Little is known with certainty of Roger Alford’s early years. He was probably born in Hitcham, (1) in the county of Buckinghamshire to Robert Alford and Anne Brydges. (2) Attempting to determine Roger’s birth year, even approximately, is exceptionally difficult. His wife was born about 1524 (3) which would suggest his birth could not have been much earlier, considering he was her second husband. Based on this, the Roger Alford, described as yeoman of the Crown in 1514 and 1515 cannot be this same Roger Alford. (4,5) The first veritable mention of this Roger Alford must be his entry in Lord Burghley’s service in 1547 (6) which would suggest a birth year of around 1529. His Alford ancestors possessed land in and around Flintshire whilst the Brydges were a distinguished family based in Gloucestershire and Somerset. (7) It should be noted, however, that the Alfords were neither aristocratic or members of the land-owning gentry. Roger married Elizabeth Ramsey, the daughter of Thomas Ramsey, esquire of Hitcham, and Parnell Baldwin, the daughter of John Baldwin, Chief justice. Roger was Elizabeth’s second wife; she was the widow of John Clarke, also of Hitcham. Roger and Elizabeth would have two children Edward and Anne. Anne would marry Edmund Fettiplace, head of the Fettiplace family, of Childrey, Berkshire. This marriage would exemplify the social mobility of sixteenth century England. The daughters of commoners could marry into leading county families. Roger Alford’s career was likely to be accountable for his family’s advancements. His first forays into a career were working for Sir William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, who would become Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State. He began his service, as already stated in 1547. His brother Lancelot was appointed as Clerk of the Hannaper in Dublin in the late 1540s which would suggest Roger’s influence rose rapidly. On the 3 March 1552, he would personally be rewarded for his service, with a twenty one year lease on property in Lincolnshire for the yearly rent of £22.13.4, from Cecil. (8) In 1555, in a list of Cecil’s staff, at Wimbledon, Alford was described as ‘clerk’, the third most important person in his household. His salary, at £5 was more telling, no other member of staff had a higher salary. (9) Whether Roger had been a clerk since joining Cecil’s household is impossible to know, but considering his limited experience, his progress was undoubtedly rapid. It was in 1555 that Roger would also receive his first governmental post as teller of the exchequer. In the year 1558 he would attempt to engage in politics by entering parliament as the member for Bletchingley and in 1559 as the member for Preston. As Secretary he played a significant role in the administration of William’s life, and thus had opportunities to further his family’s positions as demonstrated in a letter dated 13 November 1573: “My verie good Lorde, You may see I am here still to trouble you for consideration of my brother’s cause in his absence. His suit is to have the Office of Tellership of Ireland granted to him by My Lord Deputy, in consideration of his long service there, these 25 yeares past, etc., etc. Your Lordship’s ever to command, Roger Alford” (10) A subsequent letter dated the 14 December 1575 provides further evidence in support of Roger desiring to place his family into more influential positions: “...Mr. Redeman, the bringer of this, married my cousin on my mother’s side. The gentleman is thought in this Shire of as good fame as any of his calling in it. He is desirous that, by your Lordship’s favour, he may try out the practise, wherein I pray you to let him have your aid...” (11) Roger’s influence went beyond Lord Burghley, however. Queen Elizabeth, in 1575, “granted Stoughton Grange in Leicestershire to Roger Alford”. Roger died at Hitcham the 16 July 1580 and was buried in the Church there. His monumental inscription read:
“Here lieth buried Roger Alford of London And late of Hitcham, Esquire, Who married Elizabeth Clark, widow. And daughter of Thomas Ramsay, Esquire. He died the 16th of July, 1580.”William Gager, a student of Christ Church College, Oxford, penned a verse in memory of Roger Alford:
“In obitu Rogeri Alfordi. Rogerus tumulo Alfordus sepelitur in isto: Quid? Tantam cohibet tantula terra virum! Non jacet hic totus, passim bona fama vagatur Libera, nec modica contineature humo. Altera pars meliorque sui jam vivit in astris, Suc tantum corpus jam brevis urna capit.”(12)
“On the passing of Roger Alford Lies Roger Alford in that mound: So great a man in such small earth! Roams free report of his good birth, Nor may be housed in modest ground. His spirit now lies in the stars, And that is not for little jars.”(13) His will would leave bequests to his family: “Roger Alford of Hitcham, Buck, 1580. To be buried at Hitcham, Mr Bridge my grandfather, brother of Sir John Bridge. My wife Elizabeth. Edward Alford my sonne. My daughter Anne. Estate at Weston, Oxford. Houses in Fleet Street in London which descended to me from my father, to Thomas Alford and his son. Launcelot my brother, Francis my brother.” (14) Even within his will, he desired to improve his family’s standings by having his relatives appointed to positions in Cecil’s household: “The words of Mr. Alfordes Wyll conveying his desire to have his sonne Edwarde Alforde placed in service with my Lorde Treasurer. Item. I wyll that my sonne Edward continue his studie at Oxforde until he be 17 or 18 years of age ; and then I would have him sitte in Lynncoln’s Inne... Also my desire is when he shall growe to twentye years of age, that he should seek my Lorde Treasurer, my olde Mr., who I truste wyll accept hym, and notwithstanding permitte hym to continue his studye at the Lawe.” (15)
Sources / Citations:1. No primary evidence for this but, seems reasonable considering lived his entire life there as did his parents. 2. “Anne Alford of London, widow of Robert Alford, and daughter of Edmund Brydges of the Chandos family” – Cecil MSS., Part I, p.83. 3. Chancery Inquisitions post Mortem, Series 2, xlvi, 46. 4. Patent Rolls 6 Henry VIII, p.2, m.21. 5. Ibid, p.3, m. 10. 6. Lands. MSS., xviii, 35. 7. MS. Harl., 1160, 101b and 1156, 49 and 49b 8. Patent Rolls Elizabeth I. 9. Lands. MSS., xviii, 36. 10. Lansd. MSS., xviii, 26. 11. Cecil MSS., Part II, p.124. 12. Addit. MSS., 22,583 f. 52b. 13. P. Prameshwar, 2010. 14. Abstract compiled from P.C.C. wills 38 Arundel 15. Burghley MSS, 1580 and Lansd. 109, 99 p. 217.