We’re not going to beat about the bush here… There are quite a few ‘Johns’ linked to the lineage of the Lordship of Penland, so we apologise in advance if things get a bit confusing. But we do feel that’s a fitting introduction to a title whose history began around the time of the signing of Magna Carta, when one very significant (King) John was involved. And it might be of interest, at this early juncture, to know that it appears to receive its ‘Dear John’ letter near the beginning of the reign of King James I, after which it’s not referred to again. And now that we’ve cleared that up…
A Penne for your thoughts
Deep research has resulted in the understanding that the Lordship of Penland most likely derived its name from the Penne family. First reference seems to have been in 1278 when John, son of John (we can’t resist an emoji wink at this point), and William de la Penne are linked to the name of Penland. However, this three way split seems to have been sorted out by 1308, when a certain John de la Penne is cited as bringing an action to recover woods and rents for Penland; being its sole owner by that time.
Things then fall quiet for just over a century. During that time, another John is linked to the title but so is a Ralph. However any attempt to break the ‘John’ habit is abandoned by 1443, when Sir John, son of Ralph, is recorded as being owner of Penland. Said John was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, made Knight of the Shire, and then called to Parliament as a member. His son, William, sadly predeceased him, and thus it was William’s son… John… who inherited the Lordship of Penland in 1477.
The pendulum begins to swing
This Sir John then made a settlement of Penland on the marriage of his son Ralph to Alice Baynam. But he also made this settlement in his will, and as Ralph then predeceased him it was Ralph’s son… John… who was set to receive Penland on the occasion of his marriage to Silvester in 1524. The following year, the elderly John passed away and this grandson, John, then inherited Penland properly.
A rough-cut jewel with many faces
In 1545, John and his wife, Silvester, are noted for having conveyed the Lordship of Penland to Sir John Williams. Why they did this is unclear, however Sir John was a Member of Parliament and was also, more significantly, Master of the King’s Jewels. That didn’t make Sir John a diamond geezer, however. In fact, to some he was little too rough-cut and unpopular. And following a spate of disputes, he was sent to Fleet prison with the Privy Council ordering that he be confined such that none would be able to converse with him!
But one man’s garnet is another queen’s ruby. Having racked up debts of £28,000 through the accounts of his monastic properties – a huge sum for its time – he was then actually pardoned by Queen Mary and appointed Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire to be her henchman. But along with this, Sir John was also then given the new role of Chamberlain to King Philip. In order to afford him the dignity such a position warranted, and in order to compensate him for the end of the Court of Augmentations in 1554, he was summoned to Parliament as Lord Williams of Thame, given 200 crowns from Mary, and 1,000 crowns from Philip.
The Tudor seal of approval
As can be seen, the Lordship of Penland had by now found itself very well connected; Sir John’s career went from strength to strength. The then-to-be Elizabeth I chose him to be one of the Lords who escorted her from Hatfield to London to take up the crown in 1558. And she next appointed him as President of the Council in the Marches of Wales. However, Sir John (now known as Lord Williams) died a year later, leaving no male heir, and his estates were left to his daughters, Isabel and Margaret, and their respective husbands. Margaret’s husband, Sir Henry Norreys, soon renounced their rights to Penland in favour of Isabel and her husband, Richard Wenman.
Interestingly, it’s at this point the actual income that Penland brought to the title holder becomes more apparent. The Wenmans chose to settle Penland on themselves for life, but such that it would revert to their son, Thomas, upon their death. This was clearly a point of prior planning, for Richard died later that year. Isabel did then remarry a gentleman called Richard Huddleston, but she renounced her life interest in Penland in favour of her son, in return for an annual pension. This pension was then funded by leasing Penland in 1577 to William Norreys for forty years.
Thomas died, however, and left a son, Richard, who has still a minor. Penland was therefore re-leased in favour of Thomas’s son, and this continued until Isabel died and Richard finally inherited Penland fully in 1587.
Sadly though, within twenty five years the title found itself amalgamated with other estates and there is no further reference to it individually. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a new lease of life! The Lordship of Penland is itching to find a new home. It’s ready and waiting to rise up and be counted once more… and these days, you really don’t need to be called John to own it.