The Littletons, Walters and Hakluyts
Powerful Shropshire families, the Walter and Littletons come together by way of marriage.
Sir Edmund Walter (1518-1594) of Ludlow and his family deserve a page in our family history. He is your 12th great grandfather. So, let’s warm up the Welsh Rarebit and head to the Welsh Marches which seemingly blur the border between Wales and England. By all appearances Sir Walter did not kill anyone during his lifetime, which seems a bit odd as the British Aristocrats who enjoyed knighthood usually acquired their title ‘Sir’ by virtue of slaying someone in battle. It is more likely he took a stag or two from the Bringewood Forest which has its’ own part to play in British history. Walter seems a rather sedate, scholarly individual given to his tasks as an established attorney and judge. He makes a perfect fit as a 12th great grandfather in our pantheon of Whittington ancestors.
The Walter estate known as ‘Mary Vale’ lies to the west of the village of Ludlow in County Shropshire, England. And where is that you ask? See the red dot? I am sure you do. What you can’t see in the thumbnail map I provide is the fact that Ludlow is positioned in Shropshire, within ten miles of the counties of Herefordshire, Staffordshire and Worscestershire. They all come together like the Four Corner states of our American West. Throw in the fact that Ludlow is barely in England, about 5 miles from Wales, and you begin to understand why it is difficult to track British nobility; their castles, manors, estates, bungalows and cabanas on the Brighton beach. Sir Edmund possessed properties scattered about the countryside, including manors, castles and forests. His holdings may, according to inventory, add up to more than 5,000 acres.
But the identity of Edmund Walter is not nearly as obfuscated as that of his neighbor, and our grandfather, Sir Edward Littleton. Push your finger on the link to the Lyttleton Family and go to the bottom of that page. You will find a long list of Sir Edward Littletons who loiter in the pages of British history, many within the same century. This causes confusion among serious genealogists who are more interested in fact than fiction. Being Edward Littleton in the west of England was a bit like being Steve Smith in the heartland of America. One has to know the regal title the man sports, the county in which he presides, the parish in which he worships his God, the name of his butcher and the folks who elected him to Parliament. A man could be Sir Edward Littleton of Salop, of Shropshire, of Staffordshire, of Spetchley, Stoke; or all of the above in the hands of the wrong genealogist; or, he could be the Baron Hatherton, with no mention of an Edward or Littleton or Lyttleton. I am so grateful to the founding fathers of this country who eliminated titles and created an oligarchy instead of a monarchy. My corporate title can become more important than my pedicure; or is it pedigree?
While we are talking Walter and Littleton families I need to inform you that these two families merged when Sir Edward Littleton married Dame Mary Walter, the daughter of Sir Edmund. Within several generations, a descendant, Esther Littleton, married Captain William Whittington in Accomack, Virginia. The Whittington family estates in England were bookends to the Walter estate. Whittington Castle remains 35 miles to the north of Ludlow and the Whittington’s Pauntley Court Manor was and is 35 miles to the south. To help you visualize the position of the Littletons, Walters and Whittingtons in our lineage, please see Family Tree 3.
The Ludlow Map at the top of this page provides a graphic illustration of Ludlow replete with names that identify family possessions. A book, The Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural Historical Society, was published in 1913, and included this map. The map was found among the Domestic Papers of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I, (1577) and is now kept in the Public Records Office in England. The text of the book can be found online on Page 253 of the Shropshire Transactions. Unfortunately, the names scribbled on the map are hard to read. We will have to rely on the insight of others to catch a glimpse of the Walter family and their surroundings.
Using the ‘Shropshire Transaction’ manuscript as our ‘tour guide’ we can locate important geographic and architectural features. This map lacks a legend or key that tells us what direction is north. It took me awhile to determine that north is to the left and south to the right. East is at the top of the map and west is down.
The Teme River flows from west to east across the left side of the map. The Ludford bridge crosses the river in the upper left hand corner of the map. The three arches of the bridge are recognizable in this drawing. The bridge was constructed in the 15th Century and replaced a bridge that was constructed, it is thought, by Josce de Dinan. Josce (d. 1166) is a Whittington many-times-great grandfather, a fierce warrior and man of Welsh lore. His grandson, our grandfather Fulk, has earned his own page in this anthology. I will have to develop pages reflecting that link in the Family Tree. Additional photos of the Teme River and surrounding countryside are included on this page to heighten your reading pleasure. Are you feeling it? If not, grab your favorite Welsh beverage and burrow deeper into your sofa. We are heading back 1000 years for a moment in our time machine. I am grabbing some ysgawen (wild elderberry liquer) for this next paragraph. Monty Python fans will understand why.
