|Administrative / biographical background:
The Ward-Boughton-Leigh family of Warwickshire is descended from the Boughtons who established themselves at Lawford Hall in the fifteenth century and came to hold much land in the Rugby area, and in neighbouring counties. The family appear to have originated in Bedfordshire: the earliest member of the family of whom anything is known is Robert de Boveton who died in 1326. He had two sons, Richard, and Robert Capellanus, the latter being a great patron of the Nunnery of St. Mary de Pre near Northampton. Nothing is known of Richard's son William de Boveton, the next heir, but his son is described by Dugdale as William de Boveton or Boughton, and he was apparently the first member of the family to assume the name of Boughton. Nothing more is known of him or of his son Richard, but the career of Richard's son Thomas is well documented. He is described by Dugdale as a Bedfordshire gentleman, holding the manor of Kempston Hardwick, Beds. The manor originated in the 13th century but from 1281-1456 its descent cannot be traced, though in the latter year it was in Thomas's possession, together with a third part of the manor of Northwood, Beds. The manor of Kempston Hardwick remained in the possession of the Boughton until 1542 when it was alienated to Henry VIII in exchange for certain lands in Warwickshire. The portion of the manor of Northwood had already been alienated by William Boughton to the Decan family in 1521. Thomas Boughton married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Geoffrey de Allesley of Little Lawford, Warwickshire, so their son Richard inherited the Manor of Little Lawford and extensive lands in Little Harborough, Church Lawford, Newbold-on-Avon, Toft, Dunchurch, Long Lawford and other neighbouring parishes. These lands became the nucleus of the territorial aggrandisement of the Boughtons, as most territorial purchases in the future were made with a view to increasing their ownership in the aforesaid area and building up a compact estate. Thomas was Escheator for Northamptonshire and Rutland in 1440-41, and J.P. for Warwickshire in 1442-45 and 1449-1461. He was also M.P. for Warwickshire 1453-54 and took part in the Lancastrian array in December 1459. He appears accoutred fully in armour on the fine incised slab of his table-tomb in Newbold-on-Avon church with his wife Elizabeth in her horned head-dress at his side. Nearby is a similar monument to her parents Geoffrey and Eleanor or Alianore Allesley. Thomas's relationship with his in-laws was apparently not always smooth, and his son's inheritance of the Allesley lands, was for a time in jeopardy. In 1457 Richard Boughton was forced to address a petition to Chancery, seeking to establish his legal title to the lands, Elizabeth having died a few years previously: Eleanor Allesley, because of some altercation with Thomas, having burnt the deed of gift which proved his title, at the Abbey of Combe which she now regretted. An inquiry was made and Richard's title was proved. (Among the records relating to this case is the only Notarial Instrument in the collection).
Richard himself greatly augmented the family's lands by purchasing the manor of Brownsover from Thomas Bellers. The descent of the manor of Brownsover is the best documented of all the property acquired by the Boughtons, beginning in the reign of Henry III. Richard married Agnes Longville. He was Escheator of the counties of Warwick and Leicester in 1473-74, and Sheriff of the same, 1480-81 and 1484-85. He was killed in an encounter with the Earl of Richmond's forces, while collecting troops for Richard III.
Richard's son William was only twelve years old at the time of his father's death. He became an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, who granted him a coat of arms: sable, three crescents or. He was Sheriff of the counties of Warwick and Leicester in 1536. He was twice married, first to a daughter of John D'Anvers of Waterstock, Oxfordshire, and secondly to Elizabeth Barrington. Following the family tradition, William further augmented the family's estates in Brinklow, Long Lawford and Rugby and his friendship with the King later stood his younger son Thomas in good stead for in 1545 Henry VIII granted Thomas lands in Cawston in recognition of his father's services.
Edward, William's son by his first marriage, married Elizabeth Willington, daughter of William Willington of Barcheston, a member of an ancient Warwickshire family. In 1542 Edward exchanged his manor of Kempston Hardwick with the King, in return for estates in Bilton, Dunchurch, Long Lawford, and Newbold Grange, all formerly in the possession of the Abbey of Pipewell, lately dissolved, which had been leased to the Boughtons by the Abbey, since 1485. Thomas married Margaret Cave: their son Edward was a great favourite of Robert, Earl of Leicester, who presented him with the materials of the dissolved whitefriars church in Coventry which were used to build Cawston Hall; but the cost of his great house impoverished him and on his death in 1589 some of his estates had to be sold to pay his creditors.
