The Fettiplace Family
An Article by J. Rentyon Dunlop
The Fettiplaces, of whom traces and memories are to be found in every nook and corner of Oxfordshire and Berkshire, were, as a recent writer observes, "a most remarkable family for their ancient descent, aristocratic alliances, acquisition of estates, and public benefactions." What peculiarly distinguished them, however, from other families was the hereditary and extraordinary attachment they exhibited, individually and collectively, century after century, to the two counties which first saw their rise, the spirit of clanship and similarity of aspirations dominating every member of the family, and the final extinction of a name at one time so numerously represented as to preclude any idea of such a possibility.
The origin of the name of Fettiplace (variously spelt by members of the family, Fetyplace, Feteplace or Phetyplas) is veiled in obscurity, and the fact mentioned by Twyne in his MS. that the owner of Ape Hall, Oxford, in the time of King Henry III, was one, Torold L'Ape (afterwards called Adam Fetteplace) "appears to be an impossible solution of the matter". The late Mr. T. C. Button, whose family was connected with the Dunches of Little Wittenham, Berks, as well as with the Fettiplaces, and who was himself an antiquary, gives Fitz-de-Plaas, or Pleasy, as the origin, and this seems a more reasonable supposition. Be this as it may, all writers concur in stating that the first Fettiplace, who came over to England in the Norman invasion, was Gentleman Usher to William the Conqueror, and as, generally speaking, there is a considerable amount of truth to be found in tradition, the statement may be fairly accepted as correct.
The earliest authentic record of the name about the year 1215, when Adam Fettiplace is found to be Mayor of Oxford and a prosperous citizen; but it is possible that the following extract from the Charter Roll, 29 Henry III, may take us one step back in the family pedigree: "Grant to Walter de Gray, son of Robert de Gray, nephew of W. York of the following gifts - of the gifts of Walter, son of Thomas Feteplace," etc. Hence it is conceivable that this last named Thomas may have been the father of both Walter, and Adam Fettiplace the Mayor of Oxford.
The wealth of Adam Fettiplace at this time, or shortly after, must have been very considerable, both in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, for lie is found not only in possession of the whole Manor of Wantage ("Pro Ada Feteplace de Oxon de toto Manerio De Wantinge in Com. Berks : Cal. Pat. Rolls 41 Hen. III") and presenting, according to the Lincoln Register, Bartholomew, a chaplain, to the living of Kencott in Oxfordshire, but, in 1263, he had bought of Ralph de Camoys, one of the rebellious Barons, the estate of North Denchworth, where he and his successors continued to reside until the time of King Charles II. The position of the family must also have been of some consequence judging from the fact that Sir Philip, the eldest son of Adam Fettiplace, bore for his Arms "in a field two chevrons, quartering the, coat of the Lord St. Amand,” - thus indicating his connection with that Baronial house.
Once established in their home at North Denchworth the family continued, gradually but surely, to increase in influence and quiet importance. With one exception its members do not appear to nave been of a quarrelsome disposition at this or any other time through the long centuries; the exception being Walter Fettiplace, of Oxford, who was in a vortex of litigation about the year 1285, and was, in at least one case, heavily mulcted by the jury for the manner in which he had ejected certain tenants for arrear of rent, and, it must be regretfully added, for beating and ill-using the of the lady of the house.
During the next century, a few glimpses are obtained of individual members of the family - such, for instance, as Sir Philip Fettiplace serving as a Knight of the Shire in 1306, parson of the Church of Grendon, acknowledging (in 1317) that he owes to Peter, son of Eustace de la Rokele, of Bourton, one hundred marks to be levied in default of payment on his lands and chattels in Com. Berks"; the curious instance of John Fettiplace, according to a Charter dated 21 Edward III , being called in that instrument " John Southbury, son and heir of Richard Fetiplace, of Esthanney," the deed being sealed with the Arms of Fettiplace; and in 1399 Henry Fettiplace is found to be a witness to a charter of John Fettiplace of Buckland, Berkshire.
