The Gibbs family

Whitehall Evening Post, 19 Nov 1754

Robert Gibbs, of Winslow in the County of Bucks, had six Sons, Robert, Richard, William, Thomas, John, and Stephen, which said Sons rang the Bells of Winslow Church on New-year's-day, for forty Years Successively: The Senior Son rang the Tenor, and every Son had his Bell in Right of Seniority; and they were every New-year's-day, for a great Number of Years, entertained at a Dinner by the worthy Family of the Lowndess at Winslow. Richard, William, and Stephen are now living at Winslow aforesaid.

These details are repeated in some of the accounts below, not always accurately. The newspaper story cannot have been quite correct unless Stephen began ringing when he was five. Robert Gibbs the elder (who lived at 22 High Street) was buried in 1729 and his second(?) wife Alice in 1721. He rented the manor and rectory from William Lowndes in 1699. He was descended through his mother Jane Walker from the Fige family.

These notes are from Arthur Clear, The King's Village in Demesne (1894, 85-7)

GYBBES, OR GIBBS.—Perhaps no name appears so frequently in the Parish Records and Winslow Manor Rolls, during the 16th and 17th centuries, as that of Gybbs. Some members of the family were also settled at the adjoining parish of Grandborough, where the name frequently appears; and as far back as these records extend, they are spoken of as sturdy yeomen, occupying their own snug homesteads and fertile lands, while others were thriving tradesmen, who in their turn were called upon to occupy various offices in connection with parish affairs.

"Robert Gybbes, the sonne of Edward Gybbes, was christened the xxvii of June, 1590." "Edward Gybbes and Joan Fessie, (widow), were married the xii day of May, 1601."

During the 17th century, the entries of Marriages and Deaths in the Church Register are too numerous to mention. In 1681 and following years, many members of the family are duly certified as having been buried in Woollen, according to law.

At a parish Vestry held on the 20th April, 1693, the name of Robert Gybbs appears, and again in 1695. In 1703 and 1709, Robert Gybbs, with Peter Lowndes, was appointed Overseer of the poor of the parish of Winslow.

In 1705 we find that "Richard Gybbs and Jane Kirby, both of Winslowe, were married at Granborough." And on the 29th Nov., 1708, there is another entry that "Thomas Gybbs of Winselowe, and Ellinor Sutton" were married there.

Again in 1715, a Richard Gybbs is mentioned as one of the Overseers of the Poor; and this office was frequently filled by members of the family in subsequent years, and the name of John Gibbs appears upon the 6th bell as being Churchwarden in 1777.

Until within the last few years, a long row of gravestones opposite the western door of the Church marked the burial place of many members of the family; but most of these have disappeared; the only ones now remaining being those of "John Gibbs, who died 25th May, 1752," and "Kezia Gibbs, relict of John Gibbs, who died Feb. 2nd, 1762, aged 62 years." Another nearly illegible, is in memory of Stephen Gibbs, who died Aug. 4th, 1770, aged 60 years.

Some of the family are interred in the burial ground of the old Baptist Chapel, as we elsewhere mentioned.

In a manuscript book relating to the Winslow Church Choir, extending over a period of 95 years, viz :—from 1755 to 1849, we find many entries relating to the Gibbs' family as members of the Choir. In the year 1755, the names occur of John Gibbs, Malster; Stephen Gibbs, Glover; and Robert Gibbs, Malster; at that time there is also an entry relating to the celebrated family of beliringers, as follows,—"It is a remarkable circumstance, that six brothers named Gibbs were constant ringers on the New Year's Day, from the year 1747, up to the period when Mr. John Gibbs and five other brothers succeeded them, and who continued to ring in like manner on New Years' Day. The two generations completed 70 years in this annual performance. The following are the names of the last six brothers, ringers, who annually supped at Mr. Lowndes' (the Squire of the Parish) on the first night of the New Year,—Thomas Gibbs, Farmer;
Robert Gibbs, Malster; Stephen Gibbs, Butcher; William Gibbs, Glover; Richard Gibbs, Currier; and John Gibbs, Malster.

