Edmonde Darby of Oldbury in the Parish of Halesowen died and was buried on 5 Sep 1598 in St John the Evangelist Halesowen. He left a will dated 21 Jun 1598 naming his three children and the numbers of his grandchildren. 

He is almost certain to have as siblings Thomas Darby (will 1611), William Darby (will 1581) and by connexion Elizabeth Whitmore. The immediate link here is that John Darby and an Edmund Darby both take the inventory in the will of William in 1581. This would seem a plausible hypothesis that it is he. Moreover, Edmonde's daughter Anne (will 1612), his putative brother Thomas (will 1611) and his grandson Thomas (will 1659) all mention the Hall House in Rowley where it would seem the extended family all lived.

Edmonde gives the name of his surviving wife as Joan and that of his 'brother' as Thomas Willets. This suggests his wife is Joan Willets. 

The wills of three of Edmond's children Anne Darby dated 23 Aug 1612, Thomas Darby dated 17 Nov 1607 and Alice Ireland, 1615 have all survived and add much to the picture. 

Alice Chambers alias Ireland is the name that ties the family group together and in Edmonde's will she is identified as being married to John Chambers and they have seven children. Alice states in her will that the oldest is William and the second oldest Thomas. The original copy of the will of Alice Ireland of 1615 is in poor condition and mainly talks about her children and does not mention any Darbys. It makes clear though that her daughter Joanne is married to a John Russell and her daughter Anne is married to a John Martin. Both Joanne Russell and Anne Martin are also mentioned in her sister Anne's will. The date of the will and the probate date are illegible, but Alice is recorded as being buried in St Giles on 25 Jan 1615/16.

Anne Darby, spinster of the parish of Halesowen, was buried in St Giles Rowley Regis on 24 Feb 1612/13. In her will, whilst stating she is of the Parish of Halesowen, she wishes to be buried alongside her Christian brethren and sisters in the churchyard of Rowley. She bequeaths money to the sons of her late brother Thomas - namely Edmund and Thomas. She also talks of her "Kinsman" William Ireland of Freebodies. Anne mentions the Hall House in Rowley and this connects her directly to her uncle Thomas Darby, where objects in the Hall House are also listed.

In his will of 1607, Thomas Darby mentions his sisters Anne and Alice Ireland. He confirms he has two sons Edmund and Thomas. It is this grandson Thomas who is almost certainly the Thomas Darby who leaves a will of 1659 and is therefore the progenitor of the three successive Edmund Darbys of Rowley Regis discussed further on this web site. The will of the grandson Thomas Darby of 1659 tellingly mentions the Hall House "in which I now live". 

Interestingly the will of the son Thomas Darby expresses a belief in a "joyful resurrection amongst the number of the elect" which would suggest strong Puritan belief and echoes the terminology of his sister's talk of "christian brethren".  Edmonde Darby the father leaves money to the poor of the church of Halesowen and Rowley but also the 'Chapel at Oldbury' - all suggesting a community of Puritans tied together by their religious beliefs. The Chapel at Oldbury was a chapel of ease (part of the Parish of Halesowen 6 miles away) built in 1529 that later became a centre for dissenters.

Thomas Darby in 1607 also leaves bellows to both his sons and together with his mention of a smithy, this suggests that  the family is engaged in the early iron trade as a cottage industry as well as him having the status as a yeoman farmer. See also a reference to a smithy in the 1580 will of William Darby of Rowley. 

Edmonde names as overseers of his will Thomas Darby his son, Thomas Willetts, his well-beloved brother and William Chambers alias Ireland.

It would appear that Edmonde is not related to Edmund Darby, Vicar of Yardley who leaves a will of 1567 but is very likely an ancestor of the family of Abraham Darby, Quaker and famed for the Ironbridge at Broseley.  Nonconformity with a Smithy is one indication but more tellingly is the mention of Edward Parkshouse in the will of grandson Thomas Darby in 1660. Abraham Darby I named one of his sons Edmund.

 

Sources

Parish Register of St Giles, Rowley Regis (BMGSH transcript)

Parish Register of St John's Halesowen, Parish Register Society, 1910

Will of Edmonde Darby of Oldbury, Worcester Archives, Probate 1598

Will of Thomas Darby, Yeoman of Rowley Regis, Worcester Archives, Probate 22 Jul 1611, Probable Brother

Will of William Darby of Rowley, Worcester Archives, 1581, Probable Brother

Will of Thomas Darby, Yeoman of Rowley Regis, Worcester Archives, Probate 14 Dec 1607, Eldest Son

Will of Thomas Darby, Yeoman of Rowley Regis. National Archives, PCC, Probate 1660, Grandson

Will of Anne Darby, Spinster of Halesowen, Worcester Archives, Probate 12 Mar 1612/13, Younger single daughter. 

Will of Alice Chambers alias Ireland, Widow of Rowley, Worcester Archives, fragment dated 1615, daughter