Synonymous with Cahaignes, and denoting one of the most numerous and powerful families of the realm. The name is derived from the fief of Cahaignes in the arrondissement of Vire (Latinized Chaineis in the Norman Infeudation Roll of 1172), which was held of the Comte of Mortaine. William de Cahaignes—the "Sire de Chaignes" of the Roman de Rou—came over in the train of the Earl his suzerain, and was one of his principal feudatories in England as in Normandy, holding lands in Sussex, Bucks, Cambridge, and Northants. As he was also a tenant-in-chief in the two latter counties, he is counted among the Domesday barons, and had his seat at Dodford in Northamptonshire. His son Ralph, who, as "Radulfus de Caisned," also appears in Domesday, holding Horsted-Keynes in Sussex, was a benefactor of Lewes Priory. On its consecration (between 1091 and 97), he "offered, on the altar of St. Pancras, the churches of Brighton, Balcombe, Hoathley, Kymer and Barncombe; his son Ralph also offered a hide of land; both subscribed the charter which recites these gifts."—Sussex Archaeologia. This second Ralph married a Kentish heiress, Alice, daughter of Hugh, and sister of Walkelin Maminot,[1] with whom he had "in Frank Marriage" by gift of Henry I., Tarent and Combe (both of which still retain his name) in Dorsetshire, and Somerford in Somersetshire. He founded a nunnery at Tarent-Keynes (now Tarent-Keyneston), which was held of the King in chief by the service of three knights. He also gave Dodford Church to the monks of Luffield in Northamptonshire; and those of Combe Keynes and Cahaignes to Merton Priory, where his wife had been buried. It further appears, that before the close of Henry I.'s reign, the barony held by his grandfather in 1086, with the Norman fiefs, had been parted between him and his brother Hugh; and "on this patrimonial division, Dodford was constituted the caput baronies. There were then fourteen mesne manors dependent upon it."—Baker's Northamptonshire. Hugh had Gretworth and the Sussex estates, and his son William was Sheriff of the county for nine years under King John. But the line expired with the following generation, and the lands passed, through an heiress, to Roger de Lewkenor.

Ralph, the Baron of Dodford, who possessed the Northamptonshire and Dorsetshire property, had also a son named William, "succeeded by another Ralph de Cahaignes, Sheriff of the counties of Dorset and Somerset from 3 to 6 Ric. I.; in which last year he was deceased, for then his son William paid relief for his lands, and became his successor in the shrievalty, which he held till the end of the reign of Richard I. On the accession of King John he fell under the royal displeasure, and both his lands in Normandy were seized and his chattels in England sold by the officers of the crown: but, having made proffer of one hundred marks for having the good will of the King, he had restitution of his lands, for which he paid scutage in 1202."—T. Stapleton. He died in 1221. The succession continued uninterrupted for five generations more;—till the death, in his boyhood, of the last male heir in 1337. His sister Wentiliana, who "never had Child," and his aunt Elizabeth, likewise unmarried, died within a few months of each other in the succeeding year; but another aunt, Hawise, the wife of Sir John Daventry, had left a granddaughter, Alice, then married to Lewis Carroll, in whom "the right of inheritance clearly vested."[2] Yet, through the "artful chicaneries" of Sir William Brantingham,[3] who had been the guardian of the young heir and his sister Wentiliana, Dodford passed to a descendant of their great-aunt Lettice Ayote, John Cressy, whose son and grandson successively held it. When the latter died s. p. in 1452, it apparently reverted to the representatives of Hugh de Keynes, a cadet of the house, who, in the time of Henry II. had married Amabel de Bereville, the heiress of Milton (since Milton-Keynes) in Buckinghamshire. The male heir of his posterity failed in the first part of the fourteenth century, when Margaret, the heiress, married Sir Philip de Ailesbury. In 1462 Dodford belonged to Dame Eleanor Stafford, "to whom it had been assigned on the partition of the Ailesbury property;" and was claimed by the King's ever greedy brother-in-law, Sir Edward Widville, on the ground of a pretended descent, through the Purefoys, from Lettice Ayote; though "the Purefoys came never of the blood of Keynes or of Ayote." However, Edward IV., to whom the dispute was referred, decided in favour of the Staffords.

