John Bramston.

The autobiography of Sir John Bramston, K.B., of Skreens, in the hundred of Chelmsford; online

. (page 1 of 42)
Online LibraryJohn BramstonThe autobiography of Sir John Bramston, K.B., of Skreens, in the hundred of Chelmsford; → online text (page 1 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE



AUTOBIOGRAPHY



OF



SIE JOHN BR AM ST ON, K.B.,



OF SKREENS, IN THE HUNDRED OF CHELMSFORD ;



NOW FIRST PRINTED FROM THE ORIGINAL MS.



IN THE POSSESSION OF HIS LINEAL DESCENDANT



THOMAS WILLIAM BRAMSTON, ESQ.,

ONE OF THE KNIGHTS OF THE SHIRE FOR SOUTH ESSEX.







LONDON:
PRINTED FOR THE CAMDEN SOCIETY,

BY JOHN BOWYER NICHOLS AND SON, PARLIAMENT STREET.



M.DCCC.XLV.



i/^y



[no. XXXII.]



l}h£o



COUNCIL

OF

THE CAMDEN SOCIETY,

FOR THE YEAR 1845.



President,
THE RIGHT HON. LORD BRAYBROOKE, F.S.A.

THOMAS AMYOT, ESQ. F.R.S., Treas. S.A., Director.

JOHN PAYNE COLLIER, ESQ. F.S.A., Treasurer.

C. PURTON COOPER, ESQ. Q,C., D.C.L., F.R.S., F.S.A.

BOLTON CORNEY, ESQ.

T. CROFTON CROKER, ESQ. F.S.A., M.R.I.A.

SIR HENRY ELLIS, K.H., F.R.S., Sec. S.A.

THE REV. JOSEPH HUNTER, F.S.A.

PETER LEVESQUE, ESQ. F.S.A.

SIR FREDERIC MADDEN, K.H., F.R.S., F.S.A.

THOMAS JOSEPH PETTIGREW, ESQ. F.R.S., F.S.A.

THOMAS STAPLETON, ESQ. F.S.A.

WILLIAM JOHN THOMS, ESQ. F.S.A., Secretary.

SIR HARRY VERNEY, BART.

ALBERT WAY, ESQ. M.A., Dir. S.A.

THOMAS WRIGHT, ESQ. M.A., F.S.A.



The Council of the Camden Society desire it to be under-
stood that they are not answerable for any opinions or observa-
tions that may appear in the Society's publications ; the Editors
of the several Works being alone responsible for the same.




PREFACE.



The Camden Publications having invariably contained
some account of the work about to be submitted to the
Society, together with a short notice of the author, it was
not thought proper to deviate from the established usage,
otherwise Sir John Bramston might have been left to in-
troduce himself to his readers, and to tell his own story.
But, at all events, a few preliminary observations will
answer every purpose.

The ancient and respectable family of Bramston, whose
history occupies a large portion of the present work,
are supposed to have sprung from a place so called in
Northamptonshire, but no trace of the name or the cir-
cumstance has been discovered in the annals of that
county. We are enabled with more confidence to refer
their origin to William Bramton, or Bramston, who served
the office of Sheriff of London in the eighteenth year of
Richard II. John Bramston, a descendant of the Sheriff,
living in 1480, acquired some property at Whitechapel in
right of his wife Eleanor, one of the daughters and co-
heirs of Thomas Rookes, of that parish ; and his grandson
and namesake, described as a London mercer, died in
1 576, leaving issue Roger, the first settler of the family



Yl PREFACE.

in the county of Essex. He espoused Priscilla, widow of
Thomas Rushee, and daughter of Francis Clovile, whose
ancestors had long been seated at West Haningfield Hall,
in the hundred of Chelmsford, and established himself at
Boreham, the residence of her first husband.

