The Hobart family of Norfolk is associated mainly with their ownership of Blickling Hall during the 17th century. Its members were generally of a puritan/parliamentary persuasion during the Civil War and several were distiguished lawyers, judges and MPs before and after that period. An elder son at Blickling was raised to the Peerage early in the 18th century and created 14th Earl of Buckinghamshire in 1746 – which title continues to the present day. The senior branch of the family settled for a time in Lincolnshire and later in Buckinghamshire, after inheriting the Hampden estates there. No Hobarts appear to reside in Norfolk today at a level comparable with their distinguished past.
But this many-branched family were also seated for considerable periods in earlier times at Layham and Lindsey in Suffolk and at Hales Hall (near Loddon), Ditchingham, Little Plumstead, Intwood, Morley, Mendham. Hingham and Salle in Norfolk, as well as at Blickling later. The progenitor of these several branches , with their often illustrious sons, was one Thomas Hobart of Monks Eleigh in Suffolk (ca 1400-1460). His elder son William (born ca 1430) continued the elder line there while the younger one, James (born ca 1435), turned to a career in the law – seemingly the first in the family to take this important step towards the future wealth and influence of their descendents. Another Thomas Hobart , probably a nephew of James, was a Mayor of Calais in 1503 when other, related Hobarts appear to have been involved in commerce there.
After an early career as a Justice and MP in his native Suffolk, James Hobart settled in Norfolk - serving as Recorder at Norwich from 1495 until 1516. He was appointed King’s Attorney-general for Henry VII, by whom he was knighted in 1504. Sir James Hobart was the progenitor of many prominent, often knighted Hobarts later resident in Norfolk. These subsequent generations included a number of James, Henry, John and Thomas Hobarts. The rather less common forename of Miles was also quite evident in a number of the family’s branches, causing no little confusion and uncertainty for later historians and genealogists.
In his excellent portrayal of Norfolk in the Civil War, Ketton-Cremer, for example, refers to Sir John Hobart - ‘the elder son and successor of Sir Henry Hobart of Blickling, another Attorney-general of the family and a Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and to this Sir John’s brother – Sir Miles Hobart – who had inherited the family property at Intwood’. Sir John had no son, but his only daughter Phillipa, says Ketton-Cremer, ‘married her father’s nephew and heir, her cousin John - the son of Sir Miles Hobart of Intwood’. He usefully differentiates this Miles from another of this name when he continues: ‘The family already had a political hero in a kinsman, another Sir Miles, member for Gt Marlow in the Parliament of 1627-28, whose action in locking the door of the House…during the angry debate of 2 March 1628/9, earned him two years imprisonment in the Tower’ (all 3 quotes on p 39).
However, later in his narrative, Ketton-Cremer refers on 3 occasions to ‘Sir Miles Hobart’ (pp 172, 202 & 297) without identifying which one(s) of the above, if either, he (or they) may be. One might conclude that they all refer to the same man as in his initial reference. To exemplify the confusion, it turns out however that the latter 3 references pertain to neither of the foregoing Miles Hobart, although Ketton-Cremer provides no detail to indicate that they were or were not one or other of these two men. Moreover, the first of them (Sir John’s brother), while certainly the father of John Hobart, successor to the Blickling estate and Baronetcy, was not in fact Sir Miles Hobart, but rather ‘Miles Hobart of Intwood, Esq’. He was never knighted. Who, therefore, were the Sir Miles Hobarts referred to in the later pages of Ketton-Cremer’s book, if not accounted for by either Sir Miles Hobart of the 1628 events nor by the unknighted Miles Hobart of Intwood, ancestor of the later Earls of Buckingham - wrongly accorded knighted status by Ketton-Cremer ?
The error is possibly understandable when it is considered that for some time in previous centuries, the major reference works dealing with such matters, such as the Collins editions of the Baronetage and of the Peerage, and Blomefield’s ‘Norfolk’, had long conveyed similar erroneous interpretations. They had wrongly described Miles of the 1628 events, later hailed as hero and patriot, as being Sir Miles of Intwood, 2nd son of Sir Henry of Blickling, and thus ancestor of the later Earls of Buckingham. While Ketton-Cremer had maintained the inaccurate knighted status of the latter man, he at least did not merge him with the 1628 patriot.
