THE ARCHIVES OF THE ASHBURNHAM FAMILY AND THEIR SUSSEX ESTATE
The chief seat of the Ashburnham family was Ashburnham Place, near Battle, where, as we have seen, they had been settled from about the end of the 12th century until 1953. A family with such a continuous record of residence, owners of vast estates and of great wealth, naturally accumulated a large and heterogeneous quantity of archives; the classification of these documents has presented many problems and a certain amount of overlapping in several sections has been unavoidable. The main divisions into which the records have been placed will be found in the list of contents of this book on pp. ii, iii, and the general index has, it is hoped, brought scattered references together. Among those records deserving special mention are:--
PEDIGREES which include those of the Vaughan family brought in by the marriage in 1677 of Bridget Vaughan with John, 1st Baron Ashburnham. This lady also brought to the family the important Welsh estates of which the archives have been transferred to the National Library of Wales; a catalogue of them is available in the East Sussex Record Office
FAMILY HONOURS. There are the richly decorated letters patent for the creation of John Ashburnham as Baron Ashburnham, 1689, and those for the advancement of his son as Earl of Ashburnham and Viscount St. Asaph, 1730. The archives also contain twelve papal and other briefs in respect of honours conferred on the 5th Earl for his work in connexion with Roman Catholicism and the attempt to restore Carlos VII to the Spanish throne
APPOINTMENTS TO PUBLIC OR SEMI-PUBLIC OFFICES. Under this heading (pp. 3-5) is listed the finely painted roll of the Constables of Dover Castle and Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports presented by John Philipot, Somerset Herald, to the ill-fated George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, in 1627. There are a few records relating to the offices of Keeper of the Great Wardrobe and Groom of the Stole, appointments of lieutenancy, and commissions in the army; the latter include that of John Ashburnham, the Cavalier, to be Captain of a Company of 150 Foot in the Earl of Northumberland's Regiment, 1640
MARRIAGE SETTLEMENTS AND ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS. An extensive series dating from 1601, and of much value when dealing with the order in which certain estates came into the family's possession. The documents have been listed with some indication of the amount of detail they contain.
WILLS AND ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS. These cover the period 1670 to 1888. The earliest is that of John Ashburnham which refers to the former Sussex estates of the family and to the watch of Charles I
CORRESPONDENCE. A relatively small section but important for the letter-books of the outgoing correspondence of John, 1st Baron Ashburnham, in 8 vols., 1696-1708 (See R. Gunnis, 'Letters if the First Lord Ashburnham', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 88, pp. 3-14.) Letters or transcripts of letters written by John and William Ashburnham are noted among the Addenda on p. 122. Many later letters are from persons of distinction, and if their names are included in the Dictionary of National Biography the fact is usually noted. One group (no. 929, p. 24) relates to the Colonna Raphael which was sold in 1896 for £17,000.
PERSONAL ACCOUNTS. Only two day-books, 1678-1681, 1710-1716, survive for the early period. Among the later accounts, those for miniatures painted by Robert Thorburn are of interest.
HOUSEHOLD ACCOUNTS. These date from the opening years of the 19th century, and include wage and tradesmen's accounts, those kept by head servants, and the usual 'consumable stores' accounts common in most large establishments. There are very few vouchers.
MISCELLANEOUS ACCOUNTS. A small group, 1812-1883
WINE AND BEER REGISTERS. A long run of wine cellar-books, 1824-1914, is included
CHARITIES. Mainly concerning the distribution of food from Ashburnham Place, mid-19th century onwards.
INVESTMENTS. The 5th Earl invested large sums in various projects; the papers listed refer mainly to the failure of these schemes.
INVENTORIES. Except for an important inventory of jewels, plate, furnishings, etc. taken at the end of the 17th century, the inventories are of 19th century date.
DIARIES, JOURNALS AND PAPERS RELATING TO FOREIGN TRAVEL. The travel journals and volumes of water-colour and other drawings (see pp. 32, 33) are valuable for the information they provide on conditions abroad in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The personal diaries (with the exception of the 3 vols. of the 1st Lord Ashburnham, 1686-7), although in quantity, are little better than memoranda books.
PARLIAMENTARY. The Ashburnham family did not produce any great politicians. The petition of the inhabitants of New Shoreham protesting against the Bill for the Septennial Act, and the poll list for the Sussex election, 1734, are the principal items in this class
THE CIVIL WAR AND THE RELICS OF CHARLES I. See pp. 34-36 and Plate III. The criticism levelled at John Ashburnham at the time of King Charles's arrest is answered by his vindication of which two manuscript copies are preserved. This narrative was published by the 4th Earl (see p. xv) with much other allied material, but the work is ill-balanced. Three original letters of Charles I are preserved among the archives, together with papers about the relics in the former custody of the Earls of Ashburnham (see also Ashburnham MS. 2800). A small group of letters from the 3rd Earl to W. Nicol who printed the Narrative came to the East Sussex Record Office from another source and is catalogued as Additional MS. 800.
THE CARLIST ACTIVITIES OF THE 5TH EARL. An unusual collection of material from which a complete and vivid picture of the Earl's activities may be constructed. The group contains a wealth of correspondence (including letters written by Spanish refugees, 1819-1830) from many royal persons. A series of printed books and pamphlets, photographs, newspaper cuttings, etc. concerning Carlist and Catholic matters are also listed on pp. 36-39.
ART. Includes a volume of sketches of Suffolk scenes, 1797, and a copper plate etched by the 4th Earl when a boy at Westminster School.