It was soon after this period, and at the opening of the 15th Century, that an event took place in the Fettiplace family which not only added immensely to their importance and wealth, but invested them with an atmosphere of romance which time has not dissipated. This was the marriage of [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace of East Shefford. and Childrey with Beatrice, widow of Gilbert Talbot, Baron of Archenfield and Blackmere [Baron Talbot & Baron Strange of Blackmere], K.G. 'Unfortunately, no pedigree indicates the branch from which Sir Thomas derived his descent, but as he and Peter Fettiplace of North Denchworth - the then representative of the original line-were contemporaries, each High Sheriff of Berkshire within a few years of one another, and jointly appointed Commissioners of Array for the same county in 1436, it is here suggested that, though probably first cousins, it is quite possible they were brothers, [Sir] Thomas being the younger, as his arms are known in at least one instance to have been differenced with a martlet, the mark of a fourth son. [This is highly unlikely, Peter was probably Thomas' nephew.] His marriage with a daughter of the Royal House of Portugal infers that he was a man of recognised position, and suggests the idea of his being of a bold and resolute temperament and well-favoured in person, a conjecture not unconfirmed by his sculptured effigy in East Shefford Church.
Of the Lady Beatrice and the endless, but rather unconvincing, arguments concerning her birth and parentage, little must here be said. That she was of the Portuguese Royal House can hardly be questioned, although the argument against her being a daughter of King John I is probably correct, and that in favour of her being a Pinto, or Souza, possible. Her quartered arms, and her marriage with Lord Talbot, whose first wife was Joan Plantagenet, granddaughter of King Edward III, indicates her royal descent, her mother, as likely as not, being a Pinto or Souza. Bishop White Kennett states: " the family received a great addition of 'blood and honour by marrying Beatrix, daughter of the King of Portugal, which match is mentioned and allowed of in the pedigree of the Kings of Portugal" - and it is to be heartily wished that he had left a record of the source of his information. Mr. T. C. Button says that Beatrice was in some way related to Peter the Cruel, King of Castile, and the Harl. MS. 5867 records that [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace "married the Ladye Beatryce, Countesse of Shrewsburye and daughter of Alphoncious, King of Portugal" - the MS. being obviously incorrect as regards Beatrice being Countess of Shrewsbury, for it was her brother-in-law, not her husband, who bore this title. But whatever the theories of Planché and other writers on this subject may be, no notice appears to have been taken of the following letter, a copy of which is to be found amongst the correspondence of a late Rector of East Shefford, and as the marriage of [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace with the widow of Gilbert Talbot is the one fact that has never been disputed, the contents of the letter, it must be admitted, only add to the confusion already existing in connection with this subject, and may have been already contradicted, or disputed, unknown to the present writer.
Legation of Portugal,
Pray accept my best thanks for your letter relating to the Fettiplace Tomb. All that I can say in reply to it is that in 1405 an illegitimate daughter of King John I. of Portugal, named Beatrice, married Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Surrey. Left a widow she re-married in 1415 to Gilbert Talbot, Baron of Irchenfield and Blackmere, K.G. She was again left a widow in 1419. 1 am convinced that she did not marry Sir John (? Thomas) Fettiplace m her third husband. I am sorry that 1 am unable to give you further information.
(Signed) M. D'ANTAS.
The Lady Beatrice died Christmas Day, 1447, and she and her husband lie buried under a beautiful alabaster tomb in the little old and disused Church of East Shefford, their great-grandson, John, and his wife, Dorothy Danvers, being buried close by under a fine canopied tomb of Purbeck marble. Both church and tombs the permanent preservation of which is sincerely to be desired, have been already so fully described by the late J. R. Planché, and Mr. Walter Money, FSA, that the subject needs no amplification here, beyond recording the interesting information, confirmed by Mr. W. St. John Hope, an eminent authority on English Alabaster Monuments, that the configuration of the angels' wings on the tomb of [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace, and the orle, or fillet, encircling the bascinet of his effigy, clearly prove the whole composition to have been executed in the workshops of Thomas Prentys and Robert Sutton, of Chellaston in Derbyshire, the school from whence so many of the richest and most celebrated examples of sculptured tombs in this beautiful material emanated at the later end of the 14th and first part of the 15th Centuries, including, curiously enough, what is, perhaps, as sumptuous a memorial as any existing, that of Thomas, Earl of Arundel, and his Countess, Beatrice, daughter of King John I of Portugal.