We next come to Sir John Bramston, the eldest son of
the above marriage, and the father of our Autobiographer.
He was born at Maldon, May 1 8th, 1 577, whilst his parents
were on a visit to their relative John Sherman, and edu-
cated in the Free School of that town, from whence he
removed to Jesus College, Cambridge. Leaving the uni-
versity, he entered of the Middle Temple, and applied
himself diligently to the study of the law, and, having been
called a Serjeant in 1623, soon rose into notice, and after
receiving the distinction of knighthood in 1 632, he ob-
tained the appointment of King's Serjeant, and was shortly
afterwards advanced to the Chief Justiceship of the King's
Bench, which office he held till 1642. He had purchased
the estate of Skreens,* in the parish of Roxwell, in the

* The mansion house took its name from William Skrene, of Writtle,
constituted Serjeant-at-Law 10th Henry IV. It passed afterwards to the
Farmers, and Sampfords, by one of whom, Richard Sampford, it was alienated
to Richard Weston, who became a Justice of the Common Pleas, and whose
son, of the same name, afterwards Lord High Treasurer, was created Earl
of Portland in 1632-3.

" The manor of Skreens " (observes Morant, History of Essex, vol. ii.
p. 73) " has been all along in families that have raised themselves by their
merit and eminence in the law, a circumstance attaching to no other estate
that we know of in this county." There can be no question that Chief



PREFACE. Vll

year 1635, of Thomas Weston, the second son of the first
Earl of Portland, the Lord High Treasurer, which has
since been uninterruptedly enjoyed by his posterity as
their principal seat and residence. And here it will be
proper to mention that the Society is indebted for the
use of the MS. Memoir to Thomas William Bramston,
Esq., the present possessor of Skreens, and one of the Re-
presentatives for his native county, a distinction which

Justice Bramston, who purchased the estate from the Westons, as well as his
two brothers, one of whom was a Judge and the other a Master in Chancery,
kept up the charter ; but it is only right to state that at a much later period
Thomas Gardiner Bramston, Esq., the last possessor of Skreens, so endeared
himself to his brother magistrates as a Justice of the Peace and Chairman
of the Quarter Sessions, and by his unwearied attention to the interests of
the county, that after his lamented death they caused his Bust, executed in
marble by Ternouth, to be placed in the Grand Jury Room at Chelmsford,
with the following inscription : —

THIS TABLET IS ERECTED

BY THE MAGISTRATES OF ESSEX, TO THE MEMORY

OF THOMAS GARDINER BRAMSTON, ESQUIRE, OF SKREENS,

WHO DURING TWENTY YEARS

PRESIDED AS ONE OF THE CHAIRMEN OF THEIR QUARTER SESSIONS,

AND IN THAT AND EVERY OFFICE

CONNECTED WITH THE GENERAL INTERESTS OF THE COUNTY

EVINCED SO CLEAR A JUDGMENT,

A DISPOSITION SO CANDID AND CONCILIATING,

SO UNWEARIED A PERSEVERANCE

IN INVESTIGATING THE CLAIMS OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE,

AND SUCH INTEGRITY OF PURPOSE IN MAINTAINING THEM,

AS INSURED TO HIM THE CONFIDENCE

OF THOSE WITH WHOM HE SHARED HIS PUBLIC DUTIES,

AND AFFORDED A BRIGHT EXAMPLE OF A CHARACTER

GUIDED BY THE PRINCIPLES OF A TRULY CHRISTIAN MIND.

HE DIED THE 3d OF FEBRUARY, 1831,

IN THE 61ST YEAR OF HIS AGE.



VUl PREFACE.



has been conferred upon him and his ancestors in fifteen
Parhaments since the days of the Chief Justice.

Sir John Bramston's patent of judgeship was cancelled
October 2d, 1642, on account of his inability to attend
the King at York without incurring the risk of displeasing
the House of Lords, who had refused him permission to
go, and bound him over to appear before them when re-
quired, under a heavy penalty. From this time he retired
into private life, and, having more than once refused to
accept judicial office from Cromwell, who was extremely
anxious to obtain his services, he preserved till his death,
which took place on September 22d, 1654, an unblemished
reputation as an able lawyer and an honest man, and is
spoken of in the highest terms by many of the historians
of the times in which he flourished, although he had made
himself enemies by too strenuously upholding the prero-
gative of the Crown. The Chief Justice survived both his
wives, the first of whom, Bridget Moundeford, brought him
a numerous progeny.

The eldest of these, John Bramston, the Autobiographer,
was born at Whitechapel, in September 1611, and, after
completing his education at Wadham College, Oxford,
embraced the study of the law, having for his chamber-
fellow, in the Middle Temple, Edward Hyde, afterwards
Lord Chancellor Clarendon, with whom he always con-
tinued to live in habits of intimacy.* Whilst they were

* Memoir, page 103.



