The Branthwayts

of Hethel

Myles Branthwayt

Hethel Church has a fine alabaster memorial to the Branthwayt family. Myles Branthwayt (c.1557-1612) and his wife Mary, nee Southwell, lie rather stiffly under a canopy with their coat of arms, and beneath kneel their three children, Arthur, Elizabeth and Mary. Myles himself is in full legal robes, as befits a man with a distinguished legal career.

One inscription gives a potted family history:

This inclosed is the body of

place of birth was St Peter's prish
in Norwich. His wife Mary one of
ye daughters of John Southwell
of Barham in ye County of Suffk.
Esqr. His place of death London:
His day of death the 5 of August
1612. His age 55 years. His sur
viving yssue one Sonn and two

Myles Branthwayt was the son of John Branthwayt and Elizabeth nee Turner and grandson of John Branthwayt of Sedbergh in Yorkshire and Elizabeth nee Clare (born in Wymondham and a descendent of Sir Robert de Clere of Ormsby, Norfolk). Myles had three known brothers - two (Richard and Henry) were lawyers like him and their father and grandfather before them. His younger brother, William Branthwayt DD, became Master of Caius College, Cambridge in 1607 and was on one of two Cambridge committees appointed by Jame I to revise the English translation of the Bible. Because of his knowledge of Greek he worked on the Apocrypha. Later, a number of other Branthwayts of Hethel were accepted at Caius College.
Around 1600 Myles Branthwayt seems to have decided to look for a country home as a retreat or for his retirement. He bought Curzon's Manor from Thomas Townshend of Bracon Hall - Curzon Hall still stands in Spong Lane, East Carleton, but Myles must have decided to build his owns more splendid mansion further west - the original Hethel Hall, which was built around 1601. But he did not enjoy it for long - he died in London in 1612. However, Hethel Hall remained the family home for more than two centuries.

Myles and Mary had a son and two daughters, shown kneeling on their parents memorial. Elizabeth (1601-1621) is commemorated by a brass plaque placed on the wall of the chancel of Hethel Church by her mother. She is remembered as 'A modest humble chast and vertuous mayde Is by deathes ruder hand untimely layd In this cold bed.' 
Margaret (b.1606) married Sir Robert Leigh of Chigwell, Essex.
Arthur (c.1595-1643) was the only son and heir and married Bridget Drury. They had 6 children: Anthony (d.1627); Arthur (b.1633), William (c.1634-1710); Miles (b.1636); Bridget and Mary. Because of the early death of his older brothers it was William who inherited Hethel.

William Branthwayt & family

William, son of Arthur, grandson of Myles Branthwayt, was born around 1634 and followed family tradition by becoming a lawyer. He graduated from Caius College, Cambridge in 1653, was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1654 and became a barrister. He was also appointed Chief Justice of the Isle of Ely by the Bishop of Ely. On 1st Dec 1657 he married Julian Berney, daughter of Thomas & Dorothy Berney, then of Swardeston - a family that still has long associations with Bracon Ash. William and Julian had a large family of 18 children, as their gravestone explains:

'Here lies ye body of WILLIAM BRANTHWAYT Esq.who upon ye 1st Day of December in ye year of our Lord 1657 married Julian ye daughter of Tho. Barney of Swardeston Esquire By her he had 18 Children that is to say 8 Sons and 10 Daughters 12 of which lived to be Men & Women. 2 of his sons & 3 of his daughters married in his lifetime& he left at his death 5 sons 5 daughters 23 Grandchildren & 2 Great Grandchildren. He departed this life ye 28th of January in ye year of our Lord 1710 Aged 76 years. Underneath likewise resteth the body of ye above said JULYAN BRANTHWAYT who departd. this Life ye 29 day of Novbr in ye year of our Lord 1727 Aged 88 years.She left liveing at her death 7 Children 19 Grand children And 20 Grt. Grandchildren.'

As the inscription on their tomb indicates, the 13th child, Mary, and 17th child, Elizabeth, are buried in the only Branthwayt tomb in the churchyard, beyond the east end of the church (photo below). Another daughter, Dorothy, married Sir Richard Berney, 3rd Baronet of Parkhall.

William's Will (proved October 1711) makes Julian his executrix and left money and named areas of tenanted land towards the education and maintenance of their many children, as well as bequests to household servants and to the poor. Quite a family history can be built up from the many monuments to the children of William and Julian and their descendants in Hethel Church (highlighted on this plan).

William Branthwayt Jnr was the first son of William's to inherit Hethel; according to his ornate monument: 
'Serjeant att Law, Eighth Child and First Son of William Branthwayt Esq of this Parish and of Julian his Wife. He tooke to wife Jemima the only Daughter and Heiress of Augustine Brograve Esqr by whome he had one Daughter who died an infant. This Gentleman will be Remembered for his Eminence in the Law, Sweetness of Temper and Readiness in forgiveing injury's. He departed this life the first Day pf Nov: in ye Year of our Lord 1729'  

Two of his brothers had died before him - Thomas in 1714; Arthur in 1724; so when Willim died the estate passed to Miles Branthwayt (1697-1751). 