The death of [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace could not have occurred before 1442, for in that year a Commission was issued to him and others "to treat with spiritual and secular persons in the said County (Berks) for a loan to the King in his present necessity, and to bring the same to the receipt of the Exchequer "and this appears to be the last mention of his name in official documents. He left three sons, William of Stokenchurch, Oxon, James of Maidencourt, Berks, and John, the first of whom had an only daughter and heir, Sybella, married to Hugh Unton of Wadley, Berks, and who, no doubt, largely contributed to the fortunes of that house, which evidently attached much importance to the match. This is indicated in the Unton Chapel in Faringdon Church, where the Fettiplace arms are to be seen in all directions, quartered with those of Unton. The great-grandson of Sybella, Sir Alexander Unton, married Anne, Countess of Warwick, daughter of the Protector Somerset, and first cousin of King Edward VI, the marriage taking place with great pomp at Hatford Church, Berks, "the third calends of May in the first and second years of the raignes of Phillip and Marie," as recorded in the Hatford Parish Register.
James, the second son, settled at Maidencourt, Berks, and his line, in the fourth descent, terminated in a female heir who was married to Edmund Dunch, of Little Wittenham, Berks, in the church of which place a fair monument was erected to her memory, recording, not only her many virtues, but, also, her descent from [Sir] Thomas Fettiplace and his wife Beatrice, daughter of the King of Portugal. Her son, Sir William Dunch, married Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Cromwell, and Aunt of Oliver Cromwell, the Protector.
John, the third son, was of the Household of King Henry VI and a citizen and draper of London. It may here be mentioned that from the time of King Edward II, and onwards, it was a fashion at Court for the nobility and gentry, and even Royalty itself, to become members of one of the great City Guilds. Thus Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and Edward IV were all brethren of the Skinners' Company, which also exhibits on its lists the names of twelve Duke, two Earls, a Prince and other important personages. Hence it is probable that John Fettiplace only followed the fashion of his day and, although belonging to the Drapers' Company, was not actually engaged in trade [This is incorrect: John Fettiplace was indeed a draper, as described in his will]. Quite possibly his position at Court was owing to his mother's influence, or to the acknowledged fact of his connection with the Portuguese Royal House, and to these causes, and his probable acquaintance with the Portuguese language, may be attributed his employment by King Henry in carrying and presenting to the King of Portugal "a certain gilt garter, ornamented with pearls and flowers," for which service he received £40, "which the Lord the King commanded to be paid to the said John for his costs and expenses in carrying the said garter to the King of Portugal." The cost of this garter was considerable, the King paying no less than £66 13s. 4d. (a sum equivalent to about £1,200 at the present day) for it to Matthew Philips, the London Goldsmith.
John Fettiplace seems to have amassed much wealth during his residence in London, partly derived, no doubt, from his marriage with Joan Fabian, widow of John [ie. Robert] Horne, Alderman of London.
He died in 1464, leaving his manors of East Shefford, Berks, and New Langport, Kent, to his eldest son Richard, and considerable sums of money to all his children. He also left money "for a closur to be maade aboute the tombe of my Fader and my Moder to renewe the remembraunce of hem" - and out of the residue of my goods, "I wol and biqueth that myn Executours therwith after their discrecons shall purchase and, bye londs and tents to the value of £V or VI by yere which londs and tents I wol by the moderacon ordinaunce and adoyse of myn Executours shall goo to the encresing and augmentacion of the parsonage of Shifford yerely for ewmore to thentent that the parson ther for the tyme beyng shall pray ppetually for my soule and for all myn Auncestres soules. And also to the Releuyng Refresshing and to the fynding and sustentacon of pour Almesmen ther for ewmore to pray for my soule." He seems to have preferred London to the country up to the last, for both he and his wife were buried in St. Margaret's Church, Lothbury, according to his last instructions, where a monument existed to their memory at the time that John Stow wrote his Survey of London. John Fettiplace left four sons, Richard, Anthony, Thomas and William, and a daughter Margaret, married to Marmaduke Beke of Whiteknights, Berks, whose family had obtained a, grant of this Manor in the time of Henry IV.