A subsequent entry relating to the last-named John Gibbs, states that he was remarkable for minute hand-writing, having written the "Belief" in the compass of a sixpence, and the Lord's Prayer in the compass of a silver penny, which writing was (in 1832) in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. Hall. Of his musical abilities he is also spoken of in the most laudatory terms —"The manuscript works of Mr. John Gibbs are now greatly diminished, but sufficient remain to show how great was his skill in execution, how choice his selection, and how indefatigable his perseverance and application; his science as a musician was justly allowed, and his performances in the choir were duly admired and acknowledged, not only by his brother choristers, but by those of the congregation who had ears fitted for the recption of those sounds so essential to render sacred music a fit and proper part of Divine Worship."

A subsequent entry relating to the last-named John Gibbs, states that he was remarkable for minute hand-writing, having written the "Belief" in the compass of a sixpence, and the Lord's Prayer in the compass of a silver penny, which writing was (in 1832) in the possession of his daughter, Mrs. Hall. Of his musical abilities he is also spoken of in the most laudatory terms—"The manuscript works of Mr. John Gibbs are now greatly diminished, but sufficient remain to show how great was his skill in execution, how choice his selection, and how indefatigable his perseverance and application ; his science as a musician was justly allowed, and his performances in the choir were duly admired and acknowledged, not only by his brother choristers, but by those of the congregation who had ears fitted for the recption of those sounds so essential to render sacred music a fit and proper part of Divine Worship."

Iin the "Whitehall Evening Post" of November, 1754, there appeared a paragraph relating to these notable bellringers, stating that "Robert Gibbs of Winslow, in the County of Bucks, had six sons, viz:—Robert, Richard, William, Thomas, John, and Stephen, which sons rang the bells of Winslow Church on New Years' Day for forty years in succession. The senior son rang the tenor, and every son had his bell, in right of seniority; and they were every New Years' Day entertained at dinner by the worthy family of Lowndes, at Winslow."

At the north-east end of the Churchyard, near the new Chancel Aisle, is a sunken gravestone, now nearly illegible, which still marks the spot where the parents of the first-named six brothers Gibbs (ringers), lie interred,—
"In Memory of ROBERT GIBBS,
who departed this life
May 4th, 1742, aged 68 years.
Also of SARAH, relict
of the above
Robert Gibbs,
who died March 9th, 1760,
in the 81st year of her age."

In Keach's Chapel-yard was buried April 3rd, 1826, a Mr. John Gibbs, aged 82 years. He had a numerous family; one of his sons — Robert — removed to Aylesbury about 1790, where he died in 1808, his body being brought to Winslow, and interred in the Chapel-yard. One of Robert's sons — John — established a successful business in Aylesbury as a printer, etc., and another — Richard — migrated to St. Albans, where his descendants now occupy an influential position as proprietors of "The Herts Advertiser and St. Albans Times." To one member of this firm, Arthur Ernest Gibbs, Esq., the present writer offers his most grateful acknowledgments for transcripts of many ancient documents relating to Winslow.

The late Robert Gibbs, Esq., F.S.A., of Aylesbury, the well-known journalist, local historian and antiquary, was proud to claim that his progenitors were men of Winslow.

Other branches of this ancient family are scattered far and wide, and the name still flourishes in Winslow.

Buckingham Express, 21 Sep 1867: report of Bucks Archaeological Society meeting

The Rev. A. Baker also produced a curious old book, forwarded to him by Mr. Cross, of Mursley, which contained the records of the doings of the choir at Winslow church since the year 1755 to within a short period.  Several of the entries were read, and they described the gradual introduction of music into the service, and also the performers and vocalists who were distinguished for ability.  In one passage it was stated that five brothers, named Gibbs, became ringers in 1747, and they continued to discharge that office until they were succeeded by five other members of the same family, also brothers; and the two sets of ringers between them completed a period of seventy years.

The Gibbs Family of Buckinghamshire, 1425 - 1924

Written by Michael Gibbs, printed at Winslow by A.J. Clear, 1924

The oldest existing family in Winslow is that of Gibbs or Gybbes.