LITERARY. A collection of manuscript and printed items of mixed character, including pamphlets written or published by the 4th and 5th Earls
MISCELLANEOUS FAMILY PAPERS. A small group including a book recording the weights and heights of members of the Ashburnham family, 1835-1861
PAPERS RELATING TO THE BUILDING AND FURNISHING OF ASHBURNHAM PLACE AND OTHER RESIDENCES. (Illustrated articles on Ashburnham Place appeared in country Life, 22 and 29 January, 1916, and 16, 23 and 30 April, 1953; in Sussex county Magazine, vol. 27 (1953), pp. 566-575; in Hastings and East Sussex Naturalist, vol. 2 (1915). An article on the Churchill Club whose premises were the old Ashburnham House in Dean's Yard, Westminster, appeared in Country Life, 3 September 1943. Soon after the sale of the contents of Ashburnham Place in 1953, photographs of, and notes about,furniture, picture, silver and other items from Ashburnham Place began to appear in various art journals.) The more important drawings are those of Lancelot ("Capability") Brown (See D. Stroud, Capability Brown (1950), p. 129, and plates on pp. 84, 136, 137.) for improvements to the Park in the 18th century. There are detailed accounts of George Dance the younger for alterations made between 1812 and 1817 which are useful for costs of labour and materials. Extensive alterations were made to Ashburnham Place in the middle of 19th century, and a considerable quantity of letters, plans and drawings and other material has survived. There are smaller groups relating to the Dover Street, London, house (see pp. 41-51).
THE ASHBURNHAM LIBRARY. The creation of a library by the 4th Earl which vied in the richness and diversity of its treasures with those of Sir Thomas Phillipps, and Robert (Curzon) 14th Lord Zouche at Parham, is documented in some detail in the Ashburnham archives. For the dispersal of the library by the 5th Earl, the papers are even more complete, and include correspondence which will be of exceptional interest to future bibliographers. The Stowe MSS., once at Ashburnham, are now in the British Museum, and a catalogue of them has been published. There are sundry printed and manuscript catalogues of the Ashburnham Library, and a few books and pamphlets--mostly incomplete or mutilated--which are undoubtedly a remnant of that celebrated collection G.E.C., Complete Peerage, vol. 1 (1910)
TITLE DEEDS. Nearly 4,500 items are included under this heading for Sussex. Documents ranging in date between the late 12th and late 19th centuries are included in the following groups:--
A1--A313 which are loose deeds removed from Ashburnham Place and not fully calendared. Draft calendars and notes exist (Ashburnham MS. 118) for deeds A1-A73.
B1-B1167 which were arranged in chronological order (13th century to 1836) and calendared by the late Rev. Walter Budgen. Mr. Budgen must have broken numerous original bundles thereby destroying much valuable evidence on the composition of the estate and its growth; his calendar is in one volume (no. 4449, and not indexed. Most of the documents were endorsed by Mr. Budgen in indelible pencil. There is evidence that some of these deeds have been in or near a fire as they are scorched and the seals have melted.
L1-L2949 were received through Messrs. Peake & Co., the estate solicitors, London, and are arranged in original bundles under properties. Except for certain groups of early deeds, the documents are listed in a typed schedule (nos. 4450, 4451, and an index of properties, arranged by parishes, has been compiled.
These archives are an exceptionally complete and important series despite the interference in the arrangement of the first two groups.
MANORIAL DOCUMENTS. The records of twenty manors are included, ranging in date from 1418 to 1951. The majority of the court rolls date from the 17th century, and the number of documents varies considerably from manor to manor. The manors of Ashburnham, Burwash, Burghurst in Burwash, Cowden in Wartling, Dallington and Netherfield in Battle are among those with good runs of archives, and the six compotus rolls, 1418-1526, for the manors of Burghurst, Dallington, Shiplake, Bevilham in Mayfield and Bevilham-cum-Burghurst are of interest. Among the documents received from Messrs. Peake & Co. are court rolls and other manorial records relating to the manors of Wartling and Rockland, Falmer, Aldwick and Rockland and Boreham, 1408-1663 (L1596-L1600). The history of the Ashburnham manors may be found in the Victoria County History, Sussex, and similar books; although the appropriate references are given in the lists on pp. 57-65, much more detailed information about the manors could be gained from the documents themselves. The miscellaneous archives listed are chiefly stewards' fee books. The names used for the manors are as given in the Victoria County History, Sussex.
PURCHASES AND SALES OF PROPERTY. This section should be read in conjunction with the schedules of deeds received from Messrs. Peake & Co. (see above, and p. 107). Most of the papers are letters, agreements, draft conveyances, schedules of properties, and sale particulars, 1787-1923.
ESTATE CORRESPONDENCE. Large quantities of letters (1778-1918) from agents, solicitors and others concerned with the administration of the Ashburnham estates have survived. It would be impracticable to abstract this correspondence, but some indication of the writers and subjects is given in the lists on A certain amount of overlap with other sections is inevitable.
RENTALS AND AUDIT ACCOUNTS. A volume, 1671-1710, is the chief item of interest, but the rentals of the Sussex estates, 1690-1836 (with some gaps) are important for a study of the value of the properties. This section (pp. 72-73) should be studied with the estate accounts referred to in the next paragraph.
ESTATE ACCOUNTS. What has been termed "Estate: General Accounts" is the largest series in the Ashburnham archives. There are 172 volumes (besides loose papers), 1679-1925, and these comprise the annual accounts analysed under subjects, and various day-books. The book-keeping system for the main accounts is simple to follow, but owing to lack of uniformity it is not always easy to determine where various subsidiary accounts fit into the system. Some of the volumes include expenditure on housekeeping, servants' wages, and the sale of stock and timber.
FARM ACCOUNTS. So far as is possible, these have been separated from the general estate accounts; the period covered is 1821-1886.
LABOUR ACCOUNTS. These cover much the same period as the farm accounts, and are a useful source of information on rates of wages and duties.
IRON, LIME AND BRICK ACCOUNTS. The Ashburnham Iron Works survived longer than any in Sussex; the Ashburnham Furnace is, in fact, still part of the estate. (See also p. ix and Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 2, pp. 67-8, vol. 6, p. 172, and vol. 12, p. 55; B. H. Lucas, 'The Ashburnham Iron Works', in Sussex County Magazine, vol. 7 (1933), pp. 81-5.) The annual accounts for the Orchard Wood and Forest Iron and Lime Works, 1789-1829, are in 29 bundles, and there are 39 vols. of general accounts; reference should also be made to the general estate accounts when using these records. The brick and tile accounts are late 19th century.
