Where the Milligens Lived

Harleston_Market place_1820
Harleston Market Square, Norfolk

Milligen – Norfolk

The Milligen family came from Glasgow, Scotland, to set up business and settle in the market town of Harleston, Norfolk, England, in the early 1700s. James Milligen was a Linen Draper, as was his son, John Milligen, born in Glasgow, 1694. We don’t know exactly where the family lived in Harleston, but James was buried 9 Oct 1940 at Redenhall near Harleston. The villages of Redenhall and Harleston are now a combined town covering an area of 13.73 km2. In 2001, the population was 4,058 in 1,841 households.

John Milligen married Elizabeth Smith, from Harleston, sometime before 1730. According to Faith Packard in Our Family History, ‘theirs was a happy marriage.’ They had two sons and four daughters none of whom carried on the draper’s business. ‘John retired to Shouldham near King’s Lynn where he bought himself a small estate and lived as a country gentleman.’ Shouldham covers an area of 16.04 km² and had a population of 608 in 246 households when I visited in 2001.

England_Harleston_map_a England_Shouldham_map_a
Harleston, Norfolk                                         Shouldham, Norfolk

John and Elizabeth Milligen’s first born, John Milligen (b. 1730), moved to Plymouth, Devon, to become a Captain in the Royal Navy. Their youngest, Lydia Milligen (b.1740), married the Harleston cattle dealer, Robert Seppings, of Fakenham, Norfolk, in Fakenham, 1760. John Milligen, the father, died on 27 January 1762 aged 68 years at Shouldham, Norfolk, and was buried at the chancel of Shouldham Church in a family vault. The All Saints church is outside Shouldham in an elevated position overlooking the village. Built from a mixture of Carrstone and flint, the tower dates back to the late 13th/early 14th century.

Shouldham Church_Evelyn Simak All Saints church, Shouldham
Milligen_John_the chancel of Shouldham Church_family vault_a s Milligen_John_the chancel of Shouldham Church_family vault_drawing_a
In the aisle of the church is a brass plate with an inscription honouring the bodies of John Milligen and his unmarried daughter, Mary (1733-1827), lying beneath.

England_Norfolk_Shouldham_church_Milligen-Seppings_20010912_01a s
Faith Packard made a three cushion canvas work sedilia seat for Shouldham church to commemorate both John Milligen and his grandson Sir Robert Seppings. The sedilia seat was dedicated by the Bishop of Ely on his visit to Shouldham in 1973.

Milligen – Plymouth

Plymouth_The Barbican, Pool & Co_steel engraving drawn by T. Allom, engraved by H. Wallis_1829

Capt John Milligen married Martha Phillips in 1759 in Plymouth, Devon. After his father died in 1762 they were well-off with money inherited from his father’s Will. They had no children of their own, but in 1780, at age 50, the captain adopted two of his sister Lydia’s children – Lydia Seppings (b. 1762) and John Milligen Seppings, age 10 (b. 1770) who was placed in the navy as a midshipman on Dunkirk, a store ship under the command of his uncle. When his father, Robert Seppings, died in 1781, age 47, Capt John Milligen adopted his older brother, Robert, age 14, and their six-year-old sister, Elizabeth. In 1782, he put Robert Seppings to work at the naval shipyards at Plymouth as an apprentice shipwright. He also adopted two orphaned daughters of his brother Thomas Milligen – Martha Phillips Milligen (b. 1766) and Charlotte (b. 1770) who would later marry her first cousin, Robert.
We don’t know where the Milligens and Seppings actually lived in Plymouth – many records were destroyed in WW2 – but it could have been at No 28 Gasken St.

