|Ashby of Harefield|
George Ashby's successors at Breakspears continued the tradition of royal service well into the 16th century. His son John (d. 1496) was a clerk in the household of Henry VII and his grandson George Ashby (d. 1514) was clerk of the signet to both Henry VII and Henry VIII. The younger George's son, Thomas Ashby (d. 1559) was clerk of the spicery to Queen Elizabeth at the time of his death. After that the tradition of royal service may have lapsed, although the knighting of Sir Robert Ashby (c.1575-1618) on the eve of the Coronation of King James I argues for a continuing connection of the family with the court. Sir Robert had five sons, the eldest of whom, Sir Francis Ashby (1592-1623), was also knighted in 1617 and then made a baronet in 1622. Unfortunately he died without male issue the following year, after which the Breakspears estate passed to one of his younger brothers, Robert Ashby, who was Captain of one of the Middlesex trained bands. Previous accounts have assumed that this was Robert Ashby (d. 1675), but documents in the family papers at London Metropolitan Archives make it clear that Robert died in about 1636 and that the Robert who died in 1675 was his son, born in 1625 and thus a minor throughout the Civil War; his wardship was leased by the elder Robert's widow in the late 1630s and 1640s.
The younger Robert married Sarah, the daughter of a Birmingham ironmaster called John Jennens, whose other descendants included the fabulously rich 18th century miser, William Jennens of Acton Place (Suffolk). By now the family's association with the court had been lost and their later marriages suggest a narrowing of horizons to the world of the Middlesex and Hertfordshire gentry. Robert's son Francis Ashby (1660-1743) married Judith, the daughter of William Turner of Ickenham, and those of their children who survived to adulthood and married made similar connections. Francis did, however, substantially rebuilt the house in about 1694 and he constructed a new entrance front a few years later.
Breakspears passed first to their eldest surviving son, William Ashby (1696-1760), and when he died leaving only daughters, to his younger brother, Robert Ashby (1699-1769). Robert's only son died unmarried shortly before his father, and so the estate passed to Robert's daughter, Elizabeth Ashby (c.1735-1817), who married Joseph Partridge (c.1717-92) the following year. William's daughters seem to have been aggrieved by the way the entail on the estate operated to exclude them from the succession while entitling their cousin to inherit, and Elizabeth compounded the offence by refusing to allow them to be buried in the family vault in Harefield church where their father was buried. The will of Anne Ashby (c.1730-91) is a remarkably bitter document.
Joseph and Elizabeth Partridge, although embarking on matrimony at a ripe age (he was 52 and she was 35 when they married in 1770) produced two children who lived to maturity, and when Elizabeth died in 1817 her son, Joseph Ashby Partridge (1774-1857) inherited Breakspears. Like his father he remained a bachelor for many years, but he married in 1839. Although the marriage could produce no children as his wife was 53 when they married, her arrival at Breakspears does seem to have been the catalyst for a substantial remodelling and extension of the house in the 1840s which created much of the house that exists today. Although Joseph survived his wife, the absence of close Ashby relatives meant that, when he died in 1857, he left the estate to a member of her family, William Wickham Drake, and the association of the Ashbys with Harefield came to an end after some 410 years.
Breakspears, Harefield, Middlesex
|Breakspears: the early 18th century part of the north front, before recent restoration.|
Breakspears is first mentioned in 1500, but there was presumably a house on the site before this since Breakspear was the name of the family from whom the Ashbys bought their lands at Harefield in the mid 15th century and it seems logical that the house took its name in their time. It is doubtful, however, whether any part of the current structure is earlier than the early 17th century, and little of the external fabric is now earlier than the early 18th century.
|Breakspears: the north front in 1771, from an estate map.|
Image: London Metropolitan Archives ACC/0312/789
|Breakspears: the plan of the house from the 1813|
inclosure map, showing it before the 19th
century remodelling. Image: London Metropolitan
Plans of 1734, 1771 and 1813 show the house as L-shaped, with the main body of the building corresponding with the eastern part of the present house, and a narrower service wing projecting to the south-east. The left hand bays of the north front represent an early 18th century front added to a building which had been substantially rebuilt in 1694. This facade is built of red brick with blue headers, and there was formerly a shell hood over the doorway which has been removed. The large extension to the right was built in the mid 19th century. On the south side of the house three bays of early 17th century brickwork in English bond - albeit disturbed by the insertion of a Venetian window and adjacent doorway on the ground floor in the 18th century - perhaps represents the earliest part of the present house.
