Eccentric Doctor of Droxford                                  

William Rogers 1743 – 1820                             Elizabeth Parry 1738 - 1802                                     Paternal great-great-great grandparents of Valdis Muriel Skidmore

Elizabeth’s parents

Elizabeth Parry’s mother was Elizabeth Heron born at “Vicar’s Hill”, Lymington, Hampshire, on December 9th 1719, the seventh child of Ann Vining and Captain Patrick Heron, both from wealthy landowning families. Vicar’s Hill was one of the Vining properties. In 1733 when Elizabeth Heron was about 14 years old, her mother  Ann, died and her father, Patrick, left England for North America, remarried and did not return. Elizabeth Heron consequently came to live at her grandfather John Vining’s house, 22 Penny Street Portsmouth, where her mother, Ann Vining, had also spent her childhood.

Elizabeth’s father Richard Parry was born on March 15th 1715 at Lymington where his family had property. At the age of 22 on Christmas Day in 1737 at nearby St. Thomas’ Church, Portsmouth he married Elizabeth Heron who had just turned 18. Richard became a captain in the Royal Navy. Apparently this marriage was not a happy one and, like Patrick Heron, Richard was “not a very reputable person”. They had two children: John Vining Parry who was born about 1738 and Elizabeth who was apparently born (or baptised) the same year.

                   St. Thomas’ church, Portsmouth, now Portsmouth Cathedral, the site of many Vining and Heron baptisms, marriages and burials.                                                                          Photo:  Euan McGillivray 2007

Elizabeth’s mother died suddenly at the young age of 29 in January 1748. Cause of death was a “violent cold”. She is buried in the Newport Churchyard on the Isle of Wight where she died (the Vinings also had property there).

Richard Parry’s reputation was not enhanced by the fact that he pursued his daughter’s property that she had independently inherited, and he tried to take it from her through litigation. He lost and was “so strongly condemned by the judge that he was actually hissed out of court”. Richard had already inherited his deceased wife’s property that had been left by her grandfather John Vining. I have not found any mention of when or where Richard Parry died.


Elizabeth was born or baptized in 1738. As mentioned above, her mother died in 1748 when Elizabeth was only about 10 years old. Like her mother and grandmother before her, she was sent to live at her great-grandfather’s house, 22 Penny Street, Portsmouth. Here she was in the care of her aunt Ann Elliott, a very strict disciplinarian. There is some criticism of Elizabeth’s education as later relatives commented on her lack of handwriting skills, perhaps considered more important then, than today.

Marriage to William Rogers

Elizabeth did not marry until she was 31 years old, less common in those days.  On March 25th 1769 she married 24 year old William Rogers at St. Thomas’ Church, Portsmouth (now Portsmouth Cathedral) just a couple of streets from Penny Street.

Before his marriage William was living in the parish of Meon Stoke, next to Droxford in Hampshire. After marriage Elizabeth and William lived at Droxford and had seven children there: Elizabeth Ann (1770), William Heron (1771), Mary (1773), Charlotte (1775), George Vining (1777), Charles (1778), and Ann (1782). Elizabeth would have been 44 when she gave birth to her last child. The house they lived in was converted to a hotel by 1902 called the “Baker’s Arms” and is still there today. Julian Rogers in 1902 describes it:

“The panelled inn parlour was once the best sitting-room, and is probably in the exact condition in which William Rogers left it……. There are cupboards in the recesses beside the fireplace, in which, no doubt the old couple kept their best possessions in glass and china, and the same steep staircase still leads up to the narrow, low-pitched bedrooms above. Externally the house has undergone no change, but the low wall which once separated it from the roadway has been removed for the convenience of thirsty wayfarers.”

Today the Bakers’ Arms incorporates a pub and a post-office.

The Baker’s Arms, Droxford, once the home of William and Elizabeth Rogers from   c1769 to c1804.                                                                      Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

William’s medical career

William was the only child of Cecilia and Charles Rogers of Bath. There is evidence this family may have lived at Fortnight Hill near Bath. William was born in Bath in 1743 and baptised at the Walcot Parish Church on January 19th 1745. I do not know when William’s father died but sometime between 1745 and 1749, his mother Cecilia married medical doctor Charles Heron (an uncle of Elizabeth Parry senior). William himself became a doctor and a surgeon but did not commence practise until ten years after his marriage. As he inherited nothing from his father, Elizabeth probably financed his medical studies over that ten years. His medical practice extended from about 1780 to his death in 1820. When his stepfather Charles Heron died in 1804, William seems to have taken over his practice at West Meon, (north along the road from Droxford) for a few months.

William was described by his great-grandson Julian Rogers, as “a man of unengaging manners, and of severe, not to say irascible temper”.  He was very pious, taking the family to church twice a day, and having family prayers at half past two in the afternoon straight after dinner, usually with a reading of two chapters from the Bible. He also had some odd habits such as “going to church in pattens (a form of wooden shoe) on wet Sundays”, and going “to London twice a year to receive his dividends, walking the greater part of the distance”. Also: “It was also his custom to have three brewings from the same materials, the resulting beverages being respectively known as ‘Randan’, ‘Middlerow’ and ‘Spanker’”.

Family troubles

Elizabeth Rogers could not have had a very happy life. After losing her own mother when 10 years old and having to spend her teens and twenties with her strict aunt, and her father taking her to court, she also had to tolerate her husband William’s eccentricities and strict religious habits. And what was the reason her third child Mary was adopted out by Mrs. Mings, a wealthy pro-Republican, who lived locally and arranged the adoption before the baby was born? Her other daughters had “unfortunate marriages”, and the youngest daughter Ann died at 16 years of age.

Elizabeth died suddenly at the age of 64, on Wednesday morning 29th December 1802. She is buried in the Droxford churchyard next to William and his second wife. The inscription on her tomb reads:

“Sacred to the Memory of Elizabeth Rogers, wife of William Rogers, surgeon of this Parish, who on the 29th December 1802, Suddenly departed this life. Her afflicted Husband and 6 surviving Children, mindful of her virtues, with truth affirm her to have been a most affectionate wife, a tender Mother, a sincere friend and a pious, humble Christian.”

William remarries

William Rogers remarried 18 months after Elizabeth’s death, to Sarah Page the organist at the Droxford Church. William died at the age of 74 years on June 3rd 1820. The inscription on his tomb reads:

“Mr. William Rogers, Surgeon, who after more than 50 years spent in the arduous duties of his profession, which he performed with the most scrupulous and conscientious integrity, departed this life June 3rd 1820 aged 74 years.”

St. Mary’s churchyard Droxford, burial place of William and Elizabeth Rogers.            Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

Elizabeth had seen to it that her children inherited her wealth, but after her death, William influenced his children to allow him to use some of the money for his lifetime. They agreed but did not foresee their father remarrying at 50 years of age. So when William died, his children’s money was left in the will to their step-mother Sarah, and she lived to 87 years leaving very little over for her stepchildren.

Click here to continue to George Vining Rogers and Mary Ann Blyth's story.