The Rivers family is associated with my Streatfield family from Chiddingstone, Kent

See the Rivers Family Tree



At the head of our Streatfield family we have Robert Streatfield, born about 1514 who married one of the daughters (possibly called Joan?) of Richard Rivers of Penshurst in around 1534.   Another of his daughters,  Alice Rivers married Edward Woodgate a little later in about 1562. Their brother was Sir John Rivers, Grocer and Lord Mayor of London in 1573. 

The Rivers family, like the Woodgates, can be traced back much further than the Streatfields.  The family originates from River Hill in Hampshire but during the reign of king Henry VIII they took possession of Chafford Place in the south end of Penshurst 1.  Or were they at Chafford a lot earlier than that? As suggested by 

This small potted history of the Rivers family is split into two parts: one is the traditional view of the ancestry of our Richard Rivers and the second is a theory – which I happen to love – whereby our Richard is descended from the Woodville family with it’s Royal connections. 

Both are outlined on the family tree



The Rivers Family

Augmentation given by Edward IV

Sir Bartholomew Rivers born about 1420, lived in the reign of Edward IV.  He was given an augmentation of honour [three roses argent, between as many swans proper] by that king, for his good and faithful services to the house of York.  The coast of arms and family crest is carved on the gateway of Chafford-house, built by one of this family 1


His son William Rivers was born about 1440 and he had a command in the reigns of king Edward IV and king Henry VII.  He married Alice and they had a son Richard Rivers born abt 1460.

Sir William died in 1506 leaving a will dated 22nd March.  He willed that his body should be buried in the Cathedral Church of Rochester, he gave his Messuage in Rochester to Alice his wife for term of life, and after her death to Richard Rivers his son, and to his heirs 17.  William was buried in Rochester Cathedral 1.  

Little is known of his son Richard Rivers b abt 1460 apart from the fact that he was apparently the father of Richard Rivers of Penshurst 6, p251,   6a , 17.  He may also have also been a Steward of the lands of the Staffords, Dukes of Buckingham. 


Richard Rivers, of Penshurst, was born about 1485 or 1490. He was the steward of the lands of Edward Stafford, 3rd duke of Buckingham, who lived at nearby Penshurst Place 1a.   He married Alice? and they had at least three children: 

Joan? Rivers (name is open to question) b abt 1520                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  m ? to Robert Streatfield                                                                                                                Sir John Rivers b abt 1535                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  m abt 1550 to Elizabeth Barne                                                                                                                                                                                     d 27.2.1584 Hadlow                                                                                                                                                                              Alice Rivers b abt 1546                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  m ? to Edward Woodgate


Richard may have purchased Chafford after the death of his master, Edward Duke of Buckingham although it may be more likely that it was purchased by his son John 1a


Sir John Rivers was a grocer of Bartholomew Lane, London and member of the Worshipful Company of Grocers. He was also Sheriff of London in 1566, Lord Mayor of London in 1573 and 74.  He was knighted in 1574 and served as President of St. Thomas’ Hospital between 1580 and 1584. He also served as an Alderman for the London wards of Farringdon between 1565–1568, Broad Street between 1568–1574, and Walbrook between 1574-1584 2 .  John married Elizabeth Barne, daughter of Sir George Barne and Alice Brook about 1550.  They had ten children, some of which were baptised at St. Bartholomew’s Church, London 13,14 . The earlier children may have been baptised at Penshurst but records only begin there in 1558. 


