Thomas Fiennes; Baron Dacre of the South



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Thomas Barrett-Lennard. An Account of the Families of Lennard and Barrett; compiled largely from original documents. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book 929.242 L57b. Page 192-209

On the death of his grandfather in 1533 Thomas, the son of Sir Thomas, inherited the title when only about nineteen years of age. Not only was he very young to succeed to so important a position as that which he occupied on his grandfather's death, but it is probable he did not have the advantage of any education calculated to fit him for his responsibilities. We have seen that his father died while he was still very young, and that his mother married again; if upon her second marriage she left him in the care of his grandfather who had 'famylyer & conversaunte beinge' with 'Theuves,' the lad would most likely have associated with a set of men highly unfitted in every way to be the companions of any young fellow; and this bringing up may not improbably have been the cause of his adopting that wild and reckless career which was to bring him at an early age to an ignominious end upon the scaffold.

The young Lord Dacre, the third Thomas in succession, was summoned to attend Parliament in January 1534 when only nineteen years of age. He married, apparently in 1536, just before his twenty-first birthday, Mary Nevill, a daughter of George Lord Abergavenny. She was one of the ladies appointed to assist at Queen Mary's funeral, and drove with three other peeresses in the fyrste chariot'; these ladies were directed to be 'apperelled accordinge to their Estates viz manteles and their Barbes above their chines.' (Barbe or barb, part of a woman's head-dress, still sometimes worn by nuns; it consisted of white plaited linen passed over or under the chin, and reaching midway to the waist.)

By her he had two sons: Thomas, who was fifteen years of age in August 1553, and was therefore born in 1538, and Gregory, and one daughter Margaret. Gregory was christened on June 25th, 1539.' The document which gives his brother's age as fifteen in August 1553, says that Gregory at that date was aged thirteen years and a half, and, if so, he was about four months o1d when he was christened.

We have a document endorsed by Samson Lennard 'The Livery of Thomas lo Dacre my wyues Father,' dated Westminster, May 11th, 29th Henry VIII. (1537), which is a grant of his lands by the King to him upon his emancipation from wardship.

He appears to have had a good deal of trouble and some disputes with the executors of his grandfather's will. The two letters, written in February 1538, from Lord Lawarr (De la Warr), the one to Cromwell and the other to Lord Dacre, which are calendared, do not explain the whole matter in dispute. It probably arose in connection with the charges the deceased peer had laid upon his estates. Lord Lawarr says in his letter to Cromwell 'We were content he [Lord Dacre] should have such lands as we have by his grandfather's will, he to have the profits and we the rent, till the will be performed. Threle to be receiver of these lands to the performance of the will, and Dacre to take all other profits to his own use.'

It was probably in order to enlist Cromwell's interest on his behalf that Lord Dacre gave the former the right of sporting over his parks of Danny and Hurst; and with a like object when Gregory Cromwell, the powerful minister's son, came to live in Sussex, both Lord and Lady Dacre, he says in a letter to his father, welcomed him to the county and entertained him with presents. In May 1536 Lord Dacre was one of the jury that sat on the trial of Anne Boleyn and Lord Rocheford; and in June of that year he, with seventeen other peers, was summoned to a Council meeting at Westminster at what to us sounds a remarkably early hour, 8 A.M. Other instances of very early hours for business are mentioned in this book. Probably, when artificial light was so imperfect, people were in the habit of setting a much greater value on daylight for all purposes of business than is the case at present.

The rebellion which broke out in the north this year was the occasion of Lord Dacre being one of those appointed to attend the King in person with a force of 200 men, but in October, as the insurrection was so quickly suppressed, he was informed his services were no longer required. In the following year he was one of the jury who found Lord Darcy guilty of treason; and in 1538 he again formed part of the panel who tried and found guilty Lord Montagu and the Marquis of Exeter.'

In reading records of these times one is struck with what an absolute farce these trials were, and the docility of the peers in almost invariably finding guilty any nobleman that Henry chose to prosecute. They were no doubt panic-stricken and afraid of the King's wrath if they should dare to return a verdict of acquittal. At the same time each peer as he voted for the execution of one of his own order was making the probability of his own execution greater, and playing into the hands of the King, who, impatient at any obstacle to his absolute power, was anxious to have by his side a timid and subservient House of Lords.

In view of the fate which ultimately befell Lord Dacre, the following letter from him to Cromwell, written nearly four years before the event took place which caused his execution, is of considerable interest. I much wish I could have found the letter from Cromwell to which this is an answer; but from this letter we may, I think, fairly assume that it was no uncommon event for this young man to take part in what Stow calls 'stealing of deer in parks and other unthriftiness.'

December 4th, 1537, from Thomas Lord Dacre to Cromwell:

I have received your lordship's letters wherein I perceive your benevolence towards the frailness of my yoyth in considering that I was rather led by instigation of my accusers than of my mere mind to those unlawful acts, which I have long detested in secret. I perceive your lordship is desirous to have knowledge of al1 riotous hunters, and shall exert myself to do you service therein. I beg you give credence to Mr. Awdeley, with whom I send some of my servants to be brought before you; he can inform you of others who have hunted in my little park of Bukholt.'

