William Feldwick was born in West Hoathly, Sussex, the second son of John Feldwick, yeoman of West Hoathly and his wife, Thomasine, formerly Infield. There is no actual record of his birth or baptism, but evidence indicates that he was born c 1555/56. He is mentioned in the will of his grandfather, Walter Feldwick, which is dated 18th March 1558, so he had to have been born before that date, he is named after his brother, Walter (who died before 1561), which indicates he was probably the younger of the two. He is next mentioned in the will of his father, John Feldwick dated 7th February 1561. It is clear from this will that William was a minor, his father making provision for the education of his children and desiring that William be "set and found at school to learn to write and read English sufficiently" this indicates that he was probably under the age of seven. John also consigned the custody of his children to his Kinsman John Benett " until such time as they shall accomplish the age of 21 years". William was named as Executor of the will, however, it was not possible for anyone under the age of 21 to act as an Executor and the Latin script at the bottom of the probate copy of the will shows that administration was granted to John's wife Thomasine, to act in accord with the terms of the will, during the minority of the Executor. The records show that the will was finally proved on 20th February 1577 indicating that William attained his majority about this time. In his father's Inquisition Postem Mortem, which was held in 1592 Williams age is estimated as being 30 years or more at the taking of the inquisition (so between 30 and 40 in 1592), His father, John's date of death is given as 1st January 1591 and this has led to some confusion over William's parents. This date is false and is nothing more than an example of 16th century tax evasion. The Feldwicks held their land as Tenants in Chief of the Crown and according to English feudal law, if the heir was a minor, the Crown had the rights of wardship and disposal in marriage of the heir and also the right to receive the proffits of the estate. The purpose of an Inquisition Post Mortem was to establish what was due to the Crown on the death of a Tenant in Chief and was also deemed a necessary stage in succession. The families involved were in a strong position to influence the outcome of an inquisition and often did so to their own advatage, the incomes from the estates evaluated in an IPM are always vastly undervalued.
William inherited lands called Feldwicks and Homewoods extending to about one hundred acres, which lands had been owned by the Feldwick family for centuries. A reference to William is recorded in the Book of John Rowe, under the Manor of Plumpton, in 1597, "ancient freeholdes within the Bedlewick of Plomton Buskage, William Feldwick for a yard land called Feldwicks and for lands called Nicholls and Homewoods Xs ijd" This book contains details of fines or relief due on succession and heriot due on death for the area of Lewes. He is also refered to in the Lay Subsidy Rolls for the Rape of Lewes, in 1621 and is shown as being taxed on his lands in West Hoathly at one fifteenth, on £6 8s. William was mentioned in the will of his uncle, Thomas Infield, of 1573 and was named overseer to the will of his brother in law, George Browne in 1614. He was a juror on the County Coroner Court on 7th March 1587 in East Grinstead and on 20th June 1593 in West Hoathly. According to William Edmond Feldwick, an early genealogist, writing in 1887, in 1630 William was fined 10 guineas (about £1000 in today's money) for failing to attend the coronation of Charles I in 1626, where he was to receive a knighthood. A commission dated 28th January 1630 was issued to "enforce an unwarrentable fine for this pretended neglect" The fine was duly paid but it is not known why William snubed the King in this way and refused a Knighthood, perhaps he was to old and infirm to traval to London or perhaps he did not approve of the Stuart Kings.
William married Agnes Brown, possibly in about 1584, but there is some uncertainty about this date and it is possible that William may have been married before his marriage to Agnes. His first four children, Thomasine, John, William and Anne were born about this time, (between 1585 and 1595) John married in 1611 and is said to be 40 years or more in 1633. Thomasine married in 1606 and Anne in 1611. William and Agnes had three more daughters, Elizabeth, Sarah and Mary but their dates of birth are uncertain.
It appears that William had an uneasy relationship with his eldest son, John, who was somewhat unreliable to say the least, and even though John was his heir at law, clearly William did not trust him with the ownership of his estate, and went to great lengths to ensure that John did not inherit the lands that had been in his family for generations. In order to disinherit his son, in 1619, William went through a fake legal procedure known as a common recovery, this was a collusive action, the purpose of which was to break an entail. The details of the entail are not known, but as there is nothing in the will of either John or Walter Feldwick, it may have been in the terms of a marriage settlement made at William's own marriage. Two documents survive in the Wakehurst archives, the first, a Deed to suffer a common recovery, dated 11th October 1619, the second is an Exemplification of a common recovery dated 29th November 1619. This was a lengthy and comlicated procedure, played out in court, which, very briefly involved "the demandant", in this case William's son in law, John Gibb, initiating a court procedure to recover lands that he claims to have been dispossessed of, in the last 30 years, by one Hugh Hunt (a fictitious character) and calling upon the "tenant in tail", William Feldwick, to prove his title. Basically this claim would have been uncontested and the land conveyed, by the court, to the demandant and the property would then revert to "fee simple" and could then be sold or settled in some other way. With the entail broken, William was free to leave his estate to whom he chose and in his will dated 25th July 1628, he excluded his son and bequeathed the property to his grandson, another John. However he did not cut his son off completely and made him a generous allowence for life, with the proviso that John did not meddle in the execution of the will, or try to claim the land by way of seizin.
William died in June 1633 and was buried on 25th June 1633 in West Hoathly churchyard. His will was proved in The Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 4th October 1633. An Inquisition Post Mortem was held on 5th August 1634 in East Grinstead, Sussex, it contains details of his estate the terms of his will.
Jane Wicks, August 2012
With many thanks to fellow researcher and Feldwick descendant, Peter Brown, for his valuable input.