The Hungerford family, which acquired their name from the town of Hungerford, lived in Berkshire, Wiltshire and Someret for some four centuries. After distinguished beginnings, the family was plagued by misfortunes and scandals during the late medieval and Tudor peiods. Divided during the Civil War, the Hungerfords were finally ruined by extravagance in the late 17th century. Their main country seat, Farleigh Hungerford Castle on the Wiltshire/ Somerset border near Trowbridge, was sold in the 17th century and fell into ruin.
Sir Robert Hungerford (born c1285) lived at Hungerford, but he died childless in 1352. He had founded the Chantry of Holy Trinity in St Lawrence's Church, and his Effigy can still be seen in St Lawrence's Church today.
On his death, his great fortune, much of it held in extensive land ownership, passed to his younger brother Sir Walter Hungerford (born 1286).
Sir Walter, who was already wealthy owning extensive lands, bought land and a manor house at Farleigh Montfort (it was originally in the de Montfort family ownership) for £733 6s 8d, and he built the castle we now know as Farleigh Hungerford Castle. His family were to be there for 300 years.
The early Hungerfords:
The earliest record of a Hungerford by name occurs in a Pipe Roll of 1165, when Everard de Hungerford is listed as holding lands in Wiltshire.
Other early Hungerfords include William de Hungerford, Abbot of Cerne, who died in 1232; William de Hungerford, Abbott of Waverley, who died in 1276, Adam Hungerford, juror at Hungerford in May 1327; and Sir Giles de Hungerford, who fought at the Battle of Crecy in 1346.
A Walter de Hungerford (the first of many with this name!), whose date of birth is not known, married Maud de Heytesbury, and they settled in the village of Heytesbury in Wiltshire. Walter and Maud had two sons, Robert (born c1285) and Walter (born 1286).
Walter and Maud's elder son Robert (c1285-1352) was later knighted - Sir Robert de Hungerford. He was closely associated with Hungerford, and lived at Standen, Hopgrass and/or Stokke Manor on the outskirts of Great Bedwyn.
Robert's first wife was Joan, but after her death he married Geva, widow of Adam de Stokke. No doubt he acquired that manor by this marriage.
He was an important man. In 1313 he was appointed Bailiff for the Duchy of Lancaster in Berkshire and Wiltshire.
In 1322 Edward II made him "Keeper of the Southern Lands" (mostly in Wiltshire) belonging to Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who, along with Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, were beheaded by Edward II without trial in revenge for arranging the murder of the King's favourite Piers Gaveston ten years earlier.
Sir Robert was later made a Commissioner to enquire into the possessions of the Despensers after their attainder in 1326.
Sir Robert sat in Parliament as MP for Wiltshire nine times between 1324 and 1339.
In 1327 Sir Robert was appointed commissioner to certify the possession of the Earl of Winchester and his son Hugh to the Exchequer. He was also employed to survey the dilapidation of the old castle at Sarum. In 1332 he became the steward of the Bishopric of Bath and Wells.
Sir Robert gave much land to the hospital at Calne and also gave money to other religious foundations, including the Hungerford Chantry Chapel in Salisbury Cathedral.
In 1325 he founded the Chantry of Holy Trinity, in the south aisle of the old church. He was granted a licence to give profits from certain lands for the support of a Chaplain to pray for the souls of himself, his new wife Geva, and his friends. The original indulgence tablet from the Chantry of Holy Trinity, which promised, on the word of fourteen bishops, that 'who so ever should pray for their souls should have whilst he lived and for his soul after death 550 days of pardon'. is still displayed in St Lawrence Church. In 1331 and 1336, Robert augmented the endowment by a messuage, a mill, and land in Hungerford. At the Dissolution, the value of the endowment is given as £10.3s, £12.17s, and £8 in different surveys.
Sir Robert Hungerford died on 30 June 1352 in Hungerford, and he was buried in his Chantry in the south aisle of Hungerford Parish Church. Although married twice, he left no issue; his lands were left to his younger brother Walter. His much-mutilated effigy - the Hungerford effigy dating from 1352 - still resides in St Lawrence's Church today.
