Survey of London Monograph 11, Eastbury Manor House, Barking. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1917.
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SOME HISTORICAL NOTES.
Eastbury House is in the parish of Barking and hundred of Becontree, (fn. 1) Essex. It is on the road to Dagenham through Rippleside, and the ground between it and the town of Barking has been much built over in recent years.
Before the Dissolution a considerable part of Becontree hundred belonged to the famous Benedictine Convent of Barking, which appears to have been founded before the year 675, and of which the ground plan has lately been recovered by Mr. A. W. Clapham. We are not quite sure if, after the establishment of the feudal system, there was a Manor of Eastbury or not, but as there was a Manor of Westbury about a mile off, close to the town of Barking, it is most probable that the popular name for the house has some foundation in fact. Moreover, according to W. H. Black, (fn. 2) in an old survey of Essex, temp. James I., it is called the Manor of Eastbury Hall. Both Eastbury and Westbury would thus have been subsidiary manors, subject to the lordship of Barking. According to Black : "The Abbey was dissolved and its possessions surrendered to the King 14 November, 1539, after which £21 13s. 4d. was paid as a yearly rent to the Crown for six years, and the following entry thereof is contained in an account of one of the receivers of the Court of Augmentations :— 'Estburie Firma Mesuagii, etc., £21 13s. 4d.' " This, he thinks, was the old rent paid to the Abbey under a lease that continued until the Crown sold off the estate, and the entry confirms the belief that a house existed on or near the site of the present one before the Dissolution. At Michaelmas, 1545, the Eastbury estate, together with the Manor of Westbury, was bought by Sir William Denham, who in the previous year had obtained a grant of thirteen houses in the parishes of St. Olave Jewry and St. Mary Staining, London, which had also been part of the Abbey's possessions. Sir William, son of Nicholas and Elizabeth Denham, of good family, (fn. 3) was born at Lyston, Devonshire, and going to London to make his way in commerce became a prominent citizen. He was sheriff in 1534–35, and was knighted 2nd February, 1542, being one of the very few aldermen in the sixteenth century who was thus honoured without passing the chair. (fn. 4) That autumn, after being for eleven years alderman of Coleman Street Ward, he obtained his discharge at the King's request, but had to pay a fine. He was a great benefactor of the Ironmongers' Company, being master no less than seven times, and also made a bequest to the Grocers.' He was evidently connected with the parish of All Hallows, Barking, and there still remains on a plain stone, without arms or effigy, in the north aisle of that church, the following inscription (fn. 5) in Gothic lettering, to his wife and himself:—
"In this vawte here under lithe Elizabeth, late wife unto William Denham, Aldreman of London, and Marchaunt of the Staple of Caleys, who departed unto God on Wednesday at 5 of ye clok at afternoun Ester Weke ye last day of Marche Ao Di 1540.
Morant (fn. 6) says that Denham held Eastbury at the time of his decease "with the appurtenances, viz., 200 acres of arable, 300 acres of pasture, 50 of meadow, 60 of wood, 200 of furze and heath." (fn. 7)
In his "History of the Ironmongers' Company," (fn. 10) Mr. John Nicholl, F.S.A., gives some useful information about Sir William Denham, including brief epitomes of his two wills. Of the first, dated 12th September, 1544 (36 Henry VIII.), but for some unexplained reason not proved until 11th June, 1557, there is also an abstract in Dr. Reginald Sharpe's "Calendar of Wills," proved in the Court of Husting, from which we will now quote. As he explains in a note, it appears to have been intended to take effect immediately after its execution and not from the time of Sir William's death. He leaves his London messuages in the parishes of St. Olave Jewry and St. Mary Staining to the Ironmongers' Company, charged with an annual payment to him or his assigns of £20 during his lifetime, and after his decease, with the observance of his obit within the chapel or within the parish church of "Our Ladie Barkinge" in Tower Ward, for the good of his soul, the souls of Nicholas and Elizabeth, his father and mother, and others, as in manner directed. Also they are to pay yearly the sum of fortyone shillings to the parson and church wardens of Lyston, co. Devon, where he was born, for pious uses, ten shillings to the "Wardens and Commonaltie of Grocerie" to the intent that their clerk or beadle attend his mass. In default made in carrying out the terms of his mass, the whole of the above property to go to the "Wardens and Commonaltie of Grocerie" aforesaid for similar uses, and in case of further default to his right heirs. Attention should be drawn to the fact already mentioned that the Barking property was not purchased until the following year.
On the 3rd of August, 1548, a day only before his death, Sir William Denham, having perhaps joined the reformed faith, made another will (deposited in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury) wherein he requests to be buried in the church of Barking (fn. 11) and appoints as executors his son-in-law William Abbott and his daughter Margery, wife of the said William, and devises to him and her and her heirs all the lands and houses which he minded that the Ironmongers should have, and all other lands and tenements whatsoever. He bequeaths legacies to the family of Breame and commits Grace his natural daughter to the safe keeping of William and Margery Abbott. In consequence of his second will the Ironmongers were obliged to purchase the London property before devised to them, as appears by a deed dated 27th May, 1567, the then owner being Arthur Breame, described as cousin of Sir William Denham.
