Thursday 11 August 2016

(224) Astrey of Harlington Woodend and Henbury Great House

Astrey of Harlington and Henbury
The founder of the Astrey family fortunes was Sir Ralph Astrey (d. 1494), who came from Hitchin (Herts) and went to London in the mid 15th century as apprentice to Sir William Hampton, citizen and fishmonger, and Lord Mayor of London in 1472. Astrey became his master's partner and in due course his executor too, and in 1493-94 he also served as Lord Mayor. He died a few days after leaving office, leaving a young widow with an infant son, and also three older sons by his first wife. He left extensive property; an estate at Hitchin which was entailed on his eldest (and only adult) son, William Astrey (d. 1501), lands at All Hallows, Hoo (Kent), entailed on his second son, Ralph Astrey (d. 1501), and scattered estates in Kent and Surrey which were left in trust for his widow, with remainder to his four sons in turn. The properties left to William and Ralph devolved on their deaths without issue to the third brother, Thomas Astrey (d. 1518), and then to his son, William Astrey (1503-42) of Stoke Goldington (Bucks), and it was he who ultimately inherited the Kent and Surrey estates Sir Ralph left to his widow when she died in 1523. William had only one son, Thomas Astry, who sold the Kent properties he had inherited in 1549 and soon afterwards died unmarried. His heir was his father's half-brother, Ralph Astrey (d. 1585), with whom the genealogy below begins. He had bought the Woodend estate at Harlington (Beds) in 1548 and enlarged it and purchased the freehold a few years later, no doubt on receiving his inheritance from his nephew.

Ralph Astrey (d. 1585) was succeeded at Harlington by his son, Ralph Astrey (d. 1599), who was comfortably settled in a house at Eversholt (Beds) and chose never to move from there. Foreseeing this possibility. the father requested in his will that if Ralph junior chose not to live at Harlington he should allow his younger brother, George (fl. 1609) - who inherited his father's lands in south Bedfordshire - to do so, but George bought a house at Eaton Socon on the Huntingdonshire border and lived there. 

The younger Ralph's heir in 1599 was his eldest son, Sir Henry Astrey (1577-1630), kt., who did live at Harlington. He seems to have rebuilt the house at Woodend - not surprisingly, as expectations of domestic comfort were rising rapidly at this time and the old house had been out of use for a generation. When Sir Henry died his sons were all minors, and the eldest did not long survive his father, so the property came to Francis Astrey (1617-59), who came of age just before the Civil War. Francis seems to have avoided a strong endorsement of either party in the war, and was appointed to minor local offices by both the King and by Parliament. After his younger brother Henry was driven out of his benefice in Co. Derry, he was particularly involved in raising funds to support the Cromwellian army in Ireland. He died just before the Restoration of the Monarchy and was succeeded by his young son, Sir James Astrey (1653-1709), kt., who became a prominent lawyer in London. He was High Sheriff in 1682 and was appointed as a Master in Chancery and knighted the following year. He was forthright in his support for religious toleration, and these views commended him to King James II, who made him a Deputy Lieutenant for Bedfordshire and a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. He seems, however, to have avoided any military support for the Stuart cause and he kept his Chancery post after the revolution of 1688, only resigning in 1694 to devote himself to antiquarian and literary pursuits.

Sir James died in 1709 and was succeeded by his eldest son, James Astrey (1675-1716), who secured for himself a nice lucrative post as Secretary of the Comptrollers of the Army Accounts in 1712. However, he died unmarried four years later, and the Harlington Woodend estate passed to his brother, the Rev. Dr. Francis Astrey (1676-1766), a pluralist clergyman who was a Prebendary and Treasurer of St. Paul's Cathedral and must therefore have lived chiefly in London. When Dr. Astrey died without issue at the great age of 90, his property passed to a maternal cousin, Francis Penyston of Cornwell (Oxon) and this branch of the Astrey family died out.