It is a Saxon name. The family may well have been settled at Winslow, Claydon or Grandboro', or perhaps in the three, as far back as the time of Edward the Confessor, or may have helped to drive back the Danes to the forest of Bernwood 100 years earlier: at any rate the mention of them occurs in the Manor Rolls of St Albans Abbey (to which Winslow was at that time attached) at a very early date. It is significant that the earliest piece of land traceable after the breaking up of the common field (or Virgate system of holdings) bearing a personal name was theirs, early in the fifteenth Century.

In 1495, Richard Gybbes held at Middle Claydon 2 messuages and a yard of land and 2 half lands, paying rent of 16/- and service to the Court.

Thomas Gybbes held a messuage and 2 yards, paying therefor at ye said feasts 26/- and service to the Court.

In 1517, they appear to have had a homestead and 2 acres of land at the rear of the High Street, Winslow, which only passed out of the family about 30 years ago; the old building once used as a glover's workshop is still in existence and occupied to-day as a Printing Office by Mr. A.J. Clear who, in putting a new floor in, found some of the old glove shapes.

Among the old Wills deposited at Somerset House is that of John Gibbs, Middle Claydon, dated 4th June, 1546.

In 1577, Simon Gybbes, M.A., who was born at Middle Claydon, was instituted Rector of Stowe, near Buckingham, which he afterwards exchanged for the living of Wicken, in Northamptonshire. He died in 1603. The family appear to have settled in the surrounding villages and eventually married into the family of Garfield, of Milton, where an altar tomb to the memory of Garfield Gibbs and family appears in the Churchyard. Certain members of the Garfield family emigrated to America, from whence sprang that eminent man, President Garfield.

In 1590, occurs the names of Edward, son of Robert Gybbes, christened ye 27th day of June, in the register of Grandboro' Church; another entry 1601, Edward Gibbs and Joan Fessey, married 12th May. Then the entries of births and deaths and marriages of the family at Winslow become numerous, while about the year 1680 members of the family are recorded as being buried in woollens according to Act of Parliament. In 1693, the name Robert Gybbs appears in the parish register and again in 1695. In 1703-9, Robert Gybbs was overseer with Peter Lowndes. In 1705, Richard Gybbs and Jane Kirby were married at Grandboro' and in 1708 Thomas Gybbs of Winslow and Eleanor Sutton were also married at Grandboro'.

In 1715, Richard Gybbs is again seen as overseer and no name appears so frequently in the parish record in the 17th [sic] Century as that of Gybbs.

They were a family of good position and held considerable property in the parish of Winslow. At one time there was a number of old grave stones in the churchyard, but three only to-day record the death of John Gibbs 1752, Kezia relict of John Gibbs 1762, and Stephen Gibbs 1770.

In the Whitehall Evening Post of Nov., 1754, was a paragraph stating that Robert Gibbs of Winslow had 6 sons - Robert, John [pencil note: my gt gt gt grandfather], Richard, Thomas, William, and Stephen, which rang the bells of Winslow Church for 40 years in succession, commencing in 1747, and on New Year's Day were entertained to dinner by the worthy family of Lowndes: these were succeeded by 6 others [pencil note: one being William my gt gt grandfather], and for 70 years they alone rang the Bells of Winslow Church on New Year's Day.

In 1755, among the list of members of the choir at the Parish Church occur John and Robert Gibbs, Malsters, and Stephen Gibbs, Glover, (Gt. Gr. Grandfather).

In Keach's little Chapel yard there is a tombstone of Robert Gibbs, the founder of the Aylesbury branch of the family, who died there and was buried at Winslow, 1808. Another branch migrated to St. Albans, founding the "West Herts Post," now carried on by a Mr. Herbert Gibbs; but to return to the Aylesbury family, Mr. Robert Gibbs became proprietor and editor of the "Bucks Advertiser," also a Mr. John Gibbs was one of the founders of the British School, Waddesdon, shewn by a tablet in that school, they likewise became recognised authorities on the antiquities of the County.

