Project Purley

The Local History Society for Purley on Thames

The Tudor Period (1485-1603)

Historical Background

The period from the reign of Henry VI to that of Queen Elizabeth saw England makes the transition from the mediaeval to the modern. Although not immediately relevant to Purley, 1492 saw the re-discovery of America by Columbus. The 16th century brought with it bitter religious controversies as the English church broke from Rome and extreme protestants tried to make society in their image and catholics tried to return the church to Rome. The controversies affected every man and woman, every village and town and caused changes in English society which were irreversible as many of them were based on changes in land holding from the church to the families of the cronies of Henry VIII

The period also saw England build an empire - and lose most of it. Trade developed on a scale hitherto unknown and cottage industries arose which changed into factory operations laying the foundation for the industrial revolution. Communications between towns and villages improved. Public transport began to emerge both for the carriage of people and goods. Books, now printed, became common household items instead of the rarities they once were. Standards in education improved and this led to the ordinary citizen beginning to develop a sense of his own worth and the rights that were due to him. The Reformation saw the dissolution of the monasteries, and with it a huge gap appeared in the social fabric. This was filled to some extent by provision for the poor in the form of Poor Laws and the emergence of the Inn as a national institution.

Enormous constitutional changes occurred.  The country moved from the near absolute monarchies of the two Henries VII and VIII, through government by two Queens, Mary and Elizabeth in which the idea of a Council of State took root.

The Impact on Purley

Being an agricultural village, somewhat off the main highway, Purley was not as affected by the changes as many villages. Outwardly the pattern of life continued as in mediaeval times but fields were gradually enclosed and most of the land was managed by bailiffs rather than by a resident lord, the process seeing the emergence of local yeoman farmers.

For most of the period the manor of Purley Magna formed part of the possessions of the St John family of Lydiard Tregoze in Wiltshire. Similarly Purley Parva belonged for the most part to the Norreys family although towards the end it changed hands to become owned by the Lybbes of Hardwick. The manor of Purley La Hyde  was occupied for the most part, quite co-incidentally by a new (catholic) family of Hydes.

Almost all the religious upheavals affected Purley. The dissolution of Reading Abbey and the College of St Edmunds in Salisbury changed the living from a vicarage to a rectory under crown patronage. Its last vicar John Leke was one of the first to be ejected by Queen Mary and his successor, Richard Gatskyll one of the first to be ejected by Queen Elizabeth. His protestant successor lasted only a few months, being ejected by the zealous bishop John Jewel


The Manor of Purley Magna

When Nicholas Carew died in 1485 he owned two of the three Purley manors, La Hyde and Purley Magna. However they went to different sisters thus effecting a final separation which has never been reversed. Purley Magna became the property of Sanchia Carew who married Sir John Iwardby. Her daughter Joan had married Sir John St John of Lydiard Tregoze and when  Sir John St John died in 1512,  his wife Joan (nee Iwardby) settled the the reversion of the manor of Purley Magna on Elizabeth one of the daughters of Richard Blount of Mapledurham and her and John's son Nicholas who later married Elizabeth and came to live in Purley. The estate seems to have been part of Joan's dowry but when her husband died it reverted back to the Iwardby family and Sanchia, Joan's mother became Lord of the Manor. When their son Nicholas was ready to marry the estate was settled on their grandson Nicholas and his bride to be, Elizabeth Blount of Mapledurham. The couple came to live in Purley and in the 1540s rebuilt the ancient manor house by the Thames as a typical Elizabethan timbered structure, some of whose timbers survive today in the ancient manorial barn.

Nicholas St John of Purley and George Phetyplace of the Middle Temple were granted the manors of Shrevenham, Salop, Compton Beauchamp and Stamford in the Vale, Berks and other lands in 1566.  John St John died in 1576 and the lordship of the manor of Purley Magna passed to his son Nicholas. Nicholas died in 1589 leaving as his heir his son John who preferred to live at Lydiard Tregoze until he too died in 1594. John's heir was his son Walter, but he died under age in 1597 and the estate went to John's other son, also John.

