Left: Sir Francis Crane 1579 - 1636
by Dyck van Anthonius 1599 - 1641.
portrait oil on canvas 139 x 98

The portrait sold at Sotherby's
28 2002 [Lot 3] for £226, 650

Right: A tapestry of Sir Francis Crane
which hangs in Ingatestone Hall




Laurance Martin

Nothing is known of the parentage or ancestry of Sir Francis Crane neither the date and place of his birth nor his exact age at death are recorded. This is all the more remarkable because he and his relations were prominent people holding appointments in the Court, royal households and State. Thus his only brother, Richard Crane (d. 1645), was Captain and Gentleman of the Privy Chamber in the reign of Charles I and was created a baronet in 1642. His cousin, John Crane (1576-1661) of Loughton, Bucks., was an Officer of the Admiralty and Surveyor General of Victuals for all ships. He had been a servant of Queen Elizabeth I before becoming Chief Clerk of the Green Cloth to James 1, Charles I, and Charles II. Another cousin was John Crane (1571-1652), the Cambridge apothecary and philanthropist who was High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire in 1641 and bore the arms of the Cranes of Suffolk. Nor is anything known about the early life of Sir Francis before 1606 when it is stated that he was granted the office of Clerk of the Parliaments for life. But Bond points out that he was only granted a reversion of the office and never succeeded to it because he relinquished the reversion in 1613. He became Secretary to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1612, was knighted at Coven, in 1617, and sat as Member of Parliament for Penrhyn in 1614 and for Launceston in 1624. In 1628 he became the sixteenth Chancellor of the Order of the Garter but, as was then the custom, he was not himself a Knight Companion. It is stated in the Dictionary of national biography, and elsewhere that he was the last lay Chancellor of the Order, but in fact he was succeeded by three laymen before the office was restored to the Bishops of Salisbury in 1669. Sir Francis built the Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory in 1619 and became its first Director under the patronage and financial support of James I, the Prince of Wales, and George Villiers, Marquis (and later Duke) of Buckingham. When Charles I came to the throne he owed Sir Francis £6,000 for three suites of gold tapestry and, as security for this and further debts, he mortgaged the estates of Grafton and Stoke Park in Northamptonshire to him in 1628 and 1629. Under the able direction of Sir Francis, and with Francis Cleyn, who was appointed Limner and Designer in 1623, the Mortlake manufactory flourished and the tapestries it produced were as good or better than any in Europe.

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic 1629-1631 p. 442 ? 1630

Lands at Grafton

Suggested agreement with Sir Francis Crane for the sale of lands at Grafton, Northants, assured to him as a security for £7,500 advanced to the king, with proposals for the establishment of the manufacture of tapestry within the manor house of Grafton and the bringing up within the same of a constant succession of two boys as apprentices to be instructed in that art.

The Earl of Stafforde's letters and dispatches, ed. W. Knowler (Dublin 1740) I p. 261

The Mortgage of Grafton Manor

1634 Mr Garrard to the Lord Deputy. Your Lordship no doubt hath heard of a writing that Sir Robert Osborne, an old servant of King James's, who served him as a querry, gave the king about the manor of Grafton, mortgaged to Sir Francis Crane for £7,500 where Osborne dwells and is one of the king's tenants. It made a great noise: the Lord Treasurer caused Osborne to be called before the Lord, where he averr'd what he had formerly delivered in writing to his Majesty. The Lord Treasurer replied that since it was in everybody's mouth in the town, that Grafton was sold without his Majesty's knowledge, he hoped his Majesty would have him excused, if he had sought to make the truth appeat of the whole carriage of that business and in what state now it was. The king had taken well what Osborne had said unto him, but hearing how he had divulged it, he said for that he thought him worthy of being committed. The Lord Privy Seal interceded for him, whom the Lord Treasurer seconded, so he was spared for that time. The man is strait and a very honest gentleman and the business lying betwixt him and Sir Francis Crane, spake very home what he conceived. For, knowing that he did all the acts of an owner, he conceived it to be his, for he said, he received all the rents, kept the courts in his own name, pulled down houses and set up new, had his own stewards, his own auditors, had given four church livings, made leases for years and took fines. How he made this appear I know not, or what Sir Francis Crane's reply was; but that week he was committed to the Fleet, but staid there not above two or three days, and is gone home. All it hath wrought is, that the king hath commanded that this manor be presently disengaged of this sum it stood mortgaged for. It was mortgaged in the Lord Treasurer Marleburghe's time.

