Project Purley

The Local History Society for Purley on Thames

The Stuarts (1603-1714)


Historical Background

The 17th century brought saw the continuation of the bitter religious controversies which culminated in a civil war. There followed periods of austerity and hedonism, revolution and counter-revolution and the final transition from the mediaeval feudal system to the foundation of a class based system where everyone knew their place.  The execution of King Charles I  brought the concept of absolute monarchy to an abrupt end and the experiments with republicanism under Cromwell convinced the English that this was not for them.  In the Restoration settlement of 1660 the relative powers of Monarch and Parliament achieved an uneasy balance which was to be made more or less permanent in the Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights of 1688. The reign of Queen Anne saw the end of the Stuart dynasty and the union of Kingdoms to form the United Kingdom. It also saw the end of tithes as they had been known for centuries with money replacing produce.


The Impact on Purley

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. Purley  Parva changed hands to become owned by the Lybbes of Hardwick. The manor of La Hyde evolved into Purley Hall, occupied for the most part, quite co-incidentally by a new (catholic) family of Hydes.

  Again, almost all the religious upheavals affected Purley.  The changed attitude to worship in the Laudian period saw the church rebuilt to reflect the new ideas. In the 1650s Purley had a congregational minister, Daniel Raynor who was ejected, this time as a result of the settlement brought about by Edward Hyde, Lord Clarendon who had strong Purley connections.


The Manor of Purley Magna

When Walter St John died in 1597 the estate went to his brother John. He became a baronet on 22nd May 1611, being one of the founding members of the order. He was Member of Parliament for Wiltshire in 1624 and he too preferred to live at Lydiard. However he seemed to have been living at Purley in 1627 as it was then that his brother-in-law Sir Allen Apsley was staying at the time of his illness. As Sir John St John he dealt with the manor of Purley Magna by Fine  in 1633

  It is also likely that it was at his house in 1632 that his niece Anne Hyde, the wife of Edward Hyde, future Lord Clarendon, was brought to die  as she was en route from Wiltshire to London. . Anne Hyde died on 2nd July 1632.  She was giving birth to a still born child while suffering from smallpox.  She was born in 1612 to Sir George Ayliffe of Grittenham Wilts and Ann (Nee St John).  She was buried in Purley Church and a memorial to her erected by her husband Edward Hyde who later became the Earl of Clarendon and Lord Chancellor.  His second wife bore him two daughters, one of whom, Anne , married James, later King James II, and was the mother of both Queen Mary II and Queen Anne

  Lord Grandison (Oliver St John) died in 1630. He was the uncle of John St John (d1648) and great uncle to Ann Hyde (d1632). He had been created Viscount Grandison and Baron Tregoze of Highworth. He had married Joan, the daughter of of Henry Roydon and widow of Sir William Holcroft. His coat of arms are on the church tower with the date 1626 and it would seem he was instrumental in the construction of the tower.

  Sir John St John died in 1648, the Lordship of the manor of Purley Magna passing to his grandson John who became the second baronet. Three of his sons had been killed in the Civil War.  The family were staunch Royalists.  He had married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Leighton (Governor of Jersey), who had died in 1628.  He later married Margaret Whitmore.  Anne had given him fourteen children of whom William was killed at Cirencester, Edward at Newbury and John in the North. 

  The new Sir John St John died unmarried in 1657  His heir was his uncle Walter. Sir Walter St John who made a settlement of the Manor of Purley Magna in 1673 and issued a release on Purley Magna on March 30th  1694 Sir Walter St John died 1n 1708 and was succeeded as Lord of the Manor of  Purley Magna by his only son Henry, who became the 4th Baronet.  Sir Henry St John, son of the Lord of Purley Magna had been appointed Secretary for War in 1703.  He had made himself conspicuous by his brilliant speeches in favour of the Occasional Conformities Bill.  This appointment brought him into close contact with the Duke of Marlborough who had high confidence in him at the time he was sailing for Holland to the campaign which lead to the Battle of Blenheim. Sir Henry St John resigned as Secretary for War  in 1707 along with the Secretary of State, Robert Harley.  The latter had been forced to resign by Marlborough who was grieved that Henry had to go as well, as he had treated him almost as an adopted son. Henry was created  First Viscount Bolingbroke in 1712.  His seat in the House of Commons for Berkshire was taken by Robert Packer who remained MP until he died in 1731.

