Sir Edward ALSTON Kt M.D. 
- Born: 1595, Suffolk
- Marriage (1): Susanna HUDSON  on 8 Dec 1624 in St Botolph without Aldersgate LND
- Died: 24 Dec 1669, Gt St Helens Bishopsgate. aged 74
- Buried: 31 Dec 1669, St Helens Bishopsgate London.
Sir Edward of St Johns College Cambridge B.A. 1615, M.A. 1619, M.D. 1626. Fellow (1631), Treasurer (1649), and President (1653-66), of the College of Physicians. At the Restoration he was Knighted on 3rd September 1660.
ALSTONE (SIR EDWARD), B.A., from St. John's Coll., Cambridge, 1615 ; M.A. 1619; D. Med. 1626; Incorp. 1626. (Son of Edward, Edwardstone, Suffolk). Fellow Coil. of Physicians 1631 ; Treasurer 1649-54; President 1655-66. Knighted by Chas. II. 1660.
Died in Great St. Helen's, Bishopgate, 24 Dec., 1669.
Lincolns Inn Admissions 1420-1799 Vol 1
1639/40 17 Feb.
Edward Alston of Suffolk Dr of Medicine at request of Charles Jones now reader.
Edward was living in the Parish of St. Mary Abchurch, London at the time of his marriage, he was aged 28, a bachelor and she was aged 32, a widow of ? Hudson (Hussey), late Merchant, dec'd. bur 3 Aug 1670 St Helens Bishopsgate (Bedfordshire Notes and Queries Vol. II page 98- No. 160 1624, & London Visitation Pedigrees 1664).
He died very rich at his house in the Parish of Great St Helens, Bishopsgate. His will dated 24 Nov 1669 with codicil was proved PCC 24 Jan 1669-70 provided for a wide variety of bequests, he desired to be buried in his Parish Church.
Edward attended St. John's College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. 1615: M.A. 1626: Fellow of the College of Physicians 1631: Treasurer 1634-49. An eminent Physician, ultimately becoming President of the College of Physicians 1653-66.
While President of the College of Physicians, he increased the power of the College by judicious inclusion of physicians who during the Rebellion had practiced without the College Licence. Thus seventy honorary fellows were created at once, the diploma fees filled the almost empty College chest, but while the College was unguarded during the plague thieves carried off the money. When in the following year fire inflicted a still more serious loss on the Society, Sir Edward Alston promised money to rebuild the College but a quarrel arose as to the site, and at the Annual Election he was not again chosen President.
He withdrew his promise of money and never renewed it. He published in 4to. a collection of Grants to The College of Physicians, London 1660.
In his will Sir Edward desired to be buried in the Parish Church where he died.
The Testator's property after payment of legacies was subjected to the dispositions and appointment of his surviving daughter Dame Sarah Seymour, wife of John Lord Seymour.
Among the legacies is one to a spectacle woman by Crosby House gate (the Alston arms, by the way are in one of the glass windows if the old Crosby Hall in the city of London, possibly because of some connection Sir Edward had with the place), and another to a bricklayer, Norkett, who bricked up the vault that preserved the testators goods at the time of the Great Fire.
Sir Harbottle Grimston, Bart. Master of the Rolls and George Lowe were named executors.
Limited administration was granted 13th December 1698, to George, Earl of Warrington and George Lowe. Administration to the effects of Susanna Alston was granted to Lady Seymour her daughter, 15th August 1670 (P.C.C.).
Matric. pens. from St Johns, Easter 1612. Son of Edward of Edwardstone Suffolk. Matric. 1612; B.A. 1615-6; M.A. 1619; Med. Lic 1620; M.D. 1626; Incorp. at Oxford 1626. Fellow of College of Physicians 1631; President 1655 - 67. Knighted 3 Sept 1660. Died 24 Sept 1669. D.N.B.; Burke, Ex. Bart., Roll of Royal College of Physicians by Williams Munk M.D., Vol.1 p.202, see also Foster;s Alumni Oxonienses).
In a list of the principal inhabitants of London,1640, in Billinsgate Ward, appears the name Edward Alston, Dr. in Phisick. Miscell.Gen.et Her., 2nd series, Vol 2, p 36. See Images.
