The Twickenham Museum
People : Landowners and Gentry

Mrs Sarah Nepuen
a resident for over 60 years
c1680 - 1767

R S Cobbett, in Memorials of Twickenham, p361 noted that 'a very aged lady, Mrs Nepheune, the widow of an admiral in the Dutch service' once lived in a house on the east side of London Road. Cobbett was repeating what Edward Ironside had stated in The History and Antiquities of Twickenham which he published in 1797 following years of research.

The name Nepuen was an anglicised corruption of Nepueu, difficult to pronounce in England. Meaning nephew in the original French, the name finally settled as Nephew.

For 60 years or more, between 1702 and 1767 first William Nepuen and then his widow Sarah paid rates, in her last year as Mrs Nephew, to be followed by Rachel Nephew for 1768, the last for this family. The house, empty in 1771, later became a school, first Mrs Pomeroy's Boarding School for Girls and then Twickenham School for Boys. The house was demolished by 1895 and the General Post Office, opposite the start of Holly Road later built on the land.

It was a substantial property but there does not appear to be any other record of Mrs Nepuen's life in Twickenham. During her time here Alexander Pope came and went, and Horace Walpole came, though he does not mention her.

Family history

She was born Sarah Daye, of a family from Bedford. She married William Nepueu (1656-1710), of The Elmes in the parish of Hougham near Dover. He is recorded as selling his property, which was actually the Manor of Hougham and moving to Twickenham. While he may have seen service at sea no record has yet been found that he rose to be an admiral in the Dutch navy: the family were French Huguenot merchants. However, it appears that as a locally respected merchant he held some position in connection with the Cinque Ports, appearing as a juror in the Court of Admiralty at Dover in 1682.* It is possible that he rose through the hierarchy to become Vice-Admiral of the Coast, Dover being in one of the 19 coastal districts of England; but this is no more than speculation at present.

The first of the family to be recorded in England was Peter Nepueu (1603-58), buried in the church of Hougham, near Dover, where William, his grandson was taken to be buried in 1710. There are a number of transcribed memorials in the church; that to Peter offers a useful genealogy:

“In hopes of a joyful Resurrection Resteth in a vault in this church the Remains of Peter NEPUEU Gent, a native of France who came over into England upon ye Edict of Nantz and brought with him a very plentifull Estate purchased in this County of Kent he built Ellms in this parish of Hougham and merchandized. He Died in ye 56th year of his age. Ann. 1658. Also Resteth here MARY his wife by whom he had six sons and one daughter. PETER his eldest son dyed on his travels abroad. WILLIAM NEPUEU Gent the only surviving son married SARAH daughter of Mr BULTEEL of Tourney (in Flanders who lyeth in this chancel) by whom he left two sons and five daughters, several of whom also lye in this chancel. He dyed in the 38th year of his age Ann. 1665. His eldest son PETER, Gent dyed abroad, WILLIAM Nepueu Gent ye youngest son succeeded and selling Ellms settled at Twickenham in Midx and Dy'd in his 55th year. Sept. 1710 Whose Remains, with his third Daughters, 8 Months incoffin'd with him, have been brought to this Vault, to be interred with his Ancestors. He left, by Sarah, his Wife, now living, Daughter of Mr DAY, descended from the DAYES of the County of Bedford, 2 Sons, and 2 Daughters. William Nepuen, Esq. the eldest Son, now living; also the 2 Daughters. Peter Nepuen, Gent, the youngest, died Aged 27, May 1735, interred in this Vault. At whose Desire his Executrixes have raised this Monument, to The Memory of their worthy Family.”

William Nepuen Junior

In 1734 Sarah was joined in the Churchwardens' Accounts by a Mr Nepuen, probably her son, also William, who was assessed for “Coles land, & the Parke & for Staken and for Crookshanks land”. Stephen Coles and John Crookshanks were associated with Heatham House just north of the Crane River and nearby land which included the Staken Field, south of the river. The Parke was the land lying to the east of the London Road, belonging to Twickenham Manor House at the lower end of Church Street. William, if it was he, had no entry for 1739, being apparently in financial difficulties and so committed to the Fleet Prison as a debtor. This was recorded later in The London Gazette, March 1742:

“Whereas Wiliam Nepuen, late of Twickenham in the County of Middlesex, Esq, was, on the 20th day of December 1737, by virtue of an Act for Relief of Insolvent Debtors, discharged out of the Prison of the Fleet; these are to give notice to the several Creditors of the said William Nepuen, that within one month of the date hereof, severally to produce to Mr Joseph Stanwir, in Bartlett's Buildings, Holbourn, an Affidavit of their respective Debts, in order to settle a Dividend of his Estate, otherwise they will be excluded the benefit thereof.”

It maybe that further research will illuminate the lives of Sarah Nepuen, the career of her husband and the financial difficulties of her son.

* Edward Knocker, An Account of the Grand Court of Shepway holden on Bredenstone Hill 12 June 1682, Appendix p139, 1862

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