Edward and Elizabeth Willington's son William was a minor at his father's death in 1548. His wardship and marriage were then purchased by his maternal grandfather William Willington, the Royal Grant occurring among the papers. Elizabeth Willington was no doubt greatly relieved since the trade in minors was extremely profitable and was reaching unparalleled heights at that time. William married Jane, sister of Sir Thomas Coningsby of Hampton Court and their son Edward was born in 1572. Like his grandfather William was Sheriff of the counties of Warwick and Leicester in 1575 and again in 1590. The Letters Patent appointing him Sheriff are available for both dates.
In 1593 Edward married Elizabeth Catesby, daughter of Edward Catesby of Lapworth Hall, Warwickshire, a member of the family which was later implicated in the Gunpowder Plot. He further augmented the family estates by the purchase of Bilton Hall and manor and the advowson to Bilton Church in 1610: Bilton Hall became the home of the cadet branch of the Boughton family thoughout the 17th century until its sale in 1708 to Joseph Addison; Edward further compacted the family's holdings in Newbold, Little and Long Lawford and Little Harborough by extensive purchases from Edward Earl of Hertford, who had acquired much of the former property of the Priory of Axholme, Lincolnshire, which had had considerable estates in Warwickshire. In 1609 he was Sheriff of Warwickshire. On his death he was succeeded by his eldest son William who had studied at Queen's College, Oxford, and then at the Middle Temple. He married Abigail, daughter of Henry Baker of South Shoebury, Essex, and his brother Thomas, who had inherited Bilton Hall, married her sister Judith. William was Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1633. On August 4th 1641 he was created a baronet. The Boughtons appear to have taken a very active part in the Civil War, judging by the frequency with which their names occur among the Royalist Composition Papers. Sir William's occurs most often, but his brother Thomas was also concerned, and their first cousins of the Cawston branch also figure in the list. Unfortunately the family's own records contain no reference to this part of their careers.
William's son Edward married firstly Anne Pope, daughter of Sir Thomas Pope, Earl of Downe, of Wroxton, Oxfordshire, in 1655, but she died in 1662. In 1664 Sir Edward then married Anne Heydon, daughter of Sir John Heydon, knight, of Oxhey, Hertfordshire. Sir John had an interest in property in Milk Street, London, as well as in Hertfordshire, and in Walsham in the Willows, Suffolk, the Rectory of Launant, the Chapels of St. Eies and Tewinmack, and the Rectories of Madderne Mawe and Penzance, all in Cornwall. He was also for many years in succession Chief Governor, Deputy Governor and Captain of the King's Castles in the Bermudas or Summer Islands and held considerable property there. But he outlived his son-in-law by sixteen years, and as there were no children of the Boughton-Heydon marriage his estates passed to his grand-daughter, daughter of Anne Heydon by her second marriage to a Mr Bridges. Among the records there is a copy of Lady Boughton's 'Last directive concerning her daughter Ann Bridges', dated 5th September 1699, and a copy of the Act of Parliament for settling Ann Bridges' estates in the Bermudas. Sir John Heydon's notification of his appointment as Governor 'in consideration of his good qualifications', in 1668, and other papers and letters relating to his sojourn in the islands are among the family archives. Ann Bridges married a Mr. Arthur of London, and thus several papers relating to the Arthur family have found their way into the collection.
Sir Edward Boughton, 2nd Bart., continued his family's tradition of service to the government in local and national matters, being named as a Commissioner to collect taxes in Warwickshire in 1661. In the same year he was M.P. for Warwickshire, and Sheriff. He died in 1680 and was succeeded by his brother William, who had married Mary, daughter of Hastings Ingram of Little Wolford, Warwickshire. Their son also William succeeded to the title in 1683, only two years after he had matriculated from Magdalen College, at the age of 17. He married twice, first, Mary, daughter of John Ramsay, alderman of London, and secondly Catherine Shuckburgh, daughter of Sir Charles Shuckburgh, Bart., of Warwickshire. Sir William augmented the family estates anew by purchase of land in Long Lawford and Newbold. In 1713 he and his son Edward conveyed all their lands and property in Long Lawford, Little Lawford, Brownsover, Newbold-on-Avon, Cosford, Bretford, Little and Great Harborough to trustees to the use of Sir William for his life, and then to Edward, son of Mary Ramsay, and his heirs, and should his issue fail, to Shuckburgh Boughton son of Catherine and his heirs, Sir William died in 1716 and is buried among his ancestors in Newbold-on-Avon church, beneath an imposing monument by Rysbrack, which mentions his election as a representative of Warwick in Parliament 'where his steady and untarnished principles of loyalty to his sovereign, and zeal for the Established Church of England, eminently distinguished him.' He was apparently offered a peerage by Queen Anne, but declined the honour.
