John Mason's Family and Associates
John Mason's descendants
His family appear in local church registers as follows:
At least three of his descendants achieved fame in religious circles: his grandson, John Mason III, his great great grandson, John Mason Good, and his great great great great grandson, John Mason Neale. It is especially pleasing to learn that our John Mason, one of the earliest hymn-writers, is a direct ancestor of John Mason Neale, one of the most famous hymn-writers of all.
Revd John Mason II (1677-1722/3, son) was a dissenting minister successively in Daventry, Dunmow and Spaldwick, and the father of John Mason III. His son expressed surprise that he did not publish his father's Select Remains, but possibly the events of 1694 distressed Mason's children so much that they did nothing that would bring back the memories.
Revd William Mason (1681-1744, son) graduated from King’s College, Cambridge in 1704 and was Vicar of Mentmore, Bucks from 1706 until his death. He does not appear to have married.
Mary Mason (1679-?, daughter) received a legacy in 1724, together with her two brothers above, at which time her name was given as Mary Evance. It seems likely that this was a variant of Evans and that she married John Evans in Haversham (near Stantonbury, Bucks) on 22nd July 1698, thus giving a clue as to where the family lived after their father’s death.
Revd John Mason III (1706-1763, grandson) was a Presbyterian minister at Dorking, 1729 and Cheshunt, 1746 and published his grandfather’s The Select Remains of Rev John Mason. His own works covered elocution, number theory and musical harmony, but the most successful was A Treatise on Self-Knowledge, which remained popular into the next century and went through over twenty editions. Its preface states, “The great end of all philosophy, both natural and moral, is to know ourselves and to know God. The highest learning is to be wise, and the greatest wisdom is to be good.”
Sarah Peyto (1736-1766, great granddaughter) was a daughter of Revd Henry Peyto, independent minister of Great Coggeshall, Essex, and 'favourite niece' of John Mason III, with whom she lived for most of her short life. She was married in his church at Cheshunt rather than that of her father at Coggeshall or her husband (Revd Peter Good) at Epping. She was noted for 'the elegance and solidity of her acquisitions, the soft and gentle fascination of her manners, and for the most decided piety'. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, married Stephen Unwin and their descendants (and thus John Mason’s) include the founder of the printers Unwin Bros, and the publishers Thomas Fisher Unwin, Sir Stanley Unwin (JRR Tolkien’s publisher) and his sons, Rayner Unwin, who famously recommended publication of The Hobbit to his father when he was ten, and David, who was a popular children's author in the 1940s and 50s under the pseudonym David Severn (Severn was his grandmother's maiden name).
Dr John Mason Good (1764-1827, great great grandson) was a practising doctor who wrote extensively on medical, classical and theological matters. He seems to have been a true polymath, with his Study of Medicine, Translation of the Book of Job and Translation of Lucretius all being highly regarded in their day.
Dr John Mason Neale (1818-1866, great great great great grandson) rebelled while at Cambridge against what he considered the excessive Puritanism of his mother, Susanna Good (his father, Revd Cornelius Neale, died in 1823), and so he became the first Anglican priest in the extended family for many generations. His sympathies were with John Keble (who adapted Mason’s Song XXIV into A living stream, as crystal clear) and the Oxford Movement. He was one of the most important hymn-writers of Victorian times: the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern contained over sixty of his hymns, many of which were based on early mediaeval and Eastern church texts. Those still popular today include O come, O come, Emmanuel, Good Christian men, rejoice, All glory, laud and honour and Good King Wenceslas. He was discriminated against by the church establishment, attacked by the mob, and prone to ill-health. When warden of a group of almshouses, Sackville College, he founded an orphanage, a girls’ school, and a community of nurses to minister to the sick in their homes,.
