Earl of Ashburnham

Bookplate showing the coat of arms of the Earls of Ashburnham

The title Baron Ashburnham (pronounced "Ash-burn-am"), of Ashburnham in the County of Sussex, was created in the Peerage of England in 1689 for John Ashburnham, grandson of the John Ashburnham who assisted King Charles I to escape from Oxford and Hampton Court Palace. He obtained from the King for his London seat the former priors' house of Westminster Abbey, which had been seized by the Crown at the dissolution of the monastery, rebuilt it attractively and renamed it as Ashburnham House; it now stands as one of the central buildings of Westminster School, and has given the family name to one of the co-ed day houses.

The 3rd Baron was created Earl of Ashburnham in the Peerage of Great Britain and Viscount St Asaph, in the Principality of Wales, in 1730. The titles all became extinct in 1924, with the death of the 6th Earl; the surviving member of the family was Lady Mary Catherine Charlotte Ashburnham (1890–1953), daughter of the 5th Earl.

The family's wealth was substantially drawn from the Welsh village of Pembrey; as late as 1873 the earls owned 7,568 acres in Wales.[1] They also carried on the iron industry at their extensive landholdings across Sussex, which were the original lands granted to the family at the time of William the Conqueror for services rendered by Robert de Crull or de Crioll[2][3] at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Among the estates were three salt houses and Esseborne which the de Crulls changed to Ashburnham. They took on the name Ashburnham and dropped the name Crull, which had been a common surname among the Anglo-French aristocracy [4] that had dominated England since the Norman conquest. The name change began in the latter days of Edward III's reign when there was a great fear of a French invasion. As a result, the English language experienced a great growth and the Anglicisation of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy began to strengthen a sense of national unity.[5][6][7]

The 2nd and 3rd Earls of Ashburnham were successful courtiers. The 4th Earl bought a famous collection of Illuminated manuscripts, which was sold by the 5th Earl, mostly to the British Library, although the Ashburnham Pentateuch is in Paris. The 5th Earl sold off most of the paintings collection, including one of Rembrandt's self-portraits. He was a supporter of the Spanish Carlist claimant, Juan, Count of Montizón.[8]

The country seat of the Earls of Ashburnham was Ashburnham Place[9] in Sussex. It was occupied by the 6th earl's niece, Lady Catherine Ashburnham (1890–1953), until her death in 1953, and subsequently the contents were sold in 1953 and the land in 1953-1957.[10] The estate was inherited by the Reverend John Bickersteth (1926-1991). The house was reduced in size and turned into a Christian conference centre, which caters to both individuals and groups.

Barons Ashburnham (1689)

Earls of Ashburnham (1730)


Ashburnham County in New South Wales, Australia was named after the 4th Earl.


  1. "Archives Network Wales - Ashburnham Welsh Estates Records". Anws.llgc.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  2. This is how it is reported on several web sites which deal with this history, together with a third spelling Criel" and other supposed variations of the name, often as a means of promoting the sale of heraldic souvenirs to individuals named with variations of Crull, (notwithstanding that they are unrelated to the carriers of the original name who alone might have any claim to use the arms.) See footnote #3
  3. Catherine Lucy W. Powlett. History of Battle Abbey. London: William Clowes and Sons, 1877. p. 319; Catherine Powlett, the Duchess of Cleveland, writes "... the place was held by Robert de Crull under his kinsman, the Earl {Count} of Eu, who then governed the Rape of Hastings, and owned the greater part of this district". "I have endeavoured to rest the responsibility of my chronicle only on authorities of established repute".
  4. Sabine Baring-Gould, M.A. Family Names and Their Story. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1910. p. 354; reprint Kessing Publishing 2004; ISBN 0766182444, 9780766182448
  5. M.C. Prestwich. The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272-1377. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980. pp. 209-210; ISBN 0-297-77730-0; see also Mark Ormrod. England in the Fourteenth Century. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 1986; ISBN 0-85115-448-4
  6. The Crull name all but disappeared in the British Isles by the mid 17th century. The name continued with descendants of the de Crulls in Holland, in a few Germanic states and free cities, and in Russia, where these Anglo-Norman aristocrats settled initially to handle English interests, their own, or a combination of both. The name was extinguished in Russia with the fall of the imperial dynasty. The German baronial line (without issue) died out in Australia in the 20th Century
  7. Catherine Lucy Powlett writes in her History of Battle Abby (1877) that the latter Ashburnhams spread the belief that they descended from the Anglo-Saxons and not the Anglo-French. By this strange anomaly their existing representatives gloried only in the belief of their Saxon origin while disregarding their descent from one of the great continental baronial houses and their family tie to the Counts of Eu
  8. From The Pall Mall Gazette of London. "THE CARLISTS IN ENGLAND: Great Activity Among the Leaders – Little Alfonso's Only Hope Is to Whip America". New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  9. See: England Lost Country Houses|Asburnham Place: url=http://lh.matthewbeckett.com/houses/1h_sussex_ashburnhamplace.html-Cached-Similar
  10. "Ashburnham archives URL (2010)". Nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
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