George Astrey (c.1555-1633?) of Eaton Socon was the founder of another branch of the family. He had nine sons, five or six of whom outlived their father, and among whom he distributed the properties he had inherited, bought, and acquired through his marriage. His eldest surviving son, Luke Astrey (1586-1642), rather unusually went into the church and emigrated to Ireland, where he became rector of Drumachose and Tamlaght-Finlagan (Co. Derry). When he died in 1642, he and his wife were buried in Derry Cathedral and he was succeeded in the benefice by his cousin, Rev. Henry Astrey, from the Harlington branch of the family, who was driven out by the rebels a few years later. Luke's surviving children were brought back to England and were bred up to the law. The elder, Luke junior (d. 1708) became a barrister, and inherited some of the family's Huntingdonshire property. The younger, later Sir Samuel Astry (1632-1704), kt., was much more successful, rising to the lucrative post of Clerk of the Crown in the court of King's Bench, which he held from 1677 until his death. Sir Samuel married a Gloucestershire heiress, and bought extensive lands around the core of her family property; he also greatly extended and rebuilt her family house, creating The Great House, Henbury. His two sons, however, he regarded as wastrels, and he did his best to cut them out of his will, leaving them only an allowance for life and providing that if they disputed the will they should lose even that. The elder son predeceased his father, and the younger survived only until 1711. Sir Samuel's widow had his estates for life, but married again and died in December 1708, so that his property was ultimately divided between his three surviving daughters and their husbands.

Harlington Woodend, Bedfordshire

Woodend formed a detached part of the parish of Harlington and a capital messuage here, later called Hardings Place, was leased from the lord of the manor in 1530 by William Harding. In 1538 the lease was extended for a further 31 years, but in 1548 Harding sold it to Ralph Astrey, who also purchased another estate at Woodend from Sir Thomas Cheney shortly afterwards. By 1598, when Ralph Astrey died, the Woodend estate was a freehold, held in chief from the Crown. The family also owned the manor of Wadlowe in Toddington parish, but their main seat was at Harlington Woodend. 

The manor house of Harlington Woodend, from an estate map of the 1750s. Image: Andrew Sewell.
After a period of disuse at the end of the 16th century, it seems likely that the house was rebuilt or modernised for Sir Henry Astrey (1577-1630), kt., and an estate map of the 1750s shows a fairly typical E-plan manor house of this period. The house was of two storeys with gabled attics and had an off-centre porch tower rising to a cupola and a curved bay window lighting the hall to its left. By the 1750s the original windows had all been replaced with double-hung sashes and the porch doorway seems to have been given an ogee form, although this may represent draughtsman's licence rather than a precocious piece of Gothickry. The house is said to have been burned down in the late 18th or early 19th century and replaced by a farmhouse in which a portion of the old building was incorporated.

Descent: William Harding sold 1548 to Ralph Astrey (d. 1585); to son, Ralph Astrey (d. 1598); to son, Sir Henry Astrey (1577-1630), kt.; to son, William Astrey (1615-31); to brother, Francis Astrey (1617-59); to son, Sir James Astrey (1653-1709), kt.; to son, James Astrey (1675-1716); to brother, Rev. Dr. Francis Astrey (1677-1766); to maternal kinsman, Francis Penyston of Cornwell (Oxon), who sold before 1808.

Henbury Great House, Gloucestershire

The village of Henbury, five miles from the centre of Bristol and these days part of the built‑up area of the city, has since the 17th century been a favoured place of residence for its wealthier citizens.  Large villas in their own grounds once abounded along the approach roads to the village, although many of them have since been demolished.  Blaise Castle, built in 1795 in a large and famous Repton landscape, now gives the village a conventional squirarchical appearance, and it is easy to forget that before it was built a number of gentry houses contested for pre‑eminence.  In the early 18th century, John Kip drew two views of Henbury, which have been described as masterpieces of tact.  One featured Henbury Awdelett towering above a miniaturised Great House; in the other, the impressive length of the latter dominates the frame and the Awdelett appears as little more than a gardener's cottage.

The street front of the Henbury Great House is seen in the background of Kip's engraving of Henbury Awdelett.
Henbury Great House: Kip's engraving published in 1712 also shows the smaller Henbury Awdelett in the background,
on the left.

There can be little doubt that the Great House was much the larger and more important of the two.  It stood just a few yards back from the crossroads in the centre of Henbury village, where today there is a ruined orchard visible over a low wall.  The property belonged to George Morse in 1629, and in 1688 a man of the same name bequeathed it to his daughter Elizabeth, the wife of Sir Samuel Astry, who had been accumulating property in south Gloucestershire since 1662. As soon as the Great House was in his hands he seems to have begun an extensive remodelling that amounted almost to a rebuilding, and it seems likely that a spirit of rivalry with the neighbouring Sampson family's remodelling of Henbury Awdelett in 1688 may have encouraged the creation of such a grand house.

