Richard Brownlow (1553-1638)
WHEN Richard Brownlow was born in 1553, the future for England appeared remarkably unpromising.
Young King Edward VI was dead of consumption, the nine-day Queen, Lady Jane Grey, had been executed, and Mary Tudor was on the throne. The country lacked stability and direction.
Not until well into Elizabeth’s reign did England’s fortunes revive and by that time Richard Brownlow was exactly the right age to ride the wave of confidence and steady improvement influenced by Elizabeth’s deft handling of affairs.
Married to Katherine Page, daughter of John Page of Wembley (one of the original governors of Harrow School), Richard was a shrewd man whose abilities justified his appointment in 1590 as Chief Prothonotary at the Court of Common Pleas in London.
This position, which he held until his death 47 years later, gave him the opportunity to amass a considerable personal fortune and with his customary foresight, he ensured that only a quarter of his income was spent on his family, preferring to invest the rest in the rich sheep pasturelands of Lincolnshire.
By 1617 his annual income was in the region of £6,000 – well over half-a-million pounds into today’s money – and it was about this time he purchased the estate of Belton with its tiny rural cottages, and its old manor house and church, both mentioned in the Domesday Book.
It is likely that he was extremely satisfied with his new investment and considered the £4,100 a sum very well spent. After all, Belton’s 600 acres were only a few miles from Grantham, a popular and busy coaching stop on the Great North Road, and in days when travel was both dirty and hazardous, this was a factor of supreme importance.
Richard continued to prosper and, when he died in 1638, he left his son John an inheritance of £4,000 a year.