In 1606 during the reign of James I the estate was purchased by the nephew of Sir Francis Englefield, 1st..baronet, of Englefield House (near Theale) and its estates in 1585, as a substitute Berkshire home; the family having had their vast Englefield Estates (just to the west of Theale ) confiscated by Queen Elizabeth I for recusancy in 1585. The Englefields moved over from Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire and Whiteknights remained their main family residence until they sold it to George Spencer the Marquis of Blandford in 1798.
The Englefield family lived here in Whiteknights, but yet continued to buried in the church at Englefield, until Sir Henry Charles Englefield, Bart(1752- 21st.March 1822) antiquary and scientist, died in 1822 and this branch of the family became extinct.
Alexander Pope and Wycherley met at Whiteknights, seat of Anthony Englefield II since his father Anthony's death in 1667. Englefield often played host to leading literary figures and lived only ten miles from Alexander Pope's home at Binfield. The friendship between Pope and Wycherley initially proved good for both of them. Pope corrected Wycherley's work and suggested improvements, while Wycherley provided Pope with numerous literary contacts in London. But after six years the old man tired of Pope's corrections and the friendship cooled. Nonetheless Pope visited Wycherley on his deathbed, where the old dramatist became a Catholic.
The LandscapeThe earliest landscape of Whiteknights Park with visible surviving features is the early 18thcentury designed landscape, laid out and developed by/for the Englefield family, probably in the early/mid 18th Century .
The park was much smaller than today, with the central core surrounded by closes and fields. Apart from elements of The Wilderness at the south of thecampus, a precursor to the present serpentine lakes and the course of the east-west road between the Chancellor’s Way campus entrance and Earley Gate, next to nothing of this landscape survives.
He was the eldest son Englefieof Sir Henry Englefield, sixth baronet, by his second wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir Charles Bucke, Bart. His father, who was the son of Henry Englefield, of Whiteknights Park at Earley near Reading, Berkshire, had in 1728 succeeded to the title and the Engelfield estates at Wooton Basset, Wiltshire; so that Henry Charles inherited both Whiteknights and Wooton Basset on the death of his father, 25 May 1780.
He never married, and devoted his entire life to study. In 1778 at the early age of 26 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in the following year Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. For many years he was vice-president of the latter, and succeeded the Marquess Townshend as president. Owing, however, to his being a Catholic, objection was taken to his re-election; another factor was his opposition to the 1797 election to the Society of the architect James Wyatt. He was replaced by the Earl of Aberdeen. Under his direction the society produced between 1797 and 1813 the series of engravings of English cathedrals, to which series he contributed the dissertations on Durham, Gloucester, and Exeter.
In 1781 Englefield joined the Dilettanti Society and acted as its secretary for fourteen years. Besides his antiquarian studies, which resulted in many contributions to Archaeologia, he carried on research in chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, and geology. His "Discovery of a Lake from Madder" won for him the gold medal of the Society of Arts. He took no part in public life, owing to Catholic disabilities, but was intimate with Charles James Fox, and his cheerful temperament and vivacious conversation won him many friends. His portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, and two bronze medals were struck bearing his likeness.
In Catholic affairs Englefield took a prominent part, being elected in 1782 a member of the Catholic Committee, formed by the laity for the promotion of Catholic interests, a body which subsequently found itself in conflict with the vicars Apostolic. In the early stages of this dispute he was one of the moving spirits and contributed the pamphlet, mentioned below, in answer to Dr. Horsley, the Anglican prelate. The latter afterwards became the friend of the Catholics, and it was through his influence that the Catholic Relief Bill of 1791 was modified to suit the requirements of the bishops. Throughout the dispute Englefield took an independent line, and at times went far in his opposition to the vicars Apostolic, as in 1792, when he was prepared to move a strong resolution at the general meeting of English Catholics. He was dissuaded at the last moment by the three who undertook to act as "Gentlemen Mediators" between the two parties. During his latter years his eyesight failed; he died at his house, Tilney St., London, the baronetcy thereupon becoming extinct.
His works are:
- "Tables of the Apparent Places of the Comet of 1661" (London, 1788);
- "Letter to the Author of 'The Review of the Case of the Protestant Dissenters'" (London, 1790);
- "On the Determination of the Orbits of Comets" (London, 1793);
- "A Walk Through Southampton" (Southampton, 1801);
- "Description of a New Transit Instrument, Improved by Sir H. Englefield" (London, 1814);
- "The Andrian, a Verse Translation from Terrence" (London, 1814);
- "Description of the Principal Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight", with engravings from his own drawings, and a portrait (London, 1816);
- "Observations on the Probable Consequences of the Demolition of London Bridge" (London, 1821).