FORSTER, Anthony (c.1510-72), of Cumnor Place, Berks. and Cripplegate, London.
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Family and Education
Servant of the Dudley family bef. 1556.
Forster came from a part of Shropshire in which the Dudley family had influence. He perhaps entered the family’s service early in life, and in 1556 he was implicated in the Dudley conspiracy. He may have moved south and made his Berkshire marriage under the influence of the Dudleys, who had extensive lands in south-west Oxfordshire. To his Berkshire property he added lands in Warwickshire in 1560, and in 1563 received a grant of concealed lands in 11 counties. From Sir Henry Norris I, husband of his wife’s cousin Marjorie or Margaret Williams, he rented property in Cripplegate, London. About the year 1558 he leased from William Owen William Owen the old residence of the abbot of Abingdon, Cumnor Place, near to Abingdon and Oxford: his wife’s uncle, Lord Williams, already owned property in the vicinity of Cumnor. Also from about 1558 he was steward of personal expenses to Sir Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester, whose wife, Amy Robsart, often stayed at Cumnor or with neighbours, the Hydes of South Denchworth. On 8 Sept. 1560 she was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in Cumnor Place, the tragedy being ascribed to foul play by Forster and Sir Richard Verney of Compton Verney, Warwickshire. But Leycester’s Commonwealth was not circulated till 1584, and in 1560 the inquest jury ruled out foul play. It was said that Forster’s reputation for honesty did ‘much curb the evil thoughts of the people’. There is, in fact, no evidence that Forster was at Cumnor on 8 Sept. or that Verney ever visited the house. Forster’s wife’s cousin, Lady Norris, was chief mourner at Amy Robsart’s funeral.4
In 1561 Forster bought Cumnor Place from William Owen, but was kept from full possession of it till 1570 by the Queen’s seizure of the property as security for a debt by Owen. The occupancy of the Cumnor estate secured Forster’s return to Parliament for Abingdon. He sat from 1566, when there was a by-election in the borough on the death of Oliver Hyde. If it had been needed, Leicester’s influence would have been behind Forster’s return: the Earl became high steward of Abingdon in 1566 and through Forster sent presents of robes to the corporation.5
Forster died 7 Nov. 1572, and was buried at Cumnor, the lordship of which he left to Leicester in return for the sum of £1200, £500 of which was to go to Forster’s widow; in 1574 Leicester sold Cumnor to Forster’s relative, Henry Norris. To the corporation of Abingdon, Forster left money for the provision of funeral sermons. Among the servants who received bequests were four musicians, and an old friend received six song books ‘which he himself did prick’. As overseers of his will he appointed the archdeacon of Oxford and the master of Balliol. A passage from a Latin epitaph has been rendered as follows:
He knew how to stretch skilfully the sounding chord of the muses and to strike the aonian lyre. He rejoiced to settle young plants in the earth and with remarkable skill to build noble houses. He was taught how to shape, with refined tongue, different speeches, and to write many wise things with his hand.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament. Folger V.b. 298.
- 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 3. Ex. inf. Miss Agnes Baker (from Preston mss); Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 59; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xvii. 58; T. J. Pettigrew, Inquiry Concerning the Death of Amy Robsart, 21, 23-4; Forster’s tomb in Cumnor church.
- 4. CPR, 1555-7, p. 453; 1558-60, p. 407; 1560-3, pp. 62-3, 67; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xvii. 58, 70-2; VCH Berks. iv. 398-400; DNB (Robert Dudley); Pepys Diary (ed. Braybrooke, 1848), i. 384; Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 35, 58, 100; VCH Warws. v. 59; vi. 126; Dugdale, Warws. (1654), 435.
- 5. VCH Berks. iv. 398-400; CPR, 1560-3, p. 289; D’Ewes, 125; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xvii. 92.
- 6. C142/168/71; PCC 39 Daper; VCH Berks. iv. 400; A. C. Baker, Historic Abingdon, 30.