HUNGERFORD, Sir Walter (by 1527-95/97), of Farleigh Hungerford, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Nov. 1554
1558

Family and Education

b. by 1527, 1st s. of Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury. Wilts., by 1st w. Susan, da. of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey, Wilts.; half-bro. of Sir Edward Hungerford. m. (1) 11 June 1554, Anne, da. of Sir John Bassett of Umberleigh, Devon, 2ch. d.v.p.; (2) by 5 May 1558, Anne, da. of (Sir) William Dormer of Wing, Bucks., 1s. 3da.; 3s. 1da. illegit. suc. fa. 28 July 1540. Kntd. May/Nov. 1554.2

Offices Held

Servant, household of Cromwell by 1538; gent. at arms by 1547, gent. pens. by 1552-3 or later; sheriff, Wilts. 1557-8, 1573-4; j.p. 1564-d.3

Biography

Walter Hungerford’s career in the service of his father’s patron Cromwell ended when his father and his master were attainted and executed together in 1540. Lord Hungerford’s lands in Berkshire, Somerset and Wiltshire were then valued at over £1,000. Walter Hungerford was restored in blood, but not to his dignity, by an Act of 1542 (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.32) and began gradually to recover the family property. Like other servants of Cromwell he was too useful to the King to be discarded and the marriage of his stepmother to Robert Throckmorton may have advantaged him. In 1545 he was granted an annuity as ‘the King’s servant’ and took it in the form of the manor of Wootton Abbas, Dorset. At the beginning of Edward VI’s reign he received another annuity, of £40, payable till the King came of age. In June 1552 the Privy Council ordered the return of three of the Hungerford manors in Wiltshire. Favourable as Edward VI seems to have been, Hungerford had more to hope for from Queen Mary. There is no indication that he had strong religious views, but the Queen’s memory of his father’s alleged sympathies with the rebels of 1536 no doubt helped him in 1554 to recover the greater part of the Hungerford estates, including the castle and lordship of Farleigh on the borders of Wiltshire and Somerset.4

The Queen’s grant was in fact to Anne Bassett, one of her maids of honour and sister of James Bassett, with remainder to Hungerford; but was occasioned by Anne’s marriage to Hungerford, who was bound to pay £5,000 for the property. The wedding took place at Richmond on 11 June 1554 on ‘which day the Queen shewed herself very pleasant, commanding all mirth and pastime’. He was knighted later in the year and his election for Wiltshire to the third Parliament of the reign marked his rehabilitation there. In 1557 he was appointed to serve in the campaign against the Scots and later in the same year he was pricked sheriff: his tenure of this office precluded his return for a Wiltshire constituency in 1558, but he was able to utilize his links with Cornwall, where he owned some property and where his brother-in-law James Bassett was influential, to obtain his election at Bodmin. His name is one of those marked with a circle on a list of Members for this Parliament. In the summer of 1558, between the two sessions of Parliament, he obtained a final indication of the Queen’s goodwill: on his marriage to the sister of her close friend, Jane Dormer, later Duchess of Feria, the estates previously granted to Hungerford’s first wife were given to him in fee and were immediately settled upon him, Anne Dormer, and their heirs.5

As one who had been close to Mary, Hungerford was unwelcome at court after the accession of Elizabeth and apparently he retired to his estates. At first he held no position in local government, but this disregard for his authority lasted only until 1564 when he was named to the county bench. The western part of Wiltshire became known as ‘Hungerford’s division’, and Hungerford, popularly named ‘the knight of Farley’, cut a great figure there. He was particularly celebrated as a sportsman, and the inscription beneath an equestrian portrait of him in full armour asserts that from 1560 to 1564 he challenged any gentleman of England ‘not above his betters’ to show a finer horse than his for a man of arms, a finer greyhound or a finer hawk: for 18 years he kept open a similar challenge over a gerfalcon but was ‘refused by all’. Hungerford was present at the first recorded horserace in Wiltshire in 1585.6

In 1568 Hungerford sued his wife for divorce, alleging that she had committed adultery with William Darrell of Littlecote and that she had had a child by him. ‘Wild Darrell’ was a notorious loose-liver, and surviving letters from Anne Hungerford to her ‘good Will’ suggest that Hungerford’s accusations of adultery and attempted poisoning were not unfounded. Nevertheless, two years later Sir Francis Englefield was able to report that ‘my lady Hungerford’s great suit has ended by sentence to her sufficient purgation, though neither sufficient for her recompense nor his punishment’.7

Hungerford spent three years in the Fleet prison, refusing to support his wife in separation or to pay the £250 awarded her as costs in the suit, though willing, he afterwards asserted, to take her back. She eventually left England under a licence obtained for her by the Earl of Leicester to visit her dying grandmother at Louvain. In August 1571 the Duchess of Feria wrote to ask that the licence be extended from six months to two years, partly to allow Lady Hungerford to keep a safe distance from her husband. Three years later Lady Hungerford was still abroad and enjoying a Spanish pension, and there is no record that she returned to England before her death in 1603 at Louvain.8

Hungerford’s only son died in December 1585. From Namur in the following year Lady Hungerford appealed to Secretary Walsingham on behalf of her daughters, whom their father was seeking to ‘defraud of their portion’. In a deed of conveyance to his half-brother at about that time Hungerford reserved the remainder to any heir he himself might have in the future ‘by any woman’ he should ‘afterwards marry’. At his death in 1596 he left two sons and a daughter by one Margery Bright, ‘a poor tenant’s daughter’; another son was born posthumously. In his will, made on 14 Nov. 1595 and proved early in January 1597, he left two farms to Margery Bright but the residue of all his goods, chattels and leases to his half-brother and sole executor. After he made the will he apparently heard a rumour that Lady Hungerford was dead and ‘married’ Margery ‘for her better colour or excuse of ill life’. The half-brother succeeded to the Hungerford estates, and both Lady Hungerford and Margery Bright sued for dower. Margery also claimed maintenance for her youngest son and asserted that Edward Hungerford had received lands worth £3,000 a year from his half-brother in his lifetime and had now taken over the remainder whose value she put variously at £20,000 or £80,000. Lady Hungerford was awarded generous dower.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Alan Harding

Notes

  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from father’s second marriage. CP, vi. 624-6; DNB (Walter, Lord Hungerford); Devizes, Wilts. Arch. Soc. Lib., J. E. Jackson mss ‘Hungerford fam. coll., personal hist.’, ii. 135, 141; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 91-95; 1555-7, p. 404.
  • 3. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’, (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 504; LP Hen. VIII, xiii; LC2/2/43; 2/3(1), p. 112;2/4(1), ff. 23-4; Stowe 571, ff. 6, 31-32, 76; E101/427/5, f. 29; information from W. J. Tighe; CPR, 1563-6, pp. 27-28.
  • 4. Jackson mss 92, 134, 151; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xiv, xx, xxi; Hoare, Wilts. Heytesbury, 104; CPR, 1547-8, p. 209; 1550-3, pp. 438-9; 1553-4, pp. 91-95.