« PreviousContinue »
Purder of Bury Long, Esq.
A. D. 1594.
It has been the fate of one or two Wiltshire gentlemen to be handed down to the notice of posterity, by the very unfortunate distinction of being concerned, actively or passively, in assassination. A story of the former kind belongs to the house of Stourton: one of the latter to that of Thynne. The particulars of the murder of Mr. Hartgill, by Charles Lord Stourton, 1555; and those of Mr. Thomas Thynne by Count Koningsmark in the streets of London, in 1582, are well known and are to be found in Sir R. C. Hoare's History of Modern Wilts." But of the violent proceeding to which the present memoir refers, scarcely the whisper of a tradition is left in the county where it took place. The family of the chief perpetrators, DANVERS of Dauntesey, disappeared many years ago from the list of provincial gentry; whilst in that of the Longs which still holds an honoured place amongst us, nothing whatever is known upon the subject.
One slight allusion to it, and one only, does indeed remain amongst the odd gatherings of our industrious acquaintance John Aubrey. The incarceration for two centuries of that worthy's miscellaneous Wiltshire notes, within a deal cupboard in the lower regions of Ashmole’s Library at Oxford, has perhaps been the reason why this and similar hints for research have so long escaped attention. Many other events of local interest are in the like cursory way glanced at in that collection, which are now, it is to be feared, irrecoverably lost.
In his scanty notes of the parish of Great Somerford near Malmsbury, Aubrey says, “The assassination of Harry Long was contrived in the parlour of the parsonage here. Mr. Atwood was then parson. He was drowned coming home.”ı l
1 Lord Stourton's: Mere, p. 153.
Mr. Thynne's: Heytesbury, p. 65.
On the first reading of this sentence, which is the whole of what Aubrey says upon the subject, it is not quite clear which of the two was drowned—Harry Long or Mr. Atwood. But, by the discovery of some documents which will be subjoined, the point is quite set at rest. The watery grave was Mr. Atwood's; Harry Long's fate was of a very different kind. This is quite certain from the evidence to be produced : but though the papers referred to give us full particulars of time, place, and other circumstances of the murder, they throw no light whatever on the actual motive which led to it. This still remains, and is likely to remain, a mystery
The chief Dramatis Personæ were two Wiltshire gentlemen of good connexion and rank in the county, who afterwards became, in different ways, still more memorable. These were Sir Charles and Sir Henry Danvers of Dauntesey, a parish which adjoins that of Great Somerford, the residence of their alleged accomplice before the fact, Mr. Atwood. A few notes of Dauntesey history are necessary to introduce these gentlemen properly to the reader.
The Manor of Dauntesey had belonged as early as Henry II., to a family of the same name. Joan Dauntesey, an heiress, who died 1455, brought it in marriage to Sir John Stradling. According to a strange story, also preserved by Aubrey, the whole family of Stradling were murdered at their house at Dauntesey, with the exception of one daughter, Anne, who happened to be in London at the time. Sir John Danvers of Culworth (near Banbury), married her and obtained the property. They were both buried in Dauntesey Church;. he in 1514, she in 1539. Their grandson, Sir John Danvers, made a great alliance: marrying Elizabeth 4th daughter and coheiress of Nevill Lord Latimer by Lady Lucy Somerset. This Sir John died at Dauntesey, 19th Dec., 1593; his Lady survived till 1630. They had ten children, of whom three were sons, Sir Charles, the eldest ; Sir Henry, the second; and Sir John, (afterwards the Regicide), the youngest. Sir Charles and Sir Henry (the murderers of Mr. Long) were never married. Sir John was thrice married : his first wife being Magdalen, widow of Richard Herbert and mother of the celebrated George Herbert of Bemerton.
1 Richard Atwood was Rector of Great Somerford from 1578 to 1605. (Wilts Instit.) The Parish Registers, which might by chance have contained some memorandum relating to this transaction, in consideration of one of its rectors having been concerned in it (if such really was the case) are not forthcoming. They perished in a fire some years ago.
Upon the death of his father (Dec. 1593), Sir Charles succeeded as head of the family, to the patrimonial estates. Those which his mother as coheiress of Lord Latimer had brought in marriage, appear to have continued in her own possession for life. The murder took place about one year after the father's death; at which time Sir Charles was about 23 years
age. Sir Henry the principal actor was then in his 22nd year, having been born 28th June, 1573. He had entered active life at a very early period, and was probably present at one of the interesting scenes of English History, the death of Sir Philip Sidney. Sir Philip, as will be remembered, was brother of Mary, Countess of Pembroke (3rd wife of Henry the 2nd Earl): and whilst visiting his sister at Wilton and Ivychurch had written his Pastorals, and all that he did write of the Arcadia. Henry Danvers became his page, and in that capacity attended him into the Low Countries upon the expedition sent by Queen Elizabeth to the assistance of the Dutch Protestants against Philip II. of Spain.