Miles also had a younger brother, John (1698-1766) who became Rector of Kettlestone and married Elizabeth Webb - they come back into the story because their son, Arthur (b.1729), became Rector of Hethel from 1754 until his death in 1792. How much he lived at Hethel is uncertain - he was also Rector of Felmigham (1754-56), Taverham (1756-66), curate of Ketteringham (from 1760), Rector of Helhoughton (1766-70), Stiffkey & Morston (1769-92) and Chaplain to George, 1st Marquess of Townshend from 1764). Each living brought income but presumably any duties could be left to a curate... His wife and two of his 11 children are buried in Hethel church. Only two children lived to adulthood, Jane and Mary, both of whom married their Beevor cousins - children of Elizabeth nee Branthwayt and Thomas Beevor, of whom more below.... John and Mary had two other children. Their daughter, Mary, is commemorated in Hethel Church. Their eldest son, Miles, signed and sealed a Bastardy Bond that can be seen in the Norfolk Record Office (PD712/74/8): he was held to account for fathering the unborn child of Phoebe Partrick in 1753 (when he was 25) and had to pay the (then large) sum of £40 to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of Bunwell - plus any future extra expenses for the mother and child. He subsequently married a cousin, Mary Southerton.

Miles Branthwayt (1697-1751)

The Hethel inheritance now passed to Miles, 4th son of William & Julian Branthwayt who was born in 1697. He kept the family tradition - going to Caius College, Cambridge, Gray's Inn, and became a barrister in 1719. Later he was High Steward to the Bishop of Norwich. He married Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Newton of Norwich in 1726 and they had 3 children. Miles is the Branththwayt who built the mausoleum that is part of Hethel church - a brick edifice in a baroque style enclosing the area between the chancel and the north aisle with an underground burial vault. It was originally walled off from the rest of the church with its own entrance, but arches were pushed through in 1882. Both the mausoleum and chancel share a curious north-south roof with 3 ridges behind a parapet. The entry to the burial area is through a trap-door by the organ. There are 11 plaques, coinciding with the 11 burials specified in the register as 'in the vault' plus one or two empty spaces for further burials.

Hethel church from the north-east showing mausoleum (foreground); east end of chancel (further left) - both with parapet. Far left is 'table tomb' of  Elizabeth & Mary Branthwayt, two of the many children of William & Julian.

Sadly, the first burial in the mausoleum was not Miles or his wife, but their daughter Ann, who died in at the age of 14 when she hit the branch of an oak tree whilst out riding in Kimberley Park. 
Arthur, their son and heir began a career in law and graduated from Caius College in 1745, but he suffered from consumption (TB) and died in 1750.
That left Elizabeth as the surviving child to become the heir to the Hethel estate....
Miles was a staunch Jacobite and tried three times to become Tory MP for Norwich, but was never successful. His wife, Rebecca, died in 1741 at the age of 40; Miles died in 1751 and both were buried in the mausoleum.  

Below: Interior of the vault in the Branthwayt mausoleum. The diamond-shaped plaques are typical and the two shown here are for Elizabeth nee Branthwayt (centre) and her husband Thomas Beevor (far right), plus one of the 'spare' niches.

Elizabeth Beevor, nee Branthwayt

Elizabeth was born and baptised in Hethel in 1727; when her father died in 1751, she was the only surviving child of Miles Branthwayte. She wanted to marry Thomas Beevor - a match disapproved of by her father - and so they eloped in 1750 and were married in Tivetshall in July. They settled in Norwich where their first child was born and baptised in St Stephen's church in 1751. Presumably Elizabeth was reconciled with her father, for when he died in November 1751 he made her a joint beneficiary in his will, along with the son of his brother (and executor)  Rev John Branthwayte, another Miles. When the estate was divided, Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Beevor took possession of Hethel Hall, along with land in Hethel, East Carlton and Wreningham and the advowson (right to appoint Rectors) of Hethel and Tasburgh churches. Her cousin had the rest of his uncle's considerable estates.
Elizabeth and Beevor had 7 children:
Anna Bettina (1751-1780) married William Finch Ingle at Hethel in 1777 - William changed his name to Finch to comply with a legacy and Anna Bettina is remembered on a marble monument with a wonderfully flowery epitaph:
'If In the Allotment of her personal Endowments Nature must be said to have been profuse The virtues she acquired from an happy education Added yet more to the Value and Lustre of her Character thus adorned With the finer and more Elegant Accomplishments both of Body and Mind She easily acquired what she so justly merited During the term of a short life A conspicuous station Amongst ye most distinguished and most amiable Of her sex'

Juliana (1752-1843) followed her mother's example, eloping to marry Robert Buxton whose political views were totally opposite to her father's. They had a long and happy marriage at Shadwell Lodge; her husband becoming an MP and a baronet.
John (1755-1828). His father purchased a commission in the 9th Regiment of Dragoons for him in 1772 and he was posted to Ireland where he may have married and where he died.
Miles (1756-1835) who was ordained in 1779 and became curate of Hethel under his cousin Arthur Branwayte (above), and later Rector. However, Hethel no longer had a Rectory so he got the Bishop's permission to live in Mulbarton where he set up home with his wife (also his cousin), Mary nee Beevor, in Mulbarton Hall.
Arthur (1758-1839). His father purchased a commission in the 33rd Regiment of Foot and he was sent to America during the War of Independence. In 1794 he came to live with his father in Hethel Hall. He married Mary Branthwayt (daughter of Arthur, Rector of Hethel) and went to live in Honington and then in Great Yarmouth. He was a JP.
George (1762-1810) was educated at Wymondham Grammar School, then at Christ's College, Cambridge, and was ordained by 1786. He married Jane Branthwayt (the other daughter of Arthur, Rector of Hethel) and they had 9 children.

Thomas Beevor was made a baronet in 1784, so his wife became a dame.  Dame Elizabeth nee Branthwayte died in January 1794 and is buried in Hethel vault. Women had few rights in those days, so her inheritance automatically passed to her husband Thomas. The Hethel estate was now in the hands of the Beevor family.

Most of the information here is based on research by Alison Lee for the Hethel heritage weekend 2017 - used with permission and grateful thanks.