History

Freke sisters

History

Elizabeth, Judith and Frances Freke

Three daughters of Ralph Freke (d.1684) are buried in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth and Judith are buried in the nave, and Frances in the south choir aisle. Elizabeth married her kinsman Percy Freke, lawyer, first secretly in 1672 and then publicly at St Margaret’s Westminster in 1673. Their only child Ralph was created a baronet. She died on 7 April 1714 (her age is given as 69 on the monument but 73 on her coffin plate).

Judith married Robert Austen or Austin and she was buried on 24 May 1716. Frances married firstly Sir George Norton, secondly Colonel Ambrose Norton, her husband’s cousin, and thirdly William Jones. She died aged 90 on 20 February 1731. In her day she was known for her literary writings.

A marble monument, put up by Frances, is in the south choir aisle and shows portrait reliefs of Elizabeth and Judith, with skulls beneath each. The inscription reads:

“Near this place lyes all that is mortal of ELIZABETH and JUDITH daughters of RALPH FREKE of Hannington in Wiltshire, Esq. by CECILIA his wife, daughter of Sir THOMAS COLEPEPER of Hollingbourn in Kent. ELIZABETH was marry’d to PIERCY FREKE, of West Bilney in Norfolk Esq, and was ye mother of Sir RALPH FREKE Bart. deceased, the father of a flowrishing posterity there. She was of excellent life, frugal to be munificent, a lively Christian pattern of charity & self-denial. She dyed Aprill 7th 1714 aged 69 years. JUDITH was the wife of ROBERT AUSTIN of Tenterden in Kent Esq. and ye mother of a very considerable and hopefull famely in that county. She dyed ye 19th May 1716, aged 64 years. They were both great examples to theyr sex, the best of daughters, the best of wives, & the best of mothers. Frances Lady Norton widdow of Sir George Norton of Abbots Leigh in Somersetshire, theyr mournfull sister, has in the year of our Lord 1718 erected this monument of her love & recommends the imitation of the virtue of her dear sisters to theyr descendants for ever. Which said Lady Norton has ordered by her will, her executor to bury her near this place by her daughter Lady Gethin’s monument”.

The lozenges of arms are: “sable, two bars, and in chief three mullets or” for Freke and “or, a chevron gules between three lions gambs erased sable” for Austin.

For the monument to Frances’ daughter see the entry for Grace Gethin.

A photo of the monument can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004