Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex 1485-1540
after Hans Holbein the Younger
National Portrait Gallery
Richard - Henry
- Sir Oliver - The House
Note that the Sir Oliver Cromwell who was the last owner of
Hinchingbrooke was the uncle of the Lord Protector Oliver
Cromwell who had Charles I beheaded.
More information on Oliver Cromwell
Priory now closed it was in 1538 that Richard Williams alias
Cromwell received a royal grant of the priory with its church,
steeple, churchyard and house and all lands.
Sir Richard's father Morgan Williams had married Katherine Cromwell
but Richard took the Cromwell name as a tribute to Katherine's
family. Katherine's brother was Thomas Cromwell Earl of Essex, executed in
Cromwell died in 1545. He had acquired Ramsey Abbey, Hinchingbrooke
and lands of other religious houses. He does not seem to have
lived at Hinchingbrooke, which was about this time occupied by
William Cook, who sub-let part of the house and barn together
with the stable, gatehouse and great close. However Sir Richard
did start the conversion of the nunnery into a house.
Henry, eldest son of Sir Richard, used Hinchingbrooke
as a winter residence. He pulled down part of the nunnery and
erected a fine Elizabethan house surrounded by an open court in
The new building
was mainly made of materials brought from Barnwell Priory, particularly
the gilded roof of the great dining-hall. Because of his generosity
and magnificence Sir Henry Cromwell was known in his day as the
Golden Knight, and it is said that in his journeys from Hinchingbrooke
to Ramsey Abbey, his summer residence, he threw money out of his
coach to the people who collected to see him pass.
was four times sheriff for the county and once returned as member
of Parliament. He
entertained Queen Elizabeth here in 1564 when she knighted
him. Henry handed over Hinchingbrooke to his son Oliver
in 1602. Henry died on 6 January 1604 and was buried in All Saints'
I spent a night here, 27 April 1603, when progressing south
from Scotland to take possession of the English throne.
Sir Oliver Cromwell on this occasion made many presents
to the king a cup of gold, goodly horses, deepe-mouthed
hounds, divers hawkes of excellent winge, while a deputation
of the heads of Cambridge University, clad in scarlet gowns and
corner caps, attended to present a learned speech in Latin. In
return for this James I on his Coronation Day, 24 July 1603, made
Sir Oliver a Knight of the Bath.
family fortunes were already weak because of Sir Henry's lavish
spending but Sir Oliver Cromwell, Sir Henry's eldest son,
to whom Hinchingbrooke now passed, carried on the family tradition
of entertaining royalty, and James I was constantly there.
spending was Cromwell's downfall and Hinchingbrooke was eventually
sold to Sir Sidney Montagu
on 20 June 1627.
original church, at 85 by 19 feet, was remodelled into a long
gallery and divided into two floors. Sir Henry aimed to make
Hinchingbrooke into a Tudor "prodigy" country house
to reflect his increasing self importance. The gatehouse (from
Ramsey Abbey) would be an imposing entrance to the outer courtyard
and an inner courtyard (now the covered inner hall) would balance
it in a typically Tudor design.
Draw a simple
family tree of the Cromwell family
If you are visiting Hinchingbrooke look out for examples of
ornament on parapets and gables, chimney pieces and corbels.
These can help date different parts of the building.
Early Tudor ornament is more geometric with floral designs.
The Elizabethans used grotesques, masks, and obelisks.