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Berkshire Family Historian
June 2003

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, June 2003 Contents

Incest and nepotism in Wallingford
Major Alexander Greenwood

How many times have we been in a record office or library and felt like shouting with joy when finding that missing link? Whatever the social background of our ancestors, whether they were lords of the manor or landless farm labourers, family history is often an exciting adventure. But too often having broken through that brick wall in our research we cannot wait to get to another generation instead of exploring fully the lives of our immediate ancestors. We retreat further into the past as if it was a race to get back into the eighteenth or seventeenth centuries. Yet stories of our ancestral families are crucial in our understanding of the past. Major Alexander Greenwood has researched his Greenwood family in minute detail for many years and this is his story.

My Greenwood family, originally of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire, first entered Berkshire from Easington in Oxfordshire in 1743 when my five x great grandfather, Thomas Greenwood of Easington Manor, put his second son Charles in charge of Rush Court farm at Clapcot just outside Wallingford, leased from Pembroke College, Oxford. Charles was ambitious and in 1737 he married Sarah, eldest daughter of Paul Wells of Great Milton in Oxon whose family had brewing and banking interests as well as valuable property in Wallingford. Sarah’s rich dowry included land at Warpsgrove, near Easington.

When Charles’ father died in June 1745, his will provided his favoured son with a handsome house in Wallingford named Stone Hall. Within the next ten years Charles leased further properties in Clapcot (including the Parsonage) and in Wallingford from Pembroke College. He also purchased estates in North and South Moreton including the Manors of Sanderville and Bray, and finally he acquired estates near Reading and at Rofford in Oxon. Without question Sarah’s uncle, Alderman Edward Wells, who was mayor of Wallingford in 1745, was instrumental in assisting Charles to acquire these properties. The lands were mostly rich barley areas and produced an abundant supply of grain suitable for the malthouses owned by the Wells family.

After Charles’ wife died in 1762 he purchased The Croft in Castle Street, Wallingford and there he went to live with his second wife, Martha, the eldest daughter of Alderman Thomas Bishop of Aston Tirrold, who had been mayor of Wallingford in 1760. Part of her dowry included another house in Market Place at Wallingford.

Charles died a very rich man in 1781. He bequeathed to Martha the house in Market Place and the estate at Aston Tirrold, both left to her by her father, but he forgot to bequeath her own personal belongings, and so he added a codicil to his will leaving her: ‘a five guinea piece, some old silver medals and silver pieces which was her property all along and she may now keep all things in her possession’. As a sweetener he left her 110 guineas in cash and his ‘new black horse and chaise recently purchased’. He left his estates to his elder son Charles II, as his younger son by his second wife, Thomas, was only 15 years old at the time; but as soon as Thomas was 21 he received the Manors of Sanderville and Bray and also The Croft. Charles’ only daughter, Phillis Morrell, predeceased him so he left 1500 divided among her eight children. The eldest was Charles Morrell of Bridge House, Wallingford, who became the joint founder of Morrell’s Brewery and founded Morrell’s Charity to benefit the poor of Wallingford. The eldest son Charles II married in 1765 his first cousin Ann, daughter of Alderman Edward Wells who was mayor of Wallingford in 1764. Charles became mayor himself in 1783 following the mayoralty of his brother-in-law Edward Wells, junior. Charles and Ann produced three sons and six daughters. The second daughter Mary continued the incestuous relationship with the Wells family when she married her first cousin whose son became the Conservative MP for Wallingford from 1872, as well as partner in the firm of Hedges, Wells and Co. bankers.

When Charles II died, he left two sons Charles III and Edward. Charles III became heir to all the estates, but Edward, then just 16 years old, inherited 3000 as soon as he became 21. Each daughter received 1000.