|Breakspears: an 1860 photograph of the south front showing the house as altered by Joseph Ashby Partridge.|
Image: Historic England (NMR BB75/6800)
|Breakspears: the south front after recent restoration|
At some point in the period 1823-57 the old south-east service wing was taken down and the north and south fronts were extended to the west for Joseph Ashby Partridge, in a long addition with late Georgian sashes. At the same time, a conservatory was built at the south-west corner of the house, and the roof was raised and reconstructed.
|Breakspears: reused 17th century chimneypiece|
Rather later, but before 1886 when the plan below was drawn, a small extension was made at the eastern end of the house, and the bay window was added to the Billiard Room (this is not shown on the first Ordnance Survey plan of 1865).
|Breakspears from the south-east, c.1890, showing the original single-storey eastern addition.|
|Breakspears: ground plan of 1886 by Roger Field showing the layout of the main rooms (north at the top).|
Image: London Metropolitan Archives ACC:0312/807
A final major phase of changes was undertaken in 1899-1900, when the Scottish architect Charles H. Mileham enlarged the eastern extension of the house, refurbished all the rooms to the east of the entrance hall and raised the ceilings in this part of the house. He also built a new roof and dormers in this area. The conservatory at the south-west corner of the house was demolished at about this time, and certainly by 1914.
To the west of the house is a square red-brick dovecot, which it is thought may be older than the house. It was perhaps originally a 16th century timber-framed structure, but the timber frame was progressively replaced by brickwork as it decayed and the roof was renewed in 1769-70. A new stable block was built between the house and the dovecote in the mid 19th century, but this has since been demolished. The present entrance drive was laid out, and the Upper Lodge was constructed, in 1904.
|Breakspears: the interior of the 1900 drawing room, as restored after 2009.|
Descent: George Ashby (d. 1474); to son, John Ashby (d. 1496); to son, George Ashby (d. 1514); to son Thomas Ashby (d. 1559); to son, George Ashby (d. 1603); to son, Sir Robert Ashby (c.1575-1618); to son, Sir Francis Ashby, 1st bt. (1592-1623); to brother, Robert Ashby (1598-c.1636); to son, Robert Ashby (1625-75); to son, Francis Ashby (1660-1743); to son, William Ashby (1696-1760); to brother, Robert Ashby (1699-1769); to daughter, Elizabeth (c.1735-1817), wife of Joseph Partridge; to son, Joseph Ashby Partridge (1774-1857); to a relation of his wife, William Wickham Drake (d. 1877); to widow, Agnes Drake (d. 1889) and then to his cousin, Alfred Henry Tarleton (d. 1921), who initially leased the house (tenants included W.S. Gilbert, who wrote The yeomen of the guard here c.1900); to widow (d. 1951) who sold 1942 to Middlesex County Council, which converted the house 1956 into an old people's home (closed 1987); sold 2009 to Clancy Developments who converted the house into 9 apartments and built 8 new houses in the grounds.
Ashby family of Breakspears
Ashby, George (c.1384-1474). His parentage is obscure but by his own account he was nearly 80 in 1473 and so may have been born shortly before 1385. During the minority of King Henry VI he appears to have worked for Duke Humphrey, but from 1437 when the king took charge of his own affairs he was appointed one of the four Clerks of the Signet, and he later served Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI in the same capacity. Steward of Warwick, 1446; MP for Warwick, 1459. He was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison, probably by the Yorkist faction after the deposition of King Henry VI, in 1461, but seems to have been released without facing trial in 1463 and was then responsible for the education of Prince Edward of Westminster until the Prince's murder in 1471. He was a poet and manuscripts of his works preserved in Trinity College, Cambridge and Cambridge University Library were published in 1899. He married Margaret [surname unknown] (d. 1474) and had issue, probably among others:
(1) John Ashby (d. 1496) (q.v.).
He purchased the Breakspears estate in about 1447 and later further expanded his property at Harefield.
