Posted in Activity, Bringing Alive The Past, Decorative Arts, Event, History, Museum

Tudor Revels Southampton

The ‘Floating Flemyngs’ monument, St. Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham, Hampshire.

On Sunday 10th June I attended Southampton-based Tudor Revels’ inaugural study day, ‘Money, Class and Wealth: Rescuing Forgotten Lives’, at the historic and recently refurbished Dolphin Hotel, Southampton.  The event was a huge success with nearly eighty people in attendance. A truly inspirational day for historians and anyone who loves Tudor history. I went home stimulated and inspired to revisit this important historical period. The obvious popularity of the event is proof that history really is enjoying a surge in popularity and long may it continue.

A few words on Tudor RevelsThe Southampton Tudor Project: From Records to Revels is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by a large number of community partners (CLICK HERE). The aim of the project is to celebrate Southampton’s Tudor past and document, using surviving archival records, material remains and portraiture, the people who flourished in Southampton between 1485 and 1603.  It is hoped the project will widen scholarship on the city and raise its heritage profile.

A stylish new website (CLICK HERE) has been created to support the project and I encourage you to have a look, it was officially launched during the study day. The interactive map of Tudor Southampton is genius and very easy to use if you are a dab hand with your computer mouse. When you see a red flag appear above a building, click on it and a short description of that building’s use in Tudor times will appear on-screen.

The website also has a searchable database (CLICK HERE) with biographical information on some of Southampton’s Tudor citizens.  The database is very easy to navigate and already contains a large number of entries.  It is estimated that by the end of 2013, there will be 5,000 completed biographies.  Scholars, historians, genealogists, population statisticians and the general public can access, for free, this valuable biographical data.

Dr Cheryl Butler, a member of the editorial board, commented on the website and project in general: ‘It will be a place for preserving lost research facilitated by the use of new technology.  The project will help to enthuse and engage the wider public in a celebration of Southampton’s Tudor citizens. We have already trained twenty volunteer researchers, from the community, to work with us. These volunteers will become heritage champions.’

The project additionally funds an Artist in Residence, Alys Scott-Hawkins, who will document meetings and events, run workshops on the founder of Southampton, Sir Bevis, create a banner depicting Bevis’ wife Fair Josian and encourage fellow artists to become involved in the project’s flagship event, a Michaelmas Fayre on the weekend of 29th-30th September 2012, St. Michael’s Square, Southampton.

The study day began with a lecture by Harry Willis Fleming on the ancestry of his own family, the Flemings (later Willis Fleming), with a focus on their activities during the Tudor period.  Harry is a cultural historian, writer and currently a 2012 Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds investigating the artist Richard Cockle Lucas (1800-1883).   Harry offered plenty of helpful hints for anyone researching Tudor biographies, including the fact that Parish Registers began in this era and from 1500 onwards wills were no longer written in Latin. He drew our attention to a number of material artefacts, relating to the Flemings, that still survive today in and around Southampton.  One artefact was the Fleming coat of arms on the outside of the Bargate. The Fleming’s coat of arms consists of three owls on a background with a chevron.

The Bargate, Southampton.
The Fleming’s coat of arms, Bargate, Southampton.
The Fleming coat of arms displayed on the top of the ‘Floating Flemyngs’ monument.

The other artefact was a sculpture by Anthony Griffiths (1991) of John Le Fleming (1295-1336), a former Mayor of Southampton, located on Southampton City Walls.  During the lunch break I made a quick dash to these two locations and took a couple of photographs.

Sculpture of John le Fleming (1295-1336) by Anthony Griffiths (1991), located on the Southampton City Walls. John Mayor of Southampton in 1315.

Harry then discussed the tomb of Sir Thomas Fleming (1544-1613) and wife Mary, a monument known locally as ‘the Floating Flemyngs’ on account of its configuration.

The ‘Floating Flemyings’ monument, St. Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham, Hampshire.

The tomb is located in St. Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham, Hampshire. Sir Thomas was the judge who presided over the trial of Guy Fawkes and others involved in the gunpowder plot (1605).  During the course of my own research on the Wriothesley family, I discovered that the manor of North Stoneham was acquired by Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton, c1540.  In 1599, the Wriothesley family sold the manor and advowson to Sir Thomas Fleming.

St. Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham.

I visited St. Nicolas’ Church last Saturday on the off-chance it might be open (it very rarely is). I was lucky, on account of an afternoon wedding, I gained entry. The very helpful verger allowed me to take a few photographs before the guests started to arrive and I had to beat a hasty retreat.