People associated with John Mason and his descendants
Revd Richard Baxter (1615-91) was a successful pastor in Kidderminster and is still famous for his writings, which include the original version of Ye holy angels bright. The events of his life highlight the turbulent times he and Mason lived through. Ordained into the Church of England, he had Puritan sympathies and was a chaplain in the Parliamentary army during the Civil War. But he disliked extremism of any kind, calling himself an “Episcopal-Presbyterian-Independent”. After the Restoration of the monarchy, he worked to promote religious toleration and an inclusive national church, and was offered the Bishopric of Hereford in 1660. But he declined and, unable in conscience to accept the 1662 Act of Uniformity, he left the Established Church, becoming a non-conformist minister under the Act of Indulgence in 1672. Later he was unjustly tried for sedition before Judge Jeffreys and imprisoned. His marriage to Margaret Charlton in 1662 was a great benefit to him and he was one of the first clergymen to write of the value of a helpmate in ministry.
Revd Henry Maurice (1650-99) became friendly with Mason when he was Curate, later Rector, of Tyringham-cum-Filgrave, near Stantonbury. A High Anglican, he visited Water Stratford in Mason’s final weeks and deplored what he found, but sought to excuse his friend, though not his followers. He gathered evidence from Mason’s past and about the events leading up to his death and his account is regarded as the fairest guide to what happened and why.
Revd Thomas Shepherd (1665-1739) was a son of William Shepherd, sometime Vicar of Tilbrook, Beds. He was ordained in the Church of England and served first in St Neots and then as Curate of Haversham (near Stantonbury), but later became a non-conformist. In 1694 he became pastor of the Independent Castle Hill Baptist Meeting, Northampton, then very successfully led an independent congregation at Bocking, Essex from 1700 until his death. He may have been Mason’s cousin.
Revd Henry Peyto (c1710-1776) was minister of the independent church in Great Coggeshall, Essex for many years. His burial on 12th November 1776 in Coggeshall is unambiguously recorded but this conflicts with a report that he was visited by his grandson John Mason Good when the latter was about to enter medical practice in Sudbury in the early 1780s. As Henry Petto he married Love Mason on 29th October 1734 and this seems the most likely explanation for Henry's daughter Sarah being described as John Mason III's 'favourite niece'. No record has yet been found of Love Mason's birth but she was buried as Love Peyto on 10th June 1779 in the same church in Coggeshall as Henry was in 1776.
Revd Mordecai Andrews I (c1715-49) probably succeeded Thomas Shepherd as independent minister in Bocking (Braintree, Essex) on the latter's death in 1739. In 1743 he was brought in as a 'young man' to take over a moribund congregation in Petticoat St, London, and expanded the congregation so much that they took over bigger premises in Artillery Row.
Revd Mordecai Andrews II (1740-c1819) was christened at Bocking Independent Church (where Thomas Shepherd was minister from 1700 to 1739) on 22nd August 1740, the son of Mordecai Andrews I. He became minister of the independent church in nearby Great Coggeshall on 5th September 1775, being co-pastor with Henry Peyto until Henry's death in 1776. His wife was John Mason II's granddaughter, who was probably called Elizabeth Rutt.
Henry Maurice, An impartial account of Mr John Mason of Water-Stratford and his sentiments, 1695
Olinthus Gregory, Memoirs of the late John Mason Good, 1829
TW Davids, Annals of Evangelical Nonconformity in the County of Essex, 1863
Bryan Dale, The Annals of Coggeshall, 1863
John L Myres, John Mason: Poet and Enthusiast, Records of Buckinghamshire 1892
John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (2nd ed), J. Murray 1907
Christopher Hill, Puritanism and Revolution, 1958, paperback Palgrave Macmillan 1997
JR Watson, The English Hymn, OUP 1997
Marilyn Lewis, John Mason and Henry Maurice: A 17th Century Buckinghamshire Friendship, Records of Buckinghamshire 2001
Marilyn Lewis, John Mason: Anglican millenarian and friend of dissenters, Records of Buckinghamshire 2003
More detailed information on Richard Baxter, John Mason I, John Mason III, John Mason Good and John Mason Neale is contained in the Dictionary of National Biography. Our research will continue to be added to this website.
John Mason >