PREFACE. IX

brother students Mr. Hyde gave his portrait to his young
friend, which remains at Skreens, and was engraved for
the edition of the History of the RebeUion pubHshed in
1816. It is supposed to be the earhest Hkeness of this
truly great man, but the painter's name has been lost.
Mr. Bramston likewise possesses two original pictures of
the Chief Justice, one of which, a whole-length ascribed
to Vandyck, was copied for the Collection at Clarendon
House. There are also at Skreens portraits of the Auto-
biographer, the Baron of the Exchequer, and most of the
heads of the family.

John Bramston was called to the bar shortly after his
father had been placed on the bench, marrying in the
same year Alice, daughter of Anthony Abdy, an Alder-
man of London, who survived only till February 1647-8.

He continued (as he expresses it) to practise the law
" as long as the temper of the times would allow, and till
the drums and trumpets blew his gowne over his ears."*
He then sold his chambers, and after his wife's decease
retired to Skreens, where his father seems to have af-
forded an asylum to the numerous members of his family
who had been driven from their homes and deprived of
their employments in those days of anarchy and confusion.

But the clouds dispersed, the storm at length passed
away, and the monarchy was re-established, and early in
the next year Sir John Bramston's name appeared in the

* Memoir, page 103.
b



X PREFACE.

list of the Knights of the Bath created at the coronation
of Charles II., which distinction no doubt was conferred
upon him in consideration of the devotion shown by his
family to the royal cause ; he states indeed that he might
have been made a Baronet, but he preferred an honour
that was not hereditary. He was also chosen to serve as
Knight of the Shire for Essex in the Parliament that pre-
ceded the Restoration, and was twice afterwards re-elected ;
and, at a later period, he again entered the House of Com-
mons as Burgess for Maldon, after the accession of James II.

He appears subsequently to have withdrawn very
much from public business, though he was blessed with an
unusual length of days, and, so far as we can judge from
his Diary, he retained his faculties till within a few days
of his death, which took place at Skreens, on the 4th of
February, 1699-1700, in the 89th year of his age.

It is time, however, to turn from the Autobiographer to
the book which he has left to his posterity.

The MS., which has been carefully preserved amongst
the archives at Skreens, occupies about 169 pages of a
small folio volume, and is fairly written, in a neat legible
character, and there are numerous references to the text
inserted on the margin. The author's design will be best
explained by quoting an entry made by him on the fly-
leaf opposite the beginning of the volume :

" Findinge this booke in my brother's studie after his death, and having
then taken into my thoughts to leave some memoires of my father and
familie, and myselfe, and having made some entrance thereunto, I tooke the



PREFACE. XI

resolution to transcribe the paper into this book, where was my brother's
Readinge ;* and though our familie be neither antient nor greate, my father,
for ought I can find, being the first [knight] of the name, unles the Sheriff
in Richard II. his tyme, or the Governor of Wisbech Castle, f were knighted,
as was not usual then ; and I find noe thing to move me to the belief
thereof ; yet, this being designed merely to privacie, and for acquainting
my son and his descendants with the stock he and they are derived from, I
have taken the pains to give them this information, which they may dispose
of as they please, either to the fier or otherwise to discourse of amongst
themselves. . John Bramston."

* The volume does contain the Reading alluded to, described as " Lec-
tura Francisci Bramston Armigeri in Medio Templo, tertio Augusti 1668,
super Statut. de tertio Jacobi, Cap. 4 ; entitled. An Act for the discovering
and repressinge of Popish Recusants." The Autobiographer only means
that he wrote in the blank leaves of a book originally prepared for another
purpose.

" Mr. Bramston, my old fellow-traveller (in Italy), now Reader at the
Middle Temple, invited me to his feast, which was so very extravagant and
greate as the like had not been scene at any time. There were the Duke of
Ormond, Privy Seal, Bedford, Belasys, Halifax, and a world more of Earls
and Lords." — Evelyns Diary, August 3, 1668.

f Amongst the monuments in the parish church, says Watson, the his-
torian of Wisbech, that of Thomas de Braunstone is the most ancient. He
was Constable of the Castle there, and, dying in 1401, was interred in the
south aisle, where is a gravestone with his effigy engraved on brass plates.
He is represented, under a rich Gothic canopy, in plate armour and painted
helmet, with a lion at his feet, and this inscription round the verge of the
stone : —

" CJy gist Thomas de Braunstone, jadis Conestable du Chatel de Wisebeche, qui mourut
le vingt septieme jour de Maii, I'an de notre Seignour Mil C C CC primer. De 1' alme de
qui Dieu par sa grace ait mercy. Amen."

