Ancient Wharton’s “Rocky” Ascent to Nobility

At the close of my recent post Life and Times of Edward Boling and Mary Wharton, I stated that I must dig more deeply to learn about Mary Wharton’s family’s ancient beginnings.  Our first source was the Doomsday Book of 1086, where we discovered Wharton families in towns and civil parishes named after them in Westmorland, Cheshire, and Lincolnshire Counties, England. So let’s pick up from there.

The Wharton’s are descendants of Norseman who conquered the province of Normandy around 900 and settled near Caen in present-day France. The first Wharton in England was an officer with William the Conqueror — Gilbert de Querton (as it was originally spelled) — who arrived in 1066 with the Norman invasion of England and married into the Hastings line.

Ruins of Lammerslide Tower (Photo courtesy of Graeme Dougal)

In 1292, Gilbert de Querton had proved title to the Manor of Querton, Appleby, Westmorland County. This manor was located in the southeastern corner of the county, less than a mile east of Kirkby Stephen. It consisted of a tower called Lammerside and overlooked the village of Querton. The Eden River ran through the estate, which was bordered on three sides by high mountains.


In the early 15th century, Wharton Hall was constructed which the family made its official residence, vacating Lammerside.

Ruins of the 14th Century Pendragon Castle

Pendragon Castle

The image of today’s “Ruins of Pendragon Castle,”  shows what remains of the original castle where legendary King Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, (King of Camelot), was poisoned by Saxons.  The ruins stand in today’s most northwestern Cumbria County (formerly Westmorland), in England that borders Scotland to the north and the Irish Sea to the west.  This region centered around Ravenstonedale and Kirkby Stephen and retains the rich history in which the Wharton’s were featured prominently.  Note, however, that the stories were not always flattering with regard to their social achievements and business successes.

For instance, Lady Anne Clifford’s father was Lord Henry Clifford.  Lord Henry was one of Henry VII’s great lords. Unfortunately, he was a man of many mistresses.  His daughter, Lady Anne, even complained about his shameful extra-marital relations. It was Lord Henry’s second and much younger wife, Lady Florence, Marchioness Pudsey, that history has recorded.  She was considerably younger than Lord Henry, and the couple obviously had a turbulent relationship.  So bad, in fact, that they were estranged in 1521, ten years after they married.  Lady Florence then sued Lord Henry for conjugal rights.  (This may be the period when he fathered his illegitimate son, Anthony Clifford, Esquire.) In turn, Lord Henry publicly accused Lady Florence of adultery for the period of 1511 to 1514, and with who of all people?  With his trusted officer Roger Wharton, who at that time had charge of his nursery.  This was a serious accusation because it put doubt on the paternity of his children. During the years in question, Lord Henry had been in his late fifties, he kept his young wife away from him for long spells while he participated in the Battle of Flodden.  So, the ecclesiastical lawyer questioned Roger Wharton.  Roger repeatedly told the court what he said he had already told to Lord Henry.  That, it was a rather lame excuse and response to Lord Henry’s wife’s charges.  He then went on an said in so many words that although he would never deny it; “…for a man may be in bed with a woman and yet do her no harm.” Next, Roger added, that “And your lordship may ask Jayne Brown and she can tell your lordship altogether.”  And this innuendo by Roger appeared to be enough for the court to kill Lord Henry’s counter-case of adultery.

There also seems to have been a long-running feud between the Clifford’s, the Wharton’s and the Wauchopes/Warcops regarding estate boundaries.  All three families laid claims to large areas in the region. Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676), had Pendragon Castle rebuilt and refurbished in 1660 as a Summer retreat.  Her ancestors used it as a hunting lodge, but, the security she had built into it was to make sure that local families, like the Wauchopes/Warcops and the Wharton’s, could not re-enter uninvited.

Lady Anne Radcliffe married Thomas Wharton (1520-June 14, 1572), who would later become the 2nd baron Wharton, after Anne’s death.  Thomas and Anne’s children were Philip (June 23, 1555-March 26, 1625), Anne (b.1557), Thomas, and Mary (b. 1559). Anne was part of the household of Princess Mary (later Queen) before 1552. She is mentioned as such in the 1551 will of one of her fellow gentlewomen, Margaret Pennington Cooke. She is also featured in an unverified yet often repeated story about Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane is supposed to have visited Princess Mary at Beaulieu when, upon seeing Anne genuflection in the chapel, she made several rude remarks about Catholic practices.

It is my hope that this post gives you just enough ancient history with some mishaps and melodrama along the way to paint an accurate picture that illustrates family life and relationships always has its ups and downs, rocky roads, and sometimes smooth sailings. Discovering the Wharton Family is obviously going to take more than just a couple of posts.  Until next time . . .



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