It is impossible to say how far young Lord Dacre enjoyed the favour of the king, but judging from the frequent mention of the former in the records of those times it may fairly be assumed that he had no grounds for complaining of his Sovereign's neglect of him. He was in the commission of sewers for Sussex; in a commission to 'search and defend' the coast of that county; in a commission for the peace; and in a commission for array. When Prince Edward was christened Lord Dacre was appointed to bear the spice plates to the young Princesses; and a month later, when the Queen, Jane Seymour, was buried, he was one of those deputed to bear the canopy over her corpse at the funeral.

In 1539, upon the introduction of three newly created peers, one of them was 1ed between Lord Cobham and Lord Dacre in the procession at Westminster. A contemporary author gives the following account of what was, perhaps, the last post of honour filled by Lord Dacre.

On the arrival of Anne of Cleves in 1540, when

as she passed towards Rochester on Newyeares euen on Reinam downe met hir the Duke of Norfolke, and the Lord Dacres of the South, and the lord Montioie (Mountjoy), with a great company of Knights, and esquires, of Norffolke and Suffolke, with barons of the escheker, which brought hir to Rochester where she laie in the Palace all New Yeares daie.

And Lady Dacre was one of those appointed to receive the Queen-bride.

Lord Dacre's career, which had begun so brightly, came to a premature and tragic termination in the following year, when he and his only sister's husband, together with some others, were hanged in London. They went one night on a poaching expedition to hunt deer in a neighbour's park, when an affray with the keepers ensued, in which one of the latter was killed.

Judging from the letter Lord Dacre wrote to Cromwell this was not the former's first offence of this nature, and however much, to use his own words, he may have 'detested those unlawful acts,' he does not seem to have been strong-minded enough to shake himself free from the bad influence of some of his companions.

The following letter is written by one who was to a certain extent an eavesdropper of the Lords' proceedings when they were considering Lord Dacre's case; and it is to be regretted that both the doors of which he speaks were shut, so that he did not hear more of what went on, but it is refreshing to learn that Lord Cobham, who had been associated with Lord Dacre in more than one public function, had sufficient courage to show himself 'vehement and stiff' on his friend's behalf.

The letter, which is dated June 27th, 1541, only two days before Lord Dacre's execution, was written by William Paget, clerk to the Privy Council, to Sir Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King-at-arms. He tells him that the Lord Chancellor and the Lords Sussex, Hertford, Admiral Duresme, and St. John, with Mr. Baker, consulted in the Star Chamber upon Lord Dacre's case. They 'made great conscience' to find him guilty of murder, and sent for the indictment twice or thrice, and would rather have used some means to have made him confess; the writer knows not what they decided, but this day

he shall be arraigned. . . Sir, I am sent for to the Council, and must stay my writing until soon.

At my coming to the Star Chamber there I found a11 the lords, to the number of xvij assembled for a conference touching the lord Dacre's case;. . . To Council they went, and had with them present the Chief Justices, with others of the King's learned Counsel; and albeit I was excluded, yet they 'spake so loud, some of them, that I might hear them notwithstanding two doors shut between us. Among the rest that could not agree to wilful murder, the Lord Cobham, as I took him by his voice, was vehement and stiff: Suddenly and softly they agreed, I wot not how, and departed to the Kings Bench together; whereas the lord Chancellor executing the office of High Steward, the lord Dacre pledd not guilty to the indictment, referring himself to the trial of his peers, and declaring, with long circumstances, that he intended no murder, and so purged himself to the audience as much as he might. And yet nevertheless afterward, by an inducement of the confession of the rest already condemned, declared unto him by the judge, he refused his trial, and, upon hope of grace (as I took it), confessed the indictment; which he did not without some insinuation. His judgment was to be hanged. It was pitiful to see so young a man by his own folly brought to such a case, but joyful to hear him speak at the last so wisely and show himself so repentant. . . . To-day after dinner the Council was with the King to declare lord Dacre's humble submission, hoping thereby to move his Majesty to pardon him, which took no effect, for to-morrow shall. . . Mantel, Roydon, and Frowdes suffer, and the lord Dacre upon Wednesday. God have mercy upon them and give them grace to repent their evil doings and to take patiently their deaths.

