Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1883.
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Ordericus Vitalis informs us that Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, gave the manors of Othna and Mereston in Staffordshire to the Abbey of St. Ebrulf at Utica in Normandy. (fn. 1) This, Mereston was Marston, near Stafford, in the Hundred of Pirehill, and must not be confounded with the hamlet of that name in the parish of Church Eaton, which was held by the Abbey of St. Remigius at Rheims; but Othna I take to be identical with High Onn, in the parish of Church Eaton.
At the Domesday survey in 1086, it is stated that "the Church of St. Ebrulf holds Otne of the Earl [Roger]. Here are two hides. The (arable) land is 5 carucates. There is one acre of meadow; wood one league in length and half (a league) in breadth. Suain, who was a free man, held this land in the time of King Edward. The value is £4."
In 17 Henry II. (1170–1) the monks of St. Ebrulf were excused by the King's brief from paying their quota of amerciament which had been set upon the county of Stafford by Alan de Nevill in the previous year. (fn. 2) After this time the foreign abbey appears to have been represented by its English daughter-house at Ware.
In 15 Hen. III. (1230–1) the Prior of Ware attorns Richard de Onne against Hugh de Bifeld concerning the manor of Onne with its appurtenances. (fn. 3)
In 1255 the Prior of Ware is returned as Lord of Magna Onne, where he holds of the Barony of Boleme (de Belesme) two hides geldable, and renders for sheriff's aid 2s., for frankpledge 2s., and for the hundred 8d. The jurors are ignorant by what service the Prior holds, unless by perpetual alms. (fn. 4)
In 1271–2 the vills of Eyton and Great Onn were amerced, with Morton, for not coming to an inquest upon the body of William Peche of Morton, who died in consequence of having been stabbed in the stomach by William le Ruter of Orselowe. For a similar default as to an inquest on the body of Simon Parvus of Abbeton, slain by John Leger, Great Onn and Eyton were amerced with Halenton (Haughton). (fn. 5)
In 1291 the Prior of Ware, as representative of St. Ebrulf, has two carucates of land at Merston, in the Deanery of Stafford, of which each carucate is valued at 30s. yearly, assized rents 14s. 6d., a meadow worth 20s., two mills worth half a mark, and for pleas and perquisites half a mark. He has also at Onne in the same Deanery one carucate of land, which is valued at 20s., assized rents 9s. 6d., a mill worth 4s., and de "Staur" (of stores ?) 20s., total annual value £8 4s. 2d. (fn. 6) In the survey of 9 Edward II. (1315–6) the Prior of Ware is returned as Lord of Onne. (fn. 7) The Benedictine Priory of Ware, in Hertfordshire, was a cell to the Norman Abbey of St. Ebrulf, and it was so well endowed in the time of Edward III., that upon the seizure of the foreign houses by that King during the wars with France, it was farmed at 20s. per annum. After the final suppression of the alien monasteries its possessions were given by King Henry V., in the third year of his reign, to the new Priory of Shene, in Surrey, which he had recently founded for the maintenance of 40 monks of the Carthusian order, whom he incorporated by the name of the House of Jesus of Bethlehem. (fn. 8) The Staffordshire manors of Magna Onne, and Marston near Stafford, were among the possessions of the Priory of Shene at the time of the dissolution in the reign of King Henry VIII.; the manor of High Onne being at that time farmed at a rent of £6 10s. per annum. (fn. 9)
On 1st May, 1540, the manors of Marston and Onne, late belonging to the Priory of Shene, and certain messuages, lands, and tenements in Plardwycke and Westwood, which were apparently parcel of the manor of Onne, were granted to Sir John Giffard, of Chillington, Knight, together with two messuages, one and a-half virgates of land in Bircheford, with the tithes of hay there, one croft, and one parcel of land and meadow with the appurtenances in Orslowe, late belonging to the Priory of Ronton, and divers other lands in the county of Stafford, late belonging to the monasteries of Tutbury, Hulton, and Stone. (fn. 10) The said Sir John was Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1, 9, 13, and 17 Henry VIII. He died 13th November, 1556, and was buried at Brewood, where there is a monument to his memory with figures of himself and his two wives. By his first wife Jane, daughter of Thomas Hoord, of Bridgenorth, co. Salop, he had two daughters, Dorothy, married first to John Congreve, of Congreve, Esq., and secondly, to Francis Earl Ferrers, and Cassandra, who was married to Humphrey Swynnerton, Esq., of Swynnerton. By his second wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Greisley, of Drakelow and Colton, he is said to have had, with a daughter Frances, married to Sir John Talbot, of Grafton, Knight, a son, Thomas, who succeeded him, but it is not very clear whether the son, Thomas Giffard, was by the first or the second wife.