ALSTON, Sir Edward, (1595 - 1669)
Sir Edward, president of the College of physicians, was born in Suffolk, and was educated at St John's College Cambridge. He graduated BA 1615, MD 1626. In 1631 he was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians, and was president from 1655 until 1666. At the Restoration he was knighted (3 Sept 1660). He increased the power of the college by a judicious inclusion of physicians who during the rebellion had practised without the College licence. Thus 70 honorary fellows were created at once. Their diploma fees filled the almost empty college chest, but while the college was unguarded during the plague, thieves carried off the money. When in the following year the fire inflicted a still more serious loss on the society, Sir Edward Alston promised money to rebuild the college, but a quarrel arose as to the site, and at the annual election he was not again chosen Pres. He withdrew his promise of money and never renewed it. He published in quarto "a Collection of Grants to the College of Physicians" London 1660. He lived at Great St Helens, Bishopsgate, and died very rich 24 December 1669. (Munk's College of physicians 1878, I. 202.) NM
Dictionary of National Biography Pg 347
Evelyn's Diary. Pg 298, Oct. 5, 1664. I heard the Anniversary Oration in praise of Dr. Harvey in the Anatomic Theatre on the Coll. of Physitians after which I was invited by Dr. Alston the President to a magnificient feast.
Alstoniana Pg 372
Edward (Sir) Alston
b.? d.24 December 1669
AB Cantab(1615) AM(1619) MD(1626) MD Oxon(1626) FRCP(1631)
Sir Edward Alston, M.D., a native of Suffolk, ['a native of Suffolk' deleted in Munk's notes] [the son of Edward Alston of Edwardstone in the county of Suffolk - by his wife Margaret dr of Arthur Penning of Kettleborough in the same county. The Visitation of London. Anno dom. 1633-34 &35. Harveian Society Vol.XV, 1880, p.16. He was] was educated at St. John's college, Cambridge, as a member of which he proceeded A.B. 1615, A.M. 1619, M.D. 1626. He was incorporated at Oxford 10th July, 1626; was admitted a Candidate of the College of Physicians 10th December, 1628, and a Fellow 4th April, 1631. He was Censor in 1642; Elect, 9th August, 1648; Treasurer, from 1649 to 1654 inclusive; Consiliarius, 1653, 1667, 1668; and President for twelve consecutive years, viz., from 1655 to 1666, both included. Being President of the College at the Restoration of Charles II, he on the 3rd September, 1660, kissed hands in his official capacity, and received the honour of knighthood.
The affairs of the College had in the political disturbances of the times fallen into great disorder. The funds were well nigh if not quite exhausted; the lectures were suspended; a large number of physicians were settled and practising within the liberty of the College without a licence; and the examination of apothecaries' apprentices, which for many previous years was rigorously enforced, had been discontinued. Sir Edward Alston, as President, exerted himself actively in the correction of these abuses. With the view of bringing within the pale of the College those practicing without its licence, and at the same time of improving the finances of the Institution, he suggested in 1664 the creation of Honorary Fellows: "1664, Sept. 1. Com. Maj. Extraordinariis. Resarciendis Collegii impensis, firmandæque ejusdem auctoritati, consultum videbatur, viros doctos, gravesque, Doctoratûs laureâ ornatos, in Collegium nostrum, Sociorum Honorariorum titulo, adsciscere. Placuit itaque omnibus hæc sententia: Quoniam in urbe hâc complures Doctores medici, tum ætate et moribus graves, tum dignitatis ac literarum famâ celebres reperiuntur, quos examinationi publicæ sisti durum videtur, et tamen in Collegii nostri communitatem admitti commodum fuerit; ideò statuimus et ordinamus, ut quicunque ejusmodi tesseræ videbuntur, consentientibus in id Sociorum plurimorum in Comitiis Majoribus suffragiis, Sociorum Honorariorum nomine insigniantur; medicinamq. intra civitatem hanc ejusque regiones amburbicas faciendi libertate aliisque privilegiis gaudeant, quibus Socii, Candidatique extra Collegium legitimiè fruantur."
"Anno 1664, Sept. xvj. Statutum de admittendis Sociis Honorariis, sponsioque ab iis danda, præleguntur, et plurimorum suffragiis sanciantur."
In sequel to this statute, upwards of seventy physicians, many of whom, however, as will be seen hereafter, were resident in the country, and not in the town were, ere the close of the year, elected Honorary Fellows. The objects aimed at by the new regulations were fully attained. All physicians practising in London were thus brought into the College, and the finances of the Corporation were so much augmented, that, as we are informed by Hamey, they were then in a more prosperous condition than at any former period in the history of the Institution. Misfortunes, however, of a severe character were in store.
In 1665, when the plague was raging in London, the President and most, if not all, the College officers retired for safety into the country. During their absence the College was broken into, and the treasure chest, containing the whole of the College funds, now greatly augmented by the contributions of the Honorary Fellows, was robbed of its entire contents. (1) In the following year the College, and the whole of the library, with a few unimportant exceptions, were destroyed by the great fire. (2) Sir Edward Alston was still the President. He entered warmly into the arrangements for rebuilding the College, counselled liberality to his colleagues, and by his own munificent promises encouraged them to more ample contributions. At this point a difference unfortunately occurred among the Fellows as to the site of the new building. Sir Edward not only took, but by his conduct in and out of the College gave offence to his colleagues, and at the general election next ensuing Dr. Glisson was elected President. Sir Edward thereupon revoked his promised subscriptions, and died shortly afterwards at his house in Great St. Helen's Bishopsgate, on the 24th December, 1669. [He was buried at St. Helen's Church in the chancel there and near to his daughter the Lady Langham on 31 Decr. His relict did not long survive and was buried in her husband's grave 3 August 1670 ? Vide Fox's Annals of St Helen's Bishopsgate.]