In two of his later references to Sir Miles Hobart (pp 172 & 297), Ketton-Cremer simply includes the name amongst other knighted Norfolk gentry who were then (ca 1643-44) serving on Parliamentary committees. Other names in these lists included Sir John Hobart, Sir John Palgrave and Sir John Potts. On the other occasion (p 202), the reference concerns the role of ‘Sir Miles Hobart’s regiment at Leicester’ at about this same time (July 1643). During this period of the Civil war, there were 10 regiments on the Parliamentary side under the control of the Eastern Association and two of these were commanded by Sir Miles Hobart and Sir John Palgrave. It would thus appear, by such pairings of the above names and the lack of any contrary descriptions, that it was the same ‘Sir’ Miles (brother of Sir John Hobart) that Ketton-Cremer was alluding to in all 3 references. But Miles Hobart of Intwood died in 1639 – three years before the start of the Civil War. This further establishes the apparent errors.
Sir Miles Hobart of Norfolk who commanded a regiment during the Civil war was , in fact, the 2nd son of Sir John Hobart’s first cousin – Sir Thomas Hobart of Little Plumstead. The latter man was the son of yet another Miles Hobart, also of Little Plumstead, Esq, elder brother of Sir John’s father Sir Henry Hobart of Blickling, the Chief Justice. One wonders if it was this Sir Miles of Plumstead to whom Ketton-Cremer was referring when he pointed out that ‘the family already had a political hero in a kinsman, another Sir Miles, member for Gt Marlow…etc’. (Several Hobarts of Norfolk sat for constituencies out of the county.) Certainly Sir Miles Hobart of Plumstead was just that, a kinsman, as normally conceived at that time and not, say, a distant kinsman. Hence , it was quite possible that this was whom Ketton-Cremer and/or his readers had in mind. If so, they would be wrong in this regard also.
Sir Miles Hobart, MP, the patriot, was indeed a kinsman, but a very distant one, of Sir John and his brother Miles, and of their much nearer kinsman Sir Miles Hobart of Little Plumstead (who was made a K.B. by Charles I in 1625). We have to return to our introductory remarks about Thomas Hobart of Monks Eleigh in Suffolk, and his elder son William, to delineate the descent of Sir Miles the patriot. While the Hobarts of Norfolk descended from that Thomas’s younger son James Hobart, the latter Sir Miles is said to derive from the elder son William, who had remained in Suffolk. Some of his descendents sought their futures in London (with one important proviso concerning this Sir Miles’ grandfather, another William, shown in the List below).
Prior to 1849, it had been wrongly assumed that Sir Miles Hobart, the hero of 1628, was the Miles of Intwood and Blickling and hence ancestor of the later Earls of Buckingham – who would be justly proud of deriving from such a respected man. As pointed out above however, he was not this man nor indeed was he the Sir Miles Hobart who later fought with seeming honour during the Civil war on this same Parliamentary side. For Sir Miles the patriot also died before the Civil war – in 1632. (Any pride of the Earls of Buckingham in having a brave and patriotic Civil war ancestor was, however, not to be denied – as detailed below.)
All this was eventually clarified (in part) in a series of three carefully drafted articles published in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1849 and 1851. Subsequent editions of the Complete Baronetage (eg as edited by Cockayne, 1900), then corrected this error, but again in part only. They show that the 3rd Bart, Sir John Hobart, was the son and heir of a Miles Hobart of Intwood who, correctly, was not now styled as ‘Sir’. But in a footnote (p 13) point out that this Miles is ‘generally confused with the well known Sir Miles Hobart (opponent of Charles I) who, on 17 Aug 1627 at St Ann’s, Blackfriars, married Margaret Dudley, and died without issue at Gt Marlow, Bucks on 29 June 1632’. They then direct the reader to: ‘see Gent. Mag., Apr 1849 and Sept and Oct 1851, where their separate identities are proved’.
