OXENBRIDGE, Sir Robert (1508/9-74), of Brede, Suss. and Hurstbourne Priors, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 1508/9, 1st s. of Sir Goddard Oxenbridge of Brede by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Fiennes of Claverham, Kent. m. by 1543, Alice, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Fogge of Ash, Kent, wid. of Edward Scott, 1s. 2da. Kntd. by 18 Feb. 1553.1
Commr. musters, Suss. 1539, relief 1550; other commissions 1539-54; esquire of the body by 1541; bailiff, Rye 1541 (reversion)-64; j.p. Suss. by 1541-58/59, q. Hants 1561-2; constable, Pevensey castle, Suss. 1550-d.; sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1551-2, Hants 1567-8; lt. the Tower 1556, constable 1557-8.2
The Oxenbridge family had lived in Sussex since at least the early 14th century. Robert Oxenbridge’s grandfather Adam Oxenbridge sat for Rye in three Parliaments between 1484 and 1495, and his father was three times sheriff of Surrey and Sussex. Although Oxenbridge lived at Brede after his father’s death in 1531, the house was not his until his cousin William Oxenbridge bequeathed it to him in 1550; a dispute over William Oxenbridge’s goods was settled by the Council in his favour.3
During the first part of his career Oxenbridge was largely concerned with his own part of East Sussex, although he had a place in the royal household and afterwards in Princess Elizabeth’s. He does not seem to have served in war but his chief appointments were quasi-military, first the constableship of Pevensey castle and then the lieutenancy and constableship of the Tower. Pevensey belonged to the duchy of Lancaster, and it was for the duchy borough of East Grinstead that Oxenbridge was first returned to Parliament. That connexion apart, he was well befriended in the shire: he was related to the Pelhams of Laughton, the Gages of Firle and the Lords Dacre of the South, and the sheriff who returned him, Sir Anthony Browne, was the son of his predecessor at Pevensey. Oxenbridge had himself served as sheriff in the previous year and it was perhaps then that he had been knighted: these marks of favour look like attempts by the Duke of Northumberland to win over one who was to be a lifelong Catholic. In the event it was under Mary that Oxenbridge reached the height of his career with his three elections as knight of the shire and his appointment at the Tower: both indicated that the mantle of his kinsman Sir John Gage had passed to him. Of his role in the Commons it is known only that in 1555 he did not vote with the opposition against one of the government’s bills.4
Elizabeth did not reappoint Oxenbridge as lieutenant of the Tower and while his migration to Hampshire was followed by his transfer from the Sussex bench he was not to remain on that of Hampshire for long. He bought the manor and park of Hurstbourne Priors, near Whitchurch, in 1558 for more than £2,000, and during the next three years he parted with two Sussex manors and a London house in Trinity Lane; Brede he kept but let to the family of Devenish. The marriage arranged in 1565 between his heir Robert and a daughter of his fellow-Catholic (Sir) Thomas White II of South Warnborough helped to establish him socially in his new county, but even after serving as its sherif