The Englefields and after
Successive generations of the Englefield family continued as lords of the manor from about 1166 until the accession of Queen Elizabeth the First, many of them holding high offices of state. The lord at the time of Elizabeth’s accession was Sir Francis Englefield, a Roman Catholic and holder of many offices under Queen Mary. When the Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558 Sir Francis might perhaps have clung on at Englefield as did the Perkins family at nearby Ufton Court (although heavily penalised) by dissembling his faith but he secured leave to go abroad for two years in 1559, the first withdrawal from England by a leading Catholic. When his licence expired he did not return and refused a royal command to do so, remaining abroad for the rest of his life. He was a key figure at the court of Philip II in Spain and plotted the return to a Catholic monarch in England. In 1562 after Sir Francis refused to return to England his estates, held on lease from the Crown, were redistributed. In 1584 he was indicted and outlawed for treason committed six years earlier and in 1587 included in the Act of Attainder. He died in Spain in 1596. Although the bulk of the manor of Englefield passed from the eponymous family, Sir Thomas Englefield, the Justice of the Common Pleas and father of Sir Francis, seems to have settled part of the manor on his second son John and so it escaped the forfeiture of Sir Francis’s lands. A house and some land in the village was retained by the Englefields until 1792 when the last baronet, Sir Henry Englefield, sold them to Richard Benyon de Beauvoir.
After Sir Francis was dispossessed there followed some seventy-five years during which the manor of Englefield appears to have been in several hands, and sometimes none, before finally ending up with John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, in 1635.
The Lysons in their Magna Britannia of 1813, say that the estate was given by Queen Elizabeth to Sir Francis Walsingham, having been told that by Mr Benyon and this has been repeated (and embellished) by several other sources since then. It is still given some credence despite having been authoritatively refuted by the account in the Victoria County History of 1923, meticulously-referenced to the original sources, and admitted as incorrect in the Bradfield Rural District official guide of 1949. Gervase Jackson-Stops in Country Life (26 February 1981) says that the main house at Englefield with the bulk of Sir Francis Englefield's estates was given by the Queen to the Earl of Essex and later (in 1597) to Lord Norreys. This is not entirely true either and Norreys's presence at Englefield is an additional complication that is dealt with elsewhere.
The hard evidence cited by the Victoria County History is that when Sir Francis refused to return his lands were seized for the Queen but no record of any grant before 1586 is known of. This period was occupied by unsuccessful attempts by Sir Francis to recover the estate through appeals to the privy council and as a final effort in 1575-6 he settled his estate on a nephew, also Francis, on condition that he could regain it on presentation of a gold ring. After the attainder of 1587 emissaries of the Queen offered the nephew a ring but he refused to surrender the estate on the grounds that only his uncle was empowered to fulfil the condition. In 1586 the Queen had leased the manor house and certain lands to Humphrey Foster and George Fytton for a period of forty years but this lease was declared void during another law suit brought by agents for Sir Francis. First the courts and then an Act of Parliament found in favour of the Crown and in 1589 and the manor house and lands were leased to Thomas Crompton, Robert Wright and Gelly Meyrick as trustees for Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex. Devereaux’s maternal grandfather was Sir Francis Knollys of Battle Manor in Reading, whose wife was the niece of Anne Boleyn and cousin of the Queen.
Essex was executed for treason in 1601 and the estate came back to the Crown again, though no arrangements seem to have been made regarding the ownership until in 1611 King James I granted the estate to John Eldred and William Whitmore. They conveyed it to Thomas Erskine, Viscount Fenton and in 1622 Erskine, by then the Earl of Kelly, sold it to his creditors Sir Peter Vanlore and William Rolfe. The latter then sold it on to Sir John Davis whose wife was the step-daughter of Lord Kelly. When Sir John died in 1625 the manor was settled on his daughter Lucy who had married Ferdinando, Lord Hastings at Englefield in August 1623, the record in the parish register giving the bride’s father as “Sir John Davis, lord of the manor of Englefield”. At the time Hastings was 17 and his bride just 10. This was, in fact, their second wedding the first having taken place a month earlier and apparently conducted without licence or clergyman, causing Archbishop Abbott to threaten all concerned with excommunication.
In 1635 the manor was alienated by them to John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester.
The arms and crest of the Englefield family
© 2021 Richard J Smith