In the previous post I suggested that Edward Bushell of Cleeve Prior, the father of William Bushell of Wells, who was in turn the father of Edward Bushell of Bath and Tobias Bushell of Fladbury, was identical with the ‘Ned’ Bushell who was implicated in both the Earl of Essex’s rebellion of 1601 and the Gunpowder Plot of 1604. Further research has revealed this to be a mistake on my part, but one that is perhaps forgivable, given the errors in some of the extant sources, not to mention the Bushell family’s habit of giving their sons the same names in successive generations. In what follows, I’ll number the various Thomas Bushells and Edward Bushells for ease of reference.

Gardens at Cleeve Prior Manor House (photograph by Peter Harnwell via

In untangling the disputed history of the Bushell family, I’ve been helped enormously by a number of articles in the Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, and especially by J.N.Langston’s Old Catholic Families of Gloucestershire: The Bushells of Broad Marston (1956, Vol. 75, 105-115) and C.Whitfield’s Shakespeare’s Gloucestershire Contemporaries and the Essex Rising (1963, Vol. 82, 188-201). Also useful has been Nina Green’s Oxford Authorship site: you don’t have to agree with her thesis that Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by the Earl of Oxford to be impressed by the extent and depth of her historical research.

Bushell pedigree from the record of the Visitation of Worcestershire in 1634

The first Bushell named in the Worcestershire Visitation pedigree of 1634 is Thomas Bushell (1) of Cleeve Prior. The pedigree omits his wife’s name, but we know that he married Anne Norwood, whose mother was a Sheldon. The Sheldons were another old Worcestershire Catholic family. Thomas’s son Edward Bushell (1) married Ursula Andrews, but he died before his father.

Thomas Bushell (1) of Cleeve Prior died in 1558. From his will, we can deduce that his son Edward Bushell (1) predeceased him, leaving two sons of his own: Thomas Bushell (2) and Edward Bushell (2). The former was declared to be ‘myn heire’ by Thomas Bushell (1). Besides these two grandsons, he also made bequests to two granddaughters, Ursula and Anne.

Thomas Bushell (1) made his grandson Edward Bushell (2) his co-executor with William Sheldon of Beoley, and also made a bequest to William’s son Ralph Sheldon.

Manor House, Broad Marston (via

After the death of Thomas Bushell (1) in 1558, the Bushells branched off into two main lines. The line headed by his grandson Thomas Bushell (2) of Broad Marston remained Catholic. However, the line headed by his grandson Edward Bushell (2) of Cleeve Prior conformed to the new religion.

Thomas Bushell (2) of Broad Marston, who was still a minor at the time of his grandfather’s death, was twice married and the father of seventeen children. His first wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Winter of Huddington, Worcestershire, and Katherine Throckmorton, daughter of Sir George Throckmorton. As I’ve noted before , the Throckmortons were an ancient Worcestershire Catholic family who suffered much for their faith. Thomas’s second wife was Mary Morris.

The name of Thomas Bushell (2) features in the recusant roll for 1577, and indeed he was said to be one of the most prominent, and wealthiest, recusants in the country. Thomas died in 1615, and the manor of Broad Marston was inherited by his eldest son Thomas Bushell (3), who sold it in 1622.

Edward Bushell (2), who inherited Cleeve Prior from his grandfather Thomas Bushell (1), entered the Middle Temple in 1566, after a time at St John’s College, Oxford. The sources that I’m drawing on here conclude that this Edward Bushell cannot be identical with the ‘Ned’ Bushell who served with the Earl of Essex and was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, simply because his age makes it impossible. Rather, they suggest that Edward Bushell (2) lived quietly at Cleeve Prior until his death in 1617, having three sons and a daughter by his wife Margaret Delves. One of those sons was, of course, William Bushell of Wells, who appears to have been the father of Edward Bushell of Bath and Tobias Bushell of Fladbury.

The same sources, drawing on the work of John Leslie Hotson, also question the claim made in the Visitation pedigree that Edward Bushell (2) of Cleeve Prior was knighted by James I, citing a further confusion with ‘Ned’ Bushell – who was, in fact, his nephew. Thomas Bushell (2) of Broad Marston – the recusant brother of Edward (2) of Cleeve Prior – had at least two sons by his marriage to Elizabeth Winter. The eldest was Thomas Bushell (3), and ‘Ned’ was a younger son of the same marriage.

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (via

It was Edward ‘Ned’ Bushell who married Ann Hargrave, daughter of Sir Cotton Hargrave of Nostell Priory, Yorkshire: she was not, as some sources claim, the second wife of his uncle Edward Bushell (2). In 1591 ‘Ned’ Bushell was a servant to Fernando Stanley, Earl of Derby, and gentleman usher to Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex. After the failure of the latter’s attempted coup in 1601, Bushell was fortunate to escape with a short term in the Marshalsea and a fine of 100 marks. Knighted in 1604, he was said (by Whitfield, in the article cited above) to have ‘skated warily on the surface of the Gunpowder Plot in which so many of his friends and relatives were implicated’ – including two members of the Winter family who lost their lives. The same source hints that, on this occasion, ‘Ned’ may have escaped punishment, and indeed was rewarded with a pension shortly afterwards, for aiding the government.

To sum up: The famous – or notorious – ‘Ned’ Bushell was in fact the first cousin of William Bushell of Wells, rather than his father, as I’d previously thought.

There was at least one other famous member of the Bushell family alive at this period, and that was the Thomas Bushell who was a servant of Francis Bacon and went on to become a mining engineer who defended Lundy Island for the King during the Civil War. He merits an entry in John Aubrey’s Brief Lives. Thomas is said to have been a ‘younger son’ of the Bushells of Cleeve Prior, but precisely which branch he belonged to is perhaps a subject for another time.