Tracing our heritage back to the Thirteenth Century
The earliest record of a family dates to the thirteenth century, when a Malmayne daughter married Robert de Plecy, who died in 1301. His great grandson, Sir Nicholas de Plecy, died without a male heir and his daughter, Joan, married Sir John Hamely, who died in 1398. Sir John, by his second marriage, had a daughter, Egidia, who married Robert Ashley from Wiltshire and their descendants have continued to live at Wimborne St Giles to this day.
In the sixteenth century two of the Ashleys, father and son, were knighted. The second Sir Anthony, who was briefly Elizabeth I’s Secretary for War, is worthy of a culinary footnote in that he is thought to have introduced the first cabbage into England from Holland.
He also built the lovely range of brick almshouses adjoining Wimborne St Giles church. He died in 1628, and at the foot of his canopied tomb inside the church is the kneeling figure of his only daughter Anne, who married Sir John Cooper of Rockborne and was the mother of Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, later the first Earl of Shaftesbury.
Anthony Ashley-Cooper was born in 1621, and was only ten when his father died. Much of his inheritance was squandered due to the incompetence of his trustees, but the uncertainties of childhood shaped the man. “Sagacious, bold and turbulent of wit,” he grew into one of the most influential statesmen of the late seventeenth century.