Sir Edward Alston was fortunate in his professional career, and accumulated an ample fortune. [By his wife Susan dr of Christopher Hudson of "Norridge" he had two daughters.] He married his eldest daughter to a son of Sir John Langham, and gave her a handsome dower. His youngest daughter he married to a son of Sir Harbottle Grimston, endowing her with the same sum he had given to the elder, and when, shortly afterwards, she became a widow, Sir Edward gave her an additional 10,000l. as a portion on marrying into the family of the duke of Somerset. Sir Edward Alston was the author of A Collection of Grants, &c, to the College of Physicians. 4to. Lond. 1660.
[(1) "1665 Junii xxvi. Subitò post, pestifera lues densissimâ strage grassatur et complura hominum millia demessuit: sequutumq. nobis est aliud magnum incommodum. Nam postquam, Thesaurarii potissimùm suasu et consilio, supellectilem argenteam, nummosq. longo tempore corrasos, cistæ ferreæ in Ædibus Collegii concredidimus, occlusisq. probe foribus, omnia in tuto fore arbitrati sumus; crescente plurimum Libitinæ censu, ipse ædium custos, Dr. Merrett, sibi familiæq, suæ cavens, rus secedit; intereàq. ærarium nostrum, mille circiter librarum pretii, à Lavernione nescio quo, prorsis expliatum est."
(2) "1666 2do Septembris, exortum est ingens, nec fando auditum antehâc incendium quo Urbs propemodum tota, ipsumq. adeò Collegium, cum maximâ Bibliothecæ parte, conflagrârunt." - Annales.]
[Note the family connections between Sir Edward Alston and Colonel A. A. Fenn, Alson Court, Nayland. (12.12.55)]
[See also Medical History 1974, 18, 370-374]
[Dr. A Briscoe of Woodbridge, Suffolk, reported verbally to the Librarian RCP, 6.3.73 that his quest for the portrait of Sir Edward Alston (originally in the possession of Augustus ?) had ended when he found that it had been stored at Maples' during World War II, and had been destroyed when the store was bombed.?]
(Volume I, page 202)
RCP Munks Roll website is maintained by the Heritage Centre (email: email@example.com)
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Essex Record Office D/DHt/T111/1
MISCELLANEOUS ESSEX RECORDS
Dates of Creation 6 December 1661
Scope and Content: Lease Sir Edward Alston, of London, Kt. Penninge Alston, of London, grocer, his brother and Judith, his wife The manor of Frinton Hall with the patronage of the Church, etc., Frinton
Essex Record Office D/DMh/T40
MAJENDIE FAMILY OF CASTLE HEDINGHAM
Dates of Creation 1663
Scope and Content Deed of Manor of Frinton alias Frinton Hall, Frinton and Kirby- le-Soken, advowson of Frinton, manor of Skirmans Fee, Frinton, and all properties, lands and rights in Frinton, Kirby-le Soken and Walton-le-Soken in occupation of Sarah Grimston wid., Sir Harbottle Grimston, Master of the Rolls, Sir Edward Alston, James Baker, Rich. Hawkin, Mgt. Seagrave wid., Richard Stone, Thomas Carter, Robt. Swanton. (Incomplete date and details, no seals or signatures) Endorsed with brief notes re Wix Abey estates and purchases
ALSTON & LEMAN v. OFFLEY.
Chancery Proceedings. Charles 1. A. 33/25.
Bill, dated 23 January 1629/30, by Edward Alston, doctor of Physic, and William Leman, citizen and Fishmonger of London, V. Robert Offley.
One Jasper Hussey, citizen and fishmonger of London, held leases of tenements in Billingsgate, which by his Will he bequeathed to Susan his wife, whom he made executrix. About December 1624 the complainant Alston did intermarry with the said Susan, and in view of the said leases, did settle upon her a competent jointure. About May 1625 (seeing the said Alston was not a freeman of London, which precluded him from holding the said leases)
Edward Alston conveyed the leases to William Leman in trust to his own use.
Robert Offley is fraudently endeavouring to defeat his title.
Page 170 Alstoniana
ALSTON & another v. OFFLEY.
Chancery B. and A. Charles 1. A. 5. (59)
The replication of Edward Alston and Wilham Leman, complainants to the insufficient answer of Robert Offley, defendant. (Undated.) Respecting leases of property, the locality of which does not appear in this document.
ALSTON v. ELSOME.