- Stone effigy traditionally ascribed to Sir Robert de Hungerford, died 1352.
- The Indulgence Tablet from the Chantry Chapel of the Holy Trinity.
- "Farley Hungerford Castle" (Farleigh Hungerford), c1905.
Sir Walter Hungerford (1286-1355):
Walter Hungerford, born 1286, was the younger brother of Sir Robert Hungerford, who lived at Hungerford, and who founded the Chantry of Holy Trinity. Robert had no children, and when he died in 1352 all his estate passed to Walter.
Walter had married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Adam Fitz-john, of Cherhill, Wiltshire.
Sir Walter, like his elder brother, represented Wiltshire in Parliament, and was also Coroner for the county.
He died in 1355 and was succeeded by their son Thomas who was to achieve fame and fortune and bring the name of Hungerford to national prominence.
Sir Thomas Hungerford (c1328-1397):
Thomas Hungerford was born c1328. Until this time, the Hungerfords had not gained a great deal by their marriages; they were mostly described as "farmers and renters", but Thomas went on to hold many important regional and national posts.
In his early days he was Registrar to Wyvil Bishop of Salisbury, and in 1360 was made Mayor of Salisbury.
In 1355 he was made Sheriff and Escheator of Wiltshire
In 1369 Thomas Hungerford bought the manor house of Farleigh Montfort (near Trowbridge, Wiltshire) for £733 6s 8d. It had previously been in the hands of the de Montfort family. In 1372 he obtained permission to crenellate the Manor House, turning it into a small castle. However, when he built additional fortifications over the following years he was fined for not obtaining permission.
Thomas Hungerford was knighted in 1375, and in 1377 (in the last Parliament of Edward III) he was elected Speaker of the Commons - the first person to be definitely nominated to this office.
He was a strong supporter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and in 1383 he had become Chief Steward of all the Duchy of Lancaster's vast southern English (south of the Trent) and Welsh estates.
By 1385 the "Farleigh Montfort" estate had become known as "Farleigh Hungerford", the name it has borne ever since. It was to be the home of the Hungerford family for 300 years. Essentially a symbol of his rising status, Sir Thomas’s building (which later became the inner court of the extended castle) was a fortified mansion ranged around a rectangular central courtyard, with a tall tower at each corner, in the ‘quadrangular’ style fashionable during the 1370s and 1380s. The castle was built on the site of an earlier, possibly 13th-century manor house, which Sir Thomas had bought in 1369. Although the location lacked strategic importance or strong natural defences, it was remote from the influence of rival landowners, making it suitable for the seat of a potential Hungerford dynasty.
Thomas Hungerford became Sheriff of Wiltshire five times, and Member of Parliament for Wiltshire or Somerset 16 times. He became a wealthy landowner of estates in Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Sir Thomas married twice. His first wife was Eleanor, daughter of Sir John Strug of Heytesbury.
His second wife was Joan Hussey, daughter of Sir Edmund Hussey of Holbrook. With this marriage Thomas acquired extensive lands around Hungerford, namely Hopgrass and Standen - the manor formerly known as Standen Hussey - as well as the manors of Teffon Evias and Hussey Deverill.
He was also named as an executor of John of Gaunt's will, but pre-deceased him by two years, Thomas dying in 1397. He chose to be buried in Farleigh Hungerford Castle rather than at his larger property in Heytesbury, Wiltshire. His fine monument survives in the castle chapel, which he built to serve as the parish church.
He had five sons: Thomas (who died before his father); Peter (who also died before his father); Walter (b. 22 Jun 1378); John (who died before his father) and Robert (or Rodolph, about whom little is known).
Sir Thomas Hungerford's third son Walter Hungerford was to become a great figure in English history. Much the most distinguished member of the family, Walter raised the Hungerfords to national importance.
He was an accomplished soldier, courtier, statesman and diplomat. He was appointed 1st Lord Hungerford, starting a line lasting 300 years until it ended with the sale of Farleigh Hungerford castle in 1686.
