THE PENNEY LIBRARY, The Penney Family Book
Penney Library


Chapter 4


Roger (or Rogar) Penny, shipwright by trade, is first mentioned in the records on Sept. 14, 1725. On that date he made an "Allegation for marriage license" to m. Margaret Freeloft (see below). Roger was 32 years old and a "batchelor". Margaret was a "spinster", aged 28 years. Both were stated to be "of Deptford" (resident). Thus Roger was b. in 1693/94, but in Deptford, is highly unlikely. Other records give Margaret's surname as Truelove, not Trueloft, but the "f" and "t" are clearly evident in the records. Even allowing for the "f" to be the Old English "S", this still does not make it "Freelove!" Margaret was b. in 1687/98. The original Allegation and the "bond" in Latin, with Roger's signature, were found by Margaret Paine, at Lambeth Palace Library, London, official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Note that on the bond, the writer made a mess of filling in the space provided, having written Roger Penny again instead of the name of his spouse, which he then crossed out, and then there is another word crossed out before the word "spinster".

Roger and Margaret were m. Sept. 16, 1725 at St. Mary the Virgin Lewisham. Lewisham is a town just a few miles south of Deptford (see chapter 5). 1725 was the year that the Treaty of Hanover was signed, forming an alliance between Britain, France, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands; and two years before the d. of George I and beginning of the reign of George II.

The church in which Roger and Margaret were m. was built in the 15th century. It was like many of the churches of the same period still to be found in Kentish villages. It was a double-roofed building, nave and aisle being under separate roofs. The ceiling was decorated and the floor was paved with tiles. It is recorded that there were two aisles - one for men and one for women. Two vicars, John Glyn (d. 1568) and Dean George Stanhope (d. 1727) were bur. before the high altar in the Nave Chancel. Vicar Stanhope (1689-1727) is very likely the man who m. Roger and Margaret. The south chancel was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and there was a small chapel built out on the north side of the church dedicated to Our Lady. The tower was incorporated into a new church, of the Georgian style, which was built in 1774. This is the present church, at least as far as the outside is concerned. John Wesley preached a sermon in the newly built church in 1777. Nearby is the Old Vicarage built by Rev. George Stanhope in 1692. The Rev. David Garlick is the present vicar. Mr. Julian Watson, a historian of the parish, was kind enough to supply details of the old church.

Roger's name also appears in the Lady (1st) quarter of 1726 in the pay book (ADM 42/517, pg. 11)(see below) for Deptford Royal Naval Dockyard (see chapter 6), under 'Extraordinary'. This is the section containing the records of all shipwrights, caulkers, joiners, riggers, etc. He was listed among the journeymen shipwrights (see chapter 7), not the apprentices. His name is also found in the pay books for the Midsummer (2nd) quarter, Michaelmas (3rd) quarter and Christmas (4th) quarter of 1726. His name was also found in similar documents for 1727-1732, 1735, 1741, 1746, and 1747. He was probably also listed in the intervening missing years, but those books were not searched for want of time.

In 1726, for example, during the first quarter, he worked 32.5 days, 0 nights and 2 tides (a 'tide' was a period of 2 hrs of overtime, not an actual sea tide). For this he was paid 3, 8s (shillings), 8d (pence). In the second quarter of 1732 he worked 76 days, 0 nights and 24 tides, earning 8, 10s, 4d.

In England before conversion to decimal coinage, there were 12 pence (or pennies, 12d) to the shilling, and 20 shillings (20s) to the pound (). Other coins used were: the farthing (1/4d), three-penny piece (3d), sixpence (6d), halfcrown (2/6d), and guinea (1, 1s).

The following numbers of employees worked in Deptford Yard as of June 14, 1739: shipwrights, 410; quarterboys, 8; caulkers, 27; oakum boys, 9; pitch heaters, 1; joiners 34; house carpenters, 48; wheelwrights, 2; plumbers, 1; bricklayers, 23; bricklayers laborers, 39; sailmakers, 19; scavelmen, 31; riggers, 14; laborers, 130; blockmakers, 2; locksmiths, 3; teams, 4; Sawyers, 45; treenailmooters, 2; oarmakers, 1; smiths, 37; and compassmakers, 2. All totalled at this time, there were 895 workmen. However, by the following November 14, the number had risen to 1097, and the shipwrights to 490. This resulted from the outbreak of the war in 1739 and the rush to get ships to sea during the summer. It is said that dockyard officers at this time resorted to a certain amount of 'driving' to get the work done quickly, resulting in unrest and strikes. By numbers of employees, Deptford was the third largest of the Royal Dockyards in 1739, behind Portsmouth (in Hampshire) and Chatham (further east in Kent).