Collins. I. Bill, 31 October 1629, by Edward Alston of London, Esq. and Susan his wife, executrix of Jasper Hussey, late citizen and fishmonger of London, deceased v Elizabeth Elsome and Joseph Blades.
In Easter term 3 Chas. I. Orators recovered judgment in the court of Common pleas, against one Thomas Elsham Elsome alias Elsham late of Kingston upon Hull., chapman, deceased., on account of certain parcels of hops supplied him by said Jasper Hussey, defendant Elizabeth being his relict and executrix.
Alstoniana Pg 170
ALSTON v. SIR JOHN HARPER & others.
1656. Chancery Proceedings before 1714. Collins 143.
Bill 24 November, 1656, by Edward Alston, Doctor of Physic, President of the College or Commonalty of the Faculty of Physic, London, and the said College or Commonalty, and William Harvey,.the late reader, and Charles Scarborough the present reader of the art or science of chirurgery In the house of the said President or College (both Doctors in Physic) v. Sir John Harper and others.
Respecting an annuity left by the late Richard Caldwell, Dr. in Physic in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, payable to the said College.
Alstoniana Pg 175
ALSTON v. HARPER.
Bill, 24 November 1656, by Edward Alston, Dr. of Physic, President of the College or Commonalty of the Faculty of Physic, London, and the said Commonalty, and William Harvey-(as in a previous suit) v. John Harper and others, re premises left by Richard Caldwell, for the benefit of the said College.
See Table 27 page 24.
ALSTON v. HARPER & others.
Depositions, 1659, in the suit of Edward Alston, Doctor in Physic, v. John Harper and others.
Relating only to property left to the College of Physicians. See same suit abi supra.
Whittington Bundle 759.1659
Alstoniana Page 176
OFFLEY v. ALSTON.
Bill, 29 January 1661/2, by Robert Offley of the Middle Temple, London, esq., and Elizabeth his wife, and other executors of John Wynne, late of London, dyer, deceased, v. Sir Edward Alston, Kt.
In January 1649/50 the said John Wynne entered into a bond to defendant, (then Edward Alston, doctor of physic)
to pay a portion of L100 to his relative Elizabeth Wynne.
Elizabeth died unmarried and under age, under which circumstances the bond was to become void. Alston was only a person named in trust, but yet from a covetous desire of unlawful gain has brought an action against the defendants in the court of Common Pleas.
Reynardson 24/120. 1661/2.
Alstone v Lowe 1678 - Sir Edward Alston of St Helens
Inheritence Disputes Index TNA C10/495/2
Essex Record Office D/DHt/T111/1
MISCELLANEOUS ESSEX RECORDS
Dates of Creation 6 December 1661
Scope and Content: Lease Sir Edward Alston, of London, Kt. Penninge Alston, of London, grocer, his brother and Judith, his wife The manor of Frinton Hall with the patronage of the Church, etc., Frinton
Alston Sir Edward, Knt. Senr.
Shown as a Gentleman Pensioner to King Charles II at L100 in Ch. 1670-77.
London Hearth Tax 1666.
Parish of St Mary Hill
A Sir Edward Alston paid tax on 11 hearths.
No Alston recorded in Parish of St Helens or any other Parish, unproven to which Sir Edward Alston.
THE WILL OF SIR EDWARD ALSTON Knt., Doctor of Physic.
Of Parish of Great St. Helen's.
Dated 24th November 1669
I give to Dame Susanna my wife the use of all my jewels plate goods chattels and household stuff and an annuity of L200 to be paid by my executors out of the interest of my money.
I give to my granddaughter Mrs Mary Langham daughter of Sir James Langham L20 in old gold.
To Deborah Crew L100
To Abraham Alston of Walter Beauchamp co. Essex L100
To Mary Crew daughter of said Deborah L50
I desire my executors to pay into the hands of Mr Amos Martin, within 3 months of my wife's death the sum of L400 to be disposed of as follows:- The interest of L100 to be paid to Rachel Skinner of Sudbury, widow, or to her husband if she marries again, or if she died and does not remarry to her three children. The other L300 to be paid to her 3 daughters on their coming of age, the interest to be paid, until that time to their mother towards their maintenance.
I give to Deborah Wathing and Sarah West daughters of Francis and Hester Browne of Worlingworth Suffolk L20 each on the death of my wife.
I give to Sir Harbottle Grimston Bart. Master of the Rolls L100 To George Lowe of Lincoln's Inn L50 and appoint these two gentlemen my executors, to whom also I leave the residue of my estate to be disposed of as my daughter Dame Sarah Seymour the wife of John Lord Seymour shall desire.
Signed: Ed. Alston.
Witnesses Thos. Alston, Ed Alston, Will Phillips, Peter Bennett.
A Declaration of such Legacies as I entrust my daughter Dame Sarah Seymour to give to certain persons.
