Sir Sampson Eure (1590-1659)
ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR WALES
While there is sadly no mention of a Henry Eure or Henry Ievers in his will, family lore holds that the Henry Ievers who came to Ireland was a son or close relative of Sir Sampson Eure, the grandson of both the 2nd Baron Eure and John Lennard of Chevening House, Kent. Sir Sampson served as Charles I’s serjeant-at-arms for many years and was a Member of Parliament during the run up to the English Civil War in which he sided with the Royalists.
Sampson Eure, the third of Sir Francis and Lady Elizabeth’s sons, was born at his family home in Heyford Warren, Oxfordshire, in about 1590. He pursued a legal career, being admitted to the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn on 10th August 1610 and was called to the bar in 1617. His late uncle, Ralph, 3rd Baron Eure, also served as Lord President of the Council of Wales for a decade before his death in 1617. His father Sir Francis Eure also died in 1617.
Above: This believed to be Sir Sampson Eure, his wife
and their son John
In January 1621, Sampson was elected MP for Beaumaris, representing that south eastern corner of Anglesey at the House of Commons in London for the next three years. His victory put an end to a 17-year-long representation by the Oxford educated barrister Sir William Jones (1566-1640) of Castell-March. While Jones had been MP for Beaumaris between 1604 and 1621, he may have been more inclined to focus on affairs across the Irish Sea. Between 1617 and 1620, Jones was Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland. He was also a Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal of Ireland and a Commissioner of the Great Wards in Ireland. This serves to highlight the geographical proximity between Wales, where Sir Sampson Eure prospered, and Ireland, where the Ievers family were to come to prominence.
On 11 April 1622, Sampson Eure was made Kings Attorney for Wales for life, thereafter representing King James’s (and later Charles I’s) interests in court, and advising the government on legal matters. This may have been connected to the influence of his stepmother, Dame Ellin Eure, whose grandfather, Sir William Eustace, was one of King James’s close friends. Sampson was author of the first notable printed work on pleading, ‘Doctrina placitandi ou l’art & science de good pleading’, an abridgement of case studies, published in 1677.[i]
In the election of 1624, Sampson lost his seat to William Jones’ second son, Charles, a barrister who was then serving as Recorder of Beaumaris. The Jones family retained the seat until 1629 when Charles I decided to rule without parliament for eleven years. During Pride’s Purge of December 1648, Charles’s brother William Jones was amongst those secluded.
On 19 November 1625, Sampson and the poet Ralph Goodwin, MP for Ludlow, were appointed to the office of Examiner in the Court of the Marches of Wales. Goodwin was a colourful character. His wife Dorothy was a daughter of the Wiltshire knight Sir Walter Long, a friend of Sir Walter Raleigh. Legend holds that the two Sir Walters puffed the first tobacco in England at Long’s Wraxhall Manor, now home to Duran Duran bass player John Taylor and his wife Gela Nash, founder of Juicy Couture. A ghostly smell of tobacco is still said to waft through the passages of the ancient mansion.
THE ACQUISITION OF GATLEY PARK
In 1633, eight years into Charles I’s reign, Sampson purchased the manor of Gatley Park near Leominster in north-west Herefordshire from Sir William Croft. Gatley Park and the nearby manor of Leinthall Starkes were attached to the parish of Aymestry and once belonged to the Earl of March. They became Crown land on the accession of Edward IV and, early in the reign of Elizabeth I, they were granted to William Horne, a ‘Merchant of the Staple’, from whom they passed to the Crofts. Gatley Park was to be home to Sir Sampson for the remaining quarter of a century of his life.
In order to date the construction of Gatley Park, Sir Thomas Dunne, who lived in the mansion during the 20th century, had one of its timber corner posts chronologically dated by the London Museum dendrological department. The section had been cut out after a dry rot epidemic. The report concluded that the oak tree from which this post had been carved was felled in 1520, suggesting that Gatley Park was built during the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. This is supported by the scope of the buildings central chimneystack and timber frame. The original house comprised a square block and a central chimney-stack with nine octagonal brick shafts.