p 336
1634 Your Lordship hath heard of Sir Miles Fleetwood's Commission to go let leases for thirty-one years in the manor of Grafton; his Majesty's Commission he received from the Lord Treasurer; and, as I hear since my coming to Town, hath raised up it, without sale of woods, but only making up the tenants estates thirty-one years, eighteen thousand pounds. Much of it is paid in already, whereof some hath been tended to Sir Francis Crane, but he refuseth his acquittance upon those terms it is offered. Shortly this business is to be heard before the Lords at the Council -table, I believe publickly; for that Sir Francis Crane desires many of his friends to be there at the hearing of it. On the other side Sir Miles Fleetwood petitions the king to be rid of the money, desires that the mortgaged may be discharged, so that the tenants may have their assurances perfected and may pay in the rest of their money.

p 524
1635 At the latter end of the term, Sir Miles Fleetwood and Sir Francis Crane had a great tug in the Exchequer-Chamber about Grafton business, wherein Sir Miles made good his evidence to the full, but judgment was not then given. The king took it into his hands and since hath heard it privately, but remitted back the cause to the Exchequer-Chamber where next term it will be judged, where Crane will have the worse end of the staff, if he lives to see it, for, he is gone to Paris to be cut for the stone in the bladder.

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic 1635-1636 p. 25 ? 1635

Money loaned to King Charles

Sir Robert Osborne to the king. The honor of Grafton has been mortgaged by his Majesty to Sir Francis Crane for £7,600. "It is the bravest and best seat in the kingdom, a seat for a prince and not a subject." For the good of his Majesty's children he hopes he will redeem the mortgage. The forfeiture is taken and all his Majesty's tenants pay their rents to Sir Francis Crane. Hopes his Majesty will provide for his children as others do, whom he has advanced. There is a general inclosing and converting arable land into pasture, which is the cause of great dearth in the kingdom, by reformation whereof they may be great benefit raised to the king and great good to his poor subjects.

Ibid. p. 226
12th February 1635/6 Valuations of materials of Grafton house, pulled down and woods cut down by Sir Francis Crane, which the Attorney-General insisted upon in his replication and left to censure of this court.


SP16/313 f. 183 1635.
Inquiry about value of the materials of the buildings of Grafton house pulled down and of woods destroyed by Sir Francis Crane which Mr Atorney insisted thereupon in his replication and left to the censure of the court.

Timber is valued at £850-10s., Walls at £2,100, lead, 60 tuns at £14 the tun £840, 2 bricke walls £280, timber and underwood in the Frith and other places £231-11s-8d.
Total £4332-12s.-8d.

The king's Council treble the damages.

Raised by fines in copyholds and leases, by heriots etc. already proved by this suit £300
Received from His Majesty for repairs of Grafton house for which two last sums Sir Francis Crane is acceptable.
Other materials proved of great quantity but not valued: - A faire tower being 70 feet high and the walls 6 feet thicke
The rails and ballasters of three tarazes (terraces) being freestone and a yard high conteyning 25 bayes.
The chimneys and becketts of freestone and the quoynes of freestone and divers other brick walles in and about the house.
Not any material of the store houses (besides timber) valued.
There was lyme burned for 2 or 3 years constantly.
Iron, glass, casements, tiles etc.
The woods of the said manor are prised at £4000. Stoke park keeping of 300, the same Park without the house is worth £7500 per annum.

Sir Robert Osborne's Inquiries.