Kip's views of Henbury show both the main fronts of the Great House, and although one is concerned to maximise and the other to minimise its impact, they agree closely about its size (twelve by three bays) and form.  A low wall with a small summerhouse at either end separated it from the road, on the far side of which a long, angled double avenue leading the eye up to another summerhouse near the top of Blaise Castle hill, the foundations of which can still be found by the determined researcher.  The south façade facing this avenue was 12 bays long and three storeys high, and had a flat roof with a balustraded parapet. Over the central eight bays this parapet was stepped down, but there was otherwise no emphasis of the centre or articulation of the façade. The relentlessness which was evidently the architect's aim in this front was rather spoilt by two off-centre doorways which disturbed the rhythm of the ground floor fenestration.

Henbury Great House: detail of a coloured copy of the Kip engraving.
The north front of the house was the show front, and faced onto a courtyard with a circular pool in the centre, containing a fountain statue of Neptune (which, rather ironically, survives just inside the grounds of Henbury Awdelett (now the Manor House school)).  This side was also of 12 bays, but here the central 10 were battlemented. There was also an excessively complicated rhythm of advance and recession (1‑1‑3‑2‑3‑1‑1 bays) around a central porch but, since the ground floor was again not perfectly symmetrical, this may have been dictated by the desire to incorporate the previous house on the site. This was apparently quite large ‑ it had paid tax on eight hearths in 1672 ‑ and its incorporation would also explain the otherwise extraordinary position of the Great House by the roadside. Nothing is known of the interiors of the house, or of the architect who was responsible for this remarkable amalgam of up‑to‑date Talmanesque composition and pragmatic adaptation; such a compromised design, however, is most likely to have come from the hand of a local Bristol craftsman experimenting with new ideas on a larger than usual canvas.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the Great House was its roof. Two small pepper‑pot turrets, presumably approached by twin staircases, gave access to the leads, and broad flights of steps accommodated the change in level caused by the lowered balustrade over the centre of the south front. It was therefore possible to circumambulate the house at roof level, and enjoy the vistas up to Blaise hill and across the gardens north of the house. Roof access of this type is apparent in several of Kip's views, but at Henbury Great House it reached its greatest extent.

Henbury Great House in 1809, shortly before demolition, from a watercolour painting

Sir Samuel Astry died in 1704, and his widow married Simon Harcourt but died shortly afterwards, in 1708. On her death, the estate passed to the Astrys' three surviving daughters, one of whom, Arabella, became Countess of Suffolk and lived in the house for a few years.  After she died in 1722, the estate passed to the Smyths of Ashton Court (one of whom had married another Astry daughter).  In the 1740s or 1750s the house was painted by Thomas Robins, the limner of Bath, but the picture has not been seen since c.1960, when it was at Bramshill in Hampshire (though a Robins pencil sketch of the village of Henbury is known).  By the mid 18th century the break-up of the estate was underway.  Blaise Hill was sold to Thomas Farr, who in 1762 built the Gothick castle on it that stands today; and in 1764 Sir Jarret Smith sold the house with very little land to a Bristol merchant called Michael Miller.  He lived in the house and used it extensively for entertaining, but on his death in 1785 it again passed to three co‑heiresses.  In 1792 it was sold to Henry Brooke, and for some years was run as a boarding school for young ladies; a drawing made at this time shows that it had not materially altered since Kip’s engraving was drawn.  It was then bought by another Bristol merchant called Thomas Stock, who built a villa - later called Henbury Court - a little to the north, and in 1809 the Great House was finally demolished.

Descent: George Morse (fl. 1629)....George Morse (d. 1688); to daughter, Elizabeth (d. 1708), wife of Sir Samuel Astry (1632-1704), kt. and later of Simon Harcourt (1653-1724); to daughter, Arabella (d. 1722), wife of William (d. 1721/2), Earl of Suffolk; to brother-in-law, Sir John Smyth (d. 1726); to son, John Smyth, who sold 1730 to brother-in-law, Sir Jarret Smith, 1st bt., who sold 1764 to Michael Miller (d. 1785); to daughters, who sold 1792 to Henry Francis Brooke; sold to Thomas Stock, who demolished it in 1809.

