John Ashburnham


John Ashburnham was the grandson of the Bishop of Chichester and served as Cocking’s vicar for less than two years between 1796 and 1798. In 1796, he was also appointed a canon and Chancellor of Chichester Cathedral, and probably spent little or no time in Cocking, with curates looking after the spiritual needs of the parishioners. On the death of Bishop Ashburnham, John succeeded him as rector of Guestling, near Hastings and later became vicar of nearby Pevensey. He retained all four positions for the remainder of his life.

Following the death of his brother in 1843 he succeeded him, becoming Sir John Ashburnham, 7th Baronet of Broomham, in the County of Sussex

John Ashburnham was born on 26 December 1770, at Scotland Yard, Westminster, the second son of William Ashburnham (1739–1823) and his wife, Alicia née Woodgate (1741–1777), and was baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 7 February 1771.

Family  background

John’s grandfather was Sir William Ashburnham, 4th Baronet, who was installed as Bishop of Chichester in 1754, remaining in office until his death on 4 September 1797. At 43 years, his episcopate was the longest in the see of Chichester. He was also rector of Guestling, near Hastings for 54 years, from 1743 until his death.

The Ashburnham baronetcy originated in 1661 with Denny Ashburnham, of Broomham Park, Guestling, who was M.P. for Hastings.

Bishop William had six children, the eldest of whom, also William (1739–1823) inherited the baronetcy on his father’s death. On 12 April 1766, he married Alicia, the daughter of Revd. Francis Woodgate, vicar of Mountfield (Sussex), at St Clement Danes, London. William and Alicia had five children, four sons and a daughter. Alicia died on 10 January 1777, during the birth of her daughter, also Alicia.

On William’s death on 21 August 1823, the baronetcy passed to his eldest son, another William (1769–1843). William died childless on 28 March 1843, and the title passed to his brother, John, who thus became Revd. Sir John Ashburton, 7th Baronet of Broomham, in the County of Sussex.

Life and career

John was ordained in 1793 and installed as prebendary and chancellor of Chichester Cathedral on 4 May 1796. There is no record of his installation as vicar of Cocking, although this was at about the same date; he succeeded Thomas Williams who had died on 19 January 1796, who was also John’s predecessor as chancellor at the cathedral.

During his short tenure as vicar at Cocking, it is unlikely that John Ashburnham spent much time in Cocking, and the spiritual needs of the parishioners were looked after by his curate, John Stevens.

On the death of his grandfather, Bishop William Ashburnham, on 4 September 1797, John left Cocking (to be replaced by Melmoth Skynner in June 1898) and was installed as vicar of St Laurence’s Church, Guestling in succession to his grandfather.

He was admitted as a “fellow commoner”note at Clare Hall, Cambridge on 6 July 1801, aged 31, and matriculated in 1810, eventually graduating as Bachelor of Divinity in 1815, as a mature student.

In December 1815, a dispensation was approved by Charles Manners-Sutton, the Archbishop of Canterbury to permit John Ashburnham to be appointed to the valuable vicarage of Pevensey, worth £1000 p.a., alongside Guestling. He was instituted as vicar by the Bishop of Chichester, John Buckner, on 25 January 1816. He held both parishes as well as his post as chancellor for the remainder of his life.

On 4 July 1804, 33-year old John Ashburnham married 16-year old Fanny (Frances) Foster at St Leonard’s Church, Hollington, close to Hastings. Their first child was born some 16 years after the wedding. The couple had six children:

John Piers, born 28 March 1821; died 8 June 1839 (aged 18)

Fanny Alice, born 6 January 1824; died 12 December 1893

Honor, born 16 December 1825; died 6 May 1891

Anchitel, born 8 February 1828; died 2 December 1899

Lawrence, born 19 November 1829; died 12 December 1869

Cromer, born 13 September 1831; died 25 February 1917

By the time of the birth of his sixth child, John Ashburnham was aged 60 and his wife, Fanny, was 44.

Fanny died at Guestling rectory on 11 April 1838, aged 50, and was buried in the churchyard there a week later.

John (aged 69) re-married on 11 August 1840 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, to 48-year old spinster, Anne (Annie) Harman, from Hastings. The marriage was by licence from William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is not clear if John and Anne ever lived together as man and wife. At the time of the 1841 census, John was living at Guestling Rectory with his two youngest sons, and four servants. Ten years later, he was still living at the rectory with all five of his surviving children, plus a cook, a housekeeper, a dairy maid, two ladies’ maids and a housemaid. Anne cannot be traced on either the 1841 or 1851 censuses.

By this time, John had inherited the baronetcy following the death of his brother, William, on 28 March 1843.

John died at Guestling rectory on 1 September 1854, aged 83, and was buried on 9 September.

 Subsequent family history

After John’s death, Anne is recorded in the 1861 census living in Putney with one servant, when she is described as a widow, living on independent means. Ten years later, 79-year old Anne was at 7 Stephens Road, Hammersmith, when she is described as the “widow of a baronet”, where she was living with her 39-year old son, Charles John Harman, an “agent and cashier”, and his wife, Eliza and their six children, with a 13-year old domestic servant.

Anne died at Richmond Gardens, Shepherds Bush on 28 December 1873, aged 82, and was buried at Brompton Cemetery.

Charles Harman and Eliza had a further five children before Eliza died in December 1884. Charles died on 18 April 1919, and was buried alongside his wife and his mother.

On John’s death, the baronetcy passed to his eldest surviving son, Anchitel, who thus became the 8th Baronet. He was the land agent for the Battle Abbey and Normanhurst estates in Sussex.

John’s youngest son, Cromer, was a distinguished soldier who served in India, Afghanistan, South Africa and Egypt, rising to the rank of major-general. He was also appointed an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria.



A fellow commoner at Cambridge was an affluent, usually aristocratic, student granted among other privileges that of sharing with the Fellows of a College the amenities of the high table.



1841 England Census

1851 England Census

1861 England Census

1871 England Census

Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900

London, England, Crisp’s Marriage Licence Index, 1713-1892

Westminster, London, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1558-1812

Westminster, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935

Brompton, London, England, Cemetery Registers, 1840-2012

ACAD (A Cambridge Alumni Database). ASBN801J: Ashburnham, John.

Bell’s Weekly Messenger: 11 September 1854. Death of Sir John Ashburnham

British History Online: Chichester Diocese. Chancellors

The Clergy Database: 2862: Ashburnham, John (1796-1831)

Chester Courant: 5 March 1816. University Intelligence

Cracroft’s Peerage: Ashburnham, of Broomham, co. Sussex (E Baronet, 1661)

Curteis Family Tree: Rev Sir John Ashburnham 7th Baron


Rev John Ashburnham

Annie Ashburnham

Guestling Green Parish Register. Burial: Fanny Ashburnham. 1838

Guestling Green Parish Register. Burial: John Ashburnham. 1854

Hereford Journal: 12 April 1843 .Death of Sir William Ashburnham

Illustrated London News: 9 September 1854. Deaths

Kingsley, Nicholas: Landed families of Britain and Ireland: Ashburnham of Broomham, baronets (31 December 2015)

London Evening Standard: 16 April 1838. Deaths

The Reverend Sir John Ashburnham, 7th Bt. (27 January 2011)