Charles III married Mary Ann, eldest daughter of Greenaway Jaques, a rich ironmonger of Wallingford whose youngest daughter married Robert Morrell of the brewery family. Charles III lived and farmed from Rush Court at Clapcot, and in 1813 purchased the leased estates from Pembroke College. He also acquired the Oakley estates at Chinnor, Oxon in 1831. He was churchwarden at St. Mary’s, Wallingford, for many years until he died aged 66 in 1835. His will was proved a month later valued at under 50,000 (over 2 million in today’s money). The main beneficiary was his elder son Charles IV, a bachelor who lived at The Croft and managed estates at North Moreton which he had purchased from Henry Huck Gibbs, the first Lord Aldenham, in 1830. He also purchased Priory House between High Street and Castle Street in Wallingford with its small farm. His cousin Mary Franklin of Chippinghurst, Oxon, had inherited this property but her son let it fall into disuse. Charles IV made extensive alterations, restoring the house, while digging below the surface of one room the workmen found several skeletons, all in orthodox fashion facing east, but without coffins, probably part of the churchyard of the Priory of Holy Trinity — an early medieval monastery.

Charles IV died, quite blind, at the age of 85 in 1878. His unmarried elder sister, Mary Ann, and younger sister, Phillis, had both predeceased him. Phillis had married William Stephens, a wealthy banker in Reading, who not only became mayor of Reading in 1820, but High Sheriff of Berkshire in 1846. They both died in the same month without issue in April 1856, leaving most of their fortune to build Reading Art Gallery and house their valuable art collection for the benefit of Berkshire.

Charles IV left all his manors and estates to his grand-nephew William Reginald Lybbe Powys-Lybbe, the second son of his niece Ann Phillis, eldest daughter of his late brother Thomas. She had married ‘above her station’ in 1844 Philip Lybbe Powys-Lybbe, MP for Newport in the Isle of Wight, and a wealthy barrister of Hardwick House, Oxon, who claimed descent from Edward III. The grand-nephew soon moved into Rush Court, and his son Reginald moved into The Croft.

All the eight children of his brother Thomas received 6000 apiece and further legacies to his four house servants and others completed the largest fortune in the Greenwood family to date. His lands and properties exceeded 140,000 in value and his investments in the public funds totalled just under 70,000. All would be valued today at over 10 million.

Thomas (my great grandfather) was a bit of a rake. He loved the girls and loved his beer. In 1824 he was fined 300 plus costs for breach of promise brought by Elizabeth Irving of Wallingford. Later he married his first cousin Ann Elizabeth Sheen of Little Wittenham. Ann’s mother was the eldest daughter of Charles Greenwood of Rush Court. The marriage was happy and produced six sons and three daughters. The sons, with the exception of my grandfather, who was studying to be a doctor, emigrated with their small fortunes to Wisconsin in the United States where they purchased farm lands and built a house named Rush Court Farm. The eldest son Charles Sheen Greenwood (my great uncle) founded the Greenwood State Bank in 1883 which still exists in America today.

My uncle, the Rev. Dr. F.W.T. Greenwood, donated a stained glass window at St. Mary’s Church, Wallingford, in 1935, dedicated to the Greenwood and Sheen families and he is now buried in the family vault at All Hallows, Wallingford.

I emigrated to British Columbia in Canada to join my three sisters in 1980. I am now 82, but my granddaughter, Leonie Greenwood is currently a student at the University of Reading, so my family continues its association with the Royal county in England.


Hedges, J.K., The History of Wallingford.
Allnatt, Rambles in the Neighbourhood of Wallingford.
Greenwood, A.A., The Greenwood Tree in Three Continents.
Parish records of St. Mary’s Church, Wallingford.
Wallingford Sessions Book for 1793-1836.
The Return of Landowners, 1783.
The Wallingford Advertiser, 13 Sep. 1878.

Major Alexander Greenwood would like to hear from anybody with connections to his family. His address is 1419 Madrona Drive, Nanoose Bay, BC V9P 9C9 Canada. He can be contacted through.

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created 30th May 2003