The Ludford Bridge leads to the left (north) to the Ludlow Castle, not pictured on this map. The Castle was owned and operated by Josce de Dinan by virtue of some slick maneuvering on his part. But, as in so many instances in British history, he lost possession of the castle in 1150 A.D. to Gilbert de Lacy, when he, Josce, left the castle to maraud and pillage. When Josce returned from his vacation he found the front door had been re-keyed and the back door dead bolted. He did not recognize the guys gathered on the castle wall, who were shouting profanities and referencing famous scenes from Monty Python vignettes. They made it clear they had dibs on Josce’s castle. Josce and his army surrounded the castle and laid siege to his digs, but to no avail. He gave up, realizing that he had been rightfully pillaged. I say rightfully because the King had issued a decree that anyone who could stand up to Josce and take his Ludlow Castle away from him could keep it. Knowing that to stay another day could mean missing an entire season of Seinfeld, Josce and his team moved on to occupy Lambourn, which the King allowed him to keep as a booby prize. You lose one castle, you gain another. Ludlow Castle would eventually fall into the hands of another branch of the Whittington tree, the Mortimers. The Shropshire Manuscript reveals that Sir Edmund Walter did rent the castle in 1578. No reason is given as to why or for how long. A wedding party perhaps.
For those who like a little poetry slathered into a tour of Shropshire let’s grab some snippets from A. E. Housman. Housman wrote this, no doubt, as he was dining on wine and cheese and enjoying the view of the rolling hillside from atop High Vinnalls.
“In valleys of springs of rivers
By Ony and Teme and Clun
The country for easy livers
The quietest under the sun”
Housman has been acclaimed as one of the great British scholars and poets of the late 19th century. His collection, A Shropshire Lad, went double platinum. As a classroom professor he often bullied his students, causing a colleague to remark that Housman’s comments to students “were often savage in the extreme.” Descriptions of his professorial mannerisms remind me of Professor Kingsfield, played by John Houseman in one of my favorite flicks, The Paper Chase. I elaborate on A. E. Housman because he devoted much of his poetic effort to capturing the culture and physical beauty of Ludlow and Shropshire. He is buried in the shadow of St. Laurence Cathedral in Ludlow. His students could scarcely believe that the man who bullied them from his academic pulpit could write such sensitive prose. It must have been like finding Julie Andrews or the Carpenters sharing the stage with Suge Knight and Snoop Dog.
Let’s look at the detail of the Ludlow Map and hone in on Sir Edmund Walter’s neighborhood. Somewhere in here the Society believes we will find St. Johns Church. Thirty five years before the creation of the Ludlow Map, an author by the name of Leland visited Ludlow in the 1540s and noted:
“There is on the north side of the Teme Bridge a church of St. John standing without Broad Gate, some time a College with a Dean and Fellows so that, though the college or hospital had then passed away, the Church remained.”
The Shropshire Archaeological Society assures us that Leland was wrong about a hospital being located on the site of the Church. I find the Society guilty of ‘quibbling over words.’ The Society argues that the site contained, not a hospital, but an ‘almshouse, infirmary and traveller’s hostel,’ all of which Walter generously supported, providing assistance to the poor and infirmed. Leland writes ‘hospital’ and the Society counters with ‘infirmary, alms house and hostel.’ The fact is, St Johns had served the county for centuries and was falling into disrepair. A remedy was in the making.
Ludlow emerged from the Dark Ages and Medieval History with a flourish. During the 1500s a boom took place that brought prosperity and growth. The boom was fueled by the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the textile industry. Specifically, the world needed wool and the West Country had more sheep than people and the sheep loved shedding their wool. It all worked well for the people of Ludlow who enjoyed prosperity as never before. Guilds flourished: Mercers, drapers, shoemakers, bakers, butchers, fletchers and those who didn’t fletch, wooliers and clothiers, and those who didn’t clothe. The merchants of Shropshire enjoyed the economic boom. Ludlow expanded to the east of the castle walls on the banks of the Teme. The good folks of Ludlow gave thanks by investing heavily in the reconstruction of the incredible St. Laurence Cathedral.
A road runs from the left at the top of the map to the right, crossing the Ludford Bridge and continuing across the top of our map to Leominster to the south. Leominster does not show here. Bare with me because we are locating a Littleton home. To the top of the page, above the road to Leominster, we see several small homes identified as the important village of Overton. The script is blurred and barely visible on the side of one of the cottages. Apparently, one hundred years ago the Society had either a bolder text to read or a good magnifying glass.
