Thursday 27 October 2022

(527) Bedell of Hamerton, baronets

Bedell of Hamerton
The Bedells were a minor gentry family at Easton and Great Catworth in Huntingdonshire in the 15th and early 16th centuries who seem to have been in a position to take advantage of the depressed land market in the middle and later 16th century to significantly expand their property interests. Silvester Bedell (d. 1570), with whom the genealogy below begins, bought a lease of the manor house at Hamerton in 1542 and later acquired the freehold of the estate. He had two sons, Sir John Bedell (c.1536-1613), kt., and William Bedell (d. 1612), of whom the former inherited Hamerton and the latter the family's original property at Great Catworth and scattered estates elsewhere in Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire. Perhaps by his marriage, William acquired lands at Molesworth (Hunts), and some of his descendants eventually migrated to Northamptonshire, while others emigrated to America in the early 17th century. I have not pursued this branch as they never, as far as I can see, became country house owners.

Sir John Bedell inherited Hamerton. He was sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire at the time of the accession of King James I, and accompanied the new king on that part of his progress from Scotland to London in 1603 which lay through his sheriffdom. A few weeks later, he and his eldest son, Sir Thomas Bedell (c.1578-1613) were knighted at Whitehall. Sir John continued his father's policy of buying more land, acquired estates at Steeple Gidding (adjoining Hamerton) - which he sold again in 1607 - and Woolley (Hunts). His property at Woolley passed to his third son, John Bedell (d. 1660), who is thought to have been a member of the Muscovy company in London, trading furs with Russia. John junior seems to have sponsored the studies of a young Russian émigré (known in England as Mikipher Alphery) at Cambridge, and after he converted to the Anglican church and was ordained, presented him to the living at Woolley, where he remained until his death. Most of Sir John's property, including Hamerton, descended to his eldest son, Sir Thomas, who survived his father by only a few months. Sir Thomas was one of the early investors in the East India Company, which held £2,000 of his capital at the time of his death. He was married in 1601 but his wife died in childbirth the following year, although the child survived to be his father's heir, Sir Capel Bedell (1602-43). Sir Capel was created a baronet in 1622 and had an active public career. He became an extraordinary gentleman of the bedchamber in 1639, and with the outbreak of the Civil War joined the Royalist forces at Oxford, but he died there in 1643. At his death he left no surviving sons, but two daughters who inherited Hamerton jointly: Elizabeth (1620-63), wife of Sir Francis Compton, and Mary (d. 1683), wife of Sir Thomas Leventhorpe. In 1669 the Leventhorpes agreed to sell their share of the property to Sir Francis Compton, who thus became the outright owner, but who in turn sold the estate in 1683. The manor house at Hamerton was evidently a substantial place, with elaborate gardens, but no illustration of it seems to survive, probably because it was demolished at a fairly early date. The estate later passed to the Smith-Barry family, about whom I have written previously.

Hamerton Manor House, Huntingdonshire

The 'Manor Place' is mentioned in 1542, when it was leased to John Lawncell, who sold his interest to Silvester Bedell (d. 1570). In 1669 it was described in sale particulars as 'One large mansion house contayning a greate Hall, two parlours, one Dining Room, one kitchen, with brew-house, wash-house, darye-house and several stables and barns and other convenient outhouses, and 20 lodging chambers, one faire court before it, and several yardes behind it, and ponds of water, with a great garden and other lesser gardens and fair oarchards well planted with good fruit, consisting of about ten acres. A dove house well stocked'. This obviously substantial house was pulled down in the 18th or 19th century, although Hamerton continued to be the burying place of the Smith-Barrys into the 20th century. A map of 1838 shows a farm and outbuildings on the site, which was in turn replaced about 1860 by the current rectory. A field to the south contains the earthworks of a 16th or 17th century garden, with its rectangular compartments and geometrically laid-out paths and flowerbeds, as well as canals, ponds, raised terraces and a mount formed from brick rubble. The garden earthworks are very evident in the landscape and have been surveyed by the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, but no image of the house appears to survive. 