To Sir John Langham L20 in Guinea gold as a testimony of my thankfulness to him.
To Sir James Langham L10
To my cousin Steven Langham L10, to his wife L10, to his son and daughter 40/- each in old gold.
To Mrs Waterhouse, Sir John Langham's housekeeper L10
To my sister Alston wife of Penning Alston dec'd L5
To my cousin Sarah Harrington L5
To my brother Joseph Alston's wife L5
To Mrs Chandler for her kindness to my cousin Harrington L5
To Mr Burrows, minister at St. John Langham's L5 and to his five children 20/- each
To a spectacle woman by Crosby house gate 40/-
To Sarah my maid 20/- and L5 more if she stay with my wife
To Matthew Offly such clothes of mine as are fit for his wear and my velvet coat if he intends to practice Physic also some of my Physic printed books. (legacies to Sir John Langham's servants, to Lady Seymour's servants and other maids)
To Mary Crew daughter of Deborah Crew L50 besides the L50 left in my will; this L100 to be put into the hands of Arthur Arts for the maintenance of said Mary Crew until her marriage
To my Sister Gilbert L5
To my cousin Elizabeth Finny L5
To Mr Norbett, a bricker, who blocked up my vault and thus preserved my goods in the time of the great fire 40/-
Signed: Edward Alston
14th December 1669.
Witnesses: Amos Martin, Peter Bennett, Matthew Offley.
Proved with Codicil 24th January 1669/70 PCC by George Low and Sir Harbottle Grimston executors named in will.
Letter of administration (with the will annexed) were granted 13th December 1698 to George Earl of Warrington and George Low.
Ref. Penn 2.
Copy of Will on this File
A representative of St Helen's Bishop Gate London wrote to R Woodbridge-Smith 2013.
"I have checked all our existing records and only found a reference in a 1904 book of St Helen's registers which shows Mary's (Langham) burial in 1660 and Sir Edward in 1669. This reference book by 'The Harlein Society' states under Sir Edwards details that he and Mary were buried together just to the north of Sir John Crosby's tomb. Crosby's tomb is still in its original position, so it can reasonable be assumed where Mary and Edward were buried. The tomb was never marked with a ledger stone or memorial slab ( not uncommon) and was probably a simple brick covered in earth affair. All remains within the church were removed for re-ordering in 1894. All remains were put into a mass grave at City of London Cemetery, Ilford Essex."
House of Lords Record Office: House of Lords: Journal Office
[HL/PO/JO/10/1/225 - HL/PO/JO/10/1/339]
Catalogue Ref. HL
House of Lords
Records of the Parliament Office, House of Lords
House of Lords: Parliament Office: Journal Office
[Access Conditions] All records are open.
House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers - ref. HL/PO/JO/10
House of Lords: Journal Office: Main Papers 1509-1700
FILE - Main Papers - ref. HL/PO/JO/10/1/236 - date: 6 Jul 1647 - 15 Jul 1647
[from Scope and Content] 15 July 1647 -- Certificate from Dr. Edward Alston, that Lord Capel ought not, on account of indisposition, to reside in London. Lords Journals, IX. 332.
Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office:
GRETTON (SHERARD) MANUSCRIPTS
Catalogue Ref. DE1431
Sherard family of Stapleford, Leicestershire
SHERARD FAMILY WILLS & SETTLEMENTS
Joas Croppenbergh, father of Anne, wife of George Sherard, esq
FILE - Assignment of lease - ref. DE1431/508 - date: 15th January 1632/3
[from Scope and Content] Reciting a lease of 24th March 1631/2 by Edward Alston, doctor of physic, London and William Leman, citizen & fishmonger, London to (i) for 21 years of a wharf called Great Somers Key and Little Somers Key, with crane & cranehouse in the parish of St. Botolph near Billingsgate and 2 other messuages nearby at a rent of L.100 p. annum. (i) now transfers the lease to (ii) for the remainder of the term.
FILE - Assignment - ref. DE1431/509 - date: 28 Nov. 1643
[from Scope and Content] (ii) Edward Alston, doctor of physic of London
FILE - Bargain & Sale - ref. DE1431/510 - date: 5 Dec. 1643
[from Scope and Content] (i) Edward Alston of London, Doctor of Physic
FILE - Release - ref. DE1431/511 - date: 1 May 1652
[from Scope and Content] Moiety of capital messuage in Chelsea, late in the tenure of Joseph Alston, merchant.