In the parish register of Winslow for the year 1808, a Miss Gibbs of Winslow was married to Mr. Biggerstaff, then residing at Aylesbury, but afterwards went to London where he, with his brother, founded the Banking business for many years carried on in the Smithfield Market under the title of W. & J. Biggerstaff, - a fine success.

Now, the brother of this lady, a Mr. John Gibbs, born 1787, son of John Gibbs whose name appears on a Church Bell 1777 (my own grandfather M.J.G.), left his native town about or in the year 1807 and became associated in business with a Mr. Rose of Haddenham, eventually marrying his daughter and settling in the neigbouring village of Cuddington (died 1862, aged 75), and becoming the father of 16 children, 8 sons and 8 daughters, 14 of whom reached the estate of manhood.

Robert, emigrated to Australia.
John, not much known, died rather early.
William, settled at Stokenchurch, farmer.
Stephen, house decorator, in London.
Thomas, several occupations, lived a good age, 84.
George, good business man, draper's salesman, but died in obscurity - prodigal.
Richard, the only surviving son at this date, 1907, gentleman, residing at Waddesdon, a hale, hearty old man, in his 81st year, with his faithful partner celebrated their golden wedding 7 years ago. The continuity and memory of this family will long be maintained by the issue of this union. 4 sons and 2 daughters still living, the eldest son residing at Cheltenham being the father of 4 sons and 3 daughters. His eldest son emigrating to New Zealand has 4 sons and 2 daughters to help keep up the traditions of the English race under the Southern Cross.

I make no apology in stating that I as the second son of the aforesaid Richard Gibbs, gentleman, of Waddesdon, residing in the neighbourhood of old associations at the Cross, Quainton, formerly of Bernwood Farm, Claydon, am responsible for the accuracy of this history, valuable information being given by Aylesbury friends.


The Cross, Quainton, 1907.

P.S. Since placing these facts on record I would like to add that my Father, Mr. Richard Gibbs, Gentleman, of Waddesdon, in Feb. 1909, in his 82nd year; the good old mother on Aug. 21, 1920, in her 97th year; Sarah, the eldest daughter (Mrs. Frost by marriage, - her husband and friends formerly occupying the said Cross Farm, Quainton); Mary, the youngest daughter (these are all now except Mrs. Frost, lying in the beautiful Churchyard of Holy Cross and St. Mary's of this Village); two sons of Mr. W.H. Gibbs of Cheltenham, who gave their lives in the great war - and Harold, first son (New Zealand) recently, have all passed over to the great majority, awaiting the resurrection of the just.


Nov. 11th, 1924.

[Pencil note:] This was written by Michael Gibbs son of Richard 1827-1902.

Was the Gibbs family the link between The Windmill and Keach’s Meeting House?

by Ed Grimsdale

The possibility that The Windmill Inn existed in 17th century Winslow opens an intriguing possibility.  Was its annual Guy Fawkes dinner a “front” to cover the secular activities of those dissenters who worshipped in Keach’s Meeting House?

Arthur Clear makes several mentions of the Gibbs in connection with Keach’s Meeting House. Here are some burials recorded in the Chapel Books:

Members of the George family are recorded in the same books and the George family were, at one time, tenants of the property adjoining The Windmill.

For the best part of a hundred years, and quite probably more, the Gibbs family had an interest in The Windmill . Towards the end of that connection, we know that the family worshipped in Keach’s Chapel.  In those days dissenters often lived close together (e.g. the Quakers in North End, Buckingham) and it looks possible that The Windmill was the nucleus for a clutch of dissenters in Winslow.
Benjamin Keach preached in Winslow in the 1660s. He and his fellow Baptists were hunted and persecuted. Keach was tried in Aylesbury and convicted for schism, heresy and sedition in 1664 and was humiliated in Winslow Market – one of his texts being burned before him. He later left for a quieter life in London.