SP 16/342/3-5 1636.
Inquiry about materials carried from Grafton House to build Stoke Lodge being Sir Francis Crane's inheritance.
Woods and timber taken by him out of wood called The Frith near town called Perry.
Pannages of Greens Norton and Alderton worth £300 given to Sir Francis Crane.
Sir Francis Crane replied that bound by lease to repair house at Grafton, house is better by £1000 if not £2000 than when it came into his hands.

Sir Francis Crane English Tapestries.

The great name in the history of tapestry-making in England is Mortlake in Surrey County in the 17th century. Mortlake, on the River Thames was an old rambling place, standing west of the church between it and the river. The house was adapted by Sir Francis Crane for the Royal tapestry works, where, encouraged by a handsome grant of money and orders from the parsimonious James, suits of hangings of beautiful workmanship were executed under the eye of Francis Cleyne, a "limner," who was brought over from Flanders to undertake the designs.
From 1620 to 1636 these tapestries, made under Sir Francis Crane by expert weavers from Flanders, rival those of the later Gobelins and surpass those of Brussels of the period. Sir Francis Crane died in 1636 and the establishment became known as "The King's Works." The factory lost royal support in the troubled times of the reign of Charles I and, after struggling through the times of the Commonwealth and the Restoration, finally passed out of existence in the reign of Queen Anne.

Dee, Tappestry Works and Queens Head

John Dee the renaissance scholar and scientist, came to Mortlake in 1566 and lived in a house opposite the Church. His estate was purchased to set up the Tapestry Works in 1619. The Queen's Head was buiilt on land bought after the closure of the Tapestry Works in the early eighteenth century.

M site of the Mortlake Factory
near the Thames - London
Queen's Head

The Mortlake Tapestry

This is one of a set of six of a famous tapestry series designed by Francis Cleyn in 1625, woven at Mortlake works on the Thames. In 1918, Lever acquired the Mortlake tapestry series, sold from Stella Hall, depicting the story of Hero and Leander, from the family of the industrialist Sir Joseph Cowen (1800 - 1873.) The set may have been woven for the Tempest family, a 17th century Catholic courtier family - Stuart loyalists when the Mortlake tapestry works was at its height. In the fable, Leander swam the Hellespont, the straits between Europe and Asia at the Bosphorus, to see his love, the priestess Hero only to be drowned on stormy night.

The Acts of the Apostles

The other monumental set of tapestries hanging in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine is entitled The Acts of the Apostles, based on events in the New Testament’s Book of Acts. They were copied from the famous Raphael Cartoons, which were designed for a set of tapestries woven between 1517 and 1521 by Flemish master weaver Pieter van Aelst. The original set of ten tapestries was commissioned by Pope Leo X to fill the lower walls of the Sistine Chapel. Three of the cartoons were lost very early on, but the remaining seven were purchased in Geneva in 1623 by England’s Prince of Wales, later King Charles I. The Mortlake Tapestry Manufactory immediately began to weave copies of the Raphael cartoons under the direction of Sir Frances Crane. The Cathedral’s set, donated by Mrs. Margaret Louise Brugiere in 1954, is one of 55 complete or partial sets of tapestries known to have been made from the Raphael Cartoons.

Conspicuously absent from our set, unfortunately, are the Mortlake shield and monogram of Sir Francis Crane, which were woven into the selvedge of some of the sets. Nor do our tapestries bear the mark "Car re reg Mort", which stands for Carilo rege regnante Mortlake, or "made at Mortlake in the reign of King Charles"

Richmond Farthings of Charles I

Copper farthings had been struck and issued privately under licence during the preceding reign of James I. The king would grant a licence or patent to an individual in return of a fee. The individual could then make a considerable profits from producing and exchanging or selling the coins.

Richmond Farthing
Richmond Farthing
The original patent had been made by James I to the Duke of Richmond who died shortly before the accession of Charles I in 1625. The patent continued in the hands of his wife Frances, Duchess of Richmond and Sir Francis Crane. This partnership began issuing farthings during the reign of Charles I (1625-1649); in all they emitted eight varieties known as the Richmond or Royal farthings. On June 20, 1634 the Duchess passed the patent to Henry Howard, Lord Maltravers, who began producing farthings in partnership with the same Sir Francis Crane. This partnership produced six varieties, in the same style as the previous issues, known as the Maltravers farthings.



