The Southwell Family of Hoxne Hall

Southwell Coat of Arms

Southwell Coat of Arms

The manor of Hoxne Hall was held by the Bishops of Norwich until 1535, when it was granted by an act of parliament to King Henry VIII who leased it to his great friend and brother in law Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. In 1539 Thomas Southwell took over the leasehold of the manor, which was later purchased in 1543 by Sir Robert Southwell who was Master of the Rolls and was married to Margaret Neville the daughter and heir of Thomas Neville.

The Southwell family had their origins in Suffolk and Essex and were important landowners. Sir Robert [1502-1564] was the son of Francis Southwell [1476-1512] and his wife Dorothy Tendring [1478-1520]. Hoxne Hall was a moated manor house with a formal garden and orchard and service buildings within a courtyard. The manor house was approached from the east by a tall gatehouse tower which was ornately decorated with brick dressings.

The Southwell family also resided at Woodrising Hall, Norfolk and at Jotes Place, Mereworth, Kent. Sir Robert and his wife Margaret were the parents of Sir Thomas Southwell [1537-1567] who was married to Margaret [Mary] Jerningham [d.1550], Mary Mansell [1539-1564] and Nazareth Newton [1541-1583].

Sir Thomas and his wife Mary Mansell, the daughter of Sir Rice Mansell were the parents of Sir Robert Southwell [1563-1598] who was married to Lady Elizabeth Howard [1564-1646] who was the daughter of Charles Howard and Katherine Carey. Lady Elizabeth Howard had been a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Robert Southwell served as an MP for Guildford as well as being High Sheriff of Norfolk and Vice Admiral of Norfolk. He served as Admiral in 1588 in command of the Elizabeth Jonas an English galleon which had been built at Woolwich Dockyard in 1559 and saw action against the Spanish Armada.

Sir Robert and his wife Elizabeth were the parents of Thomas [1598-1643], who became heir to his father’s estates, Frances who was married to Sir Edward Rodney, Katherine who was married to Greville Verney and Elizabeth [1584-1631] who was a maid of honour to Elizabeth I and was the 3rd wife of the explorer and cartographer Robert Dudley [1574-1649] the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester and Douglas Sheffield [nee Howard]. Elizabeth was married in 1606 to Robert Dudley who had deserted his second wife Alice Leigh [1579-1669] in 1605. Elizabeth and her husband settled in Italy as they were practicing Catholics and they were buried at San Pancrazio, Florence.

Sir Thomas Southwell [1598-1643] mostly resided at Woodrising Hall, Norfolk, with his wife Margaret Fuller and in 1621 had licence to sell the manor of Hoxne Hall to Alexander Prescott of London. Thomas and Margaret were the parents of four daughters, Sarah who was married to William Peacock, Elizabeth who was married to John Middleton of Hangleton, Frances who was married to William Bemboe of London and Penelope who was married to William Levet of Petworth. On the death of his first wife Thomas was married to Mary Eden, but appears not to have had any further issue.

Sir Thomas was badly advised and wasted his estates, having to sell Woodrising Manor, Norfolk to Sir Francis Crane. He died in 1643 and his burial place has not been recorded although it could be at Woodrising as other members of his family are buried here. The Southwell family held the manor of Hoxne Hall from 1539-1621 for over 80 years, for five generations so must have had great influence on the village and its daily life.

Article provided by Stephen Govier