White, the brothers John

Two Brothers Called John White

Those in the village with an interest in history would undoubtedly have known something of Sir John Whyte of Aldershot. Although living more than 300 years before, his memorial in the Church of St Michael proclaimed his national and international significance. The brass plate of Sir John’s own design was adorned with the insignia of the City of London, the Merchant Adventurers and the Grocers Company. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth, he had also served as Lord Mayor of London.

Much less might have generally been known about his brother, also called John, although as the last Catholic Bishop of Winchester he had much greater significance in the history of England.

The paths followed by the two brothers illustrate much about the times in which they lived, the record of the years 1550 to 1563 provided by the Diary of Henry Machyn. They were born between 1509 and 1511, at the very start of what would become the most tumultuous reign of the Tudor King Henry VIII.

The brothers were the third and fourth sons of Robert White, a cloth merchant based in Farnham. His eldest, Henry, was sent to school to begin an academic career which would lead him to enter the Church, which then was at one with Rome, later to become Principal of the Canon Law School at Oxford. The second son, also called Robert, entered the family business in Farnham.

It is through Henry’s will on his death in 1538 that there is both mention of lands held by the White family in Aldershot and it is possible to distinguish which was the elder and younger of his two brothers named John:

“Brother John White [elsewhere “John White the yonger”] Grocer of London” is “to have peacible possession of testator’s Londes in Aldershot”.

Early years

Their father had died in 1518 when the two brothers called John were still children, although their futures might already have been marked out. John the Elder would have been about nine years old, he became a scholar at Winchester in 1521. Following in the footsteps of his brother Henry, he would enter the priesthood and also graduate at Oxford. He would then return in 1534 to become Master of Winchester College, later to be made Warden in 1541.

John the Younger, perhaps by 18 months and so aged about seven, together with his sister Agnes, came under the authority of his father’s cousin, Sir Robert White of South Warnborough, or so it is conjectured. This conjecture might also explain how John the Younger came to marry his Sybil, the daughter of Sir Robert White, and his younger sister Agnes was married to his Thomas, one of Sir Robert’s elder sons.

By 1834, John the Younger succeeded to the family business in Farnham when their eldest brother Robert died. John was then aged about 23. This was four years before the birth of his first child with his cousin Sybil.

This close association with the senior branch of the White family might partly explain the basis of John the Younger’s later commercial success, with weight added by mention in the will of Sir Robert White of South Warnborough of a bequest to “John Yong Citizen and Alderman of the City of London”.

The White Family of Merchants

Sir Robert was head of the senior line of the White family whose commercial interests stretched all across southeast England. His sister Ann had married Nicholas Tichborne, the grandfather of the future Sir Benjamin Tichborne.

Both branches of the family descended from an earlier Robert White of Yateley; he had moved to Sandwich, there to become Mayor in 1434, later to be Mayor of the Staple of Calais, the gateway for the wool trade controlled by the English Crown.

That Robert White later retired to Farnham, where he and his son jointly held the position of Keeper of the Bishop’s Chases and Parks, his death recorded there in Farnham in 1467. He also bought the manor of Warnborough.

English Reformation

The year 1534 was momentous, the Act of Uniformity granting the Crown complete control over the Church in England. This followed the Act of Supremacy in 1531 which had required to submit that the Henry VIII was ‘the sole protector and supreme head of the Church’.

Then came the moment in English history when the Crown wrested control of Church property from the Pope in Rome. Or that is how it could be simply represented. By the turn of the 16th Century, the Church as represented by the monasteries and the bishops owned about a third of the land across England.

In 1536, all monasteries with an annual income of less than £200 were dissolved with their property made over to the Crown; in 1539 the same would apply to all monastic institutions.

Thomas White, the son of Sir Robert White of South Warnborough, and brother-in-law to the two brothers called John White, was appointed to the post of Treasurer in 1538. The bishopric of Winchester was arguably the richest in England.

Two years later, in 1540, John the Elder was appointed to a position as prebendary at the Winchester Cathedral. Both were close supporters of Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester who had been in office from 1531, appointed after delivering King Henry the judgement he sought for annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

There had been long-run power struggles, locally between the landed families in Hampshire and nationally between Bishop Stephen Gardiner and the Chancellor Thomas Cromwell. Bishop Gardiner was a conservative doctrinally but then so too was the King, who had earlier been declared as the Defender of the Faith by the Pope Leo X in 1821. Bishop Gardiner took the King’s part in the Reformation, working on both the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity.

    • Bishop Gardiner helped to prepare The Six Articles, reaffirming traditional Catholic doctrine: on transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, the vow of chastity, the withholding of the cup from the laity at communion, private masses and on confession. Cromwell’s opposition to those would contribute to his removal from office and subsequent execution.