Detail from the ‘Floating Flemyings’ monument.
Sir Thomas Fleming.
Lady Mary Fleming.

The ‘Floating Flemyngs’ monument is stunning close-up.  Mary and Thomas Fleming’s facial features are exquisite. Whilst at the Church I also purchased a guide-book written by Anne Bakes, The Parish of North Stoneham and Bassett: Its History, Churches and People 932-1995.  The chapter on the monument is a fascinating background read. Bakes’ description of the monument reads: ‘Their [Thomas and Mary] elaborate memorial in the church depicts them both in court robes, lying on their sides, with their remaining children kneeling along the base.  Their heir, another Thomas, is in the centre depicted rather larger than the other children…Lady Mary was left with four of her sons and two daughters from eight sons and seven daughters!’ (Bakes, M., 1996, p.11) For more information on the Willis Fleming family, CLICK HERE.

Detail from the base of the ‘Floating Flemyngs’ monument showing some of Thomas and Mary’s children kneeling.
One of the Fleming children at the base of the monument.
Thomas Jnr, son and heir, kneeling at the base of the monument.

Another fascinating study day lecture was given by Dr Mary South who discussed some of the challenges faced by historians when using Tudor portraiture to stimulate biographical research. Dr South gave as her example a painting, thought to be of Nicholas Fuller (b. 1557), that hangs over the fireplace in the Banqueting Hall at Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton.  As a result of extensive research, Dr South discovered that the gentleman in the painting was not in fact Nicholas Fuller but John Sotherton (1562-1631), who from the 16th June 1579 until his death, was Baron of the court of Exchequer.

Tudor portrait that was the subject of Dr Mary South’s lecture. The portrait hangs over the fireplace in the Banqueting Hall at Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton.

Dr Cheryl Butler gave the lecture, ‘Dyperes, Dippers & Diapers: Bricklayers? Birdcatchers? Belgians?’.  Dr Butler is herself a descendent of the Diaper family. The Diapers left just one will and 10,000 descendants. They are a local family who have a long association with the village of Itchen Ferry, near Southampton. Dr Butler focussed upon what the family were up to in Tudor times. The Diaper Heritage Association have their own website, for further information on this extraordinary family, CLICK HERE.

Dr Butler gave a further lecture on the life of Edward Willmott and his hostelry The Dolphin Inn, Southampton. Edward had a wife, Margaret and four children, Edward Jnr, Alice, Averyn and Elizabeth.  Edward was an important citizen of Tudor Southampton, he was a wealthy merchant adventurer and a man of substantial property. He occupied a number of high-ranking positions of civic responsibility in the town, including: Steward (1550-1); Bailiff (1554); Sheriff (1555); Parliamentary Burgess (1558) and finally Mayor (1558-60). Dr Butler discovered that in 1559, whilst Edward was Mayor, he was presented with a sugar-loaf.  This was a very expensive and rare gift to have received in Tudor times and would have come from new discoveries being made in the colonies. The sugar-loaf was a symbol of Edward’s status in the Town, that he was deemed important enough to have merited such a gift.

Tudor produce showing sugar-loaf in a cone shape. For more information on Tudor cookery, please see my article ‘A Taste of the Tudor Kitchen’ (August 2011). CLICK HERE.
Tudor part of The Dolphin Hotel (formerly The Dolphin Inn).

Dr Butler’s research on Edward Willmott involved the use of Southampton Probate Inventories, 1447-1575, (2 vols., Southampton Records Series, vols. 34 and 35 by E. Roberts and K. Parker (1992)).  These ground-breaking publications are a valuable resource for anyone wishing to research Tudor Southampton.  Contained therein is Edward’s Will, dated 21st November, 1569, created from an inventory of chattels compiled on 16th February, 1569. Edward is referred to as a ‘merchant and innkeeper’.  The Will makes for an illuminating read and confirms the extent of the Willmott family’s material wealth and social status.

Below are two extracts from Edward Willmott’s Will. The first, details the contents of Mrs Willmott’s bedchamber:

Mrs Willmottes chamber; a stondinge beddsted, xx s; ij fetherbedes, xl s.; a flockebedd, vj  s viiij d.; iij coverlettes, xiij s iiij d.; a great cofer, xij s; another greate chest, xv s; ij other small chest where she lyeth, v s; a table wth the frame, x s; a strory wth a frame, x s. (a little story); the back & a bench xiij s iiij d; (a bible); payntid clothes, vj s viij d; a curtyn & the rod for the windo, xvj d.