Holinshed gives the following full account of the circumstances which led to Lord Dacre's trial and execution:

There was executed at Saint Thomas Wateringe, three gentlemen, John Mantell (Lord Dacres brother-in-law), John Frowds, and George Roidon; they died for a murther committed in Sussex, in companie of Thomas Fines, Lord Dacres of the South: the truth whereof was thus. The said Lord Dacres, through the lewd persuasion of some of them, as hath beene reported, meaning to hunt in the parke of Nicholas Pelham, esquire, at Laughton, in the same countie of Sussex, being accompanied with the said Mantell, Frowds, and Roidon, John Cheinie, and Thomas Isleie, gentlemen, Richard Middleton, and John Goldwell, yeomen, passed from his house of Hurstmonceux, the last of Aprill, in the night season, toward the same parke, where they intended so to hunt; and coming unto a place called Pikehaie, in the parish of Hillingleigh, they found one John Busbrig (or Busbridge), James Busbrig, and Richard Summer standing togither: and as it fell out, through quarelling, there insued a fraie betwixt the said Lord Dacres and his companie on the one partie, and the said John and James Busbrig and Richard Summer on the other, insomuch that the said John Busbrig received such hurt, that he died thereof the second of Maie next insuing. Whereupon, as well the said Lord Dacres as those that were there with him, and diuerse other likewise that were appointed to go another waie to meet them at the said parke, were indicted of murther; and the seauen and twentith of June the Lord Dacres himselfe was arraigned before the Lord Audleie of Walden, then lord chancellor, sitting that daie as high steward of England, with other peers' of the realme about him, who then and there condemned the said Lord Dacres to die for that transgression. And afterward, the nine and twentith of June, being Saint Peter's daie, at eleuen of the clocke in the forenoone, the shiriffs of London, accordinglie as they were appointed, were readie at the tower to haue receiued the said prisoner, and him to haue lead to execution on the Tower Hill; but as the prisoner should come forth of the tower, one Heire, a gentleman of the lord chancellor's house, came, and in the kings name commanded to staie the execution till two of the clocke in the afternoone, which caused manie to think that the king would haue granted his pardon. But neuerthelesse, at three of the clocke in the same afternoone, he was brought forth of the tower, and deliuered to the shiriffs, who lead him on foote betwixt them unto Tiburne where he died. His bodie was buried in the church of Saint Sepulchers. He was not past foure and twentie yeeres of age, when he came through this great mishap to his end, for whom manie sore lamented, and likewise for the other three gentlemen, Mantell, Frowds and Roidon. But for the said yoong lord being a right towardlie gentleman, and such a one as manie had conceiued great hope of better proofe, no small mone and lamentation was made; the more indeed, for that it was thought he was induced to attempt such follie, which occasioned his death, by some light heads that were then about him.

(The jury of peers consisted of the Marquis of Dorset, the Earls of Sussex, Derby, Rutland, Huntingdon, Bath, Hertford, Bridgewater, and Lords John Russell, Morley, Cobham, Powys, Stowton, Mountjoy, Windsor, Mordaunt, and St. John; of these peerages more than half have since become extinct.)

This event is also referred to in other histories of that time. Weever, in mentioning that Lord Dacre was buried in St. Sepulchre's by Newgate, says that his execution 'happened in that bloudie yeare when Henry the eith unsheathed his sword vpon the neckes of the nobilitie.'

The 'London Chronicle' says--

The xxix day of June Wensday Saynt Peturs day was my lorde Dakars of the Southe led be twene bothe the scherevis of London a foote from the Towr to Tiburn and there he was hanggid, and the said lorde Dakars a bove said was beryid in Saynt Powlkurs churche, and ye said lorde Dakars a bove saide was hanggid for robbre of ye Kingges deer and murther of ye Kepars.'

The account by a contemporary letter-writer of any past event is of interest as showing how it struck persons living at the time. There are two such letters amongst the public records from foreign ministers referring to this case. The first in date is from C. de Marillac to Francis I. of France, dated June 30th, 1541; in it he tells the king that

the same day [Saturday, June 25th] was led to judgment a young lord called Dacre of the South, also allied with the greatest lords in England, and of 6000 or 7000 ducats income, who, for assembling armed men with the intention of seeking a park keeper whom they wished to slay, and slaying another in place of the man they were seeking, was condemned to be hanged, and yesterday was executed at the common gibbet of London, called Tyburn. His three companions suffered the like death, who were Mr. Mantel, one of the Kings 50 gentlemen whom he calls his Pensioners, a controller of his customs, and one Reddyn, of a Kentish family; all gentlemen of a good house, aged 25 to 30, and much esteemed.

The other letter is from Chapuys, the Emperor's ambassador written to the Queen of Hungary on July 2nd, in which he mentions that

Lord Dacres also, son of the Duke of Norfolk's sister (Chapuys is in error here) and cousin of this Queen, 23 yeares old and possessing a property of about 5000 ducats a year, was hung from the most ignominious gibbet, and for the greater shame dragged through the streets to the place of execution, to the great pity of many people, and even of his very judges, who wept when they sentenced him, and in a body asked his pardon of the King.

On the back of an ancient copy of the Act of Parliament referred to later on, which provided for the jointure of Lord Dacre's widow, we have the two following endorsements:-

This vnfortunate Lo Dacre herein mentioned did never committ wylful murder for it was generally known he was not at ye place; but in his imprisonment he was cunnynglye delt wt all to confesse ye inditement for so he was persuaded he should saue his followers. And so by ye Tyranny of yt tyme he was cast away through too privy counsellers yt gaped after his lyving, wch yett they had not by reason of an intayle.
The above is certainly as I believe the handwriting of my ancestor Sampson Lennard.

1759, Dacre.