He died 20 February 1474/5 'above 80 years of age' and was buried at Rickmansworth. His widow died 24 September 1474 and was buried at Harefield.
Ashby, John (d. 1496). Son of George Ashby (d. 1474) and his wife Margaret. He appears to have been a clerk in the royal household, since there is a payment to him in the accounts of the King's privy purse in 1492 'for writing of a book'. He married Anne (d. 1503), daughter of Thomas Peyton of Isleham (Cambs), and had issue:
(1) George Ashby (d. 1514) (q.v.);
(2) William Ashby (d. 1537); married Jane [surname unknown] (d. 1557) and had issue one son and seven daughters.
He inherited the Breakspears estate from his father in 1474.
He died in 1496 and was buried at Rickmansworth (Herts); his will was proved 1 July 1496. His widow died 22 October 1503 and was buried at Rickmansworth.
Ashby, George (d. 1514). Son of John Ashby (d. 1496) and his wife Anne, daughter of Thomas Peyton of Isleham (Cambs). Clerk of the Signet to Kings Henry VII and Henry VIII; Master of the Swans on the River Thames. He married Rose, daughter of [forename unknown] Eden and sister of Richard Eden, Archdeacon of Middlesex, and had issue:
(1) Thomas Ashby (d. 1559) (q.v.);
(2) Anne Ashby (d. 1539); painted by Holbein; married, as his first wife, Sir Francis Lovell (d. 1551) of Barton (Norfk), kt., nephew and adopted heir of Sir Thomas Lovell KG, Treasurer of the Household to King Henry VII, and had issue; buried 22 May 1539 at East Harling (Norfk);
(3) Elizabeth Anne Ashby; betrothed to William Sturle but possibly later the wife of Edmund Noads of Gravely (Beds);
(4) A son; perhaps died in the lifetime of his father;
(5) John Ashby (d. 1549), buried 1 September 1549 at Harefield.
He inherited the Breakspears estate from his father in 1496.
He died 14 March 1514/5 and was buried at Harefield, where he is commemorated by a brass laid down in 1537; his will was proved 18 September 1515. His widow married 2nd, after 1516, Nicholas Bone (d. by 1521) of Edmonton (Middx) and also survived him; she was living in 1548 but her date of death has not been traced.
Ashby, Thomas (d. 1559). Son of George Ashby (d. 1514) and his wife Rose, daughter of [forename unknown] Eden, born before 1500. Clerk of the Spicery to Queen Elizabeth. He married Anne (1511-45), daughter and heiress of Edward Wrothe of Durants, Enfield (Middx), and had issue:
(1) George Ashby (d. 1603) (q.v.);
(2) Francis Ashby (b. 1540), baptised 6 February 1540;
(3) John Ashby (d. 1546); buried 5 August 1546 at Harefield;
(6) Anne Ashby (b. 1545), baptised 4 July 1545 at Harefield.
He inherited Breakspears from his father in 1514 when he was a minor, and a one-third share in the manor of Durants, Enfield in right of his wife.
He died 30 January 1559. His wife was buried at Harefield, 8 July 1545.
Ashby, George (d. 1603). Son of Thomas Ashby (d. 1559), born before 1533. He married 1st, Anne (fl. 1572), daughter of Ralph Lee and 2nd, Elizabeth [surname unknown] (d. 1622) and had issue:
(2.1) Sir Robert Ashby (d. 1618), kt. (q.v.);
He inherited the Breakspears and Enfield properties from his father in 1559.
He died in 1603; his will was proved 15 November 1604. His first wife died between 1572 and 1576. His widow was buried 13 June 1622 at Harefield; her will was proved 12 June 1622.
Ashby, Sir Robert (c.1575-1618), kt. Son of George Ashby (d. 1603) and his second wife Elizabeth, born about 1577. He was knighted at Whitehall, 23 July 1603. He married Dorothy (fl. 1623), youngest daughter of Francis Haydon esq. of The Grove, Watford (Herts) and had issue:
(1) Sir Francis Ashby (c.1592-1623), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(2) Edward Ashby (1596-1642), baptised 17 November 1596; married and had issue two sons and two daughters; died in 1642;
(3) Robert Ashby (1598-c.1636) (q.v.)
