COLLONEL JOHN GIFFARD
Extract from: THE WORTHIES OF DEVON
John Prince 1701
GIFFARD, Collonel John, was born about the year of our Lord 1594, at Brightly (a very pleasant gentile seat, well furnished with all conveniences both for delight and profit, near the river Taw) in the parish of Chittlehampton, commonly called Chittington, about eight miles to the south of Barnstaple in this county: A parish heretofore famous for a canoniz’d saint of great repute, St. Hieritha, which (whether born I can’t say) lived there, and was there interred; unto whose memory the church of that place (eminent for its curious stately tower and spire on top) was dedicated; who was esteemed of such sanctity, that the miracles she is said to have done by her holiness, are sufficient to fill a volume, as may be seen in the legend of her life.
This John Giffard was the son of Arthur, (who died in the lifetime of his father) by Agnes the daughter of Thomas Leigh of Northam, who was the son of John, by Honora, daughter of Walter, Earl of Charborow in Dorsetshire, son of John, by Mary, daughter of Sir Richard Grenvil, who was son of Sir Roger Giffard, by Margaret, daughter and heir of John Cobleigh of Brightley; who had it by match with the daughter and Heir of Thomas Brightley of Brightley; whose original name was Fitz-warren. William, son of Fulk Fitz-warren, receive this land from his father in K. Hen. 2d’s time, and took himself, as his posterity from him, the name of the place; who under that denomination florished there in good repute for about nine descents. William de Brightley was well read in the laws of England, and the King’s lieutenant of this county’, an. K. Edw 3d, as Sir W. Pole tell us among the famous men thereof.
Which Sir Roger Giffard aforesaid, was third son of John Giffard of Halsberry, in the parish of Parkham in the north-west parts of this province, an antient and comely dwelling, but the eldest of his second wife Anne, daughter of John Corryton. Which Halsberry had somtimes owners so called; and in K. Hen. 2d’s time it was the dwelling of Walter de Halsberry; whose grandson’s daughter Joan, brought it to her husband Bartholomew Giffard, in K. Edw. 1st’s days.
Which Bartholomew Giffard, whether he came from the family of Awlescombe, in the eastern part of this county, or else was a younger branch of the family of Wear-Giffard, lying on the east-side of the river Touridge, about three miles to the north of Great Torrington in this county also, I cannot determin. At Wear lived Sir Walter Giffard, an. 27 K. H. 3d, how long before I cannot say, whose daughter and heir Emma, became wife of Sir Hugh Widworthy: And at Awlescombe of Owlescombe, inhabited Sir Roger Giffard in the same King’s reign.
At Halsberry aforesaid florished this name and family of Giffard, from Edw. Ist’s reign unto the present age; when John, the last of that line, having no issue-male, settled Halsberry by agreement on Roger, the younger son of Coll. Giffard of Brightley, whose now it is.
I can’t pretend to give account of the first settlement of this antient and noble name in this county; or determin from which of those honourable families, antiently in England, it derives it self; whether from Walter Giffard, Earl of Longvile in Normandy, who came into England with William the Conqueror, unto whom he was a kindsman in the degree of affinity, and was made by him the first Earl of Buckingham; or else from Osbert Giffard, who came into England with the same William the Conqueror, and was baron of Brimsfield in the county of Glocester. Dugdal himself acknowledges, That there were other of this antient name and family (speaking of Brimsfield), but when sprung out, he had not discovered.
This is certain, that the name hath florished in this county from (very near, if not altogether) the Norman Conquest, home unto this day; and hath been of that great consideration herein, that it adheres still unto several places, as Wear-Giffard, Auton-Giffard, &c. and no less that three knights, so called, of three several houses, florished together in K. Hen. 3d’s days, as Sir Walter Giffard of Wear-Giffard, Sir Roger Giffard of Awlescombe, and Sir Joel Giffard, alias Buckton, of Buckton, now Bickton, Kt.
The present possessor of Brightley is John Giffard, Esq; who married, first, Susanna Bampfield, one of the sister of Sir Copleston Bampfield, by whom he hath issue John, and others; secondly he married Frances fane, a branch of the noble house of the Fanes, Earls of Westmorland.
