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Sir Thomas Reade (1575-1650)
Born: 1575
High Sheriff of Berkshire, Oxfordshire & Hertfordshire
Died: December 1650 at Dunstew, Oxfordshire

Sir Thomas Reade was the son of Thomas Reade, the Sheriff of Berkshire, from Barton Court in Abingdon St. Helen, and his wife, Mary the daughter of George Stonhouse of Radley Hall, Clerk of the Green Cloth. He matriculated at Queen's College, Oxford, with his brothers John and Richard, on 6th July 1593, aged 17, and was a student of the Middle Temple in 1594. He inherited his father’s estates in 1604 and purchased a number of others, to become Lord of the Manors of Beedon, Appleford and Barton Court (Berkshire); of Denford (Northamptonshire); of Dunstew and Ipsden (Oxfordshire); and of Minsden, Hitch and Brocket Hall (Hertfordshire). He also had a house in Oxford called ‘The Castle’.

Thomas served as High Sheriff of Berkshire in 1606, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1615, and of Hertfordshire in 1618. He was knighted at Royston on 21st July 1619. In 1625, a number of gentlemen were called upon to lend money to King Charles I during his independent rule which preceded the Civil War. It was a forced loan productive of widespread discontent. The five Hertfordshire gentlemen most heavily taxed included Sir Thomas Reade who was asked for £30. Eleven years later, Sir Thomas, together with Sir William Lytton and Lord Falkland, refused to pay ship-money to the King for Hertfordshire, and the bailiff did not dare to distrain for fear of being sued.

Despite his resistance to Royal taxes, Sir Thomas had the honour of entertaining King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria at Barton Court on three occasions. This old Abbot's palace was a Norman building whose ruins covered five acres. It was held by Sir Thomas on condition that he entertained Royalty whenever they required him to, and it was therefore sometimes styled the ‘King's House in Abingdon’. This burden discounted largely the actual value of the mansion and estate and, indeed, in the Patent Rolls, Sir Thomas' father is found contemplating escaping this obligation by aliening his rights. However, this transfer never took place.

The first occasion when the Court exercised its indubitable right of claiming the Reades' hospitality was early in the reign of Charles I. On 19th August 1629, "the King and Queen came to Oxford from Barton, but making no stay there went on to Woodstock. They left Woodstock on the 27th, and were met at Greenditch by the Mayor and Corporation, who presented the King with a fair gilt bowl and the Queen with a pair of rich gloves. After dinner at Merton College His Majesty conferred the honour of Knighthood upon William Spencer, of Yarnton, Esq., and he then returned to Barton." The second occasion of a Royal visit to Barton Court is inferred from a reference in the Churchwardens accounts of St. Helen's, Abingdon, under date 1638: "To the ringers when the King came to Barton 16 shillings; to the ringers upon the King's return sixteen shillings." The third occasion occurred on 17th April 1644. Essex, Waller and Robartes were advancing in force from London and the King, fearing for the safety of Queen Henrietta Maria, brought her to Barton, as the first stage on her journey to Exeter and safety abroad. Hence Barton and Sir Thomas witnessed the final farewell of the ill-starred Royal couple. Charles, on a subsequent visit selected Sir Thomas' third son as a recipient of Royal favour and the father appears to have become attached to the Royal forces at Oxford.

In April 1645, Cromwell, at the head of the New Model, was advancing over the Chilterns, while the Royal cavalry, under the command of the Earl of Northampton, lay at Islip on the opposite side of Oxford. King Charles, evidently desirous that his horse should wheel round and confront Cromwell on the eastern side of Oxford, despatched Sir Thomas Reade, under escort of Lieut. Denton, to Lord Northampton, with whom he was connected through his sister-in-law, Lady Spencer, and who was godfather to his grandson, Compton.

However, Reade and Denton were captured by the enemy during Major Thomas Sheffield’s skirmish with the Earl of Northampton's Horse. The Parliamentarians were most pleased with the seizure of two letters which were found on Sir Thomas’ person, one from the King, subscribed by Secretary Nicholas, calling them ‘rebels’ and the other from Sir Christopher Hatton to the Earle of Northampton. Sir Thomas was held by a Major Hurry until taken in custody to the Parliamentary committee for Hertfordshire, meeting at St. Albans to examine the whole business and report back to the Committee of Both Kingdoms. The Hertfordshire committee was composed, with others, of the Earl of Salisbury, Sir John Reade, of Brocket Hall (Sir Thomas' third son), Sir Brocket Spencer (his wife's nephew) and Sir Rowland Lytton (his wife's cousin). It may fairly be surmised that the circumstance of Sir Thomas being sent for trial to so amicable a committee was due to the influence of Speaker Lenthall, his near neighbour at Bessilsleigh, whose son later married the widow of one of Sir Thomas’ Stonhouse relatives.

Barton is believed to have been destroyed by the Parliamentary forces from Abingdon around this time, despite the efforts of Sir Thomas’ twenty-year-old grandson, Compton Reade. It would seem that all this was too much for Sir Thomas and he made his peace with the Parliament very soon after his capture. His name does not occur among the delinquents who compounded for their estates and, described as ‘of Dunstew’, he was appointed one of the Parliamentary Committee for Oxfordshire in 1646, probably one of the Sub-Committees for compounding with delinquents. How long that state of affairs lasted is uncertain, for on 12th September 1650, only three months before Sir Thomas' death, the Council of State Day's Proceedings state that his name was to be left out because he refused to act on the committee. Sir Thomas Reade presumably died, and was certainly buried, at Dunstew in December 1650. After his death, his wife resided at Brocket Hall.

Edited from Compton Reade's 'A Record of the Redes of Barton Court' (1899)


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