Sir Robert Cann 1624 - 1685

       of Stoke House, Bristol, England

The Family ·  Stoke House · Coat of Arms· The Chair 


Sir Robert Cann's Family

          Robert Cann born in 1624  was the eldest son of William Cann ( 1600 - 1657/8) who was a Bristol Merchant and mayor of Bristol in 1648/9.   Robert's mother was Margaret Yeamans  (born 1612), and there may have been up to eight  siblings, John (the Preacher),  Richard, James, William, Martha, Matthew, Margaret and Hester, but various sources give different dates/names  and it is difficult to be sure. However, we can be certain that Robert was the eldest because he was admitted to the freedom of Bristol in 1646 on the strength of his being the eldest son of William Cann.

Robert twice became the Mayor of Bristol in 1662 and 1675. When he bought land at Stoke Bishop just outside Bristol on which to build a house, his success in moving into the county elite was marked by his term as High Sheriff in 1676.  He  was Bristol's Member of Parliament in 1678.  He received the honour of knighthood from King Charles the Second on 22nd April 1662, then was given the baronetcy on the 13th September 1662.   

    His first wife was Cicily Hook, daughter of Alderston Humphry Hook of Bristol, and they had two children, William and Ann.  William later inherited the baronetcy from his father and became the 2nd Baronet of Compton Green.

The second wife of Robert Cann was Deliverance Cann (1630 to 1656), daughter of John Cann the Preacher and publisher of the1611 King James Bible.  They had a son, John (1643 - 1694) and it is this John Cann who sailed aboard the Griffin in October 1675 arriving in Newcastle Delaware, USA .Deliverance Cann died in 1656 and was buried in Hull, Yorkshire.

 Robert had another  wife, Ann Popley,  with whom he had a son, Thomas, born 1662. There could also have been  another marriage with the sister of Charles Jones.

In 1668, Robert Cann owned land in North America and was granted a license to transport fifty horses for services on his plantations in the Barbados.  Also, in 1652, the Governor of Waterford was ordered to deliver to Robert Cann, Robert Yate and Thomas Speed as many Irish rebel prisoners as they might choose to embark in their ship bound for the West Indies.  Other property included a town house by the river in Bristol, and a manor house in Compton Greenfield. 

It has been recorded in Roger North's book   "Life of Francis North,  Baron of  Guilford" that Sir Robert  Cann was given a hard time by Judge Jeffries who accused him of being a "stinking, whining, Presbyterian that could be smelled forty miles  off."  A trial was held in London and Sir Robert was acquitted of all charges, presumably of corruption whilst administering the Bristol council.


TobaccoBox.jpg (28876 bytes)

This oval silver tobacco box was made for Sir Robert Cann and is dated 1675.   The Cann coat of arms is beautifully engraved on it - please click to enlarge the picture!


Sir Robert Cann died in 1685 and is buried at All Saint's Church in Compton Greenfield, an area to the north of Bristol.



Stoke Bishop House

Stoke Hill, Bristol


        Whilst many of the genealogical details are still being researched, there is no doubt that  Robert Cann prospered!  He bought land at Stoke Bishop, just outside Bristol and built himself and his family a new house so that he became landed gentry.  The house was probably finished in 1669, the date which appears above the porch.  

       Porch.GIF (187875 bytes)       

The stone carved porch, bearing the date 1669 (Click to enlarge)


The Cann's new house was built at a time when it was just becoming usual for country houses to be designed in the Classical style. A detailed description of the architecture appears in a book "The  Country Houses of Gloucestershire" Volume 2 (1660 - 1830) by N. Kingsley and published by Phillimore, in 1992, easily obtainable in UK libraries. 

Subsequent owners have carried out alterations in a variety of styles, adding windows, removing cupolas and adding a conservatory.  

The great-grandson of the builder of Stoke Bishop, another Sir Robert Cann ( or was this William?), died without issue in 1765, and the family estates descended to his nephew, Robert Cann Jeffries. He carried out extensive restorations to the house, but after his untimely death in 1773, his sister Catherine found herself suddenly to be a wealthy, eligible spinster and  was married the following year to Henry Lippincott.  Henry carried on making alterations to the offices and gardens, and also diverted a turnpike road  to create a lawn in front of the house.  The Cann-Lippincot family retained the house well into the 19th century, but it was sold in about 1800 to Sir R. B. Johnstone and so passed out of the Cann family. 





Stoke House by Brewer

 Painting of Stoke House in 1791, by John Turner


Other references to this house and family may be found from the following sources;

1)  Bristol Evening Post - Thursday, 3rd July 1954 (Photos of Stoke House)

2)  "A Pictorial History of Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park" compiled by Penny Jetzer, Diana Bourne, Elizabeth Floyd & Monica Carp of the Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park Local History Group (first published in 1998)

3) "The Lives of the North's" by Dudley North     

4)   "The Life of Francis North,  Baron of Guilford" by Roger North

5)   The Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park History Group have produced a video, available as American standard NTSC version and English.  

1Drama8a.jpg (62787 bytes)'Country Air, Channel Breezes',  is 60 minutes long and is presented by David Garmston, a local BBC broadcaster. The video is a mix of archive photographs, contemporary interviews and reconstructions. It traces the history of the Bristol suburb from pre-historic times to the present day. A short drama scene about the sale of Stoke House estate lands in 1869 for house building was filmed at Stoke House.  See the picture of actors outside the famous porch and click to enlarge! 