Nicholas had married Elizabeth Blount, daughter of Sir Richard Blount of Mapledurham. She had died in 1587 and like Nicholas was buried at Lydiard Tregose in Wiltshire. As well as John they had seven other children: Oliver, Richard, Elizabeth, Catherine, Eleanor, Dorothy and Jane. Oliver was knighted and became Viscount Grandison and died in 1630. Elizabeth married Richard St George who was Garter King of Arms.

John St John died in 1594 and the Lordship of the manor of Purley Magna passed to his son Walter. He had married Lucy, daughter of Sir Walter Hungerford of Farley Castle. Both were married at Lydiard Tregose near Swindon. They had eleven children: John (d young) Oliver (d young) Walter (d aged 21) Sir John, Catherind (d1633), Anne, Jane, Eleanor, Barbara, Lucy and Martha ( d young). The house at Purley was left to Lucy for her life Walter St John died in 1597 and the lordship of the manor of Purley Magna  passed to his brother John


The Manor of Purley Parva

When the 16th century opened the manor of Purley Parva belonged to the Norreys family.  Sir William Norris had succeeded to the lordship around 1479 but he died in 1507 to be succeeded by his son Richard. On his death in 1527 there was a dispute about the ownership of his former manors between his brother Lionel and his sister Anne who had married Sir Richard Bridges. Rather than go to court they agreed on a board of arbiters consisting of Richard, Bishop of Winchester, Sir William Sandes and Lord Sandes. The award is dated 18th Feb 1527 and presumably Purley Parva was awarded to Lionel as it remained in the Norris family until 1630

The next reference to the manor was in 1565 when following the death of Sir John Norris a writ 'Dodiem clausit exhemium' was issued. The case was heard by jurors who were unable to come to any conclusion as to the manner in which the manor had been held by Sir John although it was valued at £8-3-1.

In 1601 Francis, Lord Norris acknowledged by Fine his lordship of several manors including those of Westbrook, Westbury and Purley (presumably all the same manor, ie the manor of Purley Parva) At the same time Sir Edward Norreys released all his rights and interests in the manors in Berkshire and Oxon.


The Manor of Purley La Hyde

There are no mentions of Purley La Hyde in this period, presumably because it was joined to Purley Magna but we must turn to Sulham to see what would be the basis of ownership for another 500 years.

The Wilder family had appeared in the records for Berkshire associated with Sulhamstead and Shiplake for many years before Henry VII. Nicholas Wilder was one of Henry's supporters and was reputed to have fought at Bosworth on Henry's side. On the 15th April 1497 he bought the Manor of Nunhide from John Kent. John was a leather dealer in London and the son of John Kent of Tilehurst. It had come into the Kent family in 1422 when John Kent had purchased it from John Otley. At this time the manor of Nunhide extended well into the parishes of Tilehurst and Englefield as well as Sulham.

Nicholas Wilder farmed the estate and appears to have had a grandson John who had married Alice Kent, still alive in 1552. This John died  in 1588 and leaves a will with a number of bequests:-

To Sulham Church 2/-
To the poor ¾d
To the church at [Stratfield] Saye 4/-
To his eldest son John 20 marks, half of which was designated for his grandson, also John.
To his second son Nicholas the remainder of the lease on a farm at Hartfield
To his fourth son Thomas, 20 marks
To his daughter Joan Higgins 20/- and six sheep
To another daughter Joan Palmer 20/- and five sheep
To son in law John Palmer two sheep
To his sister Agnes Edwards sixpence weekly for life
To his wife Alice, Nunhide Farm to pass to his son Thomas
and numerous other small bequests

The Wilders were later to buy both the manors of Sulham and Tilehurst and acquire the former manor of La Hyde. The original farmhouse at Nunhide was built of wood but in late Tudor times it was replaced by a brick built house.