In 1746, Roger's employment at Deptford overlapped with that of the young Munro (or Mungo) Murray, also a shipwright, and author of the beautiful tome, "treatise on Shipbuilding and Navigation", published in 1754 and 1765. It is possible that Roger was acquainted with or worked alongside Munro.

Margaret and Roger had at least five children, all bp. at St. Nicholas, Deptford. Margaret's name, however, is not listed in connection with the bps., only the father's, as was the custom at the time in some parishes. Their children were: Ann bp. Dec. 16, 1726; John bp. Jan. 11, 1730; Edward bp. Dec. 3, 1731; Mary bp. April 4, 1734; and Henry bp. April 26, 1736. John was probably b. 1728-29 and it is he through whom our Penney Family is descended. During this ten-year period Roger and Margaret resided on King Street, Deptford, within a few hundred feet of the Dockyard wall. It is not clear why no Pennys appear in the 'rate books' (tax books) for Deptford before 1759, if Roger and his family were actually there.

Large families were not as common at this time as we would like to think. In one Kent town in 1705 only ten families out of 270 had more than five children, and none more than eight. The average was a little under two.

It is not known where Roger was b., grew up and served his apprenticeship. His b. is not recorded at Deptford as far as we know; however, might he have come from Lee, Lewisham, Greenwich, Rotherhithe, Stepney or any of several hundred other nearby parishes in Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, or Essex. So far his b. has not shown up in the Mormon computer extractions of the registers.

An important clue to Roger's birth may be the will of a John Penny, written Oct. 19, 1714, and proved Dec. 12, 1721. It was found at the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane (Prob. 11. 582. Quire 228) by Margaret Paine. She also "looked at the registers for St. John Wapping (Thames, north bank) and there are several Penny's, but not the baptism of Roger". Both the fact that John referred to his brother as a shipwright, and the very low incidence of the forename, Roger, makes it very likely that this Roger, and our Roger are one in the same. The following is a typescript of the will.

I JOHN PENNY of Saint John of Wapping in Couny Middx Marrnr
being in bodily health and of sound and disposing mind and memory
and considering the perills and dangers of the seas and other
uncertaintys of this transitory life do for avoiding controversies
after my decease make publish and autharse (authorize ?) this my last will
and testament in manner following that is to say first I
recommend my Soul to God that gave it and my body I commit
to the Earth or Seas as it shall please God to order and as for and
concerning all my worldly Estate I give bequeath and dispose
thereof as followeth that is to say all and singular such wages
sum and sums of money Lands Tenements Goods Chattles
Estate whatsoever as shall be anyways due owing or belonging
unto me at the time of my decease I do give devise and bequeath
the same unto my loving brother ROGER PENNY of the same
Shipwright and his Heirs and Assigns and I do hereby nominate
and appoint my said Brother Roger sole Executor of this my last
will and testament hereby revoking all former and other
Wills and Testaments and Deeds of gift by me at any time heretofore
made and I do ordain and ratify these presents to stand .........
.... for and as my last Will and Testament in Witness
whereof to this my said Will I have sett my hand and .....
the nineteenth day of October anno dom: 1714 and in the first
year of the reign of His Majesty King George by the grace
of God over Great Brittain. Jno PENNY signed sealed
and published in the presence of us James Cairn (?) Henry
Nevill (?) Jno Newby Attorney and Notary Public.


Careful searching has shown Roger was not at Sheerness, Woolwich, or Portsmouth Dockyards in 1724-25 as an adult. He was also not at Chatham (the largest Royal Dockyard of the time) in 1722-23 or at Plymouth (in Devonshire) 1722-24. Instead he may have taken his period of indenture in a private shipyard, of which there were many at that time along the Thames (see Chapter 3) and elsewhere. Unfortunately, records for most of the private yards of that period are non-existent today.

