Doing genealogical research and going to church have something in common – you never know what you are going to find! Sometimes one leads you to the other. For example, one day I went looking for my 14th great-grandfather in Warwickshire, England, but I found him in a church in London. I was totally shocked by what I found.
Sir John Brome was already a knight, probably knighted by King Henry V, when he married my 14th great-grandmother, Beatrix Shirley, about 1438. Beatrix was from a very wealthy and powerful family in which the past seven generations of men had been knights. In fact, their marriage brought the three most prominent and powerful families in Warwickshire together. It must have been a real bash!
About that same time, Sir John bought the beautiful, moated Baddesley-Clinton Manor House, just north of Warwick. Four generations of my great-grandparents lived there, and Sir John and Lady Beatrix had seven children there. This impressive castle-like home still stands as a National Trust property, and it can be visited. (See photo)
The Bromes were apparently very devout Roman Catholics, as they built St. Michael’s Church on their own property, and provided for the priest. (See photo) At some point, Sir John became Under-Treasurer of England. He moved to London, but his wife and family stayed in their castle. Even then Sir John remained deeply committed to his faith. Records show that he regularly assisted with the Mass at White Friars Church on Fleet Street, Farringdon, London. In fact, that is where I found him, in November 1468.
One day, while assisting with the Mass at White Friars Church, he was called out of the service to meet a man at the front entrance. The man was John Herthill, with whom there had been some kind of property dispute. Herthill attacked Sir John with a knife, and killed him in the church entrance. I hate it when a worship service ends like that! Sadly, John left a wife and seven children to care for Baddesley-Clinton.
On November 5, 1468, Sir John Brome was buried in a tomb at White Friars Church. At his grave is this inscription:
“Lo! Here lies as dust the body of John Brome, a noble and learned man, skilled in the law of the Realm, a child of genius, witness the County of Warwick, who fell by the sword in this church, slain at the time of the mass by the hands of wicked men. He was buried in this tomb November 5, 1468. Kindly Father, it is better for him to have eternal rest.”
There is no happy ending to this story. Three years later, his eldest son, Nicholas, who was a new knight, avenged his father’s death by killing Herthill. Nicholas’ penalty for killing the killer was to go to mass daily for two years, and pay Herthill’s widow 33 shillings. For Nicholas, going to church was a punishment; for his father, it was a place of service.
So, now I have another family story that I cannot tell the grandkids before they go to bed. They may not want to go to church again. However, if you would enjoy finding or telling family stories, please come to the Lake Lure Genealogy Club meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, at 3:00 PM in Mountains Branch Library.