Descent: John Knyvet of Mendlesham (d. 1418); to son, Sir John Knyvet (d. 1445); to son, John Knyvet (d. 1490); to son, Sir William Knyvet (d. 1515), kt.; to son, Charles Knyvet (fl. 1522); to great-nephew, Edmund Knyvet; to son?, Sir Thomas Knyvet, who sold 1565 to Silvester Bedell (d. 1570); to son, Sir John Bedell (c.1536-1613), kt.; to son, Sir Thomas Bedell (c.1578-1613), kt.; to son, Sir Capel Bedell (1602-43), 1st bt.; to daughters, Elizabeth, wife of Sir Francis Compton, and Mary, wife of Sir Thomas Leventhorpe, bt.; the latter sold his wife's share in 1669 to Sir Francis Compton, who sold 1683 to Erasmus Smith alias Herriz (d. 1691) of Edmundthorpe (Leics); to son, Hugh Smith (d. 1745), who left moieties to his daughters Lucy, wife of Hon. James Stanley (later Smith Stanley), and Dorothy, wife of Hon. John Barry (later Smith-Barry) (1725-84). The former moiety descended to Edward Smith Stanley (1752-1834), 12th Earl of Derby, who seems to have sold it to the owner of the other moiety. The second moiety descended to James Hugh Smith Barry (1754-1801); to natural son, John Smith Barry (1793-1837); to son, James Hugh Smith Barry (1816-56); to son, Arthur Hugh Smith Barry (1843-1925), 1st Baron Barrymore; to nephew, Col. Robert Raymond Smith Barry (1886-1949); to cousin, the Hon. Dorothy (1894-1975), wife of Maj. William Bertram Bell (1881-1971), who sold 1970.

Bedell family of Hamerton

Bedell, Silvester (d. 1570). Eldest son of William Bedell of Great Catworth (Hunts) and his wife Godiva Villiers*. He married 1st, about 1535, Margaret, daughter of William Highfield of Cheshire, and 2nd, Anne (fl. 1570), daughter of John Lane of Orlingbury and Kettering (Northants), and had issue, perhaps among others:
(1.1) Sir John Bedell (c.1536-1613), kt. (q.v.);
(1.2) William Bedell (d. 1612) of Catworth; married 1st, Bridget Power of Northamptonshire, and had issue four sons and six daughters, from whom descended the Bedells of Oundle (Northants); married 2nd, by 1583, Elizabeth (fl. 1612), daughter of Nicholas Welle (d. 1587) of Molesworth (Hunts) and probably had further issue; died in June 1612 and was buried at Catworth; will proved 6 July 1612;
(1.3) Joan Bedell (fl. 1570); married, by 1565, Nicholas Calton (d. 1575) of Needingworth (Hunts), and had issue; living in 1570 when she was mentioned in her father's will;
(1.4) Elizabeth Bedell (fl. 1570); living, unmarried, in 1570, when she was mentioned in her father's will.
He acquired a lease of Hamerton manor house in 1542 and purchased the freehold in 1565.
He died in 1570; his will was proved in the PCC, 10 November 1570. His first wife's date of death is unknown. His widow's date of death is unknown.
* Many online sources give his date of birth as 1524, but if the age given for his son John on the latter's funerary monument is approximately correct, he must have been born around a decade earlier than that.

Bedell, Sir John (c.1536-1613), kt. Elder son of Silvester Bedell (d. 1570) and his first wife, Margaret, daughter of William Highfield of Cheshire, born about 1536. He was knighted at Whitehall, 23 July 1603. High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, 1603-04. He married, between 1569 and 1572*, Matilda (alias Maud) (c.1550-87), eldest daughter and co-heir of William Lane (d. 1569) of Cottesbrooke (Northants), and had issue five sons and five daughters, including:
(1) Sir Thomas Bedell (c.1578-1613), kt. (q.v.);
(2) Henry Bedell (fl. 1613); living in 1613, when he was mentioned in his father's will;
(3) John Bedell (d. 1660); perhaps a Russia merchant in London, who appointed the Russian emigré, Rev. Mikipher Alphery, as rector of Woolley (Hunts) in 1618; died unmarried and without issue, and was buried at Hamerton, 19 December 1660; will proved 3 January 1660/1;
(4) Frances Bedell (fl. 1613); living in 1613, when she was mentioned in her father's will;
(5) Bridget Bedell (d. by 1639); married, by 1598, George Catesby (1575-1645) of Ecton (Northants) (who married 2nd, 27 June 1639 at Hardwick (Northants), Margery Stevens of Hardwick), son of Thomas Catesby (d. 1592), and had issue four sons and five daughters; died in or before 1639;
(6) Dorothy Bedell (d. 1633); married, by 1602, Sir Seymour Knightley (1580-1640) of Norton (Northants) and Stoke (Warks), and had issue four sons and six daughters; buried at Stoke, 22 January 1633.
He inherited the manor of Hamerton from his father in 1570, and acquired further lands in 1581 at Steeple Gidding (which he sold in 1607) and in 1603 at Woolley (Hunts).
He died aged 'about 77' on 6 April 1613, and was buried at Hamerton, where he is commemorated by a monument; his will was proved in the PCC, 23 April 1613. His wife died 6 November 1587, and was buried at Hamerton where she is commemorated by a monument.
* Maud was unmarried when her father wrote his will in 1569 but married before her mother wrote hers in 1572.

