Sarah ALSTON Duchess of Somerset 
- Born: 1631
- Baptised: 6 Mar 1630/31, St Martin Orgar LND
- Marriage (1): George GRIMSTON  on 9 Dec 1652 in All Hallows London Wall, LND
- Marriage (2): Lord John SEYMOUR 4th Duke of Somerset  in 1661
- Marriage (3): Lord Henry COLERAINE 2nd Bt.  in Jul 1682
- Died: 25 Oct 1692 at age 61
- Buried: 2 Nov 1692, Westminster Abbey London
Sarah Duchess of Somerset made three marriages into the aristocracy, dying however without surviving issue. In her lifetime she was connected to many prominent people in the City, in Parliament, in the Law and Court, and was a wealthy woman in her own right.
Sarah had two children born of her first marriage to George Grimstone, however both died in infancy
Her second marriage to John Seymour was unhappy, and when he died she became a widow for the second time aged 43yrs. Although she had been estranged from Seymour for some time she must have remained attached to the family as in 1682 her title was confirmed permanently by Royal Warrant.
Sarah's name had been linked with Henry Hare (later Lord Coleraine) before her second marriage, he became a widower in 1680 and married Sarah aged 50 in 1682. She is said to have lived apart from her third husband during the last years of her life. Sarah had reserved in her marriage settlement the power to dispose of her own estate.
Her will which she had carefully prepared over some years was a document of over 60 pages, disposing of assets valued at about L50,000.
Perhaps influenced by her Physician father she founded numerous benefactions for the poor including The Somerset Hospital in Wiltshire, The Westminster Benefaction, and the Tottenham Foundation for the education of the poor.
"A Stuart Benefactress" by A Daly Briscoe 1973 is a fascinating peep into the life and times of Sarah, her family and friends. (ISBN 900963 35 2).
Horace Walpole says (Sir Peter Lely was taken with the illness which caused his death when he was painting the Duchess of Somerset formerly Miss Alston. -This must have been in 1679 or 80 then 48 or 9 years of age. Picture finished by Sir G. Kneller who came to England in 1674.
The portrait of this lady is now in the possession of the Rev. E. C. Alston who purchased it from the house of her last husband Lord Coleraine at Tottenham. (1898)
The Duchess has a very noble monument near Lord Norris's in the Chapel of St Andrew. Sarah was buried in Westminster Abbey, under a very noble monument. The official register says she was buried near the monument of Lord Norris, which is in the Chapel of St. Andrew. However more accurately she is in the Chapel of St. Michael, on the left (the North side) just past the North Door entrance, towards the East end.
A portrait of Sarah in the Hall at Brasenose College Oxford origionally showed a scroll in Latin which read:- M.S.P. In sacred Memory of the most illustrious Sarah, late Duchess of Somerset most famous for her everlasting kindness towards the poor who for the benefit of BOYS founded a School of Grammer at Tottenham in the County of Middlesex greatly increased the growth of the Westminster Green Coats for the advancement of YOUNG MEN of excellent promise in piety and letters she endowed in perpetuity the Colleges of Brasen Nose at Oxford and of Saint John at Cambridge. And also looked to the training of others in the Mechanical Arts out of concern for the AGED. She caused to be built and endowed an Alms House for the support of thirty widows at Froxfield in the County of Wiltshire for the NEEDY of the Parish of Saint Margaret's Westminster she established a perpetual fund whereby they might be better supported. Furthermore Sundry Churches she splendidly embellished with truly magnificent adornments.
WILL of SARAH DUCHESS of SOMERSET (Extract)
Will dated 17th. May, 1686 (2 Jas. ii.)