Richard Fettiplace of Shefford, the eldest son, married Elizabeth, the only child and heiress of William Besils, (and his wife Alice, daughter of Sir Richard Harcourt) of Besils Leigh, Berks, whose family had been settled here, as Leland says in his quaint language, "syns the time of Edward the first. The Bessells cam out of Provence in France and were men of activitye in feates of arms as it appearith in monuments at Legh; how he faught in listes with a straunge knyghte that challengyd hym, at the whitche deade the kynge and quene at that time of England were present." Richard Fettiplace died in 1510, and was buried in the chancel of the Priory Church at Poughley, leaving property not only to that church, but also certain lands "to be seized to the use of the Parson and his successors of East Shefford for 99 years to keep an obit there for my soul and to yearly keep in order the said parish Church," and to maintain lights there.
Anthony, the second son of John Fettiplace, resided at Swinbrook in Oxfordshire as well as at Childrey, Berks, and was Esquire of the Body to King Henry VII, receiving an annuity of 50 marks from the Exchequer. In the years 1485 and 1486, he was appointed keeper for life of the parks of Berley and Cornbury, Oxon, with the usual wages paid out of the lordship of Woodstock, and about the same time was granted the office of launderer of the Laund of Burford, in the forest of Wichwood, with wages out of the Lordships of Langley, Burford, and Shipton. In 1488 he, with others, was commissioned "to summons all Earls, Barons, Knights, and other Nobles in the County of Oxon, to examine how many archers each is bound to find for the king's army, and to take the numbers of those archers preparatory to the expedition for the relief of Brittany, and to make return of the premises to the King in person." He was Sheriff of the County of Berks in 1495, and a few years later was made Steward of "Suffolk's Land" in Co. Oxon, Master of the Hunt in Ewelme Park, as held by Robert Harcourt, and Steward of the Manors of Minster-Lovell, Cogges, Burford, Shipton, Spellesbury, and the hundred of Chadlington, in Oxfordshire, and of the Manors of Buckland, Hatford, Langley, Aston Tirrold and West Compton, Berks, forfeited by attainder of Edmund, Earl of Suffolk. Truly Anthony Fettiplace had little cause for complaint! He married Mary, sister of Sir Adrian Fortescue who, after being for many years in great favour with King Henry VIII, was beheaded on Tower Hill for alleged conspiracy, but in reality for his refusal to acknowledge the supremacy of the King over the Church of England in place of that of the Pope. Anthony Fettiplace died in 1510, leaving instructions that he was to be buried in the Church of "Swynbrok afore our Lady in the Chauncell," in which spot is still to be seen a brass bearing his engraved effigy and representing him as habited in armour and tabard of arms.
To digress for a moment, it would be interesting to discover the relationship which existed between Anthony Fettiplace and "Armiger John vocitatus Croston" who lie side by side in the chancel of this Church. On the stone to which is affixed the figures of the latter and his three wives, only one of the four shields originally existing now remains, but this is at the upper dexter corner of the stone, and is charged with the arms of Fettiplace. Bearing in mind the position of the shield, and the instance already alluded to in this paper of John, son of Richard Fettiplace, assuming the cognomen of Southbury, did John, called Croston, marry a Fettiplace, or is it possible that he himself was a Fettiplace? This latter suggestion is partly confirmed by a note made in the Swinbrook register, attributing the brass to a Fettiplace whose will was proved in the Commons in 1508, but this date creates a difficulty in consequence of the style of the armour of the effigy being of a period not later than 1470 - and here the matter must be left.