Manchester University, John Rylands Library: Rylands Charters [RYCH/3278 - RYCH/4779]
Catalogue Ref. RYCH
KILBY, co. Leic
FILE - Acknowledgment by William Bale of Kilby, co. Leic., esq., of the receipt from Sir Edward Alston, kt., of consideration money mentioned in an indenture of the same date - ref. RYCH/3674 - date: 4 Mar. 1667
Royal College of Physicians of London:
Catalogue Ref. RCP-FINAD
Royal College of Physicians of London
Open to consultation, unless otherwise indicated
FILE - "Rationes accepti et expensi in Collegio Medicor. Londinensium etc. Edwardo Alston Eqr. Av. Praiside et Balduino Hamey Thesaurario. 1664." - ref. RCP-FINAD/2073 - date: 1664-1709
[from Scope and Content] Alston (Sir Edward), 1595-1669
THE PURITAN CONNEXIONS OF SIR EDWARD ALSTON, PRESIDENT OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS 1655-1666
by WILLIAM BIRKEN of 20 Riggsbee Home Court, RFD 8, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514, U.S.A.
SIR EDWARD ALSTON was the son of Edward Alston senior and descended from a family that had lived and held land in Suffolk since the days of Edward III.1 Edward Alston senior has been variously identified with either Edwardstone or Boxford in Suffolk. Topographically, these tiny villages are virtually inseparable. American readers will perhaps remember that Edwardstone was the birthplace, in 1588, of John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts. Indeed, it is apparent from the diary of his father, Adam Winthrop, that the lives of the Winthrops and Alstons, were closely bound. Carefully noted by the elder Winthrop were all the petty transactions that made up the life of these Suffolk landowners. The entry of 15 April 1595 was typical of the relationship between Adam Winthrop and Edward Alston: "Item I bought of Mr. [Edward] Alston the XVth of Aprill 1595 a grey Colt xl S.12 On other occasions Adam Winthrop noted the sale of peas to Alston or the renting of a cart and plough to his neighbour. Often, the two men would exchange their roles of creditor and debtor and Winthrop has a few entries to remind him of money which he owed to Alston. References to dealings between the families spanned the generations and in 1628 John Winthrop reported the death of Peter Alston, perhaps the grandson of Edward Alston senior, of Edwardstone. The interests of the Winthrops in the Alstons were by no means limited to business. On 21 April 1595 Adam Winthrop announced the marriage of Edward "Aulston" to Susan Brand of Sudbury, about five miles to the west of Edwardstone. This is soon followed by a more tragic note on 5 December 1595: "Susan Bronde the wyfe of Edward Aulston died of childbed".3 The child involved in this misfortune may have been the future President of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Sir Edward Alston. All the sources seem to agree that he was a native of Suffolk, but there is a discrepancy among them in the date of his birth. The Dictionary of National Biography does in fact list 1595, but on what basis it is impossible to ascertain.4 The author of the article, Sir Norman Moore, was deeply versed in sixteenth and seventeenth century medical history and his conclusion, even though lacking documentary substantiation, cannot be dismissed lightly. The antiquarian Musgrave, in his Obituary, recorded the clearly correct date of death as 1669, but gave the age at death as seventy one.5 Indirectly then, Musgrave has suggested 1598 as Sir Edward Alston's birth year.
On 8 December 1624, he married Susan Hudson, a widow and the daughter of Christopher Hudson of Norwich. On that occasion the marriage licence read, "Alston, Edward, gent., of St. Mary Abchurch, London, bachelor, 28.6 This information, therefore, suggests a third possible birth-date, 1596. However, Alston himself has testified against the years 1598 and 1596. In 1633 he informed the Heralds of the College ofArms that his mother was "Margaret da. of Arthur Penning of Kettleborough co. Suffolk".7 The London visitation of 1664 indicated that Margaret Penning was the mother of Joseph and Penning Alston, two prominent Londoners, as well as of Dr. Edward Alston.8 It is at this point that Adam Winthrop's Diary becomes invaluable when it informs us that Edward Alston senior almost certainly re-married in 1596, for on 24 June 1597 ("A festo Johannis Baptiste"), "The same day Edward Aulston his wife was d[elivere]d of hir first sonne".9 If Sir Edward Alston was born in 1598, the age given at his marriage becomes more difficult to understand unless we posit 1597 as his true birth-date. It is not unlikely that at the age of 27.1/2 in 1624 he would have given the age of twenty-eight to the licensing authorities. Thus, at his death in 1669 Sir Edward Alston would have been seventy-two, not seventy-one.