(Roberts & Parker, 1992, p. 284)

In the kitchen:

brochis; xiij wherof ij byrd broche, xxx s; a great payer of Rackes, xvj s viij d; a iij payer cottrelles, vj s; ij flatt barrs to defende the dripping pannes, iij s iiij d; iij great gryddyers, ix s; iij payer of potthokes, xvj d; ij payer of tonges & iij fyer pannes, v s; ij fryinge pannes, ij s; ij dogges, xij d; a morter of brasse & a pestell of Iren, iij s; j chopinge kniffe, ij d; ij great pannes, xxx s; iiij lesser pannes, xxvj [s] viij d; iij kettles wth Iren bandes, x s; a Flaundrs bottle of copper, viij s; a olde bed panne, ij s; iij skomers of brasse, xij d; ij little pannes, ij s; v small skillettes, v s; iij caste posenettes, vj s; ij chafers of brasse x s; vij brasse pottes, xl s;  j chafyn dishe wth a fote, iij s iiij d; iij other chafindisshes, iiij s; a musterd Querne, xx d; a small sesteren of ledes weghing by estimacon di’C, iiij s; a wenles & a bocke wth the rope for the well, iij s iiij d; a water fossere, ij s; Summa, xij li vj s vj d.

(Ibid, p. 286-7)

The Dolphin Inn had twenty-two rooms, a cellar and counting house, it was the largest Inn in Southampton. Glass and wood panelling were deemed moveable objects and therefore classed as chattels. Carpets were not laid on the floor but hung on the wall and fine lawn would have been used at windows. A large number of fireplaces and chimneys in your house was seen as a sign of wealth. These architectural symbols of prosperity can be seen a plenty in the ruins of Wriothesley’s country seat, Place House, Titchfield.

Averyn Willmott married an apprentice of her father, John Sedgewick and they received the Tenancy of the Inn.  Edward Jnr died without issue and Alice Willmott inherited the rest of her father’s estate.  Unfortunately, Alice married Clement Smith, Town Gunner. Clement sold-off the birth rights that his wife had inherited from her father’s estate. The original estate had been valued at £372 5s 10d, he sold it for £13 6s 8d!  Clement also owned a privateering ship called Godspeed and was by all accounts a bit of rascal. He also sold-off a farm that Alice had inherited from her father.  The farm was sold to John Croke, Merchant and former Mayor of Southampton.  During Croke’s mayorship (1568-9) he entertained Queen Elizabeth I and her vast retinue at a cost to the town of £360.  The entertainment included bear-baiting, bagpiping and theatrical performances. The Queen was passing through Southampton on her way to Basing.  She had been staying at Titchfield Place as a guest of Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton (1545-1581)Following Dr Butler’s lecture on the Inn’s history, we re-assembled at the back of the building to view what remains of the structure from the Tudor period.   In one of the back bedrooms, original timbers are still visible.

Acting companies and players often stayed at The Dolphin, performing at either the Inn’s gallery or in the courtyard. In C. E. C. Burch’s Minstrels and Players in Southampton 1428-1635 (1969) reference is made to the Town Steward’s accounts of 1539-40 which gives details of one such performance. Although, in this case, the performance appears not to have taken place but the actors were paid anyway: ‘The 14 daye September to the kyngs pleyers at the dolffyne which pleyd nott 6/8d’. (Burch C. E. C., 1969, p. 16) Burch observes that: ‘The players who did not play at the Dolphin in Southampton in 1539-40 would have played in the yard, approached, as now, through an arch from the High Street. (Ibid. p. 20)

The Dolphin Hotel has long been of historical interest to scholars. In Rev. J. Silvester Davies’A History of Southampton (1883) he includes an entry for The Dolphin:

At the beginning of the sixteenth century the parish appears to have had some interest in the Dolphin. Thus in June 1506, a tenant came before John Godfrey, mayor, and before the churchwardens and parishioners of Holy Rood, and ‘bound himself sufficiently to repair all such building as is now in the house that he dwelleth in, called the Dolphin, upon pain of forfeiting his indentures of the same house.’ The present Dolphin Hotel is partly in Holy Rood parish and partly in St. Lawrence’s, a former owner having thrown two houses into one by joining to his hotel, which was in Holy Rood parish, a wine merchant’s shop contiguous in St. Lawrence’s parish.