It’s possible that the secular meeting place for the members of his Chapel was The Windmill Inn where the landlord was a sympathiser. So, it may be that this Anti-Papist dinner started around that time.  Attacking Guy Fawkes and catholics recusants would not bring opprobrium. If it all started in the 1660s then the celebration in 1844 was close to being bicentennial. Traditions are fine things but there’s always a cause, a bit of grit at the inception.

Bucks Herald, 2 January 1904: Obituary of William Heley Gibbs and history of the Gibbs family

DEATH OF AN OLD INHABITANT. There was interred at Winslow Churchyard on Monday the body of Mr. William Heley Gibbs, who passed away on Dec. 28, at the advanced age of 84 years. Mr. Gibbs, who had resided in the town all his days, was the representative of a yeoman family who for at least 500 years have been known and respected in Winslow and Grandborough. The earliest trace of them occurs in 1590, when "Edward the son of Robert Gybbes was christened ye xxvii. of June," says the register of Grandborough Church. Another entry for 1601 says, "Edward Gybbes and Joan Fessey were married the xii. day of May." Then the entries of births, deaths, and marriages of the family at Winslow become numerous, while about 1680 several of them are recorded as being buried in woollen according to the Act of Parliament. In 1593 the name of Robert Gybbs appears at the parish vestry, and again in 1635. In 1703 and 1709 Robert Gybbs was overseer with Peter Lowndes. In 1705 Richard Gybbs and Jane Kirby, both of Winslow, were married at Grandborough, and in 1708 Thomas Gybbs, of "Winsleowe," and Elenor Sutton were also married at Grandborough. In 1715 Richard Gybbs was overseer, and others of the family also filled the office in different years, while the name of John Gibbs appears on the sixth bell as churchwarden in 1777. There were at one time a number of old gravestons recording the burials of the family, but only three now remain in the churchyard, viz. that of John Gibbs, who died in 1753; Kezia, relict of John Gibbs, died 1762; and Stephen Gibbs, died 1770. In 1755, among a list of the members of the choir at the Parish Church, occur "John Gibbs, maltster, Robert Gibbs, maltster, and Stephen Gibbs, glover." A remarkable circumstance with regard to this family also was that for nearly 70 years they alone rang the bells of the church on New Year's day - that is, two generations of six brothers each did this, the first generation for 40 years, commencing in 1747, one senior son ringing the tenor and the others following in right of seniority. These six brothers were in their turn succeeded by another generation - a Mr. John Gibbs and five other brothers - and it was the custom of the Lord of the Manor to entertain them to supper on every New Year's night. There is a sunken gravestone at one corner of the churchyard which marks the burial of the father of the first generaiton of these bellringers - Robert Gibbs, who died in 1743, aged 68, and his wife, who died in 1760, aged 81. In Keach's little chapel-yard there is the tombstone of Robert Gibbs, the founder of the Aylesbury branch of the family, who died there in 1808 and was brought to Winslow for interment. Another branch migrated to St. Albans, where they still remain. The old name is borne in Winslow by Mr. Gibbs' eldest son, Mr. Edwin Gibbs.

Bicester Herald, 8 Aug 1884: article by Arthur Clear about Rev. John Gibbs of Newport Pagnell (d.1699)

It's not yet clear how (or if) this John Gibbs was related to the Winslow family.


            “Nor shall all the eternal full of praise reject
            Those unconforming : whom one rigorous day
            Drives from their cures, a voluntary prey
            To poverty and grief, and disrespect,
            And some to want – as if by tempests wrecked.” WORDSWORTH.

