Thomas Fraser

The 1693 will of Susan(na) Greene, who was Thomas Fraser’s mother in law (see The Greenes) described Thomas Fraser as a Chirurgeon, i.e. surgeon, as he described himself in his own will of 1695 – regarding what a ‘surgeon’ would have meant in the 17th century see The history of medical treatments, training, qualifications and regulation. These are the only two references found to date that mention his occupation, but in 1676 Thomas Fraser (spelt Phrasier on that occasion) married Susan Green at Exning, who was the daughter of Susan(na) and Francis Greene a Newmarket apothecary. Susan Green was 20 years of age when they married, and perhaps he would have been about the same age (although details of his birth are not known, nor his age at death etc.). Whether he was already medically trained at this stage and/or was apprenticed to the Greenes is not known either. The marriage record describes him as from Whitehall, London, so perhaps he was new to Newmarket. However, his later will mentions what appears to be inherited land and property at Cowlinge, near Newmarket, so he might have had some local roots (unless he’d inherited these from his in-laws). His will also mentions relatives in both London and Scotland though, so with a name like Fraser he might well have been Scottish, or the child of a Scot who had moved to London. No doubt that was not uncommon in the 17th century, James VI of Scotland having done precisely that in 1603 when he became James I of England. A move to Newmarket, newly thriving with its royal patronage started by James I and continued by the later Stuart monarchs would have been a natural step for Thomas perhaps as well?

In 1678, a couple of years after his marriage into Newmarket’s medical Greene family, Thomas Fraser is also mentioned indirectly in the will of Lambert Greene the apothecary, his brother in law who died that year. In it Thomas and Susan are described as ‘my brother and sister ffraser’. If the assumptions above are correct, Thomas would have been about the same age as Lambert, and perhaps worked with him, quite likely continuing the Greenes’s practice thereafter (see further discussion about that on the pages about Lambert Greene and The Greenes-Fraser chain). In 1693, fifteen years after the death of Lambert Greene, Thomas Fraser was still a Newmarket surgeon, as described in his mother in law Susan Greene’s will mentioned above. However, on writing his own will just 2 years later he was no longer living in Newmarket but Newington, Middlesex. It seems likely therefore that he had only recently left Newmarket, knowing that he was terminally ill (the probate was just 4 months after he wrote the will), his estate was entirely in and around Newmarket, and his death is mentioned in the Newmarket manorial records of 1696 as well. Some of his London relatives were likely in Newington and able to care for him whilst he was dying. It appears he was already a widower by that stage, since Susan is not mentioned in the wills of her mother in 1693 or Thomas in 1695, and he had two young daughters to consider as well, who probably went with him, Elizabeth and Susanna Fraser. It appears he also had a son who died in infancy, baptised and burried at St Mary’s church in October 1679.

For a couple of decades Thomas Fraser would have been in practice at the same time as William Raby a barber-surgeon of Newmarket. The relationship between these two is unknown – competitors or partners (perhaps the former is more likely)? One interesting possibility is that Gilman the apothecary stepped into the breach when Lambert Greene died and worked alongside Thomas Fraser in a complementary role. That raises the even more interesting possibility that the Greenes’ apothecary shop was in Drapery Row in The Rookery area of town, where we know Gilman’s was, making the Greenes’ practice possibly what could be called (geographically at least) a forerunner of The Rookery Medical Centre! Wild speculation at this point, but if ever proven an historical detail that would be fascinating!