TENANCY AGREEMENTS. A printed form of agreement was used on the Ashburnham estate, and the 239 counterparts which have survived 9. A few associated papers have also been included under this heading.
MAINTENANCE OF PROPERTY. Excluding Ashburnham Place very few archives have survived under this heading. Further information is likely to be found in the estate correspondence
CARTULARIES, TERRIERS, VALUATIONS, SURVEYS AND MAPS. Administration of the estate was facilitated by the documents in this group. The terriers or 'particulars' of lands commence in 1652. The most complete survey and valuation of the entire Sussex estate is one by Edward Driver in 1830 (no. 1173, A numerical terrier with reference to a volume of maps--not deposited--was made by Driver in 1834, and concerns 13,616 acres in 2,022 lots (no. 1174 The estate maps and plans dating from 1635 have been catalogued in detail and include some good examples of the cartographer's skill; among the surveyors may be mentioned Gyles Burton 'practitioner in some of ye Mathematiks', George Ridgeway, Edwark Elphick who was aged 29 in 1717, and J. Lidwell of Battle. Some of the maps are in poor condition. A number of reduced or draft maps and plans of doubtful value
SCHEDULES OF DOCUMENTS. Mention has been made above to the lists of title deeds compiled by the Rev. Walter Budgen and by Messrs. Peake & Co. In addition, there are various lesser schedules of documents of individual properties, and lists compiled in 1809, and sumptuously bound, of deeds and other writings relating to the English and Welsh Estates
GAME. There are 50 volumes of registers of game killed, 1836-1919, correspondence about the infringement of shooting rights, and some details of the cost of keeping game. Also some reference to deer
MINERAL RIGHTS. Mainly concerned with mining for gypsum and the activities of the Sub-Wealden Exploration Committee.
RAILWAYS. Papers relating to the proposals to run lines over Ashburnham property in Sussex
TIMBER. An extensive series of woodcutting books, accounts, agreements and details of wood sales, 1773-1892 (with some gaps) will be useful to students of forestry and rural economy. The miscellaneous papers include the measurement of an oak tree used for the floor of the great hall at Ashburnham Place in 1851. The records should be used with the estate accounts
VENISON. There are 12 vols. of venison books, 1822-1914, and similar records on loose sheets for 1769 and 1803-1814
MISCELLANEOUS. Eight items only, but including a steward's commonplace book for 1837 with information about trees, names of plants, and the state of the poll at the East Sussex Election; also an estimate for fencing the turnpike road at John's Cross.
LEGAL MATTERS. While reference to law-suits will be found in the personal and estate correspondence, the twelve groups listed on pp. 112 and 113 seem to fall into a separate class. The earliest document is the case of John Ashburnham, c. 1680, concerning the estates of his grandfather. The papers in the action between the 4th Earl and the architect (W. L. B. Granville) responsible for the alterations at Ashburnham Place, 1849-50, consideration should also be given to marriage settlements and testamentary records where there are also legal papers.
GENERAL CHURCH MATTERS. (The parish records of Ashburnham and Penhurst are in the Diocesan Record Office at Pelham House, Lewes. See also R. W. Whistler, 'The Ashburnham Registers', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 33, pp. 49-68.) These are papers mainly relating to the repair of Catsfield, Hooe and Dallington churches.
MILITIA. A singularly complete group of documents for the period 1798 to 1811 concerning the Ashburnham Troop of Cavalry, with smaller sections for the South Lewes Volunteer Infantry and the Hastings Battalion of Volunteers An unusual survival is the samples of cloth submitted for the men's uniforms.
MAPS AND PLANS OF PUBLIC SCHEMES are typical copies of official documents such as may be found among the archives of large estates.
ROADS This section includes some useful material relating to the Flimwell and Hastings Turnpike Road.
|Administrative / biographical background:
THE early history of the Ashburnham family may be condensed to the statement that they first emerge as small landowners in the parish of Ashburnham in Sussex towards the close of the twelfth century. With some slight increase in importance they continued there for the next four hundred years, none of their members doing anything sufficiently notorious either for good or ill to find a place in the pages of history. By the time of Queen Elizabeth I the family had become great enough to tempt the heralds to record for them a pedigree fitting to their station and antiquity. Income from the local iron industry and the able administration of their estate enabled the male members of the family to take their place as honest squires, and to fulfil the military and civil obligations which their position demanded.
It was the Elizabethan Ashburnham, Sir John, knighted at the Tower of London by James I on 14 March 1603/4 (W. C. Metcalfe, A Book of Knights ... (1885), p. 152.) who may be credited with starting the family on the road to fame and eventual fortune but, strangely enough, he it was who dissipated his patrimony, was forced to sell the estate, and who died in the Fleet Prison in 1620. But it was perhaps through the friendships bought by a squandered fortune that his son, another and more distinguished John, acquired his position at the court of Charles I through the influence of George Villiers Duke of Buckingham, a cousin of John Ashburnham's mother, Elizabeth Beaumont. John served his King with devotion whether in prosperity or adversity, and he suffered long imprisonment and heavy losses in the royal cause. He and his brother William acquired a right to the only two places afforded the family in the Dictionary of National Biography, and they both survived to enjoy the happier days of the Restoration and to augment the wealth and prestige of the family.
From that time the Ashburnhams prospered. The Cavalier's grandson, John, was given a barony by William III, and his son--another John--was created an earl. A flair for the choice or heiresses, coupled with a rise in agricultural values, more than compensated for the decay of the Sussex iron industry, and the later generations were sufficiently rich to support its nobility with a proper magnificence.