But omitting any farther account of the pedigree of this honourable family, I shall proceed to that eminent branch thereof, Collonel John Giffard of Brightley, that last died. He having had a virtuous and liberal education, became a very accomplished gentleman; settled himself at his house of Brightley; and married Joan, the youngest daughter of Sir John Windham of Orchard Windham, in the county of Somerset, by whom he had two sons, John and Roger before mentioned, and six daughters, who all survived their father.
When our late unhappy civil wars broke out, he adhered zealously and constantly, according to his duty, to the cause and intrest of his gracious sovereign K. Char. 1st, was a collonel, and paid unto his Majesty who possible assistance he was able. For which reason, when treason and rebellion at length prevailed, he became a great sufferer, was decimated, sequestered, and imprisoned; John Giffard of Brightley, Esq; paid no less than eleven hundred thirty six pounds composition for his estate into Goldsmith’s hall. And when either the fears or jealousies put the men then in power upon securing the royalists in those parts, then called cavaliers, Collonel Giffard was always sure to make one of the number. In which condition he continued to the happy restoration of King Ch. 2d, anno 1660, at what time the greatest part of the recompence he had for all his cost and losses, was the satisfaction of seeing both church and state peaceable settle upon their antient bottom.
Some few years after which, near about that of 1666, he died at his house at Brightley, and lieth interred in the parish church of Chittle-Hampton, among his ancestors.
He was a gentleman of very grave and comely aspect, of an obliging carriage, of a sober life, and a pious conversation. Such was his deportment towards men, in all his actions, as if he were conscious the eye of God was upon him; and such his behaviour towards God, in the instances of devotion and religion, as if he though he was a spectacle to angels and men. Insomuch, his sobriety and piety brought great reputation to the royal cause in those parts where he lived; and he was an excellent ornament to his profession, both as subject and a christian.
Among all the instances of the piety of this worth gentleman, unto whom I had the honor of being personally known, that must not be forgotten which he did to the memory of his grandfather; for in the north isle of the parish church of Chittle-Hampton aforesaid, he erected a monument to him of alabaster, of great cost and curiosity; where his similitude in armor is lively represented, and the whole adorned with escutcheons of the family …
This honourable collonel had a younger brother whose name was Arthur Giffard, he was bred a scholar, and after near twenty years study in Exeter-college, in Oxford, by the favor of his noble kindsman, either Sir Bevile or Sir John Grenvil (now the right honourable Earl of Bath) he became rector of Bytheford in his own country. Out of which very good benefice, for not other crime than his loyalty and conformity to the church of England (such was the iniquity of those time) was he again soon turned, by force and violence, against law and conscience, by the usurpers then in power.
After which, when this reverend and pious divine would have served a small neighboring parish called Westleigh, lying over against the town of Bytheford on the east-side of the river Touridge, not for reward, but for what they would voluntarily contribute, such was the uncharitable zeal of the lordly independent preacher, William Bartlet (who by prevailing rebellion was gotten into his parsonage aforesaid) he might not be permitted so much as that.
Whereupon this good man retired to the house of his brother-in-law, Philip Harris, Esq; recorder of Great Torrington (a younger son of the family of Hayn in this county, who had married his sister) where he lived privately and peaceably, expecting better times; which at length, after about twelve years ejection from his benefice, God was pleased to send again, upon restoration of King Charles the second, when Mr. Giffard returned unto his charge at Bytheford, where he continued in peace and love with all good men unto the day of his death, which was about eight years after; where though he ad the opportunity and the importunity too of some to that purpose, of calling the said Bartlet to reckoning, for dilapidations and other matters; yet he frankly and christianly forgave him all.
This reverend person was an able scholar, a constant and painful preacher, an orthodox divine, and a pious good man. This I can the rather testify, having served under him, for several years before his death, as a son of the gospel.
He died at Bytheford aforesaid, March the 18th, 1668, and was buried in the chancel of the parish church thereunto belonging, without any sepulchral monument. At which time it fell to my post, among many other much more able, to preach his funeral sermon: Which I did, knowing what he had suffered both before and after King Charles the second’s restoration, and how very freely he had forgiven his enemies, on the almost parallel instance of St. Stephen, Acts vii. 59, 60, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And he kneeled down and cryed with a loud voice, Lord! Lay not this sin to their charge: and when he had said this he fell asleep”. Of whom I may farther add, “The memory of the just shall be blessed”.