Browsing through an old book with yellowed whispering pages, I came across this little link between Cumbria and Oliver Cromwell. It’s tenuous but it appealed to me simply because so little seems to be known about either of the characters involved and because reading between the lines there is a tale of a family torn asunder as a result of the English Civil war and its aftermath and also of infant mortality.
Dr Thomas Gibson was born at Bampton, near Shap. He graduated from the University of Leiden in 1675 became the Physician General of Cromwell’s Army and went on to write The Anatomy of Human Bodies which drew extensively on other sources but which remained in print for many editions. Little is known about his early life or indeed the death of his first wife.
Ann was Dorothy and Richard Cromwell’s sixth daughter – Oliver’s grand-daughter. She died in 1727, aged 69. Only her eldest sister Elizabeth was as long-lived amongst the girls in the family. The other lasses died in infancy. Ann, then, was born in 1659 while her father was Lord Protector- it was a short-lived venture for him and led to his exile on the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. His wife and family remained at home. Richard’s letters to his daughter are written under cover of an alternative name always RC or CR and speak at his grief of not being with his family.
She was widowed early, and throughout the rest of her life she lived with her sister Elizabeth in respectable Presbyterian seclusion under the watchful eye of her husband’s nephew who became the Bishop of London. The Bishop bequeathed £200 to Bampton Church.