The Priory of St Swithun, whose lordship over the Hundred of Crondall was established in Anglo-Saxon time, came within the scope for confiscation in 1539. That included the tithing of Aldershot. Following the execution of Thomas Cromwell the next year, in 1540, and perhaps with sleight of hand, what resulted at Winchester in 1541 was that most of land titles and rents due to St Swithun’s Priory were made over to the supposedly reformed Cathedral. At the same time, the holder of the post of Prior was translated to be the newly created Dean of the ‘reformed’ Cathedral at Winchester; he took formal ownership of the estates with him, including the revenue from the tithes.

In 1545, following similar appointments by his grandfather, Thomas White and his son were appointed Constable of Farnham Castle and Keeper of the Chases and Parks. This would have included control of the clay in Farnham Park.

Then, following the death of Henry VIII, came the years of greater turmoil from January 1847 to November 1558, when his daughter Elizabeth came to the throne. During those dozen years, the winds blew strongly in favour first of Protestantism and then of return to Catholicism.

Protestant Edward

The new King Edward VI was only 9 years old, his uncle, the brother of his mother Jane Seymour, became the Lord Protector, pushing through reforms of Protestant doctrine. Those included the Act of Uniformity in 1549, which introduced the Book of Common Prayer, and an Act in the same year commanding that any images erected for religious worship were to be defaced and destroyed. There was strong opposition from the Winchester Bishop Gardiner.

Subsequently, and as part of another power struggle within the Court, Bishop Gardiner was confined to the Tower of London, as was John White the Elder for his adherence to Catholicism. In 1551, Gardiner was deprived of the office of Bishop of Winchester.

At the death of Edward VI at the age of 15 in 1553, with brief interlude whilst Lady Jane Grey, his cousin and a Protestant, was declared Queen, his sister Mary, the avowed Catholic daughter of Henry VIII, came to power.

Catholic Mary

All was turnabout. Stephen Gardiner was set free and restored to the position of Bishop of Winchester and also made Lord Chancellor.

    • At the age of 37, not only was Queen Mary intent on re-introducing Catholicism, she was also in need of a child who might then prevent the succession of her half-sister Elizabeth which threatened to undermine that return to the Church of Rome. Whilst loyal to her cause, Bishop Gardiner argued against her choice of Philip, the heir presumptive of Spain, her decision then causing threat of rebellion from Protestant parts of England. He would, nevertheless, oversee her marriage.

Knighted as Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough, the brother-in-law of John the Elder and John the Younger was appointed on the same day in 1553 to the post of Master of Requests by Queen Mary.

In the next year, in April 1554, Bishop Gardiner saw to it that John the Elder was made Bishop of Lincoln, later to assist Bishop Gardiner at the royal wedding in Winchester on 25 July 1554.

    • Queen Mary set off from Farnham for her wedding on July 11th, staying at the palace at Bishop Waltham, later reaching Winchester on July 21st.
    • The choice of Winchester supports the argument that Hampshire strongly favoured Catholicism; there was no mention later of Protestants from Hampshire being made martyrs. Across the country between 250 and 300 were burned at the stake as heretics, with many more escaping in exile, the atrocities under ‘Bloody Mary’ listed later in what became known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

John White the Elder was made Bishop of Winchester when Gardiner died in 1555. It was during his tenure that the manor of Frimley, which had earlier been confiscated by the Crown from the Abbey at Chertsey, came up for disposal. It was subsequently bought by his brother, John the Younger.

Three years later, in his role as Bishop of Winchester, John the Elder preached at the Queen’s funeral in December 1558, his words of her praise and some other phraseology taken as a slight to the incoming Queen Elizabeth. The result was that, like Gardiner before him, in April 1559 the Bishop was taken into custody and later deprived of his position. John White the Elder therefore became the last Bishop of Winchester recognised by the Pope in Rome.

The continuing close connection between the White family is illustrated by two events at this time. John the Elder, still then Bishop of Winchester was given leave to stand as godparent on 25 May 1559 for the son of his brother, John the Younger as noted in Machyn’s diary; a month later, he was deprived of the bishopric on 26 June having refused to take the oath of supremacy. John the Elder was later released into the care of his sister Agnes and her husband, his cousin Sir Thomas White, in South Warnborough; he had been considered to be unwell and died not long afterwards.