This note by Samson is really only a paraphrase of Camden's account, which says that 'the courtiers cunningly gaped after his inheritance.' However much these courtiers may have 'gaped' they got nothing for their pains, as the 'intayle' was, as Samson said, held to avoid forfeiture. Mr. Astle gave Lord Dacre a copy of a record in the Paper Office which has the following endorsement:-

The Councill resident at London to the Lords of the King's Majesty's Councill at the Court 8th July 1541 -opinion of the Judges and the King's Councill that the Lord Dacre's lands being intailed by the will of his grandfather ought not to be forfeited.

The document, after setting out that the late 'Lord Dacrez,' as it styles him, had been attainted, goes on to find that owing to the entail his lands ought not to be forfeited, 'but that the King's Highnes by reason of the nonage of the Heir may & ought to have the Wardship of the Body and the Custody of the said Possessions & Lands till the said Heir comes to his full age.'

This report, which was a unanimous one, was signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Audley, Chancellor, the Bishop of London, and six others.

That industrious antiquary, Mr. Haley, says in his 'Collection of Divers matters concerning the County of Sussex,

' 'This case is carefully recorded in all the report books, ancient and modern, and has ever since been referred to in the courts of justice as a notable precedent. The truth might perhaps be that he was so far persuaded to take the thing upon himself as to say that he first proposed and induced his friends to go on that party, which declaration might have been made an ill use of with the King; and putting the matter in this light may reconcile the seeming disagreement between the historians and the lawyers in their relation of this affair.'

According to Stow, these poaching frolics were by no means unfrequent at that period. He says in his 'Annals,' under the year 1526 (p.526):-

In the month of May was proclamation made against all unlawful games &c. in all places, tables, dice, cards, and bowls were taken and brent; and when young men were restrained of these games and pastimes, some fell to drinking, some to ferretting of other men's conies, and stealing of deer in parks, and other unthriftiness.

This event took place before the days of regular law reports, and we are left without information as to the exact facts of the case, and whether Lord Dacre was actually present when the affray took place.

Mr. Lower, in a very interesting paper, has done much, however, to dissipate the web of romance which several writers had woven round the tragic end of Lord Dacre. He says that he himself once wrote some verse which, like Mrs. Gore's tragedy 'Lord Dacre of the South,' was founded upon the theory suggested by the early chroniclers, and by the notes of Samson Lennard, that this ill-fated nobleman, although himself guiltless of murder, being in a different part of the park from that in which it took place, was nevertheless executed; and that this execution was the result of a conspiracy on the part of powerful courtiers then in favour with the King, who hoped, on his attainder, to obtain possession of the vast Dacre estates.

Mr. Lower in this paper dives deeper into history than did those earlier writers, and produces from the 'Baga de Secretis,' the official account of the trial, which at the time that Holinshed and Stow wrote, was no doubt not available to them.

From this it appears that on April 20th Lord Dacre assembled several persons at his castle of Herstmonceux, and they then conspired 'how they best could hunt in the park of Nicholas Pelham Esq. at Laughton with dogs and nets called buckstalls and bound themselves by oaths for such illegal purpose; and also to stand against all lieges of the King, and to kill any of the King's lieges who might oppose them.'

The jurors found that the conspirators met again in the same place some ten days later, and having divided themselves into two bands, one under the leadership of Lord Dacre, sallied forth on their expedition. The band led by Lord Dacre came into collision with the keepers watching, and fearing lest they themselves might be recognised, at once attacked the former, with the result that 'John Busebrygge' was killed.

If this was a true account of what did happen, Lord Dacre and his companions acted in a way not unknown to modern poachers, and he and they fully deserved the fate which they met with at the hands of justice. Mr. Lower also explains that the affray took place at Hellingly, and not at Laughton, as although the latter place was Sir Nicholas's chief residence, there were some other local circumstances which made Hellingly a more suitable spot for a deer park.

Sir Matthew Hale in his 'Pleas of the Crown,' written more than a hundred years after Lord Dacre's execution, in defining what acts amount to murder, says, 'If a person have no particular malice against any person but comes with a general resolution against all opposers, if the act be unlawful, and death ensue, it is murder; as if it be to commit a riot; to enter into a Park (Lord Dacre's case).' This pronouncement, although explaining when malice may be presumed in law, does not clear up the point as to where Lord Dacre was when Busbrig was killed.

The writ for this unfortunate young man's execution is as follows:-

Henricus Octavus Dei gracia Anglie et Francie Rex, fidei defensor, Dominus Hibernie et in terra supremum Caput Anglicane eclesie, vicecomes London, salutem. Pecipimus vobis puniter iniungentes quod statim visis presentibus Thomam Fynes nuper de Hurst Mounseux in Comitatu Sussex, Dominum Dacre, alias dictum Thomam Dominum Dacre, de quibusdam felonijs et murdris Attinctum et morti adiudicatum ac in Turri nostra London detentum a dilecto et fideli Consiliario nostro Johanne Gage ordinis nostri Garterij milite, Constabulario Turris nostre London, seu eius locum tenente vel eius deputato, ibidem apud 1e Tower hill, per Indenturam inde inter vos et dictum Constabularium, locum tenentem aut deputatum, debite conficiendam recipiatis et eundem Thomam Dominum Dacre vsque ad furcas de Tyborne ducatis ducive faciatis, et super furcas illas suspendatis suspendive faciatis vsque ad mortem. Mandamus enim eidem Constabulario eiusve locum tenenti sive deputato ibidem quod ipsum Thomam Dominum Dacre vobis ibidem liberent vobisque in executione predicta fienda debite assistant. Teste me ipso apud Westmonasterium xxix die Junij Anno regni nostri Tricesimo tercio. Lucas.

