The Heraldry Group of the Society organised a visit to the Maidenhead area that involved visiting Ockwells on 17th January 2014. The group numbered ten people who were enthusiastic about heraldry and were keen to see the armorial glass that dates from the middle of the 15th century. This collection has been described as the best pre-Reformation domestic glass in England. Nine of the party drove over to Berkshire from our heartland in the Welsh Marches and the West Midlands, but one member, Pat Sargent, flew over specially for the event from her home in Akron, Ohio. She had a particular interest, described below.
We went to Ockwells at the invitation of Ann Darracott of Maidenhead Civic Society who has made a special study of Ockwells and written about it. She was due to give a talk about Ockwells to Marlow Archaelogical Society on the evening of the 16th January and we attended her talk as guests. The following morning Ann led tours of the house for us and about 30 other people from local societies. As Ockwells is privately owned there is considerable interest on the few days that tours are organised. The owner, is Brian Stein, restaurateur and polo player and for many years and he has lovingly restored the building.
Ockwells Manor is on the outskirts of Maidenhead quite close to the M4. It was built in the middle of the 15th century by John Norreys (Norrys, Norris) who was Esquire of the body of Henry VI. In the Great Hall he devised a scheme of 19 armorial lights of which 18 remain. One of these is a Mortimer coat of arms, which was our main motivation for visiting the house.
The main line of Mortimers of Wigmore died out in 1425 with the death of Edmund, 5th Earl of March. In the 1450s, however, there was still direct descendants of the early Mortimers. Sir Hugh Mortimer of Martley and Tedstone Wafre was a direct descendant of Roger Mortimer of Chirk (d1326), uncle to the infamous Roger Mortimer of Wigmore 1st Earl of March (d1330). Roger of Chirk differenced his arms by replacing the inescutcheon argent with an inescutcheon ermine and that difference was carried down to Sir Hugh and can be seen here. John Norreys was obviously close to Henry VI and the arms of the king and the queen are included in the collection. The other shields represent people who were closely involved in the court and politics of the time. Presumably John Norreys liked and respected them, to have placed their coats of arms in his house. It is rather ironic to find that in 1460, only a few years later, Sir Hugh Mortimer was to meet his death at the Battle of Wakefield fighting alongside Richard, Duke of York against the Lancastrian forces of Henry VI.
There are many variants of the Mortimer coat of arms. The number of bars and pallets varies and sometimes the blue and gold colours are reversed. The Mortimer coat of arms at Ockwells is particularly important as it indicates quite clearly the shield used by Sir Hugh Mortimer in the 1450s. Unlike many examples, which show a range of minor variations, this shield is identical to the 14th century Mortimer of Wigmore shields (in windows in churches at Ludlow, Tewkesbury, Cirencester, Wells and as an illustration in the Wigmore Chronicle) except for the fact that the inescutcheon is 'ermine' rather than 'argent'.
The full blazon is azure 3 bars or, in chief 2 pallets between 2 gyrons or, overall an inescutcheon ermine
|Henry Beauchamp (d1446) Edmund Beaufort (d1455) Queen Margaret
1st Duke of Warwick 2nd Duke of Somerset of Anjou (d1482)
and Cecily Neville (d1450)
|William de la Pole (d1450) King Henry VI James Butler (d1461)
1st Duke of Suffolk (d1471) 5th Earl of Ormonde
1st Earl of Wiltshire
| John Norrey (d1466) John Wenlock (d1471) Unidentified
and his 2nd wife 1st Baron Wenlock
| John Norreys (1466) Edward Langford Unidentified
and his 1st wife of Bradfield (d1474)
Alice Merbrook (dc1450)
| John Purry William Bulstrode (d1478)
| Hugh Mortimer of Martley (d1460) John Nanfan (d1459)
left to right: Pat Sargent, Hugh Wood, Madge Crocker, Peter Crocker, Yve James, John Atkinson, Doris Wood, Anne Blandford, Tony Bucknall
|Ann Darracott explaining about the staircase||The withdrawing room||Studying the windows