Gene Surfing

Adventures in Family History

The Fittleton Manor Mystery

bullshot bullet A document relating to the purchase of Fittleton Manor in 1589 indicates that William Stubbes and Thomas Gyll were in the Tower of London, but what were they doing there?

This document is related to research into my family tree, in particular the pedigree of Anne Stubbes, who married Robert Codrington in 1595.  For background information please read An Heiress and of a Norfolk Family otherwise things may seem a bit confusing.

The Manor of Fittleton

Fittleton is a village and civil parish in the English county of Wiltshire, about 20 km. north of Salisbury, and the same distance south of Marlborough, and south-east of Devizes.

There are four gentlemen named in the document: William Darrell of Littlecote, William Stubbes of Ratcliffe, William Stubbes and Thomas Gyll of the Tower of London.

Covenant to levy a fine of the manor and rectory of Fittleton, 22 May 31 Elizabeth I [1589] (William Darell of Littlecote (Wiltshire), esq; William Stubbs of Ratlyffe (Middlesex), gentleman. To William Stubbs and Thomas Gyll of the Tower of London, gentleman, and to heirs of William Stubbs); with typed transcript by Wiltshire Record Office, 1956

William Stubbes in this document is probably my 10x great-grandfather, but it is difficult to identify exactly what his relationship is with the others.

So let’s have a look at them all and see how they were connected.

Thomas Gyll

Royal MenagerieThere was a menagerie at the Tower of London for hundreds of years until 1832 when the animals were moved to London Zoo.

In 1573 – and again in 1586 with his son Ralph – Queen Elizabeth granted to Thomas Gill the office of Keeping the Lyons Lyonesses & Leopards within the Tower of London.


“their fees for this purpose being twelve pence per day, and for the sustentation of each Lyon etc. sixe pence per day to be paid by the Lord Treasurer at the feasts of Easter and St. Michael”.

Tower of Lyons

Gyll of the TowerRalph, son of Thomas, married into the Heneage family and his brother-in-law, Thomas Heneage, was therefore also one of those who found the will of Sir Francis Walsingham, along with William Stubbes in 1590.

But this is possibly not all that he did.

Gunpowder Plot

Gunpowder 1605In 1573 one Thomas Gyll is recorded as a manufacturer of gunpowder in Faversham, Kent, which is the same year as the appointment of Lion Keeper.

The pedigree of the Gyll family above shows that Thomas bought property in Essex but this did not necessarily mean that he was born there, so he could have been from Kent, the centre of the gunpowder industry at the time.

The appointment as Lion Keeper seems to have improved his prospects considerably and arms were granted in 1586.

It is said that 36 barrels of gunpowder made at Faversham were used by Guy Fawkes and the other conspirators in their plot to blow up the old Houses of Parliament in 1605.

William Stubbes

I suspect that William Stubbes was working for the Office of the Ordnance, based in the Tower of London and it is this William who is mentioned in this document and others relating to Fiddleton Manor as William Stubbes of Watchfield.

In about 1595 the Armoury moved out of the Tower leaving additional space for the storage of gunpowder and if William was working here, then he would have known Thomas Gyll through his activities as a supplier of gunpowder.

Thomas may have obtained the position as Lion Keeper through this connection to the Tower.

Thomas and William were both involved in the purchase of the Manor of Fittleton, sold by William Darell, but it was William who actually bought it.

Fittleton then passed like Coombe in Enford in the Darell family to Sir Edward Darell (d. 1549) and then to his son William (d. 1589) who sold the manor in two parts. He sold the part once known as King’s Fee in 1558 to George Fettiplace.
Darell sold the other part of the manor in 1588 to William Stubbs.
From Stubbs it passed in 1599 to Thomas Jeay (d. 1623) who was rector of Fittleton.

William Darrell

William Stubbes clearly knew Darrell as he wrote to him from the home of Francis Walsingham, in 1587 but it is not clear which William this was.

Advising him to keep peace by patience and silence; the Queen, the earl of Leicester and his master Walsingham are in good health.

William Darrell of Littlecote, Wiltshire [an interesting character] was left 25 manors by his father but sold most of them to pay for litigation against his father’s mistress, Mary Fortescue, and several of these manors were purchased by Sir Francis Walsingham.

William is said to have been “surveying” manors in Wiltshire for Walsingham and was involved in the purchase of Chilton Foliat manor, which Darrell was selling in 1581.

Clearly Darrell and Walsingham were well acquainted.

During the Armada crisis, Darrell offered his services, with 20 horsemen, to Sir Francis Walsingham. The latter was not ill-disposed.

Darrell died October 1589 aged 50 shortly after the sale of Fittleton manor and his home at Littlecote passed to John Popham, speaker of the house, in suspicious circumstances.

