The history of every castle is built around that of those who occupied it. The Stradling family were at St Donat's for more than four centuries and the story of their lives gives a living tradition to this ancient castle. What kind of men were they?
The earliest existing record of this family concerns Sir John Stradling who died in 1292. In recognition of his valuable services, Edward I paid considerable debts which Sir John owed to the Italian bankers, the Riccardi of Lycca. Other records of that time show that the family fortunes were restored by the marriage of Sir Peter to a rich heiress (Joan, daughter of Thomas Hawey) through whom he inherited the castle of St Donats.
It would seem that from then onwards they were a family of great influence in Britain, adding many other manors to their estates by marrying into other equally rich and influential families. Like all great families of those times they served with distinction in the army and navy, were scholarly and encouraged the pursuit of learning. ( In the early 17th century, Sir John - third of that name - founded the Grammar School at Cowbridge). They were devout and loyal both in their religion and sovereign, although this often brought hardships, but they accepted any adversity on such occasions with fortitude. They travelled extensively and four in successive generations made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and became Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1476, Sir Harry, aged 24, died on his return journey and was buried at Famagusta in Cyprus. They probably reached the peak of their influence in the reign of Elizabeth I, and indication of which is to be seen in the printed volume of the "Stradling Correspondence", which includes personal letters to the fifth Sir Edward from such notable men as Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Francis Walsingham, Robert Dudley, Sir Richard Grenville, William Cecil, and Sir Francis Drake.
Existing records concerning their activities in public life are very incomplete, particularly during the earlier period, but from those still available, it is clear that this family took a prominent part. In the religious sphere, one was the Archdeacon of Llandaff, another suffered imprisonment in the Tower of London from 1561 to 1563, for refusing to change his religious beliefs, Georgius Stradling was Dean of Chichester and Gloucester and Prebendary of Westminster Abbey, where he was buried on 9/4/1688.
Among the scholars were the 5th Sir Edward, educated at Jesus College Oxford, who became an Historian and wrote many books and poems. And Sir John who became a commoner of Brasenose College in 1579, aged 16, graduated in the arts in 1583 from Magdalen College and was "accounted a miracle for his forwardness in learning and pregnancy of parts".
Most of the Stradlings served as members of parliament and Sherriffs of Glamorgan in the 16th and 17th centuries, much as they had done in the 14th and 15th centuries in Somerset and Dorset where their chief estates were then. Many distinguished themselves in military services. It is probable that Sir Peter was at the siege of Acre in 1292, serving under Sir Otto de Grandison who commanded the British contingent of the international force. Sir Thomas was a Muster-master to Queen Elizabeths army. The 6th Sir Edward a Colonel of the foot at the battle of Edgehill; one of his brothers, Thomas, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royalist army, John a Captain under the Duke of Buckingham at the battle of the Rhee and Sir Harry was Captain of the Royal Ship "Bonaventure". Personal letters to this Sir Harry signed by Charles the first and Prince Rupert are still in existence (Shardloes Papers), and of him Lord Clarence wrote " He and Kitley were the only Captains Parliament could not corrupt". Francis was a Captain of the foot in Ireland: the 7th Sir Edward brought a troop of horse to the King's aid at the battle of Newbury, his brother John, a Major-General, led the Royalist forces at St. Fagans, 1684, and his other brother was a Colonel of the foot under Charles II.
The family roll of honour after the Civil War included both the 6th and 7th Edward (buried at Jesus College, Oxford), one John buried on the Island of Rhee, and another buried at Windsor Castle, and Sir Harry buried in Ireland.
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In November 1960, generous gifts of £65,000 by M. Antonin Besse and later a gift of £30,000 by two British supporters and one American, made the purchase of St Donats castle possible by Atlantic College. To what more fitting use could so great family heritage be devoted than this far-sighted international project.
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Should the foregoing help to bring to life the great traditions of St Donats Castle in the minds of students and so stimulate them to greater efforts, both in their studies and outdoor adventures, it will have been worth the effort of research and writing.
Group Captain Stradling between 1963-1969
The earliest trace of them is in Switzerland at a place named "Strattligen"", near Thun (Canton Berne) or the adjacent department of France, Haute Savoy, from where Edward I obtained some of his ablest supporters. They were kinsmen of that distinguished Savoyard Soldier, Sir Otto de Grandison and Sir John Stradling accompanied him to the court of Edward I. This first representative of the family in England lived in the village of Wellesbourn Hastings (Nat Grid Ref S.P.2755) close to Warwick. There is a charter in which estates are granted to him in Tipperare, Ireland by Sir Otto. Also records show the confiscation of his estates by Riccardi of Lucca, Italy, for a debt of £200, but after Sir John's death in 1292, Edward I restored these estates to the family for Sir John's valuable services to him during his lifetime in England. There is a further charter granting the estates in Tipperare to Sir Peter in 1299 when he was residing at Waterford. He had earlier married Joan de Hawey and was the first known Stradling to possess St Donat's castle (this by his marriage). From then on all his direct descendants resided at the castle until 1738. They also had other manors and estates mainly in Somerset and Dorset. Before Sir Peter arrived at St Donat's he was commanding Neath Castle, Glamorgan.
A Sir John Stradling lived at Minehead in 1540. A Richard Stradling was at Wellington, Somerset in 1600. An Edward Stradling lived Combe Hawe, Somerset. William Stradling, son of John Stradling lived at Over Compton, near Sherborne, Dorset: also at Halsway near Crowcombe, Somerset. There are records of a Stradling at Combe Hay, near Bath and another at Chilton Polden, Somerset. 5th Sir Edward Stradling's wife Anne (or Agnes?) was the daughter of Sir Edward Gage of Firle, Sussex - her Grandfather John Parker lived at Wratton Manor, Willingdon ( on the ruins of which our own house is built). Sir Edwards Gage's widow (nee Elizabeth Parker) married Sir John Stradling who died in 1644 (ed. ?1637) [T Nicoles says Sir John's wife was Sir Edward's wife's niece, not her mother/stepmother as here]
The first Stradling occupant of St Donats, Sir Peter, married Joan de Hawey who was then living at Compton Hawey, Dorset (now Compton, Nether and Over, near Sherborne) also at Ash Herbert, Somerset.
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