Other land ownership

A holding of land in Purley was settled on Thomas Stafford of Bradfield  in 1534 and remained in the possession of his descendants at least until 1605

On the 29th July 1550 the manor of Purley, Berks, late of Reading Monastery, was granted to John Earl of Warwick. Also 'the common fines and liberties of the townships and hamlets of Pangbourne, Battle, .... Stratfield Mortimer and Purley etc, late of Reading Monastery' The grant of all lands and liberties pertaining to Purley were granted for one knight's fee. This referred to the parcel of land west of Purley Lane that had been granted to Reading Abbey around 1194.


The Church

Richard Davy became Vicar of Purley  in 1505 after the previous incumbent had died.

Christopher Twynhoo became Provost of the College of St Edmund Salisbury in 1506 and thus Patron of Purley Church. It is possible he was the brother in law or nephew of Margaret, daughter of Nicholas Carew who died in 1500.

At the time of the dissolution of Reading Abbey in 1539, Purley church was taken into the king's hands, It was said to be worth £12/7/3½d and paid a pension of 20s to the Provost of St Edmund's College in Salisbury and one of 2s to the Abbot of Reading.

Thomas Edmundes became vicar of Purley after Richard Davy died in 1540

John Gough, Provost of St Edmund's College in Salisbury, died in 1543 and the office was given to William St Barbe, a layman of the King's Privy Chamber. In 1546 the assets of the College of St Edmund in Salisbury were purchased by William St Barbe from the king for £400. This included the advowson of Purley. The Mayor of Salisbury had taken possession of the College on June 17th in the name of the king. William held the Advowson until his death, whereupon it reverted to the crown. He was more interested in the pension of 20s payable by the church at Purley to him as its rector.

John Leke became Vicar of Purley in 1544 after the previous incumbent had died. John Baraby had been acting as his deputy since his death. John Leke had been a Vicar Choral at Salisbury Cathedral. The earliest surviving Churchwarden’s Presentment dated 1551 showed John Leke as vicar and Richard Gatskyll as his curate. Three churchwardens are shown: Edward Comber, John Carew and Walter Smith. They reported they had a tapestry for the Lords Table and all is in good order. The tapestry is undoubtedly the one sold by John Dudley-Matthews to the V&A in 1904. John Leke was deprived of the living of Purley in 1554, presumably because he was married. A second presentment is dated 1556.

Richard Gatskyll was granted letters patent 'to the vicarage of Pursley in the diocese of Salisbury' by Queen Mary. He was one of the earliest Marian appointments, presumably because he was still unmarried and was able to subscribe to the abrupt change of church policy when Mary came to the throne. William Stoning was said to have leased the parsonage in 1560, presumably from Richard Gatskyll which he afterwards surrendered on the grant of a new lease to him and his sisters Elizabeth and Anne. John Jewel was sent with other Commissioners in 1561 to obtain the signed acceptances from the clergy of Berkshire of the 1559 Acts of Uniformity.  As a result of their visitation, five rectors were deprived of their livings, including Richard Gatskyll of Purley. 

The deprivation of Richard Gatskyll was carried out in 1563, although it seems likely he had long since left the parish. He was succeeded by Thomas Handcock, who was himself  also deprived before the year was out. Finally Thomas Mountayne was instituted on 20th August. Richard Boston became rector of Purley on Jan 11th 1566 after Thomas Mountayne had resigned

In 1581 the lease on the parsonage granted in 1560 to William Stoning was renewed for a further 21 years. William's son Thomas became rector of Purley on Sept 25th. 1577 and in 1578, was witness to the probate of the will of Christopher Staynton, tailor of Purley. Thomas Stoning died on 26th Jan. 1585.  His goods were left to his widow Elizabeth and a list of his chattels was given probate on 3rd March. He was succeeded as Rector of Purley by Randall Wright.

