ASHFIELD, Edmund (by 1506-78), of Ewelme, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. by 1506, yr. s. of John Ashfield (d.1506) of Heythrop by 2nd w. Margaret, da. of Humphrey Colwick of Worcs.; half-bro. of Francis Bulstrode. m. bet. 1530 and 1534, Eleanor, da. of Humphrey Barton of Northants., wid. of William Stafford of Tattenhoe, Bucks., 1s. d.v.p. 3da. (2 d.v.p.). Kntd. Aug. 1570.1
Servant of Henry Norris by 1534; keeper, manor and park of Ewelme 1536; receiver, lands of Abingdon abbey to 1538, bailiff and collector, manors of Nether Shenley, Over Shenley and Snelshall, Bucks. 1546; steward, manors of Cuddesdon, Oxon. and West Wittenham, Berks. 1551; j.p. Bucks., Oxon. 1547-d.; surveyor, Exchequer, Bucks. 1559; sheriff, Oxon. and Berks. 1559-60, Beds. and Bucks. 1569-70; commr. relief, Bucks. and Oxon. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Oxon. 1552, 1553, loan 1562, subsidy 1563, musters; other commissions 1550-72.2
The Ashfield family had been settled at Heythrop at least since the mid 15th century. Edmund Ashfield’s father and grandfather were both christened John, and wills made by men of this name had been proved in 1455, 1506 and 1522. It was the second of these testators who was the father of Edmund and who left him a mill at Lidstone.3
Edmund Ashfield is mentioned as a servant of the royal favourite Henry Norris in a letter from Sir George Throckmorton to Cromwell of June 1534. Throckmorton, who had bought the reversion of Tattenhoe manor in Buckinghamshire from the late William Stafford, offered it to the minister, suggesting that the bestowal of some office on Ashfield, who had married Stafford’s widow, would give immediate possession; in the event Throckmorton held on to the manor until 1544 and then sold it to the Englefields. Cromwell’s favour may have mattered less to Ashfield in these early years than that of the powerful Norris family: in 1535 he was acting as receiver for all Henry Norris’s lands and perhaps already for Abingdon abbey, for a commissioner sent by Cromwell to Abingdon included Ashfield among those who ‘will consider it great extremity in us to have the abbot sworn’.4
The attainder of Norris in 1536 must have been a setback to Ashfield, and two years later the surrender of Abingdon abbey cost him its receivership. However, he went on amassing property, perhaps with the aid of his wife’s inheritance. Early in 1537 he had been granted a reversion of the lease of the abbey’s Berkshire manor of Hurst, and this he was enjoying in May 1539, after the death of Thomas Ward I. He was also farming some of Norris’s forfeited estates in 1541-2, had leased a fishery on the Thames in 1538, and acquired a grant of 20s. a year for life from the manor of Shelford, Nottinghamshire, in 1540. To these he added a lease of lands at Stantonbury in Buckinghamshire from Thomas, 2nd Lord Vaux of Harrowden, and at Drayton, Oxfordshire, where the rectory had been granted to Christ Church, Oxford; in 1542 Christ Church brought a suit against him in the court of requests over a crop at Drayton. In June 1544 he paid £610 for a manor at Dorchester which he had previously leased, together with the advowson of the vicarage.5
During the succession crisis in 1553 Ashfield was quick to rally to Mary. A list of pensions granted for life by the Queen ‘for service at Framlingham’ includes one of £13 6s.8d. a year to Ashfield; perhaps he was encouraged to join her by Sir John Williams, one of whose daughters had married Henry Norris’s son, for Williams took the lead in proclaiming Mary in Oxfordshire. The attainder of Northumberland’s partisan, Sir Thomas Palmer, then enabled Ashfield to buy the reversion of Snelshall priory, Buckinghamshire, for which he paid £301 in 1554. He could hardly hope to sit as a knight of the shire in either Parliament of that year, when Oxfordshire was represented by Sir Leonard Chamberlain and John Pollard, but his return for Wallingford was more easily arranged. His old patron Norris had been keeper of the castle there and since 1540 the honor of Wallingford had formed part of the royal manor of Ewelme, of which Ashfield was still the keeper.6
Ashfield’s disappearance from the parliamentary ranks for the rest of the reign was more than compensated by his return to them as knight of the shire in the first Parliament of the new one. This was, however, an honour he did not repeat, perhaps because of the rising power of the Knollys family in Oxfordshire. The purchase of Nether Shenley and Over Shenley in Buckinghamshire for £85 in 1563 suggests that his interests were shifting to the east and it was among the Buckinghamshire gentry that Ashfield was numbered in 1564, when the bishop of Lincoln told the Council that he was among those ‘indifferent in religion’. The knighthood which came to him in 1570 evidently reflected his ascendancy in that county. Ashfield died at Ewelme on 24 Jan. 1578.