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John Wrighte, 1221 to 1266

John Wrighte was born in Lincoln, Lincolnshire County about the same time that the Robin Hood and his Merry Men were (according to legend) headquartered in the nearby Sherwood Forest. King John (1199 to 1216) had just signed the Magna Carta, helping England to take its first tentative steps towards the definition and protection of  personal rights, the rule of law, and eventually democracy. Despite that historical achievement, it was a tumultuous time for England. John lost control of Normandy and his son Henry III (1216 to 1272) tried unsuccessfully to take it back.  Henry also had ambitions of launching a crusade. To finance his foreign adventures, he taxed his subjects unmercifully, leading to multiple revolts and social instability. In the midst of these troubles, John Wrighte married and moved his family south to Essex County where he was father to at least one child, Robert William.

Robert William Wrighte, 1243 to?

Robert William Wrighte was born and died  in Nazeing, Essex County. At some point in his life, he spent some time in northern England near his father's home. This is where his son John I. was born. King Henry's unpopularity grew during Robert William's lifetime and in 1265, King Henry's brother-in-law, Simon de Montefort, briefly took control of the government and summoned England's first parliament two knights from each country and two elected freemen from each borough. Montefort's coup collapsed when Henry's son Edward put an end to the rebellion and dissolved the parliament. In addition to these internal troubles, the English also had disputes with the neighboring Welsh, Scots, and French. One or more of these disputes may have played a part in Robert William's decision to return to Essex where he was closer to London and perhaps a bit safer.

Lord John I. Wrighte, I, 1267 to 1307

John I. Wrighte was born in  Nottinghamshire County,  then followed his father back to Essex, where he apparently stayed. During his lifetime, King Edward I (1272 to 1307) came to power and spent much of his time consolidating the government that his father Henry had left in shambles. He made the English Parliament a permanent institution, conquered then colonized Wales, codified English law, defining personal liberties. He also established better relations with Scotland for a time. These relations soured when Edward helped to settle a dispute over the succession of Scottish kings, then used the circumstance to increase his control. The Scots balked; Edward invaded and captured the Stone of Destiny the Scottish coronation stone which he brought it back to London.  It would be only a temporary triumph. While all this was going on, John I. Wrighte married Lady Dorothy Whitebread and had two children that we know about, John Christopher and Thomas.

Lord John Christopher Whitebread-Wrighte, 1303 to 1399

John Christopher Whitebread-Wrighte was born and died in White Notley, Essex County. His lifetime spanned the reigns of three kings. When he was a young child, the English throne passed to King Edward II (1307 to 1327), whose personal excesses and controversial decisions made him increasingly unpopular. Edward failed to consolidate his father's military gains in Scotland and was forced to sign a truce. A widespread famine further weakened his reign. Eventually, his wife Isabella and English barons formed an alliance and forced him to resign, ceding his throne to his fourteen-year-old son, Edward III (1327 to1377). The third Edward restored royal authority, reopened the war with Scotland, and declared himself the rightful heir to the French throne. This began the Hundred Year's War, an on-again-off-again conflict that drained England’s blood and treasure. In 1348, the Black Death plague struck England, killing a third of the population and creating a vast labor shortage. Edward turned his attentions from France to rebuilding his own country. Upon his death, the throne passed to his grandson, King Richard II (1377 to 1399). While kings came and went, John Christopher married Dorothy Jean Bauer. She bore him at least two children, Christopher and Thomas.

Lord Christopher Wright, 1375 to 1399

Like his father, Christopher Wright was born and died in White Notley, Essex County. He apparently passed away the same year as his father, perhaps owing to a brief resurgence of the Black Death plague in 1399 and 1400. During Christopher’s lifetime, spoons came into common use and Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales. He apparently married up to Maude Francis, who is recorded as being both a Lady and a Countess. They had at least one son, Thomas Wright, born in 1396. Toward the end of Christopher's life, Richard II was forced to resign by the son of a former advisor, Henry of Bolingbroke who became King Henry IV (1399 to 1413).

 Lord Thomas Wright, 1396 to 1492

Thomas Wright was born in White Notley, Essex County, England in 1396. He became the lord of the manor in which he was born and was later “ennobled,” that is, made a member of the peerage and given a noble title by the king, possibly Henry V (1413 to 1422) or Henry VI.(1422 to 1461). In Thomas’s time, land was inherited but titles were not; they were conferred by the king, usually based on the amount of land a person controlled. During Thomas’s long life (he lived to the unusually old age of 96) the fortunes of England waxed and waned. Under Henry V, the English crown gained control of France, but his son Henry VI failed to consolidate these holdings and the two nations drifted apart again. Sometime before 1424, Thomas married Agnes Hunt of Gosfield in Essex County, and the two of them moved to Upminster, on the northeast outskirts of London. They had at least one son, Henry Wright, born in 1424. Both Thomas and Agnes passed away in 1492, just as America was being discovered.

