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The Apothecary
Who built Moffats House?

By Bill Killick

Peter Sambrooke, was born in the parish of S. Ann, Blackfriars, London, and baptised in the parish church there on December 2nd 1625. He was the son of Samuel and Dorothy Sambrooke, (sometimes spelt Sandbrooke and other variations). His father died and was buried in ‘the old vault belonging to the parish of S. Ann on December 31st 1642.

Two months later, on the 28th February 1643, Peter was apprenticed to John Tombs, apothecary of London for eight years, as recorded in the records of the Apothecaries’ Society of London. He was ‘made free’ at a Court of the Society on the 13th of February 1650 and paid a ‘fine’ of a spoon. (Presumably a custom of the Society). Three weeks later, on the 7th of March 1650, he was examined at the Royal College of Physicians and approved.

I have been unable to find a record of his first marriage, but the burial of ‘Elin wife of Peter Sambroke’, on the 18th of September 1652, is recorded in the Parish Register of S. Ann. In 1653, Cromwell’s ‘barebones’ parliament passed an Act which established civil marriage before a justice of the peace and I found Peter’s second marriage recorded in the same parish register thus: -

‘January 1654/55: Publicatyon have been made betwix Peter Sambrowke of this Parish – Apothecary and Sarah Preston of the Parish of Botolph, Aldersgate, London, three several markit dayes, in three several weekes, in Nugate Markit, January the 6 the 8 and 15, 1654. By me Thomas Digby."

The Plague

In 1662, Peter Sambrooke, citizen and apothecary of London, purchased Nashes, alias Moffits farm, (which included, in addition to the farmhouse and out buildings, about 100 acres of land, half of which was arable), from Thomas Roberds of North Mymms. He probably bought it as an investment, but his experiences in London during the ‘plague’ in 1665 and the ‘great fire’ in 1666, must have influenced him to decide to build his ‘country residence’ in North Mymms.

During the time of the plague, many citizens fled out of London. Samuel Pepys, who stayed in the City, recorded in his diary on July 22nd; ‘and the streets mighty thin of people’ and on August 16th; ‘and how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, - and about us, two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.’ Because of his profession, Peter Sambrook may have remained in London, but no doubt he would have wanted to safeguard his wife and very young children from the plague and could have sent them to North Mymms.

The Great Fire of London

The next year his house and business in Blackfriars must have been destroyed, or badly damaged, by the great ‘Fire of London’ which, starting in the early hours of Sunday September 2nd in Pudding Lane, swept rapidy through the City, East and West and ccontinued for four days. Again we can read an eye-witness account by Samual Pepys.

On September 2nd he records the panic; ‘the streets full of nothing but people and horses and carts loaded with goods, ready to run over one another, and removing goods from one burned house to another’. On September 5th he viewed the extent; ‘I up to the top fo Barkeing steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation tht I ever saw. Everywhere great fires. Oyle-cellars and brinstone and other things burning. I became afeared to stay there long and therefore down again as fast as I could, the fire being spread as far as I could see it.’

Peter Sambrook would no doubt have taken advantage of his property in North Mymms as a ‘retreat’ for his family. In any event, he decided to use it as a ‘country residence’ and thus, before he made his will in 1691, he had demolished the old farmhouse and replaced it with the brick-built house ‘Moffats’ that, although much altered, had survived.

I have not found any evidence that Peter and Sarah were active in the affairs of the North Mymms parish. They baptised three sons and one daughter in the church of S. Ann, Blackfriars, London, and Peter continued in business there and as a member of the Apothecaries’ Society.

It was in 1673 that the Society set up the Physick Garden in Chelsea. He was elected Master of the Society on August 23rd 1683. However following the failure of the ‘Rye House Plot’ and the change of ministers in that year, King Charles II, to obtain greater control of the City of London, revoked the Charters of most Corporations including that for the Apothecaries’ Society. It was not revised and restored until February 1645 when a new Master was elected.

Peter Sambrook died in December 1691. His request was to be buried ‘in the old vault belonging to the parish of S. Ann, Blackfriars, near the place where my father and mother were buried’ and his burial is recorded in the parish register of S. Ann, on December 20th 1691.

In his will ‘Muffetts’ is described as, ‘all that mansion or dwelling house which I lately erected and built at or near Northmims’. He bequeathed it to his son John Sambrook.

In April 1692, in a marriage settlement made by Peter’s son John Sambrook, who was to marry Mary Canham, it is described as, ‘all that mansion house lately erected and newly built by the said Peter Sambrooke in the room or place of a farmhouse heretofore called or known by the name of Muffitts.

Moffats farm, although mortgaged, continued in the possession of this family until John’s widow and her children sold it in 1722 to William Alington of Lincolns Inn.

By Bill Killick


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