Milligen_Plymouth_28 Gasking St_a Plymouth_Map of WW2 Bombings_1941
Gasken/Gasking St, Plymouth, Devon      WW2 Bombings, Plymouth, 1941

Capt John Milligen died in Plymouth in 1788. In his Will, he bequeathed ‘his house etc, to his wife Martha Phillips Milligen and his niece Charlotte Milligen’. One year later, John Milligen Seppings drew up his Will. At 18 years of age, he wished to leave his worldly estate to his Aunt Martha Milligen who was then residing at No. 28 Gasken Street, Plymouth. The house was probably destroyed during the Plymouth Blitz, 1941, as it no longer exists.

Photo & Illustration Credits

Harleston Market Square, Norfolk (1820)
Google Maps – Harleston, Norfolk
Google Maps – Shouldham, Norfolk
All Saints church, Shouldham, Norfolk, photograph by Evelyn Simak (2010)
Brass plate in All Saints church, Shouldham, Norlfolk, photo by Katherine Seppings (2001)
Handwritten inscription of brass plate by Faith Packhard
Cushion sedilia seat by Faith Packhard, All Saints church, Shouldham, Norlfolk, photograph by Katherine Seppings (2001)
The Barbican, Pool & Co, Plymouth
Steel engraving drawn by T. Allom, engraved by H. Wallis (1829)
Google Maps – 28 Gasking St., Plymouth
Map of WW2 Bombings, Plymouth, 1941 – Plymouth Library

Our Family History Faith Packard (1989)
Letter from Frank Raymond Seppings (2001)



About Katherine Seppings

Artist, Writer, Photographer
This entry was posted in Milligen and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Where the Milligens Lived

  1. kate Chenneour says:

    a James Milligan was buried at Redenhall on 9th Oct 1740. if you log into ‘family search’ – free, you can get this image of the burial record

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kate Chenneour says:

    Harleston is a strange town, it only got a church in the late 19th Century – previously it had a Chapel of Ease which also housed the towns firefighting equipment, Lock up, School, Market Cross and Market Tolls office. This is the small church building in the engraving at the top of your page. When this was demolished, the cupola which housed the bell, was stuck on top of a tall tower where it still stands today. All burials took place at the splendid church at Redenhall, a mile or so, through open fields, from the town. Due to a rearrangement of parish boundaries, only the tower actually now stands in the parish of Redenhall, the rest stands in the Parish of Wortwell. Historically, only a narrow part of market infill was strictly speaking actual Harleston, the rest belonged to other parishes although for most administrative purposes it was all lumped together as Redenhall cum Harleston. The exception was a large section of town between the market and the River Waveney which, although being in the County of Norfolk was part of the Parish of Mendham, a Suffolk parish. On some occasions this part of town would be called Mendham in Norfolk, on other occasions it would be undifferentiated from the Suffolk part of the Parish.
    There had been long standing links between the town and Scotland – regular droves of cattle came down to be fattened in the lush water meadows before carrying on to London.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kate, for all this fascinating information about Harleston and Redenhall. It really helps to have a greater historical understanding of the place. Interesting to learn about the longstanding links with Scotland and I will check out ‘family search’ for a James Milligan buried at Redenhall on 9th Oct 1740. Sounds like this was the man. I love your description of the burials at Redenhall and imagine the Milligan family walking through open fields to the church.


  3. kayte Chenneour says:

    I find the town quite fascinating with it’s muddle of boundaries – all designed to confuse! It was quite a wild place in the 18th Century, even hosted the first international Boxing match between local lad Jack Slack and a French opponent Hope you found your chap in the records!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kayte chenneour says:

    there is also a ‘John Milliken bachelor a scotsman’; buried at Redenhall aged 60 on the 6th October 1809


    • Kayte, can you tell me any more about him? In the Seppings family tree, James Milligen b. Glasgow, Scotland, was buried 9 Oct 1740 Redenhall and his son, John Milligen, also born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1694, died in 1762 and was buried in the Chancel of Shouldham Church, Norlfolk. He was the father of Capt John Milligen, and Lydia Milligen who married Robert Seppings – parents of Sir Robert Seppings and Lt John Milligen Seppings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s