Another younger brother, William de Cahaignes, called by Dugdale the son, but more probably the grandson of the Domesday Baron, "being in the Battle of Lincoln (in 6 Stephen) on the behalf of Maud the Empress, had a vigilant Eye on King Stephen, and observed where he was, who fought most courageously, first with his Pole-Ax till it broke, and afterwards with his Sword, so long as it held. Which when he discerned, he rushed in upon him, and took him by the Helmet, crying out, 'Come hither, come hither, I have hold of the King,' and so took him prisoner." Stephen, deserted as he was by his army, had held his ground to the very end: and when "left almost alone on the field, no Man dared approach him, while grinding his Teeth and foaming like a mad Boar, he drove back with his Battel-axe whole Troops that came to assail him," and felled the Earl of Chester from his horse with a single blow. Even in the last extremity, when both his weapons had broken in his hands, and William de Cahaignes' grasp was on his crest, it was to none other but his cousin, the Earl of Gloucester, that he would deign to surrender.

The seat of this gallant Sir William was in Devonshire. "The Fee of Winkley, now called the Fee of Gloucester," writes old Westcott, "belonged to Keyns, from whom both castle and parish had addition, and were called Keyns Castle and Winkley Keyns; they were powerful in the country; and Sir William Keyns, a stout and valiant knight fighting under Robert Earl of Gloucester, took King Stephen prisoner at the battle of Lincoln. John Keyns was Sheriff of this county 4 Hen. IV. Another of them was £60 on the subsidy book 14 Hen. VI. Divers of them lie interred in the church, one especially noted for being donor and patron of the church." Lysons asserts that they remained for fifteen generations at Winkley-Keynes. One of them, John de Keynes, acquired a large estate in Dorset and Somerset in the time of Edward III. through Isabel Wake his wife. Her father John Wake, held Candel Wake, and Stoke-Wake in the former county; and "became possessed of Compton Martin in Somersetshire by seizin, because Alice his mother, who held the manor in her demesne as of fee, of William de Martin, knt, forfeited it by contriving the death of Ralph her husband, for which she was burnt, according to her sentence, after fair trial. He also held the lands of East and West Dowlish, co. Somerset, of which, fifteen days before his death (in 1350) he feoffed Isabel, wife of John de Keynes, Margery Tyrel, and Elizabeth Wake, his daughters."—Hutchins' Dorset. The heiress of the elder branch of this house, Joan Keynes, married John Speke in the reign of Henry V.; but the Keynes continued seated at Wake Court till 1594; not long after (as Hutchins tells us), one of the family alienated it to the Mores, and, according to Lysons, removed into Somersetshire.

Hitherto there has been no difficulty in affiliating the various branches of the house of Cahaignes to the parent stock; but we now enter upon the knotty question of distinguishing from each other the different families merged in the common name of Cheney. (See Cheney.) Here the coats of arms alone can help us. The Cheneys of Norfolk and Suffolk, representing the De Quesnais, bore Or two chevrons Gules: the De Chenduits ("falsely called Cheney") Gules on five lozenges in fesse Argent as many escallop shells Sable; while the De Cahaignes had two distinct bearings. The Barons of Horsford and Tarent-Keynes bore Vaire Argent and Azure, two bars Gules (v. Baker's Northants): and the house of Winkley-Keynes Azure a bend undee cotised Argent, which is also attributed to Tarent-Keynes, though, as the Northamptonshire and Dorsetshire estates were never separated, it is hard to conceive how the same man could possibly bear a different coat in each county. This bend and these bars, amalgamated into a fesse, re-appear, in an infinite variety of tinctures, on most of the Cheney coats, indicating that their bearers were of the blood of Cahaignes. Thus, the Cheneys of Chesham-Boys, Viscounts Newhaven, bore Chequy Or and Azure a fesse Gules, fretted Argent; in other cases the fesse was fretted Ermine, or, as borne by the Cheneys or Chanus of Willaston in Cheshire, fretted Or. Again, the Cheneys of Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire, whose heiress married Lord Vaux of Harrowden in the sixteenth century, bore Quarterly Or and Sable, over all a bend lozengy Gules; while the Kentish Cheneys bore Ermine on a bend Sable three martlets Or. It would require far more time and patience than I have to spare to recapitulate all the changes rung upon this bend and fesse, which the multiplied sub-divisions of the family rendered necessary.

