The History of the Englefield Family, Berkshire

The village of Englefield today is marked by pretty old cottages that line the narrow street that runs through it, along with a few shops including a tea shop. Englefield House, the pale, golden-bricked mansion that was the seat of the Englefield family dominates the skyline. The village was also, in the winter of 870, the site of a fierce battle between Saxon and Danish soldiers. The Saxons won the victory, and the two sides clashed again at the Battle of Reading days later. According to local legend, the nearby Dark Lane in Tilehurst was named because of the amount of blood trickling down it after the battle.

The Englefield family has historic roots in Englefield, and are believed to have settled in the area before the Battle of Englefield. We start to see their names and elevation in the later centuries, with Haseulf di Engelfyld mentioned as Lord of the Manor during the reign of King Canute (1016-1035) while his son, Guy de Englefyld, was a local leader during the time of William the Conqueror. The Englefields continued to live in Berkshire during the Medieval period, with Sir Roger of Englefield named a Knight of the Shire by Edward I in 1307. Two effigies can be seen in St Mark's Church, on Englefield Estate, one man and one woman, and they appear to date from around this time. Another descendant, Nicholas Englefield, served in the household of Richard II. A Thomas Englefield was named present at the marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon in 1501, important enough in the early Tudor court to receive a knighthood on the same day. 

Effigy of a woman at St Mark's Church. BabelStone, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

BabelStone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By the time of Sir Francis Englefield, the family had served in government for seven hundred years. He served both Edward VI and Mary. However on Elizabeth I's accession in 1558, he objected to the new Protestant queen and favoured her rival, Mary Queen of Scots as queen. Attracting the attention of Elizabeth, he found himself under investigation and charged wit treason in 1564. The queen later attainted Francis, and, after a complicated legal battle, took his possessions into crown hands. Francis fled the country, galloping out of the main gates of Englefield House and began a new life in Valladolid, Spain. 

Elizabeth granted the house to Sir Francis Walsingham, who was also said to have owned a house in nearby Reading, on the corner of Broad Street and Minster Street, where Gail's Bakery stands today. the property was then passed down to the Powlet and Wright families, and into the Benyon family. The original house was destroyed by fire in 1886, and was rebuilt in a Tudor Elizabethan design.

BabelStone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Liked this? You might also like The Tudors of Tilehurst and The Legend of Caversham Castle. 

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Englefield names and dates from J. Timbs, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales, Volume 2, 1872.