Sir George PECKHAM of Denham

Born: 1530

Died: 1608

Father: Edmund PECKHAM of Denham (Sir)

Mother: Anne CHENEY

Married 1: Susan WEBBE (b. 1538 - d. 11 Dec 1555) (dau. of Henry Webbe) 1554

Married 2: Mary PENN


1. Edmund PECKHAM (Sir) (b. 1556 - d. 7 Jul 1586) (m. Dorothy Gerard)

2. George PECKHAM

Third son of Sir Edmund Peckham by Anne, dau. of John Cheney of Chesham Bois, Bucks.; bro. of Sir Robert and Henry. He married, in 1554, Susan, daughter and heiress of Henry Webbe. She died in childbed, at the age of seventeen, on 1555. Besides the Abbey Church, there was in the village of Biddlesden a small Chapel dedicated to St. Margaret. Amongst other tombs and inscriptions, it contained one to Dorothy Verney, wife of Edmund Verney, Esq., and daughter of Sir Edmund Peckham, Knight, who died in 1547; and also one to Susan, the wife of George Peckham, who died in 1555. The two latter memorials had effigies in brass, and the last had a long and curious epitaph, beginning thus:

"Here Susan sleeps, George Peckham's wife,

Which Death in child-bed took;

Who xiii. months in marriage spent,

And then this Life forsook:

The only heir of Henry Webbe,

The chiefest joy he hadde ;

The quiet stay, and greatest happe,

That made her husband glad."

He was heir to his elder brother, Sir Robert Peckham who died 13 Sep 1569. This year, Sir George Peckham renovated Denham Place in preparation for a scheduled visit from Queen Elizabeth on her royal “progression”, one of the tours around the country favoured by the Tudor monarchs to show themselves to their subjects. She arrived at Denham Place from Oatlands in Surrey on 27 Sep 1570, and George was knighted by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, at Queen Elizabeth’s command. Her stay was short as she moved on from Denham to the Earl of Bedford’s residence at Chenies where she reportedly stayed for a month before visiting Peckham’s relative by marriage, Sir Ralph Verney at Penley in Hertfordshire..

In 1572 he was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. In 1574 he, together with Sir Humphrey GilbertSir Richard Grenville, and Christopher Carleill, petitioned the Queen to allow them an expedition into unknown lands. In the enterprise, which finally took form in 1583, Peckham alongside Thomas Gerard was the chief adventurer, Gilbert assigning to him large grants of land and liberty of trade. In Nov 1583 he published A True Reporte. A major factor behind this plan was to allow Catholics to emigrate following the increase of fines imposed on those who failed to attend Anglican services in 1581.

The 1578 voyage was unsuccessful, and after Gilbert’s death in 1583, Sir George Peckham attempted to spur interest in a further expedition, but was unable to bring it to fruition.

On 18 Dec 1580, the authorities summoned Sir George Peckham to answer to royal authority and he was then charged with harbouring and entertaining Edmund Campion the Jesuit, and one Gilbert, a notorious Practiser. The Privy Council record for the day records “There can be no doubt that Sir George Peckham was in entire sympathy with, and was in every way aiding and abetting the very worst offenders of the Romish Church”.

Sir George spent some time imprisoned in the Tower of London. But Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s chief adviser, knew that harsh punishment of Catholic recusants who in reality posed little threat to the Crown would only serve to provoke those of more violent tendencies. Within three months of his incarceration, Peckham was released by order of the Queen, she being satisfied that he would afterwards be “of good behaviour”.

Faked exorcisms to which George played host at Denham Place in 1585 and 1586, hoax designed to scare Protestants into returning to the Catholic faith by another Jesuit priest, William Weston, otherwise Edmunds. Weston was linked through another Jesuit priest, John Ballard, to a Derbyshire nobleman Anthony Babington. There is evidence that Babington was in Denham in 1585 to bear witness to the exorcisms. Babington and Ballard were together the leaders of a serious plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and replace her with her Stuart Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. It was the discovery of this plot that set off the train of events leading to the execution of Mary.

Peckham was spared the harsh punishments meted out to those more directly involved in plotting, but Elizabeth nonetheless moved against him. He owed her money. Denham Place was forfeited to the Crown in repayment. By Jul 1586 the Queen herself was in charge of Denham Place. It remained in Elizabeth’s ownership until she granted it to Sir William Bowyer in 1595.

Of Sir George Peckham after the events of 1585/86 little is recorded save for a plaintive letter he wrote to Lord Burghley’s son, Sir Robert Cecil on 3 Jan 1595 describing his distress, his sickness and his poverty being “compelled to sell the apparel off his own back".

He died in 1608. By a second wife two sons are mentioned: Edmund the elder, who would seem to have predeceased him; and George, who was his heir.


Breaking News: Denham's Connections to the Gunpowder Plot?

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