If a title with a steady(ish) history but flashes of loyal fortitude is of interest… then the Lordship of Hexted is for you. Hexted (aka. Heghsted) is a title that was in active use for several hundred years, however its connection with England’s past is of greatest significance at one particular moment in history, and the family who next owns the title will be closely linked forever more with those pivotal times.
Records from Domesday
To give you a little background, the Lordship of Hexted was very probably created by William the Conqueror, for it is first noted as being held by the Heghsted family as part of an estate in Lingfield in 11th Century. Quietly gracing the shoulders of one Heghsted member to the next, it remained part of the family up to the signing of Magna Carta, and then through and beyond both the first and the second Barons’ Wars.
In fact, it’s not until 1403 that it is noted to have moved on. Baron Cobham, whose family home was Sterborough Castle, in Lingfield, is at that point recorded as possessing the Lordship, with his overlord being the Abbot of Battle. When the Baron died, because his son had predeceased him, the title passed to his grand-daughter, Margaret. Margaret was married to the 2nd Earl of Westmorland, Ralph, and in 1448 records show that they both conveyed Hexted to the College of St Peter in Lingfield.
Reassigned during The Reformation
With the Act of Supremacy in 1534, and the dissolution of the monasteries, Hexted suddenly found itself under the wing of the Crown. Clearly being a title of value as a reward for good behaviour, Henry VIII granted the Lordship to Sir Thomas Cawarden, who was MP for Bletchingley. As an aside, at that point, Cawarden was also the Master of Revels and Tents, so one can imagine Hexted was ensconced as a position of great pageantry, bearing in mind the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the Tudor king.
However, Cawarden’s career didn’t end there, for his royal service to the crown then further extended over the next few years when he was made High Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, Keeper of Hampton Court in 1550, and Joint Lieutenant of the Tower of London (with Sir Edward Warner) in 1558. And so highly was his loyalty valued, that in 1550 the then king, Edward, granted him the house and site of Blackfriars.
But these were troubled religious times. Edward was one thing, but Mary was another. Mary’s aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation when she took the throne, and switch the country from Protestantism back to Catholicism, was a tough call for those who had been rigidly faithful to Henry’s quest.
The Dudley Plot
A protestant stalwart, Henry Dudley, decided action was required. He planned to raise a force in France to then invade London and depose Mary. His thoughts had been to exile her to Spain and reunite her with her husband, Philip, so they could rule there, and thus bring about the succession of her sister, Elizabeth, in England. Quite a decent take on things, really, given the brutality of the times. But unfortunately his plot was perhaps a little too daring for other English gentry, for it transpired that though many were keen for the outcome he intended, few were prepared to lend their support, and the plot was discovered.
Dudley wasn’t prepared to give up, though. One of his allies, Henry Peckham MP, was the son of the Master of the Tower Mint. Research suggests that Thomas Cawarden was in league with Henry Peckham and was implicated in Peckham’s plans to rob the exchequer to help finance Dudley’s campaign. When caught, however, Peckham found himself locked up in the Tower, whilst Cawarden on the other hand managed to offer a bond to stay out of prison and remain at Blackfriars. The Lord of Hexted ‘enjoyed’ being under house-arrest instead.
It would seem that Thomas’s cool thinking also meant he kept his head in other ways too, for Peckham and his cronies were eventually hanged and posthumously beheaded. Nevertheless, perhaps as a result of the debt he found himself in, records show that Cawarden then later conveyed Hexted to Thomas Ramsey, a grocer in London in 1557.
Between this point and the early 1600s, the title became disconnected from the land of the manor. The land was later passed to Richard Glover. However the Lordship of Hexted itself passed from Thomas Ramsey to John Browne and his wife Alice. And they in turn passed it to their son, John. And thereafter records remain silent about the title.
Are you perhaps ready to become the next reformed character to don the Lordship of Hexted? It’s a title that’s rubbed shoulders with clerics and campaigners, MPs and agitators… Do you have the right glint in your eye to take it on?