East View of the Castle of Betchworth in the County of Surrey, where the Brabazons were settled from the Reign of Henry I, to that of King John. This Castle was afterwards possess'd by the Fitzallans Earls of Arundel, &c from them, descended, by an heiress of Henry IV, to Sir Thomas Browne Knight, uncle to Anthony ancestor of the Viscounts Montcute of Coudray. In 1729 it was sold to Abraham Tucker Esq and was resold by his grandson Sir Henry Mildmay Bar' to the present proprietor Henry Peters Esq.
Lithograph de C. Motte -
Site of Betchworth Castle Surrey

Extract from a talk given to the Family Reunion in September 2003.
The Brabazons in Medieval England

The records are scant from this time but the family was obviously moving from strength to strength, progressively adding to its holdings and family connections. The Betchworth period lasted for about 200 years when the family relocated its HQ to Eastwell in Leicestershire. Jacques' great grandson, Thomas, married into the de Moseley family of Leicestershire, and his son, Sir Roger, is the first generation to be recorded as at Eastwell and not at Betchworth. Although we undoubtedly benefited from the de Moseley marriage, the local records show that we were already landholders in the County and that, as such, Thomas was a pretty good catch himself.
Of Thomas's grandsons, a second Sir Roger would be the first Brabazon since Jacques to go down in the wider history of England and draw the family closer to personal service of the Crown

In the reign of Edward I, at a time when many judges were being dismissed for extortion and corruption, Sir Roger was making his way up the judicial ladder. He personally pressed the legal case for the suzerainty of the English crown over Scotland, and by the time be died in 1317, the Brabazon name was well and truly on the political and social map of England. The family holdings at this time must have been vast. I examined a bequest Sir Roger had made to the monks of Westminster Abbey - dated 1300 - of the manor house and lands of Belsize, just a fraction of the family estates. Anyone familiar with London will know the underground station of that name, Belsize Park.

Actually, a lot of the land in the area is still owned by the Church of England, adding considerably to the financial worth of the Anglican holdings. It is from this document that I obtained the earliest family version of our name that is le Brabanzon.

For me, the move of location in itself is unremarkable, but it is the style of living that underwent a revolution. From a defensive castle at Betchworth, a symbol of remote power, remote from the community, our ancestors moved to a purpose-built manor house, which stood at the centre of a walled settlement. Here we lived cheek-by-jowl with the people we had responsibility for. Brabazon children would have played with the children of the working families around them and the adults would have understood the lives of the families who served them.

This sounds very patrician, I know, but it marks the end of the colonial era and the beginning of a new integrated English society. A preponderance of Brabazon spouses in this new era were taken from Leicestershire and the surrounding counties, a further indicator of a settled community life. It was from these inherent bonds, which bound the families of the English midlands together and formed the base on which King Richard III launched his forces against the usurper Henry Tudor. Verbal tradition has it that Richard visited his favourite illegitimate son (how many did he have!) at the Brabazon manor house on the eve of battle. However, fate was not with us and John Brabazon perished at the decisive Battle of Bosworth on the 22nd August 1485; his body taken back the short distance to Eastwell for burial in the family chapel of St Guttlack's. Apparently, at the visitor information centre at the site of Bosworth there is a contemporary record of one of the Brabazons escaping the field of battle dressed as a milkmaid. Nothing is said of the fate of the poor maid, but she may well have saved the lineage with her attire.

Although the family HQ was to be moved to Ireland in the 16th century, Eastwell remained in the ownership of the family until it was sold by the second Earl of Meath in........., after the Cromwellian Wars. There is a townland in County Galway on what used to be Brabazon land, called Eastwell. So it remained in the hearts of our ancestors after they had relocated elsewhere. And I literally mean 'heart'. When Sir William Brabazon died in Ireland in 1552 his heart was removed - as requested in his will - placed in a leaden box and taken back to St Guttlack's for burial. Many of you will know that I have had a keen interest in Eastwell and the archaeological excavations of the manor house site.

The results were very interesting indeed, but further digs were put on hold, the most important of which would be the search for St Guttlack's, which has been located with underground scanning. What an absolute buzz it would be if we actually found Sir William's leaden box - a resurrection of heart in every sense!

Whilst I am on the subject, my good friend at Eastwell, the man in charge of the historical and archaeological society, David Stanley, has asked me to mention that he expects the Brabazon site to come onto the market in the near future. He harbours the hope that a Brabazon or Brabazons will regain the property. I know this may sound fanciful after so many centuries away, but the warmth of reception I received when I gave a speech at the launch of the Eastwell History book was overwhelming. I have to say I felt quite regal delivering my contribution from the pulpit with the gravestone of a William Brabazon before me and a Brabazon stone sarcophagus behind me - not to mention the Brabazon side chapel. What better memorial to the family than the praise of the community?

The Tudor Conquest of Ireland and the transplantation of the Brabazons to the new realm - like the move from Betchworth - has greater meaning than simply a change of scenery. Sir William Brabazon - sent to Dublin by Henry VIII as part of the newly Irish Establishment - left his community in Leicestershire, and like his antecedent Jacques, displayed all the qualities of fierce and able warrior, but without regard to the new national community of which his descendants would become a very integral part.