To the right of Overton, the road branches and that which goes left to the top of the map appears to arrive at a manor labeled on the rooftop, ‘The Moor’. Note the tower rising above the roofline. The Moor was an estate owned by our Edmund Walter, and bequeathed to his son, our Uncle John. The estate was rented by the Chief Judge of the Court of North Wales, Uncle William Littleton, the son of our Sir Edward Littleton and Dame Margaret Walter. This would make William the grandson of Sir Edmund Walter and the son of Judge Edward Littleton. This is the landscape into which William’s brother and our own Nathaniel Littleton arrives circa 1605. Perhaps the biggest name to arise from the marriage of Dame Walter and Sir Edward Littleton wedding was that of Nathaniel Littleton’s oldest brother, our uncle Sir Edward Littleton, Lord Chancellor of England under Charles I. Edward Junior was both leader of the British Judiciary and Speaker of the British Parliament. I have no idea how that played out for him as Parliament snuffed out the life of the King.
Ranging across the bottom of the Ludlow map from left to right (north to south) we find images of stags and trees. This represents the Bringewood Forest, sometimes called the Prestwood Forest. The forest includes the coppice woodlands of Richards Castle and Norbache Park. A coppice forest is one in which the keeper cuts trees, leaving stumps. Those stumps are actually represented on this map. The stumps grow fresh shoots that become trees and are then cut some 30 years later. It was part of the reforestation project.
The terrain in the Walter domain, rises to 1,230 ft at High Vinnalls, which provide a breathtaking 360 degree view of mountains as distant as the Brecon Beacons. The Bringewood Forest served many and varied purposes during medieval times and became even more valuable as the Industrial Revolution blossomed and began spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. While the Walter family did own a lease on the Bringewood, their hold on that forest slipped away at the death of Edmund Walter and in 1604 passed through the hands of Sir Henry Lindley to the control of King James I.
The forests did have a gatekeeper and manager responsible as Keeper of the Park for a variety of duties. In the early 16th century it was one Thomas Grove and in the latter half Thomas Hopkies. Hopkies’ home is located on the map in the lower left. If you have read the history of Peeter Smith in Swallowfield, you are aware that a Richard Smith was the King’s Keeper of the Park of Swallowfield in 1615, as well as Keeper of the King’s Robes. The duties included but were not limited to: nailing poachers, chasing squatters off royal land, controlling the hunts on the land and collecting necessary rents from those with rights. One of the chief duties of the Keeper at Bringewood was to monitor the felling of trees and to have a master plan for tree removal and reforestation. The plan was elaborate and would meet the approval of the Menominee Nation here in Wisconsin. I have looked through the strategic plan for forestry in Bringewood and admire the effort and accounting for growth and regrowth, sunlight, soil conservation and moisture. They were in to silviculture.
What is noticeable in terms of documentation is the attention to detail when inventory was taken and the forest sold to King James I in 1600. The accounting books of that day exist to this day and show the overhead costs, cash flow, profit margins, sources of revenue from the land, estimated expenses for the short and long term, etc.. The accounting and management side of the forest operation was a serious business, as well it should be when the King is going over the books. You don’t want to cook the numbers unless you are willing to be cooked at the stake in Smithfield. When Walter held the deed to the forest the woodland served a largely agrarian purpose, useful to hunter/gatherers. Demands for the wood of the forest increased as iron works developed in the area and consumption of the forest wood increased. Trees were turned into charcoal and the charcoal filled the furnace of Mr. Knights ironworks on Bringewood properties. As the Industrial Revolution boomed the forest became increasingly valuable and concerns were expressed about depletion and impact on the wildlife.
In the centuries following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Mortimer clan, the Lords of the Welsh Marsh, held control of Bringewood and the surrounding counties. The Mortimers appear in both Smith and Whittington lines dating back 800 years to the 11th century. The Mortimer family history is chock full of wars, reprisals, kidnappings, assassinations, romance and more political intrigue. Battles were fought on the Ludford Bridge during the War of the Roses and troops and peasants crossed the bridge a few times during the rebellions of the 1500s. Perhaps the hospital at St. Johns collapsed under the stress of heavy use.
The Bringewood terrain today is once again referred to as Mortimer Forest and covers around 1,000 hectares, straddling the south Shropshire and north Herefordshire borders. Local environmentalists have developed a strategic plan for utilizing the park. I find it quite interesting that plans include a world class dirt bike trail for international competitions. A hiking trail totters up the High Vinnall hillside offering scenic views of the countryside.
Nathaniel Littleton was born at Hopton Castle which is about 8 miles to the west of Ludlow, a little to the west of Mary Knoll, viewed just above Hopkies’ forest home. Mary Knoll was believed to have been a wide spot on the country road where good Catholics could find a shrine devoted to Mother Mary and pray for travel mercies, while leaving a small contribution to the church. Failure to leave a pittance, according to my step mother, could result in an immediate attack by starving wolves or the merry men of Robin Hood.