Sir Thomas, the third son of John Fettiplace, was seated at the beautiful old Manor House of Compton Beauchamp, Berks, and like his brother Anthony, seems, to have had some connection with the Court. In 1513 he was "granted protection as he was about to serve in the Wars under Richard, Bishop of Winchester," and in 1520 he, together with the Lord Cardinal, the Privy Seal, and great nobility, was appointed one of the King's Council to make arrangements for the meeting of Francis and King Henry VIII. He was in attendance upon the King at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, when he and Lady Fettiplace were, with others, specially selected to attend upon the Queen. A little later he was appointed, together with his brother-in-law Sir Nicholas Carew, and other relatives, to attend upon the King at his meeting with Charles V at Gravelines, and soon afterwards died seized of the Manors of Stanford-in-the-Vale, Shrivenham, Lamcote, Burton, Ockwells and Bray in Berkshire, and other wealth. He appears to have been twice married, first to a sister of Sir Nicholas Carew, Master of the Horse, who, like Sir Adrian Fortesque, the brother-in-law of Anthony Fettiplace, lost his head on the block at the command of the Sovereign in whose favour he and Sir Adrian had stood so high, and in whose Councils and entertainments they had so often shared; and secondly to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William, Norreys (by his wife Jane, daughter of John do Vere, Earl of Oxford), leaving an only daughter and heiress married to Sir Francis Englefield. Sir Thomas was buried in "ye Abbaye Churche of Abingdon," and by his will he bequeathed a small sum of money to "ye Church of Lyttle Shifford to be bestowed ther after ye discretion of my nephew John FettypIace the elder on ye mending of my Grandmother's tombe or otherwise''
William, the youngest son of John Fettiplace, of Shefford, appears to have been quite as affluent as his 'brothers, but, unlike them, disinclined to mix to any great extent in public affairs. He resided at Letcombe, Berks, and the whole of his life was spent in the neighbourhood attending to the wants of his tenants and dependents, the re-building of the tower and reparation of Childrey Church, the construction of a chantry, and the formation of the village schools and charities which exist to the present day owing to his generous benefactions. Whom he married is not known, 'but in all probability, the lady was a great heiress. Her quartered arms on the corbels of the chantry identify her mother as an Englefield, and one or two points in the paternal coat would possibly suggest that her father was a Norreys. [Since this article was written, William's wife has been identified as Elizabeth, the widow of John Kentwood, and daughter of Thomas Waring of Earley St. Bartholomew (Berks) by Joan the daughter of Thomas Walrond of Childrey (Berks) and his wife, Alice, daughter of Nicholas Englefield of Great Haseley (Oxon) by Elizabeth Quartermain.] William Fettiplace was buried in St. Catherine’s aisle, within the precincts of the Church in which he took so much pride, bequeathing to the Provost and scholars of Queen’s College Oxford, lands in Letcombe Bassett, Hendley, West Shefford, Bockhampton, Chipping Lambourn, Hurst, Finkesley, Beedon, Stanmore, Woolstone, Earley, Westcote, Sparsholt, Childrey, Grove, and Uffington, on condition of their keeping in repair the said aisle and the almshouses and schools he had founded - and it is more than likely, that it is owing to his foresight in vesting these powers in an Oxford College that so many interesting traces of his family remain in Childrey Church, and the charities he created still exist.
At this point, space unfortunately being so limited, any further detailed account of members of the Fettiplace family, or even of its branches, must be relinquished, and only the briefest survey taken of events and facts concerning them from the period now arrived at until the final extinction of the name in 1806.
From the two elder grandsons of Sir Thomas Fettiplace, Richard of Besils Leigh and Anthony of Swinbrook, all the branches of the family derived their with the exception, of the original one of North Denchworth, which, in the time of King James I terminated in the male line at the death of Thomas Fettiplace of Denchworth, Pusey and Charney, whose only sister and heir, Margaret, married, possibly in accordance with some family arrangement or understanding, Christopher, a younger son of Alexander Fettiplace of Swinbrook and Childrey, who, in right of his wife, possessed the estates. By this marriage the name was continued for four further generations, when, at the death of George Fettiplace, of Letcombe, it finally died out.
A point of interest in connection with this branch of the family was the marriage of a grandaughter of the above mentioned Christopher and Margaret Fettiplace with the Lord Chief Justice Sir William Scroggs, a man so scandalously misrepresented by his Burnett, and Dugdale and more recently by Campbell, in Far from dying detested and the last of his name, lie lived and died in the midst of his own and his wife's families, his grandson William marrying Anne Seymour, sister of the eighth Duke of Somerset, whose second son, Edward, lies buried in the chancel of the parish church of West Hanney, Berks.