The video may still be obtainable from
The Stoke Bishop and Sneyd Park History Group
23, Church Road
Stoke Bishop
(Queries to +44 (0)117 9682170 or )



Stoke House is presently occupied as a Theological College, known as Trinity College, and can be seen on



The Cann Coat of Arms 

This drawing  appears in "The Paternal Record of Ida May Cann Goode From Reverend John Cann of England" a book published in  1927. Colours have been added for better effect. 

The Coat of Arms  is listed in Fairbairn's Book of Crests of Great Britain & Ireland, published in London, 1915, under  CANN (Extinct) of Compton Greenfield, Gloucestershire.  It is also listed in Burke's General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 

 Heraldic artists developed their own unique language to describe Coats of Arms.  In their words the Arms (shield) is described as follows;

"Az.fretty ar. on a fesse gu. three leopards' faces or"

When translated, the arms description is "Blue with silver trelliswork on middle third red, three gold leopards' faces. 

Above the shield and helmet is the crest which is described as

"Out of a mural coronet or, a plume of five ostrich feathers ar"

When translated, this becomes, "Out of a gold crown, a plume of five silver ostrich feathers".

The coat of arms was created on the 13th September 1662.  Two years later, there was an addition to the arms from Sir Edward Walker, Garter King of Arms "on a Fesse  three leopards faces of gold"


        If we look closely at my painting below, there is a hand on the shield. 

This appears in the carvings on the chair, and at Stoke Bishop House, but not on the illustration from Ida May  Cann Goode's  book  of William Cann's arms.  Is this perhaps the addition from Sir Edward Walker?

paintingofcoarms.JPG (32976 bytes)

Click to enlarge


Heraldic Terms used in the Cann Coat of Arms

A Fesse is formed by two horizontal lines.  It is emblematic 

of the military girdle worn round the body over the armour 

Fretty is interlaced fillets crossing the field or charge lozengways.

Lozengy is when the field is divided by diagonal lines transversely

 into equal parts or lozenges.

Ar means white or silver . Az means blue.     Gu means red.  Or means yellow or gold. .       


The Cann Chair

        This beautiful carved armchair is presently in store at the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland having survived over 300 years.    It is made of walnut and is dated 1699 featuring the Cann coat of arms and the initials "WC"  . 

         A former student at Glasgow University, Erin Gobel (now Erin French M.Phil in Decorative Arts)  made this chair one of the subjects in her research assignment in December 2001, for the  Phillips (now Bonhams) Decorative Arts Programme.  The following text and pictures have been extracted from her essay.


Description of the chair


   The elaborate back panel is composed of a carved cresting  rail featuring the coat of arms of the Bristol family Cann. The barley twisted, upright side supports are topped with finials and bear the date 1699.

Carved, pierced cascading scrolls and floral motifs in high relief surround the caned back splat.  The outward-turning arms are supported by carved, pierced arm supports terminating in large ball feet that are accented  with floral carving.


  The carved front stretcher features the cypher monogram "WC" at its centre, surrounded by further scrolling elements. 


 Joined construction is employed throughout and the chair has undergone extensive strengthening vertically and horizontally at the back.

Height 55 ½ inches (141 cm)  Width 29 inches (74 cm)  Depth 24 inches (61 cm)

If we look at the barley twisting columns of the entrance porch of Stoke House, we can see a reflection of them in the chair.  Emphasis is placed on verticality, which exudes power, dominance and high status.  When compared to the entry, the chair takes on a new architectural sense that links it even more firmly to this house.

Further notes

It is almost certain that the WC initials belong to  William Cann, son of Sir Robert Cann as it was William who inherited the baronetcy upon his father's death. (Reference:  Cann, William Ferris and James T Eliason, "The Story of John Cann, 1645 - 1694 of Delaware and His Descendants"

Although it may be hard to see a WC we have confirmation of it from an entry in the Dictionary of English Furniture, 1953, volume  I., page 241, fig. 57 which states that the cypher W.C. is on the front stretcher.

Being an upper class family, the Canns would have been accustomed to well made furniture. This chair would have had a cushion upon which William Cann sat, that completed the stately appearance of the chair.  Its position in the house would probably have been on the first floor, at the top of the main staircase in a grand dining room, decorated in the Baroque style.  Here we can imagine the Cann family entertaining guests and having smaller intimate dinners.  During these meals, Sir William Cann, grandson of the first Cann mayor of Bristol, occupied his chair which would have been more elaborate than any of the other dining chairs.  

FullChair.JPG (38936 bytes)

TopOfChair.JPG (77797 bytes) WCChair.JPG (46037 bytes) ChairCrest.JPG (38783 bytes)

All of these pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them



I am indebted to Jerry Cann, Howard Cann,  Ernest Cann, Leland Kennedy and Erin French (nee Gobel)  for their interest and help.


Please Email me if you have any further information or would like contact. 

 I would especially welcome any pictures of Sir Robert and any of his family as I feel sure there would have been some specially commissioned paintings of this family.

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Last update was 06 January 2010  

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