Our fair county of Bucks has long maintained an honourable distinction for its sturdy champions in the cause of truth – men who have ever deemed it an honour to suffer for liberty of conscience – men of strong uncompromising principle and sublime devotion.  If ever lives deserved to be kept in memory and to escape the oblivion of the grave, it was theirs.  Old Thomas Fuller, in his Church History, says – “It is no small praise to Buckinghamshire that, though it is one of the lesser counties of England, it had before the time of Luther more martyrs and confessors than all England beside.” [i.e. Lollards]  Since his day many others have arisen whose names are equally worthy of being preserved and transmitted to posterity, among whom we would crave a humble place for one of the many nonconforming divines of the seventeenth century, the Rev. John Gibbs, sometime vicar of Newport Pagnell.  The lot of Mr. Gibbs was cast in a critical and memorable period of English history, for he was inducted into the living in a disturbed and troublous time when the country was convulsed with civil war;  Newport Pagnell being fortified and garrisoned for the parliament under the governorship of Sir Samuel Luke.  There must have been abundant scope for his faithful ministrations as vicar of the parish, as in addition to his own parishioners there was a large garrison, and prisoners of war were almost daily being brought in from the surrounding districts, no less than 224 officers and men having been brought in prisoners at one time after the assault on Hillesden House, many of them sick and destitute, as some of their own letters still extant most vividly testify.  For nearly fourteen years he lived a life worthy of the position he occupied but at length he was called upon to taste the bitter first fruits of persecution.   Upon the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II there came evil days for the godly men of the Established Church, and Mr. Gibbs was ejected from the living, deprived of his office, honours and emoluments as vicar, and his voice was silenced in the church, the pretext for his ejectment being that he had refused to admit the whole parish indiscriminately to the Holy Communion;  but the truth was that he had refused that ordinance to a person who was openly leading an immoral and ungodly life, and he being a man of considerable influence in the parish and a strong Royalist he used every exertion so as to procure his ejectment.  At the time this occurred Mr. Gibbs was the owner of two houses on the south side and about the centre of the High-street, and at the further end of a long yard running at the side and connected with them was a barn.  To this spot did Mr. Gibbs retreat with many of his congregation, and there he ministered to them and preached the word of life.  But very soon came a time when the persecution of Nonconformists was so fierce in the county that the common gaol at Aylesbury was filled with them, and the magistrates were obliged to hire two large houses in that town to receive the prisoners.  Then it was that the isolated position of this barn afforded the congregation great facility of escape, when they were disturbed by informers, standing as it did at some distance from the main street and having ready access also into one of the back streets of the town.  In 1709 when the house formerly occupied by Mr. Gibbs was undergoing some extensive repairs, the workmen accidentally came upon a small closet or chamber between two walls at the side of a large old-fashioned chimney.  This had evidently been used as a hiding-place, the only entrance to it being from a trap-door carefully concealed from view in the fire-place. What sufferings this good man was called upon to ensure for the truth’s sake we are not able to detail but we do know that he did not escape persecution.  In an elegy written upon him at the time of his death it is stated that –
            “In persecution he hath often stood
            To seal he truths of Jesus with his blood ...                        
            To prison and confinement he did go
            With cheerful heart and countenance also.”
- After the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689, under which the Nonconformists were able to assemble for worship with a certain degree of freedom, the congregation erected for themselves a more suitable and larger place of worship near the same spot, and the greater portion of their humble sanctuary was pulled down, but mindful of old times, in the erection of the new chapel, they were fearful lest the time of persecution should again return and accordingly an opening was left in the wall at the back of the pulpit so as to afford a ready means of escape for the preacher if ever needed.  Mr. Gibbs continued his acceptable labours with his people until 1699, when he was taken to receive his reward, having lived to the good old age of 72.  Near the south door of the chancel of the parish church lies a large flat stone marking his final resting-place,  Its original inscription was in Latin referring to him as a man of well cultivated mind, wonderful memory, acute judgment, great learning, eminent for piety and great integrity, and a fervent preacher both to saints and sinners.  This inscription having become obliterated some admirer of his life and character has caused the name and date of Mr. Gibbs’ death to be cut afresh and filled with metal letters, thus ensuring its durability. The old chapel, after having stood for nearly two centuries, and having during that time undergone many changes and alterations, was at length found to be unsuitable to the circumstances of the congregation;  it has accordingly been pulled down and a very handsome and commodious building was, in 1881, erected upon it site.  The remains of the old barn, the birthplace, so to speak, of nonconformity in Newport Pagnell, we are glad to say, are still carefully and recently preserved, and may serve as a reminder to the present generation of the simple  and unassuming worship of their forefathers.

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