There seems also to have been another monument of Bramstone of Wis-
bech in the church of Boston or Walpole ; but nothing certain is known as
to their being the ancestors of the Skreens family. — History of Wisbech,
p. 259.



XU PREFACE.



From this memorandum, and a statement in the MS.,*
it will appear that Sir John Bramston had entered into his
72d year before he commenced his labours ; so that, al-
though he tells us that he referred to notes to refresh his
memory, the first portion of the work must be considered
as historical, whilst that part that was written after the
year 1683 assumes the character of a Diary, the passing
events having been recorded from time to time, though,
perhaps, less regularly than was the practice of most of
the annalists of that day whose journals have been lately
brought to light. In one respect, indeed, they all re-
semble each other, as plain narratives of passing events,
noted down without any idea of their being ever made
public, and consequently not possessing the slightest pre-
tension to finished style or studied composition. Many of
our Diaries, it must be admitted, will be found more en-
tertaining and of greater interest to the general reader ;
nor can it be assumed that Sir John Bramston has re-
corded any historical fact of importance not to be met
with in the writings of some of his contemporaries. The
Memoir must therefore be regarded as principally of a
private and domestic character, containing the annals of
an English country gentleman's family recorded during
a most eventful period, and written with an air of truth
and honesty not to be mistaken : whilst the steadiness
and devotion of Sir John Bramston and all his house
to the royal cause, for which they sacrificed their best

* Memoir, page 3.



PREFACE. Xiii

prospects, and their firm attachment to the Protestant
religion in the worst of times, cannot fail to find favour
with those who take the trouble to peruse the following
pages.

Still there are interspersed throughout the work a
great variety of curious incidents relating to bygone
times, with reminiscences of many of the Essex families,
most of which have been long extinct. We collect also
interesting particulars of the manner in which the polls
for the county and the borough of Maldon were taken,
showing that our forefathers were well versed in elec-
tioneering manoeuvres. We have further occasional notices
of debates, and parliamentary and judicial proceedings,
with specimens of physicians' consultations, and medical
details, and an amusing account of the author's adven-
tures whilst on an expedition with his father, who went to
Dublin to bring home his second wife. The reader too
may have an opportunity of learning what happened to
James II. whilst hunting the stag in the Essex forests.

We will advert to one other subject only, mentioned by
the Autobiographer, the strange persecution that he un-
derwent in 1 672, when an attempt was made to prove that
he and his two brothers had, some years before, become
Papists, and that he was receiving pay from the Pope.
Whether the accusation originated from the bad feeling
of his political adversaries belonging to the discomfited
faction, or, as he himself surmised, it was the result of
private pique and malice, cannot now be decided ; but it



XIV PREFACE.



seems extraordinary that Henry Mildmay, of Graces, a
gentleman by birth, nearly allied to some of the best
families in the county, which he twice represented in sub-
sequent parliaments, should have become the principal
agent in so base a transaction. Such, however, was the
fact, for he bribed a worthless Portuguese, named Ferdi-
nand de Macedo, to make oath before the Privy Council
that he had actually been present with the three brothers
at a secret conclave held at Skreens, when they renounced
the Protestant religion before Commissioners appointed
by the Pope. It is needless to dwell further upon this
wicked contrivance, which was signally defeated, as the
details are given perhaps too minutely in the memoir.
At all events it is remarkable that no mention of the cir-
cumstance occurs elsewhere, for Charles II. used to tell
the story as " the greatest conspiracy and the greatest for-
gerie that ever he knew against a private gentleman ; "
and would say, " after Gates his plot was on foot, that the
Popish plot began upon Sir John Bramston."*

The Editor having on a former occasion experienced the
inconvenience of attempting to select portions only of a
diary for the press, and observed the jealousy and mis-
trust with which curtailed or garbled publications are
received, had felt strongly inclined from the first, in the
present instance, to print the MS. as he found it ; and
this resolution was confirmed after he had satisfied him-

* Memoir, p. 158.



