Catalogue description WORSLEY OF APPULDURCOMBE

This record is held by Isle of Wight Record Office

Details of JER/WA
Reference: JER/WA

Though the Worsley deposit is not the largest in the County Record Office, Oglander, White-Popham and Ward exceed it in bulk, it is nevertheless the archive of the most extensive estate which existed on the Island in the early modern period. The Worsleys of Appuldurcombe are a classic example of a gentry family making their fortune out of monastic dissolution and royal favour. The core of the estate, the so-called manor of Appuldurcombe, in fact an amalgamation of at least four manors, was the property of the great Norman Abbey of Montebourg. Custody of this estate was periodically granted during the Hundred Years' War to the Nuns Minoresses without Aldgate who eventually received a permanent grant when all the alien houses were suppressed in 1414. Sir James Worsley, founder of the Appuldurcombe family, came down from Lancashire to the court of Henry VII. He subsequently held the office of Groom to the Wardrobe under Henry VIII. A marriage with Anne Leigh, heiress of the then farmer of Appuldurcombe, Sir John Leigh, was arranged for Sir James in 1511 and when the convent of the Minoresses was itself suppressed in 1538 he was perfectly positioned to ease himself into a permanent grant. His son, Richard, subsequently obtained a long lease on the suppressed Priory of Carisbrooke, though this was only to remain with the family till 1571. Other lands in the area around Appuldurcombe were purchased during the 16th century on the more open market. Richard Worsley, son of James, served the Tudor state as Captain of the Isle of Wight. Some idea of his wealth can be obtained from the inventory of Appuldurcombe House taken shortly after his death in 1565 (36/9). The document describes a house crammed with the most sumptuous furnishings.


The Worsley archive is rich in 16th century title deeds, the period during which most of the estate, Appuldurcombe, Stenbury, Nettlecombe, Wathe, Bembridge and Chale, was obtained. All is neatly summarised in the Inquisition post mortem of John Worsley of 1582. (1/1) There is comparatively little to interest the medievalist. There are good series of court rolls for Appuldurcombe and Whitwell in the later 16th and early 17th centuries. Only a few rolls and rentals of 15th century or earlier date have survived. Separate rolls for each manor were kept into the second decade of the seventeenth century. A lone roll for all the courts exists for 1632 (32/77). Thereafter a more straight forward system of estate management was adopted and a series of annual stewards' accounts was begun in 1642. The counterpart leases are severely defective as a class and the full history of the management of the estate is best pieced together from these books.


Members of the family continued to serve the Crown in local administration and sometimes rather further afield. Though Thomas Worsley was amongst the Island gentry protesting at the Governor Sir George Carey's treatment of Robert Dillington in 1588, he subsequently served as a deputy lieutenant under Carey's successor, the Earl of Southampton. Thomas's son and grandson, Sir Richard, the 1st baronet, and Sir Henry, the 2nd baronet, served their turns as Sheriffs of Hampshire though Sir Henry was also active in local administration during the Commonwealth. ("A Royalist's Notebook" p.110). Henry Worsley, brother of Sir Robert, the 4th baronet, was sent to Spain and Portugal on treaty negotiations (37/15 and later became Governor of Barbados.


With the death of Sir Robert Worsley in 1747 the baronetcy passed to a branch of the family living at Pylewell, near Lymington, Hants. The estate, however, was conveyed to trustees for twenty-one years, after which it was to revert to Thomas Worsley, the son of Sir James Worsley of Pylewell (35/23). During the twenty-one years term the principle beneficiaries appear to have been James Worsley of Stenbury and Robert Worsley of Pidford. Thomas Worsley died in the same year that the term expired and it was left to his son, Sir Richard, to reunite the Appuldurcombe baronetcy with the estate.


Sir James Worsley of Pylewell began a history of the Isle of Wight for which he collected a variety of papers. The project was continued by his son, Sir Thomas, and completed by his grandson, Sir Richard, who is conventionally cited as author of the "History of the Isle of Wight" eventually published in 1781. Sir Richard usefully endorsed all the documents he looked at for the History in his distinctive hand. Many of these are unconnected with the Worsleys and will be found in section 39.