Testratrix describes herself as late wife of John, Duke of Somerset, deceased and now wife of Henry Lord Coleraine. Recites the reservation in her marriage settlement of a power to dispose of her estate. Commends her soul to God trusting through Jesus Christ to receive pardon and remission of her sins and a glorious resurrection. Directs her body to be interred in Westminster Abbey. Recites a deed to which she and Lord Coleraine Sir Harbottle Grimston Bt. Master of the Rolls deceased and Sir Samuel Grimston Bt. of Gorhambury co. Herts. his son and successor were parties by which certain estates were conveyed to the two Harbottles upon trust to dispose of as she might direct. And another deed (dated 14 July 34 Car. ii.) between herself Lord Coleraine Sir Harbottle Grimston Bt. Sir William Gregory Kt. one of the Barons of the Court of Exchequer whereby certain estates in England and Ireland were conveyed to Sir Harbottle Grimston Bt. and his son Samuel for a term of 99 years if she should so long live, together with her ready money, plate, goods, chattells and household stuff, upon trust to dispose of as she might direct.
Directs her executors to expend L800 on her funeral and tomb, not more than L300 on her funeral and the balance on her tomb.
Bequeaths L1700 to build an Almshouse in two certain acres of land in Froxfield (ffroxfield) near to the village and church, for 30 poor widows. The almshouse to be in the form of a quadrangle with a chapel in the middle of the court. Both houses and chapel to be of brick. The houses each to have a ground room and chamber above with a hearth in each room but to be without cellars or garrets. L200 to be spent on tables bedsteads and "suchlike durable furniture," for the making of seats in the chapel cushions for the seats bibles for the minister and similar necessaries. If the houses were in process of being built by herself at her death only so much to be expended as might be needed to complete her object.
The thirty poor widows to be chosen thus-five and twenty from the counties of Wilts. Berks. and Somerset ten of whom should be minister's widows, and ten at least of whom should be from her manors in Wilts. The other five to be minister's widows from London or Westminster. These ratios to be maintained in filling up vacancies.
No widow possessing lands or tenements worth L20 a year or more to be eligible. Each widow to have an equal share from the maintenance fund.
Devises her farm of Milton and Fyfield in Wilts. (purchased of Thomas Kellway gent.) and let at L150 per annum and her manors of "ffroxfield" Hewish and Shaw to Wilts. worth by her " bailiff's and other officer's accounts " when certain leases determine L640 per annum for endowment purposes. Cloth gowns all of the same sort and colour are to be given the widows at Christmas. The minister of Froxfield to receive L10 per annum for daily prayers and visiting sick widows. A chaplain to be appointed when revenue suffices and the number of almshouses increased also under such circumstances to admit 20 more widows 5 from London and Westminster and 15 from other parts within 150 miles of London except Wilts. Somerset and Berks. 5 to be ministers widows.
Lands, &c., in Cotmarsh Broadhinton co. Wilts. left to provide funds to apprentice 4 boys born on her Wiltshire estates " to some honest trade or calling." Manor of Broadtowne co. Wilts. left to apprentice poor Wiltshire boys.
Manor of Thornhill co. Wilts. given to Brazenose College Oxford.
Manor of Wootton Rivers co. Wilts. given to St. John's College Cambridge.
Scholars in each college benefitting by funds to be called Somerset Scholars. The scholars to be elected from Manchester Hereford and Marlborough free schools. Part of profits of manors to go towards providing chambers studies gowns and caps for students and books.
Bequests of L300 for distribution among 30 poor widows of ministers in London or Westminster and 70 poor women aged or with many children or who " were burnt out by the late dreadful fires." L250 to apprentice 40 Westminster boys. L100 to poor of St. Margaret's parish. L300 to Richard Skinner's children. Sundry other legacies to relatives Sir Joseph Alston Bt. of Chelsea and family, the Gilberts, Coles, and to maid servants and waiting women. A silver gilt pierced work cup and salver weighing 88 oz. to the Countess of Aylesbury; a great silver basket to Viscountess Weymouth. Plate called "Twylight Plate" in trust for niece Lady Delamere with remainder to Lady Elizabeth Booth. Also things as in schedule to Lady Elizabeth. To Lady Mary Booth Japan cabinet and other furniture necklace of largest pearls " five-and-forty in number " and locket with " nine-and-twenty " diamonds. To Langham Booth things as in schedule. Also L4000 to Elizabeth, L3000 to her sister. Legacies of a hundred guineas to Charles Lord Bruce George Booth Lady Lukin and her son Capell Lukin. A large table diamond ring and gold enamelled watch with gold chain and pair of silver candlesticks and silver gilt pot and cover weighing 60 ounces to Sir Samuel Grimston. Legacies in money large silver " bason " and largest silver sugar " chiest " to Sir William Gregory.