Laurance Martin

In March 1636 Sir Francis was granted permission to go to Paris for treatment of stone in the bladder. He could, presumably, have been treated in London, as Robert Money had been appointed Lithotomist to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1612, and by 1658, when Samuel Pepys was cut by Thomas Hollyer of St. Thomas's Hospital, the operation was by no means uncommon. But the incidence of stone was higher in France than in England hence, in 1636, the French experience of lithotomy may well have been greater. Sir Francis sailed from Rye for Dieppe with six servants on 18 March 1636 and reached Paris in the evening of the 24th. Lord John Scudamore, the English Ambassador, reported to Sir Francis Windebank, the Secretary of State, on 25 March that "Sir Francis Crane came to Paris last night and looks very well in the face this morning. Will signify to Dr. Davison his Majesty's gracious favour. He [Charles I] has been rightly informed concerning the worth of this man and the benefit his Majesty's subjects receive by him.

It is not known who operated upon Sir Francis Crane on the morning of 18 April 1636. Lord Scudamore duly reported to Secretary Windebank that "Sir Francis Crane was cut this morning. The stone is almost as big as an ordinary hen's egg and of that shape, and being rough well near all over. He went to it cheerfully and so endured it." The operation was evidently carried out with great rapidity for "They were not in the operation longer than the Secretary may judge Lord Scudamore has been writing thus far. Seven hours after the operation Sir Francis spoke heartily and said he had now lived so many hours, meaning that his freedom from the former pain made him think his present [state] being as different as life [from] that which was not life or worse. But when urine passeth through the wound his payne is great. Dr. Davison thinks him as well as could be expected he should be now." But, unhappily, things did not continue well and some ten weeks later, on 27 June, the Ambassador had to inform Windebank, "Yesterday evening about ten o'clock Sir Francis departed. In the whole course of this disease he has behaved himself like a stout and humble Christian and member of the Church of England. His nephew Mr. [William] Crane" that is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge lays fault upon the Surgeon. The wound grew to an ulcer and gangrene. His body will be carried to England. Sir Francis was evidently well aware that he would not recover. Three days before he died he added a codicil to his will, "At Paris the 23th of June English Stile 1636" in which he expressed the wish to be buried at Woodrising in Norfolk, where he owned the manor, and advised his wife to leave Grafton and go to live there. He ended the message and codicil "—your dyeing husbande—Fr Crane.

Sir Francis was duly buried at Woodrising Church and a memorial in the sanctuary floor is described by Steer as follows: "Ledger stone inlaid with brass oval engraved with a fine achievement of arms: Per bend [azure] and [or], for Crane; crest on a wreath —A pair of wings elevated and addorsed, with a scroll running through them, thereon Ad Virtus Astra. The shield is encircled by a chain from which hangs the badge of the Chancellor of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The stone is inscribed, withina frame—Sr FRANCIS CRANE Kn; CHANCELLOR OF/ THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER/ (AGED ABOUT 57 YEARS) DYED THE 26/ DAYE OF IVNE AT PARIS IN FRANCE FRO/ WHENCE HIS BODY WAS BROVGHT AND/ BVRIED IN THIS PLACE THE 10th. DAYE OF IV/LY FOLLOWING ANO DNI 1636".