In 1633, Edward Alston junior, by this reckoning a family man of thirty-six who had recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, referred to his father as "of Edwardstone". In 1605 and 1606, Adam Winthrop associated Edward Alston senior with Boxford, Suffolk. On at least one occasion I have seen Edwardstone referred to as Edwardstone "nigh Boxford", indicating the closeness of the two localities."9a The identification of the elder Alston with Edwardstone in 1633 may therefore have been somewhat arbitrary. Nonetheless, prior to his matriculation as a pensioner from St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1612, Sir Edward Alston's earliest years must have been spent either solely in Boxford, or in Boxford and the neighbouring Edwardstone.10 Between 1600 and 1624, official religion here was primarily in the hands of the rector of Boxford, Joseph Bird. Suffolk was an intensely Puritan county in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and Boxford was no exception. In 1584, Henry Sandes of Boxford, "Preacher of the word of God", was among those suspended for not subscribing to the Articles of Archbishop Whitgift.11 Joseph Bird (M.A. of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1591) seems to have continued in the tradition of Sandes. The fervent Puritan, Adam Winthrop, was an approving auditor of his sermons as witnessed by the entry he made in his diary on 5 August 1603: "Mr. [Joseph] Birde preached at Boxforde upon the 124 psalme, pie et docte". In 1620, Winthrop was still listening to Bird's sermons, as well as those of the minister's son. The rector's puritanism is confirmed by Adam Winthrop's note on 17 September 1613:
"There mett at Mr. Sands, Mr. Knewstubbs, Mr. Birde and his wife, Mr. Chambers, John Garrold and his wife, John
Warner and his wife, Mr. Stebbin Barker of the pryorye, and I with my company, where we appointed all to meete
again the next year on that frydaye which should be nearest to the 17 of September, and in the meaite tyme every of us
eache fryday in the week to be mindefulll one of another in desiring God to grante his petitions that were made to him
There is, of course, nothing in this unassailably to indicate the religious predilections of Edward Alston or his son. However, it must be borne in mind that the distance between Edwardstone and Boxford being a mere mile and three-quarters, the relationship between neighbours was close and personal. The daily contact with the zealous Winthrops, as well as the intense puritanism of the locality would have been hard to resist, particularly by a rather prominent "ancient" family, which was so tightly bound up with the community. At the very least, it would have been difficult for the Alstons not to pay a measure of lip service to the deeply held religious views of Winthrop or of Joseph Bird, even if they did not share their convictions, which seems unlikely. It was within this atmosphere that Sir Edward Alston passed his first fifteen years before going up to Cambridge in 1612. The religious background may account for his family's decision to send him to St. John's. Although undergoing educational decline and passing through a repression of puritanism within its quarters, this was still the school of Cartwright and Whitaker and, in 1609, it elected the Suffolk puritan, Richard Sibbes, as its preacher. Among the chief luminaries of the college at the time of Alston's entry was John Williams, soon to emerge as the most puritan of bishops and Archbishop William Laud's enemy. Evidence drawn from the later life of Sir Edward Alston seems to confirm that not only did he grow up surrounded by intense puritan influences, but that in all likelihood he was deeply affected by them. One of the few direct indications of Alston's religious feelings is in Edward Reynolds' funeral oration for Lady Mary Langham, Alston's daughter. Lady Mary, according to the future Bishop of Norwich (himself a moderate Puritan), "looked after Heaven very young; would frequently bless God for the religious Education which she had under her parents . .. She was a woman mighty in Scriptures".13 Further reference to Alston's religious beliefs is more indirect. By 1647, he was one of the wealthiest physicians in England and able, in that year, to supply a handsome dowry to the elder of his two children, Mary, for her marriage to James Langham, son of the London Turkey merchant John Langham. Official accounts of the Langham family are scrupulously devoid of any specific reference to Puritanism or revolutionary fervour.14 Yet, Valerie Pearl has discovered John Langham to be among those members of London City government whom she classifies as "parliamentary puritans" and "staunch political presbyterians".15 In 1660, with most of England, the Langhams joyously greeted the return of Charles II. However, the fact remains that when John Langham took the oath as an alderman for Portsoken Ward on 12 May 1642 he had, perhaps reluctantly, committed himself to the Parliamentarian cause.16 His son and Alston's son-in-law, James Langham, sat for the family's native Northamptonshire, a country suffused with as much Puritanism as Suffolk, during the period 1656-58 and for Northampton in 1659. Financially, the family prospered during the Interregnum and by the Restoration Sir John Langham was one of the great merchants of England. The case for Sir Edward Alston's Puritan connexions is even more clearly established by the marriage of his youngest daughter, Sarah. In 1652, with a dowry as handsome as that of her sister, Sarah Alston was married to George Grimston, a son of Harbottle Grimston. The active role played by the puritanical Grimston in the Long Parliament is well known and need not be recounted. In passing, a few similarities between the Langhams and Grimstons might be noted in order to illuminate the politics and religion of Sir Edward Alston. Both families were composed of dedicated Parliamentarians, continually at odds with Cromwell and the Army. Their social position almost inevitably made them distrust the revolution after 1646 and they were active promoters of Monck's restoration of the king, who rewarded their efforts with knighthoods and baronetcies. The affluence and position they enjoyed after 1660 was disturbed only by their violent anti-papal outbursts on behalf of Whiggery. The Restoration also brought knighthoods, baronetcies, increased wealth and growing social position to the Alstons. Coincidentally, all three men, Sir John Langham, Sir Harbottle Grimston, and Sir Edward Alston made public addresses to the returned monarch that were generally received as excessively adulatory and even "servile". Perhaps they all felt a certain guilt that they had too readily acquiesced to the Parliamentarian cause and to the circumstances that brought about Cromwell's Protectorate. During the Interregnum, Alston played an important role in guiding the affairs of the Royal College of Physicians. Adept in financial matters, he served as the College's Treasurer from 1649 to 1654, and as its President from 1655 to 1666. As Munk has observed, Alston had to cope with many disorders in the College occasioned by political disturbances: funds nearly exhausted; lectures suspended; physicians practising within the liberty of the College without licence; and the discontinuation of the examination of apothecaries' apprentices.17 In the early years of the Restoration Alston managed to increase the funds of the College to a high level and resolved some of its legal problems by creating by College statute the new status of Honorary Fellow. He thereby incorporated into the College seventy physicians who had practised during the Rebellion without licence. With the Puritan background and Parliamentarian sympathies we have postulated, Alston was in an excellent position to serve as a conciliator for the Restoration Royal College.