In view of what both Camden and Samson Lennard suggest, that his large fortune made some of the courtiers anxious to have him attainted of felony in hopes that the King might make grants to them of his estates, it is interesting to learn what the annual value of those estates were.

We have fortunately among our papers the following document drawn up a very few years after Lord Dacre's execution. Its contents throw some indirect light on the relative value of money then and now, and show us that his income was only a little more than a thousand pounds, which, however, in those days appears sufficient to have constituted an abnormally large fortune.

Thomas ffynes Lord Dacre

solde to Sr Antony Browne. Anno xxxvij Regis H. viij. [1545-6]

The extent & cleare yerelye value of a11 the Manors Lands & heredytaments appertayninge to the inherytance of Thomas Fynes Lord Dacre the King's Majesty's ward sonne & heir of Thomas Fynes Lord Dacre attaynted and executed for murder in June Anno xxxiij H. viij wch, said Thomas Lord Dacre the sonne was three yeres of age at the death of his said father and his inherytance saved from forfeiture by reason of the intayle.

Then follows a list of his various estates with their rentals, the majority of which are said in a marginal note to be 'In the possession of the King's Majesty during the minority of the said Lord Dacre.' The total given as the yearly value of all the estates comes to 1,06l. 17s. 11 d.

Upon Lord Dacre's execution and attainder, his widow was left quite penniless, but no time was lost in obtaining an Act of Parliament in order to provide a dower for her from out of her late husband's estates. Among our papers is an ancient copy of this Act, which was passed in the same year as he was executed, and which runs as follows:-

'An acte whereby certen landes are passed to the Lady Dacres.
'Anno xxxiij Henry VIII.' [1541-2]
It recites that:

Mary Fynes widowe, late the wief of Thomas Fynes late lorde Dacres, commonly called Lord Dacres of the Sowthe lately atteynted of wilfull murther by the lawes of this Realme of England is not dowable nor oughte to be indowed of any the Manors lands &c. which were in the possession &c. of the said late Lord Dacres &c. nor yet had any jointure in her late husband's lands for that the said Mary was espowsed & maryed unto her saide late Husband he being within the age of Twenty & one yeares & in the custody & ward of the King. The King's Majestie &c. according to his accustomable goodness of his liberalitie inclyned to mercy & pitty willing to extend his grace & clemency to the said Mary Fynes at the humble sute &c. of the said Mary for the relief of her and her children &c is contented & pleased that it be enacted by His Highnes with the assent of this present parliament, & by authority of the same, that the said Mary Fynes shall possess & enjoy for the term of her natural life, from Michaelmas last past, the Manors of Burham & Codham co. Kent-of Fromquinton & Belchwell co. Dorset, of Nashall co. Essex, & all their rights & privileges &c. the said attainder &c. not withstanding.'

But on July 2nd the King ordered her to be paid 50. at once, and directed that the Sheriff of Sussex should deliver to her 'All her apparel of velvet, satin, pearls, stones or goldsmiths work pertaining as well to her head as to the rest of her body.' And during the course of the month the King, being 'moved with pity' for the destitute position of the widowed Mrs. Mantell, said that upon being fully informed as to her circumstances he would take order for her relief.

I am not able to state at what date Lady Dacre married her second husband, who was - Wootton, Esq., of N. Tuddenham, Norfolk, nor whether she had children by him. She outlived him and married, as her third husband, Francis Thursby, Esq., of Congham in the same county; by whom in 1559 she had living three sons and three daughters. (This information as to Lady Dacre's second and third husbands is derived from Ld. D. His. In Blom. I can find no Wootton holding a manor in N. Tuddenham who could have been her husband. The same authority speaks of the family of Thursby (Thursbie) owning a manor in Congham from Henry VIII. till 39 Elizabeth, but does not mention a Francis of that name.) I believe that Lady Dacre died in or about 1576. Thomas, her eldest son by her first husband, died on August 25th, 1553, as appears by the following document in our possession:-

The extente &r clere yerely vallew of all the Castelles Lordships Manors &c.1ate of the enheretans of Thomas Fynes Lorde Dacre of the South deceased; the xxvth of August anno 1 Q. Marie [1553] being then of the age of xv yeres & warde to her Majestie; all wch sayd Castelles &c. descended to Gregory Fynes Lord Dacre his brother & next heyre beynge of the age of xiij yeres & a half at the deathe of his sayd brother.

