LONG, Sir Walter (1560-1610), of Wraxhall, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 21 Apr. 1560, 1st s. of Robert Long† of Wraxhall and Draycot Cerne by Barbara, da. of Sir Edward Carne† of Ewenny, Glam. m. (1) Mary, da. of Sir Thomas Pakington of Hampton Lovell, Bucks., 2s. 1da.; (2) bef. 9 June 1594, Katherine, 4th da. of Sir John Thynne of Longleat, maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth, 4s. 6da. suc. fa. 1581. Kntd. 1589.1
J.p. Wilts. from 1591, q. from c.1592, dep. lt. 1601, 1608,2 sheriff 1602-3.
Long came into his inheritance less than two months after reaching his majority. His family united the manors of Wraxhall and Draycot Cerne during the fifteenth century, and in the sixteenth was one of the wealthiest in the county: towards the subsidy of 1576 Sir Robert paid £8 on an assessment of £60 in Draycot Cerne, which was the same as Sir John Thynne was paying at Longleat. On his father’s death, Walter succeeded to Draycot Cerne, and other Wiltshire manors. As Wraxhall, Charlton, North Bradley and Atworth formed part of his mother’s jointure he had to wait for these until her death in 1607. The estate had, moreover, to provide annuities for the three younger sons and a marriage portion for Anne, the wife of Thomas Snell, of Kington St. Michael. Although Sir Robert made Walter his sole executor, he had enfeoffed his personally at Draycot (farm stock and implements, a coach and two coach horses, 15 feather beds ‘of the best’ and bedsteads, furniture, plate and grain) to a formidable list of overseers who were to take their orders for its disposal from his widow. Apart from his wife’s brother Thomas Carne and Sir Richard Berkeley, these overseers were men of substance in Wiltshire: (Sir) John Danvers, (Sir) Edward Baynton, Richard Kingsmill, Edward Hungerford of Rowden, Michael Erneley and John Snell. Their names were a tribute to the father’s standing in the county and a promise of future regard for the son.3
In September 1586 Long was put in charge of the light horsemen and demi-lances of the county. Following his father’s and grandfather’s example, he saw active service during the next few years, and was knighted in Ireland. Back again in Wiltshire, he was one of those used in 1591 and 1592 by the Privy Council to inquire about trouble and trouble-makers in the shire and in the following year he represented it in Parliament. His admission to Gray’s Inn in 1594 was presumably a recognition of his position rather than a preparation for it. Nevertheless, there is little to suggest that Long was zealous in public service; in a complaint of the slackness of Wiltshire j.p.s in January 1599, the justices in his division were singled out as having given ‘no attendance at all ... in the performance of the last service of that county for Ireland’. In the nineties he became embroiled in a bitter feud with the Danvers family, whose head had been his father’s feoffee and overseer. Whether the feud had had its origin, as Lady Danvers averred, in robberies committed by Long and his brother Henry, for which old Sir John had sent them to prison, or was not of the Longs’ making (for Sir John was quite capable of giving the first cause of offence himself, its outcome was sensational. On 4 Oct. 1594 Sir Charles and Sir Henry Danvers, with 17 or 18 followers, burst in on a group of j.p.s gathered at John Chamberlayne’s house at Corsham and shot Henry Long dead where he sat at dinner with his brother Sir Walter, his brother-in-law Thomas Snell, Anthony Mildmay and Henry Smyth. The Danvers brothers fled the country, and were not to be promised a pardon until four years later, and that conditionally on paying Sir Walter £1,500.4
Before that time, however, Long had found his own form of satisfaction. Sir John Danvers’s tenants, who had exchanged their own commons, ‘unprofitable and overgrown with brambles’, for new ones, saw the chance, on his death in December 1594, of enjoying both old and new ground. Seeking Sir Walter’s advice, they were referred to one Stumpe of Malmesbury and the Inner Temple, who outlined a course of action. Working in 14 shifts of but two each, since three and over constituted a riot, they plucked down the pales and hedges enclosing their old common, now improved land worth 13s. an acre, while Long rode cross-country to egg them on with: ‘Well done Masters. This is the way. If you do not prevail, I will give you as much land out of my park. Hold together, for there was never multitude held together, and failed of their purpose’. The j.p.s, directed by the Privy Council to inquire into these proceedings, described them as a ‘great and dangerous rout’, the relay system notwithstanding, and in June 1596 Long was charged before the Star Chamber with being its originator and sentenced to imprisonment and a fine of £100. Later that year his steward was severely dealt with by the same court for having abused his office of coroner in Long’s interest.5
Long served his term as sheriff, as his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had done before him, and was a deputy lieutenant, because he was the reigning Long of Long’s division. He owed his election as knight of the shire to his position in the county and to the entrenchment of his family there; but he appears to have cut no figure during his one experience although as knight for Wiltshire he may have attended the subsidy committee (26 Feb.), a legal committee (9 Mar.) and a cloth committee (15 Mar.). Out of his life of 50 years the last were racked by gout which drove him to the spa at Bath.
He died 28 Sept. 1610. The legend that, dominated by his second wife, he was persuaded by her and her lawyer brother (Egremont Thynne) to disinherit John, his heir, in the interest of Walter, the eldest son of his second family, receives support from conveyances cited in his inquisition post mortem and from the terms of the elaborate will which he made on 20 and 25 Dec. 1609. A later compromise gave Draycot Cerne to John and Wraxhall to Walter, dividing the manors that had been united for seven generations. Lady Long married Sir Edward Fox of Gwernoga, Montgomery, soon after her year of mourning was out. She had acquired her son Walter’s wardship and took care that Fox should agree before the marriage to her retaining it; but, in her will, written three years later, she expressed a particular desire that he should have the wardship after she was gone. Two things she failed to do: pay Sir Walter’s debts and administer his will.6