Nathaniel BACON of Stiffkey (1st Bt.)

Born: 1547, Stiffkey, Norfolk, England

Died: Nov 1622

Father: Nicholas BACON (Sir Lord Keeper of the Great Seal)

Mother: Jane FERNELEY

Married 1: Anne GRESHAM (b.1549 - d. 1594) (dau. of Sir Thomas Gresham) 29 Jun 1569


1. Anne BACON

2. Elizabeth BACON

3. Nicholas BACON

4. Winnifred BACON

Married 2: Dorothy HOPTON (dau. of Arthur Hopton and Anne Owen) (w. of William Smyth) 21 Jul 1597

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

Educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1561; G. Inn 1562. Married first Anne, illegit. dau. of Sir Thomas Gresham, of whom he had one son, d.v.p., and three daughters. Married second Dorothy, dau. of Arthur Hopton of Witham, Som., widow of William Smyth, s.p. Kntd. 1604. After leaving Cambridge without graduating, Bacon proceeded to Gray's Inn where he shared the lord keeper's chamber with his brothers Nicholas and Edward, and his half-brother Anthony. Bacon's two periods as Member for Tavistock were no doubt the result of religious affinity and family friendship with Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford; his own local standing explains his membership for Norfolk and King's Lynn. J.p. Norf. from 1574, q. by 1577, sheriff 1586-7, 1599-1600, dep. lt. by 1601; ancient, G. Inn 1576; commr. grain 1576, piracy 1578; dep. steward of duchy of Lancaster lands in Norf., Suff. and Camb. 1583, steward 1599; commr. sewers c.1586; collector for the loan 1589-1604; commr. recusancy 1592, musters 1596; freeman, King's Lynn 1597; commr. imprest of mariners 1598; feodary, coroner, escheator and clerk of the market of Methwold 1604.

Anne Gresham (b. 1549 - d. 1594) was the illegitimate daughter of Sir Thomas Gresham. There are contradictory stories about her origins, although everyone agrees that her mother was married off to Thomas Dutton, Gresham’s factor in Antwerp and Hamburg, since Gresham himself was already married to Anne Ferneley. Some accounts have Anne raised by her father and his wife. Others say she grew up in the Dutton household. No one is clear about her mother’s identity except that she was a servant, possibly a “Netherlander,” in Gresham’s household. Her name is given as Anne in some accounts, Winifred in others, and simply “Mistress Dutton” in others. Like Gresham, Dutton lived mostly abroad during Anne’s childhood, but he did have a house at Isleworth, on or near Gresham’s estate at Osterley.

Sir Nathaniel Bacon fell in love with Anne Gresham, they’d been issued a special license to marry without banns, and had married. Other sources, however, give the date of their marriage as 29 Jun 1569. Nathaniel then sent his bride to his stepmother, Anne Cooke, to be schooled with Nathaniel’s half brothers, Anthony and Francis Bacon, at Gorhambury. His mother, Jane Ferneley (d. 1552), and Thomas Gresham’s wife were sisters. By Nathaniel Bacon, Anne was the mother of Anne (1573-1622), Elizabeth (c.1575-1632), Nicholas (d. yng), and Winifred (1578-1614+). Her sudden death shortly after her eldest daughter Anne’s marriage to John Townshend in Dec 1593 created problems over the marriage settlement, since it was likely the widower would remarry. Should he then have a son, Anne Townshend would lose most of her rich inheritance.

Nathaniel owned several estates in Norfolk, acquiring the manor of Eccles in 1572 and, in right of his wife, possessing property in Langham and Marston, and the manor of Hemsby, which formerly belonged to Norwich priory. In 1571 his father bought Stiffkey for him. He resided there from 1574 and succeeded to legal ownership of it on the lord keeper's death in 1579. His father also left him £200 to rebuild the hall, a work which Nathaniel accomplished, in magnificent fashion, by 1604.

On 5 Jun 1604, during the debate in Parliament. John Shurley responded to Nathaniel Bacon’s motion for a proviso concerning the export of corn, arguing that the new committee should also be empowered to draft a separate measure to repeal the existing statute, but his suggestion was not taken up.

In 1614, expecting death, Bacon made a detailed will, asking to be buried in Stiffkey church, under or near a family monument of black marble ‘which the workmen have now in hand’. His three daughters, who had married John Townshend, Robert Gawdy and Thomas Knyvett, were named as executrices, the estates being shared between them and his wife, with provision for his grandchildren. Bacon apologised for giving ‘no greater legacies’, since he was heavily in debt to his elder step-son, Owen Smyth, the profits of whose lands he had used during Smyth's minority. He had, moreover, given his second wife ‘£400 a year more than I assured her before marriageBacon died in Nov 1622.
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