The parish of Church Eaton: High Onn

Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1883.

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'The parish of Church Eaton: High Onn', in Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4, (London, 1883) pp. 52-63. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

High Onn.

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.

Pedigree Of Giffard Of Chillington. (Arms—Azure three Stirrups with Leathers, Or.)

Pedigree (continued)

Pedigree (continued)

Pedigree (continued)

Pedigree (continued)

Pedigree (continued)

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.

Of early undertenants, Thomas, de Magna Onne, occurs in 1253 as defendant in a suit concerning lands in Little Onn.


  • 1. "Dugdale's Baronage," Vol. I., p. 27; "Monasticon," Vol. II., p. 96; Ordericus Vitalis, Lib. VI., s. 6 (Prevost's ed. Paris, 1845, Tom. III., p. 20): "Othna est un domaine dans la paroisse de Church Eyton, qui a donné son nom aux deux hameaux de Great et Little Onn, autrement High et Low Onn (Hundred de Cuttleston, Staffordshire). Dans l'inventaire des chartes ayant appartenu à Saint Evroult, on trouve, 'Indentura rectoris de Eyton super decimis de Onna.' Mereston (Marston) est un manoir avec hameau et chapelle dans la paroisse de Saint Mary (Hundred de Pirehill, Staffordshire), auquel appartenaient dix-huit bourgeois de la ville de Stafford . . . . Dans l'inventaire on trouve plusieurs pièces qui le concernent, sous la denomination de Mereston-juxta-Stafford." Mons. Prevost's assertion that Othna gave its name to the two hamlets of Great and Little Onn, or High and Low Onn (which is a better designation, for the latter is the larger of the two), is misleading; for it seems to imply that they were both included in the Earl's grant to the foreign abbey, whereas (if Mr. Eyton is correct in his identification) Little Onn appears in Domesday as a separate manor, which was then held in capite by Richard, one of the King's thanes, and had previously been held by Ailric in the time of Edward the Confessor. These distinctive names do not occur till a later date, and as both of them were subsequently held by a family or families who bore the local name of Onne, it is very difficult to distinguish them from each other.
  • 2. Rot. Pip., 17 Hen. II.
  • 3. Rot. Claus. 15 Hen. III., m. 20 in dorso (ex. inf., Hon. G. Wrottesley).
  • 4. Rot. Hund., Vol. II., p. 114.
  • 5. Assize Roll, 56 Hen. III. (Salt's MS.).
  • 6. Pope Nicholas's Taxatio.
  • 7. Nomina villarum.
  • 8. Manning's "Surrey," Vol. I., p. 417.
  • 9. "Valor Ecclesiasticus."
  • 10. Rot. Pat. 1a pars, 32 Hen. VIII. (printed abstract). In the account of this family given in Burke's "Dictionary of the Landed Gentry" it is erroneously stated that the manors of Marston and Enson (near to the town of Stafford) were acquired by an earlier Sir John Giffard, about the beginning of the 14th century, by his marriage with Catherine Stafford, of Marston. This Sir John is said to have died in 1366, and been succeeded by his son Edmund Giffard, who married a daughter of Thomas Venables, Baron of Kinderton, and was succeeded in 1379 by his eldest son John Giffard, Lord of Chillington in 1394. It is certain, however, that the wife of Edmund, and mother of John, the Lord of Chillington in 1379 (being then under age), was Agnes, sister of Sir John de Whiston, Knight, Lord of Whiston, and aunt and heir of the whole blood of Nicholas de Whiston (Rot. Assis., 2 Rio. II.). I therefore assume that it was by this marriage that the lordship of Whiston was acquired to the family, and not, as the account given by Burke would lead us to infer, by the marriage of Thomas, son of the said John fitz Edmund and grandfather of Sir John, the grantee of Marston and Onne, with Joyce, daughter of Sir Robert Fraunceys, Knight, whom he describes as being of Whiston.
  • 11. Inq. 2 Eliz., No. 45, part 2.
  • 12. Froude, in his History of England (Vol. VI., p. 216), in speaking of this conspiracy, says, "There was in Staffordshire a family of some standing named Gifford. They were related to the Throgmortons and other of the great county houses. They were uncompromising Catholics; and the father, John Gifford, for continued recusancy, had been sent for to London and imprisoned. Of his three sons, one was in the Queen's guard on service in the Palace; the two others were Jesuits in the seminary at Rheims. The elder of these, George, called Doctor Gifford, was 'a priest and reader of divinity there.' Being a man after Allen's heart, and saturated with the genius of the place, he represented the spirit of his order in its most detestable shape. He was among those who, without the courage to attempt the deed themselves, were anxious that some one else should murder the Queen, and the Prince of Parma, in the expectation probably that he would induce his brother to act in it, gave him money to get the act accomplished. In Gilbert, the youngest of the family, the Jesuit training produced a character of a different type. He was taken from England when he was only eleven years old, and the Order therefore had him to themselves, to shape for good or evil. In age he was by this time about twenty-five, and looking younger, with a smooth beardless face. He had been ordained deacon, and had been reader of philosophy at the seminary; but being a good linguist, he had travelled on the business of the Order, and at Paris he had made acquaintance with Morgan in the Bastile, with Charles Paget, his cousin Throgmorton, and the Archbishop of Glasgow," all warm supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. John Giffard, of Chillington, had several other sons, besides those mentioned by Froude, as is clearly shown by Mr. T. H. Smith in his supplement to Parke's "History of Brewood," from his tomb in Brewood Church, and other authentic sources (see the accompanying pedigree), but Mr. Smith may perhaps have been mistaken in their order of precedency. In the spring of the year 1585, Gilbert Giffard was communicating, in a tentative manner, with Sir Edward Stafford, the English Ambassador at Paris, and shortly afterwards he entered the service of Walsingham as a spy. For a full account of the conspiracy and its discovery, through the craft and dexterity of Gifford, we would refer the reader to Froude's own narrative, which furnishes one of the most interesting pages of history, and at the same time shows an almost unexampled piece of villany on the part of the young Jesuit (or ex-Jesuit) deacon. From Bishop Milner's "Letters to a Prebendary" (quoted by Mr. Smith) we learn that he afterwards went abroad, and being cast into prison, died in great misery.
  • 13. One of the five bells in Church Eaton Church was given by Walter Giffard. The bells bear the following legends, viz., (1) "Jesus bee our speed—Walter Gyffar Esquier 1610." (2) "When you me ring Ile sweetly sing." (3) "God save his church—Our King and Realme 1631." (4) "Jonas Asteley—Richard Hill, gent., Church Wardens." (5) "Prosperity to all our benefactors, 1718."