Mary Knoll passed through several hands including the Crowther family before landing in the lap of Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824). Richard was the grandson of the Ironmaster of Bringewood Forest, Richard Knight. I found junior as I was researching Bringewood Forest. I was dumbfounded when I learned that he built Downton Castle while living in Mary Knoll. Richard Payne Knight not only gave us Downton, but he had so much cash in his bank accounts, as heir of his grandfather’s fortune, that he lived a life of leisure. With time on his hands he devoted himself to his greatest interest: the study of phallic symbols and authored The Worship of Priapus. This was 200 years after Sir Edmund Walter roamed the forest of Bringewood. Edmund didn’t run into this guy amid the trees and I find no evidence that he is found in our family tree. But I digress.
Also found in the upper right hand corner of this map is the Riccard Castle, which in real life is found halfway between Ludlow and Leominster. It also appears in ancient English history as Richard’s Castle and was collapsing under centuries of wear and tear when Leland previewed the area in his travel blog of 1545. There is some confusion about any Walter occupation of Richard’s Castle. On one hand the Society states unequivocally that “Richard’s Castle, too, did not belong to the Walters. Nor was it ever leased to them.” And yet the same Society reports that James Walter (Edmund’s son) identified Richard’s Castle in his will and stipulates that the annual income gathered from the castle should benefit the poor residing at the Almshouse.
In passages related to Peeter Smith of Swallowfield (1597) we examined the impact of inflation on the trend of land enclosures by landlords. Rebellions fueled by inflation and the Enclosure Policy came to a head during the brief term of Tudor King Edward VI. Actually, Edward was a prepubescent child of nine at the time, looking forward to becoming a teenager when the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, took command of England. The Enclosure System found noble landlords sealing off public lands, removing public access to the forests and arable farm lands and jacking up rents. The once public forests offered opportunities for hunting game for the table, grazing cattle and hogs, and clearing wood for home construction and firewood as a home heating source. The Enclosure Sytem grew as a response of the wealthy to the devaluation of their coinage. Inflation was cutting into their wealth. The landlords jacked up their rent. The English farmers reliant on those lands rose up in rebellion.
As an aristocrat and freeholder of many acres of land, Edmund Walter seems to have produced the Ludlow Map, in his effort to maintain a grip on what he owned. What is cool about this map is that this segment delineates Edmund’s enclosure of some of his land. The Society believes Edmund Walter either penned the map himself or paid a cartographer. Walter established his lands across the road from the Bringewood Forest. Modern technologies allow for the original color reproduction not possible in the 1913 version of the Ludlow Map above. Sir Edmund had to protect his land from poachers and squatters; and from other men of wealth who might attempt a hostile takeover of his property. He lived in interesting times. Don’t we all? I ask, as I consider a televised debate in which a billionaire, Donald Trump, emphasized the size of his genitalia to make the point that he should be my next President. Perhaps Trump would be captivated by the work of Richard Payne Knight. Remind me to avoid any gymnasium in which either man might be found.
A final note from the Shropshire Society of Archaeology reveals that the Walter family were possibly vintners with rights to one of five vineyard enclosures on the hillside of the High Vinnalls. I highly recommend a tour of High Vinnalls as found in a scenic walk thru the village of Ludlow to the top of High Vinnalls. This 14 minute video clip is well worth the time. Your host on the trek is delightful and the camera work excellent. While the hill top is not in clear evidence on our Ludlow Map it is easy to find on Google Maps. It is at the center of the Ludlow Map. High Vinnalls rises to an altitude of about 1300 feet and provides excellent views. If you look carefully at Vinnalls on Google Map, and zoom in as best you can you will note the striated markings on the bare top of the knoll and on the western slope venturing down to the valley floor. It reminds me of the striations on the barren potato fields of Ireland that scar the earth today, 150 years after the potato famine. Are these markings on High Vinnalls an indication of vineyards?
In researching the Walter family I have discovered a whole new avenue for identifying our family. YouTube brims with video clips put out there by people who want to share their homeland with the rest of us. I have found a British historian, Alec Clifton-Taylor, whose series on quaint British villages included a 30 minute piece on Ludlow. His work is comparable to the best of Rick Steves. I am ready to pack my bag, grab my passport and travel.
I hope you take a moment to scope out Fulk Fitz Warin. The guy really is in the family tree and considering the fact that he is close to celebrating his 1000th birthday it makes he and his grampa, Josce, pretty cool. Well, they have actually turned cold by now, I suppose.