(4) William Ashby (b. 1600), born early in the morning, 29 December 1600; married and had issue one son, who died young;
(5) Ferdinando Ashby (d. by 1633), born after 1601; married Dorothy [surname unknown] (who m2, 1633, Edward Jones of Harefield (Middx)), and had issue one son, who died young; died before 1633.
He inherited the Breakspears estate and Enfield property from his father in 1603, but appears to have sold the latter.
He was buried at Harefield 20 March 1617/8, where he and his wife and eldest son are commemorated by a wall monument. His widow was living in 1623.
Ashby, Sir Francis (c.1592-1623), kt. & 1st bt. Eldest son of Sir Robert Ashby (d. 1618), kt. and his wife Dorothy, youngest daughter of Francis Haydon esq. of The Grove, Watford (Herts), baptised 10 October 1592 at Harefield. Educated at Corpus Christi and Trinity Colleges, Oxford (matriculated 1609/10; BA 1612) and Grays Inn (admitted 1609). He was knighted at Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics), 2 September 1617 and created a baronet, 18 June 1622. He married Joan [surname unknown]* and had issue:
(1) Alice Ashby (b. 1620), baptised at Harefield, 8 November 1620; married, about 1638, Alexander Lynde (1612-56) of Rickmansworth (Herts) (who m2, 1654, Diana, daughter of George Luttrell of Dunster Castle (Somerset) and widow of John Wogan of Pembrokeshire) and had issue three sons; died before 1652.
He inherited the Breakspears estate from his father in 1618.
He died 23 December 1623, aged 31, when his baronetcy became extinct, although 'an impudent attempt' was made in the 18th century by the Ashby family of Haddiscoe (Norfk) to claim it on the basis of descent from a supposed marriage between Sir Francis and one Mary Wolaston, of which there is no trace in the records. Sir Francis was buried at Harefield 22 February 1624 (such an exceptional delay was perhaps accounted for by the very severe winter meaning the ground was frozen); his will was proved 16 March 1623/4. His widow was buried at Harefield 17 March 1634/5.
* According to some Internet sources her maiden name was Duke, but I have not been able to substantiate this.
Ashby, Robert (1598-c.1636). Third son of Sir Robert Ashby (d. 1618), kt. and his wife Dorothy, youngest daughter of Francis Haydon esq. of The Grove, Watford (Herts), baptised 14 April 1598. Captain of one of the Middlesex trained bands in 1632. He married Mary [surname unknown] (fl. 1650) and had issue:
(1) Robert Ashby (1625-75) (q.v.);
(2) Mary Ashby (1628-43), baptised 22 September 1628 at Harefield; died young and was buried 30 September 1643 at Harefield;
(3) Elizabeth Ashby (1631-43), baptised 10 July 1631; died young and was buried 5 August 1643 at Harefield;
(4) Alice Ashby (b. 1634), baptised 2 November 1634; married, 11 September 1653, John Chase.
He inherited Breakspears from his brother in 1623.
He died between 1635 and 1637. His widow was living in 1650.
Ashby, Robert (1625-75). Son of Robert Ashby (b. 1598) and his wife Mary, baptised 27 November 1625 at Harefield. His mother leased his wardship from Lord Chandos between 1637 and 1646. He married 21 May 1655 at St Martin, Birmingham, Sarah (b. 1634; fl. 1674), daughter of John Jennens of Birmingham, ironmaster, and had issue:
(1) Mary Ashby (b. 1656), baptised 14 January 1656/7; married, 22 April 1679, Christopher Coles of London;
(2) Francis Ashby (1660-1743) (q.v.);
(3) Thomas Ashby (b. 1661), baptised 3 January 1661/2; probably died young;
(4) Robert Ashby (1663-80), baptised 16 March 1662/3; died unmarried and was buried at Harefield, 21 December 1680;
(5) George Ashby (b. 1669), baptised 22 October 1669; living in 1675;
(6) John Ashby (b. 1671), baptised 22 March 1671/2 at Harefield; living in 1675;
(7) Sarah Ashby (fl. 1675).
He inherited Breakspears from his father and came of age in the late 1640s.
He was buried at Harefield, 20 February 1674/5; his will was proved 4 March 1674/5. His second wife survived him, but her date of death has not been traced; she could be the Sarah Ashby who married John Bond at Birmingham in 1679.