Though some of his forebears had contracted marriages with powerful aristocratic families (see Section 35) Sir Richard Worsley, the 7th baronet, was more tempted by the £60,000 on offer with one Seymour Fleming, younger daughter of Sir John Fleming, a successful London merchant. (Seymour's mother, Jane, however, was herself a grandaughter of the 8th Duke of Somerset and, after Sir John's early death had taken the Earl of Harewood as a second husband.) The marriage ended disastrously with the famous suit for criminal conversation in which Lady Seymour successfully undermined her husband's case by deliberately destroying her own character before the court. A legal separation and much lucrative work for the lawyers followed. A single odd letter (38/2) suggests that the full story was even murkier than the revelations in court indicate. Though forced to step down as Governor of the Isle of Wight, and resign his pretensions to complete political control of the place, Sir Richard continued to find favour at court, however, and was later sent to Venice as British Ambassador. His affairs were left in a state of great disorder on his death in 1805 and they were still being cleared up twenty years later. The largest single item in the deposit is a volume of transcripts of deeds relating to these matters. (35/23)


Sixteenth and seventeenth century rentals and surveys tell us much about the layout of the estate. However, no really rational attempts at recording the place were made till 1773 when Sir Richard commissioned a complete survey with maps. (33/36 and 33/44-49). Used in conjunction with the earlier surveys these items will enable an almost complete picture of the estate to be drawn, tenement by tenement.


The break-up of the estate came in two distinct phases. First a number of farms were put on the market in 1809, as soon as possible after the death of Sir Richard, no doubt to satisfy the claims of Lady Worsley (40/1). The main sale was not effected till the 1850's. Initial attempts then at selling it off as a going concern were not successful. A large number of draft conveyances survive (class 41) to record the purchasers and one of the sale catalogues was endorsed at the time with many of their names (40/3).

Date: C 1250 - 1858

JER/WA/1/- Title deeds to estate as a whole


JER/WA/2/- Title deeds to manor of Appuldurcombe, I.W.


JER/WA/3/- Title deeds to manor of Wolverton, p. Bembridge, I.W.


JER/WA/4/- Title deeds to Borthwood, p. Brading, I.W.


JER/WA/5/- Title deeds to Carisbrooke Priory, I.W.


JER/WA/6/- Title deeds to manor of Chale, and other property in p. Chale, I.W.


JER/WA/7/- Title deeds to manor of Chessle, p. Shalfleet, I.W.


JER/WA/8/- Title deeds to manor of Clavels, p. Whippingham, I.W.


JER/WA/9/- Title deeds to manor of Clevelands, p. Newchurch, I.W.


JER/WA/10/- Title deeds to manor of Gatcombe, I.W.


JER/WA/11/- Title deeds to property at Newtown, I.W.


JER/WA/12/- Title deeds to manor of Preston Vavasour, p. St. Helens, I.W.


JER/WA/13/- Title deeds to manor of Shalfleet, I.W.


JER/WA/14/- Tithes in Godshill Parish


JER/WA/15/- Title deeds to manor of Stenbury, p. Godshill, I.W.


JER/WA/16/- Title deeds to manor of Walpan, p. Chale, I.W.


JER/WA/17/- Title deeds to manor of Wathe and Nettlecombe, p's St. Lawrence and Whitwell, I.W.


JER/WA/18/- Title deeds to manor of Whitwell, I.W.


JER/WA/19/- Title deeds to manor of Woodhouse, p. Whippingham, I.W.


JER/WA/20/- Not assigned


JER/WA/21/- Title deeds to miscellaneous small properties on Isle of Wight


JER/WA/22/- Title deeds to charitable properties


JER/WA/23/ and 24/- Not assigned


JER/WA/25/- Title deeds to manor of Chidham Hacket, Sussex


JER/WA/26/- Title deeds to manor of Chilton Candover, Hants.


JER/WA/27/- Title deeds to manors of Norridge and Donhead St. Andrew, Wilts.


