Sir Walter Earle [Erle] (1586-1665)

Knight of Charborough

©Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington March 2009

The Earle [Erle] Family:
His grandfather, also called Walter EARLE, became possessed of the estate of Charborough about the year 1540 by his marriage to Mary [Margaret] the daughter and co heir of Richard WIKES of Bindon who according to the History of Commoners had in turn inherited it from the family of CAMEL of Shakwycke [now Shapwick] in Dorset. Walter Erle died in 1581 probate being granted on 25th November that year, leaving the estate to Walter's father Thomas EARLE who married Dorothy the daughter of William POLE of Columpton in Devon. Charborough is situated in the parish of East Morden in Dorset just over 5 miles north by east from Wareham and 8 miles south by west from Wimborne. It rests in a small valley served by the East Morden church of St Mary's, which was more or less completely rebuilt on the site of the old church in 1873. Some additional photographs are available on the OPC page for Morden

Inside the church however are the remains of a monument to his father Thomas Earle and three of his children that predeceased him. It has been split in two with half each side of the entrance to the bell tower. The pictures opposite were taken by me on a visit to the church in 2008. The one on the right shows the figure of Thomas Erle in complete armour, on bended knee, in the act of homage. The original inscription read:-

Here liethe buryed the bodye of Thomas Earle, the
sone of Walter Earle, whoe departed from this lyff the
16 daye of Marche in the yeare of our Lorde God 1597.
his sons wer 4, his daughters 2, of who me John
Thomas and Doritjie are desecid, and remayneth now
livynge Walter, Christopher, and Elizabeth.

Probate on Thomas Earle's Will was granted on 12th November 1597 and a copy is available from the National Archives. I have not seen this but he is said to have died in possession of the manors of East and West Morden, land in Litchet Matravers, Wareham, Sturminster Marshal, County Dorset, the manor of Charborough, Dorset, the manor rectory and advowson of Axmouth, Devon and lands in Bindon Axmouth, Colyford and Colyton, Devon.

The Walter referred to in this inscription is of course the subject of this short biography, but his brother Christopher Earle also invested in the Dorchester Company as did the husband of his sister Elizabeth who was wife to Sir Richard STRODE in Devon.

Birth and Education:
Walter EARLE, the eldest son, was born c1586 and inherited the estate at the age of 11. He was sent to Queens college Oxford to be educated where he matriculated on 22 January 1601/2 at the age of 15. From university at the age of 18 he entered the Middle Temple to study law which was to stand him in good stead later in life.

Marriage and children:
He married about 1620 to Ann the daughter and heir of Francis DYMOCK. She was sister to Sir Henry DYMOCK knight and with her acquired the manors of Erckington and Pipe in the county of Warwickshire which he sold. I have seen reference to her death in 1653 in Axmouth Devon which seems strange to me. The History of Commoners implies she died in 1665 and I assume this is correct as there is a Will in the National Archives where probate was granted on 17 January 1666 for an Anne Erle Widow of Lytchet. Lytchett is in fact the parish next to East Morden. It would probably be necessary to purchase a copy of this will to be certain. They had three children Thomas ERLE who was their son and heir; Anne ERLE who married a gentelman from Hampshire by the surname of NORTON and Honor ERLE who married John GIFFARD of Brightly Devon. Thomas Earle was 2 years old when the Dorset Visitation was carried out on 9th August 1623 so weas born in 1621. He married Susannah the 4th daughter of William FIENNES and by her had 2 sons and 2 daughters. Unfortunately he died in 1650 before his father so the estate descended to his son also called Thomas in 1665.

Background and Career:
Walter Earle was a member of a notable family and had first become MP for Poole at the age of 28 (1614). He became Sir Walter Erle when he was knighted on 4th May 1616 and William Whiteways diary confirms that he became sheriff of Dorset in 1618. A strong Parliamentarian he was regulary elected MP for Poole, Weymouth & Melcombe Regis or Lyme Regis.