Sir George Rivers of Chafford b 28.2.1554 Chafford                                                                                                                                                                                                              m 1572 East Grinstead to Frances Bowyer                                                                                                                                                                    bur 12.2.1629/30 Penshurst 15                                                                                                                          John Rivers b abt 1557 Chafford?                                                                                                                                                                          Elizabeth Rivers bp 23.6.1560 St. Bartholomew, London                                                                                                                                          Henry Rivers bp 7.2.1562 St. Bartholomew, London                                                                                                                               Richard Rivers bp 15.10.1564 St. Bartholomew, London                                                                                                                                         William Rivers bp 3.3.1565 St. Bartholomew, London (d 1588)                                                                                                                          Edward Rivers bp 6.6.1567 St. Bartholomew, London                                                                                                                                         Dorcas Rivers (Dorothy) bp 5.2.1568 St. Bartholomew, London                                                                                                                          Alice Rivers b ?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Sir John died at Hadlow on 27th February, 1584 and left a will proved on 10th April. 

Sir George Rivers was born in 1554 at Chafford. He succeeded his father at Chafford but was also member of parliament for East Grinstead from 1597 and others until 1628 3 .  He married Frances Bowyer in 1572 at East Grinstead. 

They had six children; William in c 1573, George in 1577 at Hadlow, Sir John in 1579 at Chafford, Frances in 1585 at Chafford, Elizabeth in 1587 at Chafford and Alice in 1590.

George was knighted in 1605.  Sir George Rivers owned another estate at Withyham and acquired the manor of Ashurst.  He was buried at Penshurst on 12th February 1629/30 15. He left a will dated 3rd December, 1627. 


His son Sir John Rivers born abt 1579 at Chafford, was educated at St Mary Hall, Oxford, where he enrolled on 14 October 1596, age seventeen.  He was admitted Student at the Inner Temple in 1600 and created a Baronet of Chafford in his father’s lifetime; on 19th July, 1621.

He married  Dorothy Potter, daughter and coheir of Thomas Potter of Well Street in Westerham, Kent, in about 1602  .

When Sir John inherited his father’s estate, it continued in his descendants until another Sir George Rivers, bart. who died in 1734 without issue.  His will devised his seat of Chafford, among his other real estates, to his five natural children. However, his surviving legitimate daughters, and the heirs of those deceased, filed a bill in chancery to overturn this and after decrees, the court ordered the estates to be sold in 1743 18 .  The lands at Ashurst, together with Chafford was to Mr. William Saxby. 




The Woodvilles (Earl Rivers)

The Wydeville/Woodville family had been tenants in the village of Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire from at least 1268. They occupied the manor house next to the church, and had acquired lands in neighbouring parishes. Sir John Wydeville, son of Richard de Wydville acquired the manor of Mote at Maidstone in Kent and was, like his father, the sheriff of Nottinghamshire 5, 6.  

Sir John Wyeville born about 1341 had two sons; Thomas who was Lord of the Manor of Grafton and died in 1435, and Richard born abt 1385.  Sir John died between 18th December, 1399 and 1st February, 1401 and was buried at Grafton Regis 16.  They also served as Sheriff of Northamptonshire at one time or another.

His son Richard Woodville, born about 1385 was chamberlain to the Duke of Bedford and married Mary (or Joan?) Bedleygate.  They had a son Richard Woodville in about 1410. died on 8th December, 1442 at Grafton Regis 16

For loyal service to Henry V and John of Bedford, Richard the elder’s son Richard was knighted in 1426 by the child Kind Henry VI – at only six years old!   Sir Richard followed his father into the services of the Duke of Bedford (third son of Henry IV).  The Duke died in 1435.   Sir Richard married the Duke’s young widow Jacquetta of Luxebourg, Duchess of Bedford and the daughter of Count Peter I of Luxembourg, (born c 1415) secretly in early 1437.  They had married without the consent of the King and for this they were fined £1,000!  Their marriage was officially recognised on 24th October, 1437 7 .  They went on to have 15 children of which Elizabeth Woodville is probably the most famous for marrying King Edward IV and being the mother–in-law of Henry VII 7 .  There are some conflicting dates 7 & 8 .   See the Rivers/Woodville family tree. 