(Davies, Rev. J. S., 1883, pp. 364-5)

Nearly a century later Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd, wrote The Buildings of England: Hampshire and The Isle of Wight, describing The Dolphin thus:

The Dolphin Hotel is the best C18 building in the city proper.  It has a mainly red-brick symmetrical façade with a small pediment, and another elliptical archway in a stuccoed rusticated ground storey.  It’s specially distinctive features are the great bow windows, one each side on the ground and first storeys, among the largest anywhere.  There is a lower, yellow brick early C19 N extension, recently heightened a story.

(Pevsner & Lloyd, 1967, p. 547)

The Tudor Revels team have put together a superb programme of educational activities and workshops, a majority of which are free of charge.  I recently attended one of the first workshops from this programme, ‘Making Ends Meet Tudor Style: Feltmaking’ by the textile artist, Vicki Hodgson. An article on this will follow shortly. Here are brief details of Tudor Revels’ forthcoming events, more information on each activity can be found on their main website. CLICK HERE.

Tudor Revels Programme of Events 2012

  • 21st July – Edible and Medicinal Plants. St. James’ Park, Shirley, Southampton. Walk with botanist Celia Cox. Not suitable for children under twelve.  (Pre-booking essential), 2.30-4pm, FREE;
  • 21st & 22th July – Making Ends Meet Tudor Style: Pottery, Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, Southampton, 10-4pm, FREE;
  • 28th & 29th July – Making Ends Meet Tudor Style: Beekeeping & Candlemaking, Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, Southampton 10-4pm, FREE;
  • 29th July – Centenary of Tudor House and Garden Museum, Southampton, 6p entrance fee on this day only, guided tours at 10am, 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm (pre-booking for these essential);
  • 11th August – The Old Bowling Green Open Day, Lower Canal Walk, Southampton, 11-2pm, FREE.  This is the oldest bowling green in the world, dating from c1299.  A rare opportunity to look around and hear more about the history of bowling in Southampton;
  • 12th August – Craft Workshop, The Fair Josian: Banner Making Workshop, The Bargate Monument Gallery, High Street, Southampton, 10-4pm, FREE (Pre-booking essential).  A family workshop with artist Alys Scott-Hawkins exploring the town legend of Bevis and Ascupart and drawing inspiration from the sixteenth century oak panels in the Bargate gallery.  The completed banner will then be carried in the St. Michaelmas Fayre procession on the morning of 30th September 2012;
  • 18th & 19th August – Making Ends Meet Tudor Style: Pole Lathe Turning and Woodcarving, Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, Southampton 10-4pm, FREE;
  • 18th August – People of Tudor House, Guided walk, organised by Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery, old cemetery, Southampton, 2-3.30pm, FREE (booking required, details given on Tudor Revels’ main website);
  • 19th August – Procession to Our Lady of Grace, pilgrimage in the footsteps of Henry VIII’s visit to Southampton in 1509;
  • 12th September – Guided Walk of St. Andrews Church, Hamble-le-Rice, Nr Southampton, 7-8.30pm, FREE;
  • 20th September – Pastimes and Good Company, Tudor Games and Pastimes, illustrated talk and replica artefact handling session, evidence from King Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, 7-9pm, North Guild Lecture Theatre, Civic Centre, Southampton, FREE;
  • 29th September – Michaelmas Fayre, St. Michael’s Square, Southampton, FREE. Free entry to Tudor House and Garden on this day.  Guided tours of Tudor House at 11am and 3pm (pre-booking essential);
  • 29th September – Concert of Tudor Music, St. Michael’s Church, Southampton, 7.30-9.30pm, FREE;
  • 30th September – Michaelmas Fayre, St. Michael’s Square, Southampton, 11-4pm, FREE;
  • 4th October – Alison Weir – Author Talk, ‘Mary Boleyn the Great and Infamous Whore’, 7.30-9.30pm, North Guild Lecture Theatre, Civic Centre, Southampton, £4;
  • 6th October – Guided walk around Netley Abbey, 2-3.30pm, FREE;
  • 13th October – Court and Port Study Day –  The Tudor Court and The Port of Southampton, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, 10-5pm, £20;
  • 19th October – Propeller Theatre’s Pocket Henry V, 7pm, The Point, Eastleigh, Southampton, £10;
  • 21st October – Guided walk St Nicolas’ Church, North Stoneham – a rare opportunity to visit this delightful and fascinating church associated with the Willis Fleming family 2-3.30pm, FREE.
  • Tudor House and Garden, Southampton:
  • 14th & 15th July; 11th & 12th August; 8th September – 11-2pm Tudor Hawking – Bird of Prey, the event is FREE but entrance charges to the Museum apply. Meet costumed Tudor falconers and real-life hawks, learn more about falconry heritage too;
  • 14th July – 10.30-4pm – Tudor Tiles, £38 per person (pre-booking essential).  This workshop will enable you to learn about the history of medieval and Tudor encaustic inlaid tiles and also have the opportunity to work with a professional ceramicist  (ex-Poole potter Debra Marsh) to create your own tile which will fired off-site for you to collect on a separate day. All materials provided.  If you want to gain some inspiration for taking part in this workshop, then have a look at my earlier article on Titchfield Abbey, ‘The Wriothesleys of Titchfield’.  The medieval tiles that have survived from the former Abbey are some of the best in the South of England. For the article, CLICK HERE. (The tiles can be found towards the end of the article).
    Gardens at Tudor House, Southampton, Hampshire.

