Hare family

The Hare family are important in the history of Chalfont St Giles because they owned the Vache estate and Manor for 43 years from 1734 to 1777.

(Because there are so many people with the same christian name each has been given a number to distinguish between them.)

Francis(1) Hare was born in London in 1671, the son of Richard Hare of Leigh Essex and Sarah Naylor. He went to Eton and then in 1688 to King's College, Cambridge. He gained his B.A. in 1692-3; his M.A. in 1696; D.D. in 1708, and became a Fellow in 1692. His first post was as Tutor to the Marquis of Blandford. He then became Chaplain General to the army in Flanders in 1704. He was appointed a Prebendary of St Paul's, 1707-40.

In 1709 aged 38 he married his cousin Bethia Naylor, daughter of his mother's brother George Naylor. They had one child Francis(2) b 1713.

Hare was a long time friend of the Prime Minister Robert Walpole having been to school together. He had a rapid rise within the ecclesiastical establishment being appointed Rector of Barnes, Surrey, 1713-23. He became Chaplain to George I, 1715-8. and was also appointed Dean of Worcester, 1715-26. He was then appointed Dean of St Paul's in 1726, a position he retained for the rest of his life.

In 1727 he was made Bishop of St Asaph (North Wales) which position he occupied until 1731.

Bethia died c1726. In 1728 Francis(1) Hare married again to Margaret Mary Alston when he was 57 and she was 27. (The Hare family is very interlinked with the Alston family who are described on a separate page.)

In early 1730 they have a son Robert(1) on whom Sir Robert Walpole settled the sinecure of the Office of "Sweeper of Gravesend" as a christening present. (Said to be worth £400 per year.) (Source HARE 1872.)

George Naylor, the brother of Bethia Hare and who had a estate based on Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex, died in 1730 and left the castle and estate to Bishop Francis(1), and after his death to Francis(2) the son of Bishop Francis(1) and Bethia. He also left young Francis(2) £5,000 on condition he added Naylor to his surname. (Herstmonceux became the site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory when it moved from Greenwich in 1960.)

In 1731 Bishop Francis(1) Hare is promoted to become Bishop of Chichester. He had hoped to have been made Archbishop of Canterbury but too many people were against him for his outspoken views.

Although he lived at Herstmonceux Castle for the next four years, until 1734 at which time his son Francis(2) was 21 and took over Herstmonceux, Bishop Francis(1) had never liked it, complaining it was unpleasant and a very expensive estate to run.

Meanwhile over in Chalfont St Giles, Mary Clayton (nee Alston) of the Vache died in 1730. James Clayton, Mary's husband had died in 1714 and without having any children. Her difficult Will and her extensive debts caused problems for her executors and heirs,who were her nephew Joseph Alston of Newhouse, Edwardstone, Suffolk (1671-1736) and his son, and they had to get a special Act of Parliament, passed in 1731, to allow the Vache to be sold. Mary Clayton was the Great Aunt of Margaret Mary Hare but, contrary to all published histories she did not leave the Vache to Margaret Mary but to her nephew and Margaret's father, Joseph Alston. (See Alston family page for more details.)

In March 1734 Bishop Francis(1) Hare bought the Vache from his father-in-law Joseph Alston (1671-1736).

In June 1734 Bishop Francis(1) settled Herstmonceux and £11,000 on his son, who had now taken the name Francis(2) Naylor Hare, and moved to the Vache.

In 1736 Joseph Alston died leaving to his daughter Margaret Mary Hare all his extensive real estate in Suffolk and Norfolk. To his other daughters Charlotte and Anne he only left pecuniary legacies of £1,000 each.

Bishop Francis(1) Hare died Apr. 26, 1740, at the Vache, Chalfont St Giles and is buried at the Parish Church where there is a monument to the family. In his Will he left the Vache to his widow Margaret Mary for life and then to their son Robert Hare who was only 10 at that time.

In June 1743 Francis(2) Naylor Hare married Charlotte Alston the sister of Margaret Mary Hare, his stepmother.

In 1752 Robert(1) Hare became 21 and his mother settled the Vache and all her other estate on to him (D 234/1/17). He expanded the estate by buying Stonewells in Chalfont St Giles in 1755 and other property in Chesham.

In the same year Robert(1) married Sarah Selman, daughter of Lister Selman of Chalfont Park, Chalfont St Peter, with whom he had three children, Francis(3), Robert(2) and Ann.

Robert(1) who had been to Oriel College, Oxford to obtain his divinity degree was ordained and appointed a curate at Little Missenden in 1755.

Sarah his wife died aged 29 in 1763 and is buried in the Parish Church of Chalfont St Giles.

Two years later in 1765 Robert(1) married again to a Henrietta Henkel, the daughter of a prosperous merchant. She was disliked by most who knew her and is said to have forced her husband to sell much property to keep up appearances.

In 1768 Robert(1) was appointed Rector of Michilmersh, a parish north of Romsey in Hampshire.

In 1769 he took a lease on Rookley House in King Samborne near Winchester from the Dowager Lady Arundell, a house he retained certainly until 1777 (Wilts Archives 2667/1/29/15).

Then in 1777 we come to an eventful year for Robert(1).

His stepbrother Francis(2) Naylor Hare died, but having no children he left Herstmonceux and its estates to Robert(1). (Although the wife of Francis(2), Charlotte lived on until 1784.)

Robert, who now owned the Vache, Herstmonceux, and lands in Berks, Bucks, Suffolk and Norfolk, was appointed a Prebendary Canon of Winchester Cathedral.

Robert(1) Hare was now probably keen, and also probably pushed by his wife to sell the Vache having just inherited Herstmonceux Castle in Sussex and which was much closer to Winchester Cathedral and more prestigious.

So in July 1777 he sold the Vache estate to Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser (except for Pollards Wood) for £7,700 and with some additional land adjoining for a further £1,500. He also sold Stonewells Farm to Mary Buckmaster and presumably the land in Chesham. From the land tax returns (CBS Q/RPL 4/x) we know Robert(1) retained Pollards Wood until some time between 1784 and 1789 when it was all sold to John Lefevre, the husband of Robert's(1) first wife's sister Helena Selman.

Margaret Mary Hare died in 1784 and is buried in Chalfont St Giles Parish Church. She left bequests to her two grandsons who were the children of Robert(1) by Sarah his first wife, but the majority of her estate she left to her daughter Anne. She originally left £1,000 to her son Robert(1) but to his wife, who she referred to as Mrs Hare, she only left a mourning ring. Then a few months before she died she made a codicil to her Will "Circumstances having materially changed since I made my will I revoke the £1,000 I left to my son Robert".

It is clear from the book by Augustus Hare, the grandson of Robert(1), (HARE 1872) that Robert(1) Hare did not get on well with either of his parents and that Margaret Mary did not like Henrietta Henkel, her daughter in law, who was said to dominate her husband and had him sell large parts of his inherited property.

After the sale of Pollards Wood there was no further link by any of the Hare family with Chalfont St Giles except that Robert(1) who died in 1797 was buried in the family vault.

The story of the Hare family is told in much detail by Augustus John Cuthbert Hare in his book about his mother's life "Memorials of a Quiet Life" and it has to be said the family continued to have more than a normal number of eccentric or even dysfunctional members. (HARE 1872)


Hare, Augustus J C 1872. "Memorials of a Quiet Life."

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (F Hare Index Number 101012298)

The Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835.

National Probate Registry for Wills.

REFERENCES. Unless otherwise specified, all references given above refer to catalogue references at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies at Aylesbury. (County Record Office)

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John Dodd ©2012   www.chalfonthistory.co.uk