John the Younger

John the Younger outlived his three older brothers, Robert, Henry and John the Elder. Having inherited property from his bother Henry Aldershot in 1538, he had been adding to his portfolio of property. According to one source, he had rented land in nearby Runfold in 1544. More than that, this same source claimed access to manuscripts having twenty foolscap pages of close writing relating to sales during the reign of the child king Edward VI:

“when the Chantry lands were put up for sale, John White, with the help of a certain Stephen Kyrtone, merchant of the staple of Calais, was able to find more than four hundred pounds of ready money..” to purchase properties “placed in the hands of the treasurer of our Court of Augmentation for our use…. and by the advice of our beloved uncle and counsellor, Edward Duke of Somerset, we have given to John White of London, Grocer, and Stephen Kyrtone, merchant of the staple of Calais, the following land and premises”:

    • land and houses belonging to the Farnham chantry, “estimated to be worth £185 5s. 4d”, with “meadows at Ash .. [the rent of which] had “ensured the annual celebration of a mass for the souls of the donors in the parish of Aldershot”;
    • twelve properties, shops, cellars, dwelling-rooms, stables, gardens in South London;
    • a hostel or hospital called ‘Le Ramme’ with the buildings and gardens attached to it, all situated in Westsmythefield, London;
    • a messuage and tenement, with shops, cellars, rooms, curtilages and gardens, situated in the parish of S.Stephen in Walbroke;
    • the long lease of properties outside Algate in London, one a house and garden, 27 perches in length, with an average breadth of five perches and a half and another a meadow of two acres and a quarter in the parish of Stepney.

Another scholar, however, also wrote in criticism of the dealings during those years, based upon research into the history of the parish of Bramshott, located on the border between Hampshire and Sussex. He complained that John White was one of a number ‘of merchants of London’ who had prejudiced the interests of the native yeomen:

“John White, a merchant and alderman of London, obtained by purchase a tenement in Ludshot ; a member of the  Carpenters ‘ Company acquired Calvecroft at Liphook in the Manor of Chiltelee ; the Dean  and Chapter of Chichester became also tenants opposite the ‘ Anchor/ where they owned afterwards both the ‘Ship’ and ‘Hart’. New names appear in the Parish registers as of higher social rank, and the resentment at the competition found strong expression in the writings of the time” by a preacher:

“Look at the merchants of London, and ye shall see, when as by their honest vocacion . . . God hath endowed them with great abundaunce of ryches, then can they not be so content . . . but their riches muste abrode in the countrey to bie fermes out of the handes of  worshypfull gentlemen, honeste yeomen, and pore  laborynge husbandes.”

John White the Younger’s spiritual convictions did not prevent him negotiating his private, public and commercial lives in most productive ways across the changes in regime of monarch and religion, “his name appearing on the pardon roll both at the beginning of Mary’s reign, and at the beginning of Elizabeth’s”.

Catholic Mary

His brother and brother-in-law firmly in favour at the Court of the Catholic Mary, John the Younger went on to serve as Master in the London Company of Grocers (1555 & 1556), later made High Sheriff of London (1556 & 1557).

In 1558, John the Younger married for a second time, to Catherine, the widow of Ralph Greenway (d.1557), Alderman and Grocer of London. His new wife was born Catherine Soday, of Spanish descent. Her father was a French-born apothecary who had a position at Court, attending Queen Catherine of Aragon until her death in 1536, her daughter Mary until 1547, and then Edward VI. Her brother, Ralph Soday, had acted in Spain as factor for Ralph Greenway.

Protestant Elizabeth

Queen Mary died that year, her funeral in December 1558 conducted by his brother, the Bishop of Winchester. For his brother, all was to change under the new Protestant Queen Elizabeth. John the Younger, however, was now very well established commercially, nationally and internationally. Moreover, Elizabeth’s reign began as one of tolerance.

As noted noted in Machyn’s diary, John the Elder, the Bishop of Winchester, was given temporary release from imprisonment in order to stand as godparent at the baptism of the first son of John the Younger and his wife Catherine in April 1559. The other godparent was William Paulet, the newly created Marquess of Winchester, one of the most powerful figures in Hampshire who had been trusted at the Court of Edward VI and Mary and then Elizabeth, adept at keeping the strength of his religious beliefs ‘as a willow, not an oak’.

John the Younger’s choice of Sir Thomas Offley as godparent in 1561 for his second son illustrates the direction of travel for his career. Offley was a leading overseas merchant in London. Having also been active in the Merchant Taylor’s Company and as a Mayor of London, Offley was Mayor of the Staple in 1560, 1564–5, and 1569. He was also a charter member of the Muscovy Company and, by the first years of Elizabeth I’s reign, was among the wealthiest men in London. Offley’s eldest surviving son Henry married Sir John’s older daughter Mary.

John White continued to prosper under Queen Elizabeth. Diplomatic relations with Spain had not deteriorated with the change of English monarch. Indeed, Philip of Spain is said to have preferred the Protestant sister Elizabeth to the Catholic daughter Mary Queen of Scots as the latter had favoured France, Spain’s rival. The importance of trade between England and Spain increased as the former’s trade with Antwerp was interrupted by revolt in the Netherlands.