Astrey family of Harlington

Astrey, Ralph (d. 1585). Son of Thomas Astrey (d. 1518) of Hitchin (Herts) and his wife Joan Pigott, born about 1515. He married, 1545 (licence 17 January 1544/5), Alice (d. 1561), daughter of Walter Wellyfed, gent., of London and widow of Thomas Rotherham (d. 1543) of Luton (Beds), and had issue (with two other daughters, who died in his lifetime, and whose names are lost):
(1) Ralph Astry (d. 1598) (q.v.);
(2) Mary Astry; married 1st, Francis Markham (d. by 1584) and had no issue; married 2nd, as his first wife, Benjamin Pigott (c.1551-1606) of Gravenhurst (Beds) (who m2, Anne, daughter and co-heir of Thomas Wiseman, and 3rd, Bridget, daughter of John Needham of Wymondley (Herts)) and had issue one son (who died young); died before 1584 and was buried at Gravenhurst, where her husband and his three wives are commemorated by a tomb;
(3) Frances Astry; married Peter Mallory of Shelton (Beds) and had issue two sons and three daughters; living in 1584;
(4) Alice Astry; married John Markham (d. 1597) of King's Walden (Herts) and had issue three sons and four daughters; living in 1584;
(5) Ann Astry (fl. 1585); married John Walleys;
(6) George Astry (fl. 1609) of Eaton Socon [for whom see below, Astrey family of Henbury].
He purchased the Harlington Woodend estate in 1548 and enlarged it a few years later. At some point after 1549 he inherited from his half-brother's son, Thomas Astrey, the scattered properties bequeathed by Sir Ralph Astrey, kt. to his widow and children in 1494.
He died 12 January 1584/5; his will was proved 5 February 1584/5. His wife died 2 March 1560/1 and an inquisition post mortem was held 1 December 1561.

Astrey, Ralph (d. 1598). Elder son of Ralph Astrey (d. 1585) and his wife Alice, daughter of Thomas Wilsford, gent., of London, and widow of Thomas Rotherham of Luton (Beds), born about 1550. He married, before 1575, Elizabeth (fl. 1630), daughter of Peter Gray of Ridgmont (Beds) and had issue:
(1) Sir Henry Astrey (1577-1630), kt. (q.v.);
(2) Ralph Astrey (c.1578-1654) of Little Milton (Oxon); inherited property at Leagrave (Beds) and in London from his father; married, before 1614, Anne [surname unknown] and had issue six sons and two daughters; he and his wife were presented as non-communicants in 1616 and may have been Roman Catholics; buried at Milton, 6 December 1654; his will proved 29 December 1654;
(3) Anne Astrey (d. c.1621); married [forename unknown] Threele (d. before 1622) but had no surviving issue; administration of goods granted 31 January 1621/2;
(4) Mary Astrey (d. by 1598); living in 1584.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his father in 1585, but never moved there from a copyhold house which was probably at Eversholt (some accounts say Everton, but the family had no known connection there, and he did own property at Eversholt).
He died 7 August 1598 and was buried at Harlington; his will was proved 25 January 1598/9, and an inquisition post mortem was held 7 December 1599. His widow was living in 1630 but her date of death is unknown.