Of all these—and their name was Legion—the greatest was incontestably the Kentish house, that at one time held its place among the foremost in the county. Its first recorded ancestor, Sir Alexander, was seated at Patricksbourne-Cheney, and went with Coeur de Lion to the Holy Land: but it was not till about one hundred years afterwards that William de Cheney founded the great fortune of the family by his marriage with the heiress of Shurland. Her father, Sir Robert de Shurland, "a man of eminent authority in the reign of Edward I., under whom he was Lord Warden of the Five Ports," was the hero of the curious tradition, commemorated on his monument,[4] that forms the subject of one of the 'Ingoldsby Legends.' Shurland, where "a very grand and spacious mansion" was afterwards built, from this time forth became the residence of the Cheneys; they adopted the coat of Shurland, Azure six lions rampant Argent, a canton Ermine, for their own, and are constantly found on the roll of Sheriffs and knights of the shire. One of their manors, Cheney's Court, in Chart Sutton, recalls their name in the neighbourhood. Sir William's descendant, Sir John Cheney, was "in arms for Henry Earl of Richmond at Bosworth Field, when King Richard himself encountering with him (after he had overthrown Sir William Brandon, the Earl of Richmond's Standard-Bearer) though this Sir John was a person of very great strength, fell'd him to the ground."—Dugdale. Sir John had pressed forward to raise the royal standard as it dropped from the dying hand of Brandon; and to shield the Earl from the deadly arm of the King. But, giant though he was in strength and stature, he had met with more than his match.

"With scorn he throws the standard to the ground,
When Cheney, for his height and strength renown'd,
Steps forth to cover Richmond now exposed
To Richard's sword: the King with Cheney closed,
And to the earth the mighty giant fell'd."—Sir John Beaumont.

The blow sundered his helmet and laid his head bare, but only stunned him; and when, after a while, he recovered his senses, his first thought was to fit himself again for the fray. He looked about him for the means of replacing his cloven helmet, and finding the hide of a slaughtered ox, cut off the scalp and horns, placed them on his head, and fought for the rest of the day in this eccentric head-piece. The family adopted it as their crest, and ever after bore the bull's scalp in memory of the field of Bosworth.

The new King was not slow in recompensing so intrepid and devoted a follower: he was sworn of the Privy Council, received the Order of the Garter, and was summoned to parliament in 1488 among the barons of the realm. But he left no posterity, and his well-earned honours expired with him. His nephew and heir, Sir Thomas, "lived under the sunshine and favour of four sovereigns, Henry VIII., Edward VI., Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and acquired possessions in Kent almost as large as Odo's. He was a Knight of the Garter, Sheriff of Kent, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Constable of Dover, Queenborough and Saltwood, High Steward of the Manors of Aldington and Chilham, Keeper of the parks of Ostenhanger (Westenhanger), Saltwood, Aldington, &c, and Treasurer of the Household to Henry VIII., who appointed him Governor over the seven Hundreds and adjoining districts, in case of war, for the term of his life."—Furley's History of the Weald of Kent. He was one of the knights-challengers at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, pledged to "exercise feats of arms against all comers, on horseback or on foot, for the space of thirty days."

But the full-blown prosperity of his house was doomed to collapse in the succeeding generation. He was cursed with a spendthrift son, aptly termed "the extravagant Lord Cheney," who dissipated the whole of his possessions. This reckless heir was created by Queen Elizabeth Baron Cheney of Tuddington in Bedfordshire, where he built a magnificent house on his mother's inheritance.[5] "In his youth," says Fuller, "he was very wild and venturous; witness his playing at dice with Henry II. King of France, from whom he won a Diamond of great worth at a Cast: and being demanded by the King, what shift he would have made to repair himself in case he had lost the cast: 'I have,' said young Cheney (in a hyperbolical brave) 'Sheep's Tails enough in Kent, with their Wool to buy a better Diamond than this.' His reduced Age afforded the befitting fruits of Gravity and Wisdom, and this Lord deceased without issue." Thus this second title again became extinct with its first bearer, who died in 1587. One of this house, Sir Robert Cheney (born in 1353) was the ancestor of the Cheneys of Cralle, who held lands in several parts of Sussex.

Another important family has left its name to Iselhampsted Cheneys (now abbreviated to Chenies), which had once been a royal residence, and was granted
by Ed. III. to his shield-bearer, Thomas Cheyne. "From the Cheynes it passed to the Sapcotes, pursuant to the will of Agnes Lady Cheyne, who died in 1494; it is now the property of the Duke of Bedford, whose ancestor married the heiress of Sir Guy Sapcote."—Lysons' Buckinghamshire. The church, now the burial place of the Russells, retains many brass and two stone effigies of the Cheneys, the latter much defaced.[6] "The olde House of the Cheyneis," writes Leland, "is so translated by my Lorde Russel that lytle or nothing of it yn a maner remaynith ontranslatid:... it is within divers Places richly painted with antique Workes of White and Blak. And there be about the House two Parkes, as I remembre."

