The Twickenham Museum
People : Lawyers and Clergy

Richard Corbett
Poet and Bishop of Oxford and Norwich
1582 - 1635

Richard Corbett. By permission of the Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford.

Richard Corbett was the son of Vincent who first had a nursery business at Ewell but moved to Twickenham in about 1590. He was of sufficient substance to send his son to Westminster school and Oxford where, after Pembroke College he went to Christ Church later becoming Senior Student and Proctor of the University. Following various appointments and a visit to France he became Dean of Christ Church in 1620, reputedly building himself a house in Oxford. In 1624 he was elected to the see of Oxford and in 1632 to the see of Norwich where he died and was buried in 1635.

Heatham House, Twickenham, today.

Property at Twickenham

Richard's father described himself as Vincent Poynter also Corbett. Ralph Tresswell's map of 1607 shows him as the owner of a property and land on the east side of London Road just north of the town centre. He enjoyed a considerable reputation for the rare fruit he cultivated and owned land elsewhere in the parish. John Gerard counted him one of the three leading growers of rare plums in 1597.

Vincent made his Will on 20 January 1603, leaving the bulk of his property to his wife Bennet and her heirs. This consisted of various holdings in Twickenham and Isleworth together with a property in Watling Street, London. He left £500 to Richard, apparently his only child, to be paid when he reached the age of 25. There were small bequests to Anne Samwell, wife of his “very good friend” George, a Notary Public, and to Robert Crofton. Crofton was of a well known Twickenham family and owned orchards on each side of the Richmond Road. The Will was witnessed by Gabriel Davy and Theophilus Rithe, the latter of another well known Twickenham family. Vincent died in 1619 and his Will was proved in May that year.

On Moses Glover's map of 1635 Dr Corbet (sic), Bishop of Norwich is shown as the owner or occupier of a property divided by the River Crane before passing beneath the London Road, north of Twickenham town centre. Heatham House was built on the Whitton side of the river early in the 18th century but the previous house was probably on the Twickenham side. The property is not shown on Ralph Tresswell's map of 1607 and it is conceivable that Richard built it for himself when he inherited, after 1619. Glover's map suggests that Vincent Poynter's property had been acquired, or had reverted to Lady Walter, the widow of Sir John, owner of Twickenham Manor, by this time.

Secular pursuits

It is conceivable that the "court" held by Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford at Twickenham Park was an attraction for a man who, in the words of a contemporary was "esteemed one of the most celebrated wits in the university, as his poems, jests, romantic fancies, and exploits, which he made and perform'd extempore, shew'd". A base at Twickenham, perhaps his childhood home, would have been convenient. He was a friend of Ben Jonson who wrote a poem about his father:

'His mind as pure and neatly kept
As were his nurseries, and swept
So of uncleanness or offence
That never came ill odour thence.'

Jonson was certainly a friend of Lucy. Corbett was probably living at Twickenham before Lucy sold her estate in 1617.

Further reading:

Dictionary of National Biography
R S Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, Smith Elder, 1872
A C B Urwin, Commercial Nurseries and Market Gardens, Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper No50, 1982
John Gerard, Herbal or General History of Plants, 1597

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