|Administrative / biographical background:
This is a family rather than an estate collection. Though it contains a considerable number of deeds and some leases, these are a residue of early material retained when the Pentrepant estate was sold; and they are more informative about the 16th century type of holding in that area than about the growth of the property. A good deal of Hanmer land seems to have come via the Staney family (related to them by marriage); the rest was built up of small units. Porkington township was within the lordship of Whittington and this fact involved the family in several heriot disputes. Two 16th century leases are of particular interest to the archivist because they illustrate the process of transition from copyhold to leasehold for lives or years in this manor.
The mid seventeenth century saw a decline in the Hanmers' prosperity - a son trying to repudiate his father's debts, the estate more and more encumbered, the second John Hanmer unable to avoid a spell in prison for debt and an execution at Pentrepant. His death at this point left the property heavily mortgaged and his representatives involved in costly lawsuits. His heir, Thomas, was troubled with the king's evil and died young. The remaining son, Rees, found himself a cause of tension between his mother (who married again) and the aunt to whose guardianship he was in this event committed by his father's will; he was not able to live at home and his schoolmaster though sympathetic found him a difficult pupil. When articled in London, Rees ran away, and was put back to school, to "a famous school at Hereford" to improve his education though he was by then nearly of age. His pleasure when he at last set up house at Pentrepant was short-lived, for he died, still in his 20s, in 1722, leaving an heiress as the only representative of the Hanmers of Pentrepant.
John Hanmer's younger brothers had more business training and seem to have managed their affairs better. Charles was in business in Oswestry until, presumably through marriage, he became a country gentleman in Radnorshire. His concern when his daughter had smallpox shows warm parental feeling not common in 18th century letters. Richard entered the army and wrote a grumbling letter from Gibraltar in 1714. James, after a legal training in London, went to India as Clerk in the service of the Governor of Bombay Castle; according to one correspondent, he liked the country, kept his health, and was happy there; certainly he lived to join his sister in Oswestry and as her executor to leave his handwriting on most of her papers and correspondence
The women of the family seem to have been dominant characters. Frances Meredith, wife first of James Phillips and then of Edward Vaughan, fought for some ten years to establish the validity of her second marriage and her right to alimony in the face of stubborn opposition. Dorothy, her daughter by the first marriage, become the wife of John Hanmer the elder. Their daughter Frances married very young, lost her husband before the birth of their only child, lost her son at less than a year old, and as the honoured but formidable Madam Eyton of Willow Street fought her lawsuits for the next 45 years, ruled her nephew Rees with great tenderness but little imagination and did many note of kindness to her poorer neighbours. Her correspondence with poor relations in service in London suggests that for her the bond of blood far outweighed any immediate difference in social status. As a result, this contains a letter from a housemaid comfortably placed in the establishment of a Member of Parliament where her master is very civil, and several letters from a girl less happily situated - her and appeal to her parents must speak for many "consider how yong you sent me oute above all the rest and what hardship I had to com on my feet --- I am shuer I have had greate care and teken great paynes to gett what I have and go to my bead with maney eaking hart and bone and tiered Lime that you know nothing of ---" this is a voice we very seldom hear speaking from the past.