Then comes a list of his estates with their respective rents, the total of which amounted to 1180. 18s. 7_d.

Among our deeds is one dated December 9, 1553, which is a grant by the Court of Wards and Liveries to John Fynes, gentleman, of the office of Keeper of the Park at Herstmonceux, parcel of the manor of Herstmonceux, then in the hands of Queen Mary by virtue of the minority of Gregory Fynes, Lord Dacre; 'brother & heir of Thomas Lord Dacre deceased'; to hold the same during the minority of Gregory.

Gregory married Anne, daughter of Sir Richard Sackville, and sister to Thomas Lord Buckhurst, 1st Earl Dorset, by whom he had issue only a daughter, who died young, and whose effigy is on his tomb, although she is not mentioned in the inscription on that monument.

Anne Lady Dacre, in the course of the disputes with her brother-in-law Samson Lennard, speaks of herself and her husband as being very young at the time of their marriage; and this must have been the case for, as we shall see, they were certainly married before the death of Queen Mary. The inscription on Lord Dacre's tomb supports his wife's assertion that they married at an early age as, although it does not give the date of their marriage, it says 'Quos ardens copulavit amor juvenilibus annis.'

When Elizabeth came to London upon her accession in November 1558, Gregory Lord Dacre was one of the noblemen appointed to attend upon the new queen, and his wife was made a Lady of Honour. Strictly speaking he had at that period no right to the title, as the attainder of his father Thomas Lord Dacre was as yet not reversed, and therefore he and his sister were both attainted by his conviction. No doubt Gregory, or his young wife, took full advantage of the opportunity which their proximity to the Sovereign afforded them to make a good impression upon the Queen, and to induce her to look with a favouring eye upon his petition that the disabilities imposed upon him in virtue of the sentence passed upon his father should be removed. From the nature of things new rulers are apt to be desirous of ingratiating themselves with their subjects, and this was particularly the case with Elizabeth, who was ever desirous of popularity, and whose hold upon the throne was at that period none too secure. The claims to clemency which the Dacres put forward to their royal mistress were well received, and one of her earliest acts was to grant their petition. Among our papers is an ancient copy of the document by which the attainder was reversed; it runs as follows:-

In the Parliament held at Westmr 5 January anno Elizabeth &c. 1st (1559) before the Lords Spiritual & temporal &c. this 40th Statute was enacted.
There was exhibited to the Queen's Majesty in parliament the act of petition following-being the petition 'of Gregorie Fenes esqr. brother & heire unto Thomas Fenes esq. sonne & heire unto Sir Thomas Fenes Knight late Lord Dacres of the South'; recites attainder of last named Sir Thos Fenes, Lord Dacre in time of King Henry VIII; whereby petioner 'is a person in his blode lynage honor degree & dignitie corrupted' petioner prays he may be restored in blood &c. to all intents &z purposes as if the said Thomas Lord Dacre had 'neuer bene attainted.' To which petition, answer was made by the Queen & authority of Parliament- 'Soit fait come il est desire.'


Tyburn, chief place of execution in London, England, prior to 1783; near n.e. corner of Hyde Park; named for small tributary of Thames River.

Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
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George Edward Cokayne; The Complete Peerage; vol.4 Edited by The Hon. Vicary Gibbs with the assistance of H. Arthur Doubleday. Published: London, The St. Catherine Press; 1916. FHL Book 942.d22cok; FHL Film #973309

IX. 1533. 9. Thomas (Fiennes), Lord Dacre, grandson and h., being s. and h. of Sir Thomas Fiennes, by Jane (m.1514, d. Aug. 1539), da. of Edward (Sutton), Lord Dudley, which Thomas was s. and h. ap. of the last Lord, and d.v.p. 26 Oct 1528. He, who was aged 18 and more in 1534, was sum. to parliment from 8 June (1536) 28 Hen. VIII to 1 Mar. (1538/9) 30 Hen. VIII, by writs directed Thome Fienes de Dacre. He was early in attendance at the Court, was one of the jury who sat on the trial of Anne Boleyn, May 1536, and bore the canopy at the funeral of Jane Seymour in 1538. He was one of the escort of Anne of Cleves in 1540. He m., in 1536, Mary, da. of George (Nevill), Lord Abergavenny, by his 3rd wife, Mary, da. of Edward (Stafford) Duke of Buckingham. Having taken part in hunting deer in Laughton Park, Sussex, when one of the park keepers met his death, he was found guilty of murder, and was hanged at Tyburn, 29 June 1541, whereby it was considered that his honours were forfeited. He was bur. at St. Sepulchre's near Newgate, aged 26. His widow m. 2ndly, (-) Wootton, of North Tuddenham, Norfolk. She m. 3rdly, Francis Thursby, of Congham, in that co. She was living 17 Dec 1565, and probably d. in 1576.


The Publicatitons of the Harleian Society. The Visitations of Kent, Taken In The Years 1574 and 1592. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book 942 B4h vol.75.

1574- Margarett doughter of Thomas Lorde Dacres of the Sowth


edited by L.F.Salzman, M.A. F.S.A.. The Victoria History of the Counties of England; A History of Sussex. vol. IX; p.133. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book Q 942 H2vsus.