There is extant a letter of 1594 from the Earl of Essex, attempting to influence his judgment in a suit which was to be heard before him; and Aubrey maintained that Popham acquired Littlecote as the price for obtaining a nolle prosequi in favour of the murderer William ‘Black’ Darrell.

A brief biography of William Darrell – including his darker side – can be found here.

Letter sent following the death of William Darrell, Littlecot, Wiltshire.

Soe it is that at Mr. Attornies last beinge in Wilteshere, at a place called
Littlecot, somtyme belonginge to Mr. William Darrell, Esqrt’, deceased, but
nowe to Mr. Attorney, my happe was in the absence of Mr. Attornie upon the
deth of Mr. Darell to gether all such evidences as was in the house of Littlecote
into my possession, to Mr. Attornie’s use. And since that tyme it dothe appeare
that Sr Fraunces Walsingham dothe ptende title to some other of the landes of
the said Mr. Darell, whereof no pte dothe apptaine to Mr. Attornie. And that
the evydences as well concerning that wcl‘ Mr. Attornie is to have in righte,
and dothe enjoye, as alsoe these landes that Sr Frances Walsingham dothe
ptend title unto did remaine in the house of Littlecott at the tyme of Mr. Darrell’ decease, w‘h evidences are conveyed to London already in greate chestes.1 But
the keys of these chests were lefte wth me, as well by Mr. Attornie as by one Mr.
Stubbes, Agent, that was appointed in the behalfe of Sr Fraunces Walsingham,
saftlie and indiiferentlie to be kepte tyll the tyme should be appointed by Mr.
Secretarye that the Chests should be opened, and the evidences perused, as well for
Mr. Secretarye as for Mr. Attornie

Chilton Foliat 1813There is also a record in the National Archives which shows that William Stubbes may have challenged Francis Popham regarding the acquisition of some of the properties of William Darrell.

Short title: Stubbes v Popham.

Plaintiffs: William Stubbes.

Defendants: Sir Francis Popham kt.

Subject: manor of Wanborough, Axford, Chilton [Foliot], Wiltshire.

C 3/378/10

There do not seem to be any records of either William or Francis actually owning Wanborough, but it was one of those held by the Darrell family.

After Darrell’s death in 1589 Walsingham entered on the manor [of Axford]. He died in 1590 leaving as heir his daughter Frances [widow of Sir Philip Sidney] who in that year married Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

William Stubbes was involved in the purchase of Chilton Foliat from Darrell as an agent of Francis Walsingham [see above].

On the death of William Darrell, Chilton Foliat Manor passed at his death in 1589 to Sir Francis Walsingham (d. 1590), to whom he had sold the reversion in that year.

But it seems that in 1590 Sir Francis Walsingham conveyed the estate to his secretary Francis Mylles and this then passed to his daughter .

William Stubbes of Ratcliffe

ratcliffeWilliam is described as a rope maker by trade, but he appears to be much more than this.

Ratcliffe is close to Stepney and the docks on the Thames and to properties owned by the Harrington family.

It is also known as “Sailor Town” and William’s interests seem to be linked to the docks.

Chancery: Master Tinney’s Exhibits. BUNDLE No 35: Lease of Rt Hon Henry, Lord Wentworth, to William Stubbes of Stepney, Middx, of land near Whitehart Street, Ratcliff, Middx, belonging to the manor of Stepney, Middx, 1588

William also owned several properties around the country and had interests in the port of Topsham, Devon.

In D. 1623, Nov. 6, 1583, William Stubbes of Ratclyffe (Middlesex) gives a bond of 400l. to secure a conveyance to the Mayor &c. of “all that crane or key and cranage and sellers of the Porte of Topsham and the fyshinge in the water of Clyste, together with all storehouses, sellers and sollers, voyde ground and land, and also all fees, offyces, tolls, customes, pryvyledges, prehemynences, lyberties, prfytts and emoluments wahtsoever to the said crane, key and cranage, sellers and fyshyng belonginge” granted to him by Letters Patent of May 16, 1583.

In the Fiddleton Manor case, however it appears that he may be involved in the purchase of the manor as a dowry for his two nieces [?], Susan and Theophilia, although further records for the manor were recorded in the name of William of Watchfield.

It appears that William of Ratcliffe did not have any children himself, so it is likely that these were the daughters of his brother [?] Bartholomew of Watchfield who is mentioned elsewhere as the father of Theophilia.

23 Nov. 1598. Bill filed by William Stubbes of Radclifif, Co. Middx., Ropemaker (who about 4 yeares now last past inhabited and dwelt at Boston, Co. Linc., being unmarried and having a great family household by reason of his trade) against Thomas Strangrushe of the same town, Fuller.