    Tudor House and Gardens, Southampton, Hampshire.

Posted in Country House, Decorative Arts, Fashion History, History, Literature, Theatre History

The Wriothesleys of Titchfield

Titchfield Abbey, Titchfield, Hampshire.

Titchfield Abbey, Titchfield, Hampshire was founded in 1231 by Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester.  The abbey was home to Premonstratensian canons, known as ‘White Canons’ due to the colour of their habits. St Norbet founded the Premonstratensian Order in 1121 and the Order follow rules ascribed to St Augustine.  The canons would have attended eight services each day as well as Mass in the monastic church. The abbey continued to exist, relatively peacefully, until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monastries (1536-1541) which resulted in a dramatic change of use and ownership. The Abbey was transformed into a grand mansion called Place House and became the country seat of the powerful Tudor and Jacobean family, The Wriothesleys.  Below are short biographies for some of the key Wriothesleys.

Titchfield Abbey – View from the back.

John Wriothesley (formerly Writhe) – Died 1504

Son of William Writhe.  John was an English officer of arms and Garter King of Arms. John thought the name of Writhe not grand enough for a family on the rise, he settled on Wriothesley instead. Other members of his family adopted the name change.

Sir Thomas Wriothesley (formerly Writhe) – Died 1534

Son of John Wriothesley. Sir Thomas was a Wiltshire herald. His wife Jane had ten children during their decade long marriage. Jane died in 1510. Sir Thomas organised the funeral of Henry VII, the coronation of Henry VIII, the Westminster tournament of 1511 and attended Anne Boleyn‘s coronation in 1533. In 1529 he gave evidence at the divorce proceedings of Katherine of Aragon. Sir Thomas also appears in the Hampton Court painting, ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold’ (c.1545).  He was a talented artist and an aggressive self-promoter.

William Wriothesley (formerly Writhe) – Died in 1513

Son of John Wriothesley and a York herald, an officer of arms at the College of Arms. He married Agnes Drayton.

Charles Wriothesley (1508-62)

Son of Sir Thomas Wriothesley. A Windsor Herald. He lived at Garter House, a mansion built by Sir Thomas in Barbican St, Cripplegate Ward, London.  At sixteen he was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant with an annual salary of £10.  He studied law at Cambridge. In 1529 he became a gentleman of Gray’s Inn.

Thomas Wriothesley (1505-1550) – 1st Earl of Southampton

Eldest son of William Wriothesley. Thomas had two sisters, Elizabeth (b. 1507) and Anne (b. 1508). Anne married Thomas Knight of Hook in Hampshire. He had a younger brother, Edward (b. 1509) whose godfathers included 3rd Duke of Buckingham and 5th Earl of Northumberland. Thomas studied at Trinity Hall, Cambridge but didn’t finish his degree.  He was a handsome gentleman and a courtier of Henry VIII (1491-1547). His ambition knew no limits, in the 1530’s he became Cromwell‘s private secretary, Chief Clerk of the Signet and a top-ranking civil servant. He was a great patron of arts and literature. His wife was Jane Cheney of Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. They had three sons and five daughters. As a reward for his support to the King during the Reformation and turbulent break from Rome, Thomas was granted: Quarr Abbey – Isle of Wight (1537); eleven manors and 5,000 acres at Titchfield Abbey (1537) and Beaulieu Abbey (1538).  He also brought Micheldever Manor from the King in 1544. Between 1544 and 1546 he acquired thirty-five ex-monastic manors and five southern counties.  On 1st January 1544, Thomas became Baron Titchfield and Lord Chancellor.  When his son Henry was baptized on 24th April 1545, Henry VIII was appointed one of the godparents.  Thomas retained a large retinue and in 1545 he had one hundred and forty in his livery including Yeoman dressed in velvet and wearing gold chains. Thomas had now become probably one of the greatest noblemen in Hampshire.