The greater manor of Letcombe Regis belonged to the Scroggs family by gift of one of the Fettiplaces. It is not known which of the name was the first possessor, but as Lady Scroggs, wife of the Lord Chief Justice's only son, made her will and lived there the greater part of her widowhood, it may be conjectured that it was her husband, Sir William, who inherited the estate from his uncle Christopher Fettiplace, who had resided in great friendship for many years with his brother-in-law the Lord Chief Justice.
Of the Besils Leigh line, second in order of seniority, John, the eldest son of Richard Fettiplace, married Dorothy, daughter of Sir John Danvers, and died in 1524, leaving to his eldest son, amongst other things, "all my white swannes upon Thamyse." He bequeathed the very small sum of six shillings and eight pence to East Shefford Church, where both he and his wife were buried under a beautiful canopied tomb of Purbeck marble, which still remains.
Edward, the younger brother of John was, in all probability, the Edward Fettiplace who, in 1539, was appointed one of those deputed to receive Anne of Cleaves on her arrival in England as the future Queen of King Henry VIII.
This same year saw the dissolution of many monastic institutions in England, and amongst others, Syon in Middlesex, and Amesbury Priory in Wiltshire, the quiet homes of Eleanor, Ursula and Elizabeth Fettiplace, who, upon being turned adrift, were each assigned small pensions of five or six pounds a year.
Edmund, the eldest son of John Fettiplace, of Besils Leigh, married a daughter of John, Lord Mordaunt, and in the fourth descent from him the estate of Besils Leigh was sold, early in the 17th Century, to William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons.
The old manor house, surrounding a quadrangular court, and containing a place of concealment, access to which was obtained in a most difficult and unusual manner, was a magnificent structure where it is said, Cromwell and other leading men of his day were frequently entertained, but it is now completely destroyed.
The Fettiplaces of Fernham, Berks, were a cadet branch of this house, and owed their origin to Thomas, third son of Besiles Fettiplace of Besils Leigh. It may be that the John Fettiplace, who was a Colonel in the Parliamentarian Army, and Governor of Cirencester, which he garrisoned for the Parliament, was a member of this family, which continued to reside at Fernham, until about the year 1720, when it shared the same fate as all of the name extinction.
Of the Childrey and Swinbrook family stores of interesting information are available, but must not be made use of here. The line practically terminated in 1743 at the death of Sir George Fettiplace, Bart., who - like his three elder brothers, each of whom had in turn succeeded to the Baronetcy and estates - died a bachelor possessed of immense wealth, but the name of Fettiplace, after being twice revived in the female line, became finally extinct at the death of Richard Gorges Fettiplace in 1806.
Of the various members of this branch of the family the two who suffered most, but from very different causes, were John Fettiplace, Sheriff of Berks in 1630, and his nephew Sir John, who served the same office in 1667. The former, through his loyalty to the Royal cause, in addition to having sat in the Assembly at Oxford, and for having been in that city when the Articles of Surrender were agreed to, was fined to the extent of £1,943; the latter, died "verri suddenly by vomiting, not without foul suspi'tion of his being poyson'd by his said wife Susanna." She afterwards "retired to Lechdale and took to her third husband, a brisk, gay and handsome yong man, Sir Thomas Cutler (for of Sir John Feteplace she was weary, being a dul fellow)," etc.
Edmund Fettiplace, of Swinbrook, was created a Knight of the Royal Oak by King Charles II, who conferred this specially created order on his followers as a reward for their services; and Edward Fettiplace, in 1613, was granted the office of Attorney General for the Counties of Caermarthen, Cardigan, Pembroke, Radnor and Brecon.
The Fettiplaces of Swyncombe, Oxon, were a cadet branch of the Swinbrook line, and derived their descent from William, grandson of Anthony Fettiplace of Swinbrook and Childrey. This line terminated at the death of Francis Englefield Fettiplace, only son of Bartholomew Fettiplace and his wife, Mary Englefield, his sister Katherine marrying Charles, fifth Lord Dormer, who ultimately became the possessor of the Manor of Swyncombe.