He served three Lancastrian kings (Henry IV, V and VI), he was knighted upon the accession of Henry IV, and he fought with Henry V at Agincourt (25 Oct 1415), and throughout the king’s subsequent triumphs in France.
Created a Knight of the Garter, Walter was appointed a guardian of the baby Henry VI on Henry V’s death, and served as Treasurer of England (1426–32).
By 1428 the VCH says that the manor of Charlton (Charnham Street and Hopgrass at Hungerford) was held by Walter Lord Hungerford. Charlton then descended with Hungerford Engleford to Margaret, widow of Robert Lord Hungerford. The VCH also states that in 1465 his widow Margaret with consent of Sir Thomas her grandson & Anne his wife, granted the manor of Charlton (including Hopgrass) to John Tughill or Tukill, weaver, the first Constable of Hungerford
Sir Walter was at the Siege of Rouen with Henry VI, after which he was made a Knight of the Garter. On his return to Hungerford in 1446 Henry VI granted him "Lordship of the Manor of Hungerford, the Town and Borough and our Park at Hungerford, the Fee of Sanden for Realty and twentry marks years at the Feasts of St Michael the Archangel and the Anunciation of the Blessed Mary in equal propertions".
He married twice, firstly to Catherine Peverell, daughter and co-heir to Thomas Peverell, and secondly to Eleanor, Countess of Arundel, daughter and heir of Sir John Berkeley. Both his marriages brought lands: estates in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire from the Peverells, and in 1422 he inherited from Catherine's mother, the London property that later became Hungerford Market, much later demolished to make Charing Cross station.
Lord Walter Hungerford died in 1449, a very rich man, owning more than 100 manors and other estates, mainly in the west of England. In his will he styled himself "Lord of Hungerford, Heytesbury and Homet", and directed that his body should be buried at Salisbury. His memorial is in Salisbury Cathedral.
Robert Hungerford, 2nd Lord Hungerford (1400-1459) was the second son of Walter, 1st Lord Hungerford (the first son, Walter had died with no issue). He was in comparison an undistinguished character. His short tenure at Farleigh Hungerford was overshadowed by the need to raise another huge ransom for his own son, also named Robert, who was captured by the French at the disastrous defeat at Castillon in 1453. This ransom eventually amounted to nearly £10,000 - a huge sum.
Robert Hungerford, 3rd Lord Hungerford (c1423-1464), often known by his mother's family title as Lord Moleyns, had been held captive in France for six years. On returning home, he was just in time, as a Lancastrian, to be on the losing side. Eventually,he was taken prisoner at Hexham, and beheaded in 1464. Farleigh Castle reverted to the Crown, and in 1462 Edward IV granted it to his 16-year-old brotherm Richard duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.
Sir Thomas Hungerford: son of Robert, although changing sides, was no luckier, because when he reverted to Henry VI's cause and supporter Warwick's attempts to restore him, he was caught and was hanged, drawn and quartered at Salisbury in 1469.
Walter Hungerford – his early life:
Five generations after Walter, 1st Baron Hungerford, (1378-1449), a descendent was another Walter, born in 1503 at Heytesbury, Wiltshire, the only child of Sir Edward Hungerford of Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset, and his first wife, Jane Zouche.
Walter was nineteen years old at his father's death in 1522, and soon afterwards appears as squire of the body to Henry VIII.
His three marriages:
Walter was to marry three times. His first marriage was to Susan Danvers, daughter of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey, Wiltshire, and Anne Stradling. Their son (and his heir) was to become Sir Walter Hungerford.
His second marriage was in 1527, when he married Alice Sandys, daughter of William Sandys, 1st Baron Sandys. They had a son and two daughters – Edward, Eleanor and Mary.
His third marriage was in October 1532, when he married Elizabeth Hussey (d. 23 January 1554), daughter of John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford, and his second wife, Anne Grey (d.1546).