It is also possible that he was pressed into dockyard service, as it was then still practiced in time of great national need. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries it was difficult to induce shipwrights to serve in the Royal Dockyards, because the wages were poor as compared with those paid by private builders, and always in arrears. Thus the Admiralty had the power to impress workers for the Dockyards as well as for sea duty. In desperate times, a shipwright in a Royal Yard might mean any man who could handle the tools of the trade. However, the fact that Roger was m. at Lewisham several months prior to the first mention of him at the Deptford Yard possibly suggests he purposely came to the Deptford area for dockyard work. Alternatively, he may have been at sea as a ship's carpenter before 1726, a common duty for shipwrights; since the Navy required that several shipwrights be on board at all times for maintenance and repair.

It might be noted in addition, that no Pennys are listed in the pay books at Deptford Dockyard for the years 1708-09, 1712, 1716, 1719-20, and 1721-23. After 1724, work at the Yard must have risen sharply, as the number of shipwrights in the pay lists increased considerably. Britain and France were at war with Spain from 1727 till 1729. Increased jobs at the Yard during this period may have been the reason Roger came to Deptford.

In the first quarter of 1741 Roger worked 75 days, 24 nights and 96 tides. For this he received 12, 14s, 3d. Six years later (1747) he is shown to have worked 75 days, 0 nights and 148 tides and to have collected 11, 10s, 3d for his efforts over the three months. During that year and the previous one, his son John is listed as "servant" (apprentice) to him. The following year (1748), John Penny is entered in the pay lists without Roger; "servant of the exec. (executor) of Roger Penny" penned in to the right of John's name.

An account of the shipwright's servants in Deptford Dockyard in June, 1742 shows that 21 were apprenticed to dockyard officers, 115 to working shipwrights, and 44 to widows and others not in the yard. Of the latter 44, about 30 were apprenticed to widows or "executors" of deceased shipwrights. The wages of such apprentices were paid to the widows, providing them some support. The apprentices in this case, however, had no master to whom they were accountable, or by whom they were instructed. Such were often a disciplinary problem and frequently failed to report for work.

His death and will

The register for St. Nicholas, Deptford (Deptford Green) contains the following entry among the burials: "Roger Penney, Shipwright, New Street, Jan. 6, 1748". Thus Roger d. in his 55th year. This was the "old church" from the time of William I, and Roger was probably bur. in the churchyard, although no marker to him exists today. As of Sept., 1748, Roger's widow, Margaret, was still living on New Street. In 1760 a Margaret Penny was living in Deptford on the same street as a John Penney (New Street). The former was probably Roger's widow, and the latter, her eldest son John, who by now had m. Elizabeth Rout and had begun his own large family (see Chapter 3).

While searching the Wills indexes at The Public Record Office at Chancery Lane, London in the autumn of 1985 I came across that of Roger Penny (Prob. 11(778) 125). While I was thrilled to read a document written in 1733, it unfortunately shed little new light on Roger's life or family. The following is as exact a reading of the handwritten document as I could make (see first page of same below). Some punctuation has been added to make it more readable (the Wills of that time contain no punctuation whatsoever).

"ROGER PENNEY In the name of God Amen. This twenty sixth day of
December Anno Domini 1733 and in the seventh year of the
reign of his Majesty King George the second of Great Britain. I, Roger
Penny of the parish of St. Nicholas Deptford in the county of Kent
Shipwright being in health of body and of a sound disposing mind
and memory and not knowing how it may please God to deal with
me. But considering the uncertainty of this present transitory life do
make and declare these presents to contain my last will and
testament in manner and form following that is to say first and
principally I commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God
hoping to be saved through the --- death ---- resurrection of
Jesus Christ my only saviour and my body to the Earth to be buried
in a decent and Christian like manner at the discretion of my
executrix hereinafter named and as to ----ing all such wages due and
sums of money, lands, tenements, Goods, Chattels and effects
whatsoever wherewith at the time of my decease I shall be
possessed (of) or invested or which shall then belong or of right
appertain unto me I do give devise and bequeath unto my loving
wife Margaret Penny to her and the heirs (maybe gifts?) of her body
by me and to her and their only proper use and belong forever and I
do hereby nominate and appoint my loving wife Margaret Penny of
aforesaid sole executrix of this my last will and testament and do
revoke all former wills and deeds of gift by me at any time
heretofore made and do ordain these presents to stand and behold
and as my last will and testament for ever witness my hand and seal
the day and year first above written Roger Penny signed sealed
published and declared in the presence of John Mooring, Mary Bird,
Edward Bird writing master in St. Nicholas Deptford."


