top of page


Henry VIII #1.JPG

The History of Grafton Regis

We are a small village, but we have a huge History!

The village of Grafton is mentioned in the Domesday book as Grastone. The Church of St Mary the Virgin has dominated the skyline of Grafton for almost a thousand years and has seen many famous personalities who have been associated with the village over the centuries.  (Click on the picture icons below for further individual information).


Henry VIII


1st Duke of Grafton


Elizabeth Woodville


Sir Francis Crane


Vice Admiral Fitzroy


Isabella Sams

fitzroy portrait[1].gif

During the 12th and 13th centuries, Grafton belonged to the Abbey of Grestain in France.

From the twelfth century, the Woodville (Wydville) family lived at Grafton, which for a time was known as Grafton Woodville.  In 1464, Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in secret in Grafton, probably at the Hermitage, the remains of which can be seen buried in a field to the west of the A508.


Edward and Elizabeth’s grandson Henry VIII acquired the manor house, greatly expanded it, and spent most of the summers of his reign there.  It was Henry’s decision to call the village Grafton Regis.  On its passing to Elizabeth I, the house had a series of famous tenants, including William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth’s Lord Treasurer and right-hand man, and the Queen’s favourites Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.


William Shakespeare’s friend and patron Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, was interested in buying Grafton House at the end of the sixteenth century.  Many years later, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a painting known as the Grafton Portrait of Shakespeare was discovered to have spent 250 years in a cottage in the village following its rescue from Grafton House during the Civil War siege of Christmas 1643.  Sir Francis Crane’s widow was living in the House at the time of the siege.


Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy was one of the distinguished members of the family of the Dukes of Grafton, whose association with the village dates back to the creation of the dukedom in the seventeenth century.


A history of the village entitled Grafton Regis: the History of a Northamptonshire Village, edited by Charles FitzRoy and Keith Harry, was published in Cardiff in 2000 by the Merton Priory Press with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, South Northants Council, and Grafton’s White Hart public house. At the time the book became a surprise bestseller, even outselling popular books about the Kray twins, the country's most popular cookery writer and the most popular dictionary! Click here to read more...


The Grafton Estate Catalogue 
The Northamptonshire Record Office has catalogued a very large number of the papers and documents which it holds relating to the Grafton Estate. Click here to read descriptions of many of these records available on the Milton Keynes Heritage Association website.

Want to Learn More? Buy the CD!

The HLF also supported the publication in 2004 of the Grafton Regis CD set, which includes a huge amount of information about the events and personalities connected with Grafton and also about the daily life of the people of the village in past centuries.  One disc is devoted to Grafton itself and the second to 20 Grafton Estate villages.  The cost of the CD set is £5.00 (including postage) in the UK and £7.50 (including postage) outside the UK.

You can purchase CD's either using  Paypal using the Buy Now button below or alternatively you can download an order form to complete and post to us using the PDF button below.

Buy using PayPal

Download Form

bottom of page