Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Fettiplace Ancestry of Governor Thomas Dudley; Thomas Fettiplace of East Shefford

I wrote a blog post some years ago about what I call "trying to meet in the middle." This is that genealogical problem where you think you know the ancestry down to a certain point and up to a certain point but you cannot connect those two points. You can't meet in the middle. The Fettiplace ancestry of Thomas Dudley almost definitely began with Adam Fettiplace of Oxford in the 12th century and can be traced down to his descendants and it can be traced up to Thomas Fettiplace born about 1394. But, we can't connect Thomas to Adam's line.

This article will deal with Thomas Fettiplace and his descendants to Anne Fettiplace who married Edward Purefoy. They were the great grandparents of Thomas Dudley on his mother's side.

whose doing the writing
So, there have been three major articles written about the Fettiplace Family and most of what you find on the web is from these articles. The first was published in 1889 by James Robinson Planche' who was appointed the Rouge Crouix Pursuivant in 1854. He wrote extensively about the family, beginning with Adam Fettiplace. He wrote that it was his conviction that Henry Fettiplace, who died seized on the manor of Denchworth in 1416, was either the uncle or father of Thomas.

In 1911, J. Rentyon Dunlop wrote an lengthy article on the family. He wrote that Thomas was known to have had a brother John of Woolley Park. He and a Peter Fettiplace of North Denchworth, the representative of the original line, were contemporaries. Peter was the son of John Fettiplace of North Denchworth. Peter and Thomas each served as High Sheriff of Berkshire and both served in 1436 as Comm missioners of Array. Dunlop says, "it is here suggested, that although probably first cousins, it quite possible they were brothers." For this to be true, John of Woolley would have to be John of Denchworth, which has not been suggested by anyone that I can find. Then John and Thomas would both be sons of Henry of Denchworth, Thomas being the fourth son.

Nearer our current time, Donald Lines Jacobus wrote and article for "The Register," in 1969, about the Fettiplace Family. In his two part article, part two begins with Thomas. Of is his ancestry he writes, "In spite of his high rank and social position, enhanced to be sure by the exalted birth of his wife, his descent from Adam Fettiplace, the first definitely known progenitor of this ancient family, has never been worked out. Donald L. Jacobus was one of the finest american genealogist.

English historian and genealogist David Nash Ford has an extensive website on Royal Berkshire History, which includes many of the leading Berkshire families. The Fettiplace articles by Dunlop and Plance' are both reprinted on this website. In a bio of Thomas Fettiplace, the author, unnamed, writes that the parentage of Thomas is "far from certain." But, it "seems likely that he was a son of Henry Fettiplace of North Denchworth." No documentation is offered for this statement, but it is presumable based on the speculation raised in the two previously mentioned articles.

So was Thomas the son of Henry Fettiplace of North Denchworth. It is possible that Henry was his father and it is possible that Henry was not his father. More than that, I cannot say. Sorry.

Thomas is believed to have been a fourth son, regardless of who his father was. Fourth sons had a difficult time back then, when the first son got the lion's share of his father's estate. These guys had to go out and make their mark on their world. This could be done by excelling in martial arts or if the world of warfare was not to your interest, by managing the estates of a warrior. This is the route chosen by Thomas.

In 1413 Thomas was appointed steward to Gilbert, Lord Talbot. at his manor of Bampton in Oxfordshire. This manor had been in the Talbot family since 1327 when it was given as part of a dowry at the marriage of Richard Talbot and Elizabeth Comyn. However, Talbot's main lands were in the Welsh Marches, the borderlands between England and Wales. The men who held these lands are called the March Lords and were semi-independent from the King. The first ten or so years of the 15th century saw frequent fighting between the English and the Welsh who briefly rid Wales of their English overlords only fall under their control by 1409.  It is possible that the Talbot family spent time in the Oxfordshire home to avoid the ongoing military conflict.

As steward, Thomas was responsible for the day to day running of the estate. The steward also played a major role in the manorial court system. All in all it was a good gig for a fourth son, in fact, may stewards became wealthy men.

1413 saw the crowning of the most military of kings, Henry V. He is described as a cold and ruthless soldier. Once crowned he immediately began preparing to invade Normandy, which he did in 1415. The next few years brought amazing military victories for England at Harfleur and the amazing defeat of the French at Agincourt. In 1416 the last Welsh "Prince of Wales," died, and Henry was able to give France his full attention. In 1417 he again invaded France, his target was the city of Rouen. After an almost two year siege the once great city surrendered,  it's citizens dying of starvation and illness. Also dying at the siege was Gilbert, Lord Talbot, Lord of the manor of Bampton.

thomas takes a wife
Thomas was married in 1422. His wife was the Lord Talbot's widow, Beatrice. Beatrice was a young widow with only on child, a daughter named Ankaret for her Talbot Grandmother. Beatrice was also a foreigner. She was Portuguese. Let me say right out that she was not the daughter of King Joao (John) of Portugal by either his legal wife, Phillipa Lancaster or a mistress as is seem on multiple websites. All current research points to her being a descendant of King Alphonso III of Portugal and his mistress Mariana Pirez de Enxara. Alphonso died in 1279 and if true would have been Beatrice's 3X great grandfather.  She was not a princess. Suffice it to say, no one really knows who her father was.

Immediately following the death of her husband, Beatrice was given one third of the manor of Bampton as her dower. In 1419 she was given full custody of the estate. Sadly, her daughter and Lord Talbot's only heir, died in 1422. This left Beatrice and her then husband Thomas Fettiplace with only her dower third. She exchanged this dower for the right of tenancy. Gilbert's lands and title passed to his brother John, later the Earl of Shrewsbury.

Thomas was obviously a very successful businessman. He held many high offices in the Counties of Berkshire and Oxfordshire including serving as a member of parliament in 1432. He also served as Sheriff of both counties.  In 1442 he was given a commission to basically persuade his neighbors to 'loan' money to the King and bring it post haste to the Royal Exchequer. According to the Royal Berkshire History article on Thomas, he was never knighted and therefore was not Sir Thomas but rather only Thomas Fettiplace.

He seems to have died not long after the 1442 commission. Beatrice died on Christmas day in 1447. They are buried in the little church of St. Thomas that once served the manor of East Shefford. Their alabaster tomb was commissioned by their son John. The manor house of East Shefford was demolished in 1871. The village of East Shefford no long exists.

St. Thomas church photo by Ron Baxter

A P Baggs, Eleanor Chance, Christina Colvin, C J Day, Nesta Selwyn and S C Townley. "Bampton Hundred," in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 13, Bampton Hundred (Part One), ed. Alan Crossley and C R J Currie (London: Victoria County History, 1996), 1-5. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2016,

"Parishes: East Shefford or Little Shefford," in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, ed. William Page and P H Ditchfield (London: Victoria County History, 1924), 234-238. British History Online, accessed May 15, 2016,

David Nash Ford, "Thomas Fettiplace," David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History, ( : accessed 28 May 2016).

Nathaniel L. Taylor, "Beatrice Fettiplace (Ancestress of Gov. Thomas Dudley) : A Summary", PDF file. This was written in 2002 and is the latest information on the ancestry of Beatrice Fettiplace. Taylor is the editor and publisher of  the The American Genealogist.

Donald Lines Jacobus, "The Fettiplace Family," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 123 (October 1969) 254, American Ancestors  ( : accessed 25 May 2016).

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