In November 1632, Sir Sampson wrote a letter from Ludlow Castle to Sir William Croft in which he complained about the state of this house. In the letter, he said he was waiting to hear Sir Robert Harley’s ‘decision about the price’ for Gatley Park, ‘as winter is come and the land unstocked, so that no profit can be made unless the ground be stocked in the next fortnight.’
He had also drawn up an agreement, asking Croft to sign it and keep one half. ‘As regards the house, it needs a great deal of repair to make it habitable, and conducting the water is likely to cost about £200, while no wood will be available for felling and sale for 5 or 6 years, at least.’ He asked Croft to send him the account of money for himself and his sisters ‘by this post, so that the matter can go forward with all speed.’ He also requested the lead piping, which had been taken up, and the hay for fodder, as part of his bargain. He requested Croft send him a survey of Gatley and added that ‘it is further expressed in my letter that it was offered to my lord Goreing at £3400’.[ii]
It would appear that Sir Sampson added a brick skin to the original timber-framed Tudor house. Soon after he moved in, he also added his initials to many of the cast iron fire-backs by which Sir Sampson and his wife presumably kept warm in the years before the Civil War erupted.[iii]. In 1637, he also decorated the lead water tank (or water-butt) in the garden with the date and the Eure coat-of-arms, deftly engraved, plain and quarterly, alongside countless initials. The water tank was still at Gatley Park as of July 2012.
THE CAGE CONNECTION
Sampson shared Gatley Park with his wife Martha Cage, daughter of Anthony Cage of the manor of Longstowe, or Stowe, in South Cambridgeshire. Her brother Anthony had joined Gray’s Inns about six years before Sir Sampson, and her father and an uncle had also been there. Like the Eure and Lennard families, the Cage family sent their sons to Cambridge colleges before they went to Gray’s Inn. That said, it is notable that Sir Sampson’s will directed that his only son John should go to Oxford instead of Cambridge.
A portrait believed to be of Sir Sampson, his wife and their son John still hangs at Gatley Park today. The house is owned by Philip Dunne, Tory MP for Ludow, whose father Sir Thomas kindly provided the following oral provenance.
‘In about 1750 Thomas Dunne bought a house in Ludlow and moved there, letting Gatley which remained little changed until 1894 when my great grandmother moved back after her husband had died. The picture was reputedly found in the roof space. It could be a Dunne but much more probably was left behind by the Eures, I think with some furniture. The Eures are not a handsome pair. The only child appears to be a girl as he is wearing a dress, but I think is a young boy.’
WHO WAS JOHN EURE?
The records – including Sir Sampson’s will of 1646 – suggest that Sir Sampson and Lady Martha only had one son John, born in 1635, for whom Sir Sampson’s neighbour Sir Robert Harley stood as godfather.[iv] Sir Robert was grandfather of the Robert Harley who served as Queen Anne’s Lord Treasurer from 1711 to 1714. There is no mention of a Henry Eure or Ivers. Eyre H. Ievers suggests that young John might have studied at Charterhouse which, founded in 1611, was only half a mile away, but its alumni does not list day boys. Another possibility is that he went to nearby St. Paul’s but that school was destroyed with all its records in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
On 15th February 1638, Sampson Eure became a Masters of the Bench, or Bencher, of Gray’s Inn.[v] What is confusing is that just three days earlier, the Gray’s Inn register noted the existence of ‘John Eure, son and heir of Sampson E., of Gray’s Inn, Esq., now reader’. It has been suggested that Sampson and his family would have lived at Gray’s Inn at this time.