THE EARLY ASHBURNHAMS
Before dealing with what may be termed the illustrious line of the Ashburnham family, some consideration must be given to its more obscure members. It is unfortunate that many of the picturesque legends concerning the family cannot be substantiated by documentary evidence; many of these episodes seem to have been the product of the imagination of Francis Thynne (1545?-1608), an Elizabethan herald (Another Elizabethan, William Camden, wrote that the Ashburnhams were 'a family of as great antiquity as any one in all this tract' [Sussex].) who has been followed by other historians either of doubtful sincerity or unwilling to verify their facts. Of the apochryphal events recorded, the most stirring is that concerning the defence of Dover Castle by Bertram Ashburnham at the time of the Norman Conquest and so eloquently recited by John Philipot, Somerset Herald, in his list of the Constables of Dover Castle and Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports (See John Philipot's Roll of the Constables of Dover Castle and Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports, 1627, edited, with an introduction and notes, by Francis W. Steer (1956), pp. 11, 12, 16.) This unfortunate Bertram is alleged to have met with a variety of deaths: to have been killed while fighting at Hastings, to have been executed by William the Conqueror outside the gates of Canterbury 'where he lived much esteemed, and to have been very active in the cause of liberty and his country', and to have met a similar fate at Dover. His sons, Philip and Michael, are said to have died with their father, and Reginald--Philip's son--to have been in possession of Ashburnham in 1166. It is curious, to say the least, that the Conqueror should have left the Ashburnham lands in the hands of the family of so versatile an opponent. Dover Castle was not very gallantly defended and it is said to have surrendered without a blow. And what was Bertram doing, presumably as an absentee landlord, in Canterbury?
According to Domesday Book the owner of Ashburnham before the Conquest was one Seward. He is not otherwise recorded, but Ashburnham was wasted by the Conqueror (its value was reduced from £6 to 20s.) (Victoria County History, Sussex, vol. 1 (1905), pp. 363, 396.) so poor Seward seems to have fought for Harold and suffered for it. The post-Conquest record is that the place was held by Robert de Cruel of the Earl of Eu (Ibid., pp. 377, 396.) It is probably from this Cruel (or Criol) owner that the real Ashburnham line begins. The de Criols (See 'Sussex Crusaders' in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 9, p. 365, and J. R. Dunlop, 'Pedigree of the Family of Crioll, or Kyriell, of co. Kent' in Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica (1927).) came into England at the Conquest from the place now called Creully in the arrondissement of Caen. Once settled at Ashburnham they would likely enough take the local name instead of their own.
Bertram was a common name in the de Criol family. In 1253 a Bertram de Criol was Constable of Dover Castle, and from this fact may have resulted a genuine confusion which made Bertram de Ashburnham to be stated as the holder of the office in 1066 (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 37, p. 22; John Philipot's Roll, p. 21; S. P. H. Statham, The History of the Castle, Town, and Port of Dover (1899), pp. 334-5.) The unhappy episode at Canterbury may perhaps in a like manner be explained by a confusion between the name of the gallant Bertram with that of Bartholomew Ashburnham who did indeed suffer execution at that place (though in a less dignified form) in 1322. (See below.) A century or two was nothing to the makers of pedigrees as is shown by a gap of nearly a hundred years which they allow to stand unrebuked between the Philip who is said to have died with his father, and Philip's son, Reginald, who was alive in 1166.
It is not until the second half of the twelfth century that the family definitely emerges from the mists of legend. In 1166, this Reginald 'de Esburneham' held two knights fees in Ashburnham (H. Hall, ed., The Red Book of the Exchequer (1896), p. 203.); he seems to have been a man of some substance for he gave to the monks of Battle Abbey 'all the land which he had in Hou, called Chelilande, and the land called Denne, with two salt pans in the marsh' (see Plate VI); these gifts were confirmed by his son and successor, Stephen. The 'land of Dudewell' was granted by the same Reginald 'de Hesseburneham' to the Abbey of Robertsbridge in 1194 (Calendar of Charters and Documents relating to the Abbey of Robertsbridge (1873), no. 23, and Ashburnham MS. A2.); Stephen's confirmation is reproduced as Plate VII.
The family had now attained a position of respectability even if not of distinction. Stephen was followed by John, apparently a knight; he was succeeded by his son, Sir Richard, sufficiently important to marry Margaret, daughter of Sir John Maltravers, though not too important to adopt the Maltravers arms. (See W. S. Ellis, 'On the Origin of the Arms of Some Sussex Families', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 6, pp. 84-6.) This Richard was followed by another Sir Richard who married Katherine, daughter of Sir Richard Peverell, by whom he had two sons. One, Batholomew, was summoned to attend Henry III with horse and arms to Gascony and there to oppose the King of Castile. (See H. Drummond, Histories of Noble British Families, vol. 1 (1846), a source which must also be used with caution.)
Bartholomew was a name given by the family to its more adventurous sons. In 1191 a Bartholomew de Esbornham appears in a Roll of Arms and among the knights who served under Richard I at the siege of Acre. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 9, p. 365.) There is no record of his having distinguished himself there. Another Bartholomew in 1322 served with the Earls of Lincoln and Hereford at the battle of Boroughbridge, where he managed so successfully to impress the King that on being taken prisoner he was sentenced to be drawn for his acts of treason and hanged for his homicides and robberies--a sentence which was duly carried out at Canterbury. (Ibid., p. 372.) Sir Hamond Ashburnham, the other son of Sir Richard and Katherine, married Maud, daughter of Thomas Elton of Elton. Their son, Sir Richard, married Isabel, daughter of Sir Thomas Morville, and their son, Sir John, was summoned in 1297 to attend the King in London 'on the Sunday after the octave of St. John the Baptist, with horse and arms, to go beyond the seas for his own honor and the profit of the realm'. (Drummond, op. cit.) There was no great profit to the realm in Edward's foreign expedition that year: one may only hope that Sir John himself came out of the affair with honour. He survived to obtain payment of £136. 10s. from Edward III in 1329 for oaks cut in Ashburnham woods by Edward II while the land was in his hands during the struggle with Thomas of Lancaster. It is recorded that 679 oaks were felled, of which 619 were sent to Dover Castle for the works there, and the rest to Pevensey Castle. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 17, p. 116, vol. 49, p. 19, and Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 4, p. 131.) John appears in a Roll of Arms of Edward II with the shield of Gules a fess between six mullets argent (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 30, p. 138.) which is still borne by the family (see Title-page). He married Joan, daughter of Richard Covert of Sullington, and gave his daughter, Mabel, to be the wife of Simon Lunsford.