After receiving many marks of royal favour, Thomas Lord Dacre died 9 September 1533 and was succeeded by his grandson Thomas Lord Dacre, who was executed in 1541 at the age of 24 for a murder committed in a poaching foray.....


J.D. Mackie; C.B.E, M.C., Hon. LL.D. (St Andrews). The Earlier Tudors; 1485-1558. Oxford At The Clarendon Press; 1952. vol. 7. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book 942 H2oh.

While the king (Henry VIII) preserved his faithful servants, he had little mercy upon aristocrats who incurred his displeasure. An abortive conspiracy in the north led to the execution of old Lady Salisbury on 27 May 1541. In June Leonard Gray was beheaded for his alleged misconduct in Ireland, and immediately afterwards Lord Dacre of the south was condemned and hanged for the murder of 'a simple man', though many of the nobles tried to save him.


edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. Dictionary of National Biography; from the earliest times to 1900. Oxford England; Oxford University Press, 1993. vol.6. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book 920.042 D561n 1993.


ninth Baron Dacre (1517-1541), was son of Sir Thomas Fienes, by Joan Sutton, daughter of Edward and sister of John, Lord Dudley. Sir Thomas died in the lifetime of his father, Thomas, eighth baron Dacre of the South. The eighth baron married Anne, daughter of Sir Humphrey Bourchier, and granddaughter of John, lord Berners; was engaged in repressing Perkin Warbeck's insurrection 1496-1497, and after much public service died in 1534.

Thomas succeeded his grandfather in 1534-5, aged about 18. With the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Mountjoy he headed the cavalcade of knights and esquires who met Anne of Cleves on Rainham Down on New Year's eve 1539-40 (Holinshed Chron. iii, 811). On the night of 30 Apr 1541 Lord Dacre and a party of youths left his castle of Hurstmonceux for a poaching frolic in the park of Mr. Nicholas Pelham at Laughton. On their way thither the company got divided. One party, not that, it would appear, to which Lord Dacre belonged, fell in with some persons, perhaps some of Pelham's servants, one of whom was mortally wounded in a scuffle. The whole company was indicted on the charge of murder. The innocence of the other party was so clear that the privy council hesitated long before ordering a prosecution, and then probably under pressure from the king (Froude, Hist. of England, iv. 120). Henry, now nearing his worst, 'cruelly, royally vindictive' (Stubbs, Lectures, pp. 200-1), was resolved that the young man should die, and his 'surpassing self-wilfulness' drove his councillors to a decision, though not without a long and stormy debate. The case was tried in the court of king's bench on 27 June, before the lord chancellor (Lord Audley of Walden); 'sitting that day as high steward of England.' Lord Dacre at first pleadeed 'not guilty;' but 'overpersuaded by the courtiers, who gaped after his estate, to confess the fact' (Camden, Elizabeth, ap Kennett, ii. 580), he pleaded guilty and 'cast himself on the king's mercy, as the only way to save his own and his servant's life.' A capital convictin necessarily followed. The judges thereupon used their influence iwth the king to obtain mercy. The king, however, was determined, and Dacre was ordered to be executed next day, 29 June, at 11 a.m., on Tower Hill. The execution was stayed by an order from the king, but carried out the same afternoon at Tyburn. Dacre was buried in St. Sepulchre's Church on Snow Hill. The popular compassion was deeply moved. Seven of his companions besides himself were indicted. Four of them were acquitted, and three shared his fate. The case has ever since been referred to as a notable precedent (Hall, Pleas of the Crown, i.439; second part of Jacob, i.47). Lord Dacre, by his wife Mary, daughter of George Neville, lord Abergavenny, left two sons, Thomas, who died, aged 15, in 1553, and Gregory, who was restored to his honours in 1558, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Sampson Lennard, esq., of Chevening, Kent, and on the death of her brother without issue inherited his entailed estates, and was declared Baroness dacre in 1604.

(Hall's Chronicle, p.841; Holinshed's Chronicles, iii, 821; Froude's Hist. of England, iv.120-2; Camden's Elizabeth, sub anno 1594; Hayley MSS. Brit. Mus. i.743)


John Guy. Castles in Sussex. Phillimore. p.78. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book 942.25 H2gc.


This Thomas Dacre was something of a high-spirited individual and one night decided to play a prank on his neighbour, Sir Nicholas Pelham, with whom he had recently fallen out. Dacre, along with his friends George Roydon, John Frowdys and John Mantell, rode off to the Pelham estate to hunt Sir Nicholas's deer. It was apparently a bright, moonlit night, and they were spotted in their exploit by Pelham;s gamekeeper, who was patrolling the park with two companions.

The gamekeeper ordered Dacre and his friends to leave the property, but instead they drew their swords and gave chase to him. The high jinks got out of hand, tempers became frayed, and a fight broke out between them. The gamekeeper fell to the ground from a sword wound, believed to have been delivered by Dacre himself, and suddenly the fun was over. Dacre and his men made a hurried retreat and the two companions carried the wounded man back to Sir Nicholas Pelham's house. The gamekeeper died as a result of his wound, but not before telling his master who his murderers were. Pelham, an extremely powerful man of his day, had Lord Dacre and his three associates arrested for murder. They were all duly found guilty and later executed.