Of the Swinbrook manor house, where the family resided for over four hundred years, and which so singularly resembled that of Little Shefford, both in situation and character, nothing now remains; but tradition says, as stated by Mr. Monk, that it contained a magnificent hall, the lofty windows of which were filled with the painted arms and matches of the family, and was approached by a broad flight of steps on each side of which was an enormous lion carved in stone. The house is said to have been built, or rebuilt, by Anthony Fettiplace at the latter end of the 15th Century, and writers make mention of its extraordinary splendour which equalled, if it did not exceed, that of the old moated mansion at East Shefford, the picturesque banqueting hall of which displayed, in its windows and on the corbels supporting the superb oak roof, the Arms of Fettiplace, and the five blue shields of the Royal house of Portugal.
The Swinbrook Mansion must have been an ideal home, standing as it did, on gently rising ground above the little river Windrush, sheltered by beech groves and surrounded by the park formed by Sir Edmund Fettiplace, while sloping to the south were its terraced gardens leading past fish-ponds and dog kennels to the more distant little church of Widford standing on its Roman foundation and tessellated pavement. Close by the house was the small 13th Century Church of St. Mary's, the last resting place of many generations of the family, whose memorials, some elaborate and costly, others quaint and interesting, axe all worthy of attention.
The Fettiplaces appear to have divided their time between the two manor houses of Swinbrook and Childrey, moving from one to the other as fancy or circumstances dictated, and it was at the latter that Lady Fettiplace entertained King Charles I. and his personal suite on the 10th April, 1644. Although the Childrey house was by no means so beautifully situated as that of Swinbrook or Shefford, yet it was not wanting in splendour.
Built in the 15th century, it occupied three sides of a quadrangle and contained, besides other fine rooms, a splendid hall, 45 feet in height, with the minstrels’ gallery, and windows of noble proportions, filled with the armorial bearings of the family.
Opposite the Manor house stood the still existing church of St. Mary’s, which is admirably described elsewhere by Mr. Charles Keyser, F.S.A., and under its shadow the little chantry house of the priest. The church itself, in its altar-tombs and brasses, heraldic windows, corbels and bench-ends, is redolent of the Fettiplace family and their kinsman, and it is of more than passing interest to realize that within the precincts of the building to the beauty of which they so largely contributed, and nearly four centuries after the death of the founder of St. Catherine's Chantry, is still to be heard, each first, Sunday in Lent, the names of the self-same persons for whom William Fettiplace, in his will of 1526 desired the prayers of the Church, the people of Childrey offering their thanksgiving "for those benefactors whose liberality has been a blessing to this parish, and particularly for William Fettyplace, Esq., and Elizabeth his wife; for Richard, Anthony, and Sir Thomas Fettyplace, his brothers; for Margaret, their sister; for Robert, John, Joan, and Anne Horne, his half-brothers and sisters; for Margaret, Elizabeth and Alice, wives of the said Richard and John; for Sir William Norris, John Marshall and Marmaduke Peke, husbands of Joan and Anne Horne and Margaret Fettyplace; for John, son and heir of Richard Fettyplace and Dorothy, his wife; for John Kingston and Susanna, his wife, sister of John Fettyplace; for John Kentwood, John Baldwin, the Provost and Fellows of Queen's College, Oxford; for Dr. Brian Roos and all other the succeeding Rectors of Childrey."
It has sometimes been said of the Fettiplaces that they never distinguished themselves in the Field, the Forum, or the Senate, but, notwithstanding this, the family constitutes a kaleidoscopic and very interesting group of individuals, the counterpart of which might 'be searched for in vain in the annals of county history. Ancient in descent' they were connected by blood or alliance with everyone of importance throughout the two counties with which their history was interwoven for centuries. They illustrated the best traditions of the life lived by English country gentlemen, and residing, m they did, on their hereditary estates, the villages and neighbourhoods around them long felt the resulting benefits. If their manor houses and possessions were numerous and their wealth great, so were their charities, and, after all, it is a better fate that their name should be called to mind with respect and gratitude by posterity for lasting benefits conferred on the poor of the many villages in Berkshire and Oxfordshire with which the family were so long associated, than that they should be recorded on the Rolls of Fame.
Reproduced from the Proceedings of the Newbury and District Field Club (1911)
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