The John Ashburnham (son of Sir John) who was sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1396 also represented Sussex as knight of the shire in 1397 and 1398. (Ibid., p. 191. For the debts of one John Asshebornham, and his kinsman, Roger, see Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 4, p. 193.) He married Mary Isley of Sundridge in Kent, and their son John was sheriff of Surrey and Sussex in 1402. He was one of the Commissioners of Array in Sussex in 1416, and the year before had been one of the retinue of the Duke of Clarence in the expedition to France during which the battle of Agincourt was fought. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 15, p. 125.) He had acquired, probably through the marriage of a kinsman, Roger, the manors of Ewhurst and Lamberhurst as well as his paternal holding at Ashburnham. Each of the three was valued in 1412 as worth £20 a year. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 10, p. 144.) Scotney Castle in Lamberhurst remained in the family's possession until it was sold to Henry Chicheley, archbishop of Canterbury. John married Elizabeth Finch, and was succeeded by his son Thomas.
Thomas Ashburnham was one of those of prime quality in the county of Sussex who in 12 Henry VI  made oath on behalf of himself and of his retainers to observe the laws then made. (Burke, Peerage (1923), p. 148.) At that time any man who kept such an oath would have deserved well of his country. He married Sarah, daughter and heir of Henry Waunsey, by whom he had three sons. Of these sons, Thomas lived and died at Guestling, and Richard married a Stoneling and with her obtained the manor of Broomham where he lived and founded that branch of the Ashburnhams. John, the eldest son, succeeded his father at Ashburnham and married Elizabeth Peckham, by whom he had William, his heir. Perhaps he married again after her death with a Pelham, for in his will made in 1491 (P.C.C., 1 Dogett.) he calls his wife Johanne. He certainly had relationships with the Pelham family, for he had a lease from one of them of the manors of Burwash and Dallington Forest for twenty years at an annual rent of £10. He died in 1491.
The next master at Ashburnham was John's son, William, who married Anne, daughter of Henry Hawley of Ore, by whom he had a son and a daughter. The daughter, Jane, married first William Apsley of Thakeham, and secondly (as his third wife) Richard Covert who died in 1547, the brass erected to his memory may be seen in Slaugham church. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 23, pp. 179-180, vol. 69, pp. 199-200, and vol. 79, pp. 120-4.) The son, John, died before his father, but he had married Lora, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Berkeley of Aram in Hampshire, and left, at his death in 1531, a family of three daughters and a son. Of the three girls, Anne married in succession John Bolney of Bolney (1556) (Ashburnham Parish Register.) and Thomas Culpeper of Wakehurst; Jane married Oliver Denhan; and Alice married Edmund Daniell at Ashburnham in 1541. Old William was a landlord of some importance for in the will (P.C.C., 19 Thrower.) made two years before his death in 1532 he leaves to his grandson and heir, John, his manors of Ashburnham, Broomham, Peryland, Petordes Wrek (Petowes) and his land in Penhurst. He was careful about Master John, for his will goes on to say, 'if John Sackville Esquire cause the said John Ashburnham myn heir to be married unto his daughter now being about the age of five years according to such communications and agreement' as the two old men had made, he was to inherit without further ado. The marriage came off as arranged though not, one hopes, till poor Isabel Sackville had grown up a little.
This younger John sat in Parliament for Sussex in 1554. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 30, p. 191.) He died in 1562 and was buried at Ashburnham. (Ashburnham Parish Register.) Isabel survived him for many years and lived at Lambeth; she was buried in the church of St. Mary Overie in 1584. (Ashburnham Parish Register.) Perhaps her second son, Thomas, lived with her as a consolation of her widowhood for she left him all her possessions. There were six children. John was the eldest; then Thomas (baptized at Ashburnham in 1549) (Ashburnham Parish Register.) and William, both of whom died unmarried; and three daughters, Eleanor, Anne and Margaret. Their father's will refers to his ironworks in Ashburnham, Penhurst and Dallington, and from its other provisions he seems to have been a comparatively rich man. The family prosperity was beginning.
John Ashburnham had been born at Withyham and baptized there in 1545, (Ashburnham Parish Register.) so he was only eighteen years old at his father's death; he reigned at Ashburnham for twenty-nine years. He does not seem to have been much of a public character as his only apparent entry on to the historical stage is as one of the commissioners appointed to enquire into the properties of the Crown at Hastings; he seems to have stayed at home and cultivated his ancestral garden to some purpose. He died possessed of the manor of Ashburnham, also 'Pemborne alias Hurst quondam Shryswell and of Migham alias Willsham in Warbleton and Ashburnham', which his father had left to him. He may have done sufficiently well out of iron (See p. v; E. Straker, Wealden Iron (1931), passim; Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 2, pp. 169-220, vol. 3, p. 241; Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 7, pp. 97-103.) to enable him to persuade and pay Mr. Thynne the herald to conduct those researches into his ancestry of which mention has already been made. But John did not share Queen Elizabeth the First's ecclesiastical views: an information for recusancy was laid against him in 1574, and by 1588 he had amassed so many unpaid fines that his estate at Ashburnham was sequestrated and three years later farmed out by Her Majesty to one William Cordell, her master cook.
In 1569, John Ashburnham married Mary, daughter of George Fane of Badsell in Tudeley in Kent, by whom he had seven children. Besides his eldest son and heir, John, he had Thomas, William, George and Walter. Thomas was baptized at Ashburnham in 1573 and died unmarried. William was baptized there in 1582 with the Lord Treasurer (William Cecil, Lord Burghley) and Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon as his godfathers. These distinguished gentlemen were present only by proxy; but all the same young William had an aristocratic start in life. George Prison in 1585; it was too much for his constitution and the boy died and was buried at Ashburnham the same year. There were two daughters, Katherine and Mary, both of whom married Yorkshiremen, and both of whom paid fines for recusancy.
