The Middleton era

The story of the Middleton Estate begins more than 400 years ago with one Christopher Middleton, vicar of Llanarthne church and relative of the Middleton family of Denbigh, who was paying significant fees for land rent to the Duchy of Lancaster. It has been wondered how someone with the income of a vicar could have afforded to accrue such a vast fortune that would allow him to pay this rent.

It seems that the answer lies with the charter of the East India Company and those involved in the movement; the last quarter of the 16th century saw an increase in opportunity for an emerging class of men of ambition and diligence to achieve advancement through the acquisition of wealth. It is a gathering of one such group of men that was to have very far-reaching consequences indeed – for Britain, the Empire and our humble corner of south west Wales.

On the evening of 24th September 1599, the 80 men gathered in Founders’ Hall in Lothbury Street, London had reached a decision and cheers rang out.

The men resolved to petition the Queen for her assent to grant a charter “intended for the honour of our native country and for the advancement of trade of merchandise within this realm of England”. With this was born the Honourable East India Company and a new era of enterprise and opportunity ushered in for merchants and adventurers.

These men were, by and large, burghers, merchants, aldermen, freemen of the London guilds and three previous and one future Lord Mayor of London. Mingling with this band of worthies was a very motley crew indeed, comprising sailors and soldiers; grizzled, bearded and weather-beaten men sporting gold rings in their ears and good luck talisman about their necks.

Their number included members of Drake’s crew, cronies of Raleigh (including perhaps William Middleton), William Baffin, James Lancaster and others who had sailed with Cavendish and Hawkins. Certainly among the group were the three Middleton brothers of Chester – John, Henry and David. These three were, of course, in turn the brothers of Christopher, Vicar of Llanarthne.