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....

1410s–1520s The Plumptons, Yorkshire

The PlumptonsThe fifteenth century was a difficult time to be a member of the gentry. The growing season was at least three weeks shorter than it had been 150 years before. Winters were sharper and summers wretched. Frost in May, when flowers on vines are at their most vulnerable, had been unheard of in England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. By 1400, it was common, even usual, and the vineyards disappeared from England.


The whole of Europe was short of money, squabbling over lands and lordships. The general crisis of authority which marked the end of Middle Ages may have been simply the reaction of a human population to the most difficult of planetary changes: global cooling. The story of William Plumpton and his family may be a private reflection of a world in bio-climatic decline. Different branches of the Plumptons ended up facing each other in a pair of long, growling and destructive court cases, which is why their letters and documents survive, gathered in evidence by the teams of opposing lawyers. It is the story of a family at war.

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