This will was proved at London before the worshipfull Robert Chapman Doctor of Laws surrogate to the Right worshipfull John Bettesworth also Doctor of Laws - Master Keeper or Commisary of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury lawfully (produced) on the eighteenth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifty by the Oath of Margaret Penny widow the Relict of the said deceased and sole Executrix named in the said Will and - when Administration was granted of all and singular the Goods, Chattels, and credits of the said deceased being first sworn duly to administer."

It is my belief that Roger's children were not named in the Will (unfortunately) because they were yet too young. It should be noted that proving of this Will occurred more than two years after Roger's death. Why this was so is not clear. Although I searched for an entry under Roger Penny in the Death Duty Registers, none was found.

At the time Roger and Margaret were living in Deptford (i.e. 1726-48), there were a number of other Penn(e)ys in the area, relationship to our line unknown. John Penney, a waterman pensioner, of Lower Street, Deptford, was bur. May 22, 1724, at St. Nicholas church. Another John Penney, mariner, had a son by the unusual name of Lodowick, who was bp. June 18, 1732 at St. Nicholas. They resided in King Street, Deptford. In 1729, Alexander Peny m. Margaret Hibbet of Deptford, at St. Mary, Lewisham, nearby. A few years later (1736), Anne Pennye, a widow, m. William Coates, at St. Margaret, Lee, just a few miles south. Both parties stated they resided in St. Nicholas parish, Deptford.

Just to the west in Rotherhithe, James and Elizabeth Penney, had their twins Hannah and Patience bp. March 6, 1727, at the church of St. Mary. Another Penny family probably also resided in Rotherhithe, John and Letitia. Their children, Letitia, John, Thomas, Edward, Henry, Mary Hannah and Laetitia were bp. at the parish church between 1728 and 1746. In nearby Bermondsey, Edward and Hannah Penny had many children (Edward, William, Mathew, George, Ann, William Hanah), all bp. at the parish church, St. Mary Magdalene between 1717 and 1731. John Penny m. Priscilla Ogleby, July 28, 1728, at the same church in Bermondsey.

Across the river in Stepney there is evidence of many Penn(e)ys during this period although they may not all have lived there continuously: James and Mary, John and Eleanor, Thomas and Mary, Henry and Jane, and William and Agnes. Curiously, there are no Penn(e)ys recorded at Greenwich or Woolwich during this time.

Other Freeloves were in the area, possibly related to Margaret: Franc Freelove was discharged from Deptford Yard Jan. 23, 1759. John Freelove, a 58 yr old laborer of 20 yrs service, was "off work May 1, 1777 due to (a) jambed leg (incurred) unloading a barge of iron".

April 19 or 22, 1759, at St. Paul's, Deptford, a Mary Hannah Penny m. Thomas Gray. Whether this woman was Roger and Margaret's younger daughter, or whether she was the daughter of John and Letitia Penny, bp. at St. Mary, Rotherhithe in 1739, is unclear.


Ref.: an abbreviated version of this chapter was published in the Journal of the North West Kent Family History Society, June, 1983 (pg. 54-55).


2A. Transcribed copy of Allegation for Marriage Licence of Roger Penny and Margaret Freeloft (Freelove), 1725; Lambeth Palace Library, London (courtesy, Margaret Paine).

2B. Marriage Bond of Roger Penny and Margaret Freeloft (Freelove), 1725; Lambeth Palace Library, London (courtesy, Margaret Paine).

2C. St. Mary the Virgin, Lewisham (old) Church, 1770.

2D. St. Mary the Virgin, Lewisham, (Old) Church, Lewisham, from the Northwest.

2E. From Pay Lists, Deptford Dockyard, 1726 (ADM 42/517); Public Record Office, Kew, London. Roger Penny, the fourth.

2F. Portion of will of Roger Penny, 1733; Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, London.

Note: Roger Penny is the great great great great great great grandfather of David G. Penney.

To Chapter 3

Back to Table of Contents

Return to The Penney Library