In his will Sir Francis left £500 for the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral and money to build houses for, and to maintain, five additional Poor Knights at Windsor Castle (known sin. 1833 as Military Knights of Windsor). On 18 July 1636 S, Kenelm Digby, a friend both of Sir Francis Crane and Dr. Davison, who was in Paris at the time, wrote to the Secretary of State and enclosed a statement of Sir Francis's case and "the fatall issue of his cutting penned by Dr. Davison and signed by him and another physician of the Kinge’s [of France] that attended him all the while." Unhappily, the medical statement has not survived and it is uncertain as to which Secretary of State Digby's letter was addressed. But Digby had attended the dissection after death at which it was apparent that there could have been no hope of recovery. It may be presumed that chronic sepsis or surgical hazard—or both—had produced the ulceration and gangrene which must have led to a horrible death. In his letter to the Secretary of State Digby paid his tribute to Sir Francis as follows: "It was God's will to take unto him after long sufferance and patience as generous a gentleman and that as constant a heart as I have bin acquainted withall." The letter continued with a lengthy appreciation of Davison's unremitting care and attention to Sir Francis which he asks may brought to the king's notice. Because Davison had said "so little to set himself forth" in the statement of the case, Digby, who was a daily witness of all his proceedings, felt that he would be "much to blame if, to supplye his shortnesse I should not expresse some part of what I know . . . This much then I must say for him: that never was so much care and tendernesse by any physician expressed to a languishing patient, as was by him to this noble gentleman. So long a time of durance might well have bin deemed sufficient to weare out the patience and dulle the affections of a man that had not engagements of a longer date and deeper than Dr. Davisson had to Sir Fra: Crane. But he continued his to the very last and even after all hopes of life were faded, he continued his perpetual attendance to the neglect of all his other affaires, so as in three months time I think he was scarce one houre in the day or night out of his presence ... and besides, failed of what went much nearer his heart, wch the looking to his wife and children when they . . . and all the rest of his family were runne over wth the small pockes whiles he remained about Sir Francis  And therefore yr Ho: will do nobly and generously (wch is yr delight) to let his Majesty understand how he hath behaved himselfe in this occasion."

WOODRISING is a small village and parish, 2½ miles W. by N. of Hingham.

In the church of St. Nicholas on a flat stone is inscribed the name of Sir Francis Crane, who was ambassador to France in the time of Charles I. He revived the art of tapestry in this country, and established a large manufactory at Mortlake, near London.

Burial Place of Sir Francis Crane
St. Nicholas Church
Woodrising Bell House

Dame Jane Crane - wife of Richard Crane
(brother of Sir Francis Crane)

As can be seen above to the left
Sir Francis Crane is buried next to this memorial

Will 1636

In the name of the holy blessed and glorious trinity tree persons and one God Amen I Sir Francis Crane Knight Chancellor of the most noble order of the Garter do make my last Will and Testament in manner following First I commend my soul into the hands of almighty God beseeching him through his tender mercy in Christ Jesus my blessed Saviour to grant me pardon and remission of my sins and after this life, life everlasting Next I bequeath my body to earth to be buried Christian burial in the church of any such parish in which I shall happen to die Item I give and bequeath unto my dear and virtuous wife Marie Crane besides the estate which I have already settled upon her for life in Stoke Parke Hartwell Parke and St. Andrewes at Northampton the lease of Grafton house the lease of Blisworth which I bought of Mr. Davers the lease of Morend farm and the lease of Wardes house at Grafton Item I do further give unto my said wife for her better support and maintenance an annuity to be paid her quarterly by my executors at the four usual feast of the year of eight hundred pounds by the year the first payment to begin at the next of the said usual feast that shall happen after my decease Item I do likewise give and bequeath unto my said wife all my jewels plate and household stuff which are either at Grafton Mortlake and London And particularly the suite of Vulcan prepared for Stoke lodge and two suite of Crotesco which are at London of five pairs each since one being with a white the other with a Tawney ground Item I do hereby ordain and charge my executor in performance of the trust reposed in me by my brother in law Sir Peter le Maine to see his Tomb (which is already begun) finished and set up according to his will Item I do further ordain and charge my executor to see those buildings set in hand and finished within the Castle of Windsor which I intend to erect there for the dwelling of five poor knights of which I do intent two shall be of the foundation of my said brother in law Sir Peter le Maine and the other three I intend shall be of my own foundation Item I do give and bequeath forever two hundred pounds by the year to be settled in lands by my said executor according to the advise and discretion of my noble Lords Thomas Earl of Arundel and Surrey and Henry Lord Maltravers to serve for the perpetual maintenance of the said five poor knights after the rate of forty pounds a year to every one of them Item I do give five hundred pounds towards the repair of the Church of St. Paul's in London to be paid by my executor by one hundred pounds a year during five years to begin from the first of the four usual feasts which shall happen after my decease All the rest of my estate either in lands stock of Tapestries or other goods (my debts and legacies being first paid I do give unto my loving brother Richard Crane And do hereby make him my sole executor Out of this my Confidence that having left him my estate he will endeavor to dispose of it that he may be useful to the happy state of this Realm in which he lives and further the means of living of such of his kindred and mine as shall be fit for it and deserve it And that this may stand for my last Will and Testament I do hereby revoke all other Will or Wills formerly made by me; And in witness hereof have hereunto set my seal and have subscribed every lease with my own hand at Llewenny in Denbigsheire the twenty seventh of August one thousand six hundred and thirty five Fr. Crane Signed and sealed in the presence of Marthana Wilson William Gibson