His son Edward married Grace Shuckburgh, eldest daughter of Sir John Shuckburgh, Bart., and died in 1722 at the age of 33 years of intemperance, or so it would appear from references in the lawsuit over the estate which began about 1738. His son, also Edward, was an infant at the time of his death, and appears to have been brought up by his maternal grandmother Dame Abigail Shuckburgh, for his mother married Matthew Lister while Edward was still a child. The lawsuit arose from a dispute over Grace's jointure and her right to the rents of certain estates in Little Lawford, Newbold, Bretford and Little Harborough: during the suit it was suggested that Sir Edward Boughton had not been sane when he made an indenture which rendered the jointure invalid, in 1721. At one point Dame Catherine Boughton was accused of having encouraged the late Sir Edward Boughton to drink heavily, in order to encompass his death, so that her sons might inherit. Eventually the suit was settled in 1745 and the validity of the indenture proved, plenty of witnesses having testified in favour of the late Sir Edward's sanity, though apt 'to be whimsical when in his cups'. Numerous papers relating to the suit still survive in the collection and enable one to follow its course through almost the entire proceedings.
Sir Edward Boughton, 6th Bart., made an unfortunate first marriage, much against the wishes of his family, to a woman many years older than himself, a Miss Anna Brydges of Somerset. She died in 1750 and he married secondly Anna Maria Beauchamp, an heiress, who brought lands in Adston and the Potterspury area, Northamptonshire, into the family. They had a son and a daughter Theodosius and Theodosia. Sir Edward died in 1772. In 1777 Theodosia married John Donnellan a former Captain in the Hon. East India Company, by whom she had two children. In August 1780 her brother Sir Theodosius died at Lawford Hall and her husband was accused of poisoning him with laurel leaf essence. He was tried and eventually hung for the murder at Warwick on April 2nd, 1781, although the evidence against him appears to have been purely circumstantial. No letters or papers relating to this event occur among the documents, the sole reference being in an abstract of Theodosia's title to her brother's estates. The family settlement of 1713 had been voided (jointures excepted) by two recoveries of 1739 and 1754, so Theodosia inherited the bulk of the family estates, while the title and the demesne lands passed to the heirs of Shuckburgh Boughton, in accordance with the terms of the settlement of 1713.
Shuckburgh had married Mary, eldest daughter of Algernon Greville, Lord Brooke, by Mary his wife, daughter of Lord Arthur Somerset, and Mary his wife, only child of Sir William Russell, Bart., and Hester his wife, daughter, and in her issue, co-heir of Sir Thomas Rouse, Bart., of Rouse Lench. Shuckburgh died in 1760; after his death his wife was for many years one of the 6 Women of the Bedchamber to the Queen. Of their children the Boughton inheritance passed to Edward the elder son, who succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his cousin Thomas Philips-Rouse in 1768, succeeded by will to Rouse Lench and adopted the name and arms of Rouse. By Royal Licence in July 1791 he was created a baronet, and in 1794 on the death of his brother Edward he became the 9th baronet and resumed the surname of Boughton: and the Rouse-Boughton family have retained both titles down to the present time. His sisters married well; Elizabeth married Clotworthy, 1st Lord Templeton of Ireland in 1769, and Mary married Dr. John Egerton, 1st cousin of the Duke of Bridgwater, who became Bishop of Durham. Lord Templeton's sister was a Mrs Donnellan and it is possible that the Boughton-Donnellan marriage arose from this connection.