Another seat of the Cheneys, in the neighbouring parish of Chesham, was "a place of great strength," with a chapel adjoining; part of the great hall was still standing in 1750.—Lysons.

From this Buckinghamshire house sprung Sir John Cheney, who acquired Cogenhoe in Northamptonshire through his wife, and died in 1468, nearly a hundred years old. His descendant, Charles, sold it in 1657 to buy Chelsea from the Duke of Hamilton, and was created in 1681 Viscount Newhaven in Scotland. Unlike most Scottish peerages, it descended to none but heirs male, and expired with his son William in 1738. Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, takes its name from them.

On all this imposing array of local magnates, time and oblivion have done their remorseless work; slowly and surely rooting up each venerable stock, and scattering its memorials to the winds. I only know of two gentlemen that now bear the lions of Shurland by right of male descent—Edward Cheney of Badger Hall in Shropshire, and Edward Cheney of Goddesby in Leicestershire. They are first cousins; the grandsons of Robert Cheney of Meynell Langley, who was High Sheriff of Derby in 1765. But neither of them is married; and both are now well advanced in years.[7]

  1. Most authorities make her out to have been his father's wife; but the elder Ralph's gifts to Lewes Priory were bestowed "for the Soul of Emme his Wife."

  2. Not only were Hawise de Keyne's descendants disinherited, but her very existence was denied in the following century; when a letter, dated 1404, was produced, "under the seals of many worshipful men at Tarent Keynes, and another, under the seals of many gentlemen of Northants, declaring that Sir William de Keynes (her father) never had a daughter Hawise."—Baker's Northants.

  3. Of this Sir William's "collusions and 'contell' it was proved: That after the death of Wentiliana, he excited (incited) a woman to present herself before persons unknown, and personate Elizabeth Keynes, as late coming from the Holy Land, 'in white clothyn as it were in an estate of innocencye;' when on discreet examination she was found to be 'a beest envenymed through the covetye of the said Brantingham.'"—Ibid.

  4. His effigy, clad in the chain-mail of the thirteenth century, remains on his tomb in Minster Church, his hands clasped on his breast, and his legs crossed, to show that he had fought in the Holy Land. Immediately above it, from the wall of the recess in which the tomb stands, projects the head of a horse, which "seems to be emerging from stony waves," as if in the act of swimming. "This figure," says Hasted, "has given rise to a tale, which has been reported among the common people for many years, viz.: That Sir Robert, having upon some disgust at a priest, buried him alive, swam on his horse two miles through the sea to the King, who was then on ship-board near this island" (of Sheppey), "and, having obtained his pardon, swam back to the shore, where, being told his horse had performed this by magic art, he cut off his head. About a twelvemonth after which, riding a-hunting near the same place, the horse he was then upon, stumbled, and threw him upon the skull of his former horse, by which he was so much bruised, that it caused his death: in memory of which, the figure of a horse's head was placed by him on his tomb. The foundation of which story is by others supposed to have arisen from Sir Robert Shurland's having obtained the grant of wreck of the sea, which privilege is always esteemed to reach as far into the water, as upon the lowest ebb, a man can ride in and touch anything with the point of his lance; and on this account the horse's head was placed by him." To my thinking this is a very lame explanation. Why should the horse's head appear above cloven waves, as if swimming? The right of wreck was one of the accustomed feudal privileges of lords of manors on the sea-coast; yet I have never heard of the existence of any similar tomb.

  5. She was the representative of Paulin Peyvere, Sewer to Henry III., who had there built a "seat with such palace-like grandeur, such a chapel, such lodgings, with other houses of stone covered with lead, and surrounded it with such avenues and parks, that it raised an astonishment in the beholders."—Matthew Paris.

  6. In 1837, they held their own under difficulties. "There lie the ancient lords of the soil—but see the changes and chances of this mortal life! Its vicissitudes are not ended with the grave—men, honoured in their generation, 'who loved the church so well, and gave so largely to it, it should have canopied their bones till doomsday,' have been shoved away into any hole or corner to make way for their powerful successors. One figure is built into the wall; and another is cut in two by the weight of a huge Russell monument, his clasped hands raised in prayer, as if appealing against this degradation."—Archaeological Journal, vol. x. These effigies have been restored and replaced by the present Duke.

  7. Since writing the above, I have lost one of the oldest and best-esteemed of my friends in Edward Cheney of Badger, who died April 16th, 1884, in the eighty-second year of his age.

-- Cleveland

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