At Paris the 23rd. of June English Stile 1636

Things that I desire to have done immediately after my death First I desire that my wife as soon as my brother shall have buried my body at Woodrising will take a resolution to leave Grafton and to go to Woodriseinge there to make her dwelling she will have my commodities there The Parke will keep her a dairy of forty kine besides houses and other things It will afford her plenty of deer and wood and many other provisions that will cost her never a penny so that she will be able to live a more plentiful fashion and yet not to be at half the charge she is at Grafton There will be for the present a hundred and fifty pounds a year that will come in rent besides my Lady Caricks which is paid her And within this three years the rest of the lands will improve to a thousand pounds a year more All which my wife shall receive together with all her lands at Grafton until my Lady Caricke die When my Lady Caricke is dead my brother shall then convey unto her all my lands in Norfolk which will make her a certain revenue of at least two thousand pounds a year by which means she may live honorable and with much love amongst her tenants which she cannot do at Grafton And therefore when my brother shall have [illeg setted?] the estate of two thousand pounds a year upon her I would have her resign all the lands at Grafton into my brother's hands instead of Woodriseinge because I have appointed my brother to sell some part of them to performing that other things that I have emoynd him This if my wife will do she will advantage her own estate diverse hundred pounds a year, and she will show a singular love to me to let the world see that she has chosen that place for her dwelling where her husband's body is buried which if she do then I give her all the household stuff there. Secondly I would have my wife set out all her land at Grafton and so receive the revenue from them at Woodriseing Thirdly because Millfield the lease whereof I lately bought of Mr. Lawson is not so conveyed to my wife as I intended. I do therefore I hereby make this as A Codicil and part of my Will that she shall have the said lease as her own during the term of years yet to come These things once again I desires my wife to accept of as for her good and to accept of the service of my brother who I know will spend his whole life to honor and serve her your dying husband Fr Crane

Probate 3 October 1636

Vulcan was one of the oldest Latin gods, Vulcanus who was the god of the thunderbolt and of the sun, then the god of fires, whose ravages he could arrest, and finally the god of life-giving warmth.

OED says crotesco = crotesque, see grotesque.

Grotesque; (Italian C16th) a kind of decorative painting or sculpture, consisting of representations of portions of human and animal forms, fantastically combined and interwoven with foliage and flowers.

Another reference from Hic Mulier 1620 'tis of you I entreat and of your monstrous deformity. You that have made your bodies like antic Boscadge or Crotesco work, not half man/half woman, half fish/half flesh, half beast/half Monster, but all Odios, all Devil; that have cast off the ornaments of your sexes to put on the garments of Shame;

Windsor Castle

Bequest from Sir Francis Crane's Will

"I do further ordain and charge my executor to see those buildings set in hand and finished within the Castle of Windsor which I intend to erect there for the dwelling of five poor knights of which I do intent two shall be of the foundation of my said brother in law Sir Peter le Maine and the other three I intend shall be of my own foundation." These buildings stand between the Garter Tower and Chancellor's Tower.