JER/WA/28/- Title deeds to manor of Tarrant Launceston, Dorset


JER/WA/29/- Title deeds to miscellaneous properties in Dorset and Wilts.


JER/WA/30/- Title deeds to Merrick estate, Bristol, Gloucester and Somerset


JER/WA/31/- Leases


JER/WA/32/- Court rolls and manorial rentals


JER/WA/33/- Account books, rentals, surveys and maps


JER/WA/34/- Bonds


JER/WA/35/- Settlements and related papers


JER/WA/36/- Miscellaneous family and estate papers


JER/WA/37/- Official papers


JER/WA/38/- Correspondence


JER/WA/39/- Antiquarian papers


JER/WA/40/- Sales particulars


JER/WA/41/- Draft conveyances


Appendix V Worsley documents overlooked in 1983. Found May 1985


Appendix VI

Held by: Isle of Wight Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Worsley family of Appuldurcombe, Isle of Wight

Physical description: 42 series
Custodial history:

The catalogue of Worsley documents presented here marks the restoration of integrity to an archival group that was needlessly split earlier in the present century. An essential and justifiable division of the Worsley papers had already been made in the last century when the 2nd Earl of Yarborough sold the Isle of Wight estate which he had inherited through his mother, the niece and heiress of Sir Richard Worsley of Appuldurcombe, 7th Baronet (died 1805). The Earl removed himself, a valuable collection of art treasures and many Worsley papers to Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, about 1854. This Lincolnshire section of the Worsley documents, mainly personal papers, was deposited with the Lincolnshire County Record Office in 1957 by the then Earl of Yarborough. A brief summary of these papers appeared in the Lincoln Archives Committee, Archivists' Report 15, 1963-4. A longer handlist was also produced and a copy of this can be seen at the Isle of Wight Record Office.


A very large number of title deeds, leases, court rolls and other miscellaneous papers remained on the Isle of Wight in the hands of the family solicitors Clarke and Sewell of Newport (later Jerome & Co.) Unfortunately a quantity of these, along with numerous unrelated documents of other Isle of Wight landowning families, were removed from the solicitors' strongroom between the Wars by a Mr. Clement Francis Worsley, a distant, collateral, descendant of the Worsleys of Appuldurcombe. In 1948 Mr. Worsley decided to ensure permanent preservation of "his" Worsley papers and proceeded to deposit them with no less than five separate public institutions: Two court books for the Island's Knighton Court, no doubt illicitly obtained by the 7th Baronet while Governor of the Island, were handed to the Borough of Newport. Substantial deposits were made with the Hampshire County Record Office (until such time as a record office was set up on the Island), and the Museum at Carisbrooke Castle. A smaller number of documents went to the British Museum. Two court books for the Manor of Godshill have turned up in the deposit of Godshill Parish Council. These too were almost certainly once in the hands of Clement Francis Worsley. With the exception of the British Museum, now British Library, deposit, all these papers, together with further material from the solicitors, have now been passed to the Isle of Wight County Record Office. All three institutions which received large deposits made some sort of catalogue but all three catalogues were marred by the fact that they contained a good deal of material quite unrelated to the Worsleys. In the case of the Hampshire County Record Office and Carisbrooke Castle Museum deposits, the extraneous material was removed when the present catalogue was compiled and the remaining, true, Worsley papers from them were fully integrated with the core documents from the solicitors. The British Library papers were viewed for the purposes of compiling this catalogue and a coherant handlist to the true Worsley items Amongst them is included as Appendix I. Regretably the British Museum authorities decided in 1967 to mount the bulk of their "Worsley" papers in a guarded file. The result of this operation is the item known as Add MS 46,501, a beautifully bound volume of very miscellaneous content. Only about half the documents in it are Worsley papers at all, the rest relate to other Isle of Wight gentry and yeoman families, noteably the Bowermans of Brook, the Meux-Worsleys of Gatcombe and the Fitchetts of Grove. The only connection that most of these papers have with the Worsleys is that they happened to have been deposited with the same solicitors in Newport.

  • Appuldurcombe, Isle of Wight
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