Thomas Fraser’s will is very revealing in lots of ways, and so particularly interesting. As already noted above, his wife is not mentioned and she is not mentioned in the will of her mother either, suggesting that she had already died, which is how we know that he was a widower – although if the assumptions above are correct he would only have been about 40 years of age. His two young daughters were its main recipients, who were also the main recipients of their grandmother Susan(na) Greene’s will two years earlier as well. They must have still been teenagers at most when Thomas died and so received quite an inheritance at a young age it seems. What became of them is not yet known, except see the fascinating 1862 reference below to Elizabeth. If anyone knows more of their story please make contact using the details via the footer below

There are a number of other interesting features to Thomas Fraser’s quite long will (click here for full details and comments). However, the most interesting feature is the relatively long and unusually detailed theological preamble, which fits with what we know of Francis Greene his father in law. As mentioned on the Francis Greene page, to some extent this was just the way that wills were written in the 17th century, but such details and their length did vary; it’s also the case that his apparent sound views were then quite prevalent and a hot topic of the age. Anyway, Thomas Fraser’s beliefs are so clearly and deliberately expressed in his will that they barely require further explanation (although an explanation is offered here for anyone who might not find them so clear – after each quote from the will below):-

‘being of good and perfect memory thanks be to Almighty God’ – God is to be thanked for all good things as the source of all blessings, something to be remembered even in the midst of sickness and imminent death,

‘calling to remembrance the uncertain estate of this transitory life and that all flesh must yield unto death when it shall please God to call’ – a strong testimony to the living reality of his relationship with God considering his situation, not unlike Job’s famous statement, ‘the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD’. Job 1:21 – King James translation of 1611,

‘being sorry and penitent from the bottom of my heart for my sinns past most humbly desiring forgiveness of the same’ – humbly presenting ourselves before God with true heart felt grief for our sins leads to forgiveness – Thomas knew that and was real about it before God,

‘I give and committ my soul unto Almighty God my Saviour and Redeemer in whom and by the merits of Jesus Christ I trust and believe assuredly to be saved and to have full redemption and forgiveness of all my sins’ – he placed his soul into the gracious hands of Almighty God, knowing that his confidence of salvation lay not in his own merits but in those of Jesus Christ who died for him,

‘and that my soul with my body at the general day of resurrection shall rise again with joy and through the merits of Christ’s death and passion possess and inherit the Kingdom of Heaven’ – he knew that being united with Christ in His death he would rise with Him to new life in God’s eternal Kingdom – this is the good news of the Kingdom, the gospel,

‘And now for the settling of my temporal estate and such goods chattles and debts [these were debts owed to him – see the full will] as it hath pleased God far above my deserts to bestow upon me I doe order give and dispose in manner and fforme following’ – again he recognizes the ultimate source of all blessings before disposing of his worldly wealth,

The relative length of the preamble (almost a third of the will) is testimony to his faith in the face of dire circumstances and perhaps partly designed for the future reference of his young daughters, who would thereby inherit Biblical wisdom along with his significant worldly wealth. In the will he also explicitly expresses his concern for their religious education, perhaps implying that it should be overseen by his cousin George Fraser, professor of philosophy at Aberdeen, who he mentions immediately beforehand.

Relevant references in chronological order

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).

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.]

1679, 23rd October: John son of Thomas ffrasier baptised, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

1679, 29th October: John son of Thomas Frasier buried, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J562/69, microfilm transcript, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

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.]

1695, 15th May: Gillman the apothecary occupying a shop in Drapery Row, Newmarket manorial records. Reference: 359/10, pg 68, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).

1695, 25th December: The will of Thomas Fraser, formerly of Newmarket, Suffolk, now of Newington, Middlesex, surgeon/chirurgion (probate 24th April 1696). Reference: E3/10/12.3, (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 11/431/36.], [Note also, click here for more details.]

1696, 3rd June: The death of Thomas Frazier, free tenant of two tenements, mentioned in the Newmarket manorial records. Reference: 359/10, pg 74, (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.]

Some other sources consulted include:-

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.]

Shops History Newmarket. The Rookery (now Guineas Shopping Centre). (accessed 29th November 2014). [Note: see this website for further details regarding the history of The Rookery area of town throughout history.], [Note also, has been supplied with information regarding the medical history of Newmarket by the author of since August 2013 (see footnotes on some of the pages). Both websites continue to be developed, and in this sense 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.]

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.).