At this time the Boughton connection with Lawford Hall was severed: Lady Anna Maria Boughton allowed the house to pass to Sir Edward Boughton, 8th Bart., and he caused it to be razed to the ground in 1780, which was a sad loss as the Boughtons had inhabited it since the 15th century. Thereafter the family lived at Brownsover. In 1788 Theodosia married Sir Egerton Leigh, Bart. a descendant of the ancient family of High Leigh, Cheshire. His grandfather Peter Leigh had emigrated to South Carolina and made his home at Charlestown. He was appointed Lord Chief Justice of South Carolina in 1752 and died there in 1759, being buried in the church of St. Philip in Charlestown. His son Egerton Leigh enjoyed an extremely successful career in South Carolina, marrying the daughter of Francis Bremar of South Carolina in 1756, and becoming successively, His Majesty's Attorney-General, Surveyor General, Judge of the Admiralty and a member of the Council. The Royal Commission appointing him Attorney-General is among the numerous documents relating to Sir Egerton, with the Seal of the Province still intact. There is also a copy of an original grant made to him, as Surveyor-General, of 1,000 acres of swamp land between the Turtle River and the River Atlatamaha in South Carolina, in 1763. In 1772 he was created a baronet. The grant of his title has also survived: it states that it was made in consideration of his valuable assistance in keeping the peace in Ireland, more especially in Ulster, by providing enough money to maintain 30 men in the Army in Ireland for 3 years: the usual reason. The outbreak of the American Revolution brought his successful career to an end. He supported the King and was eventually forced to leave the country, being deprived of all his possessions. However his close ties drew him back and he died there in 1781 and was buried with his father. Unfortunately the family's once vast possessions in Carolina were now totally lost, for the Revolutionary government refused to restore them to his son, who returned to England, only to discover that the long years of absence had cost him the family's ancient estates in Warwickshire, which had fallen into the hands of Chancery, only the old family mansion of Little Harborough Hall remaining to him. A long lawsuit failed for want of proof. On his marriage he removed to Brownsover Hall. He and Theodosia had two children, a son Egerton who died young, and a daughter Theodosia de Malsburgh, so named from her aunt, Sir Egerton's younger sister Elizabeth, who had married Baron von Malsburg of Hesse Cassel in 1781. In 1811 Theodosia married John Ward of Guilsborough Grange, Northamptonshire, and on her mother's death in 1830 she inherited all the estates. Little is known of the children of Lady Theodosia Leigh's first marriage: John and Maria. They adopted the name Beauchamp from their maternal grandmother, John took Holy Orders and during his lifetime enjoyed the Adston and Potterspury estates in Northamptonshire, but he predeceased his mother and the estates reverted to her. Of Maria's life nothing is known.
The Wards originated in Warwickshire at Knoll, and were seized of the manor of Brayfield in the reign of James I, with connections at Little Houghton. Holy Orders called many of the family during the 17th century and in most cases proved a lucrative career. Nothing is known of the family before the 17th century but by 1626 John Ward was established at Spratton for he presented his son the Rev. John Ward fresh from Merton College, Oxford, to the living there. The Rev. John Ward's two sons also took Holy Orders. John became in succession Vicar of Stratford-on-Avon and Hector of Dorsington, Gloucestershire, and Chaplain in Extraordinary to Charles II. He kept a diary from 1648 until 1679, which was published in 1839, but no copy of it is among the family papers. He died in 1680. His brother Thomas became Rector of Old alias Wold, Northamptonshire, in 1668 marrying Elizabeth daughter of Henry Lucas of Guilsborough, where the family was thereafter settled. Numerous documents and papers relating to the careers of the aforesaid are to be found in the collection. The Rev. John Ward had no children, and the Ward estates passed to John, eldest son of the Rev. Thomas ward, who lived at Guilsborough. The second son Thomas took Holy Orders and became successively Rector of Hazlebeech, Wilby and Blisworth, all in Northamptonshire. The third son Samuel lived at Wellingborough and his daughter married William Lambe of Stanwick, a cousin of the Richard Lambe of Great Addington, whose daughter Mary married William Zouth Lucas Ward, Samuel's great-nephew. John Ward married Mary Caldecott of Cathorpe, Leicestershire. Their only son Thomas was knighted, and for many years was a J.P. adding one of the most interesting documents to the collection; a notebook in which he recorded the proceedings of Petty Sessions. His sister Ann married John Lucas of Hollowell, both of them dying while their children were still minors and Sir Thomas became responsible for their education and welfare. A large bundle of accounts testifies to Sir Thomas's paternal care: bills for clothes, schooling and quarterly allowances abound. William Lucas was the second son, but the death of his elder brother Thomas left him the heir, and he took the name of ward in accordance with the will of his uncle Sir Thomas. He married Mary, daughter of Richard Lambe of Great Addington. On the death of her uncle Woodford Lambe, a lunatic, Mary inherited the considerable Lambe estates in and around Great and Little Addington and Woodford in Northamptonshire, and several estates at Upholland, Orrell and Billing in Lancashire and the rights to any mines found on the lands. Among the collection are many interesting letters relating to the organisation of companies to work the mines, the quantity of coal produced, and the price, also disputes with the local Lord of the Manor Sir Robert Holt who claimed the mines as his ancient right. But by John Ward-Boughton-Leigh's death, the mines were worked out and no longer of any profit.
Ann Lambe, Woodford's mother, was the daughter of John Woodford of Welford, and a quantity of Woodford deeds appear among the Lambe papers. The Lambes' connection with Northamptonshire appears to have begun at the end of the 17th century when a Robert Lambe purchased estates at Great Addington, Little Addington and Woodford where his family lived until the estates passed to Mary. An unusual group of documents is a large bundle of marriage licences issued by Bishops of Peterborough from 1751 to 1772: a Robert Lambe was bishop of Peterborough 1764-69, and somehow they found their way into the collection. He is the only member of the family known to have held a position of importance, the others apparently lived out their lives in obscurity.
