Thomas Vincent The Vincent Tomb John Vincent Matthias Vincent Nathaniel Vincent


The Vincent family lived at Battens, the farm just to the east of North Hill churchtown. The name Battens was possibly derived from a family that lived there, or perhaps it was the reverse, the family name was derived from the place name, before the Vincents. It has been suggested that during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I the farm passed from the Batten family to the Vincent family as a result of a marriage of a female Batten, who was heiress to the estate, to a male Vincent.

The Batten family arms were ‘argent, a chevron between three battle axes sable’ and can be seen to the right. No evidence of these arms being used on monuments or buildings in the parish has yet been found.


Thomas Vincent (died 1606)

Thomas Vincent was a landowner, farmer and attorney at law. Four of his children were named Thomas, John, William and Katherine.

Upon the death of Thomas Vincent senior in 1606 the estate passed to his son, Thomas Vincent junior who appears to have had no family. Thomas Vincent junior survived five years and upon his death in 1612 the estate then passed to his brother John.

Thomas Vincent junior’s will dated 29th June 1612 was ‘nuncupative’ meaning that it was spoken and unsigned, presumably because he was dying and unable to sign his name. This was not an uncommon practice at this time. Thomas Vincent junior’s wishes were:

Memorandum That on the xxixth (29th) day of June in the six and fortieth year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James and in the year of our Son [of] God 1612. Thomas Vincent of Northill in the County of Cornwall, Gentleman, being sick and wounded but of perfect mind and memory do make and declare his last will and testament nuncupative in manner and form following, viz: First he committed his soul to Almighty God his maker and redeemer. Then he gave and bequeathed to Catherine his eldest sister the sum of fifty pounds. Item he willed left and bequeathed all things which he had whatsoever to John Vincent his brother in the same manner as his father left them unto him. And he also made [the] [a]foresaid John Vincent his sole heir and executor and willed that he should see the legacies performed in the presence. of John Vincent the elder, Catherine Vincent, William Vincent and others.


The Vincent Tomb

The Vincent family are remembered by the unique and elaborate incised slate tomb in the north west corner of the nave of St Torney’s Church shown below. The dedication which is on the table section of the tomb reads:

“Here lye the bodies of Thomas Vyncent, Gentleman and Jane his Wife, by whom he had issue 8 sonnes and 7 daughters. He departed this life ye 29th March 1606. She ye 7th of Januarie 1601.”

It also has a Latin inscription as follows:

lugeat ista legens qui sunt lugenda legenda
lectaque lectori causa dolores erunt
prospera per charo recumbant cum coniuge consors
atque prior moritor motuus alater erat
amplexere simul viventes et morientes
vixerunt domino ac occubuere deo

cur mortem auctis mortalis
mors meditanda est
non metuenda tibi
sed metuenda malo

heres defuncti perculsus amore parentum

hoc opus exiguum sic cumulavit humo


Thanks go to Mary Rose Rubie for this translation

Mourn those who are gathered to grieve these remains
At the chosen occasion of the reader they will be sorrowful.
Uplifted by the beloved, reclining with kindred spouse
While forefathers will have passed away with wings
To embrace both the living and the dead
They lived and lie dead entrusting in the Lord God.

For what reason is human death agonized?
Death is to be reflected upon
Not to be feared by you
But to be feared by evil

The distraught successor to the deceased with the love of his parents

Turns this poor being, thus, into the earth

Thomas Vincent


The upper part of the back plate shows an angel stamping on death and a serpent indicating the victory over evil.

Also on the back plate Death is pictured holding a scythe and a dart [see below]. Below him kneels Thomas Vincent and his wife with their sons and daughters. Two of the children, the second daughter and fifth son, have skulls above them indicating that they were dead when the monument was erected. Elements of the Danse Macabre are not uncommon on tombs. Sophie Oosterwijk writes of Thomas Vincent’s tomb in Death and Danse Macabre Iconography in Memorial Art:
“It is not difficult to find other monuments across the country on which the personification of Death is presented in the act of despatching his victim with his dart, especially in the post-Reformation period. The slate monument to Thomas Vincent (d. 1606) at North Hill (Cornwall) shows the deceased and his family kneeling on either side of the central figure of Death, unusually with the men on the right and the women on the left. Death points his dart at the paterfamilias while holding a scythe in his left hand with a serpent entwined around it. The serpent might be a reference to the Fall of Man, but is more probably another example of ‘verminous’ imagery that we find in many danse macabre prints. It is very likely that the sculptor modelled the convincing anatomy of Death on a contemporary print, especially as his execution of the kneeling figures is so poor by comparison.”

