The Gentry is a history of England told through its families. This website contains family trees, a few maps and many images illustrating some of the background to the twelve families who carry the story of England in the book.

Read a sample chapter about Sir John Oglander, the 17th-century squire of Nunwell in the Isle of Wight, his life and family, his dreams and ambitions and the tragedies that struck him....

1660s–1710s The le Neves, Norfolk


Oliver le Neve’s correspondence with his friends and relations in Norfolk was largely the result of the slightly amphibious position he occupied throughout his life: from an old but unimportant Norfolk family; with his own father in trade, and his mother from a trading background; with a large fortune settled on him and now substantially if not wonderfully rich; and with a love for the life of the Norfolk squire.

 A large part of him was deeply attached to the hunting, hawking, fishing, farming, gardening, drinking, joking, racing, gambling existence summed up by the one word ‘Witchingham’. He was a natural born Tory, suspicious of ‘that glorious monarch king William’, as he and his friends habitually referred to the suspect Dutchman William III. He was both a local Justice and a captain in the local militia, who would look with suspicion on the court corruption and power-broking of the Whig grandees and their morally superior sense of authority, and for whom the phrase ‘turn Whig’ meant ‘turn double rogue’. At the same time he was a new man, a city boy, with important commercial links to London, the taint of commerce on him and a great deal of business to be done there.