Sir Thomas Giffard, of Chillington, Knight, son and heir of Sir John, was Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1530 and 1533. By his first wife Dorothy, daughter and coheir of Sir John Montgomery, Knight, he had a daughter Elizabeth, who was married to Sir John Port, of Etwall, co. Derby, Knight. By his second wife Ursula, daughter of Sir Robert Throgmorton, of Coughton, Knight, he had with other issue an elder son John. Sir Thomas died on 27th May, 1560, seised (inter alia) of the manor of Onne and lands and tenements in Onne, Normicott, Plardwick, Westwood, and Gnowsall, with the appurtenances, which were held of the Queen in capite by the service of a fifteenth part of a knight's fee. The estates at Onne, Plardwick, and Westwood were then valued at £6 7s. 6d., and those at Normicott and Gnowsall at 36s. His estate at Orslowe, consisting of messuages or tenements, &c., with the appurtenances, then in the tenure of Thomas Jobber and Mary Astley, widow, were held of the Barony of Stafford, and valued at 56s. John Giffard, his son and heir, was 26 years of age at the date of the inquest. (fn. 11)
The said John Giffard, Esq., had the honour of entertaining Queen Elizabeth at his house at Chillington in 1575. But ten years later we find him imprisoned in London as a recusant. Mr. Giffard, who died in 1612, had a large family by his wife Joyce, daughter of James Levison, of Lilleshall and Trentham, Esq., of whom Gilbert, a younger son, played an important part in the history of his time, being the means of discovering the Babington conspiracy, in 1586, which had for its primary object the murder of Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 12) Mr. Giffard was succeeded at Chillington by his eldest son son Walter Giffard, Esq., (fn. 13) who married Philippa, eldest daughter and coheir of Henry White, Esq., of South Warnborough, in Hampshire. The said Walter Giffard made High Onn his residence, and purchased sundry estates in that neighbourhood during his father's lifetime. At his death in 1632 he was succeeded at Chillington and elsewhere by his eldest son Peter Giffard, Esq., who died in 1663, leaving by his wife Frances, daughter of Thomas Fowler, of St. Thomas', near Stafford, Esq., a numerous family, of whom Walter, the eldest son, succeeded him in the family estates, and John was settled at the Black Ladies. The said John Giffard, the youngest son, who died in 1709, married Catherine, daughter of John Taylor, Esq., of Fockbury, co. Worcester, and had by her a son Peter, who eventually succeeded to the family estates, on failure of the male issue of his uncle Walter. The last mentioned Peter Giffard, who thus became of Chillington, Esq., was great grandfather of Thomas William Giffard, of Chillington, Esq., who died in 1861, leaving no male issue, and of Walter Peter Giffard, late of Chillington, Esq., who died in 1877, leaving, with two daughters, an only son Walter Thomas Courtenay Giffard, the present Squire of Chillington. But the High Onn estate was sold in 1863 by the late Walter P. Giffard, his father, when the greater portion of it, containing about 460 acres, was purchased by Charles John Morris, Esq., of Wood Eaton, but High Onn House with about 258 acres of land came into the possession of the late Mr. James Wyley, who died 4th March, 1880. No mention was made at the sale of any manorial rights.
There was another small freehold estate in High Onn which belonged to the family of Parkes. This was sold in or about the year 1879, by Miss Mary Elizabeth Parkes, daughter and eventual heiress of the late Matthew Parkes, of High Onn, Gent., when about 20 acres were purchased by Mr. James Wyley, and the remainder, consisting of about 40 acres of land, bought by Mr. Morris, so that the whole township is now in the possession of Mr. Morris and the representatives of Mr. Wyley.