Lady Craven of London
Have you been on a tour of Ashdown recently? On the stairs above the second landing at Ashdown is a portrait of a woman identified as Lady Craven of London. Her name and title was added to the portrait at a later date and there is some question as to whether this really is Elizabeth Craven but even if not, she is worthy of a portrait and her story is well worth telling.
Many women of the late Tudor period were defined by their role as daughters, wives and mothers. Elizabeth was the daughter of William Whitmore, a London merchant who bought Apley Hall in Shropshire.
She married Sir William Craven in 1597 and had five children including William, the 1st Earl. More importantly, though, Elizabeth was a successful businesswoman in her own right. After Sir William’s death in 1618 she continued to run both his cloth wholesale business but also his money-lending business, making deals worth thousands of pounds every week.
She also invested in land, purchasing many estates in Berkshire in 1620, including Ashdown, plus Stokesay Castle in Shropshire and Drury House in London. It was her business acumen that helped to build the enormous fortune William, 1st Earl of Craven, inherited on her death in 1624.