John died in October 1592 and was buried at Ashburnham. His son and heir, again a John was (like his elder sister Katherine) born at Tudeley in Kent in 1571. Presumably he did not share his father's religious principles as he at once recovered the estate from Cordell the cook. On 27 November 1590, at the age of twenty, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Beaumont of Stoughton in Leicestershire, (See Sussex Notes and Quertes, vol. 10, p. 15, and the indexes to that and subsequent volumes for entries relating to the Ashburnhams in London parish registers.) by whom he had two sons, John and William of Civil War fame, and four daughters. There was an Elizabeth who married Sir Frederick Cornwallis (afterwards Lord Cornwallis); Frances who married Frederick Turville; Anne the wife of Sir Edward Dering; and Katherine of whose career we know nothing.
John was knighted at the Tower of London in March 1603/4, and died in 1620 in his 49th year. He was buried at St. Andrew Holborn (destroyed in the Second World War) where there was a monument to him. He wasted his patrimony, records the monument to his son in Ashburnham church, by undertaking too lightly the financial burdens of his friends. He had to sell his property at Ashburnham for £8,000 to meet his debts, and the estate finally passed for some years to the Relf family. After his death, his widow married Sir Thomas Richardson, Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas,(and G.E.C., Complete Peerage, sub Cramond.) and was created by Charles I (whether for her own sake or her husband's one does not know) Baroness Cramond in the peerage of Scotland. She wrote and published in London in 1645 a little book of pleasant piety entitled A Ladie's Legacie to her Daughters, in Three Books. (See also Ashburnham MS. 3501 on p. 40 of this catalogue.)
John Ashburnham the Cavalier (see Plate II) (References to his associations with Charles I will be found in many books dealing with the Civil War period. A more recent group of references to John Ashburnham is in vol. 29 (1956) of the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research (pp. 32-86) where Norman H. Mackenzie considers the career of Sir Thomas Herbert of Tintern. See also p. xviii and Ashburnham MSS. described on pp. 34-36.), born in 1603, was only seventeen when his father died, but he wasted no time in setting about the rehabilitation of the family fortunes. The monument to him (see Plate IV) in Ashburnham church says that within two years of his succession he had so far repaired the broken fortunes of the estate that 'there was not any of them but was in a condition rather to be helpful to others than to want supporte themselves'. At an early age, John seems to have broken away from the rustic traditions of his family and attached himself to the court in London. His mother, Elizabeth Beaumont, was of the same family as Lady Villiers, mother of the Duke of Buckingham, and under Buckingham's patronage began the court career of John Ashburnham. By 1627 he was sufficiently well known to Charles I who refers to him as 'Jack Ashburnham' in his letters to the Duke.
His position after the death of Charles I was unenviable. He had acquired an estate by marrying, as his second wife, the dowager Lady Poulett (1649), and Charles II gave him permission to stay in England and look after it. The writer of the article in the Dictionary of National Biography says that the loyal party suspected his fidelity, and (March 1650) in a memorial to the king asked whether they might trust him. He was harassed by the victors. He was sued for debts contracted for the late king. He was forced to compound for one half of his estate, an unparalleled severity. He was bound in heavy securities to appear, when required, before the council of state. His private journeys were licensed by a 'pass' from the same authority. In his 'Narrative' he tells us that for three years he was so persecuted by committees to discover who had lent the King money during the wars 'as I had scarce had time to eate my bread'. 'Five yeares more', he continues, 'were spent in close imprisonment at London, and three banishments to Garnesey Castle, the cause being for sending mony to His Majesty'. We also learn from the Dictionary of National Biography that, 'In a list of the Tower prisoners furnished by Colonel Barkstead (2 June 1654), John Ashburnham appears as a prisoner for high treason; but this is probably a slip for William [his brother], who was in custody for complicity in the plot of Gerard and Vowel. John's case was (27 December 1655) referred to the major-generals of the counties where his estates lay'.
John Ashburnham came back to his former place as Groom of the Bedchamber at the Restoration, and received such reward for his loyalty as the royal treasury, impoverished by many claimants, could afford. In September 1661 he was the head of a commission set up to enquire into the abuses of the Post Office, and made one of the guardians for the Duke of Monmouth; Ashburnham's house at Chiswick, with its contents, was bought by the King for the Duke. Loans which he had made to Charles I were repaid by grants of Crown leases, but his plans for the acquisition of land were not without difficulties which would have been absent in the former reign. For example, the Dean and Chapter of Exeter are menaced (November 1662) with the royal displeasure if they carry out their projected lease 'to John Ashburnham or any other'. He was elected a Member of Parliament for Sussex at the Restoration, so the most loyal county did not doubt his loyalty to the House of Stuart. (See G. P. Crawford, 'John Ashburnham, M.P. for Sussex, 1661', in Sussex County Magazine, vol. 5, pp. 317-8.)
While young John was in the early years of his service with the Court, William, the second son, had been fighting in the service of the states-general in the Netherlands. But he came home in plenty of time to take a hand in the civil troubles of England. In 1640 he was Member of Parliament for Ludgershall in Wiltshire, and later Colonel of the King's 8th Regiment. (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 36, p. 164.) In 1644 he was Governor of Weymouth which he held for the King for some months. On 3 June 1654 he was arrested and examined on a charge of complicity in the plot of Colonel John Gerard (1632-1654) to murder the Protector. But nothing seems to have been proved against him, and he was ultimately released from the Tower. After the Restoration Charles II made him Cofferer of his Household. Pepys speaks of him as 'an experienced man and a cavalier', and seems to have met him frequently at the Navy Office and at private houses; mention is made in the Diary of his "odd stories". There was one about the lease of Ashburnham House from the Dean and Chapter of West-minster where the 'devilish covetousness' of Dr. Busby 'was commemorated'. (Dictionary of National Biography.)