Astrey, Sir Henry (1577-1630), kt. Elder son of Ralph Astrey (d. 1598) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Gray of Ridgmont (Beds), born 24 February 1576/7. Educated at King's College, Cambridge (matriculated c.1590; BA 1593/4). He was knighted by King Charles I at Ampthill, 23 July 1627. He married, 1 June 1611, Mary (fl. 1635), daughter of William St. John of Bletsoe (Beds) and had issue:
(1) Henry Astrey (b. & d. 1613), baptised 2 November 1613; died in infancy and was buried the following day;
(2) William Astrey (1615-31), made a ward of the King at his father's death; died unmarried while still a minor and was buried at Harlington, 18 December 1631; an inquisition post mortem was held 20 November 1632;
(3) Anne Astrey (1616-97), baptised at Harlington, 25 July 1616; married 1st, 16 May 1635, Thomas Peart, later a Colonel in the Royalist army, son of James Peart of St Giles-in-the-Fields, Holborn (Middx), and had issue three daughters; married 2nd, 16 July 1659 at St Bride, Fleet St., London, Robert Anderson (1609-88) of Chichester (Sussex), barrister-at-law of Lincoln's Inn, son of Richard Anderson of Pendley Manor (Herts); her will was proved 4 October 1697;
(4) Francis Astrey (1617-59) (q.v.);
(5) Barbara Astrey (1619-49), baptised at Harlington, 28 November 1619; married 1st, 15 December 1641 at Croydon (Surrey), Michael Miller and had issue one son; married 2nd, 30 April 1646 at St Bartholomew the Less, London, Richard Cooper of Titsey (Surrey); administration of her goods granted 14 February 1648/9;
(6) Rev. Henry Astrey (c.1620-c.1647); educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (matriculated 1638) and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1640); ordained and succeeded his kinsman, Luke Astrey as rector of Ballykelly (technically Drumachose and Tamlaght-Finlagan) (Co. Derry), c.1642, but when the Civil War broke out he was driven from his benefice and his goods were plundered by rebels; he married and had issue one son (who was left an orphan at 14 and petitioned the Chancellor of Cambridge University to obtain for him 'a competent livelihood for his progression in learning'); died by 1648;
(7) Mary Astrey (1623-89), baptised at Harlington, 9 March 1622/3; died unmarried and was buried at Harlington, 12 May 1689.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his father in 1598.
He died 25 April 1630. His will was proved 21 June 1630 and an inquisition post mortem was held, 6 Charles I. His widow was living in 1635.

Astrey, Francis (1617-59). Second son of Sir Henry Astrey (1577-1630), kt., and his wife Mary, daughter of William St. John of Bletsoe (Beds), baptised at Harlington, 30 November 1617. He was made a ward of the King after his elder brother's death in 1631. He served as a commissioner in Bedfordshire for the King in the 1640s and for Parliament in the 1650s, and seems to have avoided taking sides in the Civil War. He married, 28 September 1637 at Quainton (Bucks), Dorothy (1613-64), daughter of Sir Fleetwood Dormer, kt. of Lee Grange, Quainton, and had issue:
(1) Francis Astrey (b. 1638), baptised at Harlington, 11 November 1638; died in the lifetime of his father;
(2) Mary Astrey; married, 22 September 1659 at Harlington, [forename unknown] Rawlins;
(3) Dorothy Astrey (d. 1676); died unmarried and was buried at Harlington, 19 December 1676;
(4) Sir James Astrey (1653-1709), kt. (q.v.);
(5) Dormer Astrey (1657-59), baptised 27 August 1657; died young and was buried at Harlington, 20 December 1659.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his elder brother in 1631.
He died at Toddington (Beds), 14 May and was buried at Harlington, 19 May 1659; his will was proved 9 June 1659. His widow died at Hadley near Barnet (Middx) and was buried at Harlington, 5 May 1664.

Astrey, Sir James (1653-1709), kt. Elder son of Francis Astrey (1617-59) and his wife Dorothy, daughter of Sir Fleetwood Dormer, kt. of Lee Grange, Quainton (Bucks), born 14 October and baptised 16 October 1653. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1671; BCL 1677) and Lincolns Inn (called to bar, 1683). Barrister-at-law; Master in Chancery, 1683-94; knighted, 20 November 1683. High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, 1682. A Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King James II, 1685. He retired from the law in 1694 and devoted the remaining fifteen years of his life to literary and antiquarian pursuits. He married, 9 October 1673 at Cornwell (Oxon), Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Penyston, 3rd bt. of Cornwell, and had issue:
(1) James Astrey (1675-1716) (q.v.);
(2) Rev. Dr. Francis Astrey (1677-1766) (q.v.);
(3) Robert Astrey (b. 1678), baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 29 May 1678; probably died young;
(4) Penyston Astrey (1680-1742), baptised at Harlington, 9 July 1680; collector of excise in Surrey by 1718; died unmarried, 1742;
(5) Anne Astrey (1682-1760), baptised 20 July 1682; died unmarried and was buried at Harlington; will proved 26 June 1760.
(6) Henrietta Astrey (d. 1754); married, 1 July 1732, Sir Thomas Hatton (d. 1733), 6th bt. of Longstanton (Cambs), but had no issue; buried at Longstanton, where she was commemorated by a monument removed in 1891; her will was proved 26 April 1754;
(7) Elizabeth Astrey (1687-1700), baptised 6 November 1687; died young and was buried 13 June 1700 at St John, Hampstead (Middx);
(8) Mary Astrey (b. & d. 1689), baptised 29 April 1689; died in infancy and was buried at Harlington, 12 May 1689;
(9) Charlotte Astrey (b. 1692), baptised 2 August 1692 at St. Andrew Holborn (Middx); died young.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his father in 1659 and came of age in 1674.
He was buried at Harlington, 15 November 1709. His wife's date of death is unknown.

