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Elizabeth Verney, first mistress of Parham House

Parham has been shaped very strongly by the women who have lived in it and looked after it over the past centuries of its existence. The first mistress of the current House, once the building of it was finished, was Elizabeth Verney of Fairfield in Somerset, a goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth I.

8th March 2021

Parham has been shaped very strongly by the women who have lived in it and looked after it over the past centuries of its existence. The first mistress of the current House, once the building of it was finished, was Elizabeth Verney of Fairfield in Somerset, a goddaughter of Queen Elizabeth I.  She had married William Palmer, whose grandfather Robert had been granted Parham by King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s.

Elizabeth and William lived at Parham after they were married. There is no record of what their house looked like, and it was in all probability a separate dwelling to the one we know now, possibly situated in the area now occupied by the Big Kitchen.

William’s father Thomas, who by then had received the honour of knighthood, decided in the latter half of the 1570s to embark upon the building of a smart new house which would better reflect his family’s status in the world. Elizabeth and William’s little son (another Thomas) laid the foundation stone on 28th January January 1577, following an old tradition that was said to bring luck. He was only two and a half.

Sadly, William and Elizabeth only had four years together to enjoy the new house after it had been finished – Sir Thomas had died in 1582, and William himself died on Christmas Eve in 1586.

The widowed Elizabeth continued to live at Parham with her young family, eventually marrying Henry Bromley in St Peter’s Church just a few hundred yards away, in 1592. It would be reasonable to suppose that she was a very important influence at Parham in these early years, although, sadly, there exists no domestic record that we know about.

Little Thomas was only twelve years old by then, but he doesn’t seem to have liked his home very much, for when he grew up he spent most of his life away at sea. He sold Parham to Sir Thomas Bisshopp in 1601.

You can see this portrait of Elizabeth in The Great Hall.