White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

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The Syfrewast Family
An Extract by Montague Burrows

This ancient family, like the Brocases and Foxleys, had a connection with both Berkshire and Hampshire. As lords of Freefolk, they have left their name in the latter, possibly also in the former county. Freefolk Manor is still legally described as 'Freefolk Syfrewaste' and in the diocesan records the technical term is 'Freefolk cum Syfrewast'. Freefolk itself, the 'Frigefolc' of Domesday Book, was only the name of a manor, with manor-house and chapel. The latter is now the parish church of the united parishes of Freefolk Manor and Laverstoke. In the Brocas deeds, the family come before us as lords of Clewer, from 1354 to 1384, and we find them in connection with the family by the marriage of John, son of Sir John de Syfrewast, with Elizabeth Warbelton; but beyond this there is no information to be obtained as to their pedigree. The earliest notice of the family given in the 'History of Hampshire' (Woodward and Wilks) is in 1255, when Robert de Syfrewast is found at his death seised of two knight's fees in that county. He leaves a son, William, a minor, whose wardship and marriage are bought by Bartholomew Pecche for 600 marks [There appears to be some confusion here. Robert & his son, William, lived in the early 12th century. Another William died in 1244 and the wardship of his son, Nicholas, was purchased by Bartholomew Pecche]. We next hear of a knight of the family, Sir John de Syfrewast, taken prisoner at Bannockburn [in 1314] (Cont. Trivet), and may suppose him to have been son of the last-named. This was perhaps the same John who was summoned in 1297 to do, military service for lands in Somerset and Dorset (Parl. Writs). In the next generation we find a William de Syfrewast and Ellen his wife buying land of Adam Fowler (Kerry's 'Hundred of Bray'); and Roger, in 1354, witnesses a deed of Sir John de Brocas, by which the latter hands over to trustees all his estates in Clewer, Bray, & co. We cannot place these as yet in any pedigree. When Sir John Brocas makes the other family deed already noticed, passing all his estates to his son and son-in-law in trust, one of the witnesses is John de Syfrewast, not yet a knight. But when this John grants a license to Sir Bernard Brocas to assign a portion of his manor of Clewer-Brocas for the endowment of the chantry in Clewer Church, he is a knight and lord of Clewer. It is possible that this estate of Clewer, held under the King in capite, may have been granted to the Hampshire family as a reward for services in the Scottish Wars and this second knight of the family probably won his spurs in the French Wars, since we trace his name in the Gascon Rolls. It was evidently a family of gentlemen and soldiers, not of great landed proprietors. Fortunately, the deeds enable us to produce a drawing of the family coat-of-arms. Antiquaries may yet recover a good deal more about these Syfrewasts.

The last male head of the family, the John who married Elizabeth Warbelton, succeeded his father in 1395, and died in 1441. Clewer and Bray had become the principal residences of the family and we find the last notices of them on brasses still to be seen in Bray Church. These are in memory of Sybilla, one of the daughters of John de Syfrewast, and of her second husband, Sir William Laken. Through Matilda Brocas' husband, Sir John de Foxley, and through her daughter Katherine Warbelton, Margaret, the eldest of Sir John de Syfrewast's daughters, inherited Apuldrefield in Kent, which she sold.

Originally entitled 'The Syfrewasts' and reproduced from Montague Burrows' 'The Brocas Family of Beaurepaire' (1886).


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