PREFACE. XV



self that, whilst the memoir contained many details highly
creditable to the family of whom it principally treated,
not a single passage occurred that could possibly give
pain to their present representatives, or lessen the respect
without which the name of Bramston cannot be men-
tioned. The MS. is therefore presented to the Society in
its entire and original form, nothing having been omitted,
excepting some king's speeches and state papers, printed
before, and obviously possessing not the slightest interest.
A few coarse expressions in the medical details have also
been softened, without altering the sense implied, and se-
veral mistakes and lacunae rectified by supplying the
words, between brackets, supposed to be wanting. Indeed,
if we consider the advanced age of the author when
he began to write, and that a great portion of the book
was the work of an octogenarian, it is extraordinary that
so few errors should occur.

In compliance with the modern usage, a few notes
have been occasionally introduced at the bottom of the
pages ; at the same time, no attempt to trace the history
of every individual mentioned could have led to a satis-
factory result, neither has it been thought necessary to
notice those persons with whom, from their rank and sta-
tion, the generality of readers cannot fail to be already
well acquainted.

Whilst adverting to this part of the subject, the
Editor feels it his duty gratefully to acknowledge his
obligations to the Rev. Joseph Hunter, who took the



XVI PREFACE.

trouble of perusing the transcript of the MS., and sug-
gested many remarks, which have been used with advan-
tage in the notes. Nor should it be omitted that Sir
Charles G. Young, Garter King at Arms, with his usual
courtesy and kindness, made some important corrections
and additions to the pedigree of the Bramstons, which
was considered as a proper appendage to the biography,
genealogical facts being so much more easily compre-
hended when presented in that form than in narration :
they are indeed like maps as compared with descriptions
of countries.

BRAYBROOKE, P.

Audley End, Dec. 24th, 1844.



XVll



O

H



P5
PQ

pan
O

1— t



" I

<u •A

> O

£ a



< «



OB :S



43




XVlll



„«5



a



50 «0



r^ "g H ^ -g



i^W



iT «



S2S gfS^J



« c« o



eo •£■ ^ =!- O



ffl T-H tJ -O t, _

S « S -^^ 5 g

-a W3 £P . " M) Jt

ii -ri 53 cs £« .a



■ga-



a '«



^T3






ffi^as "J fl=« s-o

■" ^ ^ '5 "o-a^ ■" fi ? ••

r-*^ 5 ,9 C ® - «0 ^ r , ^ '






CO c



a 'h ^



Ih-



■if



-^ «" 03
ffi 53 a> g



ss



— ^ a



5 ® ..



O OS



tK« gSSOO'5^ Or-1






.2 "



.to "S "5 '? . '■3
S OJ a Sh J; ►^

>-i M rt cc



■^ t«



i tS C



^ 3



50 1)



13 ^ ,

■tt .2 .i«! ~ „

2 ©"u ^ o
® -^ - c 2
.V ^ ^ ^

. >5 fc," Oj O =«

s a«< ©"s
■ '^i



t3 -a o 3 ffl ■"

^ "> -" ~ :s t3

50^
3



-^



g s ^



HS^^-§



<D



o "S ffl «J 5

■ ffl ^ '^ «

: !i ^^ ^ g a

• ^^ s ffl o g



a s M)



3 «



>o



Ih



a ^ a =^ S '
-ao -§ -^ -^^03 ,



3 'C a c =8 Jr

! "s c3 ^ i~l -§'

5 o a ^a' ffl «o

^ U cS H ^ rH



=s 2



^S o



S.bT'






.S 54

OS
a2






ffl «i-i s .~ •

a t. « 2 ^ "
© © a ^"^



fflO



a -« -; 1 73

- . § gr,-3 S .2
>a .« •« ^ • o3

■^ ^ ffl ^ -§ a



^3



a H



a i



a =^ 1

ffl •-" _ I* K a

•C = S 2 ^ ®

^0 §^ c-S ° .

ffl'^ a 2 .'-» » w)

.2 o !» ^ t, a .s

-3 -fi S.-1 "n •" =S ^



"-2 .3 a






-HOHOS iS^^



a. a 05



g-gw



^


a m ^ 00


ffl


gs^=^ *i


(>1.
a
o


2nd
;ob.

