Who were the Hildesleys? - Oxfordshire FHS talk 22 February 2016

On Monday, 22 February 2016, Tony Hadland will talk to Oxfordshire FHS on:

Who were the Hildesleys?

Anyone researching local or family history in southern Oxfordshire or west Berkshire is likely to come across occasional mentions of the Hildesley family. Yet finding a cohesive account of who they were has hitherto proved almost impossible. The situation is not helped by the fact that the surname Hildesley occurs in at least two dozen spellings and can begin with an H, an I or even a Y! In this illustrated talk, Tony Hadland traces the story of the main Hildesley line, from the time of Henry VIII until it died out in the 18th century. Along the way, we discover the family’s stance on both sides of the Reformation, why some of their children had to live abroad and why there is a lane in Cholsey called Papist Way. Finally, Tony poses the question of how closely related to the main gentry line of Hildesleys are the many ordinary Oxfordshire and Berkshire folk who today have the surnames Ilsley or Illsley.

We meet at the Exeter Hall, Oxford Road, Kidlington, OX5 1AB, with the talk starting at 8:00pm. Doors open at 7:15pm, when there will be advisors offering computer and genealogy help, books for sale, and tea and coffee available.

Non-members are very welcome.
For details of future talks, see www.ofhs.uk

Comments about this page

  • Thanks Tony for having found this information. That was very kind of you and I love the photo of the ferry between Cholsey and Little Stoke.

    It does tend to support my view that if carriages/grain wagons were ferried across, along with passengers, there must have been public rights of way on both sides of the river for those on foot and with transportation & goods.On the Little Stoke side it is currently listed on the OS map as only a footpath which I don’t believe can reflect the historic user. (Residents have also erected a sign “no vehicles.”)

    Good luck with the talk – unfortunately I am out of the UK for work & won’t be able to come.

    By T.Hanson (20 May 2019)
  • Thanks for your message. Have you seen the 1912 25-inch Ordnance Map, which shows the then operational ferry and the towpath switching from one side of the river to the other at that point? You can access the map free of charge here: https://maps.nls.uk/view/104196610
    Incidentally, that map shows what is now Ferry Lane as being a continuation of Papist Way.
    There’s an 1890 photo of the ferry here: http://www.pictureoxon.com/frontend.php?keywords=Ref_No_increment;EQUALS;POX0119675&pos=1&action=zoom&id=119675
    I hope the above is of some assistance.
    BTW, I’m giving the talk in question at the Vale & Downland Museum, Wantage, on Wednesday night (22 May 2019).
    Tony Hadland

    By Tony Hadland (19 May 2019)
  • Hello, sorry slightly off the topic, but are you able to help with your reference to Ferry Lane please? A ferry apparently operated across the river from the Cholsey side over to Little Stoke on the other, although I have not been able to find any photos. There is a public road on the Cholsey side to the river and on the other side of the Thames (directly opposite) is a matching looking exit from the river that goes past Little Stoke House and then eventually onto a road. However, on the Little Stoke side its registered only as a public footpath.This does not make any sense to me as it should surely be a public road from the Thames on the Little Stoke side as well, or at least a bridleway.(You can see further reference to (different) Ferry Lanes on both sides of Moulsford near the Beetle & Wedge pub where a ford once operated and presumably gave rise to ancient public rights.)

    There is an article I have found (Grayson) that briefly considers if a ford also operated at Cholsey to Little Stoke but suggests the absence of settlements on either side indicates otherwise. Given the marshy land (particularly on the Cholsey side) I don’t think this is that surprising and the issue is open to further investigation.

    By T.Hanson (18 May 2019)
  • Thanks Tony.

    By David Bridge (24 April 2019)
  • Thank you for your query, David.
    The main line of the Hildesleys took their name from what we now know as the Ilsleys (East and West) on the Berkshire Downs. Hildesley (the spelling preferred by the heralds) is one of about two dozen name variants, Ilsley and Illsley being among the commonest today.
    Although they continued to refer to themselves as the Hildesleys of Hildeseley, in the 17th century their main residence was Littlestoke Manor, across the Thames from Ferry Lane, Cholsey. The family were recusant Catholics (‘papists’) and, if you were to head along Ferry Lane towards East and West Ilsley, after you cross the main road you would find yourself in Papist Way. That’s the route the Catholic Hildesleys of Littlestoke would have taken to and from their ancestral village of East Ilsley, hence Papist Way.
    If you are interested, I am presenting the talk again after the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Vale & Downland Museum, Wantage, on Wednesday 22nd May at 7.30 pm at the Museum. Tea, coffee and biscuits will be served from 7pm.
    All the best,
    Tony Hadland

    By Tony Hadland (23 April 2019)
  • I have missed the talk but would like to know “why there is a lane in Cholsey called Papist Way”.

    By David Bridge (23 April 2019)
  • I will send your comment to the person who gave the talk. I don’t have any connection with the Hildesleys myself but have possible relatives who lived in the Ilsleys and Aldermaston.

    Best wishes,


    By Christopher Fance (01 September 2018)
  • Good Day,

    I am most interested to find this web page. We have been researching the Hildesley line for some time in connection with my fathers Illsley line. I would be most grateful to find out if at all possible what your findings are. I had been under the assumption that one of the more definitive web pages on the Hildesleys was this one:

    We have found the entry in visitations mentioned and strong links with the Moore family

    We were contacted by an american line who were Ilsley who held a family coat of arms similar to the one detailed in the above web page but that had a different crest. We were most excited to find that it was listed in Burkes Peerage but then most dissapointed to find that it was a self assumed crest and coat of arms.

    Please do not hesitate to get back to us. We also have a link from Hildesley to Arden via Aldermaston we think.

    Best regards,


    By John Ilsley (01 September 2018)

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