However, following the King’s death, Thomas found himself in a vulnerable position.  He was outspoken, arrogant, ruthless and faced criticism for his occasional abuses of authority which led to a brief spell in prison and a hefty fine. When young Edward VI was crowned in 1547 Thomas held the Sword of State, then had it taken away from him for misconduct. Although, Thomas was later reinstated onto the Royal Council.  Whilst serving as a member of the Royal Council, he became 1st Earl of Southampton. Thomas suffered from consumption and died at Lincoln House on 30th July, 1550.  He was buried at St. Andrew’s Church, Holburnand his body later returned to Titchfield.

The ruins of the former Titchfield Abbey, showing Chapter House and Library.

Henry Wriothesley (1545-1581) – 2nd Earl of Southampton

Henry was the son of the 1st Earl, Thomas.  Henry inherited an annual land income from his father of £1,466 13s 4d, making him an extremely wealthy man and attractive marriage prospect.  He was only five when his father died and he spent the rest of his formative years living with his mother being privately educated at home.  He was brought-up a Catholic and married Mary Browne on 19th February, 1566. The marriage meant that Henry had now become part of one of the leading Catholic families in Sussex. Henry and Mary had one son, Henry and two daughters, Jane (d.1573) and Mary (1567-1607).  His family entertained both Edward VI and Elizabeth I at Titchfield, the estate by this time had developed into an extremely large and lavish household.  Henry’s annual income from lands in the 1560’s had risen to nearly £3,000.

Henry was not without his critics and had inherited his family trait for arrogance and playing dangerous power games at Court.  He was arrested on 18th June, 1570 for consorting with the Spanish ambassador, Guerau de Espés del Valle (1524–1572). Henry remained in the Tower of London until 1st May, 1573. However, he was soon back in favour again and on 12th July, 1574 he became JP for Hampshire.

He died on 4th October 1581 in Itchel in the parish of Crondall, Hampshire, he was thirty-six.  He was later buried on 30th November, 1581 at his beloved Titchfield.  Henry ensured that his funeral was a lavish affair which cost him £138.  He also left monies enough for a £1,000 alabaster monument of himself and his parents.  This monument is known as ‘The Titchfield Monument’.

Henry Wriothesley (1573-1624) – 3rd Earl of Southampton

Born at Cowdray House, nr Midhurst, Sussex on 6th October, 1573. His parents had a very stormy marriage and at the age of eight his father, the 2nd Earl died.  Henry harboured a lifelong distrust of women, not helped by having to spend most of his childhood estranged from his mother.  He did turn to men for affection and generally enjoyed their company more than that of women.

Henry was sent to one of the top schools for noblemen at Cecil House, Strand, London. The school was Lord Burghley’s educational jewel and turned out some of the country’s brightest young aristocrats. At the age of twelve Henry went to St. John’s College, Cambridge and at sixteen he graduated with his MA and was immediately admitted to Gray’s Inn to study law.  Henry became a courtier and passionate patron of the arts.  His distrust of women and marriage in general, came to a head when he refused to marry Lady Elizabeth Vere, Lord Burghley’s granddaughter.  Tudor law dictated that a refusal to marry a lady of his ward’s choosing would result in having to pay a huge fine to the ward.  His determination not to marry Lady Elizabeth was so strong that he opted to pay the fine which he did so on 21st October 1594. He paid Lord Burghley the sum of £5,000.  This made a large hole in Henry’s income.

Henry was charismatic, attractive albeit with a feminine manner, he had auburn hair, blue eyes and his voice had a soft tone.  His dress style was flamboyant and his favourite fabric was white silk which he would teamed with a doublet, purple garters and large feathers in his hat.

Eventually, Henry knew that he would not be able to avoid marriage forever if the Wriothesley line was to continue.  He took a huge risk and married Elizabeth Vernon, one of Elizabeth I’s (1533-1603) Maids of Honour.  He did not seek the Queen’s permission first and as a result fell spectacularly out of favour with her.  This was a dangerous position for any Tudor nobleman to find himself in, particularly one who had already lost a large chunk of their fortune. The consequences of failing to curry favour with the Queen meant that he was never accepted back at court.