Bedell, Sir Thomas (c.1578-1613), kt. Eldest son of Sir John Bedell (c.1536-1613), kt., and his wife Matilda, eldest daughter and co-heir of William Lane of Cottesbrooke (Northants), probably born about 1578. Educated at King's College, Cambridge (matriculated 1596) and Middle Temple (admitted 1598). He was knighted at Whitehall on the same day as his father, 23 July 1603. An investor in the East India Company. He married, 5 January 1600/1, Winifred (1584-1602), daughter of Sir Arthur Capell, kt., of Little Hadham (Herts), and had issue:
(1) Sir Capel Bedell (1602-43), 1st bt. (q.v.).
He inherited the manor of Hamerton from his father in 1613.
He died just three months after his father, and was buried at Hamerton, 11 July 1613; his will was proved in the PCC, 21 July 1613. His wife died following childbirth, 8 October 1602.

Bedell, Sir Capel (1602-43), 1st baronet. Only son of Sir Thomas Bedell (c.1578-1613), kt., and his wife Winifred, daughter of Sir Arthur Capel, kt., of Little Hadham (Herts), born 27 September and baptised at Little Hadham, 10 October 1602. Orphaned at the age of eleven, he was placed in the guardianship of his maternal grandfather, Sir Arthur Capell, but seized by Sir Richard Chetwood under false pretences, and only returned to his grandfather after an intervention by Sir Robert Cotton. Educated at Eton and Queens' College, Cambridge (matriculated 1618) where he was a pupil of the Puritan, John Preston; travelled abroad, 1618-19. He was created a baronet, 3 June 1622. MP for Hertford, 1626, and for Huntingdonshire, 1628, 1640; on the latter occasion he may have sought election to provide protection from his creditors. He had become indebted principally as a result of standing surety for Oliver St. John, and managed to secure a grant of protection for six months in May 1640, but was outlawed when it expired. JP for Huntingdonshire, 1624-43 and Northamptonshire, 1625-43. DL for Huntingdonshire, 1624-38 or later.  High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, 1632-33. A gentleman of the Privy Chamber, 1639-43, he joined the Royalists at Oxford, but died there late in 1643. He married, June 1619, Alice (1602-67), eldest daughter of Sir Henry Fanshawe of Ware Park (Herts), remembrancer of the Exchequer, 1601-16, and had issue, with another son who died in infancy:
(1) Elizabeth Bedell (1620-63), baptised at Ware, 10 September 1620; married, about 1650, Lt-Col. Sir Francis Compton (c.1629-1716) (who married 2nd, June 1664, Jane (d. 1677), daughter of Sir John Trevor and widow of Sir Arthur Elmes of Lilford (Northants); 3rd, Mary, daughter of Samuel Fortrey of Kew (Surrey) and widow of Sir Thomas Trevor, 1st bt. of Enfield (Middx) and Leamington (Warks); and 4th, August 1699, Mary Rowe), MP for Warwick, 1664-79, fifth son of Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton, but had no issue; buried at Hamerton, 4 July 1663;
(2) Mary Bedell (d. 1683); married, 2 January 1654/5, Sir Thomas Leventhorpe (1635-79), 4th bt. of Blakesware Hall (Herts), and had issue one daughter; died in London, 30 April and was buried at Sawbridgeworth (Herts), 2 May 1683;
(3) John Bedell (b. 1628), baptised at Ware, 20 January 1628/9; died young.
He inherited the manor of Hamerton from his father in 1613. At his death it passed to his two surviving daughters.
He died at Oxford and was buried at Hamerton, 14 December 1643; administration of his goods was granted 28 May 1646 and again, 23 December 1663. His widow died in London and was buried at Hamerton, 12 January 1666/7; administration of her goods was granted 6 April 1667.

Principal sources

Burke's Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies, 2nd edn., 1841, p. 52; Sir H. Ellis, Visitation of Huntingdonshire in 1613, 1849, pp. 38-39; G.E. Cokayne, The complete baronetage, vol. 1, 1900, p. 197; VCH Huntingdonshire, vol.3, 1936, pp. 57-60, 66-69, 125-28; A.E. Brown & C.C. Taylor, 'Cambridgeshire earthwork surveys III', Proc. Cambridge Antiquarian Soc., 1978, pp. 64-67; C. O'Brien & Sir N. Pevsner, The buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdon and Peterborough, 2nd edn., 2014, p. 506.

Location of archives

No significant accumulation is known to survive.

Coat of arms

Gules, a chevron engrailed between three escallop shells argent.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide portraits of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 27 October 2022.

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