Nominates Henry Lord Delamere Sir Samuel Grimston and Sir William Gregory executors and gives each L200 and mourning. Sundry legacies to Sir James Langham of Cottesbrook, Mrs. Sarah Harrington (cousin) William Thomas of Gray's Inn, Warner South of Gray's Inn, Edward Ryder of Wilton, the last three keepers of courts in her manors. Also legacies to James Gregory of Grays Inn steward of her courts in co. Hereford. A 60 oz. silver gilt salver to Lady Grimston. Necklace of pearls to sister-in-law Lady Howe, legacy to Mrs Mary Bredievake widow of Dr. Ralph Bredievake late Bishop of Chichester. A bequest for apprenticing 30 of the Westminster "greencoat" boys to some honest calling. Sundry legacies to her Brazenose and St. John's scholars at time of her death.
L250 for additional building to schoolhouse at Tottenham and L1100 for buying of lands, &c., for support same ; children of poor Tottenham parishioners to be taught free. Bequest of money for apprenticing 10 poor, Tottenham boys. Bequest to poor of Tottenham. Bequest to 30 poor women of Tottenham. Bequest for purchasing' Communion plate for Tottenham church and to upholster pulpit and communion table in crimson or purple velvet. The pulpit cloth to have a deep silver fringe at bottom and a narrow silver fringe at top and sides.
Lands, &c., in Little Ashley, Bradford, co. Wilts. and farm Cherrington or Chirton to Langham Booth.
Residuary devisee and legatee Lady Delamere.
Manors of Pewsey and Titcomb cum Oxenwood and other properties given to Charles Duke of Somerset and successors out of regard for supporting the honour of the Dukedom of Somerset.
All former wills revoked. Present will consists of 13 sheets each sheet signed by testatrix. Witnesses: James Gregory, Warner South, Robt. Browne, Mary Crewe, Charles Spencer, John Turney. Schedule attached (see post).
Codicil 10 Feb 3 W. and M. (1691).
Advowson of Church of Morton Rivers given to Master Fellows and Scholars of St. John's College Cambridge and Brazenose College Oxford for alternate presentations St. John's having first turn Somerset scholars to be appointed. Trustee Sir Samuel Grimston to convey as Henry Earl of Warrington and Sir William Gregory think fit the perpetual advowson and presentation to the Church of Hewish for the Chaplain of the almshouses.
Ten guineas to Philip Berwick Doctor in physick " if by letter left with him I commit to him some care concerning my body when I am dead."
Legacy to page John Cooke revoked "he having left my service."
L500 more to Lady Lukyn. L500 more to Lady Howe.
To Brother-in-law Sir Samuel Grimstone 120 shillings ' pieces of " broad gold."
L3,000 to Henry Booth son of my " niece the Countess of Warrington deceased " to buy land with.
Devise of Cherrington als Chirton to Langham Booth revoked L2000 to be laid out in buying lands for him instead.
Manor of Cherrington given for support of almshouses. L1000 given to buy land to support poor of St. Margaret's Westminster. Money given for velvet pulpit and communion cloth and cushions in St. Margaret's Church, gold and silver fringes to be used. L100 for communion plate at St. Margaret's and L200 for communion plate at Westminster Abbey. Bequest of money for cushions, &c., at Tottenham Church. L100 to Hospital of Green Coat Boys at Westminster. Hundred guineas to Henry Earl of Warrington also gold clock watch with steel case studded ; with gold and ring set with 7 diamonds and a silvergilt salver of about 6o oz.
To Lady Elizabeth Booth 100 pieces of broad twenty shilling pieces of gold. Same to Lady Mary Booth and George Lord Delamere.
To god daughter Lady Katherine Seymour daughter of Charles Duke of Somerset 200 guineas to buy plate. To Sir Joseph Alston Bt. grandson of Sir Joseph Alston of Chelsea Bart. decd. L20 and same to his brother Edward Alston. To sundry others, including Lydia Skynner late wife of Richard Skynner of Sudbury in Suffolk, small legacies. L1 000 more given to buy lands for Hospital of Green Coat Boys at Westminster.
