The Taylor Surname
It is believed that the history of the family name "Taylor" goes back to
the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. At that time, one Taliaferro was
honored by William the Conqueror. His descendants were given lands in Kent,
which is in southern England, and near Carlisle, in northern England.
Many people living in the United States with the "Taylor" surname are
descended from Rowland Taylor. These descendants include Zachary Taylor, the
twelfth president of the United States. Rowland Taylor was martyred; that
is, he was executed for his beliefs in 1555. It is ironic that he was
executed for being a Christian in "Christian" England. This was during the
time of Queen Mary (Bloody Mary). A full account of the martyrdom of Rowland
Taylor is available in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
Rowland Taylor was born in 1510 in Rothbury, Northumberland, England. He
married Margaret "of the house of Tyndale". Whether she was related to John
Tyndale who was martyred for translating the Bible into English is unclear.
Dr. Taylor's parish was St. Mary's, in a village named Hadleigh in
Suffolk. This parish was known as a "peculiar" because Dr. Taylor reported
directly to the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the time, Hadleigh was a
well-to-do woolmarket town. When the writer first visited England he was
pleased to even find the town of Hadleigh. Being American, where anything
over forty years old is bulldozed to make way for a parking lot, he was
surprised to find that the church, St. Mary's, still exists. In addition,
the front portion of the rectory still stands as well as the Hadleigh
Guildhall adjacent to the church. The portion of the rectory remaining was
the gatehouse of a much larger residence. The guildhall was built in the
1400's. Just outside of town, at Aldham Commons, is a monument marking the
spot where Rowland Taylor was martyred.
Dr. Taylor was imprisoned in London for more than a year. As he was being
escorted back to Hadleigh for his execution, he was held overnight in the
basement of the Guildhall of Corpus Christi in Lavenham. Lavenham is
another Suffolk woolmarket town. When the English broadcloth market
collapsed, prosperity left Lavenham. As a result, the village is much the
same today as it was in the 1500's.
Another Taylor lived in Lavenham and became famous for her composition of
"Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", the beloved childhood song. Jane Taylor
lived on Shilling Street in Lavenham, and while looking out of a small
window in the garret of her house composed the first verse of the famous
poem. It is probable, but not confirmed, that Jane Taylor was related to
Rowland Taylor. To see a painting of Jane Taylor found in the National
Portrait Gallery in London, England please see.
On the way from Lavenham to Hadleigh, it is quite possible the sheriff
and soldiers guarding Dr. Taylor went through Kersey. A beautiful village
with thatch-roofed cottages, visiting Kersey is like stepping back in time.
A small creek branch flows across the road at the bottom of the hill in
Kersey, creating what the residents call a "water splash".
Inside St. Mary's church in Hadleigh is a chapel honoring the memory of
Rowland Taylor. There is a stained-glass window depicting his trial
and martyrdom. In the chapel is an ancient bronze plaque commemorating the
death of Dr. Taylor. Also, there is a beautiful modern stained-glass window
in another part of this 13th Century church.
Some of Dr. Taylor's descendants are buried in the churchyard at St.
Mary's. Some of them came to America in the early 1600's. His descendants
and relations include several presidents of the United States, the Lee
family of Virginia, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of
America, and Dr. Guy Baker Taylor, the inventor of "Nylon" (a registered
trade-mark of the DuPont company).