Roger Penn, who died unmarried in 1731 was the last male heir of the Penn family so their name disappeared after over six centuries as lords of the manor of Penn. Only one of Roger’s four sisters married. Sarah was 22 years older than him and before he was born she had married Nathaniel Curzon from Kedleston in Derbyshire in 1671, aged 16. At that time she had no brothers and was the heiress to the Penn Estate. There were very generous marnage settlements of £5,000 from each family. Comapre this with an annuity of £15 which Samuel Pepys gave to a much-loved servant at about this time.
According to an early 18th-century account, Nathaniel’s father, Sir John Curzon the first Baronet, ‘built a pretty house at Penn for his younger son Nathaniel’. This was The Knoll behind Penn Church where the newly married couple presumably lived and had their first four or five children. Sarah’s mother was still having children of her own after 25 years of marriage and her youngest son, Roger Penn,’ was an exact contemporary of his nephew, the third Curzon boy, and two or three years younger than the older boys. In 1680, presumably because they needed more space, the Curzons paid £477 for the old timber-framed house with 48 acres at Tyler End Green by Widmer Pond where William Penn the Quaker had courted his future wife a few years earlier. Compare this price with a nearby cottage sold for £53 a year later.
They spent the first 20 years of their married life in Penn and five sons and three daughters of their nine children were born here. The boys boarded at Berkhamsted school between the ages of about 8 and 16 and in 1691, 1692 and 1694, the three younger ones variously carved and dated their names on the stone mullions of a school dormitory which I went to see at Berkhamsted many years ago.
Nathaniel inherited the baronetcy in 1686, but the children were still young and the family remained based in Penn for many years afterwards. Even after they sold their TyIer End Green house in 1691 and moved to Kedleston, four of their five boys were still of school age and stayed on, presumably living at The Knoll (which the Curzon family kept until 1960) or perhaps staying with Sarah’s much younger brother, Roger and her sisters at Penn House. The youngest Curzon, Charles, was at Berkhamsted until about 1700 and John Bennet, who had taught all the Curzon boys, was appointed as Vicar of Penn.
© Miles Green, November 2010
Photographs, courtesy Eddie Morton, ARPS