So much for the public careers of the two brothers. But they were perhaps even fonder of Ashburnham than their forbears had been for the reason that they were so much away from it. Together they worked at the improvement of the estate and at the restoration of what the improvidence of their father had alienated. John rebuilt all the church but the tower and furnished it richly. (Plan and brief description in Victoria County History, Sussex, vol. 9 (1937), pp. 128-130, and in Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 10, pp. 132-3. See also Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 5, pp. 248-9, and vol. 12, p. 174.) William built an almshouse, (Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 13, p. 306, and Victoria County History, Sussex, vol. 9 (1937), p. 130.) and together they rebuilt Ashburnham Place. The work on the mansion continued through John's imprisonment, and the letters he wrote (see p. 122) to his cousin and son-in-law, Denny Ashburnham (who since he belonged to the Parliamentary side of the family was more free) show the pains he took to get it done properly. In March and April 1671, the two brothers 'shared in an enterprise for reviving the manufacture of tapestry at Mortlake'. William died in 1679; the splendid monument by John Bushnell to him and his wife, Jane (née Butler) Countess of Marlborough (died 1672) is in Ashburnham church. (Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 2, p. 31, vol. 9, pp. 1, 2, and Sussex Archaeological Collections, vol. 32, pp. xviii-xx, and vol. 36, p. 168. See also Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 10. pp. 64, 81 and 158 for references to William Ashburnham and Charles Toll, the latter mentioned (once as Charles Tott [sic]) on pp. 4 and 7 of this catalogue.)
John married twice. His first wife was Frances, daughter and heir of William Holland of Westburton. She was gallant and dutiful enough to sell her own estates in order that the proceeds might assist John in buying back-the lands his father had sold. There were five children, (John was baptized 4 August 1642, and Bertrand on 1 February 1643/4 at Oxford; see Sussex Archaeological Collections. vol. 33, p. 56.) William John, Bertrand, Frances and Anne. Frances married her father's friend, Denny Ashburnham of Broomham, and had a daughter. Anne married Sir Hugh Smyth, 1st bart., of Long Ashton (see p. 122). John's second wife was Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Christopher Kenn of Kenn in Somerset and widow of John, 1st Lord Poulett. By her he seems to have had more children, as four sons and four daughters are depicted on his monument in Ashburnham church. John died in 1671 and is buried in the vault below the church he built. His son William had died in 1665, but had married Elizabeth, daughter of the same Lord Poulett whose widow his father had married, and it was his son John who was the old Cavalier's heir.
John Ashburnham the younger was therefore heir to his grandfather and his great-uncle. He was born at Chiswick on 15 January 1655/56, so he was altogether a child of the new age, and seems to have inherited nothing of the devotion to the House of Stuart which had been responsible for the successes--no less than for the disasters--of his predecessors. The Sussex estates which their foresight had made it possible for him to inherit must, by this time, have been considerable; both John and William the Cavaliers, had bought land largely and often, and young John added to his stature as a landlord by his marriage on 22 July 1677 at Westminster Abbey to Bridget, daughter and heir of Walter Vaughan of Porthammel House, Brecknockshire, through whom he obtained large estates in Wales. He carried on the tradition of activity in public life which had been the recent creation of the family, though the positions he held were more the accompaniment of his condition as a landowner than (as in the case of his grandfather) the fruit of his own abilities and strength of character. Nevertheless he had something of the diplomatic nature as is shown by the answers he gave to a set of questions propounded by James II to certain grandees of Sussex in 1688.
John was Member of Parliament for Hastings from 1679 to 1681, 1685 to 1687, and 1689. From 1702 till his death he was Custos Rotulorum for Brecknockshire. As a baron of the Cinque Ports he assisted in holding the canopy over James II at his coronation in 1685 and (a thing his grandfather would not have liked) he did a similar service to William and Mary at their coronation four years later. He must have been one of the Englishmen who found that James did not, as a King, improve on closer acquaintance, and he therefore welcomed Dutch William. The welcome must have been appreciated, for a year after the Revolution John was created a baron. He died at his house in Southampton Street, Bloomsbury on 21 January 1709/10. Bridget died 12 May 1719 and, with her husband, was buried at Ashburnham. There were three boys and three girls of the marriage.
The eldest son, William, succeeded his father as second baron. He had been Member of Parliament for Hastings from 1702 to 1710. In 1705 he married, at Carby [recte, Corby], Lincolnshire, Katherine, daughter and sole heir of Thomas Taylor of Clapham in Bedfordshire--a marriage which considerably augmented the family estates. But the young couple had only five months to enjoy their added dignity, for on 16 June 1710 he, and on 11 July following she, died of smallpox at Ashburnham, and are there buried. There were no children.
THE EARLS OF ASHBURNHAM
The next brother, John, succeeded as third baron. He was baptized at St. Margaret Westminster on 13 March 1687. From 1713 to 1715 he was Colonel of the 1st troop of Horse Guards; from 1728 to 1731 a Lord of the Prince of Wales' Bedchamber, and from 1731 till his death Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. On 14 May 1730 he was created Earl of Ashburnham and Viscount St. Asaph. He was unfortunate in the health of his wives, for he married three and survived them all. His first marriage was with Mary, daughter of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde, in 1710. She was then twenty, and in less than three years she died in childbed, and was buried at Ashburnham. Of her Swift writes, 'She was my greatest favourite, and I am in excessive concern for her death. I hardly knew a more valuable person on all accounts'. Apparently her beauty was confined to the inner eye, for her mother wrote very frankly of her personal appearance before the match (see p. 122).
In July 1714 at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, the Earl married Henrietta Maria, daughter and coheir of the 9th Earl of Derby. She died in 1718 in her thirty-first year and was buried at Ashburnham. The Earl's third venture was with Jemima, daughter and coheir of Henry de Grey, 1st Duke of Kent, (An iron fireback with the quartered arms of Ashburnham impaling those of Grey is described in Sussex Notes and Queries, vol. 6. p. 189.) whom he married at St. James's Westminster on 14 March 1723/24. The first marriage was childless, the second produced a daughter Henrietta (who died unmarried), and the third the son and heir. John himself died 10 March 1736/37 at his house in St. James's Square, Westminster, (See Diary of John Perceval, 1st Earl of Egmont, V, II, p. 367.) and was buried at Ashburnham with his wives.
