A Curious Which Hunt


On Chiltern Slopes

The Wolsey Altar

Tithe Map 1845

November 4, 1828

A Curious Which hunt

The Hambleden Magazine
[ Written for the Henley Archaeological and Historical Society Newsletter No 24. March/April 1981 ]

Which? Witch? Ah well, never mind, read on!

For many years I have been delving into the local history of the village of Frieth, and among the names of landowners occur those of Deane and Collins and Deane(alias Collins). On consulting the Hambleden Parish Records I found many Deane and Collins entries over the centuries since 1566, for the Deanes of Colstrope multiplied and spread themselves throughout the Parish.

Some months ago Mrs Knight was kind enough to lend me a copy of her mother’s manuscript the ‘Short history of Colstrope’; this I found to be a fascinating piece of original work, gathered, I believe, in 1925 largely from a bundle of old property deeds, the Deane family and the memories of old Hambleden residents. I checked the dates and names given, against the Parish Registers, and found they agreed (with the exception of Robert Deane), so I was very interested to see the ‘Short History’ reprinted in the Nov/Dec newsletter [of the Henley Archaeology Society].

During last summer my interest in the Deane family was heightened because it fell to my lot to get the Hambleden Church brochure reprinted. Before doing so I thought it wise to check the authenticity of at least one paragraph. This was necessary as a visitor to the Church from S. Africa (Col. Leslie Deane of Bloemfontein) had objected strongly to the following paragraph contained in the Hambleden publication which he said was false: ‘Two of the regicides who signed the death warrant of King Charles I came originally from this parish. They were Adrian Scrope of Wormsley and Robert Deane of Colstrope.’

I felt sure the author of the church publication had taken his information from ‘On Chiltern Slopes’ by Rev. Stanton, published in 1927 [see menu bar, on the left] and I found this was so, but that the Rev. Stanton gave no reference for the source of his statement. To find the same story repeated in the ‘Short History of Colstrope’ sent me hunting to check. This proved a simple matter as the original document reposes in the Records Office of the House of Lords and an enquiry there (through Wycombe Reference Library) came back with the answer that Adrian Scrope was the 37th signatory but that no Robert Deane signed the document - however, a Richard Deane was the 21st signatory and his life history could be read in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Richard Deane (1610-1653) was baptised in Temple Guyting in Gloucestershire, he was related to John Hampden and Cromwell on his mother’s side of the family and to other Buckinghamshire leaders of the revolt, on his father’s side. If you wish to read more about him you will find his life history takes up several pages in the National Biography!

[ Richard Deane painted by Robert Walker (1599-1658). A brief summary of his life can be read at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Deane_(regicide) ]

By this time I was really set on a discovery course; why did our Robert Deane get the blame for an act committed by a Richard Deane from Gloucestershire?

Further investigation of the Deane entries in the Parish Registers showed that Robert Deane yeoman baptised in 1607 died in July 1643 (not 1663), was the eldest son of George Deane. In 1638 Robert had a daughter named Elinor, by his wife Elinor, but there is no record in Hambleden of the marriage of Elinor and Robert. Elinor bore Robert three sons but all died shortly after birth, leaving Elinor (Robert’s daughter) as his heiress.

So we know very little about Robert Deane of Colstrope, except that he lived in troubled times - was he drawn into the quarrel between King and Parliament? Which side did he support? Life must have been difficult for any yeoman living in the Hambleden Valley during that period, situated as it was between the Wycombe Valley (largely Parliamentarian) and the Vale of Oxford and the Royalist supporters. Was the Deane family divided against itself as was the D’Oyly family of nearby Greenlands where John the eldest son was to hold out for the King whilst his brothers were fighting for Cromwell? We do know that George Roberts, Rector of Hambleden was a King's man, as he was extruded during the Commonwealth and reinstated to office in 1660 with the Restoration. None of which, unfortunately, tells us anything more about the affiliations of Robert Deane of Colstrope!

However the Hambleden Register shows that in 1658 ‘Aron Deane in the Parish of Touse Gray (forth?) (pronounced Towzee and now spelt Towersey) the son of Aron in the aforesaid Parish and Elinor Deane in the Parish of Hambleden the dau. of Elinor Codray married.’ Such long marriage entries usually denote the union of people of some standing, and this was during the Commonwealth whilst Henry Goodyer ‘Minister of the Gospel’ was in charge at Hambleden Church, so it would appear that Aron Deane’s sympathies lay with Cromwell. Next we note that the bride and groom had the same surname so possibly were related, cousins of some degree perhaps. Elinor is likely to have been Robert’s heiress daughter (now aged 20) her mother Elinor, widowed in 1643, having married again.

Towersey? My next line of approach was that tome entitled ‘The History of the Prebendal Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Thame’, in which are printed the Family Trees of many local families, including the Deanes of Towersey who, to my joy, are also written as Deane (alias Collins). Here was a real breakthrough, for the pedigree given in this book regarding Aron and Elinor and taken from the Thame Parish Records, check with the Hambleden Register.

The Deane family of Towersey and district were numerous and many were supporters of Hampden and Cromwell. There are conflicting stories about John Hampden’s untimely end, but one says he was first taken to the Greyhound Inn at Thame after being wounded at Chalgrove Field in June 1643. But what is more relevant to this story is the odd paragraph from ‘The History of Thame': ‘As regards the old family of Deane in this Parish .... it is a current tradition that one of its best known Puritan members Richard Deane, the Regicide, was born and baptised here. Such however is not the case. He was, no doubt, of the same family, though of another branch, but his allusion in his Will to his cousin Anne Collins, of this Parish, his intimacy with Cromwellite allies from Buckinghamshire .... indicates as much’ Do we seem to have heard this somewhere before?

With the coming of the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, ‘Witch Hunts’ began all over the Realm - Regicides were hung, the bodies of those already dead (including Richard Deane) were exhumed and flung into common graves - their families were hounded and humiliated. Was there a ‘Witch Hunt’ against the Deanes of Towersey and through intermarriage reflected in Colstrope? It would appear so - and just because a distant relative of the same name had been involved. Was the whisper handed down from generation to generation in Hambleden?

Anyway it has taken over 200 years and, finally, effort on the part of an octogenarian in S. Africa to get the record straight. Robert Deane of Colstrope was not a signatory to the Death Warrant of Charles I ! Put the record straight? I doubt it. Mill End and Hambleden are tourist spots these days, a rash of guide books has appeared including them - one of these appears to have taken its information straight from the Hambleden Church Brochure treating it as ‘Gospel Truth’ without checking, and quoting the interesting lines re Robert Deane. As this publication has a much wider circulation than our News sheet I am afraid Col. Deane’s efforts (and mine ) to establish ‘Which Deane’ can be written off as just another academic exercise!

Joan Barksfield Dec. 1980