Francis Greene was the third in a whole series of medical Greenes who served the population of Newmarket throughout the 17th century, over four generations (see The Greenes for more details). He was probably a grandson of Richard Greene (Newmarket’s earliest recorded resident medic) and perhaps a nephew of Robert Greene, who he succeeded and was likely trained by.
Francis Greene is a fascinating character in many ways, and also largely responsible for the name of this website (see Why talkingdust.net?). He was probably born in Newmarket in the second decade of the 17th century (earlier than the parish registers go back; only patchy archdeacon’s transcripts survive from that time), and raised in this well-established Newmarket Greene family with growing medical reputation. Robert Greene, the second in the chain of medical Greenes, appears to have died in 1640, perhaps shortly after Francis had finished serving as his apprentice? Francis would then likely have continued the family practice. He termed himself ‘apothecary’, but if he were trained by Robert he would likely have had some surgical skills in addition to the herbs and spices medicinal repertoire of the apothecary, since Robert was licensed to practice medicine and surgery. About this time apothecaries were becoming especially popular with their ever expanding range of exotic remedies sourced from the country’s expanding trade with the East and Americas. Perhaps that’s why Francis chose to use the term ‘apothecary’ to describe himself? Another reason might be that apothecaries were not required to be licensed, but generally practised as if they were (although licensing was not widely complied with anyway). Also, there was another medic in town in the 1640s named Nicholas Searle, a barber-surgeon. This might be a further reason why Francis took a more medicinal path. Their roles might have complemented one another; perhaps they collaborated in some sort of informal or even formal partnership? William Raby was another Newmarket barber-surgeon, who would probably have overlapped with Francis Greene’s later career in the 1660s and 70s. It must always be born in mind however that a general medical/surgical role was common, especially in the provinces, perhaps the norm, and that the terms apothecary or surgeon/chirurgian were often used to mean both or used interchangeably of the same individual (see The history of medical treatments, training, qualifications and regulation for more discussion on this).
The earliest reference to Francis Greene is his marriage to Susan Greene, widow, in 1651 (it appears he married the widow of his close relative Lambert Greene, son of Robert Greene). As a result of this marriage he acquired a one year old step son, also called Lambert Greene, who followed in his step-father’s footsteps as an apothecary, and would have worked with him then continued the practice during the 1670s after Francis’ death. In 1653 Francis Greene had his own son, also called Francis, and in 1656 a daughter Susan – both baptized at St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Susan grew up to marry Thomas Fraser who became a Newmarket surgeon (again see The Greenes for more on these family details).
The first concrete evidence we have that Francis was medical comes from 1664 when he minted his own farthings! At that time there was a serious shortage of small change in England, so prominent members of the public started issuing their own ‘trade tokens’, which functioned as a local currency. Francis Greene’s trade tokens have his name ‘Francis Greene’ on one side alongside the apothecaries’ arms (thus indicating that he was an apothecary); the other side is stamped ‘In Newmarket’, has his initials ‘FG’ and the date ‘1664’.
Although Francis used the arms of the London Society of Apothecaries on his trade tokens, there is no evidence that he had any links with that society. Apparently that was quite common practice amongst provincial apothecaries who issued trade tokens. The arms contain a bow and arrow, but Francis’ token, in common with most others, has the bow and arrow the wrong way round compared with the London Society’s arms. The reason for this is not known.
Also around this time Francis is mentioned several times in the Newmarket manorial records, including serving as a juror, and he’s mentioned paying tax in the St Mary’s Church vestry books.
The next reference to Francis Greene is the young death and burial of his son Francis in 1672, at only 19 years of age. There’s an interesting memorial to Francis junior at St Mary’s church (see image below), which gives some insight into the character and beliefs of the Greenes. In fact nothing is known about the medical practice of Francis Greene except that he called himself an apothecary and likely had some surgical skills as speculated on above. There are however a lot more clues regarding his religious beliefs, which are very interesting. The most fascinating is Francis Greene’s own memorial in 1674 discussed further below, but first comes the memorial to his son, which reads (punctuation added and case altered for ease of reading – spelling left as in the original for interest):-
‘Here lyeth the body of Francis Greene,
the son of Francis Greene & Susan his wife,
who dyed ye first of August 1672, aged 19.
Read this & weep, but not for me,
Lament thy longer miserie,
My life was short, my grief ye lesse,
Blame not my hast to hapinesse.’
