Sir Henry PRANNEL and family - a PRANGNELL branch
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Sir Henry PRANNEL and family - a PRANGNELL branch?

Information Researched and provided by Roger D Prangnell

I first saw mention of Sir Henry Prannell in the Visitations of Hertfordshire and pieced together his story from the Victoria County History of Hertfordshire and its predecessor, the Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, by Sir Henry Chauncy, published in 1700.

Sir Henry Prannel was Lord of the Manor of Rushdenwell in the parish of Barkway which is in the extreme north-east of Hertfordshire- He was the son ofWilliam Prannell of Martyr Worthy near Winchester and apparently made a good living as a vintner in London, where he became an Alderman of the City He must have amassed a considerable fortune as the sixteenth-century historian, Stowe, recorded that he made an annual distribution of 50 to the London Hospitals. As one of the new class of wealthy Elizabethan merchants he aspired to a country seat, but instead of going back to Hampshire, he set his sights on Hertfordshire. He probably felt that it was the fashionable place to be with the Royal Palace at Hatfield and Queen Elizabeth paying frequent visits to local worthies.

In 1579 Sir Henry bought Newsells Manor in the parish of Barkway from the Earl of Oxford and in 1583 Sir John Petre sold him the neighbouring manors of Rokey and Water Andrews. His estate included the country seat at Rushdenwell or Rusheenwell, where he came to live with his wife Anne. They had three children, Henry, Joan and Mary. Joan married Robert Brooke and Mary married John Clarke.

The wealthy vintner had not forgotten his Hampshire roots for in 1589 he made a will in which he charged his great messuage and houses in Hart Street, City of London, with an annual payment of 6- 13 s-4d for the maintenance of a schoolmaster to teach ten poor children born in the parish of Martyr Worthy until the age of 16 years. He also bequeathed two-thirds of all his Hertfordshire manors to his wife Anne for life, and the remainder to his son Henry. He stipulated that if Henry junior should die without issue two-thirds of the Manors of Rokey and Water Andrews were to pass to his daughter Joan and her husband Robert Brooke with the remainder to Henry Brooke their son, who was Sir Henry's godson. Sir Henry had died by 1592 when his widow Anne confirmed the provisions of the will by deed.

We now come to the story of Henry the son, who, apparently, was not such a strong character as his father. He had a good education at Shrewsbury and Greyfriars Schools and was admitted to Caius College Cambridge in 1581 at the age of 15 and to the Middle Temple in 1584. In 1595 Henry junior added to the estates by purchasing the Manor of Berwick in neighbouring Nuthamstead- He also made what must have been considered a very good marriage to Frances, daughter of Thomas Howard, Viscount Bindon, who was the second son of the Duke of Norfolk. Frances' mother was the eldest daughter of Edward, Duke of Buckingham.

It is a mystery why Frances Howard, said to have been 'one of the greatest both for birth and beauty in her time' should have married a mere vintners son; perhaps she was attracted by the fortune which Henry's father had amassed- She was certainly a formidable woman as her behaviour with regard to the Barkway Manors shows.

The troubles began after Sir Henry senior died, as Henry and Frances had not managed to produce any children. Legally, Henry's two sisters, Joan Brooke and Mary Clarke were his co-heiresses. However it seems that Henry was so greatly influenced by his wife and her rich and powerful relations that, in 1597, he was persuaded to make a settlement in favour of Frances and her heirs. Relations with his sisters had apparently already deteriorated as he had been in dispute with his brother-in-law, Robert Brooke, over the lease of a windmill and meadow at 'Rookey Meade'.

Two years later, while still in his early thirties, Henry junior died leaving a young and beautiful widow There upon Frances took possession of Newsells and the other manors. The tablet which she had laid in Barkway Church in memory of poor Henry shows how much much more she thought of herself than ofhim- It reads:

"Heare lieth the body of Henry Prannel Gente who married Frauncis Howard youngest daughter to Thomas Vicount Bindon second sonne to Thomas Duke of Norfolke who deceased this life without issue & was buried the 12th of December 1599"

[1 visited the church in 1998 and photographed the tablet, which is in the floor of the choir].

Joan Brooke and Mary Clarke attempted to recover their reversionary interest in the manors by bringing a case in the Court of Wards, proving that Henry Prannel junior had limited the title of his wife to a life interest. Frances apparently ignored the judgment. She soon married Edward, 1st Earl of Hertford who settled 5000 upon her for life. However it seems that he had the measure of her snobbishness. Whenever she found herself surrounded by a group of admirers she would launch into a discourse upon the exploits of her grandfathers, the Dukes of Norfolk and Buckingham. If the Earl of Hertford happened to come in while she was in the middle of such self-exhaltation he used to say. 'Frank, how long is it since thou wert married to Prannel?' - thereby taking her down a peg or two!

After the Earl died she married the Duke of Richmond and Lennox, and in 1623 he left her widowed for the third time. Frances herself died in 1636 when Newsells was entered upon' by her kinsman Lord Maltravers. However in 1653 the Prannel family saw their rights restored to some extent, for Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Joan Brooke (ie a grandaughter of Sir Henry Prannel the vintner) had married Robert Slingsby, who was created a baronet by Charles 1 in March 1660-1 and became comptroller of the navy. Sir Robert purchased the rights vested in the heirs of Mary Clarke and became Lord of the Manor of Newsells.

The Coat ofArms.

My second-cousin, Rowland Prangnell, came across a firm offering to provide details of family coats of arms and as a result obtained those claimed to be 'historically associated' with our name- When he showed the design to me 1 realised the arms were those of Sir Henry Prannel. The blazon is

Arms: Or, three bars vert, an eagle displayed sable

Crest: An eagle's head sable, issuing out of rays proper.


Other connections?

The register of Burials at the Temple Church record that one Robert Prannel, curate in the Temple, was buried in the churchyard, Feb 24, 1664-5. Could he have been related to Henry the vintner?

References :

Visitations of Hertfordshire, 1572, 1634

Victoria County History of Hampshire

Victoria County History of Hertfordshire

The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire, Sir Henry Chauncy, Kt; l700; repub.1826 Records of Barkway in Hertfordshire Records Office


Please beware! The information here has been transcribed from indexes or supplied to me by others. There may be inaccuracies in the original data or in its transcription. Please check from the original source if the information is important to you.