Sarah Pursey/Persey (Vaughan) of Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Sarah Vaughan was obviously a great catch for her husband-to-be Henry Pursey.

She was born in September 1691 to Thomas and Jane Vaughan, keepers of the then Swan Inn in the High Street. At the time, Henry’s parents Thomas and Susannah, kept the White Hart on the corner of Prospect Place.

Sarah married Henry when she was just 21, in September 1712. A son Thomas was born a year later followed by George a year after. Although Henry and Sarah were married for more than 20 years, it seems they had no further children as in her will, Sarah mentions only George.

During her life, it seems that Sarah moved in exalted circles. She counted amongst her friends and acquaintances, noted poet and rector Dr Edward Young and surgeon Roberts Gelsthorpe. In fact, it appears the latter was more than just a friend for when he died in 1731, he left all his property in trust for Sarah (including the properties of Guessens – see property section – and Holly Hall) noting that “the said Henry Persey her now Husband shall not have use or enjoy the same estate so given”. He made provision for Sarah to sell the properties stipulating “that the money arising thereby shall be to and for her own particular separate use wherewith her Husband shall have nothing to do therewith”.

Sarah went further in her own will. Having made certain bequests, she directed her son George – to whom she had left the remainder of her estate – that if he died unmarried, “that he never lets any of the family of the Purseys inherit any part of what I have herein given him”!

Sarah remembered Robert’s kindness by erecting a monument to him in Welewyn Church. The Revd John Jones, Curate of Welwyn later intimated that Sarah was his mistress and referred to her as “Mrs P. the wife of another man”. On her death in 1743, Sarah left to her sister Elizabeth Vaughan a picture of “my dear friend Robert Gollithorp Esq which was drawn when he was a child and which hangs in my bed-chamber”.

As for Dr Young – he would inherit Guessens from Sarah’s mother Joan after her death.


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