To Lady Elizabeth Booth a great Japan Cabinet. L20 to Mary Wittewronge grandchild to Sir Joseph Alston decd. Legacy of L300 to Richard Skynner's children altered to L100. L500 more to be spent on building almshouses and L100 more on finishing of Chapel.
Owing to death of Lady Delamere the two daughters and two younger sons of the Countess of Warrington appointed residuary devisees and legatees equally.
Witnesses: Ja. Wellington, Thomas Carpenter, Thomas Poole.
Proved 11 January, 1703 (old style) Ash 22. i i
This Schedule to the Duchess' Will being a most interesting part is here presented an full. Dated 17th of May, 1686.
These goods I give in trust to my niece the Lady Delamer, one rich Crimson bed with mixed silver gold and vestoone great fringe upon the vallens the bed lined with white satin and embroidered suitable and white satin inward vallens, eight crimson velvet covers for chairs two of which are elbow chairs, eight chairs the frames carved and japanned and gilt, four large velvet tops and four plumes of white feathers for the top of the bed, one crimson sarcenet (A very fine and soft material made both plain and twilled in various colours) case to draw over the bed and all things that belong to the said crimson velvet bed, one new suite of tapestry hangings about 8 1/2 feet deep containing five pieces being the story Moses and the Apostles, one other suite of tapestry hangings about 9 feet deep containing five pieces being the story of Tarquin and Lucretia, one large Persian carpet, two lesser Persian carpets suitable, two white damask window curtains, one great tortoise shell cabinet embossed with silver in the inside and frame to it suitable, one ebony strong box with gilt bars cross over it, one great walnut tree trunk lined with scarlet satin, two high stands carved and gilt, one great looking glass the frame of it carved and gilt, one large ermine mantle to lay over a great bed the said mantle being lined with white satin, one large silver gilt salver weighing about 60 ounces, one silver bason narrow brimmed all the outside being wrought in several flowers, six silver trencher plates having my former Lord's and my arms engraved thereon and a Duke's coronet, one large silver pair of silver snuffers, one gold clock-watch with a black frame of ebony, one rich carved gilt new coach lined with crimson and gold colour wrought velvet and four gold coloured damask curtains and a great vestoone silk fringe on the inside of the coach and six great glasses belonging to the said coach and two yellow cloth horse-cloths bordered round with crimson and gold colour wrought velvet and what else belongs to the said coach and six brass harness gilt and finely wrought. I would have my niece Delamer leave these things to her eldest son to remain in the family as they will last."
To the eldest daughter of her niece Lady Delamer she gave - One ring set with nine diamonds, one necklace of small pearls of three rows, one fine Holland twilight laced round with broad Flanders lace and one Flanders broad laced Holland border to go round the bottom of the bed suitable, four little fine Holland pillowbers laced round with broad bone lace, about 111/2 yards of pure fine broad new point de Venise being for a handkerchief or shape for the neck and one pure fine very narrow point de Venise for one pair of cuffs suitable, one pocket handkerchief set round with broad point de Venise all which points are looped thick, 22 yards of black farrendine, 12 yards of new black morella tabby, one new mantle of mixed red and white venetian wrought silk stuff wrought like large leaves lined with sarcenet (no lace upon it) and about 5 yards of the same new venetian wrought silk stuff suitable, one fillimote mohair furniture for a great bedstead lined with sky colour sarscenet and one laced quilt to lay over the bed, six chairs of fillimote mohair suitable to the bed containing four curtains vallances basis head piece, head board tester, and inward vallances 4 cups and 4 spriggs for the top of the said bed, one scarlet satin large quilt lined with sarscenet to lay over a great bed, one cloth of silver mantle wrought in little flowers of mixed scarlet and black lined with scarlet sarscenet, one cherry colour morella tabby twilight laced with a very broad ground work tape lace, one silver warming pan, nine silver knobs of wrought plate for two hooks for a chimney and for one fire shovel and tongs, two more larger round knobs of wrought plate for a fire grate, one sad cloth furniture for a large bedstead containing four cloth curtains vallance with a deep silk fringe on it of the same sad colour the bed lined with cherry colour sarscenet containing also inward vallance head piece, tester and a large quilt to lay over the bed of cherry colour sarscenet, one little picture set in gold of my former husband, John, Duke of Somerset, one hair broad bracelet for the arm curiously wrought in flowers with hair of several colours, one little tortoise shell box filled with gessimine glasses, one large strong water case embroidered all over with gold and silver of the outside and lined with red satin and all the glasses having silver tops and silver cup and handle in the middle of them.