Sir Philip Sidney being killed at Zutphen in Sept. 1586, Henry Danvers must have been then in his 14th year. He continued to serve in the Low Countries in defence of the Reformed religion, under Maurice Prince of Nassau, afterwards Prince of Orange. In 1590 he joined one of the expeditions (probably that commanded by the Earl of Essex) sent by the Queen to the succour of Henry IV. of France, soon after his accession to the throne. Public affairs in that country becoming more pacific upon Henry's abjuration of Protestantism and his coronation in 1594, it is most likely that Sir Henry Danvers took that opportunity of returning to England. For it was in the October of that year that he appears in this Wiltshire tragedy.
From the first of the documents following it will be seen that a few days before the murder of Mr. Long, Sir Henry Danvers was at Tichfield House, 1 below Southampton, then the seat of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton; and that after the event he and his brother Aled thither for refuge. Their reason for so doing is partly explained by the fact that Lord Southampton was an intimate friend of Sir Charles's: being afterwards one of his accomplices in the Essex Plot against Queen Elizabeth. Of the design against Long he could therefore scarcely be ignorant, but there is no information to show that he was in any way involved in the quarrel.
Henry Long, the victim, was one of the younger brothers of Sir Walter Long, the last owner of the united estates of South Wraxhall and Draycote-Cerne. He appears to have been unmarried. But of the nature of the provocation which he had given, whether public or private, a personal insult or family feud, jealousy or revenge, as indeed of every circumstance connected with the cause of the outrage, nothing whatever is known.
The murder was committed at Corsham; in the house of one Chamberlayne, about 12 o'clock in the day, at dinner time. The company present, were his brother Sir Walter, Mr. Anthony Mildmay, Thos. Snell (afterwards Sir Thomas Snell of Kington St. Michæl, who married Ann Long, Henry's only sister) and Henry Smyth, Esq., 1 with several other gentlemen. Who Chamberlayne was or in what house he lived, has not been ascertained. There is no mention of ladies being present. From which circumstance, as well as from the earliness of the hour and the apparent liberty of entrance, it is most likely to have been a meeting of gentlemen of the neighbourhood for business at some tavern. Sir Henry Danvers, followed by his brother and a number of their tenants and retainers, 2 burst into the room and without more ado shot Mr. Long dead upon the spot. The brothers then fled on horseback to Tichfield House, as already stated, and succeeded after some days concealment in making their escape out of the country in a boat from Cawshot Castle, a fort on the opposite side of Southampton water.
1 Tichfield House, near the town of that name, between Southampton and Portsmouth, was about three miles from the shore of Southampton water. It stood upon the site of a Premonstratensian Abbey, which had been granted at the Dissolution to Thomas Wriothesley, Secretary to Henry VIII., afterwards the celebrated Earl of Southampton, and Lord Chancellor. “Here he built” says Leland, “a right stately house embattled, having a goodly gate, and a conduit castelled in the midst of the court of it." On the extinction of the male descendants of the Lords Southampton in 1667, it came by a daughter to the Earl of Gainsborough: by his daughter to the Duke of Beaufort, by whom it was sold to the ancestor of the present owner Mr. Delmè. The only remnant is the central gateway with its octagonal turrets, six ornamental brick chimneys, some fine old casements, &c. Part of what was the base court serves for a modern residence. Adjoining the house (now called “Place House”), on the western side, was a noble pile of stabling, of which very little is left. To this house Charles I. repaired on his flight from Hampton Court in November 1647, and hence he was conducted by Colonel Hammond to the Isle of Wight. At the time of Mr. Long's murder, it was the property of the Chancellor's grandson, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, the friend and liberal patron of Shakespeare.
A coroner's inquisition was held, upon which they were outlawed. But no indictment seems to have been preferred either by the government or the family of the deceased. From the document No. 3
1 That this Henry Smyth, Esq., was at that time the owner of the principal house and estate at Corsham there is the following evidence. The original Manor House at Corsham was pulled down (according to Leland) before 1536. [See above, p. 143, Note 2.] And Aubrey (born 1625) distinctly says that “the Great House at Corsham” (of his day) “had been built by Customer Smyth.” This must have been the older portion of the present house, the south front of which bears the date of 1582. Thomas Smyth (an ancestor of Lord Strangford) was a wealthy contractor for the Customs (from which vocation he obtained the name of “Customer”) in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. On marrying the heiress of Judd, Lord Mayor of London, he acquired the estate of Osterhanger in Kent. He died 1591. His eldest son succeeded him in the latter estate; but his sccond son Henry Smyth had Corsham for his portion. There can be very little doubt that he was the person mentioned above as being present at Mr. Long's murder in 1594. Others of the family are mentioned as of Corsham so late as 1623. (See A. Wood's MSS., Ashm. Mus. Oxon., and Wilts Visit. 1623).
2 The circumstance of Sir Henry being attended by so many followers, makes it not improbable that the quarrel between Danvers and Long, was one of those Montague and Capulet family hostilities, of which we have frequent notice, especially about this very period. Strype the historian particularly mentions that in Queen Elizabeth's reign, licenses from the Crown were often granted to Lords and gentlemen to have twenty or more retainers. They were “servants,” not menial, but only wearing their Lord's livery, and occasionally waiting upon him. These licenses were given for the purpose of maintaining quarrels: and by means of them many murders were committed and feuds kept up. (See Strype Memor. III. II. 61).