte, James chaterton of moldesworth, w’th others. The some of his detts w’ch } lxxxxvjli. Xvjs. 8d. He dyd owe is in ye inuetory} 

EDWARD JANNEY:  is mentioned in Henry’s will “and I do make my son Rondell and my son Edmond Gee mine executors and my brother Edward JANNEY to be overseer…..”  

Henry calls Edward his brother but in all probability they were either brother-in-laws or ½ brothers.  Edward Janney was probably married to Henry’s sister.  Edward was godson to Edward Shallcross, son of Richard Shallcross, who was married to Henry GEE’S daughter, Elizabeth. 

Edward Janney was involved with Richard Shallcross in the purchase of the Tavern at Smithy Door in Manchester.  Richard Shallcross was also an executor on his will.  When Edward Janney died, he left his portion of the tavern to his godson, Edward Shallcross.  And he concludes in his will “….forgiveness of any debts in re-compensation for any dealings between…my brother GEE and me.”  

480 years later, one can find Henry GEE”S name being referenced to in the many history articles, travel brochures etc., when referring to the city of Chester. 

Today, thousands of people descend upon the city of Chester for a weekend at the race tracks.  They imbibe in mass quantities of alcohol, engaging in drunken and dis-orderly behavior beginning in the many pubs and spilling out into the streets of Chester, sometimes cursing and fighting, before returning to their homes in other cities.

I wonder what Old Henry GEE would think about that! 


4 responses to “CHAPTER 11 – Henry GEE – Reforming Mayor of Chester

  • geesnmore

    Nicely presented. I continue to enjoy visiting your site. Keep up the good work. Kathryn @

    • Angela Andrew

      Hello Kathryn;

      Thanks again. I don’t know about you, but when I am researching, I come across lots of information that does not pertain to my research. So I create a document and dump all of that info into that document.

      Thats what I had done with Henry GEE. Over the years, I kept pages and pages on him. Since Chester was about 20 miles from Hayfield, that was a bit out of my range. The main reason I kept the information was the GEE – SHALLCROSS connection. Technically Henry GEE and his family are related to each other, through this marriage connection.

      Henry’s will is one of the only wills that I personally didn’t find and/or pay for. I got that will from the site “geeroots”. I see that my will is a tad bit different than yours.

      I see that you have copyrights on your pages. Is that necessary? I haven’t copywritten any of my material, even though some of it is original. Should I be concerned about that?

      I have a very long autobiograhy that I am hesitant to post for that reason.

      Another thing I need to ask you: you mentioned a Canadian connection from one of your pages. That some of the GEEs who emigrated, eventually came north to Canada. I wonder how one can go about verifying that and if there may be some names and dates floating around.

      I visited several graveyards this summer accross the country and I did come across grave site of GEES, whom I took the pictures. I thought someday, who knows, maybe I can connect them!

      I keep going back to your website, as it is very good. It seemed to have disappeared for a while, as I couldn’t find it, but it has come back. Do you have it linked specifically to websites? I have not tried that yet.

      Bye for now.


  • tim gee

    I am from the Wirral but now live in Gibraltar,I am a decendant of John Gee who maried Elisabeth Shallcross daughter of Elizabeth Shallcross and Richard Shallcross and grand daughter of Henry Gee of Chester. I know a lot about the family,but I dont know where this John Gee came from and his parents if any one could help me with this I would be most gratfull. Thank you for your time,
    Tim Gee.

  • tim gee

    If any one can give any info on this John Gee married Elizabeth Shallcross and he died in 1559 Manchester please Email me on


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