  The Great Farm House was occupied in 1711 by a Mr Gower, a minister who had married the widow of Sir Walter St John who had died  in 1708.


The Manor of Purley Parva

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.

  At some time in this period the Parish of Whitchurch, across the river from Purley acquired rights to some of the land south of the river; but by letters patent granted on 8th Feb 1604, the whole of the Lordship of  the Manor of Whitchurch was granted to Sir George Howme. No land south of the river was included so it must have been after this date.

  In 1623 Lady Bridget, Countess Dowager of Berkshire, held a court Baron for Purley Parva on 1st October.

  By 1630 the manor had gone via Francis Norreys to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband, Edward Wray. Two years later on 2nd April1632 they gave 5s to a Mr Pecoke for copies of Fines and a Recovery suffered by the late Lord Norris.

  It is not clear how the estate came into the possession of the Lybbe family but one would assume that it had either been sequestrated or sold. However in 1653 it is referred to as having formed part of the estates of the late King and a receiver, Gabriel Taylor acting as receiver for the Trustees who were disposing of the late King's estates summoned the lord to attend the Bear Inn in Reading on 24th April to pay 40s for the two years ending Michaelmas 1650 as his dues for Castleguard rent at Windsor Castle. A similar summons was received by Anthony Lybbe in 1671 when he had to pay £6 for 6 years rent. This was acknowledged by William Taileir, possibly the son of Gabriel who had been Receiver for the Commonwealth in 1654

  When Richard Lybbe died in 1653 he was succeeded as Lord of the Manor, which at the time it was known as Westbury or Westbrooke, by his grandson Anthony, his son having been killed in 1614. Anthony dealt with the manor by Fine in 1659. It is believed that he in his turn was succeeded by his son Richard who was dealing with the manor by 1707.

Richard Lybbe was dealing with the Manor of Purley Parva in 1707. He was probably the grandson of Anthony Libbe mentioned in 1659.


The Manor of La Hyde

Some time around 1608 or 1609 a house called La Hyde was built by Francis Hyde. It was later named Hyde Hall and then Purley Hall

A deed re lands was made between Francis Hyde of Whitchurch, in the County of Berks and Edward Homes of Hyde Farm in 1619

  Charles I gave a lease of two thirds of the lands belonging to Francis Hyde to William Smith in 1627. The land had been seized by the Crown because Francis was a Roman Catholic and a Recusant, ie one who persistently refused to attend the services of the English Church. Francis Hyde died in 1688 and the remaining third of the Manor of Hyde passed to his son, also named Francis William Gostwicke replied to a circular from the Bishop in 1706 about papists with a description of Purley Hall.  Francis Hyde, a widower and avowed papist, was the owner but he lived in Burghfield.  The land was let to William Loader who lived in the farmhouse near the mansion.

Frances Anne Hawes was born at Purley Hall in 1713, the daughter of Thomas Hawes.  She later wrote 'Memoirs of a Lady of Quality' after she had become Viscountess Vane


King James and King  Charles 1602-1641

Following the visitation of Berkshire by Henry Chitting (Chester Herald) and John Philpott (Rouge Dragon) on behalf of the College of Heralds in 1623, James Winch of Purley promised that he would no longer take the title of squire or gentleman

  Purley Forge was built in 1641 at the corner of the Oxford Road and Long Lane.


Civil War 1642-1649

  The Civil war was looming in 1642. King Charles had sent his Queen to live in France and he began to assemble the army which Parliament would not finance. Charles I commandeered all tailors living within six miles of Reading to make clothes for his army but it is not known whether Purley had a tailor at the time, but there had been one in the village in 1578. 

