CHRISTMAS, George (by 1509-66), of Colchester, Essex.
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Family and Education
b. by 1509, 1st s. of John Christmas of Colchester by Meriel. m. by 1550, Bridget, da. of Robert Foster, at least 1s. suc. fa. 1552/54.1
J.p. Essex 1558/59-d.; commr. sewers, Essex and Suff. 1564; (?dep.) v.-adm. Essex in 1565.2
George Christmas’s great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all bailiffs of Colchester in their day, but it was the grandfather, Thomas Christmas, who was the chief architect of the family fortunes: he invested his profits from the cloth trade in extensive lands in north Essex which he then exploited to the full, and the number and size of his charitable bequests were commensurate with the scale of his money-making. The further shift from trade to land which took place under his son is illustrated by the fall in John Christmas’s subsidy assessment on goods from £1,800 in 1524 to £200 in 1546, although in the course of the litigation between George Christmas and his mother over John Christmas’s will it was claimed that the dead man had left movables to the value of 1,000 marks.3
George Christmas never held office in Colchester and may not even have been a freeman. He probably spent his early years in the service of the most influential Essex man of the time, Thomas Audley I, who in his will of 1544, after mentioning the £100 owed to him by his ‘cousin’ John Christmas, bequeathed £20 of it, and a gelding, ‘to my servant and cousin George Christmas his son’. In 1546 Christmas served in the French war, returning from it in June with a letter of commendation to the Council from the lieutenant of Boulogne, William 13th Lord Grey of Wilton, but he is not heard of again in public affairs before his election to Parliament. In 1552 he and his wife acquired extensive lands from his father, partly at Bradwell-near-the-Sea, Essex, and partly in the parish of St. Botolph’s, Colchester; he also leased from the crown a fulling mill which had formerly belonged to the abbey of St. John’s, Colchester, thus retaining the family interest in cloth-making. It was, however, as ‘esquire alias gentleman’ that he sued out a pardon in November 1553.4
The return of Christmas for Colchester reflects his family’s standing in the town and his marriage connexion with John Lucas. No doubt, too, his election was favoured by the 16th Earl of Oxford. His religious attitude was equivocal, but he served Elizabeth as vice-admiral or deputy to the vice-admiral of Essex. In August 1565 he prevented the recusant Lady Waldegrave’s daughters from escaping overseas and showed diligence against pirates operating from creeks along the Essex coast. He left no will at his death on 23 Feb. 1566, and with the consent of his widow Bridget letters of administration were granted on 30 Apr. 1567 to John Steven. Christmas’s heir was his son John, aged 15.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: D. F. Coros
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference, 1530, Essex RO, D/DRg7/18/21. C2/1339/24-26, 1469/59.
- 2. CPR, 1563-6, p. 39; APC, vii. 253-4; EHR, xxiii. 740n.
- 3. Cal. Colchester Ct. Rolls, ed. PCC 28 Ayloffe; LP Hen. VIII, xviii; C2/1339/24-26; 33/11, f. 310v; E179/108/147, 109/308.
- 4. PCC 1 Alen; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 271, 329; 1553-4, p. 412; 1554-5, p. 46.
- 5. PCC 22 Chayre; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 62; APC, vii. 242, 253-4; C142/144/129.