The Mysterious Mrs Munday

October is Black History Month, which is the ideal time to write about research I’ve been doing on an early figure in Derbyshire’s Black History, Mrs Munday.

I first came across Mrs Munday around ten years ago, when I was working for Sandwell Community History & Archives Service and doing some Black History research there on a completely different person. A parish register at St Martin’s Tipton (now in Sandwell but historically in Staffordshire) reads:

John an Ethyopian boy page to ye Lady Pye was baptized ye 29th day of July 1705.

Extract from St Martin's Tipton parish register 29 July 1705
Extract from the parish register for St Martin’s, Tipton from

This is a very early mention of a person of colour in Sandwell, but the Pyes weren’t a local Tipton family. The only way to find out more about John was to trace ‘ye Lady Pye’ and it turned out there were two Lady Pyes at the time. One was the wife of Sir Charles Pye baronet (1651-1711) of Hone [Hoon], Derbyshire and MP for Derby in 1701 and the other Lady Pye was his mother in London.  I couldn’t find out anything about the older Lady Pye, but the younger seemed more likely anyway, partly because the Pyes lived in Derby (slightly closer to Tipton than London, although it was hardly round the corner) and partly because as a younger woman she might be more fashion-conscious.  At the time, a black page boy was a fashionable status symbol.

Credit: Yale Center for British Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As slavery was legal in England at the time, Lady Pye’s page, John, may well have been enslaved. This 1708 painting of slave trader Elihu Yale (seated in the middle), with the Duke of Devonshire (on the left, wearing red) shows an enslaved page boy like John, standing on the right.

Letters from the younger Lady Pye to her cousins, Abigail and Robert Harley, survive in the archive of the Duke of Portland, and what’s known as a ‘calendar’ of the archive was published in several volumes as a report by the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) – a calendar is a list that includes a detailed summary of the contents of each document.   I took a look at the HMC report in case Lady Pye mentioned in a letter that she had been to Tipton and baptised her page.  She didn’t of course, but there was a letter written at Derby on 4 May 1706 which ended with this sentence:

We have now Mrs Munday in our neighbourhood that is thought as pretty a black woman as most is.

What a find!  Not only might John, the African page, be living in Derby with the Pyes in the early 1700s, but there was a high-status woman of colour, presumably married to one of Lady Pye’s neighbours in or near Derby.

When I moved from Sandwell to Derbyshire, it seemed the perfect opportunity to find out more about Mrs Munday.  The Mundy family of Markeaton Hall and Allestree Hall in Derby, seemed highly likely to be the family that Mrs Munday belonged to – spelling wasn’t consistent at the time, and Mundy was sometimes spelled Munday.  The Record Office holds archives of the Mundy family, so there was hope of tracing Mrs Munday.  Unfortunately, the archives aren’t fully catalogued and there was only a rather confused paper interim list for the collection.  I just didn’t have time to try and make sense of the archive… until lockdown.   Whilst the Record Office was closed due to the pandemic, a number of us worked on getting those paper lists into our online catalogue.  The work isn’t yet complete (I’m slowly going through one set of boxes to check the contents) but the bulk of the collection is now on our online catalogue.  So, what did this mean for Mrs Munday?

I initially had high hopes of Edward Mundy as her husband.  I’ve already blogged about his beautifully written account book dating from 1682 to 1697 – in it he mentions expenses for transporting goods to and from Barbados so perhaps he had visited himself and married a Barbadian?  Sadly, he died in 1702 and his will (proved at Lichfield in 1705) mentions no wife or children.  

Vogages to Barbados in Edward Mundy's account book
Extract from Edward Mundy’s accounts ledger (D517/BOX/13/2)

Even more promising was another Edward Mundy who lived out in Barbados.  He was born in 1603, so he seemed a bit too old to be Mrs Munday’s husband, although of course she could have been a much younger widow or a daughter (the term ‘Mrs’ didn’t necessarily mean a woman was married).  Although I couldn’t find his death or marriage, there are some very useful Barbados records on, with which I found his wife Elizabeth’s will.  However, she died in 1687, by which time he had already predeceased her, and although her will mentions their three daughters, it is clear that they were all married at the time of her death.

There is an excellent family tree of the Mundy family which was deposited in 2006 (reference number D6611/1) but this gives no clue as to who might have been the husband of Mrs Munday.  I began to wonder if the letter mentioning her had been transcribed correctly in the HMC report – maybe I was on a wild goose chase.  The Duke of Portland’s papers are now at the British Library, so I asked my sister (who lives in London) to go to the British Library and have a look at the original letter.  The HMC report gives a good summary of the contents of each letter but isn’t a complete transcription, so could my sister check the original and see if there was more information in the letter?   Here was another problem, however.  The letters haven’t been fully catalogued by the British Library, and when she checked the bundle that should have had the 1706 letter from Lady Pye it wasn’t there.

So is there any proof that Mrs Munday ever existed?  One day I may well go to the British Library and work my way through some of the other bundles of letters in the Portland papers, in case the letter got mixed in with them.  But what if I can’t find it?  Without the original letter, we only have the HMC report to go on, although this is a pretty reliable source.   We know the Mundy family had links with slave plantations in Barbados, so it’s possible that one of them married a Barbadian woman.   It’s also possible that Mrs Munday was an illegitimate daughter of a Mundy and an enslaved woman in Barbados, who was brought back to Britain, as was the case of Dido Elizabeth Belle in the 1760s.  She may have been the wife of a London cousin of the Mundy family who was just visiting Derby – or the Munday name might have nothing to do with the Markeaton and Allestree Mundy family.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin. Original at Scone Palace. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I would love to be able to identify her, but like anyone who is trying to research people in the early 1700s, I’m hampered by the lack of available records.  In the meantime, she’ll just have to live in my imagination, elegantly dressed and walking around the bustling streets of Derby, socialising with those fashionable women like Lady Pye, who may themselves have had African servants, probably enslaved, in their own households.