The presentment of 1584 names John Morteboyes and John Pikman as the new churchwardens with Edward Comber and John Justice as the retiring ones.

There was a dispute over the right and title to the parsonage in Purley in 1595. It had been granted around 1581 to William Stoning for 21 years and another grant had been made to his sisters Elizabeth and Anne and to Thomas Stoning who later had became rector of Purley. The suit was brought by Randolf Wright who had become rector in 1585 after Thomas had died but possession still seemed to be in the hands of Elizabeth and her husband Humphrey Higgins. A special commission was called which took evidence from a number of deponents (John Appleton, Thomas Cranage, John North, Edward Payne, Elizabeth Gardner, Thomas Hastlett, Edward Fuller, John Winbo, John Justice and Joan Justice, most of whom were residents of Purley. One deponent stated that 'there was a vicarage house in which certain poor men lived and paid their rent to the parson' 

In a report on the state of the church dated 1603 made to the Bishop of Lincoln, it was reported that Randall Wright held both the livings of Burnham (Bucks) and Purley



The marriage of Elizabeth Blount to Nicholas St John had brought the two estates much closer together. The mill and the weir were owned by the Blounts and in 1580 Bishop, the historian of the Thames, noted that Mapledurham Weir was owned by William Blunt and kept by Robert Byrde  in 1585 he noted that they  were owned by Michael Blunt and kept by Robert Blunt.

Construction of Mapledurham House commenced in 1588. It was completed early in the 17th century. The manor of Mapledurham had been bought in 1581 by Sir Michael Blount who was later Lieutenant of the Tower of London, as his father had been before him. The two children, Nicholas St John and Elizabeth Blount had been brought together as members of the court of Henry VIII.  


Roads and Transport

In 1493 Henry Kelsall, a wealthy clothier of Reading, left a bequest of 40 shillings 'for mendyng  of the way between Reading and Pangborne' and 6/8 to the Parish Church of Purley


Wills and Inventories

When, in 1500, Margaret Twynhoo, daughter of the late Nicholas Carewe (III), died a widow she left 6/8 to the Parish Church of Purley in her will. In return the church was requested to set her name and those of her parents and husbands in the Bederoll and thus regularly remembered in prayers. She also left instructions that she was to be buried in Greyfriars Church in Reading ' as naye the toumbe which I have made over my fader and moder as can conveniently be'

Richard Boston, rector of Purley wrote the will of Thomas 1572 and in the same year, William Wollascot, gentleman, left lands in Tydmershe, Pagborne, Purley, Bradfield etc

John Goodboye of Purley died in 1575 His will is preserved as PROB11/111 in the National Archives. It reads:-

In the name of God Amen. I Anthony Goodboye of Purley in the countie of Berks, yeoman, being sick of body but of perfect memory do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following.

Firstly I bequeathe my soul to almighty God and my body to be buried in the churchyard of Purley.
Item I will and bequeath to my son John Goodboye all the moneys that are due to me by by Bands and Bitts
Item I will that Johanna my wife and my faithful son John shall have all my goods, chattels and debts
Four shillings also specially from whom I make Executors
Fourteenth of March One thousand five hundred and seventy five

  John Justice of Purley died in 1600. His will is preserved



The map of the diocese of Salisbury attached to the Valor Ecclesiasticus published in 1534 showed the Thames to be the boundary between Oxfordshire and Berkshire in the area around Purley, Pangbourne and Whitchurch

The Honor of Wallingford was severed from the Duchy of Cornwall by special Act of Parliament in 1541. It was linked with the Royal Manor of Ewelme to become the Honor of Ewelme

In 1520 we get the earliest surviving court roll for the Hundred of Theale to which Purley had been assigned when Reading Hundred was split with those parishes owned by the Abbey, remaining and the rest forming the Hundred of Theale. This mainly records fines paid by various tenants in return for their tenancies. There was a second in 1536. In 1549 the roll names John Knapp

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