-3,86


a
<


ston,
heir,
1640
1722



=8 2 kJ

-j :3 S oo



d -tS <u ffl S<

5 J § I a



e so

3 •^

CO (M •



o . °
«« ffl ffl

1^ ffl J3 t^



K



Ih-

ffl 2 OhCS

a "- >-' oo L'

*~JS 3 . ,-H



3 J2 ca

o o .

_^ CO

^ 60 .

ffl a -k^

!3 ffl •
a ^

f if



=8 .3



ffl ffl m

-t^ 'T-H

> s o

) ^ O V



^(B



tJ 03



3 .„'
o



ffl

3 «



.S a'S2






a -«

O 05



r^^



.. o -3 ^^~

^ 2 *^ ■"•
^ S £ •§ ftS



m «£ cT'd



ffl «i5

.2 a: <^'~'=©
a "ffl H • "* '-'

O ff Jl^rH ><

^ ^^ a w

■^ 2S gfflSSj.o §

aj-JSOi ajsI^rH rtffl*



mffl d o a '
fci O m fci

^ !K =3 ffl
- rt «*-• ffl

3 $< J-



ffl e '-p

O ffl o -»•

2 a ■» r^

3 So^



2p3



t!^«



P "C



X! '"' OS






«« ffl O I— I



2 '*3 ■« •
§ .5 S fe «



o *

12;



w § ffl "s ■?



XIX




„ ^-1 ^- - ^ fi ^ ^



XX







Its'?



^ a tf ph «



I tJ( 7-t



_ OJ o



-e Ti .r< ►. o



.-5^,



.III .■!««'&



S^^^.'S



U O tn »



13 CO [IQ O



O ''3



SQ o



■e <5 1 -J fe



















Q a












■cSw'soS^^ a



6 5s «
» 2 .a



«« a






a g fa s o- 5 5 ^•







' .2 fO<S W §i-H o



og



§ fl 1



|2§|









=^ o i



Ih




o-Q



w"'?






W CO



AUTOBIOGRAPHY



SIR JOHN BRAMSTON, K.B.



" Equidem beatos puto, quibus Deorum munere datum
est, aut facere scribenda, aut scribere legenda,
beatissimos vero quibus vtrumque." Plin. Ep.
lib. 6, Ep, 16.

Amongst the raanie reasons historians giue (and Strada
with the rest) for the resignation by the Emperor Charles the
Fifth, the words of an old and good officer * vnder him are
not thought of the lightest moment, whoe, desiring leaue of
the Emperor to depart, and be dismist from his employment,
the Emperor would needes know the reason moueinge him
thereto, whoe replied, Inter negotia vitce, et horam mortis debet
esse spatium. Indeed, if dyinge be an art, the soldier had
reason to take some tyme to studie that, which he must of ne-

* The officer's name is said to have been John Valdasso. The passage quoted is as
follows : " Auditns est per eos dies cum illam crebro vocem iteraret Centurionis sui,
(cujus mihi virtus notior est quam nomen,) qui vetus multorum stipendiorum eques
rebus humanis renuntiaturus, cum missionem a Carolo peteret, isque novi consilii
causam exquireret, respondisse fertur * inter vitce negotia et mortis diem, Ojportere spa-
tium intercedere.'' " — Strada de Bello Gallico, liber p-imus.

CAMD. SOC. B



2 AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF

cessitie one day putt into practice; which possibly he could
not soe well doe in the heat of his busines (tho' noe other then
that of death) as when he was remoued from all apprehension
of giueing or receauinge violent or suddain death. And because
in that art the first and principale rule giuen is to liue well, it
might be high tyme for the soldier to take out that lesson (tho'
I doubt not the lawfulnes of that profession, fightinge for his
Emperor, and at his command, to kill the enemies of his Em-
peror, kinge, and master.) Nor was it strange that a man con-
tinually in armes, woundinge, killinge, or contriuinge how most



Online LibraryJohn BramstonThe autobiography of Sir John Bramston, K.B., of Skreens, in the hundred of Chelmsford; → online text (page 1 of 42)