Extreme Longevity in 1700s

Today’s post has been written with our genealogy followers very much in mind and those who love nothing more than a good challenge.

So, according to the government, health experts and others we’re going to live longer than ever before. Well, if you believe these accounts of longevity below we’ve got quite a way to go to exceed some of these instances.Table of Longevity

All of these accounts appeared in the newspapers and also in a collated account of longevity written by James Easton ‘Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year’ in 1799.

Certainly Easton had done his homework by trawling through the newspapers, etc. We have tried in vain, so far, to validate any of them with a corresponding date of birth, yet if true, then they are accounts of longevity that far exceed anything you would expect for that period and many would still make headline news today even by our standards of life expectancy. Easton also noted that:

the more a man follows nature and is obedient to her laws, the longer he will live; and that the further he deviates from these, the shorter will be his existence. It is not the rich and great, nor those who depend on medicines who become old, but such as use much exercise, are exposed to the fresh air, and whose food is plain and moderate, as farmers, gardeners, fishermen, labourers, soldiers and such men, as perhaps never employed their thoughts on the means which have been used to promote longevity.

Death and the Woodman Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library
Death and the Woodman. Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library


John Burnet aged 109, of Broadwater, Sussex. He married six wives, three of them after he was one hundred years old; and died in the same house in which he was born.


Margaret Patten died aged 137 (no, it’s not a typo!). She was of St Margaret’s workhouse, London, a Scotch woman. She always enjoyed good health till within a few days of her dissolution; and for many years subsisted mostly on milk. (Born near Paisley, according to the newspapers.)

An Old Woman Carrying a Basket. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art


John Hussey aged 116. Of Sydenham, Kent and formerly a farmer at Crawford. His breakfast was balm-tea sweetened with honey; and pudding for dinner, above fifty years; by which he acquired long and regular health.


Mary How aged 112. Of Mapleton, Derbyshire, widow. Her death was occasioned by pulling a codling off a tree, the limb of which breaking, fell on her arm and broke it. About two years before, she cut several new teeth and her hair changed its colour from grey to a beautiful white.

An Old Market Woman Grinning and Gesturing with her Left Hand by Paul Sandby. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art


Rev. Mr Braithwaite – aged 110, of Carlisle. He had been one hundred years in the cathedral, having commenced singing-boy in the year 1652. N.B. There was a Rev. George Braithwaite listed in the Archaeology Data service who became a minor canon in 1679, ‘but that this fact does not necessarily imply that he was by that time in holy orders. A chapter order made November 23rd, 1703, distinguished between “lay petty canons who are skilled in music” and “petty canons who are in holy orders and are not skilled in music”‘.

Whether it was the same Reverend Braithwaite we have no idea.


Of Ripon, Yorkshire Robert Oglebie (Ogleby) aged 115, a travelling tinker; born Nov 6, 1647, as appears by the register of Ripon, married seventy-three years, and had twelve sons and thirteen daughters; had all his senses perfect and could see to work a short time before his death. His wife lived to be one hundred and six years old. He also claimed his father lived to the ripe old age of 140 and there was apparently a monument erected for him at Tanfield church, although we can find no evidence of this!

Old Man Begging. 1778 by Elias Martin. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art


William Cotterell, aged 107, of Nottingham, farmer. His wife died three days after, aged ninety-eight, having been married eighty years.


Mary Wilkinson who died aged 109 in 1788. She was a native of Lundale, and changed her residence to Romald Kirk, in the north of Yorkshire. When she was young, she walked several times to London in four days, a distance of 290 miles. At the age of 99 years, she was desirous of seeing London again, and buckling a keg of gin, and a quantity of provisions on her back, she left Romald Kirk, and reached London in five days and three hours. –[S]he lived to see four Kings reign, and is interred in a stately tomb, erected at the expense of the inhabitants of Romald Kirk.

van Brekelenkam, Quiringh; Old Woman Eating; Dulwich Picture Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/old-woman-eating-200337
van Brekelenkam, Quiringh; Old Woman Eating; Dulwich Picture Gallery


Anne Froste of West Rasen, Lincolnshire. She was the wife of a labourer, had been married three times and left a daughter ninety years of age. She was married to her last husband in her ninety-third year. For many years past she had lived on milk and tea diet. She died aged 111.

John Roberts died aged 103, of Digbeth near Birmingham. He married three wives, by whom he had twenty-eight children; was nearly eighty when he married his last and by whom he had six of the children.

William Troy, died aged 120 near Waterford, farmer. A short time before his death he read very small print without spectacles and daily walked about his farm without support.

Wright of Derby, Joseph; The Old Man and Death; Walker Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-old-man-and-death-98978
Wright of Derby, Joseph; The Old Man and Death; Walker Art Gallery


John Sayer, aged 100 of Caistor near Norwich, butcher. He retained the perfect use of his faculties to the last hour of his life, with a memory very unusual at his age.

John Sayer’s burial record, at St Edmunds in Caistor, gave his age as 105.

And one we found in the London Evening Post, 13th October 1737.

We hear the following remarkable instance of longevity from Lewes in Sussex. Last Saturday died there Mr. Henry Morgan, aged 105 years and a half. He never made use of spectacles, but work’d at his trade as a sieve-maker the day before his death. He never had a day’s, nor scarce an hour’s illness in his whole life. The morning he died he walk’d into his garden and when he return’d sat down in his chair and died immediately, not so much as any of the family perceiving any difference in him.