  Prince Robert with many of his forces was camped at Pangbourne on 25th Feb. They were renowned for plundering the countryside of horses, sheep and any provisions they could lay their hands on and undoubtedly Purley suffered from their depradations. In March the road between Reading and Purley was severed by a large ditch. There was a drawbridge opened in the day time.  On June 2nd Prince Rupert marched to Pangbourne but returned to Abingdon the same day

  Meanwhile Parliament too had been asembling an army, in contravention of the Constitution which defined this as the King's prerogative. Parliament then claimed that it, rather than the king should control the army, a demand which Charles rejected. He raised his standard at Nottingham on August 22nd and the war began.  Some people took sides, but generally they were the middle and upper classes, however their estate workers and servants were often brought along as well. Across the river the Blounts of Mapledurham were for the king as were the St John's of Purley. Reading was garrisoned for Parliament by Henry Marten, one of the MPs for Berkshire. After the battle of Edgehill, the Royalists moved to set up their capital at Oxford and on November 1st sent a party of cavalry to Reading which was hastily abandoned by Marten. Thee days later the king himself put in an appearance at Reading, having probably passed through Purley on the way.

  Reading was to remain in Royalist hands for some time. On November 14th 1642 a warrant was issued to the High Constables for each Hundred (including Theale) to send all their carts and teams to Reading.  and special taxes were raised to pay for horsemeat to feed the army. However both sides generally simply took what supplies they needed.

  Parliamentary forces under the Earl of Essex attacked Reading from the Caversham and soon controlled most of the western approaches to the town. The Parliamentarians set up cannon in Purley to bombard Hardwick House across the river but by April 25th the Royalists in Reading had been defeated and the town and its approaches remained firmly under Parliamentarian control until the first Battle of Newbury in September, following which Essex withdrew his army to London. The Royalists reoccupied Reading and again the king came to visit in September 1644 but by May 1645 Parliament was once again in control, and realising that Reading controlled most of the barge traffic on the Thames, they made sure they were there to stay.

  In 1648 there was a terrible harvest in Berkshire with very many bad floods and near starvation in many villages. Purley must have suffered badly.


The Commonwealth 1649-1660

Apart from the change in rectorship in Purley, a few deaths and changes in ownership of the manors, very little is known about how things fared in Purley during the Commonwealth period. The parish records vanished in the confusion

  The estates of the late Sir Charles Blount of Mapledurham, which included lands on the Berkshire side of the river were sequestrated in 1651 for supposed recusancy. Two thirds of his woods were ordered felled and sold.  His mother Elizabeth Blount had been returned as a recusant in 1605 and he had paid heavy fines between 1623 and 1626.  He had died in 1644.


The Restoration 1660-1680

When King Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 Edward Hyde became his Chancellor. Edward had been with the king in France for much of his exile. In his return for the Hearth Tax dated 28th October 1663, the Parish Constable, George Draper, listed 20 householders of whom 8 were listed as 'poore', presumably because they had a house of lesser value than  20s per year and therefore nor liable to pay the tax of 2s per year 

  In 1676 a religious census of Britain was held. This was to determine how many people were either communicant Church of England, Roman Catholic or Non-conformist. The return for Purley indicated 60 adults living in the parish but it was not always clear whether the figures referred to men only, men and women or families, however the probability is for Purley it counted both men and women over the age of 16.


The Glorious Revolution 1680-1702

Pangbourne School was founded by the will of John Breedon in 1685. He gave a half acre and endowed it with £40 of which £25 was to pay a schoolmaster. It took boys aged 7 to 14 and several boys from Purley attended. The building now occupied by Percy Stones was built for the school

Henry, second Earl of Clarendon, replaced Tyrconnel as Chancellor of Ireland on 10th Jan 1687. Interestingly both had Purley connections. Henry was the son of Edward Hyde, first Earl whose first wife Ann was buried at Purley. Tyrconnel was consulted by the Rector of Purley, William Gostwyke in one of his disputes in 1711. 


Queen Anne 1702-1714

A collection of 'Trophy Money' raised 13/9 from 18 contributers in Purley, including the lords of all three manors

Henry St John became one of the two Knights of the Shire (MPs) for Berkshire in the Parliament called for on the 25th November 1710. 