Henry’s bad luck continued when he found himself caught-up in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion in 1601, causing him to lose his estates and very nearly his own head.  For a general overview on this important Tudor event, CLICK HERE.  For his part in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion, Henry was arrested, sent to the Tower, accused of Treason and sentenced to death.  His earldom was taken away and the 2nd Earl of Essex beheaded on 25th February, 1601.  When James I came to the throne on 24th March, 1603, he set Henry free the following month.

3rd Earl of Southampton and The Virginia Company

Henry was an active member of the Virginia Company’s governing council.  The Mayflower sailed to the Northern Colony to find religious freedom in 1620.  On 3rd November, in the same year, a patent was granted for the Incorporation of a Council to manage the affairs of the Plantation of the Second Colony of New England and Henry was one of the original Council members. In Charlotte Carmichael Stopes’ The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s Patron (1922) she discusses, in detail, Henry’s involved with the Virginia Council and Company in the chapter, ‘Virginia Britannica’.  Stopes lists the provisions provided by Henry for the Colony’s survival:

A note of the shipping, men and provisions sent and provided for Virginia by the Earl of Southampton and the Company and other private adventurers in 1621 included 24 ships with 500 mariners; experts to teach men how to utilise the produce of the Plantations; French vine-dressers to cultivate vines and mulberries, to make wine; others to teach them how to make glass for themselves and beads for the savages; fur-traders, metallurgists, builders; with plans for a church, a college, and a house of entertainment for newcomers. (Stopes, 1928, p.440-1)

The Virginia Company was dissolved on 15th June, 1624. It was not financially successful but social projects associated with it where.

View from the Porter’s Lodge window, showing the Tudor brick fireplaces and square windows from both storeys. The timber floors have long since gone.
Tudor brickwork in the gatehouse.

3rd Earl of Southampton and William Shakespeare

The life of the 3rd Earl of Southampton has been well-documented, this is partly due to his brief patronage of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).  There is a great deal of scholastic debate about the extent of the relationship both Shakespeare and Wriothesley. Some have argued it was purely a creative partnership and others that there was a physical relationship between the two of them as well.  There have been suggestions that several of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed at Titchfield in a playhouse created on the second storey of the gatehouse complex.

View toward Porter’s Lodge from ground floor of gatehouse building.

One particular performance that is often cited is the one that may have taken place at Titchfield on the afternoon of 2nd September, 1591, an early staging of Love’s Labour’s Lost. The 3rd Earl is supposed to have played the role of Berowne.  However, G. P. V. Akrigg points-out, in Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton (1968) that:

..there is no evidence of a play or actors at Titchfield……If the present writer must add his own guess as to where and when Shakespeare and Southampton first met, he would suggest a backstage meeting in a London playhouse sometime in 1591-92.  The person who first presented Shakespeare to the Earl may have been Sir George Carew, whose marriage in 1580 to a Clopton heiress had made him a great man around Stratford. (p. 193)

Suggestions have also been made that some of Shakespeare’s sonnets contain hidden references to Wriothesley, particularly in relation to his reluctance to marry. Although we do know that following the Earl’s release from the Tower on 10th April, 1603, James I’s encouraged Shakespeare to write a sonnet (no. 107), especially for the Earl, to congratulate him on his release:

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,

Can yet the lease of my true love control,

Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,

And the sad augurs mock their own presage.

Incertainties now crown themselves assured,

And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Now with the drops of this most balmy time

My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,

Since, spite of him, I’ll live in this poor rhyme

While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes.

And thou in this o’er dull and speechless tribes.

And though in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

Akrigg also suggests (pp. 255-6) that character of the young Count of Rousillon, in All’s Well that Ends Well (1603-4), may well have been based on the Earl’s in his earlier years.  Shakespeare’s two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) are dedicated to the 3rd Earl.

Thomas Wriothesley (1608-1667) – 4th Earl of Southampton

Thomas was the only surviving son of the 3rd Earl.  Thomas liked to gamble and found himself in debt after losing a bet at Newmarket racecourse.  In order to pay back the debt, he went into the timber business and traded from his Titchfield estate. Thomas was a royalist and supporter of Charles I.  He entertained Charles and Queen Henrietta Maria at Titchfield in 1625.

When Charles I fled for his life in 1647 he stayed at Titchfield en-route to the Isle of Wight. After Charles I’s execution, Thomas retired to Titchfield and in 1655 found himself imprisoned in the Tower of London but was released later on that year. With the Restoration of Charles II, on 27th Mary 1660, Thomas was appointed to the privy council and became a Knight of the Garter.  Thomas died in London at Southampton House and was buried at Titchfield on 18th June, 1667.

