The Barrington family

plaque for Sir John Barrington in St Marys, Hatfiled Broad Oak

The Barrington family were prominent in Hatfield Broad Oak from the 12th to the 19th century. They were the hereditary Woodwards of Hatfield Forest and lived just beyond the south east boundary of the Forest. In 1612, Sir Francis bought the lordship of the manor.  By the 18th century, they owned most of the parish.  A new mansion, Barrington Hall, was built in the 1740’s but not occupied.  The family interest in Hatfield Forest ended in 1832 when they sold out to John Archer Houblon, allowing him to consolidate ownership of the Forest

Woodwards of Hatfield Forest 

The Barrington family claimed to be the hereditary holders of the office of  Woodward or Forester of the Forest, dating back to at least the time of Henry I, in the early 12th century, when this was awarded to Eustace de Barenton, a servant of the King, and subsequently confirmed by several later Kings. 

When this was challenged, early in the reign of Henry VIII, after he had seized the Forest following the execution of the then owner, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, a petition was presented to the Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey.  This was successful and the family status confirmed. 

Sir Thomas Barrington (1530 – 1581) – a Royal connection 

Sir Thomas married first Alice, daughter of Sir Henry Parker, 10th Baron Morley, from nearby Hallingbury Place, and then, more usefully, Winifred, a daughter of Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and granddaughter of Margaret Plantagenet, of Royal blood. This blood line were fierce rivals to the upstart Tudor blood line of Henry VIII.

This marriage brought the manors of Clavering and Bushey, as well as large estates in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Essex and the Isle of Wight.

In 1564, Sir Thomas purchased the former Benedictine Priory of Hatfield Broad Oak, after it had been dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII.  Here he received the Queen, Elizabeth I, in 1576, and again, in 1578.  He was knighted in 1571 and died in 1586. 

A Hatfield Forest dispute 

Sir Thomas came into dispute with Robert, 3rd Lord Rich, in relation to the office of Woodward. In 1576, the Court of the Star Chamber ruled on this dispute, assigning various rights between the parties.  As part of this, the Barringtons agreed to surrender the office of Woodward, in return for ownership of the trees in the north eastern third of the Forest, to the east of Shermore Brook, as well as limited grazing rights in the whole of the Forest.     

The family seat 

The family seat up to about 1600 was Barrington Hall.  This stood on a moated site 2 km north of Hatfield Broad Oak village, near to the south east corner of the Forest.  A later house, built immediately to the north, survives as Little Barrington Hall. 

Sir Francis Barrington (ca.1570-1628) – a local MP 

Sir Francis was the first son of Sir Thomas and represented Essex in several parliaments in the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, until his death in 1628. He was knighted in 1603 and created a baronet in 1611.  He married Joan Cromwell, aunt of Oliver Cromwell, the future Lord Protector of England. 

Sir Francis buys the Lordship of the Manor, disputes follow 

In 1612, the Rich family sold the remainder of their Hatfield estate to Sir Francis, including the lordship of the manor, with all its rights to hold courts and fine offenders against the byelaws. This set the scene for a series of disputes with others with interests in the Forest, in particular the owners of the soil, the Parkers, from Hallingbury Place. 

Sir Francis imprisoned 

In 1626, Sir Francis was imprisoned in the Marshalsea by the King, Charles I, for failing to support a loan to the King.  He was accompanied by his wife.  The harsh winter conditions took their toll, and following a plea to the King, he was released under house arrest, in Southwark, for a further 12 months. He died shortly after his final release. 

Sir Thomas Barrington (d.1644) - a local MP 

Sir Thomas was the son of Sir Francis and sat in successive parliaments from 1612 to until his death in 1644.  During the Civil War, he appears to have opposed the King.   He was also influential in ensuring Essex supported Parliament rather than the King.  He was knighted in about 1621 and became the 2nd baronet on the death of his father. 

Sir Fitzwilliam Barrington – last of the line and end of interest in the Forest 

Sir Fitzwilliam was the 10th and last baronet.  When he died in 1832, without a direct male heir, the title became extinct.  The Barrington interests in Hatfield Forest was sold to John Archer Houblon of Hallingbury Place, enabling him to consolidate ownership 

Barrington Hall – old and new 

It would seem that in the early 1600’s, the family seat moved to a newly built house, Hatfield Priory, immediately north of Hatfield Broad Oak church, but this became dilapidated by 1700 and was dismantled.

The present day Barrington Hall lies about 1 km north of the village and is enclosed in a park. This was built for John Shales Barrington shortly after he succeeded to the estate  in 1734, by James Sanderson, the builder probably being his cousin, Joseph Sanderson. It was however never completed and remained so for over 120 years.

It only became finished and permanently occupied after  extensive re-modelling in 1863 for George Lowndes, a distant relative of the Barringtons, to the design of Edward Browning, in a heavy Neo-Jacobean style.  The Hall has a deer park and lake, running to the norhtern boundary of the church yard, at Hatfield Broad Oak. 

Few memorials remain 

In spite of their local eminence, few memorials remain to the family. The Barrington Chapel in St Mary the Virgin, Hatfield Broad Oak contains a brass wall plaque to Sir Thomas Barrington who died in 1472. There is also a standing wall monument with two rather coarsely carved cherubs either side of an urn and ascribed to Grinley Gibbons, commemorating Sir John Barrington, the 3rd baronet, who died in 1691.  In addition, outside the Chapel there is a large wall plaque to John Shales Barrington and two floor slabs, as well as a family vault.