The front panel of the tomb shows three coats of arms

Lampen (left) - argent, on a bend engrailed sable, three ram’s heads cabossed of the field attired or

Vincent (centre) – azure, three quatrefoils argent

Lower (right) – sable, a chevron between three roses argent

Thomas Vincent senior had married Jane Lampen, probably in the 1580s. The connection with the Lower family of St Winnow is not definitively known. It had been suggested that Thomas married twice, once to Jane Lampen and also to a member of the Lower family. It seems more likely, though, that from reading the documented history of the Lower family that Jane was born as a Lower and had married a John Lampen before she married Thomas Vincent. He was a member of the Lampen family of Padreida in Linkinhorne which could trace its ancestry back through at least six generations. The Lampen family also held land at Holwell in the parish of Stoke Climsland which is where they moved after Paderda had been sold.

Alexander Lower who died at Treveniel in North Hill in 1787 may have been the last of his branch of the Lower family. He and his wife, Joan Geach, had come upon reduced circumstances since their marriage in North Hill 21 years earlier. Joan died two years after Alexander. They were both buried at St Torney’s.

The Vincent arms shown here were originally the arms of a separate Vincent family from Stoke d’Abernon in Surrey. At some point the Vincent family of Battens started to use these arms but the Stoke d’Abernon family became aware of this and sued the North Hill Vincents in the courts. Eventually agreement was reached and following a payment to the Stoke d’Abernon family the North Hill Vincents were permitted to use the arms legally, but under licence.


John Vincent (c1591-1646)

John Vincent was the son of Thomas and Jane Vincent who were laid to rest in the elaborate slate tomb in St Torney’s church. John is shown as one the sons kneeling behind his father, possibly the first son.

John was born about 1591. He married Sarah about 1630 and they had at least seven children, viz: John junior, Thomas, Nathaniel, Matthias, Katherine, Sarah and Mary. The lives of John senior, Thomas, Nathaniel and Matthias were eventful and were a reflection of the troubled times of England during the period of the Civil War. The stories of Nathaniel and Matthias are told on individual web pages on this site. John junior inherited Battens in North Hill upon the death of his father and farmed the land for some years. Sarah married James Innes, the rector of St Breock and they were the great grandparents of Prime Minister, William Pitt the Elder.

In his listing amongst the alumni of Oxford University, John was described as a Gentleman. As a young man he was sent up to New College, Oxford University and matriculated from there on the 15th December 1609 when just 18 years old. He moved as a student to Lincoln’s Inn in London in 1612 and was described there as ‘the son and heir of Thomas Vincent of Northill, Cornwall’. It was probably here that he took holy orders and became the Reverend John Vincent. He was awarded his BA from Trinity College Cambridge in 1626 and three years later he earned his MA.

John’s first benefice was a parish in Cornwall, not in North Hill. His puritan tendencies upset the sensibilities of the parishioners and he was ejected from this living. It has been said that this was a feature of John’s life. There are reports that his seven children were all born in different counties.

He was rector of Helmingham in 1633 and in 1635 he was vicar of Framsden, both in Suffolk. Between these dates his son, Thomas, was baptised in Hertford. The appointment of a John Vincent as lecturer to St James in Dover on the 21st March 1642 may well have been this John Vincent. His last position was as the rector of Sedgefield in County Durham to which he was nominated by the committee of the Westminster Assembly in 1643 after this benefice had been sequestered by Parliament. He remained there until his death in 1646. St Edmund’s, Sedgefield is pictured here (image taken by Jonathan Clegg).