Then to her niece Delamer's daughter, Mary Booth, her goddaughter she gave the following One large silver writing standish, my late husband the Duke of Somerset and my arms engraved thereon and a Duke's coronet, nine silver knobs of wrought plate finer wrought than those before mentioned being for one fire shovel and tongs and for two hooks for a chimney, two larger silver knobs made higher for a chimney grate, one little tortoiseshell cabinet finely inlaid with ivory and ebony and the drawers lined with red sarscenet, one scarlet velvet mantle laid with a broad silver and gold lace, one scarlet brocade satin cloak mantle being bordered round with ermine and lined with scarlet sarscenet, one new pink colour satin twilight set round with a broad silver lace and four silver tassels one at each corner, one Holland twilight set round with broad point de parry, one Holland border for to go round the bottom of a bed laced with broad point de parry, about one yard and a half of pure fine broad point de venise being for a handkerchief or shape for the neck the said point being now never washed, one new fine broad point de Venise set round an apron being now never washed, one more pure fine point de Vemse handkerchief or shape for the neck being wrought in several long leaves. All which points are looped thick. One new lemon colour plain satin petticoat laced with a broad rich silver lace and set down before with loops made all of silver wire, one mixed pink colour and white new plain satin gown laced with a broad rich silver lace, one sky colour cloth of silver petticoat, one new broad rich silver lace to set upon a petticoat, 18 yards of black new velvet, 28 yards of black new silk crepe, about 5 yards of new crimson velvet, 20 yards of mixed grediline and white broad new lute string. One great pear tree black cabinet that opens with doors and is well carved on the inside containing in all about 35 drawers and one black frame it stands upon and "my mind and will is that when the said cabinet is delivered to my said niece Mary Booth she shall then give to her brother Langham Booth the black ebony cabinet that I lately gave her and the frame to it", one brockedell furniture for a large bedstead of mixed colours, gold crimson and white wrought in flowers the bed lined with crimson and white striped India satin and striped satin quilt headpiece and tester suitable, 4 long curtains and basis for round the bottom of the bed, 18 silk tassels of the same mixed colours to tie up the curtains, 4 cups and 4 spriggs for the top of the bed, 8 brockedell cushions for chairs suitable, 11 yards of mixed colours new brockedell the same as my brockedell bed, one green wrought upon white dimity furniture for a great bedstead containing 4 curtains, counterpane vallance, headpiece basis and covers for some chairs being all suitable, the said bed being wrought silk lorrells and white calico lining to the said bed, one large rich sable muff and one large rich sable tippet, one white quilt to lay over a bed stitched with white silk all over, one large silver salver having abrought brim wrought, 19 yards of new white damask for window curtains, one silver little watch made in scholop fashion and silver case to it, one sedan chair lined with crimson velvet.
To her cousin, Elizabeth Cole, she gave - One sable tippet the shortest and worst of my two tippets, one new black velvet cloak mantle lined with black wrought satin, one pink colour wrought silk mantle wrought in little flowers lined with pink sarcenet, and one pink wrought silk large sweet bag suitable no lace on either of them, one scarlet velvet little dressing box with a looking glass in it.
To her waiting woman, Elizabeth Crow - One green satin petticoat embroidered with gold and silver, one white morella tabby petticoat no lace on it, one white wrought silk mantua gown striped with gold stripes and lined with cherry coloured spotted lute string, one new cherry coloured morella tabby under bodice and sleeves, one new fine black cloth gown (not laced), one petticoat, one black wrought striped satin long gown, one white sarcenet petticoat laced broad with black lace, one ash coloured sarcenet and laid with silver gold and silver fringe.
