Early History of the Grenville Family


There has been some confusion about when the Grenvilles first came to and owned Wotton Underwood. According to the account in Lysons’ Magna Britannica (1860), “Isabel, daughter and co-heir of Walter Giffard, second Earl of Buckingham, is said to have brought this manor in marriage about the year 1097 to Richard de Grenville”. But this version is contested by later authorities and the earliest certain mention of a Grenville at Wotton occurs in the reign of King John. The Testa de Nevil of 1208, while confirming the Earl of Pembroke as possessor of Wotton, records that Eustace de Grenville held two Knights’ fees there. In 1231 the Hundred Rolls of Henry III record that (another) Eustace de Grenville “holds a certain part of Wotton…in the Honour of Giffard…and answers for one Knight’s fee to the Earl of Leicester” (Simon de Montfort, who acquired Seigneury through his wife, the widow of the Earl of Pembroke).

In Court Pleas in the second year of Edward I’s reign (1273) yet another Eustace de Grenville is recorded as having a house at Wotton (from which he alleged that William Coly and others had stolen some chattels).

In 1343 William de Grenville, styled “Lord of Wotton” obtained a licence from the Bishop of Lincoln to found a Chantry Chapel in the Church at Wotton (The Grenville Aisle which survives to this day).

A few years earlier he had married Agnes, daughter of William of Haddenham, who was to achieve local notoriety if not undying fame. In 1351 Thomas and William Freysel abducted this clearly most attractive ‘Lady of Wotton’, “conveyed her naked into Bernwode Forest, and there and in divers places in the County of Bucks, unlawfully imprisoned her, for which offences Thomas Freysel was fined ten marks, and William five”.

George Grenville, first Marquess of Buckingham, painted in his Garter robes by John Jackson around 1800.