Thomas married three times.  His first wife was a French Huguenot, Rachel de Massue (1603-1640). They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Rachel.  Elizabeth married Edward Noel and Rachel married William Russell.  Upon the Earl’s death all of his property passed to both his daughters. Following their deaths all property passed to Rachel and William’s son, the 2nd Duke of Bedford. Titchfield was sold in 1779 to the family of Delme and in 1781 it was largely demolished.  During the First World War the estate was brought by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the ruins transferred to the HM Office of Works.  The site is now managed by English Heritage.  There is no admission charge to visit the site but do check the opening hours before setting off.  For more information about the property, including a really good audio tour that you can download for free, CLICK HERE.

The Transformation of Titchfield Abbey into Place House –

The Wriothesleys’ Family Seat

Titchfield Abbey was transformed into a mansion, called Place House/Titchfield Palace, by the 1st Earl of Southampton, Thomas Wriothesley. The 1st Earl wasted no time in transforming the Abbey into a grand, Tudor mansion befitting a gentleman of his position.  The cost of the extensive renovations was approximately £200 and the work carried-out at lightening speed. The master-mason on the project was Thomas Bartewe who resided in Winchester.  Thomas had an impressive CV that included Calshot and Hurst Castles.  The west end Nave of the church was transformed into a large gatehouse, the Cloisters became a courtyard, the Refectory a Great Hall and the Chapter House turned into a private chapel.

It is still possible today to see some of the original Tudor fireplaces, chimneys, brickwork and square windows particularly in the gatehouse buildings. The gatehouse was constructed by demolishing the central (fourth) bay of the nave and a second storey added, all in the fashionable mock-Medieval architectural style.  In the ground floor chambers of the gatehouse it is still possible to see windows which have small slits, single and crossed.  These would have been used by archers or hand-gunners should the need have arisen to defend the mansion from attack.

During a survey carried out at Titchfield in 1737, the second storey of the gatehouse buildings to the right of the main porter’s lodge (the Tudor windows of which still exist) was described as a ‘Playhouse Room’.  It is possible that in this space theatrical masques and performances may have taken place. However, as already stated no concrete evidence has emerged to confirm that some of these performances were of plays written by William Shakespeare.

In G. P. V Akrigg’s Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton (1968) a description is given of the mansion at Titchfield. The description is based on a report written by Sir Thomas Fleming, the Queen’s Solicitor-General, following a visit made to by to Titchfield while the 3rd Earl was imprisoned in the Tower for his part in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion:

[Sir Thomas Fleming] with his clerks he trooped about the great mansion, through the entrance gate flanked by its four lofty towers and into the Fountain Court that lay beyond, up the handsome stairs that on the opposite side led up to the hall beyond, and so on to all the other parts of the great mansion: the gallery, the great dining-room, the little dining-room, the ladies’ gallery, the music gallery, the earl’s apartments, and those of his countess.  On they went into the Kitchen Court and all the multiple offices that lay around it, the servants’ hall, the still room, the kitchen, the wet larder and the dry larder, the small beer cellar and the strong beer cellar, and the arched wine cellar, everywhere from the Jericho Porch to the Audit Room.  As they went, they took inventory:

In the great chamber:

One large Turkey carpett

One large foote Turkey carpett

Twoe chaires of crimson velvet

vi high stools of crimson

In the Longe Gallery:

old mappes.

(Arkrigg, 1968, p. 131)

The Medieval Tiles

At Titchfield today, it is possible to see one of the finest collections of medieval floor tiles in Southern England. One of the reasons why these splendid tiles, originally laid in the Cloisters, have survived is due to their having been covered over to create the floor of the Courtyard, during the Tudor renovations.  The tiles were discovered in excavations undertaken in 1923. Nowadays, in order to protect them from frost, they are covered over in the winter months with sand.

The tiles date from the late thirteenth and early fourteenth century and were likely to have been manufactured locally. The tiles were made by pressing a wooden stamp into wet clay and then white, liquid, clay was poured into the indent.  The excess liquid would have been scraped off to form the design. The tiles were then coated with a lead glaze and fired in a kiln. The design range is varied from floral, geometric, birds, beast to heraldic motifs.

Double-headed eagle tile.

The double-headed eagle is possibly the coat of arms of Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209-72), Henry III’s brother.

Twin towers tile.

The twin towers tile, could possibly represent Eleanor of Castile (1241-90), the first wife of Edward I.