Reverend Henry Wright, 1424 to ?

Henry Wright was born in 1424 in Upminster, Essex County, England. He joined the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church at Upminster and took the title “Reverend,” although he was not a priest. He probably served as a deacon or in another lay position. The first English civil war – the War of the Roses – broke out in 1455 and during Henry’s lifetime, the throne of England passed to three separate families, the Houses of Lancaster, York, and Tudor. It was also during his lifetime, in 1477, that the first book was printed in England. He married Anna Whitbread sometime before 1450 and the two of them moved to Dagenham, slightly west of Upminster and nearer to London. Henry and Anna had six children: John, William, Richard, Henry, Thomas, and Katherine. Note that the five boys bore the same names as John Wryta’s five sons in 1066. It’s not known whether Henry and Anna chose these names because of family tradition or because they wanted to advertise that the family was Norman in origin. Although it was 400 years since England had been conquered, there was still definite division between the old Vikings (the Saxons) and the new Vikings (the Normans), with the Normans – the landowners – very definitely on top.

Rev. Sir John Wright, circa 1450 to 1509

Henry’ son John was born about 1450 in Dagenham, Essex County, England. Like his father, he was a cleric at Upminster and an “avowdson” of the church, having the right to nominate and appoint clerical staff. He married Agnes about 1480. Her surname is not known for certain; it may have been Kelvedon, but she also may have been Agnes of Kelvedon. John and Agnes had at least one child, also named John Wright, about 1485. There may have been other children; documents mention Edmund, James, Thomas, Nicholas, Fridewold, and Johane Wright, all from the same region during the same period. One or more of these could have been the sons or daughters of John and Agnes, but the records are not clear. The records do show, however, that John was both successful and prosperous. He earned a reputation as a theologian and was knighted, possibly for his work in theology. He might also have earned his knighthood in the War of the Roses; he was in his twenties when the House of York deposed Lancaster in 1471 and Edward IV (1461-70, 1471-83) took the throne for a second time. He wore the title Reverend Sir John Wright and whatever the source of his title and position, it provided enough money to acquire more land, including Hoo Hall Manor near to where his grandfather Thomas had been born. He and Agnes moved sometime during their marriage, settling in Kelvedon Hatch where John died in 1509, just as Henry VIII (1509 to 1547) came to the throne.

A monument to Robin Hood in Nottingham, England. It's by no means certain that Robin was a real person; the first written accounts of the legend did not appear until 1450 CE.

The Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215. Edward I made it part of English statute law in 1297.

King Edward I had a special chair made to store the Stone of Destiny under the seat. Called the Coronation Chair, it has been used at the coronation of English kings and queens for hundreds of years. In 1950, the Stone was recaptured by four Scottish students and returned to Scotland for four months until the British police took it back. In 1996, in a symbolic gesture to improve relations between the two countries, the British government returned the Stone to Scotland for safekeeping when it was not needed for coronations. It now resides in Edinburgh Castle.

Victims of the Black Death recently discovered in London. The plague was so devastating that the genetic diversity of Britain is still less than it was in 1300 CE.

The opening page of the first English best-seller, Canterbury Tales. Courtesy the British Library.

York soldiers storm London in 1471 during the War of the Roses. Lancaster defenders rally to break the siege.

William Caxton, England's first printer and publisher, shows his first book to King Edward IV in 1477.

In 1497, Henry VIII commissioned John Cabot, a Venetian merchant, to sail west to the Orient. Cabot landed in Newfoundland instead -- this was England's first exploration of the New World.
More Sources

The Dayton and Montgomery County Library -- If you'd like to know more about the Wright family, or research other branches of the family tree, you will find extensive genealogical data here.

Ohio, Home of the Wright Brothers is a genealogical chronicle of the Wrights and four other families, all ancestors of the Wright brothers. It traces these families as they settle Ohio and Indiana. painting Wilbur and Orville as the sons of pioneers and revolutionaries who built an energetic, forward-looking civilization founded on technology and democracy.

Ohio, Home of the Wright Brothers is the history of the Wright family in America, particularly their settlement of Ohio. Click the cover to read sample chapters.

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