Sadly, these important achievements were somewhat tarnished by the College's behaviour during the Great Plague of 1665, the robbery of its treasure chest and the petty disputes which finally forced Alston, near the end of his life, to sever all ties with the institution which he had done so much to preserve. This brief sketch enables us to understand, in part, how a "royal" college could survive intact through the middle years of the seventeenth century. A number of prominent physicians like William Harvey and Sir Matthew Lister were less able to reach a compromise with the Parliamentarians and it is doubtful whether a London institution composed entirely of devoted Royalists and high Anglicans would or could have been allowed to exist through the Civil War and its aftermath. Fortunately for the College, there were men within it, like Alston, who were able to adapt to the circumstances without too great a strain on their consciences. It was these men, both within and outside the College, often Puritan in background but with an extraordinary talent for compromise and statesmanship, upon whom the Restoration depended. To the names of Downing, Petty, Monck and Montagu must now be added the name of Sir Edward Alston.
1. Edward Walford, The country families of the United Kingdom or, royal manual of the titled and untitled aristocracy of Great Britain and Ireland, London, Robert Hardwicke, 1864, vol. 1, pp. 16-17. 373 Short Articles
2. Winthrop Papers, Boston, The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1929-47, vol. 1, pp. 47-385.
4. Dictionary ofNational Biography.
5. Sir William Musgrave, Obituary prior to 1800: a general nomenclator and obituary with reference to the books where the persons are mentioned and where some account of their character is to be found, ed. by Sir George J. Armytage, London, The Harleian Society, 1899-1901, vol. 1, p. 29.
6. London Marriage Licenses 1521-1869: from excerpts by the late Colonel Chester, ed. by Joseph Foster, London, Bernard Quaritch, 1887, p. 23.
7. Sir Henry St. George, Kt., The visitation of London, Anno Domini 1633, 1634 and 1635, ed. by Joseph Jackson Howard and Joseph Lemuel Chester, London, The Harleian Society, 1880-83, vol. 1, p. 16.
8. Sir Edward Bysshe, London visitation pedigrees 1664, ed. by J. B. Whitmore and A. W. Hughes Clarke, London, 1940, pp. 3-4.
9. Winthrop Papers, op.cit.
9a. St. George, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 108.
10. John Venn and J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses: from the earliest times to 1751, Cambridge University Press, 1922, pt. 1, vol. 1, p. 24.
11. The seconde parte of a register: being a calendar of manuscripts under that title intended for publication by the puritans about 1593, and now in Dr. Williams library London, ed. by Albert Peel, Cambridge University Press, 1915, vol. 1, pp. 242-243.
12. Winthrop Papers, op. cit.
13. John Wilford, Memorials and characters, with lives of eminent persons, London, 1741, pp. 325-326.
14. Oswald Barron, Northamptonshire families, London, Archibald Constable, 1906, pp. 208-225.
15. Valerie Pearl, London and the outbreak of the Puritan revolution: City government and national politics, 1625-43, Oxford University Press, 1961, pp. 173, 243, 321-323.
16. Complete Baronetage, ed. by G. E. C., Exeter, William Pollard, 1903, vol. 3, pp. 30-31.
17. W. Munk, Roll ofthe Royal College ofPhysicians, London, Royal College of Physicians, 1878, vol. 1, pp. 202-204.
Ref: Med Hist. 1974 October; 18(4): 370-374
Edward married Susanna HUDSON  [MRIN: 1079], daughter of Christopher HUDSON Esq of Norwich  and Marye , on 8 Dec 1624 in St Botolph without Aldersgate LND. (Susanna HUDSON  was christened on 1 Feb 1689/90 in St Clement Norwich NFK and was buried on 3 Aug 1670 in St Helens Bishopsgate London..)