Thomas Walker Horsfield, F.S.A.. The History,Antiquities,and Topography of the County of Sussex. Sussex Press, Lewes; MDCCCXXXV (1835). vol 1.; p.554-555. Family History Library, 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, USA, FHL Book Q 942.25 H2hor.

.........Thomas, third Lord Dacre, who did not injoy his dignity many years, for by one of those freaks which fortune sometimes plays with ever the "Corinthian capitals" of society, he was compelled to make an ignominious exit at Tyburn. It appears that this young nobleman, accompanied by John Cheney and Thomas Isley, Esquires, Richard Middleton and John Goldwel, yeoman, John Mantell, John Frouds and George Roidon, his domestic servants, sallied out from his castle to possess himself of one of his neighbour's, Sir Nicholas Pelham's deer. Of the transaction Stow gives the following account. (Stow's Annals, p.582; 1525-1605)

"This nobleman, as hee was come of high linage, so was hee a right valiant and hardy personage, hauing in his time doone his prince and country good seruice, both in Ireland, France, and other places, greatly to his comendation, although now his hap was thus to loose his head."

"The same day that he suffered, there were executed at Saint Thomas Waterings three gentlemen, John Mantel, John Frouds, and George Roidon. They died for a murther committed in Sussex (as their inditemet imported) in companie of Tho. Fines Lord Dacres of the south. The truth whereof was thus. The said Lord Dacres, through the lewd perswasion of some of them, as hath been reported, meaning to hunt in the parke of Nicholas Pelham, esquier, at Laughton in the same countie of Sussex, beeing accompanied with the sayde Mantell, Frouds, and Roidon, John Cheiney, and T. Isley gentlemen, and Richard Middleton and John Goldwel, yeomen, passed from his house of Hurstmonseux the last of Aprill in the night season, towarde the same parke where they intended so to hunt, and comming into a place called Pikehay, in the parish of Hillingley, they founde one John Busbrig, James Busbrig, and Richard Somener, standing there together; and as it fell out through quarrelling, there ensued a fraie betwixt the saide Lord Dacres and his company on the one part, and the saide John and James Busbrig and Richard Somener on the other, insomuch that the said John Busbrig received such hurt, that he died thereof the second of May next ensuing; whereupon as well the saide Lord Dacres, as those that were with him, and diuers other likewise that were appointed to goe another way to meete them at the sayde parke, were endited of murther, and the seuen and twentieth of June the Lord Dacres himself was arrained before the Lord Audley of Walden, the lord chancelor, sitting that daie as High Steward of England, with other peeres of the realm about him, who then and there condemned the said L. Dacres to die for the transgression; and afterwards the nine and twentieth of June being Saint Peters daie, at eleuen of the clock in the forenoone, the Sheriffs of London accordinglie as they were appointed, were readie at the tower to haue receiued the said prisoner, and him to have led to execution on the tower hill. But as the prisoner should come forth of the tower, one Heire a gentleman of the lord chancelor's house came, and in the kings name commaunded them to stay the execution till two of the clock in the afternoone, which caused many to thinke that the K. would haue granted his pardon. But neuertheles at 3. of the clocke in the same afternoone hee was brought forth of the Tower, and deliuered to the sherifs, who led him on foote betwixt them unto Tyborne, where he died. His body was buried in the church of S. Sepulchers; he was not past foure and twenty yeeres of age when he came thus through great mishap to his end; for whom many sore lamented, and likewisefor the other three gentlemen, Mantell, Frouds, and Roidon, but chiefly for the sayd young Lord being a right towardly gentleman."

The king's inexorable rigour in not shewing him mercy, seems to have called forth much censure. The author of Magna Britannica says that the murder could not have been charged upon him, if he had pleaded "not guilty," for he was not in the fray; but some courtiers who gaped after his estate, persuaded him to plead "guilty," and submit himself the king's mercy, which they took care he should not have, and so he lost his life, honour and estate, at once. Camden, however, says that they missed the estate; for on examination it was found too strongly entailed.

He left issue two sons; Thomas, who died young, and Gregory, and a daughter Margaret, who were restored in blood, 1st Elizabeth. On the death of her brother, Gregory Lord Dacre, 37th Elizabeth, Margaret succeeded to his honour and estates, amongst which was the manor of Herstmonceux, she being then the wife of Sampson Leonard, Esq., of Knole and Clavering, in Kent. "This Sampson Leonard, and the Lady Dacre, his wife, lived much at Herstmonceux, and were remarkable for the noble housekeeping and hospitality, and embellished the house with costly chimney pieces in the best rooms ornamented according to the fashion of those times, with their coats of arms, crests, and supoorters." (Grose's Ant. V.155)


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Copyright 5 March 1999 by Ann Tappero; all rights reserved