John, who succeeded his father as second earl and fourth baron was born in 1724. He held a number of official positions in which the honour was perhaps greater than the responsibility. He was a Lord of the Bedchamber, 1748 to 1762, a LL.D. of Cambridge, Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, 1754 to 1757, Keeper of Hyde and St. James's Parks, 1753 to 1762, made a Privy Councillor, 1765, Master of the Great Wardrobe, 1765 to 1775, and First Lord of the Bedchamber and Groom of the Stole, (See Ashburnham MS. 3202 on p. 4, and Ashburnham MS. 2900 on p. 123.) 1775 to 1782. His relations with the King seem to have been sufficiently intimate for him to take His Majesty to task for an omission to give him the Garter which he considered his services had amply earned. George III wrote letters of apology, but the injured dignity of Lord Ashburnham was such that he resigned his position at Court; this correspondence is noted on p. 123.
He was originally a Whig, and protested against the disqualification of Wilkes. But age overcame his enthusiasm, and later he took refuge in the bosom of the Tory party. He built Ashburnham House in Dover Street, and in 1756 married Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of John Crowley of Barking, Suffolk, Alderman of London. (Son of Sir Ambrose Crowley, also an Alderman of London, by Theodosia, daughter and heir of the Rev. Joseph Gascoigne by his wife Ann who was daughter and heir of Sir Francis Theobald of Barking, Suffolk. On the death of Theodosia Crowley in 1782, the estate passed to John, 2nd Earl of Ashburnham, her son-in-law. See also Francis W. Steer, 'A Housewife's Affairs' (a study of Theodosia Crowley), in Guildhall Miscellany (1958). Through her came the Barking estates to the Ashburnham family, again proving the skin with which the Ashburnhams gravitated to heiresses. (Lord Chesterfield, writing from Bath in 1756. says, 'Lord Ashburnham is very soon to be married to the youngest Miss Crowley. At an average of fat and lean they will make only embonpoint together'. (Letters of Lord Chesterfield to Lord Huntingdon, ed. by A. F. Steuart, 1923, p. 95).) The eldest lived and succeeded his father. There were four daughters.
The second earl died in 1812: we have two contemporary views of his character. Horace Walpole, who seems to have seen a good deal of him and frequently mentions him in his letters, calls him 'a most decent, reserved and servile courtier. He did not want sense, but it all centred in self-interest'. And George Selwyn, writing in 1782, says, 'I have the greatest opinion of his judgment in the conductive part of life; I really believe, if any man ever went through life with consummate discretion, it has been himself, and he has preserved his reputation at the same time'. The second testimonial is, perhaps, a slight improvement on the first.
George Ashburnham, third earl and fifth baron, was born in 1760 and died in 1830. He was at Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his master's degree in 1780. From 1784 to 1795 he was a Lord of the Prince of Wales' Bedchamber, and from 1810 a Trustee of the British Museum. In 1829 he received from George IV the Garter which his father had so notably failed to obtain, and he was a Knight Grand Cross of the Hanoverian Order. His first wife was Sophia Thynne whom he married in 1784. There were two sons and daughter of this match, but neither of the boys survived their father, and Sophia herself died in 1791. Four years later he married Charlotte Percy, and by her had five sons and seven daughters. The eldest son of this marriage was his ultimate heir. Charlotte, Countess of Ashburnham, lived until 1862.
George seems to have had various literary and antiquarian interests. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1830 he published the narrative of John Ashburnham, his cavalier ancestor, with an essay in which he attempted the vindication of Charles's friend from what he regarded as the unfair and prejudiced criticisms of the Earl of Clarendon in his Life. (See Ashburnham MSS. 3947-3947 and 4342-4344 on pp. 34 and 35 below. John Ashburnham's Narrative" is also printed in Allan Fea. Memoirs of the Martyr King (1905), pp. 197-235, where the "Narratives" of Major Huntington, Sir John Berkeley, Sir Henry Firebrace and Colonel Edward Cooke are also reproduced. Fea's book contains a good deal of Ashburnham material; Firebrace's "Narrative" is also given in C. W. Firebrace, Honest Harry (1932), pp. 251-261, together with an important selection of Royalist letters.) In what he calls his "Introductory Apology", Lord Ashburnham (then in the last year of his life) speaks (pp. 11, 12) of his own character and says that he 'can attest the uniform tenour of a life, throughout which he has as sedulously avoided, as others, at any period of theirs, have sought, to attract public notice; perhaps the foregoing protestations, here solemnly renewed, may be the better entitled to credit'. In the same preface he writes of his 'predominant infirmities; a constitutionally morbid indolence, and reserve'.
The Earl was succeeded by his third son, Bertram, born in 1797; he lived until 1878 (see Plate V). He formed the great collections of printed books and manuscripts which were dispersed by his son the fifth Earl. He had been a great traveller in his youth, and collected many examples of fine art in Italy and the East. For the last thirty years of his life he settled down at Ashburnham to the care of his collections and to the government of his estate and dependents in the despotic and patriarchal manner of his ancestors, a manner of which he must have been one of the last English exemplars. In 1840 he married Katherine Charlotte Baillie, and was the father of seven sons and four daughters. On his death (A photograph of the funeral hatchment painted on the death of the 4th Earl is illustrated in the Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, vol. 26, opp. p. 211. A similar hatchment is preserved in Barking church, Suffolk.) he was succeeded by his eldest son, Bertram, who was born in 1840. He will be remembered for his activities in attempting to restore Carlos VII to the Spanish throne; the archives relating to that affair were carefully preserved by the family The fifth Earl married Emily Chaplin who died in 1900; he lived until 1913 when he was succeeded by his brother, Thomas, the sixth and last Earl, who died without issue in 1924.
With the death of the sixth Earl, the male line of Ashburnham of Ashburnham came to an end; the surviving member of the family was Lady Mary Catherine Charlotte Ashburnham (known always as Lady Catherine), daughter of the fifth Earl. She was born 3 January 1890 and died in January, 1953 (The display of the 4th Earl's hatchment above the principal entrance of Ashburnham place on the death of this lady provoked some correspondence in the newspapers.) A few months later the contents of Ashburnham Place and part of the estate were sold; a further portion of the property was disposed of in 1957 (Copies of these sale catalogues are available in the East Sussex Record Office (Ashburnham MSS 1057, 4459 and 3198 on p. 124).)