Now, Sir Miles Hobart of Lt Plumstead, Commander of a Parliamentary regiment, was certainly an ‘opponent’ of Charles I and, no doubt, quite ‘well known’ – at least in East Anglia. And his wife was a ‘Margaret’ – with whom, however, he did have several children baptised in Lt Plumstead church, the last in 1637. He apparently lived until 1668. He was certainly not the Sir Miles who died without issue therefore (and seemingly unmarried) in Gt Marlow in 1632, 10 years before the war. Had the compiler of the above entry in the Baronetage followed his own advice and read the articles in the Gent. Mag., he would have learned that the Sir Miles who was ‘well known’ – for his courage in 1628 - was the MP for Gt Marlow, where he was buried in 1632, without heirs, while the Sir Miles who married Margaret Dudley (and had issue) was never an MP, but a Civil war Officer of a branch of the Hobarts of Norfolk. Neither man was Miles Hobart of Intwood, Esq, ancestor of the Earls of Buckinghamshire.
However, he would also have concluded, inconsistently from the final articles in the series (Oct 1851), that the latter Sir Miles Hobart, while not the patriot of 1628, was the father of Sir John Hobart, the 3rd Bart. It seems that both the Baronetage and the Gentleman’s Magazine found it difficult to correct one error without perpetuating second ones, and different ones at that. Each appears to have thrown a different baby out with the bathwater. The concluding sentence of the middle article in the Gent. Mag. series assumes a certain irony when set against their particular error: ‘their final article will, they state, ‘illustrate, in a curious way, the dependence..(that researchers must)..place upon the statements of our best peerages and histories, and the importance and necessity of testing all assertions by the public records, and other original sources’. Indeed.
One basis for such errors in the present context is of course the confusion caused by the number of different Miles Hobarts, whether knighted or not. For anyone interested in early East Anglian history and genealogy, whose researched lines may intersect with any of the inter-related gentry families of that region, the appearance of one or more of these particular Hobarts may result in some uncertainty. For this reason, I have attempted to describe and identify as many of these gentlemen as I’ve been able to discover. They are listed below in chronological order (of birth) with, I believe, sufficient description to allow most to be placed correctly within their various inter-connected pedigrees. The full Hobart pedigree, from ca 1300, remains to be produced.
All these Miles Hobart appear to be of the one family, as descended from Thomas Hobart of Monks Eleigh, except possibly numbers 2 and 5, the latter baptised in Colchester, Essex in 1560, the son of a like-named ‘Myles Huberd’. The spelling variations of Hobart during the 15th ro 17th centuries include Hobard, Hubert, Huberd, etc; only the present form of the name had been used here throughout.
The first Miles Hobart was apparently the 2nd son of Sir James Hobart, his first being named Walter. James appears to have named no son after himself or his father , nor after his two certain fathers-in-law – John (Glemham) and Peter (Naughton). (Sir James may have married 4 times.) The basis of his choice of ‘Miles’ is thus uncertain. Possibly it was becoming a popular name at that time. Earlier records often show the styling ‘Miles’ or ‘Militis’ in latin to denote knighted status (cf ‘Sir’) and it may have arisen thereby. The later ‘Miles Hobarts’ would seem to have been named, in sequence, after this first Miles. This likely applies equally to the Miles Hobart who was father of Sir Miles the patriot, despite his descent from the relatively separated, if more senior, line in south-east Suffolk.
While the other members of the Suffolk family remained locally or sought their fortunes in commerce in London or Calais, one of them – William Hobart (born ca 1525) – decided also to settle in Norwich, around 1550 - his father William Snr, having been a Scrivener in Southwold on the coast. The younger William may have been influenced by his Norfolk ‘cousins’, one of whom – Thomas Hobart of Lt Plumstead, with probable contacts in Norwich – had recently named his 1st son Miles (ca 1548). William then did likewise, his son Miles being baptised at St Gregory’s, Norwich in 1556. This latter Miles later settled in London where he became a Citizen and Clothier and where his only son, the future patriot Sir Miles Hobart, was born in 1600.
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