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
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
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
Arms: Or, three bars vert, an eagle displayed sable
Crest: An eagle's head sable, issuing out of rays proper.
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?
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