The Surplice Family

Topcliffe Mill, which was leased by the Surplice family
The gravestone of William Surples: Here lieth/ Body of WILLIAM SURPLES/ of Meldreth in the County of/ Cambridge. Yeoman who died (June 2) 1691/Aged .. years leaving/ issue 4 daughters/MARY, SARAH SURPLES/ELIZABETH SUSANNAH
Photograph by Malcolm Woods

The Surplice family lived in Meldreth from at least the late 17th to early 18th centuries.

Many variations of the name have been recorded, including Surplice, Surplis, Surplisse, Surples and Surpless.

The Topcliffe Mill Connection

In 1691 Robert Fuller, who married Mary Surplice, was granted the lease of Topcliffe Mill by its owners, St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. From 1711, the lease was held by Susan Surplice, “spinster of Melbourne” and Robert’s sister-in-law.

The Family

William Surplice, Susan and Mary’s father, was a successful butcher.  According to W M Palmer’s “Meldreth Parish Records”, William was churchwarden in 1680.  He and his wife Mary had four daughters.  Their only son, Will, died in infancy.  For a brief extract from the Surplice family tree, please follow the download link at the bottom of this page.

William died on 2nd June 1691 and was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard in Meldreth.  His will, and in particular an inventory of his goods which was taken in 1691, provide a fascinating insight into his life.  Please see below for details.

Abstract of the Will of William Surplisse of Meldreth dated 11th September 1690

William Surplisse of Meldreth yeoman, sicke in body.  To my loveing wife Mary Surpliss:
All That my coppihold messuage or tenement in Meldreth with the houses lands meadowes pastures and other appurtenances thereto belonging sometime in the occupation of … Momford or his assigns and purchased lately by me of and from one Edmond Jackson; also the messuage or tenement wherein I now dwell with the outhouses orchards closes and 10 acres of arable land; also 7 acres of freehold arable land and also one tenement or cottage in the occupacion of Joane Axom widd[ow]; to the use and behoofe of my said wife and her assignes for her life and then as follows:
[The said Momford property] to the use and behoofe of my daughter Mary Surplisse her heirs and assigns for ever.
[The said property where I now dwell and its lands] and [the Joan Axom property] to my daughter Sarah Surplisse her heirs and assigns for ever.
Further to my said wife and her assigns 33 acres which I lately purchased of and from John Harrison deceased, to her use until my daughter Elizabeth Surplisse is 21 and then to her and her heirs for ever.
To my said wife 15 acres which I purchased of and from Mary Swett widd[ow] also 3+ acres which I bought of and from Thomas Trustram, and the messuage or tenement which I lately purchased of Willm Beaver now in the occupation of John Beaver to my wife’s use unitl my daughter Susan Surplisse is 21 and then to her and her heirs for ever.

Further to my said two daughters Mary and Sarah £200 a peece at 21.  To my said two other daughters Elizabeth and Susan Surplisse £140 a peece at 21.  My wife to maintain and educate my said children until 21.  To her I commit their Guardianship educacion & pupulage until 21.

Residue unto my wife, and she to be sole executrix.  To the poore of the parish of Meldreth 40s.  To the poore of the town of Caxton 20s.

William Surplisse.

Witnesses: John Stacy, John Palmer, the marke of Elizabeth Meade.
Proved at Cambridge, 20th June 1691 in the Archdeaconry Court of Ely by the executrix named.

Inventory of William Surplisse late of Meldreth deceased, taken 12th June 1691

Wearing Apparel and money in his purse £10.
Due to him by Bills Bonds & other wayes £600.
In the Hall, a long table, six stools, small table, five chairs & a dresserboard, £2.
Spitts Jacke, warming pan, fire shovel, tongs, etc., £1.
In the parlour, a table, a joynt bed, a feather bed, blankets, rug, curtains and valence, trundle bed, press cupboar, hutch & chest, cobirons, etc., £6.
In the further parlour a joynt bedstead, etc., coverlet, curtains, valence, hanging press, oval table, clock, two elbow chairs, warming pan, £6.
In the Kitchen, a brass copper, case, dresser, 5 tubs, etc., £2 10s. Eight brass kettles, six pewter dishes, etc., £4 10s.
In the Dairy, a stan [sic], cheesepress, powdering tub, mortar, etc., £2.
In the chamber over the Dairy, a livery cupboard, looking glass, bedstead, etc., rug, a still, a box, £4. The linen, £10.
In the chamber over the Parlour, a longe table, two forms, bedding and a hutch, £1 15s. In the chamber over the further Parlour, the lumber there, 10s. The cheeses in the Cheese chamber, £2. Wheat and pease in the Garner, £3 8s. Pease in the Reeke, £3 12s.  In the Stable, 6 horses and the geeres, a quern, etc., £27. Nine cows, £18. Nine hogs and shoals, £6. Forty sheep, £10 10s. Long cart, long cart body, 2 dung carts, £8 10s. Wood in the Yard, etc. and the timber, £8 10s. Dung, £4. Pair of harrows, 3 ploughs and one rowle [sic], £2. Wheat [17 acres], £34. Barley [30 acres], 60 acres], £60. Pease, oats and lentils [35 acres], £35. Fowls in the yard, etc. £1.
Sum total: £873 15s.
John Wootton, Joseph Sparke, Appraisors.

William and Mary’s daughter Sarah died at the age of 21 in 1695 and left the following will.

Abstract of Will of Sarah Surplisse of Meldreth, 1695/99

Dated 15th September 1695.  Sarah Surplisse of Meldreth, spinster, infirme in body.  To my loving sister Elizabeth Surplisse and her heirs my reversion when it shall happen after the death of my mother Mary Surplisse to 7 acres of freehold land in Meldreth given to me by my late father William Surplisse’s will. And also of and in 8 acres of copyhold land in Meldreth belonging to the Manor of Melbourn in Meldreth, Argentine’s and Traile’s lately purchased of and from George Harrison. To my loving sister Susan Surplisse my reversion (as above) of and in the copyhold messuage or tenement in Meldreth wherein my said mother now dwells, with the outhouses, orchard, ten acres of arable land, etc. as given to me by my father’s will aforesaid, to hold to her, her heirs and assigns for ever.  To my loving sister Mary the wife of Robert Fuller of Hardwicke, co. Cambridge, £80. To Mary her daughter £20 at 21. To my said loving mother my reversion when it shall happen of and in one tenement or cottage in Meldreth with the ordhards, etc. late in the occupacion of Willm Barker, as given to me by my said mother, and she to be sole executrix. Witnesses: Jon. Stacy, Bartholomew Angier, Robert Coldecut. The mke of Sarah Surplisse.

Proved 4th July 1699 [in the Archdeaconry Court].


Comments about this page

  • I am very pleased with this site. I have found that my great great grandfather lived in Topcliffe Mill. I would have loved to see the inside of this house before it was pulled down.  If any one has photos of the inside of the house I would love to see them. Thank you.

    By Norma Browne nee surplice (13/01/2018)
  • I am born a Surplice: my father Robert Alexander Surplice, his father born Albert in Eaglehawk, Victoria, Australia. His father I think was born at sea so I believe this family is an ancestor of mine so am wondering if you have any more information on this family for my tree please and does this house still stand?

    By Norma Browne nee surplice (31/12/2017)

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