Elizabeth Woodville b 1437 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                             m1 Sir John Grey (d 1461)                                                                                                                                                                                                 m2 1.5.1464 to  Edward IV (d 1483)                                                                                                                                                                                d 8.6.1492 Bermondsey                                                                                                                                                            Lewis Woodville b c 1438 Grafton Regis, d ?                                                                                                                                                          Ann Woodville b 1439 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                               m William Bouchier                                                                                                                                                                                                           d 30.7.1489                                                                                                                                                                                          Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers b 1442 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                                m Elizabeth Scales                                                                                                                                                                                                             executed 25.6.1483 Pontefract Castle

Mary Woodvill b 1443                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         m William Herbert 2nd Earl Pembroke                                                                                                                                                                         d 1481

Jacquetta Woodville b 1444                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        m Lord Strange of Knockyn                                                                                                                                                                                              d 1481                                                                                                                                                                                        Sir John Woodville b 1445                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         m 1465 Catherine Neville                                                                                                                                                                                                           executed 12.8.1469 Kenilworth                                                                                                                                      Lionel Woodville Bishop of Salisbury b 1447 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                            d 23.6.1484                                                                                                                                          Martha Woodville b ?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                m Sir John Bromley                                                                                                                                                                                                          d 1500                                                                                                                                                                                          Eleanor/Joan Woodville b 1452                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         m Sir Anthony Grey                                                                                                                                                                                                           d 1512                                                                                                                                                                                  Richard Woodville 3rd Earl Rivers b 1453 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                             d 6.3.1491                                                                                                                                              Margaret Woodville b 1454                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         m 1464 to Thomas Maltravers                                                                                                                                                                                        d 1491                                                                                                                                                                                    Sir Edward Woodville b c1456 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                            d 28.7.1488 Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier in battle                                                                                                Catherine Woodville b c1458 Grafton Regis                                                                                                                                                                                                              m1 1466 to Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham                                                                                                                                                d 8.5.1497 ?                                                                                                                                                  


On 8th May, 1448 Sir Richard was created Baron Rivers 7.  After his daughter Elizabeth married Edward IV in 1464, Richard was created 1st Earl Rivers 7.  Rivers was regarded as a social upstart by many especially the Earl of Warwick.  Early in 1468, the Rivers estates were plundered, the aim was to destroy the Woodvilles.  After the Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26 July 1469, Rivers and his second son John were taken prisoners at Chepstow.  They were beheaded at Kenilworth on 12 August 1469, Warwick had chosen not to ask the King to sign their warrants of execution 7 & 8. Sir Richard was buried at All Saint’s Church, Pontefract 16


Richard’s son Anthony Woodville succeeded his father as 2nd Earl Rivers.  In 1472 Anthony became governor of Edward, Prince of Wales the infant son of his sister Elizabeth and Edward IV 7.

After Edward’s death in 1483, Anthony was arrested together with his young charge now twelve year old Edward V.  He was executed on 25th June at Pontefract Castle by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (the future King Richard III) as part of a power-struggle between Richard and the Woodvilles 8.

Richard Woodville succeeded his brother Anthony as 3rd Earl Rivers.  He is the person we are concerned with. 


The alternative theory of Richard Rivers’ parentage

From a post by Travis Rivers March 19, 2007 10, in which he states that his family

is not from Sir Bartholomew Rivers as is reproduced in so many official works but actually from the secret son of the last of the Woodville Family, the last Earl of Rivers who died in 1491 or 1492, in the same year as his sister, the widowed queen of Edward IV.” 

He points out that secret marriages were commonplace during the Wars of the Roses and in this family; that of Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers to Jacquetta of Luxenbourg, who married quickly (and secretly) without the permission of her nephew the new king and their daughter, Elizabeth Woodville (or Rivers), married secretly to Edward IV.  He goes on to say;

my direct forebear was her brother Richard who secretly married during the last three years of his life in order that the male line would not die out with him, but was afraid of what King Henry Tudor (VII) would do to the child, so he was passed off as the child of a servant of the same name, the descendant of Sir Bartholomew Rivers, in the household of his sister Katherine, widow of the Duke of Buckingham.” 