He was also a friend of the Rev John White an investor in and prime mover behind the Dorchester Company for which he became Governor and secured an indenture for colonisation in New England. His interest in this area however was deep rooted as he and his brother Christopher had shares in the Virginia Company as far back as 11 May 1620 and it is known that he attended the meeting of that company on 21st May 1621, that is after the establishment of the Council for New England. He is also listed among the friends and associates of Walter YONGE in the account of his diary.

He was also one of the Justices of Peace for Dorset sitting at the Quarter sessions which rotated between Beaminster, Blandford Forum, Sherborne, Shaston and Dorchester and therefore involved in handing out typical sentences of the day. For example in 1626 between 10th and 12th January we find him at Blandford Forum where Bartholomew FORDE, Anthony DUNFORD, English TUCKER, John MARTIN and Simon CORNISH were all branded, ,William WYATT, Robert JOHNSON and Ethelred JOHNSON were whipped and then released whilst Thomas SYMONDES was stocked at Blandford for four hours and then released. His service as a JP however was at this point interupted.

He was a vigerous opponent of Charles I in Parliament and perhaps one of the most important events in his life arose in 1626/7. The Commons having failed to pass a bill for subsidies, the King was left virtually destitute. He therefore demanded a general loan, for the raising of which each person was to be assessed according to his rate in the previous subsidy and Charles appointed a commission to take charge of the business. The Earle of Suffolk and Sir Robert Nanton master of the Court of wards came down to Dorset to demand subscription from those selected. William Whiteways diary for the 13 January 1626/7 states that 'All men in this county subscribed except Sir John Strangeways, Sir Walter Earle, Mr Tregonwell, and Mr William Savidge attorny. These 4 were for refusing bound to answer it at the Council table, from whence the three former were sent prisoners to the fleete and the last unto the new prison in Clarkenwell'. He was to languish in prison for almost a year until on 22 Nov 1627 when they obtained a Habeas Corpus out of the Kings bench demanding to be tried there. Mr Ley thier chief Lawyer defended them so well that they convinced the bench of their rights but the Kings attorny craved time to consult Charles. The importance of this case, being against the King as it was, cannot be overstated as a cornerstone of safeguarding a right we often take for granted today. Even so it was not until 11 January 1628 that he was released.

In 1633 he resumed his duties as a JP sitting a total of 15 times up to the year 1638. Given this background it is not suprising to find him opposing Charles in the field during the Civil War when he was a parliamentary colonel. In 1642 it was decided to fortify Dorchester against the King and a considerable amount of money was borrowed for that purpose. Between 13th Nov 1642 and 20 July 1643 a total of £14,689 -11-10d was borrowed from the County Treasury and Sir Walter Earle along with others such as John Browne and Dennis Bond stood surity at 8% interest. In 1643 he was military governor of Dorchester for parliament and Lieutenant of Ordnance. His prowess in this area however was not great as he was repulsed in August 1643 by the redoubable Lady Bankes in his assault on Corfe Castle and fled from Dorchester at the approach of the Royalists under Lord Carnarvon. Carnarvon was said to have near 2,000 horse and dragoons and the town elected to send commissioners to treat with him and surrendered as the fortifications so far completed were felt inadequate and townspeople no match against an Army with canon. Sir Walter Erle and Colonel Strode fled by sea to Southampton.

According to Rose Troup Sir Walter was buried at Charborough on 1 September 1665 but probate on his will was not granted until 20 November 1666.

Sources: DH: DV: OXA: PRO: QS: RT: WW: [In the notes on Sir Walter Erle made by Thomas D Murphy at the end of the diary it states he was made a Knight of the shire in 1626 and sherrif 1628. For the sake of clarity he was knighted on 4 May 1616 see RT and OXA and within the diary itself on page 23 for the year 1618 it shows he was a Knight when he was made sheriffe of Dorset that year. He was elected Knight of the shire in 1628]: A Genealogy of Heraldic History of Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland by John Burke Esq Volume IV.

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