Giffard Family History
Came to Great Britain in 1066
One of the few families that can definitely claim to have a direct link by decent from one of the knights who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066. They can also claim that this link goes to the first person ever called Giffard in about 1045, in Normandy (Giffard meaning ‘chubby cheeks’ -jouffle – in Norman French). Their family relationship to William the Conqueror means that Gautier Giffard was the hereditary standard bearer to the duke although he surrendered that right at Hastings due to age and infirmity.
Four members of the family came to England in 1066 and were awarded lands throughout the country. One branch went to Fonthill in Wiltshire from where in all probability Peter Giffard acquired Chillington in a marriage settlement from Peter Corbusson.
The descendants have continued links with Royality over the decades…..
In the early days the new owner of Chillington, Sir John Giffard experienced constant military service supporting the reigning monarch. In 1509, the year of the accession of Henry VIII to the throne Sir John Giffard was appointed Sheriff of the County & one of the sewers of the kings household. He was appointed Ranger of the Seven Hayes of Cannock Forest on 2 June 1509. A few months later, the title was altered to the less grandiloquent Ranger of Cannock Forest, and Giffard was to hold it until his death in 1556. On 25 September 1513 he was knighted at the battle of the Spurs in France. However, in 1515, Giffard, now a widower, offended the king by remarrying without his permission. He was able to repair relations, but only after paying a fine.
The Royals and The Giffards
Sir John Giffard was at court regularly for thirty years or more, and accompanied the royal family on many important state occasions. In 1520 he crossed the Channel again to attend the Field of the Cloth of Gold, Henry’s meeting with Francis I of France, and was also at Gravelines two weeks later for the king’s meeting with the queen’s nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. He was a confidant of both the king and the queen, Catherine of Aragon, but his position seems not to have been damaged when they separated. He was present at the coronation of Anne Boleyn on 1 June 1533. Late in 1539, he and his son, Thomas were sent to Kent to prepare for the arrival of Anne of Cleves at Dover Castle and at Sittingbourne. Early in 1540 he also acted as whiffler, or horn-blower, when Anne was publicly received at Blackheath.
In 1575, Queen Elizabeth I, made her famous progress through the midland counties. On her way from Stafford Castle to Sudeley Castle she stayed one night on the 11th August at Chillington. Having discovered that John Giffard (grandson of Sir John Giffard) was not attending his parish church in Brewood, he was summoned to appear before the Privy council where fines & imprisonment followed.
In 1651, Charles II was helped by the Giffards to escape following the battle of Worcester, initially led to White Ladies Priory (then part of the Giffard Estate) before being hidden in both Boscobel House The well-known story of the King hiding in the Oak tree took place at Boscobel and tenants of the family called Pendrell who hid the king and helped him escape are still rewarded from the pensions set up by Charles II in 1675 are still administered by the Giffard family. & Moseley Old Hall.
The Giffard’s cross reputedly marks the spot where Sir John Giffard in the reign of Henry VIII shot dead with a bow and arrow a panther as it was about to pounce upon a woman and child.
The panther was part of a menagerie of exotic animals possessed by Sir John and had escaped into the forest of Brewood. As Sir John shot, his son, at the crucial moment shouted “Prenez haleine, tirez fort”, “Take breath, pull strong”.
The point at which he shot it with a crossbow is marked by Giffard’s Cross, which is now in the garden of a small Georgian gate lodge. The original wooden cross has been relocated underneath the dairy courtyard archway near to the small museum to prevent further decay.