Astrey, James (1675-1716). Eldest son of Sir James Astrey (1653-1709), kt. and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Penyston, bt. of Cornwell (Oxon), born 1675. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1691). Secretary of the Comptrollers of the Army Accounts, 1712-16. He was unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his father in 1709.
He died aged 41 and was buried at Harlington, 19 October 1716, where he is commemorated by a monumental inscription; he died intestate and a grant of administration was issued to his brother, 9 November 1716.

Astrey, Rev. Dr. Francis (1676-1766). Second son of Sir James Astrey (1653-1709), kt. and his wife Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Penyston, bt. of Cornwell (Oxon), born in London, 24 August 1676 and baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), 4 September 1676. Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford (matriculated 1692; BA 1695/6; MA 1702; BD and DD 1715); Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, 1698/9. Ordained deacon, 1703 and priest, 1705; Rector of Cornwell (Oxon), 1705-16. Domestic Chaplain to the Bishop of London, 1714. Rector of St Martin, Ludgate Hill, London, 1714-17; Treasurer of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, 1715-66; Prebendary of St. Paul's, 1718-66; Rector of Orsett (Essex), 1717-66 and St James, Garlickhythe, London, 1720-66. He married Susan(na) (d. 1757), daughter of Thomas Walklate of London, but had no issue.
He inherited the Harlington Woodend estate from his elder brother in 1716 and in 1742 he inherited the entailed estates of St. John Astry of Henbury in Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire. At his death, he bequeathed all his estates to his maternal cousin, Francis Penyston of Cornwell (Oxon).
He died 30 October 1766 and was buried with his wife at Westoning (Beds), 7 November 1766; his will was proved 10 November 1766. His wife was buried at Westoning, 19 February 1757; her will was proved 25 February 1757. The couple are both commemorated by large black marble slabs in the chancel floor at Westoning.

Astrey family of Henbury

Astrey, George (c.1555-1633), of Eaton Socon (Beds). Younger son of Ralph Astrey (d. 1585) and his wife Alice, daughter of Thomas Wilsford, gent., of London, and widow of Thomas Rotherham of Luton (Beds), born about 1555. Educated at Clare and Pembroke Colleges, Cambridge (matriculated 1573; BA 1576/7). He married, c.1582, Lora (b. c.1565), daughter of Thomas Rowley of Huntingdonshire and had issue:
(1) George Astrey (b. c.1583); educated at Queens' College, Cambridge (matriculated 1603); died without issue;
(2) Lora Astrey (b. 1585), baptised 29 February 1584/5; perhaps died young;
(3) Rev. Luke Astrey (1586-1642) (q.v.);
(4) Elizabeth Astrey (b. 1588), baptised 17 February 1587/8; married, 1 November 1609 at Eaton Socon, Walter Spencer;
(5) Jane alias Joan Astrey (b. 1590; fl. 1647), baptised 30 May 1590; married, 1 November 1609 at Eaton Socon, William Sanderson (d. 1648) of Tempsford (Beds) and had issue three sons and two daughters;
(6) William Astrey (b. 1591), baptised 27 December 1591; probably died young;
(7) St. John Astrey (1593-1660), baptised at Eaton Socon, 15 October 1593; inherited lands in Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire from his mother's family; married Judith [surname unknown] (fl. 1660), but had no issue; buried at Holywell (Hunts), 18 May 1660; will proved 19 July 1660;
(8) Mary Astrey (b. 1595), baptised at Eaton Socon, 26 June 1595; died in infancy;
(9) Robert Astrey (b. & d. 1596), baptised at Eaton Socon, 13 July 1596; died in infancy and was buried at Eaton Socon, 10 December 1596;
(10) Mary Astrey (b. & d. 1598), baptised at Eaton Socon, 1 October 1598; died in infancy and was buried at Eaton Socon, 25 December 1598;
(11) Henry Astrey (b. 1600), baptised at Eaton Socon, 15 June 1600;
(12) John Astrey (1601-30/1), baptised at Eaton Socon, 24 January 1601/2; inherited his father's lands in Nether Staploe, Eaton Socon and acquired a plantation on St Kitts; he died unmarried en voyage to St. Kitts in 1630 or 1631 and was probably buried at sea; his will was proved 19 January 1630/1, but a later will to different effect having been found subsequently was proved 16 May 1633 occasioning much litigation and dissension within the family;
(13) James Astrey (c.1603-79), baptised at Eaton Socon, 16/17 October 1603; merchant in London; married, 28 July 1633 at St Bride, Fleet St., London, Diana (d. 1682), daughter of Edward Bee of London, gent., but had no issue; buried at St Helen, Bishopsgate, London, 23 January 1678/9; will proved 20 January 1678/9;
(14) Judith Astrey (b. 1605), baptised at Eaton Socon, 7 August 1605;
(15) Grace Astrey (b. 1606), baptised at Eaton Socon, 20 October 1606; 
(16) Ralph Astrey (1609-44), baptised at Eaton Socon, 22 October 1609; married Grace, daughter of Edward Buckworth of Wisbech (Cambs), and had issue one son and one daughter; inherited lands at Braytoft (Lincs) from his brother John; buried at Eaton Socon, 28 May 1644.
He inherited £400 and his father's lands in Caddington, Luton, Dunstable and Kensworth in south Bedfordshire and north Hertfordshire. He lived at Eaton Socon, where he seems to have rented Bushmead Priory at one time, but apparently lived at Wisbech in his later years. 
He was buried at Wisbech (Cambs), 25 September 1633. His wife was buried at Wisbech, 8 February 1627.