John Ward and his wife Theodosia de Malsburgh lived at Brownsover Hall but retained Guilsborough Hall after the death of his father in 1837. John administered the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire estates, though the bulk of the latter were sold at two sales in 1841 and 1859-60. Guilsborough Hall remained in the family for some years thereafter, as there are plans and elevations of it, made during some alterations at a later date. In 1831 John took the additional names of Boughton and Leigh, and a Grant of Arms made to him in 1832 under his new name is among the records. In the 1850's Brownsover Hall was pulled down, and a new house was built by Gilbert Scott. No plans of the house or any correspondence relating to the work, have survived, but there are numerous letters from Marshall and Snelgrove of London, and from Eld and Chamberlain, Midland House, Birmingham relating to the carpets and furnishings to be chosen for the house. There are also some extremely interesting letters accompanied by sketches from William Holland, who had a Stained Glass and Decorative works at St. John's, Warwick: he submits designs for a stained glass window and for carved tables as frames for Italian marble slabs. A scrapbook compiled by John Ward-Boughton-Leigh's second son Allesley contains a descriptive inventory of the furniture and pictures in Brownsover Hall: as well as an account of the family's only ghost, One-handed Boughton: an ancestor who lost an arm, in the time of Elizabeth.
Among John Ward-Boughton-Leigh's papers are many which show his continuous participation in county affairs. He was High Sheriff of Warwickshire, a Justice of the Peace, Surveyor of the Highways and several times contested the radical stronghold of Leicester in the Conservative cause, beginning in 1832. Cuttings of that date from the local papers praise his efforts in the most glowing terms, while casting such aspersions upon the electoral methods of his opponents as would certainly bring them into court on a charge of slander today. He also took a great interest in the Freemasonry movement in Warwickshire, attending numerous lodges in the Birmingham and Warwick areas, and being Provincial Grand Master for 10 years. A quantity of invitations to various Masonic evenings and services occur among his papers.
He died in 1868 and was succeeded by his son Allesley. His eldest son John, had died at the age of 22 years. He had been a brilliant youth of great ability, who went to Trinity College, Cambridge. He obtained a Commission in the 1st Dragon Guards, as a Cornet, but in the spring of 1839 he had an accident while driving a dogcart, and suffered concussion of the brain. In six weeks, apparently recovered, he left to rejoin his regiment in Canada, but within a few days he was brought back from the ship, suffering from the effects of the accident, and died at Plymouth.
His brother Allesley was a poet and antiquarian: some examples of his verses occur in the scrapbook referred to earlier, which is in the collection. The following is a typical example, written on the occasion of the discovery of the coffins of Francis Leigh, Earl of Chichester and Lord Dunsmore, and his wife and daughter, in the ruins of King's Newnham church, the bodies being very well preserved; though on exposure to air they soon crumbled to dust;
'There lay the goodly Earl in sweet repose, The smile of hope still lingering o'er his lips, His fond fair daughter sleeping at his side; The delicate warm tints of earliest youth Bloom on her cheek, as seemingly in doubt The breath of life had yet for ever fled. Paint! quickly paint! for now remorseless Death Triumphantly reclaims his lingering prey, and all is dust.'
With Allesley Ward-Boughton-Leigh the history of the Ward-Boughton-Leigh family ends as there are no later documents in the collection. The completed picture that emerges is this: an ancient family, establishing its landed position in the fifteenth century and emerging in the sixteenth century as important local figures, through the typical channels of Royal and noble patronage, and acquisition of land after the Dissolution of the monasteries, a pattern that was repeated in every county in England. In the seventeenth century a baronetcy added further lustre to the family, which gallantly supported the Royalist cause. The Boughtons' family connections and great possessions placed them in the front rank of the country gentry: by marriage they were connected to some of the better-known families in the kingdom such as the Cavendishes, Earls of Devon, but did not ignore alliances with the merchant families who represented the New World: the Heydons and the Ramseys, for example, and there was always much intermarriage with leading county families. By the eighteenth century they had withdrawn from national life and lived the lives of typical eighteenth century squires, always active in the field of local public service, and continuing the same tradition of service in the nineteenth century. Today the Ward-Boughton-Leighs live at the Manor House, Newbold-on-Avon, only a few miles from Lawford where their ancestors established themselves 500 years ago.