16th March 1557. The Trial of the Stourtons.

The Stourton  title was created by writ in 1448 for Sir John (the son (of the Speaker of the Commons), who had campaigned with Henry V.

‘In the reign of Edward VI, William Stourton having charge of the King’s places in Boulogne’ died, to be succeeded in 1548, by his son Charles 8th Baron (1520-1557) Stourton of Wiltshire, who as a Papist, was asked by Mary Tudor to help secure her fight for her 1553 succession to the throne.(1)

However Stourton three years later was to become involved in a violent armed feud with his neighbour William Hartgill, and his son, ostensibly over Charles’ mother, Lady Stanley, ‘who now sojourned’ at his house and who wished to remarry: whom?, one asks.(2)

It ended in the deaths of Hartgill and his son, Stourton’s arrest, and his refusal to answer before the judge in Westminster Hall. As a consequence he was threatened with being ‘pressed’, a painful medieval torture, termed ‘peine et dure’.

Found guilty, it was Today in 1557 when Stourton was hanged, with a silk rope (reserved for Lords), at Salisbury market place.

To cap it all, Lady Stanley was later forced to pay for the restoration of Stourton’s estates, forfeited at his trial.

What came out at the trial was that the Baron had tried to force Hartgill, described as a ‘surly and cross old man’ into a bond that his mother should not marry. Hartgill refused and after the intervention of the Tudor Star Chamber, Stourton was ordered to pay damages.

It was whilst ostensibly going to pay damages that open warfare developed, with bows and arrows and swords deployed, with Hartgill and his family being held hostage in Kilmington Church; further violence saw their deaths with the bodies dumped in the cellars of Stourton Castle.

St. Mary’s Kilmington, Wiltshire peaceful today.

The 8th Baron Stourton had a reputation for quarrelsomeness and violence, probably explained from the legal difficulties and family quarrels he had inherited.

One bone of contention was his father’s affair with Agnes Rice who had inherited the estate, resulting in years of lawsuits.

By the 17thc the Stourton family’s fortunes declined, they were on wrong side in the Civil War, and in 1686  had to mortgage the ancestral hall at Stourton.

Above is a sketch by antiquary John Aubrey about the time when in 1704 the castle was sold to the Hoares banking family who purchased the whole estate in 1720. They demolished the castle and built a Palladian house to be renamed Stourhead.

In 1878 the ancient barony Mowbray (Roger de Mowbray, 1st Baron who died in 1297), was called out of abeyance in favour of the 20th Baron Stourton and soon after that of Segrave, when the three baronies were united.

Latterly the family home of the Stourtons was at Allerton, Yorkshire before this passed into other hands. The Barony continues.

(1) In 1553 Charles was described as an arch-papist by a London pamphleteer.

(2) Charles’ mother was  Elizabeth Dudley, daughter of Edmund Dudley advisor to Henry VII. had married Lady Anne Stanley daughter of Edward Stanley 3rd Earl of Derby and Lady Dorothy Howard, sister of the Duke of Norfolk.


Eric Ives. Lady Jane Grey.

archaeologynaturaltrustsw.press.stourhead. Sketch by John Aubrey.

wikipedia.org/Pic of church.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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