Assuming the above reference does not refer to the four-year-old John Eure, who is this fellow? Could he be the John Eure who owned the chimney breast at Mount Ievers dated 1620 and named “IOHN IEUERS” with unexplained letters approximating to E’ S MR? If ‘1620’ marked his date of birth, then he would have been eighteen when he became a reader which would make sense. Could there have been some Civil War inspired fall-out, which prompted a disinheritance? But surely Sir Sampson did not have two sons called Sampson. And, if 1620 be a date of birth, nor does it make sense that John was a brother or step-brother of Sampson because his father Sir Francis Eure died in 1617. It’s possible that this John was a son of one of Sir Sampson’s brothers Horatio and William. The names of Horatio’s sons appear to be well known; two succeeded, as Barons Eure, but it is possible John was a son of William Eure about whom no more is known. Or perhaps Sampson did have a son John in 1620 who in turn fathered another John in 1635 which Sampson claimed as his own. Anything’s possible in the maelstrom of 17th century politics.
THE CIVIL WAR
In 1640, Sir Sampson was elevated to Serjeant-at-law and then King’s Serjeant. On 3rd November 1640, the so-called Long Parliament was convened with the specific purpose of bailing out Charles I in the wake of the Bishops’ Wars. An Act of Parliament dictated that this Parliament could only be dissolved with the agreement of its members, which included Sir Sampson Eure, the newly elected MP for Leominster. Predictably, those members did not agree to its dissolution until long after the Civil War and the restoration of Charles II in 1660.
Sampson’s political crony Sir William Jones was a member of the dreaded Star Chamber. He took a lead role in sentencing Sir John Elliot to jail, which ultimately became one of the events that ignited the Civil War.[vi]
In the ensuing war, Sampson Eure, the King’s Serjeant, threw his lot in with the Royal House of Stuart. Initially it paid off and, on 7th August 1641, he was knighted, along with three others including John Granville of Wiltshire.[vii]
However, that same month, the Long Parliament enacted legislation depriving Charles I of the powers he had assumed since his accession. The geography of the ongoing crisis was considerably broadened when the Ulster Rebellion broke out in October 1641, resulting in the deaths of thousands of English and Scottish settlers in Ireland.
Sampson made his way to Oxford where he joined the King and, by way of a return, he was created a Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) on 7th February 1643. It is to be noted that there is a document, apparently signed by Oliver Cromwell, permitting Sampson Eure the freedom to go about his business.
He was also made Speaker of the King’s Parliament in Oxford, as distinct from the de facto Parliament that met in Westminster. As such, on 22nd January 1644, he was ‘disabled’ from sitting in the House of Commons. He was to suffer, although not excessively, for his support of the King’s cause.[viii]
Sir Sampson supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War, as did both of his Owens stepbrothers and his former political ally, Ralph Goodwin.[ix] His nephew and namesake Colonel Sampson Eure also supported the Royalists for which he had his estate sequestered; he recovered it by paying a fine and pledging not to take up arms against Parliament again.[x] Sir John Glanville, knighted the same day as Sir Sampson, was imprisoned in the Tower of London for three years and fined £2320 for his support of the King.
Not everyone was pro-monarchy. Sir Robert Harley, godfather to Sir Sampson’s only son, sided with Parliament until Pride’s Purge when the distrustful Parliamentarians threw him in gaol where he remained until after Charles I’s execution. Sir Sampson’s nephew George Eure, later 6th Baron Eure, was an active supporter of Cromwell and one of the few aristocrats that the Great Protector trusted.
Inevitably the fighting that raged across England reached Herefordshire and Sir Sampson’s world was torn asunder. In December 1645, Colonel John Birch, who had succeeded him as MP for Leominster, stormed the City of Hereford with a Parliamentarian army. Sir Sampson’s cousin William Eure was slain at Martston Moor, and Thomas Eure died at Newbury. Thomas Howard, husband of his cousin Margaret, fell at Peirce Bridge, Durham, in 1642. Sir William Croft, ‘the ablest of the Herefordshire royalists,’ from whom Sir Sampson had purchased Gatley Park, was killed in a skirmish at Stokesay Castle in 1645. There was also a skirmish at Tackley, Oxfordshire, where Sir Sampson’s sister Frances Harborne lived.