Then again to her said god-daughter, Mary Booth, and her sister Elizabeth Booth, all my several point de Venise and all my pure fine broad Flanders lace wearing linen and all my fine household linen that I do not give away and bequeath elsewhere to be equally divided between them.
To her niece Delamer's younger son, Langham Booth, she gave One silver bason of plain plate with a brim, one great silver tankard having my former Lords and my arms engraven thereon but no coronet, one great silver chaffing dish, one emerald ring set between two diamonds, one India wood large writing standish having one great drawer in it and the outside of the wood being of a reddish colour and inlaid with black, five silver trencher plates having broad brims and one silver trencher plate having a narrow brim. Morning gown with silk, one plain satin mantle lined with white sarcenet, one lemon colour plain sarcenet petticoat, one scarlet satin petticoat (not laced), one white lutestring mantua gown lined with blue sarcenet, one tape point coif not gimped and cornett for the head suitable both of Holland and laced with the said tape point, one pocket handkerchief laced with point Holland all the said points being looped thick, one silver porringer and three silver spoons and one trencher salt and one little silver pot with handle all to be of the oldest most used plate.
She remembered Ann Knapp who was lately her servant with the following goods: One new black watered mohair long gown and petticoat both of them laced with a broad black lace, one mixed gredeline white and buff colour new wrought tabby long gown having slashed sleeves, one black wrought lutestring long gown laced with black lace, one fine new black cloth long gown and petticoat, one new coloured sarcenet wadded petticoat, one black crape long gown and petticoat, one cherry colour tabby petticoat laced broad with white gimp lace phillamot wrought tabby cloak mantle lined with ash colour wrought satin, one pink colour sarcenet petticoat, one green wrought satin mantle of a small work and four green wrought satin sweet bags suitable, one white cloth of silver petticoat, one white antereen stuff mantua gown and petticoat, one tape point cornet for the head being all point and gimped over and one Holland coif with tape point on it gimped suitable, one pocket handkerchief set round with tape point gimped all of the said tape points being looped, one silver porringer and three silver spoons and the least of my silver tankards, one trencher salt all to be of the oldest most used plate.
It ended - In witness whereof I have to this schedule containing seven sheets of paper all written with my own hand subscribed my name to every one of the said sheets.
CHESTER'S REGISTERS OF WESTMINSTER ABBEY, LONDON, 1876.-ALSTON.
Buried Nov. 2, 1692, Sarah, Duchess of Somerset. [in the Abbey.]
Youngest of the two daughters of SIR EDWARD ALSTON, Kt., M.D., the eminent President of the Royal College of Physicians, London, by Susan, dau. of Christopher Hudson, of the city of Norwich, Esq. She married, first, George Grimston, Esq., eldest son of Sir Harbottle Grimston, second Bart., who died 5 June, 1655, in his father's lifetime, and without issue; secondly, John Seymour, fourth Duke of Somerset, who died in 1675, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral; and thirdly Henry, second Lord Coleraine, from whom, however, she is said to have lived apart during the last years of her life. The unofficial register says she was buried near the monument of Lord Norris, which is in the chapel of St. Andrew.
Sarah married George GRIMSTON  [MRIN: 1084], son of Sir Harbottle GRIMSTON 2nd Bart  and Mary CROKE , on 9 Dec 1652 in All Hallows London Wall, LND. (George GRIMSTON  was born about 1631 in Bradfield ESS and died on 5 Jun 1655.)
Sarah next married Lord John SEYMOUR 4th Duke of Somerset  [MRIN: 1086], son of William SEYMOUR 2nd. Duke of Somerset.  and Frances DEVEREUX , in 1661. (Lord John SEYMOUR 4th Duke of Somerset  was born about 1630, died on 29 Apr 1675 and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral.)
Sarah next married Lord Henry COLERAINE 2nd Bt.  [MRIN: 1087] in Jul 1682. (Lord Henry COLERAINE 2nd Bt.  was born in 1636 and died in 1708.)