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. Sarahs 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 Sarahs
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 Morrells Brewery and
founded Morrells 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. Marys, 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 todays 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. Anns
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. Marys
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
Greenwood, A.A., The Greenwood Tree in Three
Parish records of St. Marys Church,
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.