CHEKE of Debenham, Suffolk Coat of Arms

Today I have been re-working my Chick / Cheeke / Cheke family as earlier today I received an e-mail from an American cousin who had found new evidence that pretty much made my tree fall apart (in that branch) in the 1500’s. She kindly passed onto me a fully transcribed will belonging to my 12x great-grandfather John ‘Citizen & Freeman of London’ CHEICKE (1527 – 1590). I originally had him listed as a son of Sir John Cheke (1514 – 1557), but alongside this will was further evidence that Sir John Cheke’s son also named John Cheke had actually died in 1580 without issue in Ireland, fighting a few Spaniards (I’m guessing it was a trial Armada run or something causing havoc).

Anyway, I was pretty much certain he still belonged in the same family (somewhere). I spent the good part of two hours going through pedigree’s and ancestry tree’s looking for clues but when no luck arose I turned my attention to his will as I noticed earlier in the day that he mentioned cousins and kinsman and a brother Robert Cheke. I was aware of a Robert Cheke of Hornchurch, Essex and I was pretty much sure he was his brother although originally I thought the location was the clue because Hornchurch, Essex is very close to Pirgo, Essex where Sir John Cheke lived.

Anyway, I began searching all the names mentioned in the will, firstly his cousins although the problem I had is that I was looking at people who lived in the early to mid 1500’s and parish records are few and far between non-existent in some cases as they began in 1538. I found his cousins, but found no links to tie them together but one guy I had a big break through with. Sir Roger Martin, Mercer of London (Kinsman). I searched ancestry trees for a Martin, Cheke marriage and found a Lawrence Martin married to an Elizabeth Cheke abt 1487. Elizabeth was listed as a daughter of John Cheke of Bludhall, Suffolk and their decendants included Sir Roger Martin who eventually took office as both Sheriff of London and Lord Mayor of London.

Now I wanted to learn more about this branch of Cheke and so turned straight away to the visitations of Suffolk 1561 – 1577 and found two pedigrees which included my 12x great-grandfather and his brother Robert Cheke of Hornchurch.

Sometimes when you find a brick wall which can’t be climbed, just go round it 🙂

Below are details of Cheke Coats of Arms associated with the Sir John Cheke (distant cousin) and the Cheke family of Debenham, Suffolk.

Sir John Cheke (1514-1557) was one of the most accomplished Cheeks in history, and certainly the most famous. A celebrated scholar, Sir John taught Greek at Cambridge University and served as a tutor to the young Prince of Wales, later King Edward VI.  Sir John supported the Protestant Reformation and was even sent to the Tower of London for his trouble.  He was eventually released, but died soon after.  A century following his death, Sir John Cheke was lamented by the poet John Milton, who considered him a great man from England’s lost golden age of learning:

“Thy age, like ours, O soul of Sir John Cheke,
Hated not learning worse than toad or asp,
When thou taughtest Cambridge and King Edward Greek.”

Sir John Cheke - 1552  A more elaborate representation with a helmet without the crest, a simple scroll with the name, and argent and gules mantling.  The Cheek family of Debenham, Suffolk, also used a coat of arms featuring three red crescents on a silver shield.

Sir John Cheke – 1552
A more elaborate representation with a helmet without the crest, a simple scroll with the name, and argent and gules mantling.
The Cheek family of Debenham, Suffolk, also used a coat of arms featuring three red crescents on a silver shield.

Sir John Cheke’s coat of arms consisted of three red crescents on a silver shield (Argent, three crescents gules).  According to The General Armory of England, Scotland, Wales by Sir Bernard Burke (1884), he was also entitled to use a crest (not shown on the above image) featuring “a crescent issuant from the horns a cross pattee fitchy gules,” i.e., a crescent emerging from a red cross drawn in the “pattee fitchy” style.  Burke notes that when Sir John Cheke adopted this crest, he reliquished his former crest, which was “a leopard sejant collared and chained,” i.e., a seated leopard with a collar and chain around its neck — a traditional symbol of faithful service.  The crest goes on top of the helmet when a coat of arms is displayed in its full “achievement.”

The Cheek family of Debenham, Suffolk, also used a coat of arms featuring three red crescents on a silver shield.  (See A Dictionary of Suffolk Arms by Joan Corder (1965).)  The Debenham Cheeks appear to have been distantly related to the Isle of Wight family.  A different coat of arms associated with the Debenham Cheeks featured various permutations of a red or gold cock (see below).  The cock may have been a pun on the name Cheek (Chick).  And maybe the red crescents on Sir John Cheke’s arms were meant to evoke a capital letter “C”?

CHEKE / CHEEKE of Debenham, Suffolk. CHEEKE of Suffok.  Argent, a cock gules. Heralds' Visitation of Suffolk (1561).   Or, a cock gules armed combed and wattled sable. (c.1565.)

CHEKE / CHEEKE of Debenham, Suffolk. CHEEKE of Suffok.
Argent, a cock gules. Heralds’ Visitation of Suffolk (1561).
Or, a cock gules armed combed and wattled sable. (c.1565.)

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