The Totham connection (i): Sir John Sammes

All Saints Church, Little Totham, Sammes monument

Great Totham cannot claim a High Sheriff as its own. The closest we can get, geographically, is Sir John Sammes, who was High Sheriff in 1606, and whose monument is in Little Totham Church. His father, also John, who had purchased the manor of Little Totham and Goldhanger in the early 1590s, lived at Langford Hall.  Young John was born in about 1576, and made a good marriage to the daughter of Sir John Garrard, a wealthy haberdasher, alderman, and Lord Mayor of London; he served as a soldier in Ireland and was knighted in 1599. He avoided being appointed sheriff in 1601, but did not escape in 1606; while in office he was fined £100 by the Court of Wards for negligence in executing process, thus demonstrating why he had previously been reluctant to serve.

Little Totham Hall.
The painted brick range to the right is probably part of the house built by Sir John Sammes.

Sammes went on to hold many other public offices in Essex, including as a Justice of the Peace, and was elected M.P. for Maldon in 1610 and 1614 (this brief account of his life is based on the excellent History of Parliament website). At about this time he rebuilt Little Totham Hall, next to All Saints Church, of which only a fragment now remains; the expense of the house (said to have cost him about £1,400) put him badly in debt, and he fled to the United Provinces (now The Netherlands) to escape his creditors. Some time after 1625 he was appointed governor of the Dutch town of IJzendijke, where he died and was buried, but the date of his death is not known.

The monument at Little Totham, on which he appears in armour, is really the tomb of his widow Isabel, who died in 1633, and commemorates also their son Sir Garrard, who had died in 1630.

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