This memorial shows a strong eternal perspective, which is further evident in Francis Greene the father’s own later memorial (as is his blunt and colourful turn of phrase!*). This little verse is designed to correct us from an earthly perspective, from which we might lament the tragedy of such a short life, and present us with a heavenly perspective. It invites us to consider the fact that life here is ‘miserie’, so short is not necessarily so bad, and besides, Francis junior has been fast tracked to eternal ‘hapinesse’. This is quite a hard, blunt message and perhaps not the way that we would put things, but it must be understood in its cultural context, where such phraseology and sentiments were normal on memorials (see below). See also the interesting life of Susan Greene née Hamerton outlined on The Greenes page for more context. That said, it does present important truths that we easily forget with our often short sighted earth bound perspective, i.e. life here can be hard and relatively short, unlike eternal bliss. We would do well to remember that and get our perspective right.
The next event is the will of Francis Greene himself, dated 23rd September 1672. It’s interesting that this was written shortly after the death of his son. Wills at that time were often written shortly before the death of the person making them. Francis however lived another 2 years. Was he ill with the same sickness that his son had died from, yet Francis senior unexpectedly survived? In it he describes himself as ‘ffrancis Greene of Newmarkett in the County of Suff Apothecary’. The already apparent slightly eccentric side to his character appears to be revealed in the bequest of his green bed, green chairs and implied green other furniture! He mentions various family members including his wife Susan, son Lambert Greene (presumably his step-son and fellow apothecary), daughter Susan, and brothers William and Robert Greene. It also contains some further interesting comments that reflect his religious beliefs. These are to some extent just the way that wills were written in the 17th century, but the other evidence suggests that Francis did subscribe to these views, and other wills of the period do differ in their exact wording and length of ‘theological’ preamble, suggesting a degree of personal input/editing by the individual writing the will. Francis committed his soul ‘into the hands of Almighty God’ and ‘my body I comitt to the earth whereofitt was made’. The idea that we are made from the dust of the earth comes to the fore in his memorial (see below) and is common in other contemporary wills. He was looking ‘to be made partaker of life everlastinge’ showing his eternal perspective again, and the basis for his hope is instructive; he was ‘assuredly trusting’ in ‘the merits of Christ Jesus my Saviour’, i.e. he’s not trusting in his own merits – it’s not salvation by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ, by which His merits are imputed to us as if they were ours and our sin carried by Him on the cross, paying the price as if it were His. This shows a good theological understanding, and fits with Francis’ other sentiments and apparent sound Biblical knowledge and perspective (see further below). In line with that, he regards his estate as that which, ‘God in his mercy hath given me’ – he rightly recognizes the ultimate source of all blessings, even those wrought by his own skill and effort, since even these derive and thrive under God’s gracious hand, ‘by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been without effect’ (1 Corinthians 15:10, NIV – that quote is not in the will, it’s a Bible quote relevant to my comments!) – see also Deuteronomy 8:17-18. Interestingly he signed his name ‘ffran Greene’ on the will, which is perhaps how he was known.
Two years later Francis Greene did eventually die, and was buried on 18th July 1674 (of note the actual day that he died). His memorial at St Mary’s church is fascinating – the most interesting find in this history. It requires some deciphering, but rewards careful study. It reads (punctuation added and case altered for ease of reading – spelling left as in the original for interest):-
‘Here lieth ye body of Francis Green (the father),
Who departed this life on ye 18 o July 1674.
Stay mortall stay,
depart not from this tomhe,
before thou hast considered well thy doome.
My bow stands ready bent,
and couldst but see
my arrow drawne toth head
and aymes at thee.
Prepare thou walking dust,
take home this line,
the grave that next is open may be thine.’
This memorial is back to back with that of his son, either side of a buttress, which is probably why it says (the father). The second section is fairly obvious and pairs with the last – he’s* inviting us to stand and reflect on our own mortality and then to carry those thoughts away with us. The clear implication is that we should do something about it; he’s not just out to depress us! That fits with his eternal perspective already noted. His language might be rather blunt, but it’s quite like that used on other ‘tomhes’ of the period (click here for a couple of fascinating examples). We wouldn’t write such messages on memorial stones today, but everyone must be understood in the context of their prevailing culture, and the 17th century was a colourful straight talking era (see the Why talkingdust.net? page for more on the second and fourth sections also).