A new highway was built between Reading and Oxford via Wallingford  in 1714



Ralph Wimbolt died in 1605. He had been the village blacksmith and had had a shop with an anvil according to his will. Ralph had been born in Brimpton about 1570. He married Maria Miles in Englefield in 1599. When his widow presented her accounts in the following year (1606) his debts were greater than the value of his estate 

During this period wills have survived from many people well below the status of gentry and some of the contents give some fascinating insights into family relationships and how houses were furnished and appointed. Here are a few of the names of persons whose wills have survived:-

  1604 John Justice
1608 Anthony Goodboye
1610 Thomas Eldridge
1616 Joan Goodboy (alias Holloway)
1617 Alice Bird
1621 William Green
1629 John Goodboye
1632 Barnaby Simons. He had been churchwarden from 1619-1621
1638 George Osmunde
1639 William Henwood. He had been churchwarden from 1634-36 1643 Thomas Simons
1647 Richard Child
1648 William Green
1661 Priscilla Flower, widow of Purley
1661 Jon Justice
1661 Magdalen Leach widow of Purley
1661 Francis Leach husbandman of Purley
1669 George Higgs
1669 Matthew Justice
1670 Oliver Jordan, Yeoman of Purley
1671 Thomas Blagrave Rector of Purley
1672 James Barefoot, Husbandman of Purley
1673 John Wilder
1675 Robert Hanscombe
1688 Richard Bagley, Husbandman
1690 Thomas Childs
1692 Joan Childs
1693 Joseph Child, Bachelor
1693 Thomas Child, Husbandman
1698 John Caustin. churchwarden and senior gardener, He was buried on 25th December.
1703 John Piper
1710 Joan Gutteridge

The Church

During this period there were huge changes for the church in Purley. In a report on the state of the church made to the Bishop of Lincoln in 1603, it was reported that Randall Wright held both the livings of Burnham (Bucks) and Purley.

The Civil War saw the loss of Purley's earliest registers but some extracts survived from copies made in the Bishop of Salisbury's register dating back to 1607 when there were four christenings, five weddings and three burials. James Clarke was the curate so presumably Randall Wright left most of the work to him. When Randall died in 1623 the living of Purley was described as being a rectory for the first time, when Richard Watts became Rector.

The earliest Glebe Terrier for the Rectory lands in Purley was drawn up in 1608. Long Lane was mentioned, the earliest reference to it. The present Oxford Road was known as 'The Highway' and as 'Reading Way'. The parsonage was described as having a dwelling and one barn

When John North, yeoman of Purley died in 1608 he left two shillings to the Parish Church and one cow for the poor of the Parish. When the cow died the Parish received £6 in compensation. This yielded six shillings per annum which was distributed to poor widows. This income was supposed to be in perpetuity but it had vanished before the end of the century.

The coat of arms on the church tower bears the date 1626 and the arms of Viscount Grandison who died in 1630. Grandison was the uncle of the Lord of The Manor of Purley Magna and it is highly likely that this was the date the church was rebuilt in the form it was to remain until 1870.

The fourth bell in the ring in the tower was cast by the brothers Ellis and Francis Knight of Reading in 1627 The third and tenor bells in the ring in the church tower are dated 1629. They are believed to have been gifts of the St Johns, who were Lords of the Manor at the time. The second bell, a maiden, in the ring in the church tower bears the date 1635. It is also  believed to be the gift of the St Johns.

The Glebe Terrier drawn up in 1634 gives interesting details of the ancient parsonage which sat in three acres of grounds. There was a main house of six bays and thirteen rooms, two barns and a newly built stable

  Richard Watts certified  in 1641 that (all the men of Purley have made protestation, promise and vow according to the form commanded, except for Edward Bagley, son of Edward Bagley who is scarce compos mentis.)

  William Noble, the son in law of the rector Richard Watts died in 1644 and was buried at Purley. A memorial plaque was erected to his memory in the church.