Astrey, Rev. Luke (1586-1642). Eldest son and heir of George Astrey (fl. 1606) of Eaton Socon (Beds) and his wife Lora, daughter of Thomas Rowley of Huntingdonshire, baptised at Eaton Socon, 4 May 1586. Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1604; BA 1606/7; MA 1610); his degrees were incorporated at Oxford, 1611. He took holy orders and went to Ireland, where he was described as 'a very good preacher and a good scoller'. He was rector of Drumachose and Tamlaght-Finlagan (Co. Derry), 1622-42. He married Anne Cullen, and had issue:
(1) Luke Astrey (d. 1708); educated at Lincolns Inn (admitted 1649/50; called to bar; bencher, 1675; Treasurer, 1680); barrister-at-law; inherited the property of his uncle St John Astrey in Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire; died unmarried, 16 June 1708; administration of his goods with will annexed being granted, 26 June 1708;
(2) James Astrey; perhaps died young;
(3) Anne Astrey; perhaps died young;
(4) Sir Samuel Astry (1632-1704), kt. (q.v.);
He died in 1642 and was buried in Derry Cathedral, 24 May 1642, with his wife.

Astry, Sir Samuel (1632-1704), kt. Younger son of Rev. Luke Astrey (1586-1642) and his wife, born 1632. Normally spelled his surname without an 'e'.  Educated at Clements Inn (called to bar). Barrister-at-law; Joint Coroner and Attorney in the Court of Queen's Bench, 1667-1716; Clerk of the Crown in the Court of King's Bench, 1677-1704; Prothonotary and Clerk of the Crown in the counties of Carmarthen, Pembroke, Cardigan and Haverfordwest, and borough of Carmarthen. DL for Gloucestershire, 1687/8. He married, 1667, Elizabeth, daughter of George Morse of Henbury (Glos) and had issue:
(1) Elizabeth Astry (1669-1715), baptised at Henbury, 30 September 1669; married, 11/16 August 1692 at Henbury, Sir John Smith MP (c.1659-1726), 2nd bt. of Ashton Court (Somerset) and had issue three sons and four daughters; died 15 September 1715;
(2) Diana Astry (1670-1716), baptised at Henbury, 2 January 1670/1; married, 17 December 1708 at Lincolns Inn Chapel, Richard Orlebar (d. 1733) but had no issue; her husband inherited Hinwick House (Beds), which they rebuilt in 1710-14; she is known for the recipe book she compiled before and after her marriage, which has been published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society; she died 4 September 1716 and was buried at Podington (Beds);
(3) Anne Astry (c.1672-1703); married, 1693 (settlement 7 March) Thomas Chester (d. 1705) of Knole Park, Almondsbury (Glos) and had issue five sons and three daughters; died in childbirth and was buried at Almondsbury, 6 August 1703;
(4) Luke Astry (1673-1701), baptised at Henbury, 25 June 1673; educated at Hart Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1690) and Lincolns Inn (admitted 1692); regarded by his father as a wastrel, he is said to have drunk himself to death; he died in the lifetime of his father, 7 May 1701;
(5) St. John Astry (1674-1711), baptised at Henbury, 24 July 1674; in 1696 he was living as a servant with Richard Gotley in the Castle district of Bristol; described as 'extravagant, intemperate, idle and vicious', his father left him only an annuity of 400 marks a year, and by 1708 he was so heavily indebted that he bought out this annuity to discharge of his debts; the same year he inherited the estate of his uncle, Luke Astrey (d. 1708); he died unmarried and without issue and was buried at Henbury, 21/27 November 1711;
