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The Osborn Family

Osborn hatchment in Campton church April 2015
Osborn hatchment in Campton church April 2015

Much of this information has been taken from the pamphlet A brief history of Chicksands Priory by Roger W Ward, 1977 [reference CRT 130 Chi 5)].

The Osborn family came into possession of the manor of Chicksands in the 16th century. The family also owned the manor known as Hawnes Grange in Haynes, Haynes Rectory and advowson, the advowson of Campton, property in Shefford (including the Cock Inn), the Manor of Polehanger and appurtenant lands in Meppershall and tithes in Dean.

The first Osborn associated with the manor of Chicksands was Peter Osborne of Latchingdon, Essex, Keeper of the Privy Purse to Edward VI (1547-1553). In this role, he was responsible for the royal treasury, acting as financial secretary to the King. Following some dispute over ownership between the previous owner and his brother, the manor came fully into the family's possession in 1587. When Peter died in 1592, the manor passed to his son John (1552-1628), the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer. Remembrancers were responsible for 'reminding' barons of the Exchequer of business pending. John was knighted in 1618 by James I, and he built an Osborn chapel and family vault adjacent to the parish church at Campton. John was the first Osborne to live at Chicksands Priory, and the family remained in residence there until the estate was sold to the government in 1936.

John was succeeded by his son, Peter, who became governor of the island of Guernsey. During the English Civil war, the Osborns sided with the King and Sir Peter resided at Cornet Castle in Guernsey in 1642, and became commander of the garrison of Castle Cornet, while his son Henry was commissioned as captain of "The George of Falmouth" by the Commissioners responsible for the Royalist forces in the West [O/166 no.4]. It was here that Sir Peter's daughter Dorothy met the diplomat and author Sir William Temple. A seven year romance followed conducted mostly through written correspondence. The letters written by Dorothy have survived (she destroyed those written by William immediately after reading them) and were published in 1888. Dorothy and William finally married in 1655, despite opposition from both of their families. After defeat of the King Sir Peter was charged before the committee of Examinations with high treason and was fined £2,266. 5s. 4d. It has been suggested that the family's total debts during the period of war amounted to around £7,445 [O/166 no.8]. Following Sir Peter's death in 1653, the manor was inherited by his son John. The creation of the Baronetcy of Chicksands Priory, which was awarded to John Osborne following the restoration, was intended as compensation for the losses suffered by the family during this period.

Nevertheless, John's son, Sir John Osborne (second baronet) did purchase the advowson of Campton Church in 1678 and succeeding baronets were patrons of the living for Campton Church. This Sir John recommended to his son (yet another John) that he plant elm trees on the estate to shield the Priory from the west winds. In 1694 the Osborne family dropped the 'e' from their name to avoid confusion with their relatives who had gained the title of the Duke of Leeds.

Sir John (second baronet) died in 1720 and was succeeded by his grandson, Danvers Osborn. In 1740 Danvers commissioned the architect Isaac Ware to remodel the East and South fronts of the family home, Chicksands Priory. Sir Danvers was a Captain of a Regiment of Foot which fought against the Scots in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The baronet suffered depression following the death of his wife and abandoned his seat in parliament to become colonial Governor of New York, hoping for a fresh start. However, instability in New York caused the third baronet even greater anxiety, and he swiftly committed suicide. Sir Danvers was buried in Holy Trinity Church in New York, less than six days after arrival there. Danvers in Massachusetts takes its name from this Sir Danvers [The Bedfordshire Magazine vii, p.232].

The fourth baronet was Sir Danvers' son General Sir George Osborn. A military career man, General Sir George fought in the American Wars of Independence. He donated and presented the Germantown medals of bronze and silver to his regiment (the 40th Regiment of Foot, the 2nd Somerset, later the East Lancashire Regiment) to commemorate the Battle of Germantown which took place in Philadelphia in 1797 and during which the men had been forced to take refuge in the house of a chief magistrate. Following the battle of Waterloo he erected a "Peace Monument" on the Chicksands estate in 1815, also in honour of the 40th Foot which fought in the battle as part of 6th Division. The Peace Monument was relocated and restored in the 1970s. General Sir George Osborn commissioned the architect James Wyatt to further remodel the East and South fronts of the Priory in 1813. This included re-routing the river, building a waterfall and an orangery. On his death in 1818 General Sir George was succeeded by his son John (fifth baronet).

Sir John was a Lord of the Admiralty, a Colonel in the Bedfordshire Militia and a Member of Parliament. He was succeeded by his son Sir George Robert Osborn (sixth baronet) in 1848, who was High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire. In 1892, the estate passed to his grandson, Sir Algernon (seventh baronet).

Sir Algernon was the last Osborn to own Chicksands Priory, and it was he who sold the estate to the Commissioners for Crown Lands in 1936. It was after this that it became used for military purposes, as it is to this day.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives Service is fortunate to hold a collection of documents originating from the Osborn family, including many property deeds which show the ownership of properties stretching back to the sixteenth century, and beyond.

A number of resources are available which provide further information about the priory itself. These include further pages on this website, pamphlets published by The Friends of Chicksands Priory [pamphlet 130 CHI]. Detailed notes concerning the building itself, created by Dr Andor Gomme [CRT 130 CHI 6], and a description in O'Brien and Pevsner's The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Peterborough (2014). All of these resources are available in our public search room.

 The Osborn Family about 1903 [Z627-1]
The Osborn Family about 1903 [Z627/1]

To see a larger version of the above image please click on it. Front row: John Gray of Secondlodge Farm; Sir Algernon Osborn; Beatrice, Lady Osborn (Algernon's wife); Alfred Mossman of Speedsdairy Farm; unknown. Back row: unknown; unknown; Rev George Montagu Osborn, Rector of Campton cum Shefford; a gamekeeper?; Arthur Mossman; James Mossman junior of Priory Farm.