So what is Francis* intending us to do in the light of our reflections? This is what the very obscure middle section is about. At first glance it’s very difficult to work out who’s doing the firing, let alone what exactly he’s trying to say. It reads like Francis is doing the firing, but I don’t think that’s the intent. I think he’s quoting someone, in fact paraphrasing Psalm 7:12-16, which reads in the modern ESV translation (underlining drawing attention to the bits Francis is alluding to):-
‘If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.’
Interestingly he appears to be quoting the Old Testament in way often employed by the New Testament writers – picking out a few phrases that are intended to remind the reader of the whole. He assumes that the original passers-by would immediately think of this passage from Psalm 7, which is basically a call to repentance. That fits nicely with the rest of Francis’ poem. His basic intended message is repent, because in the end disobeying God will prove self destructive, in this life and eternity. If we ignore God we will end up shooting ourselves in the foot, or head in this case. To some extent God oversees and permits evil’s destruction of itself. How true this still is; we see it in the lives of individuals, families and nations every day, and the eternal consequences are far worse. Sadly we’re all caught up in the crossfire, to variable degrees responsible for it, and therefore in need of eternal salvation (as outlined in Francis’ will above). So this slightly bizarre message from Francis makes more sense than might initially appear to be the case. The other side of the same coin (perhaps more to our modern taste) is Psalm 1:1-3, which reads in the modern NRSV translation:-
‘Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither…’
The ultimate realisation of this is in eternity, where Francis surely is flourishing now.
* I’m assuming that this memorial was written by Francis. I think it likely that he wrote the text for his memorial at the same time he wrote that of his son’s, perhaps when he wrote his will shortly after his son’s death expecting to die himself not long afterwards. Both memorials appear to come from the same mind. Francis probably intended them to lie back to back as they do to this day. An alternative is that one of the Susan Greenes (wife or daughter) or Lambert Greene (step son) are behind these texts. It’s likely they would all have had the same views either way, as evidenced by his daughter Susan Fraser née Greene’s later husband Thomas Fraser.
Image 1: From a private collection; image reproduced with kind permission of Nigel Clark.
Image 2: From a private collection; image reproduced with kind permission of Nigel Clark.
Image 3: Photograph taken in 2014, by the author of talkingdust.net.
Image 4: Photograph taken in 2013, by the author of talkingdust.net.
Note: see comments regarding images and copyright © etc. on the Usage &c. page as well.
1651, 30th October: Mr Francis Green married Susan Green (widow), St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1653, 3rd November: Francis son of Mr Francis Greene baptised, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1656, 10th January: Susan daughter of Mr Francis Green baptised, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1664: Francis Greene, apothecary, Newmarket, minted his own farthings. Reference: Williamson GC. Trade Tokens issued in the seventeenth century. London: Elliot Stock; 1891;2:1095. [Note: see the images above, sent to me by a private collector. A later annotated edition of Williamson’s book makes reference to a halfpenny according to: Whittet TD. A survey of apothecaries’ tokens, including some previously unrecognised specimens. Part 6: Cambridgeshire. The Pharmaceutical Journal 1984;232,790-792. However, regarding the images above, I’m told that ‘As a rule, the small tokens (this being 15mm) or anything that doesn’t state HALF PENY is usually a farthing’. Also I’m told that it’s less than 1mm thick and ‘This series of tokens is usually made from a brass alloy, rarely pure copper. Without doing a full analysis, and just looking at the colour and state of the corrosion, I would say it is brass’.]
1672, 1st August: Memorial to Francis Greene, son of Francis Greene and Susan his wife, who died aged 19. Reference: Memorial at St Mary’s church, Newmarket. [Note: image and transcription in the main text above.]
1672, 3rd August: ffrances Greene buried, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J552/9, microfilm of Newmarket St Mary’s parish register, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1672, 23rd September: The will of Francis Greene of Newmarket in the county of Suffolk, apothecary. References: IC500/1/126(77) (original) and IC500/2/66/44 (registered copy and probate, August 1674), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: click here for more details.]
1674, 18th July: Memorial to Francis Green (the father), back to back with the 1672 memorial to his son mentioned above. Reference: Memorial at St Mary’s church , Newmarket. [Note: image and transcription in the main text above], [Note also, the ‘well’ looks a bit like ‘mett’ on the stone, but the w looks similar to the w in arrow, and double lls are crossed elsewhere in 17th century Newmarket documents, most notably by William Raby senior the uncle of William Raby the barber-surgeon whenever he signs his name, making it look like Wittiam.]