An Old Man with Pointed Nose and Chin, Dozing in a Chair Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
An Old Man with Pointed Nose and Chin, Dozing in a Chair, Thomas Rowlandson. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

And finally a little gem from 1771, which implies that not washing your face for over thirty years could be the key to a very long life, although we don’t recommend it!

Yesterday se’ennight were interred in the church-yard of Logie, the remains of Jean Stevenson, who died on Sunday preceeding, at Montrose, in the 107th year of her age. Her neighbours say, that she had not washed her face for thirty or forty years before her death.

Caledonian Mercury, 13 February 1771

Source Used:

Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year, of the Decease of 1712 Persons, who Attained a Century, & Upwards, from A.D. 66 to 1799, by James Easton

30 thoughts on “Extreme Longevity in 1700s

    1. All Things Georgian

      Thrilled that you enjoyed it, but did say we wouldn’t recommend not washing your face … we have warned you hehe 🙂


  1. Such an excellent post. I’m now going to drink more milk (if I can find an antibiotic/hormone free cow) take a 290 mile stroll at least once a year, drink balm tea and honey, and I will make sure I never, ever, pull a ‘codling’ from a tree. 😉 My g g grandmother lived to be 102, took mile long walks most days, in her late nineties and was sharp eyed and quick witted until her death after a brief illness.


    1. All Things Georgian

      Thank you so much, we’re thrilled you enjoyed it. How many of those accounts were actually accurate we have yet to determine, but there’s probably a lot to be said for some of the things people did to prolong life. Enjoy your super long walk and do make sure you never pull a codling from a tree:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Jean Reinhardt and commented:
    Avoid pulling ‘codling’ from trees if you want to live to a ripe old age – and only take a bath once every thirty years. Many thanks to ‘All Things Georgian’ for this very enlightening information. I’m off for a brisk 290 mile walk before dinner. 😉


  3. I suspect some of the accounts might be mistakes, or exaggerations on the part of the old folk when declaring their age in the years before they died, but certainly many country folk do live an amazingly long time. It’s about fresh air and contentment… and clean face or not, if living with one’s own germs, one becomes immune to them. A high roughage diet with rough country bread and plenty of vegetables probably helped, and a lot fewer pollutants than we have today. My grandfather was 102 and he attributed it to smoking a pipe every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All Things Georgian

      We’re fairly sure they are either exaggerations or errors. We’ve searched for the names to establish a DoB, but without any luck, so right now we’re unable to validate them which is a shame, but maybe someone will recognise a name and be able to confirm or deny the accuracy of the age.


      1. None of them near enough to me to wander into a local records office, but if I’m in Norfolk I’ll check that one out. And of course spellings of names were wildly different. I have one ancestor who was spelled variously in various records Wiet, White, Wyatt, Wyat, Wigat, Whyatte. Same guy. Fortunately he had the unusual name of Obadiah, so not lost in all the James Wyatts [9 generations of them with at least 2 in every generation]


        1. All Things Georgian

          If you do have any luck we’d love to know. We’ve explored as many avenues as we can but no luck, but we haven’t given up hope … yet!!


  4. Pingback: Extreme Longevity in 1700s – All Things Georgian | First Night History

  5. Very interesting post! Benjamin Vaughan’s papers at the American Philosophical Society include some notes on long-lived people, including “Jean Rovin aged 172, Sarah his wife aged 164”; “Petratsch Gortan [or Zortan?], aged 185”, and “Thomas Parr, aged 152 & 9 months. His grandson Michael Michaelstone lived to be 127”, as well as a more detailed interview with an old Irishman, John Gilly, who “Thinks himself 122 years”, in Kennebec, ME, in 1811: “Always loved a little spirits, & also tobacco. Five feet, three inches high, before he stooped. Weighed 110 pounds lately. Has five teeth. Small hands, & small frame. His hair greay, & close on his head. Formerly light colored. Shaves once a week. Was probably once fair. His hands now freckled. Has been a farming man all his life, (till he went to Newfoundland) & since. In Ireland, lives on potatoes, bread & butter, milk &c. Lives on fish, potatoes, bread, milk, tea, coffee, &c.”

    Much earlier, in the 1710s, Cotton Mather included similar remarks in his “Curiosa Americana”, addressed to the Royal Society.


    1. All Things Georgian

      Wow, thank you so much for this additional information. It’s beginning to look as if there were quite a few people who well and truly exceeded the normal life expectancy. Of course in order to validate we need to have some record of birth at least, which is proving more difficult. Once again, this seems to imply that the outdoor life with simple food seems to be the key to longevity:)


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  7. Without lifesaving antibiotics and other medical interventions, anyone who survived childhood and war was likely to be of extremely hardy, long-lived stock. In Jane Austen’s family, only Jane and her brother James died young, along with five of Jane’s sisters-in-law, three of complications from childbirth. Jane’s father died at 73; her mother at 88. The unfortunate brother George, who lived away from his family for most of his life, died at 72; Cassandra at 72; Henry at 79. Charles died at 73 in 1852 of cholera while leading a naval expedition in Burma. Edward died the same year at 84. Frank, who died in 1861 at 91, was the last surviving member of the siblings, becoming Admiral of the Fleet, England’s highest naval rank and assigned by seniority, by outliving all his naval contemporaries.


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