  Richard Watts died aged 78 in 1659. He had been an MA of Trinity College Cambridge and had been rector of Purley since 1623.  His successor was Daniel Reynor who was instituted as Rector of Purley by the crown, although he had been appointed in 1659 before the end of the Commonwealth   The Cavalier Parliament passed the 'Act of Uniformity of Public Prayers etc' on July 29th 1662. All clergy who had not been episcopally ordained or who did not assent to a public declaration of 'their unfeigned assent and consent to the Prayer Book of 1662' were deprived. They had until 24th August to conform and if they preached thereafter they were subject to three months imprisonment. Daniel Reynor who had been rector of Purley since 1659 was one of those ejected. He had first been appointed to a parish in 1656 at Buttermere and appears to have been a Congregationalist and so presumably not episcopally ordained  He moved to Egham and on the 25th July 1663 he was licenced as a Congregational Preacher and Teacher at his home. In 1675 when he died, Robert Hanscombe left Daniel a small gratuity of 20s in his will. Daniel died in 1685 Daniel Reynor died. He had become Rector of Purley in 1659 although not instituted until 1661. He was ejected in 1662 and since then had lived in his family home at Egham, Surrey 'wholly on the charity of his friends' He was the son of William Reynor who had also been ejected in 1662. He had registered as a Congregationalist in 1672 under the Toleration Act. He studied at Queen's College Cambridge from 1647, became a scholar at New College Oxford in 1649, taking his MA in 1650, when he became a Fellow of New College. He was rector of Buttermere 1656-57, Vicar of Clyffe Pypard, Wilts 1657-58. He left two sons, William and John and two daughters Ann and Sarah

  Thomas Blagrave was inducted as Rector of Purley on 16th December 1661 and restarted entries in the Parish Register.

  Elias Ashmole visited Purley on 13th March 1664 and recorded the epitaphs and inscriptions in the church which he published in 1666  He described the east window as containing some well executed stained glass depicting St John the Evangelist and St John the Baptist. It was originally given by Lord Grandison. It had lost both its heads by the mid 18th century and had been completely replaced by the early 19th century

Thomas Blagrave Sr died and was buried on 14th September 1670. He was succeeded as Rector by his son also Thomas. His will proven in 1671 is preserved. On November 18th 1670 there was a collection for the liberation of slaves in Turkey. £1-3-0 was raised in Purley

Thomas Bushnell, the churchwarden reported in 1670 when he made his return to the Archdeacon that there were no Meetings in the Parish (ie Dissenters) and factious people. In 1677 John Gutteridge and Thomas Bushnell, the churchwardens, made a comprehensive report on the property of the church and reported that all was well  to the best of their knowledge.

Thomas, son of Thomas Blagrave, rector of Purley, and his wife Elizabeth was born on April 15th between midnight and one am. He was baptised on 25th April 1681. His father Thomas Blagrave Jr died and was buried at Purley on 20th November 1674. Elizabeth Blagrave, widow of Thomas Blagrave Jr, died and was buried at Purley on April 10th 1689

  He was succeeded by William Gostwyke MA, Master of Reading School, who was inducted on 27th November. This must have been one of the shortest inter-regnums on record. William Gostwicke had been elected Master of Reading School on 13th Jan 1673 on the recommendation of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. William Gostwyck, rector of Purley, resigned the Mastership of Reading School in 1687 William Gostwick made a Glebe Terrier of the lands belonging to the church  in 1704 Jane, the daughter of William Gostwick, was married to John Stevens of  Oxford on 31st August. 1704

  Jane, the wife of William Gostwick, died in December 1704 and was buried in the chancel.

A case was brought against the rector, William Gostwick by George Blagrave for failing to keep a bull for the use of the parish in 1707.  William asked the advice of the Lord Chancellor  of Ireland who was one of his former pupils at Reading School and won his case.

  As a result of an Act for the Discharging of Small Livings (from first fruits and tithes), all livings in the Sarum Diocese were valued in 1707.  Although Purley was not affected by the Act it was assessed as worth £100, tax value £12/17/3 ½   , paying a pension of 3/2 ½ d   and with the tenth assessed at £1/5/8 ¾ d

The Bishop of Salisbury made his triennial visitation to Reading on May 16th 1711 at which the report from Purley was presented.

The church register gives an account of the walls and rails around the churchyard with details as to who was  responsible for the maintenance of each section. 

In September 1711 Mrs Blagrave took a second cut of clover from her meadow and refused to pay the rector his tithe on the crop.  After a protracted negotiation she finally paid up

Gilbert, Bishop of Salisbury made his triennial visit to Reading on 1st June 1714 at which the report from Purley was presented.

William Humphrey of Basildon made a survey of church lands which was copied into the parish register


The River

John Taylor noted in 1632 that there were 'three faulty and untowards weirs' at Mapledurham

Henry Iremonger was drowned in the Thames at Purley on May 8th 1635. His father Henry complained that he had been bound apprentice to George Marten, a clothworker of Reading, and had run away from his master.

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