He explains that this child, Richard Rivers was raised as a servant in the household of the Duke of Buckingham. He was born in 1490 at Penshurst, Kent and passed off as the child of Richard Rivers, Steward of the Staffords loyal to the dowager duchess who was sister to the late Earl Rivers, the child’s real father. He died at Chafford Place, Penshurst.

Now, of course, we have no direct proof of this and probably never will but it is an intriguing thought. 

Another article by Colin Coomber appears to concur:  10a

Some historians and genealogists believe that Richard secretly married and had a least one son, also named Richard, who was raised as a commoner in order to protect him from the fate that had befallen many in his family. This child was passed off as the son of another Richard Rivers, steward in the household of the Dukes of Buckingham, and was raised as a servant by the dowager Duchess of Buckingham, sister to Richard Woodville. As a servant, the child had no claim to the Woodville inheritance and hence of no interest to King Henry VII, who was impatient to inherit the remainder of the Woodville money and estates he had not already confiscated. This Richard Rivers had a son called John (1510-1583). Born in Penshurst, Kent, he married Elizabeth Barne and succeeded her father as Lord Mayor of London (1573/74). His attempt to prove he was the grandson of the 3rd Earl Rivers failed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.”



It appears that Richard III confiscated Richard’s manor of Wymington in 1483 but did not otherwise persecute him. He served in a local capacity in Hereford, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, but never held any major office 8.  He was pardoned for his part in the uprisings against Richard III in the fall of 1483 known as Buckingham’s rebellion 9.  For this reason, he may have escaped the same fate as his brothers. 

Richard Woodville died on March 6, 1491, supposedly without issue.  He was the last of the Woodville brothers. the last of his family to hold the title of Earl Rivers. He died unmarried and the earldom became extinct.  The estates attached to the earldom reverted to the crown and his personal lands were bequeathed to his nephew Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset (the son of Elizabeth Woodville and her first husband Sir John Grey).

However, it is possible that Richard Woodville did father this child Richard born a few years before he died and that he did indeed send him to live with his sister, Catherine Woodgate now widow of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and her son Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.  We know that Richard Rivers was the steward of Edward Stafford and so it is entirely possible that the previous Richard Rivers born abt 1460 could have also worked for the family and therefore would have been in a perfect position to take on the child until he was himself made Steward. 

The Penshurst Connection

Penshurst Place was originally built by Sir John de Pulteney in 1341.  Henry IV’s third son, John, Duke of Bedford, occupied Penshurst in 1401 and had the second hall, known as the Buckingham Building, built in 1430. It was so called after the subsequent owners, the Dukes of Buckingham. 

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham inherited Penshurst Place in 1447 from Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.  Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham inherited the property from his father in 1460 when he was only 5 years old.   Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham then inherited Penshurst Place on the death of his father in 1483 11.  Edward (who had a strong claim to the throne) was executed in 1521 by King Henry VIII following a lavish feast held at Penshurst Place, hosted by the Duke in honour of the king.  The house subsequently remained in the crown estate for the rest of Henry’s reign, with documented evidence that Henry used Penshurst Place as a hunting lodge.  The property was only a few miles from Hever Castle, the childhood home of Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn  12





1 Penshurst; British History Online

1a Chafford Park Estate

2 Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London; John Benjamin Heath 1854 p.252

3 The History of parliament: Sir George Rivers 

4 Rivers Vs Bowton

5 Coomber Media: The Woodvilles

6 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent vol III. Edward Hasted, 1798 copy via Googlebooks

6a The Baronetage of England: Or The History of the English Baronets …, Volume 1; Rev William Betham 1801. p.217 (pedigree p.219) copy via Googebooks

7 The Popinjays, A History of the Woodgate Family and an account of their involvement in English History during the late Medieval Age. Geoffrey Richardson 2000, Baildon Books

8 Wiki: Richard Woodville

9 Richard Woodville, the 3rd Earl Rivers Susan Higginbotham

10  http://genforum.genealogy.com/rivers/messages/1306.html By Travis Rivers

10a Third Earl Rivers: Last Earl childless or just smart?

