Leonard Wheatcroft of Ashover (1627-1707) is described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “an exceptionally prolific author”. His works were largely unknown until the 1890s, when extracts were published in the Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.
The publication of his autobiography in A Seventeeth-Century Scarsdale Miscellany by the Derbyshire Record Society in 1993 brought the full text into print for the first time. It is a rich source of information on local literary culture in this period, and featured in the BBC television series “The Century That Wrote Itself” in 2013. The Derbyshire Record Society has nominated the autobiography as one of our 50 Treasures. It’s the smaller of the two volumes seen below.
The large volume contains some of Wheatcroft’s poems, nominated by Christine Jackson of Ottawa. Christine has made rather an unusual use of the poetry: as evidence in her genealogical research. Wheatcroft wrote one poem on the death of his friend Giles Cowley, and another about the birth of one of Giles’s children. The latter is an acrostic, so that the poem spells out the name of Giles Cowley (here spelled “Cowly”).
These two poems gave me the age of Giles and thence his year of birth, and his actual death date (rather than just the burial date, which is recorded in the parish register) – also confirmation of Giles’ wife’s first name, therefore confirming that their marriage was the one I had already found recorded in Darley Dale in 1631, plus the baptism date of their son Leonard (1637).
The research was published in 2013 as “The Cowley Family Saga” in the journal “Anglo-Celtic Roots”. This is a publication of the British Isles family History Society of Greater Ottawa, to which we do not subscribe. However, Christine was kind enough to let us have a copy of each of the three issues in which her work featured. They are now available in our local studies section.