Ashby, Francis (1660-1743). Son of Robert Ashby (d. 1675) and his wife, Sarah, daughter of John Jennings of Birmingham, ironmaster, baptised at Harefield, 19 November 1660. He married, 1685 (settlement 20 October), Judith (1666-1753), only daughter of William Turner of Ickenham (Middx) and had issue:
(1) Judith Ashby (c.1686-1723); died unmarried aged 37, 13 December and was buried 18 December 1723 at Harefield; will proved 16 December 1723;
(2) Robert Ashby (b. 1688), baptised 15 July 1688; died in infancy;
(3) John Ashby (c.1689-1713); died unmarried aged 24, 2 August 1713 and was buried at Harefield, 4 August 1713;
(4) Robert Ashby (b. 1691), baptised 19 April 1691; died young;
(5) Sarah Ashby (1692-1743), said to be baptised 30 September 1692 at Harefield; married, 28 February 1711, Edward Blackstone (1687-1730), citizen and ironmonger of London, youngest son of John Blackstone of Wandsworth (Surrey), gent. and had issue two sons; buried 23 April 1743 at Harefield; will proved 13 June 1743;
(6) William Ashby (1696-1760) (q.v.);
(7) Robert Ashby (1699-1769) (q.v.).
He inherited Breakspears from his father in 1674 and came of age in 1681. He rebuilt the house in about 1694 and reconstructed the main front a few years later.
He died 10 April and was buried 21 April 1743 at Harefield; his will was proved 3 May 1743. His widow died 3 January and was buried 12 January 1753 at Harefield; her will was proved 17 January 1753.
Ashby, William (1696-1760). Elder son of Francis Ashby (1660-1743) and his wife Judith, only daughter of William Turner of Ickenham (Middx), baptised 17 July 1696. He married 1st, 3 December 1717 at Harefield, Anne (c.1696-1723), daughter of John Alleyn esq. of Grays Inn and 2nd, 26 May 1726 at St Mary-le-Strand, London, Anne (1687-1785), daughter of Whitlock Bulstrode esq. of Hounslow (Middx) and had issue:
(1.1) Francis Ashby (1718-19), born 22 and baptised 31 December 1718 at Harefield; died in infancy 11 April and was buried 13 April 1719 at Harefield;
(1.2) John Ashby (1719-21), born 2 and baptised 2 December 1719 at Harefield; died in infancy 15 January and was buried 17 January 1721 at Harefield;
(1.3) Anne Ashby (1720-21), born 9 and baptised 11 December 1720 at Harefield; died in infancy 16 May and was buried 18 May 1721 at Harefield;
(2.1) Charlotte Ashby (1729-95), baptised 25 February 1729/30; married, 16 December 1762 at St Andrew, Holborn (Middx), Rev. William Williams MA (1734-1806), second son of Sir Gilbert Williams, kt. of Islington (Middx) and Gwernyfedd (Brecons); lived at Sarratt (Herts); died 8 May 1795; will proved 26 June 1795;
(2.2) Anne Ashby (c.1730-91); lived at Rickmansworth (Herts); died 4 June 1791* and was buried 11 June 1791 at Harefield; will (which reveals a serious rift with Elizabeth Partridge) proved 30 June 1791;
(2.3) Rebecca Ashby (1731-72), said to have been baptised 23 July 1731 at Harefield; died 12 July and was buried 17 July 1772 at Harefield.
He inherited Breakspears from his father in 1743.
He died 18 April 1760 aged 63 and was buried at Harefield where he is commemorated by a monument incorporating a bust attributed to Sir Robert Taylor which was erected under the will of his daughter Anne; his slightly eccentric will was proved 19 June 1762. His first wife died aged 27, 3 July 1723 and was buried at Harefield, 10 July 1723, where she is commemorated by a monument. His widow lived latterly at Rickmansworth (Herts) and died 28 July 1785, but was buried at Harefield; her will was proved 18 November 1785.
* 1791 is the date given in the register; on the family monument in Harefield church it is given as 1792.