11 Penshurst Place Historical Timeline

12 Wiki: Penshurst Place

13 baptisms from ancestry.co uk

14 baptisms from familysearch.org

15 Penshurst burials 

16 Findagrave 

17 extract of the Will of Sir William Rivers dated 1506: in Peacham, H. (1906). Peacham’s Compleat gentleman, 1634. [Oxford]: The Clarendon Press. p.199

18 The Manor of Ashurst





7 Responses to “Rivers”

  • Phillipe Collier:

    Sorry think I put my older email in it’s one above thanks.

  • Phillipe Collier:

    Sorry yes I do misread that. The line goes back to Sir John died 1584 direct line as shown on ancestry dna.

  • Phillipe Collier:

    No I’m just getting to grips with my tree I do have hints from distant cousins trees who have Richard rivers descended from the Woodville line but who knows dna doesn’t last usually that long unless you descend from a very endogamous ethnic group as on my dads side. I don’t genetically match these cousins. It’s fun to think we might be descended from the Woodvilles it’s possible the theory is true.

  • Phillipe Collier:

    Hello Very interesting Article.

    I’ve recently found via ancestry dna that on my English side via my mum (My other side is Moroccan Jewish not connected) I’m a descendant if this family interesting if it has a connection to the Woodvilles though it seems unprovable going on what I’ve read here but very interesting.

    • Hi Phillipe, Its is an interesting theory but we will probably never know if the Rivers and Woodvilles were definitely connected! Unless of course the DNA picks it up. But then you would have thought it would have done already by now. Do you know which Rivers you mum is connected to?

  • Chris Barker:

    Hi Juliet, I stumbled across your new website a few weeks back, as I reignite my interest in Streatfield genealogy. I think it is really fab. We corresponded some years ago when you kindly sent me some info about the Streatfields of Leigh. We share a common ancestor I think in Nicholas Streatfield (1761-1820). My mum’s Streatfield line is via one of Nicholas’ sons, John Streatfield (b. 1796) and his second wife, Martha Grayland.

    The info on your site about the Rivers link is very interesting. I wondered if I could ask a question? In the History of the Woodgates of Stonewall Park’ there is a reference(inserted below) to an Edward Rivers, which seems to indicate he might have been the father of our Richard Rivers (the father of Joan(?) who married Robert Streatfeild). I couldn’t see anything about Edward in your family tree, and wondered if there was another other info about him?

    “In 1564 Edward Woodgate and Alice his wife conveyed 4a. of meadow land in Penshurst to John Rivers of London. Alice Woodgate appears to have been daughter of Richard Rivers [d) of Chafford Place, Penshurst, (Steward of the lands of the Duke of Buckingham), and sister of Sir John Rivers, Knt., above mentioned, Lord Mayor of London in 1573. The Rivers of Chafford Place, Penshurst, were descended from Sir Bartholomew Rivers who received an augmentation of honour from Edward IV for his valuable services to the house of York. His son William held a military command under Henry VI and lies buried in Rochester Cathedral, leaving by Alice his wife a son Edward, whose son Richard was Steward of the Duke of Buckingham and died leaving several children, among whom were Alice Woodgate; Sir John Rivers; and a daughter, who married Robert Streatfeild, of High Street House, Chidingstone, ancestor of most of the different branches of that family now remaining.”

    All the very best and hope you are keeping well in these awful times.

    Best wishes, Chris Barker (Crayford, Kent)

    • Hi Chris, Nice to hear from you again. It was 2004! Still have your emails filed! I am going to reply via my email account as I may want to attach a file or two. Bear with me, it may be tomorrow! best wishes Juliet

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