According to W. H. Black, (fn. 12) Sir William Denham's daughter, Margery Abbott, died within eight months of his decease. Her husband, William Abbott, (fn. 13) appears to have sold Eastbury to John Keele in 1557, and on the 7th May (fn. 14) of the same year John Keele had leave to alienate the messuage, tenement or farm called Esbury in Barking to Clement Sisley, whose arms, granted 31st December, 1560, were Azure, on a cheveron between three goats passant Argent, armed Or, as many fleurs-de-lys of the field. He is described in the patent as "Clement Sysley of Barrowhall in Essex, gentleman, son of Francis, son of Charles Sysley of Founteynes in Yorkshire, gentleman, who was the son of Christopher, son of Francis Sysley of Founteynes, gentleman." Sisley must have made the place his home, for in his will (fn. 15) he bequeathed "the gownes, pykes, crossbows and other weapons to Thos. Sysley to go with the house, and to remain as standards for ever in Eastbury Hall." According to Lysons (fn. 16) Thomas Sisley sold the house before 1608 to Augustine Steward, and he gives the following sequence of owners:—In 1628 Martin Steward sold it to Jacob Price; in 1646 it passed from George Price to William Knightley, whose widow in 1650 conveyed it to the well-known Sir Thomas Vyner, Lord Mayor of London in 1653–4, who perhaps made it his country residence before purchasing the old mansion near the church at Hackney. In 1714 his representatives sold it to William Browne, from whose nephew, William Sedgewick, it came into the hands of John Weldale in 1740. According to Morant, writing in 1768, it then belonged "to two or three sisters of the name of Weldon (sic), and they also have some portion of the tithes here." They were presumably daughters of John Weldale, and in 1773 Ann Weldale, the last survivor, left it to Mary, wife of the Rev. Wasey Sterry, with remainder to her issue. When Lysons wrote in 1796 it was the joint property of her sons Wasey Sterry of Rumford and his brothers Thomas and Henry Sterry. We are told in a footnote that "the whole descent of this manor" was "taken from title deeds obligly communicated" by the first named, who according to Black (fn. 17) was in his time "yet the proprietor of Eastbury and of the rectorial tithes of 1,200 acres in its neighbourhood." He adds the following statement: "For almost a hundred years it hath been occupied by lessees and thereby degraded into a farmhouse." Three Thomas Newmans, grandfather, father and son, "successively occupied it until 1792, when the third of that name left it, and dying was buried at Barking. The next occupiers were Mr. Brushfield, mentioned by Lysons in 1796, and Mr. Scott, (fn. 18) farmers, in whose time the house was neglected so much that ever since its ruin has been hastening."
The evil days on which the house had fallen may be further illustrated by quotations from W. H. Black's account in 1834 of the building. "At the time of the riots in 1780," he says, "the figures that stood in the garden wall (fn. 19) were taken down by Mrs. Scott's order and thrown in the pond." Of the building itself he tells us that "four of the chimney-pieces were lately bought by the Rev. Thomas Fanshawe, who preserves them in the vicarage house at Parsloes in Dagenham parish. Moreover, the fine oak floors have been taken up to repair the barns, timbers have been torn away for like purposes, and even one of the towers have been pulled down for its materials. Besides the kitchen, two rooms only are occupied by as many workmen and their wives, one of which has but lately been fitted up for that purpose; they are employed by the present farmers Thomas and Edward George Pollet, who live at Dagenham and hold the house and about 65 acres of land on a lease from Mr. Sterry." James Thorne, (fn. 20) writing in 1876, states that the house "had become almost a ruin, but has been restored by the present owner."
A brief reference must be made to the tradition that Eastbury was connected with the Gunpowder Plot, which occurred at the time of its possession by the Sisley family. Lysons (fn. 21) says, "There is a tradition relating to this house, either, as some say, that the conspirators who concerted the Gunpowder Plot held their meetings there, or as others, that it was the residence of Lord Monteagle when he received the letter that led to its discovery; both, perhaps, equally devoid of foundation. The latter is more probable, though there is no other corroboration of it than that Lord Monteagle lived in the parish about the time, as appears by the register of baptisms." C. R. B. Barrett (fn. 22) gives a variation of the former tradition in the local belief that from the summit of the tower the conspirators hoped to see the flash and hear the report announcing the accomplishment of their design. The only support for this story lies in the deposition of a fisherman of Barking that Guido Fawkes had hired a Barking boat to take him and another man to Gravelines and bring them back.
As regards the supposed connection of William Parker, fourth Baron Monteagle, with the house, Streatfeild, (fn. 23) quoting from Mr. King's contribution to the second of the Essex Archæological Society's volumes, gives the following extract from the parish registers of Barking, with unimportant errors, which are here corrected :—"1607, William, the sonne of Sir William Parker, Knighte, Lord Monteagle, baptised the third day of December." He thus shows that Lord Monteagle was residing in the neighbourhood, but he goes too far when he assumes that Lord Monteagle rented Eastbury "from the owner, Mr. Steward, who it is known did not reside at Eastbury but in the parish of St. Sepulchre, where he afterwards died." There is no evidence that Sisley had parted with the house to Steward as early as 1605, although it seems probable that the place was occupied by tenants during the latter's ownership, if only from the presence of the arms of the More family which appears in the paintings above the hall that date from this period. The suggestion that Lord Monteagle received the notorious letter, warning him of danger, at Barking is disposed of by his own evidence that it was at his house in Hoxton that it was put into the hands of his footman "whom he had sent on an errand over the street."