Ashby, Robert (1699-1769). Second son of Francis Ashby (1660-1743) and his wife Judith, only daughter of William Turner of Ickenham (Middx), baptised 30 November 1699. He married, 5 January 1730/1 at St. Katherine-by-the-Tower, London, Mary (c.1702-67), daughter of Peter Toms and sister of Rear-Adm. Peter Toms, and had issue:
(1) Sarah Ashby (1731-34), born 1 and baptised 18 November 1731 at St Katherine Cree, London; died young and was buried at St Katherine Cree, 12 February 1733/4;
(2) Francis Ashby (b. & d. 1732), baptised 22 November 1732 at St Katherine Cree, London; died in infancy and was buried at St. Katherine Cree, 3 December 1732;
(2) Elizabeth Ashby (c.1735-1817) (q.v.);
(3) Robert Ashby (1738-67), baptised 16 July 1738 at St George-in-the-East, London; died without issue in the lifetime of his father and was buried at Harefield, 23 December 1767; will proved 16 December 1767.
He inherited Breakspears from his elder brother in 1760.
He died 2 June and was buried at Harefield, 9 June 1769; his will was proved 16 August 1769. His wife died 13 September and was buried at Harefield 21 September 1767, where they are commemorated by a monument.
Ashby, Elizabeth (c.1735-1817). Only child and heiress of Robert Ashby (1699-1769) of Breakspears and his wife Mary, born about 1735. After 1772, she fell out with her cousins, the surviving daughters of William Ashby (d. 1760) and denied them the right to be buried in the family vault at Harefield. She married, 18 August 1770 at Harefield, Joseph Partridge (c.1717-92) esq. of St. James's and had issue:
(1) Anne Catherine Partridge (1773-1855), born 28 August and baptised 22 September 1773; died unmarried, 19 December and was buried at Harefield, 26 December 1855;
(2) Joseph Ashby Partridge (1774-1857) (q.v.);
(3) Elizabeth Ashby Partridge (b. & d. 1776), born 6 May and baptised 24 May 1776; buried 1 June 1776.
She inherited Breakspears from her father in 1769.
She died 30 May and was buried 6 June 1817 at Harefield; her will was proved 17 July 1817. Her husband died 24 December 1792 and was buried at Harefield, 3 January 1793.
Partridge, Joseph Ashby (1774-1857). Only son of Joseph Partridge and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Ashby of Breakspears, born 17 September and baptised 13 October 1774. Educated at Christ Church and Worcester Colleges, Oxford (matriculated 1792; BA 1796) and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1793). JP for Middlesex, 1819. Vice-President of the Uxbridge & District Auxiliary Bible Society, 1822-39. In 1841 he was one of two assignees in the bankruptcy of Francis & Charles Greeve Wakefield, stockbrokers, and is thus likely to have been one of their principal creditors. He married, 7 March 1839 at St Andrew, Clifton (Glos), Ann Elizabeth (1786-1855), daughter of John Drake of Amersham (Bucks), but had no issue.
He inherited Breakspears from his mother in 1817 and enlarged and remodelled the house in the 1840s; it seems likely that his late marriage in 1839 was the catalyst for change. At his death he bequeathed the estate to a relation of his wife, William Wickham Drake. He also owned property at Cranfield (Beds).
He died 10 April 1857 and was buried at Harefield, where he and his wife are commemorated by a monument; his will was proved 25 March 1858 (effects under £35,000). His wife died 20 July 1855; a grant of administration of her goods was made to William Wickham Drake and others, 12 May 1858 (effects under £2,000).
Location of archives
Ashby, Partridge and Tarleton families of Breakspears: deeds, accounts and legal papers, 1296-1899 [London Metropolitan Archives, ACC/0312]
Coat of arms
Azure, a chevron or between three double-headed eagles, with wings displayed, argent.
Can you help?
Here are a few notes about information and images which would help to improve the account above. If you can help with any of these or with other additions or corrections, please use the contact form in the sidebar to get in touch.
- Can you add any further information to the genealogy of his family, especially for the 16th century when the information is sadly incomplete?
- Can anyone supply portraits of any of the members of this family, or a decent photograph of the bust of William Ashby (d. 1760) on his monument in Harefield church?
Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published 7th January 2016 and was updated 28 May and 2 June 2018. I am grateful to Nina Green for additional information.