11 thoughts on “The Mysterious Mrs Munday

  1. Darlene Armstrong re Samuel Armstrong
    According to his marriage entry he was of Mansfield. Trying to track down his journey from Bolsover via Mansfield to Bag Enderby I am also a descendant via son Ambrose

  2. Sarah Chubb, I enjoyed reading your “The Mysterious Mrs Munday” dated 21 October 2020 and with regard to the Munday’s having “persons of colour” in their service, they were by no means unique in that district of the County of Derby. I should like to draw attention to “Reminicenses of Old Allestree By George Bailey written in 1885 for The Derbyshire Archaeological Society:
    “Lysons states the Touchets had the manor in 1251, and also that Thomas, son of Lord Touchet, sold it, about 1516, to John Munday, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1522, and who died in 1538 possessed of Mackworth, Markeaton, Allestree, and of land at Findern and Chester. It continued in the same family above 200 years. Allestree was then sold to Bache Thornhill, of Stanton in the Peak, who began to build the Hall, and made a park. Mr. Thornhill, however, never finished the Hall, and it acquired the reputation of being haunted, which it was, by owls. In this state the Hall remained until it was purchased by I. C. Girardot, who completed it in about 1805. He appears to have acquired his wealth in India, and it was the custom to call such persons Nabobs.
    He kept up great state during his residence at Allestree,
    driving a coach and *four, with a black footman, and two spotted dogs to follow the carriage, as was the custom in those days. This gentleman was Sheriff of the county in 1818.”
    *four horses?

    • Thanks Andrew – I hadn’t heard about this one, but it’s another excellent example of a black servant being used as status symbol, and a hundred years later than Mrs Munday too. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one in the neighbourhood either. And yes, a coach and four is a coach pulled by four horses.

  3. Sarah,
    I found your story very interesting. Are you still working on cataloging Derbyshire records during this coronavirus pandemic?
    I would like to find out whether Bolsover 1600s – 1700s had poor law settlement records. Looking for possible places to search for previous records on the following Armstrong family lines.
    Thomas son of Thomas Armstrong was born about 1645 (burial 1725 Bolsover) – possible wife Hellena (d. 1704). Thomas (b @1645) father Thomas probably b @ 1610 (where is unclear). Thomas (and presumably Hellena) baptized the following children: Johannes (1672), Maria (1676), Thomas (Thomae) (1683) in Bolsover. When I was researching in the archives (1989), I did not find other children though the gaps are longer than usual.
    Thomas (1683) possibly married Ruth (indexed as Ann) Cutt 1704, then Alicia (Alice?) Clarke. At least there are records for Thomas and Alice as parents of Mary, Samuel, Aron, Thomas, and Joseph (baptisms between 1712-1727). The other settlement that I am looking for regards Samuel Armstrong (bap 29 Dec 1715 Bolsover, Derbyshire, son of Thomas A* & Alice hw, FHL Film 497384, 422187, Batch C06097-2). I believe this is the same Samuel Armstrong who married Susannah Ablewhite in Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1748. Is there a settlement record for Samuel Armstrong when he left Bolsover presumably after 1735 and before 1748?
    Thank you for any help you can give.
    Darlene and Daniel Armstrong

    • Hi Darlene.

      One of the things we have been working on since lockdown is getting our indexes of the removal orders in our Quarter Sessions records into our online catalogue. That’s still a work in progress, but I’ve had a quick look at the spreadsheet and I’m afraid there aren’t any Armstrongs. There are also a few settlement records within the parish archive for Bolsover (our reference number D190) which aren’t indexed by us, but there is a website called ‘Yesterday’s Journey’ (Google ‘Yesterday’s Journey Rootsweb’ to find it) which has indexes of these records which you can view online. Of course, if one of the Armstrongs moved but didn’t need poor relief, then there would never have been any paperwork.


      • Thank you Sarah Chubb.
        I visited the web site and searched for Armstrong and other family names. I did not find data for the time period I needed. I do not know if these Armstrong families were required to register their moves. I know at least two generations of Thomas Armstrong men were christened in Bolsover, then Samuel Armstrong moved to the wolds of Lincolnshire. The move from Bolsover to the wolds seems to be a large distance for the mid 1700s. The family line shows up in Bag Enderby, Somersby, and South Ormsby parishes during late 1700s through early 1800s, then they started spreading out from there.
        Thanks again for your help.

      • Hi Darlene,
        People weren’t required to register when they moved from place to place unless they were poor and needed poor relief. It looks as if your ancestors were well off enough not to have to register. Good luck with your research!

    • Hello. I just saw this message that you posted. I am a descendant of Samuel Armstrong, Bolsover to Bag Enderby, Lincs. Please contact me.

      • Darlene, how do I get in touch with you? I am on the same trail as you and we could compare findings so far.

        Terry Turner Armstrong

    • Hi Darlene. If you would like to be in contact with the commenters below and don’t want to publish your contact details on our blog (where everyone can see them), feel free to email your contact details to and we can put you in touch with each other.

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