The Woodvilles have historically been depicted as greedy and grasping, probably through jealousy on the part of those they bypassed during their rise through the ranks at the time of the Wars Of The Roses.
They came from obscurity to prominence because of two secret marriages. With changes in fortune came enemies, the foremost being Richard, Earl of Warwick, friend, loyal Yorkist and close relative of Edward IV, Plantagenet King of England.
Sir Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, was placed in the service of John, Duke of Bedford, at his Court in Rouen. When the Duke died, Richard secretly married the Duke’s widow Jacquetta of Luxembourg.
Their daughter Elizabeth, first married to Sir John Grey of Groby (a Lancastrian), but widowed after a few short years, then married Edward IV.
She became known as the White Queen. Rumours were circulated by those offended by these events that both women were using witchcraft to advance their fortunes. The family rose from ‘barony’ to ‘gentry’, the wheel of fortune turning dramatically in favour of the junior branch whose ‘seat’ was Grafton in Northamptonshire. Although they did not yet hold the Manor, only parcels of land, they soon established themselves in the County and reached the highest level of society because of the marriage. Even when Elizabeth and Edward’s two sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, later referred to as ‘The Princes in the Tower’, were supposed to have been murdered by their uncle, Richard III, the family’s reputation was not dampened.
At the time of the Battle of Bosworth, 22nd August 1485, the Manor of West Thurrock with the house known as Stonehouse was held by Richard, the second Earl Rivers, younger son of Jacquetta and Richard Woodville. He died in 1491 and left no heirs, so the Manor reverted to the Crown. However, a later holder of the Manor was Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset, son of Elizabeth Woodville and her first husband, Sir John Grey. When Thomas sold it in 1517 the Woodvilles no longer held the Manor.
Stone House was situated on the Highway now known as London Road, facing north towards what we now know as Stonehouse Lane. When Elizabeth I, descendant of Elizabeth Woodville, was Queen, Cicely Long and her husband held the Manor. They had 2 daughters Magdalen and Martha. To ensure a fair division of the Manor between them Cicely commissioned a second house. This was High House, built a very short distance from Stone House on the opposite side of the road on a slight incline.