1674, 18th July: Mr ffrancis Greene buried, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J552/9, microfilm of Newmarket St Mary’s parish register, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1676, 6th December: Mr Thomas Phrasier of Whitehall London married Mrs Susan Green (spinster) of Newmarket St Maries at Exning. Reference: J562/31 microfilm transcript, Phillimore WPW, Blagg TM. Suffolk Parish Registers. Marriages. 1910;1:41, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1678, 10th May: The will of Lambert Greene of Newmarket in the county of Suffolk, apothecary. Reference: E3/10/12.2, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: there is also a copy in The National Archives, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PROB 11/356/503.], [Note also, click here for more details.]
1693, 9th May: The will of Susanna Green, widow, Newmarket. Reference: R2/72/262, on microfilm, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: click here for more details.]
1693, 12th May: Susanna Green (widow) buried, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1862: Yes, this reference is two centuries later! The 1862 ‘Abstract of the Title of Mr William Parr Isaacson to an Estate at Newmarket late Crockfords’, a complex 46 page document detailing a large amount properly and land, includes the comment ‘Elizth Frazer of London Spr only daur + heir of Frazer late of Newmarket also Surgeon deced + of Susan his wife also deced formy Susan Green daur of Fras Green late of Newkt afod apothecary also deced’. Reference: HB517/A/51, page 10, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: presumably this was copied from an earlier parchment in the possession of the attorney who prepared the abstract of title. It’s nice confirmation that Susan, the daughter of Francis Green the apothecary, married Thomas Fraser the surgeon, and that they had a daughter Elizabeth, who at least at one point was a spinster in London.]
May P. The changing face of Newmarket 1600 – 1760. Peter May Publications; 1984. [Note: see comments regarding this and other Peter May material on The Greenes page.]
Newmarket manorial records. Reference: 359/9, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
Roberts RS. The personnel and practice of medicine in Tudor and Stuart England. Part 1. The provinces. Medical History 1962;6:363-382.
Roberts RS. The personnel and practice of medicine in Tudor and Stuart England. Part 2. London. Medical History 1964;8:217-234.
Suffolk Medical Biographies. Profile for Greene, Francis. http://www.suffolkmedicalbiographies.co.uk/Profile.asp?Key=1768 (originally accessed pre October 2013). [Note: I have this website to thank for drawing my attention to the existence of some of the earlier 17th and 18th century Newmarket medics, including Francis Greene. When I went to St Mary’s church on 19th October 2013 looking for the memorials to the Sandivers and Searanckes, I was aware from this website that Francis Greene the apothecary had died in 1674 (one of two references it had to Francis Greene at that time). I had no idea or expectation that there might be a memorial to him. When I noticed the memorial to a Francis Greene dated 1674 I immediately realised that this was none other than Francis Greene the apothecary – a very exciting moment! Suffolk Medical Biographies has subsequently been supplemented with information supplied by my research into several of the Newmarket medics (including the Sandivers e.g. pointing out that William Sandiver was in fact two people) and no doubt will continue to be so expanded by data uncovered by myself and others elsewhere. The editor gratefully receives any such additions (see http://www.suffolkmedicalbiographies.co.uk/About.asp) and it is part of the purpose of the website to encourage more detailed local studies like talkingdust.net. In this way the projects are mutually symbiotic.]
The research notes of Peter May. Reference: HD1584, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: see comments regarding this and other Peter May material on The Greenes page.]
The Scripture quotation from the ESV translation is from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. [Note: the quotation above however ought to be regarded as fair use/dealing in this context anyway – see the Usage &c. page.]
The Scripture quotation from the NRSV translation is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved. [Note: the quotation above however ought to be regarded as fair use/dealing in this context anyway – see the Usage &c. page.]
The Vestry books of St Mary’s Church, Newmarket. Reference: FL601/1/1, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
Whittet TD. A survey of apothecaries’ tokens including some previously unrecognised specimens. Part 1: Introduction. The Pharmaceutical Journal 1982;228:719-724.
Note: For published material referenced on this website see the ‘Acknowledgements for resources of published material’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page. The sources used for original unpublished documents are noted after each individual reference. Any census records are referenced directly to The National Archives, since images of these are so ubiquitous on microfilm and as digital images that they almost function like published works. Census records are covered by the ‘Open Government Licence’ as should be other such public records (see the ‘Copyright and related issues’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page for which references constitute public records, and any other copyright issues more generally such as fair dealing/use etc.).