White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

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Marauders and Murderers

Padworth Common - © Nash Ford Publishing

There are a number of ancient, and now disjointed, banks and ditches round Padworth, locally known as 'Grim's Ditch'. The name indicates that the Saxon settlers in the area thought they were so impressive that they must have been built by the chief of their pagan gods, Woden, nicknamed 'Grim'. In fact, the position of the ditches indicate that they encircle the northern boundaries of Calleva, the Roman town of Silchester, over the border in Hampshire. It is generally accepted that they were constructed for a sub-Roman King who had set himself up as the protector of the Romano-Britons still living at Silchester after the Roman army left the country and the administration collapsed. At that time, Berkshire was a fast growing Anglo-Saxon colony and, when things got tough, the new-comers were wont to attack the British urban populace. So the banks and ditches were built to protect the old Northern route-ways into Silchester and were, no doubt, constantly guarded by the local Romano-British militia.

The Saxon who settled in this precise area with his family was probably called Padda. Hence the place became Padworth or 'Padda's Farm'. Although, it may possibly mean 'Toad Farm' and there are other personal names, including the Celtic 'Pedrog', which could also give rise to such a place-name. After the Norman Conquest, the manor was owned by the famous Coudray family who appear to originally have been called 'De Padworth'. They were resident throughout the 13th & 14th centuries, but later inherited, through the female line, Sherborne Coudray (St. John) and Herriard, in North Hampshire, which they seem to have preferred. They sold up in 1586.

A secondary manor called Hussey's lay near the border with Ufton and was owned by the Fettiplaces of North Denchworth. By Tudor times, however, it was run by the Perkins family of Ufton Robert Manor (and later Ufton Court). Mr. Richard Perkins let his brother, Francis, live at Pam Hall, the manor house of Hussey's but a serious dispute concerning the manor's overlordship arose with their neighbour,  Sir Humphrey Forster of Aldermaston House. Being the son-in-law of Lord Sandys of the Vyne, King Henry VIII's Lord Chamberlain, Sir Humphrey hob-knobbed at Court and clearly thought himself somewhat above the local Berkshire gentry; and, to match his over inflated ego, he had a very bad temper. It is not known what eventually brought the argument to a head but, one day in 1534, Sir Humphrey armed his servants with bows, arrows, swords, shields, daggers and spears, and, at half past five in the morning, they marched on Padworth House. Finding Francis Perkins in his nightshirt in the hall, Sir Humphrey immediately began to assault him. He was only prevented from killing him by the pleas of his poor wife who came running downstairs in her nightdress. Instead, he was tied up and escorted to Ufton Robert where he was thrown at the feet of his brother, Mr. Richard Perkins, who was taking breakfast with a number of guests. Sir Humphrey then started on Richard, taking him by the hair and insisting that he keep his hands of the Forster lands in Padworth. One guest tried to intervene but was quickly punched in the stomach. Sir Humphrey drew his sword, and was about to do still worse damage to the lord of Ufton, when his wife held back his arms. Forster decided to leave, but took Francis Perkins with him and threw him in his local Aldermaston lock-up for the night. The Perkins brothers took Sir Humphrey to the local court in Wokingham, but he bribed and threatened the jury. The outcome of a later case at the Court of the 'Star Chamber' is not known. It was Richard Perkins' intervening wife, Elizabeth, who later, as Lady Marvyn, instigated the famous dole of bread and cloth for the parishioners of Ufton and Padworth. It is supposed to have been done in thanks for finding her way home after getting lost in some woods in 1581.

In October 1644, during the Civil War, Parliamentry troops, stationed at Aldermaston and Swallowfield, crossed the Kennet at Padworth whilst on their way to the Second Battle of Newbury. Earlier, in September 1643, when Roundheads were again in the parish when they continued their march towards London after having defeating the Royalists at the First Battle of Newbury. In Padworth Gulley, however, Prince Rupertís cavalry managed to surprise them one last time. Three hundred men are said to have been killed. They were buried in large pits in the parish churchyard. A memorial in the church wall tells their story. 

The parish church is one of the smallest in the county. A fine Norman apsed building with decorative doorways, it was completely constructed in 1130. The interior features a medieval wall painting of St. Nicholas and grand monuments to the Brightwell family and their heirs who built the present Padworth House alongside. This is the main manor house of the parish and was in their hands from 1655. When Loftus Brightwell died in 1738, his grandson, Christopher Griffith inherited the place. He married Catherine daughter of Sir William St. Quinton. Both were painted by Gainsborough. Having no children or other family Christopher left his estates to her nephew, Matthew Chitty Darby, who subsequently took the name of Griffiths too. He was a general in the grenadier guards who served with distinction in the Peninsula War and was wounded at Corunna. His descendants owned Padworth House well into the 20th century.

The two Mortimer Murderers, Abraham Tull and William Hawkins, were baptised at Padworth. Their parents were humble, but honest and respected, folk and the families both lived in Ufton. In 1787, at the ages of nineteen and seventeen years respectively, they waylaid an old labourer and bludgeoned him to death for the eleven shillings which they then failed to find on his body. They were hung on Mortimer Common, on a piece of land just in Ufton parish and now called Gibbet Piece.


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