The City Alderman, the Cloth Barons and the Duke.


Sir Richard Gurney 1577 – 1647 Royalist and Lord Mayor of London

John Hall of Bradford c1630 – 1710

Evelyn Pierrepont 2nd Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull 1711-1773

Robert Neale MP c1706 – 1776


This brief history of the middle years of the long life of Great Chalfield Manor is a continuation of the account of the career of Thomas Tropenell, its builder, which is available at the Manor. It has been written at the invitation of Robert Floyd who provided not only its inspiration but also very practical help in its production, including the use of his library at the Manor, his knowledge of local history, and advice and correction at every stage. I am no less indebted to Pam Slocombe, who also read successive drafts and whose comments on them were immensely helpful. She it was who directed me to the documents relating to the history of the Manor in the British Library and pointed me towards the information available in the History Centres in Chippenham and Devizes. I am also extremely indebted to Dr John Wroughton, whose research and writing about the Civil War in the West and the place of Great Chalfield Manor in it were invaluable, as was his detailed advice on what I had written. He provided most of the illustrations of the section on that period.

We are also grateful to Mrs Pat Beck for permission to print some of her late husband Stephen’s line drawings of Civil War subjects. Sue Frost also helped greatly by sharing her research into the connections of her family with the Manor in the early 19 th century. The illustrations speak for themselves and they are the work of Richard Bill, who is himself a keen student of the history of the Manor and locality. He has also designed the website on it.

Hugh Wright July 2010

Thomas Tropenell the builder’s family sell out to a financier from the City of London
Great Chalfield was sold by its builder Thomas Tropenell’s immediate descendants, the Eyres. Sir John Eyre became short of money and mortgaged it, later selling it in 1631 for £3,700 to Sir Richard Gurney. He was a very rich city alderman in London whose wealth came from the cloth trade. As far as Great Chalfield is concerned he has been the only person from outside the county to buy it as an investment presumably because of his interest in the manufacture of cloth in Wiltshire. His election as Lord Mayor of London in 1641 was a notable success for the King’s party against the Puritans in the city. His organising and personal financing (reputedly for not less than £4,000) of a huge celebration of this with a long cavalcade into the city, followed by a banquet presided over by the King in Whitehall, ensured that when the reckonings were made in the civil war that followed he was singled out for exceptional financial penalties and harsh treatment. His politics as well as its position probably encouraged the Parliamentarian army to take his Wiltshire property over for a garrison in the civil war. Not only was Sir Richard fined but also put in the Tower where he died.     
As instructed in his will, Great Chalfield was sold on behalf of his widow by his executors for £3,900 in 1649 to Thomas Hanham the younger of Wimborne in Dorset. The Hanham family had a very particular interest in Great Chalfield because they were directly descended from Thomas Tropenell its builder. Thomas Hanham died only a year after buying it and left it to his cousin William. Between them they must have invested a lot of money in post-war refurbishment. The dovecote over the old gatehouse almost certainly dates from the Hanhams’ ownership. It replaced the original round one to the south of the house of which only the foundations now remain, as a base for a flower bed. This was either deliberately removed or irreparably damaged during the time when the house was garrisoned in the civil war. The ideal way to establish a new dovecote, vital for the entertainment that went with a manor house of that period, was to build the new one and when it was complete to demolish the old one on the same day. The pigeons would then transfer to their new home and there would be little loss of production of young pigeons! Perhaps this happened also in this case. In any event its new position was more secure from loss of the doves by predation or theft and it also provided a look out to the north. But perhaps more likely the opportunity was taken to resite the dovecote after the civil war because all the doves from the old one had been eaten by the garrison in the manor house during it.


Great Chalfield Manor, Great Chalfield, nr. Melksham, Wiltshire. SN12 8NH - Tel: 01225 782 239