(6) Arabella Astry (1684-1722), baptised at Henbury, 6 September 1684; occupied the Great House after the death of her mother in 1708; married, 1715 (settlement 10 June and licence 9 July), Charles William Howard (1693-1722), 7th Earl of Suffolk & 2nd Earl of Bindon, but had no issue; died 23 June 1722 and was buried at Henbury.
He purchased the manor of Aust in 1662 and the Henbury manorial estate in 1675 and 1680. In 1688 he acquired the Great House in right of his wife, and remodelled it. He also acquired other lands at Westerleigh and elsewhere in south Gloucestershire. At his death he bequeathed his estate to his wife for life with remainder to his surviving daughters.
He died 25 September 1704 and was buried at Aust, where he is commemorated by a monument; his will was proved 1 November 1704; a grant of administration of part of his estate left unadministered was issued to his surviving daughters, 16 December 1709. His widow married 2nd, 22 July 1707, Simon Harcourt (1653-1724) of Pendley Manor (Herts), Master of the Crown Office, but had no further issue; she died in December 1708; administration of her goods was granted 12 January 1708/9.


Sir R. Atkyns, The ancient and present state of Glostershire, 1712, pls. following pp. 472, 474; R.E.C. Waters, Genealogical memoirs of the families of Chester and Astry, 1881, passim; F.A. Page-Turner, Genealogica Bedfordiensis, 1890, passimL.J. Upton Way, The owners of the Great House, Henbury, 1910, p. 8; T. Mowl & B. Earnshaw, ‘The garden ghost of the Great House of Henbury’, Glos & Avon Life, June 1981, pp. 64-65; D. Layzell, Invitation to Henbury, 1984, p. 25; 

Location of archives

Astry family of Harlington: memorandum book of Ralph Astrey (d. 1598) [Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service, X509]
Astry family of Henbury: deeds and papers, 17th-18th cents. [Bristol Record Office, AC/AS]

Coat of arms

Barry wavy argent and azure a chief gules with three bezants therein.

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.

  • Does anyone know what happened to the Thomas Robins painting of Henbury Great House, last recorded at Bramshill (Hants) in about 1960?
  • Does anyone know more about the fate of Rev. Henry Astrey, ejected from his living in Co. Derry during the Civil War and apparently dead by 1648, or of his son, the would-be Cambridge scholar?

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 11 August 2016 and updated 14 September 2016 and 22 March 2021. I am most grateful to Andrew Sewell for his corrections and additions to this post.


  1. Have much useful info. e.g. a sketch/diagram of Woodend exists on an estate plan of the 1750s. Ralph Astry of Harlington Woodend was my 11xgreat grandfather. Alice Wilsford was actually Wellyfed, niece of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, malleus monarchorum of Henry VIII. Too much reliance on faulty Chester Waters in above account, easily rectified if interested in so doing. Much more to say - No more space!!

    1. I should be pleased to receive any information and corrections you are able to send me and to amend the account above accordingly. As you suggested in your previous message I have sent an email to your wife's email address, so we can communicate directly.

  2. I have been tracing my family tree and have Alice Wilford/Wellyfed b 1516-1561 mariied to Ralph Astry B1504-1584 as my 12th great grandparents.

    I had wondered whether she was the niece of Thomas Cromwell as stated but have been unable to confirm this.

    I would be so pleased for some confirmation or information about further reading material.



Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.