Links with Sir Thomas Cromwell:
Shortly before the wedding, on 20 August 1532, John Hussey had written to Sir Thomas Cromwell stating that Walter Hungerford wished to be introduced to him. A little later Hussey informed Cromwell that Hungerford desired to be sheriff of Wiltshire, a desire which was gratified in 1533. Walter Hungerford proved useful to Cromwell in Wiltshire, and in June 1535 Cromwell made a memorandum that Hungerford ought to be rewarded for his well-doing.
On 8 June 1536 he was summoned to parliament as Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury. He was aged 33.
His ill-treatment of his third wife:
However, Walter Hungerford's treatment of his third wife Elizabeth was remarkable for its brutality. In an appeal for protection which she addressed to Thomas Cromwell in about 1536, she asserted that he kept her incarcerated at Farleigh for three or four years, made some fruitless attempts to divorce her, and endeavoured on several occasions to poison her. There were no children from the marriage.
His past catches up with him:
At the same time that Sir Thomas Cromwell fell from favour, so did Walter Hungerford.
In 1540 he, together with his chaplain, a Wiltshire clergyman named William Bird, Rector of Fittleton and Vicar of Bradford, who was suspected of sympathising with the pilgrims of grace of the north of England three years earlier, was attainted by act of parliament.
Hungerford was charged with employing Bird in his house as chaplain, knowing him to be a traitor; with ordering another chaplain, Hugh Wood, and one Dr. Maudlin to practise conjuring (magic) and the witch ‘Mother Roache’ to predict the king’s length of life, and his chances of victory over the northern rebels.
As if this was not enough, Walter Hungerford was also found guilty of sodomy and raping his daughter Eleanor (or, even more appallingly, possibly her eleven-year-old sister Mary).
This was a terrible litany of ignominy and shame, but you can only execute a miscreant once. Although the main charge against him was high treason, Walter Hungerford would also become the first to die under legislation drawn up seven years before by Cromwell (The Buggery Act 1533) that outlawed ‘the detestable and abominable vice of buggery, committed with mankind or beast’.
In view of the past patronage of Walter by Sir Thomas Cromwell, it was particularly fitting that they both would sample the sharp taste of Henry’s justice on the same day.
On a bright summer day, Wednesday 28 July 1540, Thomas Cromwell, until recently Henry VIII’s chief minister, ate a frugal last breakfast in the Tower of London, before the arrival of Sir William Laxton and Martin Bowes, two Sheriffs of the City of London, who had come to escort him to his execution on Tower Hill. By the king’s special grace, Sir Thomas would be beheaded rather than hanged, drawn and quartered – the barbarous penalty for traitors that turned the scaffold into a bloody abattoir. Cromwell, the former Lord Privy Seal was doubtless grateful for this minor act of royal clemency.
Along with Cromwell, Walter Hungerford was beheaded at Tower Hill on 28 July 1540.
Sir Edward Hungerford IV (1632-1711) - "The Spendthrift":
After several later generations of the Hungerford family, the castle and estate passed into the hands of Sir Edward Hungerford IV (1632-1711), known as "Sir Edward the Spendthrift". He made a lavish gift to Charles II just before the restoration of 1660; he was knighted by the king at his Coronation in 1669, he entertained king Charles at Farleigh Hungerford, and his extravagances built up huge debts. He is said to have spent 500 guineas on a periwig, and to have gambled away a manor on a single throw at a bowling match.
In 1669 his London home, Hungerford House, was burned down, whereupon he established a weekly market on the site (built by Christopher Wren). The market house was removed in 1860 when Charing Cross Railway Station was built. The bridge which carries the trains to the South Bank of the Thames is still called Hungerford Bridge.
Yet in 1686 he had to sell nearly all his West Country estates, including Farleigh Hungerford Castle, to pay off some of his debts. He died a poor pensioner in 1711. The sale ended the Hungeford family's connection with Farleigh Hungerford.
The Hungerford family connections today:
The family history has been studied extensively, and several volumes on the family history have been published. There are relatively few Hungerfords in the UK, rather more can be found in Sidney Australia - and huge numbers in The United States and Canada. Large volumes about the extended Hungerford Family in the USA have been published.
- "Is your name Hungerford?", by E.L. (Jim) Davis, 1984