SEQUESTRATION AND DEATH
In 1646, Sir Sampson’s number was called and the Gatley estate was subjected to a Sequestration Order and effectively seized by Parliament. Sir Sampson’s real estate was valued at £60 a year and his personal estate at £10. That same year, presumably fearing the worst, he made his will which, it is to be noted, emphasised that his family comprised of his wife Martha, son John and sister Francis Harbourne. There is no mention of any other children.
Eyre H. Ievers (p. 13) suggests that it was ‘not surprising’ that Sir Sampson made no reference to other children in his will ‘as he stated he was owed £2,200 by King Charles and that without this his creditors could not be satisfied.’ I am not entirely sure why this should mean that he would erase reference to any further children from his will.
Sir Sampson Eure is said to have died at home at Gatley Park in 1659.
Dame Martha Eure’s will of 1760 mentions no son or daughter.
In 1661, his son John Eure, also of Gray’s Inn, re-obtained the Gatley Park estate for the Eures. Was John married – or was he knighted – on 26 Sept 1661?[xi] In any event, his wife was Susan [or Sarah?], daughter and co-heir of Sir John Tracy of Stanhow, Norfolk, by his wife, Elizabeth Alington, granddaughter of Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter.[xii]
It looks like Susan (or Sarah) was also a niece of William Alington, who was created Baron Alington of Killard, Co. Cork, Ireland, in 1642, an Irish link which may be worth keeping an eye on. Susan’s sister Dorothy [or Catherine?], married Butts Bacon and was mother to Sir Robert Bacon of Garboldisham, 5th Bart of Redgrave.
Following John’s death, his widow sold both Gatley Park and the manor of Leinthall Starkes to Philip Dunne in 1678. [xiii] Gatley Park was subsequently extended and restored between 1894 and 1807.
John Eure does not appear to have left any children. Obviously, given the persistent Ievers family rumour that they descend from Sir Sampson Eure, and the presence of a chimney breast etched with ‘Iohn Evre 1620 A.D.’, this line needs to be explored.
SIR SAMPSON’S WILL OF 1646
The Will of Sir Sampson Eure, 20 January 1646, of Gatley Park co., Herefs., one of his majesties serjeants-at-law.[xiv]
1. Soul to almighty God through whose mercies alone he shall be saved.
2. Body to be decently buried without pomp or show in Aymestrey parish church.
3. Sums of £2000 granted to Eure by King Charles I by indenture of 18 April 1645, and of £200 owing for Eure’s fees as a sergeant-at-law, to be used for payment of debts.
4. All rings and jewels to dear and loving wife Martha Eure, her executors and admins.
5. All books and manuscripts to son John, desiring that his wife and executors, shall bring up son John in learning and in the fear of God and if he shows a studious nature at the age of seventeen, to send him to Oxford University, until he is 21, and then to Grays Inn to study law. But if he shows no aptness for the study of the law, he is to be placed in whatever other hopeful profession he seems most fit for.
6. Legacies as follows:-
To the poor of the parish of Heifford Warren, co., Oxon., Eure’s birthplace £3.
To the poor of Wigmore £3
To the poor of Ludlow £3
To the poor of Aymestrey £3
To sister, Mrs. Francis Harborne, a gold ring enamelled with black worth 20s.
To her husband Mr. John Harborne, a like ring of like value.
To Mr. Thomas Inaston of the City of London, draper, a like ring of like value.
Ten more rings to be provided and distributed to such friends as his wife shall think fit.
To servant Richard Blayney an annuity of £3
To all servants in Eure’s service at time of his decease, 20s. each.
Executors to be Edward Edwards of Colfrin, co. Mon., Edward Wyndwood of Upton co. Herefs., gent and Richard Blayney of Gateley Park, aforesaid co. Herefs.
To each executor, £5
Overseers of the will to be cousin Thomas Eure of Grays Inn, co. Middlesex, nephew George Eure of Easeby co., Yorks., esq., and brother in law Daniel Cage of Lunchey, co. Suffolke esq.
To said overseers, £5 each.
Residue of all personal estate to wife and son.