As part of his vertically integrated wool business, John White had established had strong connection to Spain where he would spend time in 1562. He was rewarded with knighthood in 1563. In that same year he was returned as a Member of Parliament, and was served as Lord Mayor of London in 1564.

Crondall Customary

Such was the uncertainty associated with changes in property ownership since Henry VIII had authorised the confiscation and then sale of Church lands that a Customary was commissioned in 1567 for the ‘Hundred and Manor of Crondall’ to establish and confirm the situation. The Dean of the reformed Winchester Cathedral was the superior landlord, with extensive copyholding, by which the titles for tenancies could be inherited, sold and transferred.

Sir John White of Aldershot (& London) would then have been aged about 57, four years before his death, his son Robert from his first marriage, aged 23, not yet wed.

The entry for Sir John, and that of his son, reads:

    • JOHN WHITE, KNIGHT, holds freely of the lord by charter, divers lands and tenements, with appurtenances in Alreshott, and pays therefor yearly, at the aforesaid feasts, by equal portions, 19s. 8d.; suit of court, and relief.
      THE SAME JOHN, holds in like manner, divers other lands and tenements; heretofore parcels of the lands, tenements, and possessions of the late Monastery of Waverley, lately dissolved; and pays yearly to the aforesaid Dean and Chapter, 4s. 4d.; suit of court, and relief.
    • ROBERT WHITE. – To the same court there held on the day and year above named, came Robert White, who holds in like manner according to the custom of the manor, a messuage, garden, orchard, and a virgate and a half of land, with appurtenances in Alreshott

There is not a statement of the total areal extent of the lands owned by Sir John in Aldershot. The supposition is that, as freeholder, Sir John owned Aldershot Park, the same estate described in the Crondall Rental of 1282 as held by charter. By 1853 that was owned as freehold by Charles Barron and amounted to 212 acres.

The copyholding of Sir John’s son Robert was equivalent to 59.3 acres. Sir John’s copyholding included the 31 acres of land formerly held by the Waverley Monks.

The Customary, however, lists for the tithing of Aldershot as having total copyholding of 888 acres. The largest single copyholding was of 121 acres, held by John Faunteleroy. His properties includes a capital messuage and two virgates of land, a messuage and half a virgate of land plus his ‘Tenants by Hallemote’. There were others, such as “Katherine, now wife of John Cowper” and “William Aparke” who were also said to have ‘Tenants by Halimote’. These might constitute what was later referred to as the ‘Manor Hallimote of Aldershot’.

All of which suggests that there was not a single ‘Manor of Aldershot’, as least in 1567, even if Sir John White was the freehold by charter and had some additional copyholding.

Sir John served as President of the Bethlehem and Bridewell hospitals in London from 1568 and was the Surveyor-General of London hospitals in 1572/3, signalling a return to a more domestic life, split between London and Aldershot.

Perhaps this was something of a highwater mark for the fortunes of the Whites of Aldershot as Elizabeth’s reign progressed. When Sir John died in 1573, his eldest son, ‘Robert Esquire’ would have been 32.  Not young, but he might not have shared his father’s political connections amongst London’s merchants. Locally, however, Robert and his wife Mary added to the estate through the purchase in 1580 of properties and 2040 acres of land in the Manor of Cove

Sir John died aged about 63 years old. Born in Farnham in about 1511, Sir John White was buried in Aldershot in 1573, his memorial adorned with the insignia of the City of London, the Merchant Adventurers and the Grocers Company.  He had put the place on the map, although with spelling of the place as ‘Aldershare’, as displayed in a map of Hampshire made by Christopher Saxton in 1575, part of the ‘Atlas of England and Wales’ published in 1579.

Robert White

Sir John’s son Robert was born in 1545. Less is known about him, except that, following the custom of the Crondall Hundred and with the prior death of his son, his estate was shared between his two daughters, Ellen and Mary. They later married two brothers from the Tichborne family.

Robert married Mary Snell in 1572 at St Michael’s Church, Betchworth in Surrey.  Their daughters Ellen and Mary were born about ten years apart, in 1579/80 and 1589, respectively; there is a baptismal record at St Andrew’s Church in Farnham for Mary, daughter of Robert White .

On inheriting the considerable freehold and copyhold estate amassed by his father, at Aldershot, Tongham, Frimley and elsewhere, Robert and his wife Mary bought the manor of Cove in 1580 for a sum of £120 sterling. That estate comprised 2040 acres of land, three messuages, three tofts, four gardens, three orchards, and a 100s. of rent.

Taken from A Collection of Records and Documents relatong to the Hundred and Manor of Crondal. Part 1 Historical and Manorial by Francis Joseph Baigent. London & Winchester 1891.