10th May 2011 - BBC2: In the first episode of A Country House Revealed architectural historian Dan Cruickshank took 1.6 million British viewers on a fascinating tour of South Wraxall Manor, the delightful 15th century Wiltshire house belonging to Duran Duran's John Taylor and his American wife, designer Gela Nash-Taylor. As revealed during the documentary, the colourful history of the original owners of the manor - the Long family - is a story in itself.
During one hour of television Dan enthusiastically told us that the early Longs were power hungry, ruthless capitalists, brutal, fiercely ambitious, double-crossing, cunning, conniving, guilty of dodgy dealing and willing to get their way by any means - fair or foul. But what of the rest of the story? There is a great deal more to tell.
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INHERITING THE EARTH:
The Long Family's 500 Year Reign in Wiltshire
The Long dynasty is a vast and convoluted one. Their frequent habit of intermarriage between close cousins served to consolidate and expand their wealth, but may also have contributed to the extinction of the Longs of Draycot and other offshoots in the male line, which culminated in daughters or childless marriages.
A fascinating glimpse into the often colourful, sometimes tragic history of an elite Wiltshire family, their story is told through a series of interconnecting biographical vignettes which span five centuries, more than a dozen monarchs, a Civil War and a revolution in land ownership unprecedented since the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
15th - 16th Century: Beginning with the establishment of the Longs in Wiltshire, their landholdings grew - thanks to grants bestowed by Henry VIII after the Dissolution. Their intimate knowledge of the king and his court during a particularly interesting and often dangerous period of England’s history, sets the scene. As heads rolled all about them, the fiercely loyal ‘trustie and welbeloved’ knights of the Long family kept the favour of King Henry. During the reign of Elizabeth I, a long-running feud resulted in the infamous murder of Henry Long in 1594, leading some modern historians to propound the theory that this feud was the basis for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
17th - 18th Century: Their love affair with the Tudors did not automatically transfer to the Stuarts however, and King Charles the First came up against an uncompromising opponent in Sir Walter Long M.P., 1st Baronet of Whaddon. Charles was equally uncompromising, imprisoning Sir Walter in the Tower of London for four years before deeming suitably humble the last of his many petitions for release. The Civil War created divisions within the family, pitching nephew against uncle as Parliament sequestered the estates of so-called ‘delinquents’, but after the Restoration their fortunes expanded dramatically, due to a very advantageous marriage in the Long family of Draycot, elevating Sir James Tylney Long to the dizzying heights of the Richest Commoner in England.
19th - Early 20th Century: This enormous burgeoning of wealth attracted a multitude of hopefuls to the naïve young heiress, Catherine Tylney Long, including the future king of England, William, Duke of Clarence. But the royal suitor was pipped at the post by a younger rival, the not-so-Honourable William Long Wellesley (later 4th Earl of Mornington). A notorious and dissipated rake, it was no surprise to Long Wellesley's friends that the marriage failed spectacularly, and like a madman possessed he single-handedly set the entire country by the ears in what was probably the biggest scandal of the Georgian-era. Echoes reverberated all around the British Empire and across the Atlantic. In an unprecedented legal action, access to his young and vulnerable children was denied him. At the height of this madness, he threatened to murder one of Britain’s greatest national heroes, his uncle and guardian of his children, the Duke of Wellington.
Several other related branches are explored. Over time, many things, including the effects of overspending and crippling taxes took a toll on the Longs' great wealth. The story follows the descent of the manors of South Wraxall, Draycot, Rood Ashton and others, giving some idea of the complex relationships between the different branches, who inherited what, the circumstances leading to the breakup of all the estates, and ultimately, the Long family's loss of power and influence. For more detail on the scope of the book see the LIST OF CONTENTS
Exactly what is an Inquisition Post Mortem, I hear you ask...?
The purpose of an Inquisition Post Mortem in Medieval England was to inform central government about the landed resources of tenants-in-chief, i.e: persons of status who held their lands as tenants directly from the King.
The King’s escheator or his deputy held the inquisition after the death of that person to establish the extent of the estate and the profit that could be expected while in the King’s hands, and to confirm the rightful heir. This information was presented under oath by a jury of 12 local men of high repute, and the escheator was obliged to account to the exchequer officials for the revenue.
Written in Latin, the original documents were returned to the Court of Chancery and contain much valuable information for the historian. The name of Long appears frequently in the Wiltshire IPM extracts.