Sir George VERNON, Knight

"King of the Peak"

Born: ABT 1503, Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, England

Died: 31 Aug 1565

Buried: Bakewell Church, Derbyshire, England

Father: Richard VERNON of Haddon

Mother: Margaret DYMOKE

Married 1: Margaret TALBOYS


1. Margaret VERNON

2. Dorothy VERNON

Married 2: Matilda LONGFORD (dau. of Ralph Longford of Longford)

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1518, first son of Richard Vernon of Haddon, by Margaret, dau. of Sir Robert Dymoke of Scrivelsby, Lincs. His mother married secondly Sir William Coffin and third Sir Richard Manners, brother of Thomas, first Earl of Rutland. Educ. Magdalen, Oxf.; G. Inn, adm. 1537. Married first Margaret, dau. of Sir George Tailboys, de jure 9th Lord Kyme, widow of Phillip Bullock; and secondly Matilda, dau. of Sir Ralph Longford of Longford, Derbys. Suc. family Aug 1517. KB 20 Feb 1547. J.p. Derbys. 1539-d.; commr. musters 1539, array 1546, chantries 1546, relief 1550.

Haddon Hall

Thanks to Julia Pissano for this images!

The Vernon family was established at Haddon by the 14th century and its members were to attain prominence both locally and at court during the 15th. Following the early death of his father George Vernon's wardship, and the custody of his lands in Westmorland, were granted in Apr 1522 to Cardinal Wolsey, Sir William Tyrwhitt, Lady Elizabeth Tailboys and her son Gilbert, and he was married to one of the Tailboys daughters; but it was his uncle Sir John Vernon who administered the bulk of his inheritance and advised him during his early years ‘in all his causes and his great affairs’. After Oxford and a spell at Grays Inn, Vernon followed his uncle, then serving as a councillor in the marches, and remained in the elder man's service until his death early in 1545.

It was during these years that Vernon had his only experience of the Commons. In possession since 1536 of wide lands centred on Nether Haddon and Bakewell in the hundred of High Peak, and a justice of the peace of more than three years’ standing, he could expect to follow those of his forbears who had sat for the shire; the name of his fellow-knight is lost. Made a knight at Edward VI's coronation, Vernon was one of those claimed by Sir William Paget to have been included in the first, but not the second, list of those whom Henry VIII had intended to create barons. In the event he was never even raised to the quorum of the commission or pricked sheriff; the fact that he was nominated for the office nine times between 1543 and 1552 implies that he was 'persona non grata', although on what ground it is impossible to say. He was one of the three Derbyshire gentlemen who refused to comply with Mary's demand for a forced loan of £100 in 1557, and although the receiver, Sir John Porte, solicited Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury's help, it is unknown whether or not they ultimately contributed. In 1564 Bishop Bentham, an ardent reformer, rated Vernon ‘a great justice [in] religion as in all other things’, but he died before he could be transferred to the quorum. Renowned ‘for his magnificence ... for his kind reception of all good men, and his hospitality’, he was dubbed the ‘King of the Peak’.

Renowned for his love of entertaining and his heavy-handed discipline (he is known to have had local men hanged without trial). Of the many traditions of the sovereign acts of the King of the Peak, one is that he ordered a toll-bar keeper to be hanged in a field near Ashford Bar for murder. The place is known to this day as Galley or Gallows Acre field. It was Sir George who secured the transfer of the manor at Haddon from his family to the Manners. The last of his line, Vernon probably suffered from ill-health for several years before his death on 31 Aug 1565. His heirs were his two daughters, Margaret, the wife of Sir Thomas Stanley, and the celebrated Dorothy. Sir George is reputed to have taken an instant dislike to the suitor of his younger daughter, Dorothy. This gentleman, Sir John Manners, was referred to by Sir George as 'the second son of an impoverished Earl' (the Earl in question was the Earl of Rutland). In 1563 a wedding party was being held in the ballroom (or Long Gallery) to celebrate the marriage of Sir George's elder daughter, Margaret to Sir Thomas Stanley, second son of Edward Stanley, third Earl of Derby. It was during this party that Dorothy fled through the back door of the Hall (which now bears her name), on through the gardens, and over the small packhorse bridge which spans the River Wye (a bridge which now also bears her name). Waiting there was Sir John, and the couple rode through the night to Aylestone in Leicestershire where they were married.

By his will of 18 Aug 1565 he bequeathed six Derbyshire manors and two in Staffordshire to his wife for life. His executors were to take the profits of his manor of Kibblestone, in Staffordshire, and two Cheshire manors for 16 years after his decease to pay his debts, funeral expenses and the fulfilment of his will, which included among numerous bequests the provision of one gold chain worth £20 to his godson, Gilbert Talbot, the future Earl of Shrewsbury, ‘as a remembrance of my good will towards him’. His wife, his son-in-law John Manners, his brother-in-law Nicholas Longford and his ‘loving neighbours and faithful friends’ Thomas Sutton and Richard Wennesley were each to receive £20 for their services as executors, while his ‘right worshipful friends’ Sir John Zouche and Sir Francis Leke were each to have a horse. Vernon was buried in Bakewell church where a large table tomb in the centre of the Vernon chapel bears the recumbent effigies of himself, clothed in plate armour, and his two wives.
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