The Cromwell family at Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK
Richard Cromwell (Williams), received Hinchingbrooke Priory with its church, steeple, and churchyard and all lands by royal grant in 1538. Before his death in 1544 he had acquired other religious houses and their land in the surrounding area, including nearby Ramsey Abbey (external website in new window). Hinchingbrooke Priory at this time appears to have been occupied by a William Cook, who sublet part of the house and barn along with the stable, gatehouse, and great drive. It does not appear that Richard Cromwell ever took up residency of his newly acquired property.
Son of Richard was the next owner. It was he that pulled down parts of the existing structure in order to create a fine Elizabethan house within a surrounding open court. He also recycled parts of his other inheritances into the building works; from Barnwell Priory came the gilded roof of the great dining-hall. The gatehouse was moved from Ramsey Abbey in order to create a new entrance. Ramsey Abbey became the summer residence of this ‘Golden Knight’ as the locals referred to him, bringing employment to the area not only through his building works, but also through his lavish entertaining. Including in 1564 Queen Elizabeth 1st when she Knighted him. His habit of throwing coins from his passing coach also endeared him to the locals. On January 6th 1604 Sir Henry Cromwell died, and was buried in All Saints Church Huntingdon. Unfortunately his extravagant lifestyle had done serious damage to the family fortune, leaving his son Sir Oliver Cromwell with serious financial restrictions.
On 27th April 1603 James 1st stayed on his way south from Scotland to claim the throne of England. Sir Oliver Cromwell inheriting his father’s extravagant nature presented the heir with a cup of gold, valuable horses, hounds, and hawks. Remembering Sir Oliver’s generosity in return on 24th July 1603, his coronation day James 1st made Sir Oliver Cromwell a Knight of the Bath. With serious financial problems but unable to change the habits of a lifetime he continued to entertain in lavish style. With James 1st a regular guest, to the extent that James 1st employed a Keeper of his Wardrobe to work not only at his hunting lodge in Royston, but also to maintain his belongings in Hinchingbrooke. In 1620 James 1st advanced £20 and timber from 20 trees in order for a bridge for his personal use to be built on Hinchingbrooke Estate. October 1623 he issued orders for all the pheasants in the outlying woods to be killed, but the ones in the park to be kept for impending arrival.
By 1623 the pressure was really on, with creditors pursuing Sir Oliver Cromwell over his numerous unpaid bills, he writes to the King asking if his is prepared to purchase Hinchingbrooke outright so he can settle some of his debts. But the matter is still outstanding in November 1624, when Sir Oliver Cromwell asks again if the King will pay a fair price for Hinchingbrooke. The death of James 1st in March 1625 ends all hopes of a royal purchase of Hinchingbrooke, and it is eventually sold to Sir Sydney Montague, a royalist on 20th June 1627.