At some point John lent £60, or something to that value, to the Parliament and in 1655 and 1657 his widow, Sarah, petitioned for the sum to be returned to her.


Sir Matthias Vincent (c1645-1687)

The following has been taken directly from The History of Parliament

“Vincent’s grandfather, an attorney, married an heiress and rebuilt Battens in [North Hill, Cornwall]. His father, who inherited the estate, was disclaimed at the heralds’ visitation of 1620, and prosecuted in the court of chivalry for usurping the arms of the Surrey family. He then took orders, but being ‘unconformable in divers degrees’ could obtain no benefice before the Civil War and was much harassed by the bishops, so that it is said that his seven children were born in seven different dioceses. Vincent’s eldest brother became a fellow of All Souls in 1654, but presumably returned to Cornwall at the Restoration. Two other brothers lost their livings at Bartholomew and thereafter kept conventicles on the outskirts of London. Vincent himself was accepted as a factor by the East India Company in 1661, and achieved rapid advancement, due in part to his linguistic ability. His wife, the daughter of a high company official by a Goanese mistress, brought him ‘a great quantity of riches, goods and chattels’. She was an ardent Roman Catholic, but despite this embarrassment and the usual charges of corruption, immorality and extortion Vincent reached the summit of his career in India as chief in Bengal in 1676, and it was only when his niece married Thomas Pitt, leader of the interlopers, that he lost the confidence of the board. Orders were given for his arrest in 1681, but he took refuge in the Dutch factory, returning unscathed and enormously wealthy in 1683 on board one of Pitt’s ships.

“One of the first nabobs, Vincent lived in princely style. As treasurer of the Sons of the Clergy, he was knighted by James II soon after his accession. Six weeks later he was elected for Lostwithiel, but he took no known part in Parliament. Doubtless a court supporter, he was nominated alderman of London in 1686, but died in the following summer. In a codicil to his will witnessed by William Wake (the future primate) and Nicholas Courtney on 17 May 1687, he committed his sons to the guardianship of their uncle, the nonconformist minister. But he refused to act and the will was proved on 5 June by his widow, who had left her husband ‘upon some real or feigned grounds ... of his familiarity with another, ... carrying with her great quantities of his gold and jewels’. By the time Hals came to write his account of the family his wealth was ‘for the most part ... spent or consumed’, and none of his descendants entered Parliament.”

‘The Mainland Guardian’, a newspaper published in British Columbia in Canada published an article entitled ‘Two Old Indians and a Diamond’ on the 29th June 1889. The interesting article explains some of Matthias’ activities, some of which were considered nefarious, and can be read here.


Nathaniel Vincent (c1632-1697)

Nathaniel was, like his father, John, and brother, Thomas, a non-conformist minister. He achieved some notoriety for his beliefs and was imprisoned several times. Some of his treatises were written whilst imprisoned.

His story is told in greater length and accompanied by a list of his treatises on the Digital Puritan website from whence the image above has been taken. Nathaniel also features in the “Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58” and this entry, which provides additional information, has been published here.

Nathaniel’s birthplace is not known but he was believed to have been born around 1639. At the time his father and the family were moving from parish to parish on a regular basis. John’s puritan teachings did not generally meet the approval of the parishioners and it was this lack of acceptance that prompted his frequent moves.

Nathaniel himself was somewhat peripatetic, having preached in Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London. Like his brother Thomas he was ejected from the Church of England in 1662 but this only served to reinforced his beliefs. He died at his home in Hoxton just outside London and was buried in Bunhill Fields cemetery in Moorgate, London on the 29th June 1697.

In 1665 the City of London Corporation decided to use some of the fen or moor fields as a common burial ground for the interment of bodies of inhabitants who had died of the plague and could not be accommodated in the churchyards. The burial ground attracted mainly dissenters from the Established Church who were of a Protestant persuasion, partly owing to their much larger numbers in the locality. The above entry has been taken from the registers of St Leonard’s in Shoreditch.


The images at the top of the page show (L-R): Vincent family arms; skeleton detail from the Vincent tomb in St Torney's Church, North Hill; backplate of Vincent tomb.