I’m not quite sure what is going on, unless the reference to “unmarried” means that he was widowed because it does say he had a great family household which is a bit of a contradiction.

Also it appears that William of Ratcliffe is part of the sale of the property as agent of William Darrell – it seems common at this time for two gentlemen to be involved in legal proceedings – but this does not mean that William of Ratcliffe is not related to William of Watchfield.

[More research required.]

Theophilia and Susan

… and Francis

There is no record of Francis in relation to the manor but it appears that she and Theophilia, at least, may have been sisters.

Theophilia is shown as the daughter of Bartholomew Stubbes of Watchfield, in the pedigree of the Garrard family of Inkpen, Berkshire – she married Thomas Garrard.

Theophilia Stubbes

But there are other records show that these were daughters born to Willim and “wam” Stubbes in Stepney.

So perhaps Bartholemew was the father of William and incorrectly added to the pedigree instead of his son William?

[See The Will of Thomas Tatton for clarification]

Anne Stubbes, wife of Robert Codrington, is described in several cases as co-heiress and her three sisters – Susan, Theophila and Francis – would have been younger and were baptised in a different part of London.

Name: Susan Stubbes
Gender: Female
Christening Date: 03 Jul 1582
Father’s Name: Willim Stubbes


Name: Theophila Stubbes
Gender: Female
Christening Date: 21 Dec 1584
Father’s Name: Wam Stubbes


Name: Frauncis Stubbes
Gender: Female
Christening Date: 26 Nov 1587
Father’s Name: Wam Stubbes

Francis may have died young as she was not mentioned in the purchase of Fittleton.

Note: she is also shown as the daughter of William Stubbes of Ratcliffe in the baptism record.

[See More about Hester]

bullshot bulletThis doesn’t really help to identify the parentage of Susan and Theophilia, but it seems clear that the manor was purchased on their behalf and was purchased by William of Watchfield.

Defeasance upon the manor of Fittleton alias Fidleton, 5 February 42 Elizabeth I [1599/1600] (Thomas Jeaye, parson of Fittleton; William Stubbs of Watchfield (Berkshire), esq); Stubbs owes Jeaye £1200, due next Lady Day; if Clement Jeaye and John Puxton peaceably enjoy the manor of Fittleton for 60 years or the life of William Stubbs, and if Susan and Theophila Stubbs, when aged 21, quitclaim the manor to Jeaye, then the deed acknowledging the debt will be void; at foot: 17 June 1623 William Jeaye, son of Thomas Jeaye, produced this lease to William Stubbs

This also shows that William was alive in 1623 and that he is the William from the Tower of London and the one who had probably worked for Walsingham – although William of Ratcliffe was also known to Walsingham.

The Lands of Snelshall Priory.
The reversion of all the leases from that of 1553 was sold in fee by the Crown in 1587 to Sir Francis Walsingham and Francis Mills, who immediately conveyed their interest to William Gerrard of Harrow on the Hill, William Stubbs of Ratcliff (Mdx.), and John Willard of London.

Could Susan and Theophilia and Francis simply be daughters to William of Watchfield – or is there yet another William Stubbes involved in all this?

But if this is the case then why is Anne – who married Robert Codrington in 1595 – not mentioned?

And why is William of Ratcliffe involved – unless he was providing the funding, having no children of his own?

All very confusing, but hopefully further information will become available that will help in clearing up this mystery.

Thomas Jeaye

Thomas was rector of Fittleton and purchased the manor from William Stubbes.

Jeaye, Thomas of Queen’s Coll., B.A.22 June, 1586, M.A.28 June, 1589, vicar of Enford, Wilts, 1592, rector of Fittleton, Wilts, 1594-1624; father of Stephen, Thomas and William.

Alumni Oxoniensis

Farmer BullshotFittleton Manor has provided some vital information in linking together William of Watchfield, William of Ratcliffe, William Darell and Francis Walsingham.

This certainly helps to identify who William Stubbes was, but not where he comes from.

Could he be the son or nephew of William of Ratcliffe who was known to both Francis Walsingham and John Harrington – the father of Hester who married William and who also lived in Stepney?

Was it William of Ratcliffe or William of Watchfield who worked for Walsingham – or both?

And who is William Stubbes of Congleton who also worked for Walsingham in Chester?

And one of these was MP for Yarmouth, IOW.

I will try and address these issues in another article.

Some references to William and Hester’s daughter, Anne, say that she was from a Norfolk family but this may have been assumed from the family crest – the London Stubbes family use the same arms.

See An Heiress and of a Norfolk family.

Chris Sidney 2014


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