This printed seventeenth century broadsheet held in the St George’s Chapel Archives and Chapter Library (SGC XI.H.11) describes the twists and turns of a long running legal dispute concerning Sir Francis Crane’s bequest to the Poor Knights of Windsor.

From the reign of Elizabeth I, the Poor Knights had numbered thirteen, all of whom were accommodated in purpose built or adapted houses in the Lower Ward of the Castle. In the seventeenth century, the establishment was increased to eighteen under the terms of the wills of Sir Francis Crane and of his brother-in-law, Sir Peter le Maire. As a result of these bequests, five new almshouses were constructed against the lower east wall of the Castle, on the site now occupied by the nineteenth century guardroom. The five additional bedesmen who lived there and who were maintained by the bequests became known as the Poor Knights of ‘the New Foundation’ or ‘Crane’s Foundation’ or ‘the Lower Foundation’.

The origins of Crane’s Foundation lay with Sir Peter le Maire who, by his will of 8 January 1631, left a legacy of £1,500 to his brother-in-law, Sir Francis Crane, to be applied to whatever charitable purposes he should think fit. Crane, at one time Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, decided to assign the benefaction to the Poor Knights of Windsor, providing accommodation and maintenance for two additional knights ‘of the foundation of le Maire’. He arranged for the construction of almshouses in the Lower Ward of the Castle and augmented the gift in his own will, dated 27 August 1635, providing for a further three Knights, bringing the total Poor Knights’ establishment to eighteen. In order to finance the construction and maintenance of the five extra houses and to provide an annual allowance of £40 to each of the five knights, Sir Francis Crane settled lands, including the manor of Carbrooke in Norfolk, to the value of £200 a year, with a further annual sum of £30 to be spent on the buildings. Sir Francis Crane died in 1636. However the construction of the almshouses was brought to a halt shortly afterwards and the terms of the endowment became subject to a protracted series of law-suits, summarised in the contemporary broadsheet pictured above.

Sir Francis’ brother and executor, Sir Richard Crane, had been negligent in his duties and when he, in turn, died in 1645 his son, William, disputed the gift. William lost his case in the King’s law courts and, in 1659, was ordered to pay the annual sum of £230 from Carbrooke manor: £200 to support the five Knights and £30 for the maintenance of the buildings, together with £1,000 of the arrears he owed. With the legal suit at an end, the almshouses were finally completed in 1659, three years after the appointment of the first ‘Poor Knights of Crane’s Foundation’ in 1656, and twenty-three years after the death of Sir Francis Crane in 1636.

Sadly, Crane’s buildings were demolished in 1863 and Crane’s Foundation was absorbed into the main establishment in 1919, returning the number of Military Knights, as the Poor Knights had been known since 1833, to thirteen.

Clare Rider (Archivist and Chapter Librarian)


cr. 20 March 1642/3; (a)

ex. March 1644/5

“Richard Crane, of Woodrising, co. Norfolk, Esq., one of the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber,” br. And h. of Sir Francis Crane, Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, and Director of the Tapestry Works, at Mortlake, Surrey; suc, his brother in the estate of Woodrising aforesaid, and in that of Stoke Nash in Stoke Bruen, co. Northampton (c) in June or July 1636, being then a Captain and a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, and was cr. A Baronet, as above, 20 March 1642 3 (a) He m. firstly, Mary, da. of William (WIDDINGTON), 1st BARON WIDDINGTON OF BLAKENEY by Mary, da. and h. of Sir Anthony THOROLD, of Blackney aforesaid. She d. s.p. He m. secondly, in 1639, Jane, widow of Jacob JAMES. He d. s.p. st Cardiff, March 1644/5, when the Baronety became extinct. Admon. 17 May 1648, and 10 March 1653/4, the will, dat. 20 Sep. 1643, being pr. 12 March 1655/6 (probably a mistake for 1654/5. The will of his widow, as “of Woodrising, Norfolk, dat. 9 Mar 1646/7, pr. 25 Feb 1651/2